An exploration of our Earth's ever-captivating fauna through musings on the bizarre side of Zoology, Cryptozoology, Paleontology, and Paleoanthropology

Friday, June 7, 2013

What was the Naden Harbor Carcass?

Painting depicting the proposed appearance of a 'cadborosaurus', based off of eyewitness accounts and the Naden Harbor carcass, by cryptozoological artist Thomas Finley.

In the summer of 1937, men flensing a sperm whale at the Naden Harbour whaling station located in the Queen Charlotte Islands made a remarkable discovery. As described in Dr. Paul LeBlond and Dr. Edward Bousfield's 1995 Cadborosaurus: Survivor from the Deep, the remains of an unidentifiable animal were removed from the whale's stomach and laid out on a five foot table to be photographed. The carcass possessed a discernable head said to "bear resemblance to that of a large dog with features of a horse and the turn down nose of a camel", a smooth (although one witness described it as being covered by a "fur-like material") elongate body stretching around twelve feet in length, signs of a dorsal crest or vertebral column, short foreflippers, and a fluke which was "spade-shaped" or resembled "a single blade of gill bone as found in whales' jaws". The individuals at the whaling station claimed that the body was not that of any marine fauna previously pulled from the stomach of a sperm whale, such as a six-gilled shark, ragfish, or giant squid. Unfortunately, the carcass was disposed of after zoologically-untrained taxidermist Francis Kermode suggested the remains to have been those of a fetal baleen whale. Still, three photographs of the so-called Naden Harbor carcass remain and have puzzled both laymen and zoologists alike. Hoping to obtain a fresh take on the matter, I spoke to correspondent and brilliant researcher Scott Mardis as to the possibility of his writing a guest article for this blog. He graciously accepted the inquiry and wrote the exceptional text below. Thus, my sincere thanks go out to Scott for this article and for his mentorship in the field of 'aquatic cryptozoology'. I encourage you to read his lengthy work in full as it is filled with cutting edge information regarding what has been alleged to be the carcass of a bonafide 'sea serpent'.

This is a guest post by Scott Mardis. Scott has been an active field investigator of the Lake Champlain “Monster” since 1992. He is a former sustaining member of the defunct International Society of Cryptozoology and a former volunteer worker in the Vertebrate Paleontology Dept. of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences (1990-1992). He co-authored a scientific abstract about the Lake Champlain hydrophone sounds for the Acoustical Society of America in 2010. He currently lives in Bradenton, Florida.

What Was The Naden Harbour Carcass AKA Cadborosaurus Willsi?

By Scott Mardis

Basking shark? It has been known since 1809 (Stronsa Beast, Everard Home) that mutilated, decomposing specimens of Cetorhinus maximus can sometimes take on plesiosaur-like shapes, (below, artwork Markus Buhler 2012)

like the Mann Hill "Monster", Scituate, Massachusetts, 1970 (below)

and also serpentine forms in an even more advanced state of decomposition, such as the Provincetown, Massachusetts "sea serpent" of 1939 (below)
and the Prince Rupert Sound, B.C. "sea serpent" of 1934 (below)

Of all the known basking shark "sea serpents", the one that bears the most resemblance to the Naden Harbour carcass is the one from Effingham, B.C. in 1947 (below).

Since the Naden Harbour carcass was only about 12 ft. long, it goes to show that it would have been a relatively small, juvenile basking shark (if that was what it really was). To illustrate the possibilities, pictured below is (clockwise from top left) the head of the Naden Harbour carcass, the Effingham carcass and a drawing of the internal anatomy of head of an unmutilated juvenile basking shark.

While the head of the NHC certainly resembles in shape the cranium of the Effingham carcass (as well as the juvenile basking shark cranium), I am not aware of any mutilated basking shark specimens which display apparently well-formed head features (resembling eyes, the line of a mouth and possible nares) as seen on the NHC. Now, admittedly, the resolution of the best photo of the NHC is not perfect and these features could be misinterpretations. The vertebrae of the NHC certainly do resemble those of a mutilated basking shark, as compared with the 1939 Provincetown "serpent" (below)

The tail region of the NHC also resembles the tail of the Parker’s Cove, Nova Scotia basking shark of 2002 (below). (As near as I can determine, Bousfield and LeBlond’s suggestion of a left hind flipper or fluke hidden behind the presumed right hind flipper or fluke is purely speculation and the photographs of the NHC only prove the existence of one tail appendage).
While most of the selachian "sea serpents" turn out be basking sharks, it would be unwise for us to ignore the possibility that other types of sharks could undergo a similar metamorphosis. Cameron McCormick (the Lord Geekington, Knight of the Realm and an Ivory Tower scientist of some note) brought this to my attention: www.Shark-Skeleton.html

Shark Skeleton
A 1.8 m long skeleton was hauled up on a bottom set line from a depth of approximately 150 m in the Tathra Canyons off Tathra New South Wales in 2003.

Shark Skeleton
 D. Stephens © D. Stephens

The image was taken by D. Stephens and sent to the Australian Museum by DPI Fisheries Officer, Ian Merrington. It shows the skull and vertebral column of a shark, most likely a member of the family Lamnidae* or possibly Carcharhinidae. This family Lamnidae includes the White Shark, Shortfin Mako and Porbeagle Shark. Carcharhinidae includes the Whaler Sharks and Tiger Shark.
Unlike the skeleton of bony fishes, the elasmobranchs have skeletons made of cartilage, not bone.

References: Helfman, G.S., Collette, B.B. & D.E. Facey. 1997. The Diversity of Fishes. Blackwell Science. Pp. 528.

* Thank you to Dr John Stevens CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research, Hobart, for his help identifying the skeleton.

Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology Last Updated: 11 November 2010

Related images

Shark skull View full size
D. Stephens © D. Stephens

Tail region of a shark skeleton View full size
D. Stephens © D. Stephens
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Below is Cameron’s comparison of this shark skeleton with the NHC, reproduced with his kind permission.
Here, below, is a comparison of the head of the NHC with various shark craniums.

The tails of any number of different shark species could theoretically take on the appearance of the tail of the NHC in a mutilated condition (the tail vertebrae of sharks extends into the upper lobe of the tailfin, when there is a bilobate tail, below).

That’s about all that can be said for the shark idea (with the exception of the frill shark, which will be dealt with later). The NHC was pulled from the belly of a sperm whale, so we can’t really be too sure what effect the digestive juices would have in altering the mutilated remains of a shark. Looking at the strange head above (reminding one of a camel, a moose and a collie dog) certainly raises questions about this idea, but this theory remains one of the most parsimonious and viable to account for the remains of the NHC. A White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus)? On the surface, this would sound unlikely, until you realize that mutilated sturgeons can undergo a deceptive transformation not unlike that of the basking shark. In the picture below, the carcass on the left is the Parker’s Cove basking shark from 2002 and the carcass on the right is a mutilated white sturgeon washed up in Portland, Oregon in 2011.  
Although the Oregon sturgeon carcass superficially resembled a dead sea lion (and some people initially expressed the opinion that it was one), a comparison of it’s head with a partial sturgeon cranium reveals much (below).

More relevant to the NHC, in an unmutilated state a rod-like neurocranium fits inside this strange head, somewhat like a pistol fits into a holster (see below).
 Stripped of the external parts of the cranium and the jaws, the neurocranium looks like this (below).
The resemblance of the shape and features of the sturgeon neurocranium to the shape and features of the head of the NHC is remarkable (see below).
On the sturgeon neurocranium, there is a ridge resembling an eyebrow in a similar position to the "eye" of the NHC and a large hole resembling a nare in a similar position to the possible nare of the NHC. Could the digestive juices of a sperm whale melt a sturgeon neurocranium into something as naturalistic looking as the head of the NHC? Possibly. It should be noted that the above sturgeon neurocranium was dissected, as opposed to having been found like this in a natural state. How likely is it that a sturgeon could naturally decompose into such a state? Below is a photograph of a sturgeon specimen in almost such a condition, with the neurocranium clearly visible in an almost hollowed out head.
When viewed dorsally, the neurocranium also appears vaguely horse-like, with the appearance of horns (below).

The cartilaginous vertebrae of the sturgeon also resemble the vertebral column of the NHC, as well as shark vertebrae (below).

The sturgeon tail (almost identical to some shark tails, with the vertebral column extending into the upper tail lobe) could theoretically resemble the tail of the NHC in a mutilated state (see below)
So, a mutilated white sturgeon must also be considered a possible candidate to identify the remains of the NHC. It reaches the right size dimensions (12 ft., possibly 20 ft.).
With all due respect to Drs. Bousfield and LeBlond, they could have saved themselves a boatload of grief by dealing with these more mundane possibilities before plumbing for more exotic explanations for the NHC. Despite the potentially damning effect the above mentioned hypotheses might have on the "NHC is an unknown animal" theory, some would argue that a detailed examination of both the shark and sturgeon ideas don’t entirely adequately account for the bizarre head morphology of the NHC and, in fact, open a small window to effectively argue the possibility of it representing a genuine unknown animal. The NHC might be a mutilated 
shark or it might be a mutilated sturgeon, but it can’t be both simultaneously! This opens the possibility that there might be other, more exciting alternatives. 
Some have argued, in a desperate attempt to simply make the NHC go away, that it could have been the subtle work of a taxidermist. Fake sea serpent carcasses are no stranger to the Pacific coast, as witness the one from Seattle around 1910 (below).
However, that goofy-looking piece of crap would have fooled no one. But what about this? (below).

This is a fabrication by artistic taxidermist Takeshi Yamada, who regularly creates such "monsters". An alleged "sea serpent" carcass from a place called Camp Fircom in British Columbia sometime in the 1930’s (below) has been suggested to have been constructed from beach debris (kelp, rocks and mussel shells) by paleontologist Darren Naish.
I’m not so sure, because it looks very basking sharky to me (see below).
Two well- documented historical facts would seem to make the taxidermy argument unlikely for the NHC: it was pulled from the belly of a sperm whale and parts of the carcass were examined by the director of the Royal Provincial Museum, Francis Kermode, a taxidermist. He identified the NHC as a fetal baleen whale based on the material examined (alleged to be a portion of a vertebrae, a portion of a baleen-like structure and a piece of skin).Many think this identity unlikely based on comparisons of the proportions of a baleen whale fetus with the NHC (below).The portions of the NHC examined by Kermode were subsequently lost, which is why the case for the NHC relies primarily on the photographic evidence.
For further comparison, here is a blue whale fetus compared with the NHC (below).
However, some mutilated whale carcasses, such as the probable pilot whale carcass from Aberdeen, Scotland, 2011 (below) can mimic some of the features of the NHC, though the body does not look as attenuated and the head is a poor match.
Incidentally, this is as good a place as any to point out that the mutilated remains of various pinniped species bear little resemblance to the NHC other than in the tail/back flippers region, but more on this later (see below).

Some think that the baleen-like material mentioned by Kermode might in fact have been the gill-rakers of a basking shark, which are very similar in structure. Below: (left) whale baleen,(righ
t) basking shark gill-rakers.
 It’s also possible that the baleen- like structure could have been an elastoidin fin ray (below),

possibly from the tail or pectoral appendages, or a broken- down dermal or muscle fiber, depending on the state of deterioration of the carcass. Based on the three photos of the NHC, the most likely place to find such a structure would appear to be the tail. For what it’s worth, ichthyosaurs also possessed supporting fin rays in their appendages, as demonstrated by Richard Owen in 1841 (below).
While the fact that parts of the NHC were examined by an apparently competent biologist with a strong knowledge of taxidermy may make us strongly question that the NHC was a taxidermic forgery, consider the case of another alleged "sea monster" carcass, the so-called "Erie Baby"(below).

Lake Erie Sea

© 2006, 2007, Glen J. Kuban
Part of Kuban's Paluxy web site
In the late 1990's strict creationist Carl Baugh began to promote an alleged baby "lake monster" as anti-evolutionary evidence. Sometimes called the "Erie Baby," the approximately 3 feet long carcass had reportedly washed up on the shore of Lake Erie around 1992, at which time it was found and then stuffed by taxadermist Larry "Pete" Petersen, who displayed it in his "L & D Bait and Tackle" shop near Cleveland, Ohio.*
Somehow Carl Baugh of Texas got word of the creature, and traveled from Texas to Petersen's shop to examine it. During his visit Baugh purchased the specimen from Petersen and subsequently displayed it in his Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas, evidently accepting the oddity as a real, plesiosaur-like lake monster.
Around the same time strict creationist Kent Hovind began to promote the creature in a similar manner in his seminars. A photograph of the stuffed creature appears on his website, where he states the following:

In 1998, I talked to Pete Peterson who lives in Cleveland, Ohio.
He said he was walking on the beach about six years earlier and
found a dead baby creature three feet long. The seagulls had been
pecking at it. Pete took it home with him and mounted it. He’s a
taxidermist. He said this creature was lying on the beach of Lake
Erie. Strange looking little fellow. Four flippers and has a tail
sort of like a fish. He said it had something like pouches on the
side of its cheeks. Carl Baugh bought it and it’s in the museum in
Glen Rose, Texas now. They’ve done a DNA analysis and a CAT scan
x-ray. It had a fish hook stuck up in its head. Apparently somebody
caught it sometime in the past and broke the line. The fish hook is
still in there, it shows up on the CAT scan. Strange little critter.
(Hovind, 2002-2006)
Upon hearing of Baugh's "find" I telephoned Petersen, whose shop happened be not far from where I lived at the time. As I inquired about the "monster" Petersen related that he did indeed find the carcass washed up on the shore of Lake Erie, and that he sold it to Baugh during Baugh's visit. Petersen was surprisingly candid about the manner in which he had processed the carcass. He said that when he found it, it was already decaying and had been "pecked at" by birds, but was evidently some kind of fish, with a hook still in its mouth. He said that he decided to stuff it and fashion it into a sea-serpent like creature as an attention-getting display for an upcoming taxidermy trade show. He said it had a long fin along the rear part of the body, which he notched into triangular shapes to make it appear more dragon like. He also bent and sewed the neck into an S-shape to foster the same impression, and finally, sewed little pieces of skin to form little flippers. He said the display--which was basically a "joke"--was a hit, and that many people at the trade show enjoyed it, especially children. He said he did not think anyone would take it seriously, until Baugh showed up, and seemed to assume it was a real lake monster, and wanted to buy it. I asked if he knew what species of fish it was. Despite being a taxidermist, Petersen said that he was unable to identify it.
Although I myself am an avid fisherman and have caught many different species of fish in Lake Erie over the years, I did not immediately recognize the species either. However, after doing some research into freshwater fish whose body shapes and fins were compatible with the carcass in question, I concluded that it was almost certainly a long-bodied, somewhat eel-like fish called a burbot, whose scientific name is Lota lota, and which can grow to 36 inches ormore in length. Also known as an eelpout, ling, lingcod, and lawyer fish (among other names), it is one of the few fresh-water relatives of ocean cod, and is less common than most Lake Erie species (usually preferring deeper, cooler waters), but is known to exist in Lake Erie.
Hovind states that DNA analysis and a CAT scan was conducted on the specimen, but does not provide the results. However, in 2005 I discussed the specimen with David Woetzel, whose own web site once encouraged the idea that the creature was some kind of lake monster. I related to Woetezel my research indicating the creature was an altered long-bodied fish. Soon afterward Woetzel related that he had discussed the matter with Baugh, who told him that the had concluded the creature was some kind of "eel." To Woetzel's credit, he soon removed the section of his website regarding the creature. Evidently Baugh himself no longer promotes the carcass as a baby lake monster, nor have any major creationist groups, although as of 2006, a web site featuring Hovind's claims still does (Snoeck, 2002-2006).
Of course, even if Baugh had not recognized anything "fishy" about the carcass, it would have behooved him do more research before purchasing it and advocating it as a lake monster. After all, it was not many years earlier that what he promoted an alleged "human tooth" found near dinosaur tracks in the Paluxy Riverbed of Texas. The tooth turned out to belong to a Cretaceous fish.
2007 Update

In 2007 Carl Baugh posted an update on his Erie Baby (which he now calls "Baby Erie") in the FAQs section of his Creation Evidence Museum website. In an apparent attempt to distance himself from his initial suggestions that the carcass represented a young plesiosaur, Baugh writes that a "science teacher" (evidently referring to Kent Hovind) who informed him of the discovery suggested that it had the appearance of a juvenile plesiosaur. but that the presence of a dorsal fin and lack of heavy flippers were "not plesiosaurian." Baugh relates that his "staff" ran the specimen through a CAT scan, but that the vertebrate and associated bones were missing and evidently had been removed by the taxidermist. Baugh did not say why he could not learn more from the skull that remained.
Baugh then relates that he took the x-rays and specimen to the head of a "Marine Biology Department" at a "major state university" who was excited about the specimen, suggesting it was a "throwback" to early marine evolution. However, Baugh did not reveal the name of the biologist, or the name of the university. Nor does he reveal the name of another "marine biology department" head he subsequently showed the specimen to, who reportedly was unable to give any identification. Baugh then writes that a "credentialed microbologist" (again, no name mentioned) from a "third major university" (also unspecified) reported that the taxidermist's acid had destoyed any DNA in the specimen, but believe the specimen was an unclassified eel, "deserving of technical publication." It this account is accurate, it seems surprising that neither Baugh nor the biologists he visited bothered to compare the specimen's head with known fish from the Great Lakes, which would have readily revealed that it was a modified burbot fish (as would a web search that would have led them to this article).
Instead, Baugh seems to leave the impression that the carcass represents an exotic prehistoric "throwback" unknown to science. Further fostering this impression, Baugh recounts being referred to a "reliable individual" who reported seeing a creature identical (except larger) in "a lake in southern Canada." However, if this account is true, one must wonder why Baugh again refrains from naming the individual involved, or even the name or specific location of the lake. One must also wonder, if Baugh really wanted to know or share the whole truth about this specimen, why he seems reluctant to contuct further research. He relates that the Canadian witness invited him to speed a few weeks at the lake searching for the creature, but that this was "not the specific nature of our research." Baugh ends by stating that he is content in calling the "exotic unclassified eel" just "Baby Erie."
The carcass once advocated by Carl Baugh and Kent Hovind as a probable "lake monster" from Lake Erie, and more recetnly suggested by Baugh to be an unclassified exotic eel, is evidently merely the altered remains of a long-bodied fish known as a burbot.

* L & D Bait and Tackle is located at 18508 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood OH 44107, Phone (216) 226-3474

Michel Snoeck. 2002-2006 web page: This site promotes many claims by Kent Hovind.

Grohman, Steve, 2005, website: 2006 note: Mr. Grohman removed the Erie baby page in 2006. In email correspondence Grohman indicated that he did this because questions were raised about the specimen.

I have personal knowledge of the above case, as during the late 1990’s I corresponded with the two principal investigators, Carl Baugh and Don Patton, in the hopes that the carcass would eventually prove to be genuine, though I am not now nor have ever been a creationist. I was told that DNA testing was done at Texas A&M University. Now, the relevance of this case to the NHC is that a probable taxidermic forgery made it to the point of being seriously examined by forensic techniques at a major university in recent years. Based upon this example, I do not think we can afford to ignore the possibility that something like this might have happened with the NHC, though on balance I think it unlikely. After all, the existence of a contemporary large, serpentine marine animal with a horse-like head is not without precedent (below).

Oarfishes of the family Regalecidae (above) are well-documented to reach lengths of over 20 ft. Near-relatives of the oarfishes, the dealfishes of the family Trachipteridae (below) have even more horse-like heads.
Dealfish are known to reach lengths of 8 ft. but Wikipedia makes claims of up 20 ft. (I am skeptical of this claim). I am not suggesting that the NHC is even closely related to these fishes (oarfish/ dealfish are laterally flattened and brightly colored), but there is some vague morphological resemblance and these fishes appear to have a similar truncated mouth as the NHC, suggesting the possibility of similar feeding methods and diet.
The above analogies make the conception of the NHC as a large, bizarre eel-like fish plausible. Truly monstrous conger eels (Conger conger) exist, 10 ft. long and with the circumference of telephone poles (see below).
One potential argument against the NHC being a fish is the neck-like space separating the head from the pectoral appendages. One type of small marine eel, Dericthys serpentinus does possesssuch a neck-like configuration between the head and pectoral fins, looking for all the world like a small plesiosaur (below), so there is a precedent.

There is the strange eel-like frill shark (Chlamydoselachus anguinus), as well (below).

As compelling as some of the above arguments are, the NHC admittedly had strange head features for a fish.Drawings of the head of the NHC, based on the photographs, usually seem to draw the line of the mouth further back than I think is warranted (below, left: Ed Bousfield, right: Darren Naish).

 Actually tracing the outline of the head features from the photo with the best resolution produces this profile (below). 
This suggests to me that, if the head morphology as represented in the photographs was accurate, the NHC had a small mouth opening with large cheeks, possibly used in suction feeding or mastication. If the head of the NHC is an accurate representation of the head morphology of the living animal, it can be compared to the head morphology of some herbivorous dinosaurs and extinct amphibious marine mammals (all of which had post-cranial skeletons bearing no resemblance to the post-cranial skeleton of the NHC). The following exercises greatly elucidate the problems of trying to classify the NHC phylogenetically when the morphology of the NHC as seen in the photographs is assumed to represent an accurate portrait of the living animal. Matt Bille has said that the head of the NHC resembles the head of the stegosaurid dinosaur Kentrosaurus (below).
I have noticed the similarity of the head of the NHC to that of the ornithopod dinosaur Muttaburrasaurus (below).
Why would a swimming marine animal have a head morphology convergent with herbivorous land dinosaurs? It doesn’t make sense. The extinct amphibious marine mammals with head morphologies resembling the NHC make a little more sense, but here also are very disparate post-cranial skeletons and presumed modes of life. Here is a comparison of the head of the NHC with the amphibious "whale" Maiacetus (below).
Here is a comparison of the head of the NHC with the head of the desmostylian (related to the Sirenia) Paleoparadoxia (below).

To Be Continued………


  1. Once again very well done Scott. The caddy carcass might be a basking shark. the information you have presented surely leaves room for late night discussions. I love the way you represented your article. Great Blog Jay

    1. I agree that Scott did do an excellent job with this article. I'll have to join you and Scottt in discussion sometime :). And thanks!

  2. The first thing I thought when I seen this carcass was " Oarfish". Relative or even a whale Carcass. I don't believe this to be a Shark of any kind. But that is My Opinion. I loved the Article. Never seen anything like this till the Other day, and I watched the Footage Bigfoot Evidence added to Twitter Filed Footage of the Luminous and Beautiful Oarfish.
    I would like to Thank You for Sharing this Article, and Please send the same to Scott Mardis.
    The Search For Sassy

    1. That's possible, but I do have to remind you tha oarfish are laterally flattened, and thus I highly doubt that this carcass is an oarfish. I also am skeptical of the whale carcass interpretation, although there are those who feel that it could be the carcass of a primitive archaeocetes whale and (as you can see above) the skull/head of the carcass does share some vague similarity with the skull/head of the primitive whale Maiacetus. That oarfish in the footage was beautiful and interesting though! Thanks, and I'll relay the message to Scott.

  3. Very well done and put together, I enjoyed reading it very much!

    1. Thank you. I'll make sure to send all these compliments to Scott! He'll be thrilled!

  4. Excellent work Scott, and Jay your blog is one of only 3 Cryptozoological sites i bother with, great to see the future of the subject is safe in your hands. Great job once again, Michael.

    1. Thank you very much, that means a lot to me.

  5. I think your overall analysis was superb and made for an interesting, open minded read and the white sturgeon analysis was exceptionally well researched and convincing.

  6. Nick Nordstrom-KeeleyJune 28, 2014 at 8:23 AM

    outstanding work you both!, waiting for part two!

  7. Great stuff Scott. You've given this a lot of thought.


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