Tetrapod Zoology

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Welcome to sea monster week. Yes, a whole week devoted to the discussion and evaluation of photos purportedly showing marine cryptids, or carcasses of them. Why do this? I’m not entirely sure, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. We begin with a fantastic image that – hopefully – you’ve seen here and there yet may know little about (again, to those who know the cryptozoological literature, I apologise for insulting your intelligence). Judging from comments I’ve seen on the internet, people nowadays assume that this image is a photoshop job unique to the digital age, whereas in fact it’s a classic, much-reproduced image, widely discussed in the cryptozoological literature, and first appearing in print in March 1965 (together with others). It’s Robert Le Serrec’s photo of a huge, tadpole-like creature encountered in Stonehaven Bay, Hook Island, Queensland…

Let’s note to begin with that, if the object depicted here really is a large unknown marine animal, then it perhaps shouldn’t be on a website called Tetrapod Zoology as the most popular proposed identifications of the creature are that it’s some sort of weird giant fish. We’ll come to the subject of identifications in a minute. The story starts in March 1965 when Breton photographer Robert Le Serrec claimed, in Australia’s Everyone magazine, that he had obtained excellent, genuine photos of a real sea serpent: a creature discovered by chance while resting in a lagoon. A very detailed account of the case was written up by Heuvelmans (1968) and what I’ve written here is mostly based on that account. Shuker (1991) and Newton (2005) provided further information.

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Wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef with his family and Australian friend Henk de Jong, Le Serrec and family had bought a motor boat and had decided to spend three months on Hook Island (one of the Whitsunday Islands). They were all crossing Stonehaven Bay on December 12th 1964, when Le Serrec’s wife spotted a strange object on the lagoon floor. It proved to be a gigantic tadpole-like creature, estimated at about 30 ft long. They took several still photos, gradually moving closer [the image shown here is a mockup I found on the web]. Eventually Le Serrec and de Jong plucked up the courage to approach it underwater in order to film it. It proved larger than first thought, with its estimated length increasing to 75-80 ft. It didn’t move and they suspected it might be dead, but just as Le Serrec began the filming it opened its mouth and made movements toward them. They returned to the boat, and by this time the creature had moved off.

A large pale wound was visible on the right side of the tail, and it was suggested that this wound (perhaps caused by a ship’s propeller) had caused the animal to take rest and refuge in the shallow bay. The eyes, located on the top of the head and well away from the front of the snout, were pale and possessed slit-shaped pupils. Mostly black in colour, the animal had brown transverse stripes and its skin was smooth in texture. It possessed no fins nor spines of any kind and they didn’t see teeth inside the white mouth.

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On learning of the case, Heuvelmans (1968) reported that he had done some checking on Le Serrec and found that ‘he had left unpaid creditors in France and did not seem very trustworthy’ (p. 533). Coleman & Huyghe (2003) state that he was wanted by Interpol. Ivan Sanderson had been contacted about the story in February 1965 (Le Serrec had initially approached the American media in order to get the best price for the images) and had concluded that the object might be either a plastic bag used by the US Navy ‘for experiments in towing petrol’, a deflated skyhook balloon which had become covered in weed, or a roll of cloth which had been tied together in places (Heuvelmans 1968). These don’t seem like the most sensible possibilities to me: what about the more obvious idea that (if not a real animal) it was a custom-shaped expanse of plastic sheeting, weighted down with sand?

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Sanderson later suggested that the creature might be a giant synbranchid, or swamp eel*. Synbranchids are long-bodied acanthomorph fishes, mostly freshwater or estuarine in habitat, well known for their ability to breathe air and undertake terrestrial excursions [one is shown above, from wikipedia]. However, they’re small (generally less than 60 cm long) and are eel-shaped, not tadpole-shaped, so this doesn’t look like a sensible idea either. Pressed to propose a ‘real animal identity’ for the creature, Heuvelmans noted in a magazine article that it could be ‘some kind of gigantic eel-like selachian’, which would be a huge deal if correct.

* I haven’t seen Sanderson’s article – published in True Magazine – and am going from Shuker (1991).

However, Heuvelmans (1968) actually favoured the idea of plastic sheeting weighed down with sand. He noted that the position of the eyes was highly suspicious given that most vertebrates either have their eyes on the sides of the head, or nearer the snout. Arguments like that don’t really count for much though, as unknown animals are allowed to have their eyes wherever they like, and – anyway – there are vertebrates that do have eyes positioned similarly to those of the Hook Island monster (like mastodonsauroid temnospondyls [the skull of one is shown above].. yeah, maybe it’s a late-surviving, limbless mastodonsauroid).

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While the still photo shown at the very top of this article has been reproduced a lot, some other images haven’t been. One (shown here on the left) shows the creature at closer range, and from a different angle. Another (here on the right) shows the head as seen directly from the front, at much closer range. It shows clearly that the white eyes you can see on the top of the head really are meant to be the eyes, but its wavy, broken outline provides further support for the idea that the creature is hoaxed, as the wavy outline shows clearly that the edge of the ‘creature’ is partly overlapped by sand. Ok, you might say that the creature had partially buried itself in the sand, and indeed Le Serrec reported that this was indeed the case. But in at least four spots it looks like someone has placed handfuls of sand on top of the edge of the creature: exactly what you would do if trying to weight down a monster-shaped sheet of plastic.

The final piece of evidence demonstrating that the whole episode was a hoax comes from the fact that, in 1959, Le Serrec had tried to get a group together on an expedition that would prove ‘financially fruitful’, and that he had ‘another thing in reserve which will bring in a lot of money… it’s to do with the sea-serpent’ (Heuvelmans 1968, p. 534). Incidentally, the film supposedly taken of the creature revealed nothing.

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One last thing: when most people think of sea serpents, they generally imagine immense, snake-like creatures. Where did Le Serrec get the idea of a giant tadpole monster from? As a kid I always thought that Le Serrec was inspired by ‘yellow belly’, a marine cryptid hypothesised to exist by Heuvelmans (1968) and described as shaped like a tadpole, 60-100 ft long, marked with black transverse bands on its sides, and restricted to the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans [my own, c. 1988, effort to reconstruct yellow belly shown in adjacent image]. Given that Heuvelmans first published his ideas on ‘yellow belly’ in 1965 (when the French edition of In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents, Le Grand Serpent-de-Mer, appeared), while Le Serrec took the photos in December 1964, this can’t be possible – can it?

I wonder if Heuvelmans had published a description of ‘yellow belly’ prior to 1965, and that this description had been used by Le Serrec in making the hoax. So far as I can tell however, Heuvelmans did no such thing. But could Le Serrec have seen Le Grand Serpent-de-Mer in early 1965, and just lied about the date of the encounter? That would require some detailed investigation (you’d have to show, for example, that Le Grand Serpent-de-Mer was available prior to March 1965, and that Le Serrec had gotten hold of a copy). What about the opposite idea: that Heuvelmans had been inspired by the Hook Island creature when coming up with the idea of ‘yellow belly’? This would assume that Heuvelmans had initially regarded the Hook Island creature as genuine, and there’s no indication of that (it’s not impossible however). Furthermore, he seems to have based ‘yellow belly’ on several other, clearly identified cases (dubious and ambiguous cases (see Magin 1996), but clearly identified nonetheless).

It was recently reported that Le Serrec has been found alive and well and living in Asia, and – as of 2003 – there were apparently plans to interview him about the case. That might be interesting but, regardless, the Hook Island case is undoubtedly a hoax, albeit a pretty good one I think.

More tomorrow!

Refs – -

Coleman, L. & Huyghe, P. 2003. The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep. Tarcher/Penguin, New York.

Heuvelmans, B 1969. In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents. Hill and Wang, New York.

Magin, U. 1996. St George without a dragon: Bernard Heuvelmans and the sea serpent. In Moore, S. (ed) Fortean Studies Volume 3. John Brown Publishing (London), pp. 223-234.

Newton, M. 2005. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology. McFarland & Company, Jefferson (N. Carolina) and London.

Shuker, K. P. N. 1991. Extraordinary Animals Worldwide. Robert Hale, London.

Comments

  1. #1 Silmarillion
    July 7, 2008

    Welcome to sea monster week.

    What an interesting idea! I look forward to reading more. My mother had an old photo of a supposed sea monster that used to enthral me, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen it and I hadn’t thought to look it up again!

  2. #2 Jerzy
    July 7, 2008

    It is a tadpole of Creature from the Black lagoon!

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    July 7, 2008

    I love sea monsters. And lake monsters.

    On our lake, we have a monster we call “Leviathan” … I’ve come very close to catching it a few times, but it always gets away. I’ll let you know when I catch it.

  4. #4 Sharon
    July 7, 2008

    This was very interesting. I’m shocked this hasn’t been as publicized as Scotland’s Lochness monster!

  5. #5 Ivan Viehoff
    July 7, 2008

    Why do you assume “Henk de Jong” is a typo? Are you simply unaware that “Henk” is a very common Dutch forename? Or do you have reason to believe that the Australian de Jong, although having a Dutch surname, was unlikely to have a Dutch forename, and that Heuvelmans, being Dutch himself, misconstrued it? Btw, Hank is a distinctively American form of Henry, and not very common outside that continent.

    But not totally unknown of course. If you google “hank de jong monster”, you will discover that there is a man called Hank de Jong living in the town of Monster in the Netherlands.

  6. #6 Andreas Johansson
    July 7, 2008

    Clearly it’s an aquatic hellasaur …

    Something that’s struck me when reading cryptozoological accounts is how often ‘sea serpents’ don’t look like snakes – they undulate dorsoventrally, have fur or manes*, have fins, etc. A tadpole-shape doesn’t strike me as all that exotic in context.

    * Based partially on this, cryptozoology book in my father’s possession suggests that ‘the great sea serpent’ is in fact a gigantic species of seal!

  7. #7 Cunzy1 1
    July 7, 2008

    It’s is clearly a Giant dead Lingula.

  8. #8 Cameron
    July 7, 2008

    Heuvelmans inspired many childhood drawings from me too…

    Incidentally, does anybody know if “In the wake of Bernard Heuvelmans” is worth the twenty bucks?

  9. #9 Craig York
    July 7, 2008

    Well, I’m a bit puzzled. Most of the sources I remember
    ( been awhile since I boned up on ‘em, I grant you )
    treat this photo as an almost certain hoax, as do you-
    so why drag it out of the attic just to thrash its
    threadbare plastic hide?

  10. #10 Darren Naish
    July 7, 2008

    You’re right Craig, I shouldn’t have bothered. Thanks for the advice.

  11. #11 Edman
    July 7, 2008

    When I was a kid, my grandpa used to take me out on his boat, and I thought I saw all sorts of sea monsters in the shadows…until I put on a mask and saw that it was just patches of seaweed. Laaaame.

    I, for one, am psyched about sea monster week. Keep it up!

  12. #12 Bee
    July 7, 2008

    Oh, it should certainly be brought up and debunked regularly: we have new generations of credulous little cryptozoologists now encountering these photos and other old hoaxes, plus the usual photos of rotting whales, drifting debarked logs, interestingly lit wakes and ripples, otters with no size references, oarfish, and a wild assortment of handmade mermaids, both old and new.

    A blog like Darren’s is the perfect place to send them – they can hardly dismiss his expertise in identifying real animals.

    Carry on Darren – I hope you might even have one or two I’ve not seen.

  13. #13 Jenny Islander
    July 7, 2008

    I had never heard of this one before now. Fascinating!

    When I first saw the picture, I was hoping that the rest of the post would be about how it was found to be an unprecedentedly huge specimen of a deep-sea gulper eel tossed up from the deeps by a severe storm, or something. Oh well.

  14. #14 Dave Godfrey
    July 7, 2008

    Personally I’m glad you did cover this. Its a photo I’ve seen before, but the book I saw it was the credulous end of cryptozoology, uncritically reporting things like astral projection as an explanation of Werewolves, late surviving pterosaurs, etc, though it drew the line at mermaids.

  15. #15 Zach Miller
    July 7, 2008

    You all, all these marine cryptid posts have me wondering: are there any that have NOT been more-or-less proven to be hoaxes? To put it another way, are there any potentially real marine cryptids?

  16. #16 Jerzy
    July 7, 2008

    Potentially real marine cryptids?

    Cryptids are evil beasts, and those discovered by science were earlier ignored by cryptozoologists, and those highlighted by cryptozoologists are undiscovered…

    Long-finned sperm whale is apparently real, but for 99% abnormal sperm whale.

    Original Bishop Pontoppidian’s Kraken of Norse legends is quite accurate description of undersea volcanic activity. Note, that tentacle stuff became associated with Kraken much later. I’m surprised nobody made this out.

  17. #17 Darren Naish
    July 7, 2008

    Dave Godfrey wrote…

    Personally I’m glad you did cover this. Its a photo I’ve seen before, but the book I saw it was the credulous end of cryptozoology, uncritically reporting things like astral projection as an explanation of Werewolves, late surviving pterosaurs, etc, though it drew the line at mermaids.

    Thank you Dave – you’ve pretty much summed up my main reason for covering the case. Like so many cryptid photos, it seems from what research I’ve done that the image is out there for all to see, but is not accompanied by any accurate review of what’s now known about it. In fact some stuff you can find is ‘pro monster’ and reads as if Le Serrec photographed a real animal: here’s one example, here’s another.

    My aim with articles like this is to provide the answer to the question ‘I wonder if anyone ever worked out what that thing was?’. If anyone can point me to an equally useful review anywhere on the internet I’d be interested to see it.

  18. #18 Neil
    July 7, 2008

    lol its funny you covered this photo, when only a few days ago I stumbled upon this on you tube

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcodzcCFJ28
    :D

  19. #19 S.B.
    July 7, 2008

    Looks like a giant sperm to me.

  20. #20 Chu Liang
    July 7, 2008

    You funny guy! Hilarious! Hilarious!

  21. #21 Jeremy
    July 7, 2008

    While it’s more likely than not that the sea monster in question is a hoax, this article certainly doesn’t prove that assumption or even anything close.

    It’s poorly written and while it apologises for providing too much information for those already in the know about the case, in fact it provides very little detail or backup of any of the claims made.

    The bit about the wavy outline of the head (it’s underwater for cripes sake!), is just fantasy and that seems to be the main basis of the “proof” other than a bit of character assassination. The idea that the author can tell that … “in at least four spots it looks like someone has placed handfuls of sand on top of the edge of the creature” … is ludicrous.

    Since pretty much all sea monsters discovered so far have turned out to be hoaxes or misinterpretations, it’s very likely that this creature doesn’t actually exist, but to believe this author has “proven” same, is to ascribe to another kind of fantasy altogether.

  22. #22 Daniella Perea
    July 7, 2008

    Duh? Why do IQs drop whenever sea monsters are discussed?

    1.Apparently untrustworthy guy claims that he will go away and make money by faking sea-serpent
    2.Guy manages to photograph sea serpent and tries to make money from it
    3.Photo has problems that don’t look realistic, I see wavy outline and sand patches as consistent with hoaxed, you might need to see larger picture to be more confident about this

    Maybe the article is too long and poorly written, but who said anything has been proven here anyway?

  23. #23 Dr Vector
    July 7, 2008

    Here’s an experiment if anyone wants to try it: tabulate the frequency of critical/dismissive comments (this post is pointless, too long, boring, etc.) for cryptozoological vs. regular posts, see if there’s a significant difference. Of course now I’ve gone and polluted the waters for the rest of Sea Monster Week.

    Speaking only for myself, and in light of the facts that:
    (1) I’d never heard of this one, despite what might be described as a strong avocational interest in sea monsters during my formative years;
    (2) something doesn’t have to be completely novel on a planetary scale to be worth reading, and in fact, a decent review that pulls together lots of disparate information is often supremely useful;
    (3) I was neither bored nor offended by the quality of your writing;
    I thank you for a job well done, and look forward to the rest of Sea Monster Week.

  24. #24 Mick Frisco
    July 7, 2008

    I remember this picture from when i was a little kid. It used to scare the bejesus outta me. Now, it looks like a joke. Who knew?

  25. #25 Darren Naish
    July 7, 2008

    Jeremy writes..

    It’s poorly written and while it apologises for providing too much information for those already in the know about the case, in fact it provides very little detail or backup of any of the claims made.

    Yes yes, all true. Duly noted, and from hereon I will ensure that you don’t have to put up with my crap anymore. On the other hand, you could always take that responsibility on yourself. Thank you for your comment.

  26. #26 Craig York
    July 7, 2008

    Darren, all I meant to say was that I’ve seen you do better
    critiques of photographic evidence that is much more widely
    known. I wasn’t offering advice, and for whatever its worth, I hope you go on “bothering”.

  27. Thanks Darren,

    I’d only ever seen the famous picture from the set, despite reading everywhere there were more out there… I suspected it was a hoax even as a kid because books that were pushing sea monsters as real only showed this one picture. If the others were as good why were they never shown?

    Has the film ever been put out? I’ve checked the internet periodically for it every year or so, but never been able to find it.

    ps- I’m loving the quality of the sea monster articles so far. Not sure why so many are bad mouthing it… Jealousy of your great site perhaps?

  28. #28 Karmen Nosikova
    July 7, 2008

    I think this kind of a giant animal would be possible. But not in that mentioned area, because there is not enough food for such a big animal.

  29. #29 Meli
    July 7, 2008

    I always thought it was a school of small fish swimming in an interesting formation.

  30. #30 Mike from Ottawa
    July 7, 2008

    My aim with articles like this is to provide the answer to the question ‘I wonder if anyone ever worked out what that thing was?’

    A worthy aim. A lot of crap gains credence just because nobody’s got anything specific on it.

    You’re being a sort of forensic cryptozoologist.

    I’m always very skeptical of these things, but deep down, I’d be as thrilled as anyone if something so big and weird were actually out there. I’m fascinated by trilobites (despite their not being tetrapods) and harbour a wish that a living example might be dredged up one day.

  31. #31 Veltyen
    July 7, 2008

    What does it look like?

    To me – Pelican Eels, Megamouth shark, blobfish, Rattails.

    All share deepsea habitats, dark colouration, extremely large heads, lack of obvious fins and tadpole like shapes. Most are post 1965 dicoveries. The whitsundays aren’t that far from the pacific drop, meaning the hypothesis of a recovering/ill deep sea creature isn’t totally invalid.

    Working against that hypothesis is the report that it advanced towards the discoverers. If it was a miss placed deep sea critter then it wouldn’t be spending energy on an attack that might fail.

    I’ve seen the picture before, I had always assumed it was an interesting shaped oil slick/optical illusion. Thank you for a fascinating background discussion.

  32. #32 Michael Ivy
    July 7, 2008

    That is a really a great photo! Do believe that it is real. What is the consenses among your colleges?

  33. #33 Nathan Myers
    July 8, 2008

    It might have been a bit more convincing if they hadn’t used little piles of coral fragments for the eyes.

  34. #34 Neil
    July 8, 2008

    “While it’s more likely than not that the sea monster in question is a hoax, this article certainly doesn’t prove that assumption or even anything close.

    It’s poorly written and while it apologises for providing too much information for those already in the know about the case, in fact it provides very little detail or backup of any of the claims made.

    The bit about the wavy outline of the head (it’s underwater for cripes sake!), is just fantasy and that seems to be the main basis of the “proof” other than a bit of character assassination. The idea that the author can tell that … “in at least four spots it looks like someone has placed handfuls of sand on top of the edge of the creature” … is ludicrous.

    Since pretty much all sea monsters discovered so far have turned out to be hoaxes or misinterpretations, it’s very likely that this creature doesn’t actually exist, but to believe this author has “proven” same, is to ascribe to another kind of fantasy altogether.”

    Posted by: Jeremy

    Yikes, I guess that article hit a nerve! I some how suspect your opinion is in the minority…

  35. #35 R.A.W.
    July 8, 2008

    Could the large apparent head be a perspective trick? What about the total length, could that be exaggerated by perspective as well?

    And if either of those was so, could that possibly get the size or form factor of the animal within less mysterious bounds?

  36. #36 Mark Lees
    July 8, 2008

    The Hook Island Sea Monster – one of the classics. As you state almost certainly a fake. One commentor referred to ‘character assassination’ – while I geneally prefer to keep personalities out of the picture when assessing evidence for or against cryptids, the fact is that in cases where there is only a single instance and where there are few witnesses, the credibility of the witnesses is highly relevant.

    In the case of the Hook Island Monster we have a ‘creature’ not quite like any other reported; photographic evidence that has several dubious aspects; and significant questioons regarding the honesty and motivation of the primary witness. While this doesn’t prove it was a fake, it doesn’t exactly come out as a strong case does it? In deed I think the case for it being genuine is so poor that it is best treated as a hoax unless other evidence comes to light to suggest otherwise.

    There is quite a bit more to the case, and the best coverage I have found of it was in: Bunyips & Bigfoots: In Search of Australia’s Mystery Animals by Malcolm Smith. A book I highly recomend as one of the most level headed books on cryptozoology I have ever read, the author seems to be neither a blinkered debunker nor a credulous acceptor.

    So what’s next? Are you planning anything on the New England Sea Serpent? Loads of witnesses over a number of decades of multiple instances – I’m curious as to what you conclude about that one.

  37. #37 Darren Naish
    July 8, 2008

    Hi Mark. Dammit, I haven’t seen Bunyips and Bigfoots.. I guess I must try and get hold of it. There’s a Malcolm Smith who regularly leaves comments on this site, I don’t know if it’s the same guy however. Malcolm? As for what’s next, come back in an hour or so…

  38. #38 Nemo Ramjet
    July 8, 2008

    Imagine the frog that thing will turn into…

  39. #39 JuliaM
    July 8, 2008

    “I’d only ever seen the famous picture from the set…”

    Me too. I was surprised to see that there were more!

    Thanks for finding and posting them, and ignore the nay-sayers – your post is well-written and informative. The idea of a ‘sea monster week’ is a good one.

    “Has the film ever been put out? I’ve checked the internet periodically for it every year or so, but never been able to find it.”

    From the article, it looks like they never did film it. They claimed the perfect excuse, mind you: “Eventually Le Serrec and de Jong plucked up the courage to approach it underwater in order to film it…It didn’t move and they suspected it might be dead, but just as Le Serrec began the filming it opened its mouth and made movements toward them. They returned to the boat…”

    If a true sea monster, I wouldn’t have blamed them!

  40. #40 Jerzy
    July 8, 2008

    BTW, when you want another cryptid post, can you write about Veo or Manis paleojavanicus?

    This one is likely!

  41. #41 Gareth Simkins
    July 8, 2008

    No refence to “Cadborosaurus” yet?

    http://www.cryptozoology.com/cryptids/caddy.php

  42. #42 Darren Naish
    July 8, 2008

    Gareth, I’ve covered Caddy at length before: go here.

  43. #43 Stevo Darkly
    July 8, 2008

    Wow. I think I very vaguely remember seeing something about this, from my childhood. Maybe in the Heuvelmans book — I was always interested in the possibility of unknown beasts.

    Darren, for what it’s worth, I found your totally superfluous and poorly written post to be informative and interesting. As usual. This is why I come by here every day. Great blog.

  44. #44 Darwin's Minion
    July 8, 2008

    “The bit about the wavy outline of the head (it’s underwater for cripes sake!)”

    While it’s true that ripples on the water’s surface will cause the outline of a submerged object to blur, I don’t think that that’s a valid defense for the blurriness of this object’s outline. Why? Well, you can actually see the small ripples and blurs on the water’s surface in those photos, and the patterns just don’t match up. It looks fishy (excuse the pun).

  45. #45 Tim Morris
    July 8, 2008

    See, this is why I’m an idiot for having faith in a photo for over 10 years.

    I agree, if I had had time to look at the other photos, and noticed areas where sand has *washed off of* the plastic.

    The only part of this kind of post I dislike is that you treat it seriously to within the actual sentace where you jump out and say “it’s undoubtedly a hoax”. I’ going to be a cryptozoologist someday, and that wasnt really called for in my opinion.

    I know scientists enjoy fooling over-enthusiastic people like me, but JEEZE.

    I know you’re a great scientist, I thank numerous pagan deitys for things like that (joke), but if this is some sort of science-community thing that qualified scientists like doing, I dont know what it is.

  46. #46 Tim Morris
    July 8, 2008

    If that last comment of mine offended anyone, I’m sorry.

  47. #47 John Conway
    July 8, 2008

    Wow, you’ve been getting a bit of blowback on this one… very odd! I’ve read about this photo before, but you’ve added stuff I didn’t know. Also, I’ve never seen the other photos, though I knew they existed.

    I’ve always thought this is far and away the most beautiful sea monster photograph. I don’t really even care that it’s fake.

  48. #48 Peter
    July 8, 2008

    This is great. Hooray for Sea-monster Week! So many comments, people must have been yearning for it, Darren. Looking forward to more!

  49. #49 ???
    July 8, 2008

    ? ?? ? ???

  50. #50 C
    July 9, 2008

    You’ve been StumbledUpon. A very enjoyable read!

  51. #51 kad
    July 9, 2008

    This is my favorite blog on the web and has been for some time. I am thoroughly enjoying the seamonster stuff and hope you don’t let the smattering of negative comments influence your choice of topics now or in the future. You entertain while you educate, and as a former educator, I have a great deal of respect for anyone who’s mastered that ability.

  52. #52 Darren Naish
    July 9, 2008

    Thank you, thank you, thank you all :)

  53. #53 sunny beach
    July 9, 2008

    Always nice to see scientific reasoning cutting through the murk.

  54. #54 Emile
    July 9, 2008

    I’ve always thought this is far and away the most beautiful sea monster photograph. I don’t really even care that it’s fake.

    I agree. Seriously, those sea monster photos are an art form. Someone ought to do more like this one just for art’s sake.

    For the record, this picture scared me to death when I was a kid.

  55. #55 DDeden
    July 10, 2008

    I thought I was looking at a “school of fish”, but who knows. BTW, nothing wrong with loch-lake-muck monsters, just happy to see the sea cryptoids. and damn good writing too.

  56. #56 Gareth Simkins
    July 10, 2008

    Thanks for the link to your piece on Caddy, Darren. I remember reading an article on that in New Scientist sometime in the 1990s.

  57. #57 David Marjanovi?
    July 11, 2008

    It is a tadpole of Creature from the Black lagoon!

    Eucritta melanolimnetes, with its famous parenthetical vertebrae, is itself a larva… :-}

    Well, I’m a bit puzzled. Most of the sources I remember
    ( been awhile since I boned up on ‘em, I grant you )
    treat this photo as an almost certain hoax, as do you-
    so why drag it out of the attic just to thrash its
    threadbare plastic hide?

    Because not everyone is as well-informed as you. I, for one, only knew the top photo, and only from a source that declared it to be a 23-m-long arthrodire (Dunkleosteus inflated and 400 Ma too late).

    Incidentally, let me inform you about computers and basic punctuation: 1) you don’t need to press Enter when you want to end a line — computers are not typewriters, lines are ended automatically, you can just keep writing till you want to end a paragraph; 2) the hyphen is not a dash, and dashes require spaces on both sides of them.

  58. #58 David Marjanovi?
    July 11, 2008

    Original Bishop Pontoppidian’s Kraken of Norse legends is quite accurate description of undersea volcanic activity. Note, that tentacle stuff became associated with Kraken much later. I’m surprised nobody made this out.

    I wonder since when Krake is the German word for “octopus”…

    The only part of this kind of post I dislike is that you treat it seriously to within the actual sentace where you jump out and say “it’s undoubtedly a hoax”. I’ going to be a cryptozoologist someday, and that wasnt really called for in my opinion.

    That isn’t the case. The paragraph that starts with “The final piece of evidence demonstrating that the whole episode was a hoax” comes long before “it’s undoubtedly a hoax”.

    I know scientists enjoy fooling over-enthusiastic people like me

    What? Which scientists? Have you read too many DML April Fools jokes? :o)

  59. #59 Tim Morris
    July 13, 2008

    Dave:

    Well, I should rephrase it into the fact I had my hopes up, and the fact he debunked it so soundly is kind of jarring :P
    Also, I’m a dogged disliker of scientific truth getting in the way of a good myth, so really it’s my fault.

    Also Dave, thanks for the sympathy/neutrality/apathy ;)

  60. #60 Marine Quiz
    July 13, 2008

    Nice post amazing pictures of sea monster. Depicts the actual sea life. Great effort.

  61. #61 David Marjanovi?
    July 14, 2008

    Also Dave, thanks for the sympathy/neutrality/apathy ;)

    :-)

    I’m a dogged disliker of scientific truth getting in the way of a good myth

    I know the feeling. Over time you can get used to it, though. :-)

  62. #62 alex
    July 15, 2008

    I was surfing once and what looked like a creature very similar to this swam towards me. Scared the hell out of me. Turned out to be a massive school of tiny fish swimming all staying extremely close to one another. As the fish were all following one another similar to how birds fly in packs it looked exactly like a single creature swimming through the water, very similar to this indeed. Haven’t studied the pictures in great detail but seems more plausible than giant platics bags or a giant eel. As for the eye’s and cut he thinks he saw, all the fish have slight variations in colour which can put across such an illusion.

  63. #63 arachnophile
    July 15, 2008

    Interesting. Everytime I see this one my first instinct is, “school of small fish,” many of whom do school in ways that look like one, larger creature. That’s why I thought the edges were blurry as well but that’s not really held up as a possiblity so I bow to the experts on this one. ;)

  64. #64 arachnophile
    July 15, 2008

    lol. I didn’t see the post before mine before I wrote that. ;)

  65. #65 Graham King
    July 18, 2008

    Great blog. I have never read any critical discussion of this image, and the ‘sand on edges’ photos (with bitty unconvincing eyes) clinch it for me. Ta!

    That said, as others have noted, the top image DOES have a certain iconic awe factor. It seems to evoke (and not just in me) a certain primal fear and wonder, embodying/symbolising somehow a big question mark, a black void or chasm of the unknown, that lies beneath the surface… of what (we think) we know…

    I think that the capacity to experience that numinous feeling is no bad thing, but also that people who have had that response evoked in them are then (when faced with evidence the trigger was not genuinely worthy of it) either: (1) loath to let go of their visceral and valued belief, or (2) feel hurt and maybe resentful at having been duped. From such experiences, some people take wisdom; some take harm, by becoming stubbornly and credulously believing against the evidence (as if afraid that wonder itself will be taken away from their experience of life); and some take harm, by becoming bitterly disbelieving of any proclaimed wonder or experience outside some prescribed (and circumscribed) norm, no matter how well-evidenced.

    None of which I hope will dissuade you at all, Darren, from continuing your thoughtful examination of these creaturely claims, a scrutiny which I personally greatly enjoy and value!
    However, possibly these ideas may illuminate some of the more emotional responses you seem to receive, when you do so.

  66. #66 Cryptozoology is going to be my job
    July 26, 2008

    People say it is called the monster tadpole of hook island. Also look near the tail there is a break of the skin.

  67. #67 Alison Robin
    July 30, 2008

    Have you considered it to be a gulper eel? The shape seems to fit, but that doesn’t explain how it could end up so near the surface.
    The other thing that occurs to me would b that it might be some sort of frilled shark distorted by the water.

  68. #68 Bill Godwin
    August 4, 2008

    Where can I find a photo of the monster shown on cnn headline news this morning ?
    Thank you :-)

  69. #69 Chris M.
    August 6, 2008

    Going back briefly to the “why a tadpole” bit…

    As far as things that hold perfectly still while resting on the bottom of a body of water, tadpoles are the first thing that comes to my mind. And if you’re working backward from something that is believably immobile the whole time, and resting on the bottom, it’s not a big stretch. Other things certainly do this, though.

    As far as unlikelier explanations go, I’m reasonably certain that shark finning had gotten quite well underway by this point; a starved, finned basking shark could end up like this, I suppose. It’s always a fun exercise figuring out how these things could actually happen!

  70. #70 Twinkie
    August 26, 2008

    I do believe it is a hoax, but that closeup of it’s “face” really gives me the creeps! Just the thought of any large creature staring up at me from beneath water just makes me shudder!

  71. #71 Malcolm Smith
    December 20, 2008

    Darren,
    It’s been a while since I’ve checked out your site but, yes, I am the same Malcolm Smith who wrote “Bunyips and Bigfoots”, and I still have mint copies for sale.

  72. #72 tadeline
    February 25, 2009

    This is nothing compared to what i have seen there is somthing out there and its big not sure what it is but i have seen somthing if u would like to hear my story please email me at Cubana2822@aim.com

  73. #73 jorge34yo
    March 31, 2009

    I first saw two of these pictures òf the “Quensland giant tadpole” when I was about 8 years old, back in 1965, and at that time they were regarded as the real thing. I had never seen the third one, the one took directly from above and front and I’m really sad to say, that is no solid 3-D object lying there, looks like bits and pieces of the sides of the “creature’s head” are floating free in the current and there is no definition of shape or texture, in addition to the eyes that look positively fake. I’ve always wanted to see the film that Le Serrec supposedly shot underwater, but it was never shown anywhere,to my knowledge. I’m really sorry that this “mysterious animal” from my childhood fantasies is no more than a hoax…sort of like finding out Santa was actually your grampa in a red costume.

  74. #74 joe mamma
    August 21, 2009

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91ggc3BNdDw yeah it’s so real! look at that! i’m not sure what it is but i’m a little skepticle…

  75. #75 joshua
    October 8, 2009

    totoo ba ito o hindi

  76. #76 Andy
    June 6, 2010

    It looks like the guy found a big underwater rock that looked abit like a head, and then faked the tail section by whatever means he used.

  77. #77 Darren Naish
    June 6, 2010

    Well… as stated in the article it looks most likely that Le Serrec used a large plastic sheet to create the monster.

  78. #78 redcat
    July 15, 2010

    I bet it’s a school of fish. The more I look at the b/w photos, the more I’m convinced.

  79. #79 Darren Naish
    July 15, 2010

    Briefly, there’s no way in hell it’s a school of fish. Look more carefully, and read the article.

  80. #80 redcat
    July 16, 2010

    I’ve read the article, looked more carefully.
    I don’t get why in hell you can rule it out for certain.

  81. #81 zogarma
    July 16, 2010

    Years ago I heard from a work mate that a friend had seen what looked like a giant tadpole lying in shallow water that swam away. the siting was at Mans Head St Ives Cornwall. I also put the head photo in photoshop and to the right can be seen what looks like a screaming Alien/Goblin

  82. #82 Zach Miller
    July 16, 2010

    Well, to be fair, schools of fish often appear in impossibly dense clusters which mimic gigantic tadpoles in order to scare off potential predators. In fact, many schools of fish are merely smaller pieces of a greater whole that can come together to form a large, singular organism, kind of like the T-1000 or leech monsters in Resident Evil 0.

  83. #83 Brian Breheny
    December 25, 2010

    I met a group of people in Australia in 1978 who claimed to be the same people who had shot these pictures. They were building a boat near the town of Bowen in Queensland. I can’t recall the names but they had the original pictures and seemed quite credible to me. The person in the row boat was among them. Their description was quite convincing. This is ether a fake of a real sea monster. It is not a school of fish. From their description, they could not have been mistaken about that. They also claimed that local fishermen had also seen creatures like this one. Take it for what it’s worth.

  84. #84 zogarma
    December 28, 2010

    Am I the only one who can see on the head only picture of the monster a face which takes up the bottom right quarter of the photo.
    It’s lighter in colour and lays part way over the monsters face from just above the left eye down to the bottom of photo.

  85. #85 Mark
    March 21, 2011

    I think those are swarm of fish like this
    http://dp-img.com/2011/02/Strange-thing-around-the-world-002.jpg

  86. #87 Darren Naish
    March 21, 2011

    The idea that the Hook Island ‘monster’ photos might depict a shoal of tightly packed fish has been mentioned a few times in this thread. While it’s an appealing idea, I don’t think it can be right. Why? Because (1) the edges of these kinds of fish shoals are ‘messy’, lacking the straight, obvious edges seen on the Hook Island monster, (2) the shoals don’t become organised into something as neat-looking as the Hook Island ‘monster’ – it has an obvious fat head/body and a long, gently tapering tail, while even the most tightly packed, monster-shaped fish shoal is far more amorphous in form, (3) fish shoals are dynamic and constantly changing shape and position – Le Serrec’s photos show that the object was pretty much stationary while he was taking the photos, and (4) circumstantial evidence counts against the chance encountering of a sea monster. As explained in the article, Le Serrec was telling people that he’d photograph a sea monster before he had his supposed encounter of 1964.

  87. #88 dsdsds
    June 20, 2011

    this is a whole load of crap