Cadborosaurus: North America’s Legendary Sea Serpent

Unveil the mystery of Cadborosaurus: North America's elusive sea serpent. Dive into a tale where myth and legend meets the unexplored and - as yet - unexplained.

8 April 2024

The wilderness of the Pacific Northwest is steeped in myth and legend. On land, Sasquatch is king cryptid. But in its vast, unexplored waters, a legend has taken shape, whispered among the waves and chronicled in the tales of the oldest communities. Known as Cadborosaurus or simply “Caddy,” this legendary sea serpent has captivated the imaginations of locals and researchers alike, bridging the realms of mythology and scientific discovery.

Descriptions of Caddy vary widely, but often tell of a serpent-like sea creature with bizarre features such as a horse- or camel-like head, elongated body, and the presence of flippers. So, what’s the truth behind the legendary Canadian creature known as Cadborosaurus?

Historical Sightings and Folklore

Cadboro Bay, British Columbia, Canada (Credit: Rachael Griffin via Getty Images)

Legends of sea monsters in the Pacific Northwest stretch back at least as far as to the lore of the First Nations people, with serpents such as Haietlik and Ogopogo. In the 1880s, a wave of sightings began to emerge of another mysterious sea creature. However, it would be decades before the monster earned a name.

In October 1933, two prominent Victoria residents, lawyer W.H. Langley and yachtsman RC Ross, reported witnessing a vast serpent swimming in the waters around British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. This prompted another witness to come forward about a similar sighting a year earlier and, soon, the story was picked up by Archie H. Wills at the Victoria Daily Times. It was Wills who first named the creature. He called it Cadborosaurus, a name that stuck, soon shortened to the affectionate nickname, Caddy. Why that name? Firstly, the sea creature was often seen in the waters around Cadboro Bay, at the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island. As for the suffix “saurus”, this derives from the Ancient Greek word “lizard,” a reference to its reptile-like appearance.

Reports of the Caddy sea serpent creature continued at a steady pace throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s. There were even two accounts, one in 1968 by W. Hagelund and one in 1991 by Phyllis Harsh, of catching smaller specimens and releasing them back into the water. In all, some estimate there were roughly 300 Cadborosaurus sightings within the past two centuries. Which rather begs the question, what exactly did all these witnesses see?

Describing Cadborosaurus

What is Cadborosaurus? (Credit: MediaProduction via Getty Images)

Cadborosaurus is most commonly described as a massive snake-like creature, with a horse-like head and long undulating body, capable of propelling itself through often tumultuous waters. However, there have been many variations to these attributes. For instance, its head has been compared to a camel, a giraffe, and even a polar bear. As for its body, some said it had humps, while estimates of its length have ranged from 18 to 80 feet. Even its colour is a matter of debate, with accounts of greenish-brown, bluish-green and many more besides. It might also be furry, hairy, or spray water from its head.

Evidence for the Caddy Sea Serpent

Is Cadborosaurus a baleen whale? (Credit: Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images via Getty Images)

The evidence put forth for the existence of Cadborosaurus Willsi varies widely, from blurry photographs and anecdotal reports to more tangible finds such as supposed carcasses that have washed ashore.

Some of the most compelling evidence provided in support of Caddy’s existence is a trio of photographs taken in 1937, purportedly showing the carcass of a juvenile Cadborosaurus. Said carcass was found in the stomach of a baleen whale at Naden Harbour Whaling Station. In black and white, the images show what appears to be an unusually long serpent-like body, perhaps up to 10 feet long, with a rectangular head laid out across tables and boxes. Samples of the creature were apparently sent to two laboratories. One set was lost, while the other was examined and stated to be that of a foetal baleen whale.

In 2011, a Discovery Channel special Hillstranded debuted a video taken by fishermen purporting to show Cadborosaurus swimming off the coast of Alaska’s Nushagak Bay. Both this footage and the photos have been embraced by those who believe in Caddy, the most prominent of which are scientists Dr. Paul LeBlond and Dr. Edward Bousfield.

Classifying Cadborosaurus Willsi

An 18thC illustration of a sea serpent skeleton (Credit: Universal History Archive via Getty Images)

In 1995, scientists Dr. LeBlond and Dr. Bousfield published what is arguably the most detailed study of Caddy titled Cadborosaurus: Survivor from the Deep. LeBlond, then director of Earth and Ocean Sciences at UBC, and Blousfield, retired chief zoologist of the Canadian Museum of Nature, are widely considered the most ardent proponents of the Caddy sea serpent, going as far as classifying it as Cadborosaurus Willsi, a new reptile species having “both reptilian and mammalian characteristics.” And, while unable to be more specific, they did have a theory as to Caddy’s origins.

The Caddy Dinosaur Theory

Artist's rendering of a plesiosaur (Credit: MARK GARLICK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY via Getty Images)

Bousfield and LeBlond described Cadborosaurus as having a “head, two pairs of flippers, and a short tail.” They ascribed to what might be called the Caddy dinosaur theory, specifically that it is a descendent of the plesiosaur.

The Caddy Monster Misidentification Theory

c.1804 copperplate engraving of pipefish (Credit: Florilegius via Getty Images)

Sceptics argue that many sightings of what’s seen as the ‘Caddy Monster’ can be explained by far more mundane things. Examples include floating debris, logs, or known marine animals like seals, sea lions, giant oarfish, or pipefish which can appear monster-like to the untrained eye. They also point to the human tendency to find patterns and meaning in the ambiguous, a psychological quirk that can turn the mundane into the monstrous.

Cultural Impact

Illustration of a sea dragon (Credit: MR1805 via Getty Images)

The legend of Cadborosaurus has seeped into the cultural fabric of the Pacific Northwest, becoming more than just a story; it’s a part of the region’s identity. From sculptures adorning coastal towns to festivals celebrating the mysterious creature, the Caddy sea serpent has inspired a sense of wonder and playfulness in the community. Literature, too, has found a muse in Cadborosaurus, with authors weaving tales that blur the lines between history and myth.

Continuing the Caddy Monster Quest

Illustration of a sea serpent (Credit: Lidiia Moor via Getty Images)

With its deep historical roots and enduring mystery, Cadborosaurus Willsi encapsulates to this day. Whether as a misidentified creature of the deep, an undiscovered species, or a remnant of a bygone era, Caddy embodies the depths of hidden mysteries in the vast, uncharted waters of our planet.


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