A Baby Sea-Serpent No More:
Reinterpreting Hagelund’s Juvenile “Cadborosaur” Report
M. A. WOODLEY
School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London,
Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, UK
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences,
University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, PO1 3QL, UK
C. A. MCCORMICK
Submitted 10/11/2010; Accepted 4/10/2011
Abstract—Eyewitness reports and cultural representations have been inter-
preted by some researchers to suggest the existence of a large, long-bodied ma-
rine vertebrate in the northeast Paciﬁ c. Dubbed “Caddy” or “Cadborosaurus”
(after Cadboro Bay, British Columbia), it was formally named and described
as Cadborosaurus willsi by Bousﬁ eld and LeBlond in 1995. Among the sup-
posedly most informative accounts is the alleged 1968 capture of a juvenile by
William Hagelund, detailed in his 1987 book Whalers No More. Reportedly
morphologically similar to adult “Cadborosaurs,” the specimen was com-
paratively tiny, and apparently precocial. Bousﬁ eld and LeBlond argue that
this strongly supports their contention that “Caddy” is reptilian (juvenile
reptiles are typically precocial, recalling “miniature adults” in both behavior
and morphology). Anomalous traits suggest some degree of misrecollection
in Hagelund’s account, furthermore a quantitative analysis of the similarity
of 14 candidate identities with the specimen indicates that it most strongly
resembles the bay pipeﬁ sh (Syngnathus leptorhynchus)—far more so than a
cryptid or reptile. While this detracts from the plausibility of the cryptid, the
re-identiﬁ cation of this particular specimen does not discount the data as a
whole nor does it suggest that all “Caddy” reports are necessarily of known
ﬁ sh. We contend that the “reptilian hypothesis” does, however, need to be
seriously re-examined in light of the removal of a strong piece of evidence.
Keywords: bay pipeﬁ sh—Syngnathus leptorhynchus—sturgeon poacher—
Journal of Scienti c Exploration, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp. 497–514, 2011 0892-3310/11
498 M. A. Woodley, D. Naish, C. A. McCormick
It is not accurate to presuppose that technically qualiﬁ ed scientists are
uninterested in examining cryptozoological evidence. Several workers have
assessed such data and reported their ﬁ ndings in the peer-reviewed technical
literature (e.g., Scott and Rines, 1975, Raynal & Sylvestre, 1991, Paxton et
al., 2005, Paxton & Holland, 2005, Paxton, 2009). Critical discussions of
large undescribed species are not necessarily outlandish, as numerous marine
vertebrate megafaunal species (>45 kg) have been discovered and described
in recent years (e.g., Megamouth shark Megachasma pelagios Taylor et al.,
1983, Bandolero beaked whale Mesoplodon peruvianus Reyes et al., 1991,
West African skate Bathyraja hesperafricana Stehmann, 1995, Indonesian
coelacanth Latimeria menadoensis Pouyaud et al., 1999), and statistical work
suggests that several such species remain to be documented (Paxton, 1998,
2001, Raynal, 2001, Solow & Smith, 2005, Woodley et al., 2008). Large marine
vertebrates can be surprisingly cryptic due to rarity, habitat, and/or avoidance
of vessels (Heyning, 1989); Megachasma pelagios was not recorded from
the Atlantic until 1995 (Amorim et al., 2000); the family Ziphiidae (“beaked
whales”) includes numerous poorly known species, including Mesoplodon
traversii, which is known from three partial skulls and has no live records (van
Helden et al., 2002).
Between the early 1990s and the present (see also LeBlond & Sibert,
1973), Edward L. Bousﬁ eld and Paul H. LeBlond have collected and analyzed
aquatic cryptid reports from the northeast Paciﬁ c Ocean (Bousﬁ eld & LeBlond,
1992, 1995, LeBlond & Bousﬁ eld, 1995, LeBlond, 2001). These authors have
speculated on the existence of a large, long-bodied marine vertebrate species
in the northeast Paciﬁ c Ocean based on their interpretations of eyewitness
reports and local cultural representations. Purportedly, the anecdotal evidence
generally describes an animal with a length of 5 –15 meters, a serpentine body,
undulatory locomotion, sheep/horse/giraffe/camel-like head, a neck 1–4 meters
in length, anterior ﬂ ippers, posterior ﬂ ippers either absent or fused with the
body, top of the tail “toothed” or spiny, and a tail which is horizontally split
or ﬂ uke-like; less frequently reported characteristics include whiskers, large
eyes, “colored” eyes, ears, and/or horns; the color is variously described as
orange, green, brown, grey, black, and “gun metal” blue; the skin has been
described as smooth, although sometimes fur/fuzz/hair on the neck or body is
reported; the back has been variably described as serrated and smooth (LeBlond
& Bousﬁ eld 1995). This cryptid was informally dubbed “Cadborosaurus” (after
Cadboro Bay, British Columbia) by journalist Archie H. Wills in 1933 and was
formally, albeit controversially, described as Cadborosaurus willsi by Bousﬁ eld
and LeBlond in 1995.
A Baby Sea-Serpent No More 499
A number of speculative inferences and suggestions led Bousﬁ eld and
LeBlond (1995) to promote a hypothesis of the putative taxon’s phylogenetic
afﬁ nities. The long, slender body reported for C. willsi was argued by Bousﬁ eld
and LeBlond (1995) to be most compatible with a poikilothermic physiology,
and hence with a reptilian identity (Bousﬁ eld & LeBlond, 1995:9). It was also
suggested that the existence of small, precocial “Cadborosaurus” juveniles
evidenced reptilian identity since the juveniles of mammals generally undergo
an extended period of parental care in which they are incapable of surviving
by themselves. By comparing the inferred morphology of an enigmatic carcass
from Naden Harbour, British Columbia, with that of various extinct and
extant vertebrates, they concluded that the closest similarities were with the
extinct reptiles of the clade Sauropterygia, and speciﬁ cally with plesiosaurs.
Sauropterygians are otherwise known only from the Mesozoic, and there is no
evidence from the fossil record that they survived beyond the end of the Late
Cretaceous (Lucas & Reynolds, 1993). Bousﬁ eld and LeBlond’s hypothesis
has been criticized on the grounds that eyewitness evidence used to support
the reality of C. willsi is more compatible with a mammalian identity than a
reptilian one, as the putative animal inhabits cold water, exhibits maximum
ﬂ exibility in its vertical plane, and is sometimes described as possessing hair
(Saggese, 2006, Woodley, 2008, Woodley et al., 2008). Now, further analysis
has demonstrated that one of the best-described juvenile “cadborosaurs” cannot
be considered reptilian and most likely represents a known, albeit unfamiliar,
species of ﬁ sh.
Captain William Hagelund’s Account
In August 1968 while at Pirate’s Cove, De Courcy Island, British Columbia,
former whaler Captain William Hagelund gave the following description of an
animal he could not identify; the account is taken from Hagelund (1987:177–
With my two sons and their grandfather aboard our centre cockpit sloop, we
spotted a small surface disturbance in the calm anchorage where we had dropped
the hook for the night. Lowering the dinghy, my youngest son Gerry and I rowed
out to investigate. We found a small, eel-like, sea creature swimming along with
its head held completely out of the water, the undulation of its long, slender body
causing portions of its spine to break the surface. My ﬁ rst thought that it was
a sea snake was quickly discarded when, on drawing closer, I noticed the dark
limpid eyes, large in proportion to the slender head, which had given it a seal-like
appearance when viewed from the front. When it turned away, a long, slightly
hooked snout could be discerned.
As the evening’s darkness made observation difﬁ cult, and the swiftness
of the creature’s progress warned that he could quickly disappear, I decided to
attempt a capture and bring it aboard the sloop for closer examination. Reaching
500 M. A. Woodley, D. Naish, C. A. McCormick
out with a small dip net as Gerry swung the stern of our dinghy into the path of
the small vee of wavelets that were the only indication of the creature’s position,
I was pleased to ﬁ nd him twisting angrily in the net when I lifted it up.
Under the bright lights aboard the sloop, we examined our catch and found
he was approximately sixteen inches long, and just over an inch in diameter. His
lower jaw had a set of sharp tiny teeth and his back was protected by plate-like
scales, while his undersides were covered in a soft yellow fuzz. A pair of small,
ﬂ ipper-like feet protruded from his shoulder area, and a spade-shaped tail proved
to be two tiny ﬂ ipper-like ﬁ ns that overlapped each other.
I felt the biological people at Departure Bay would be interested in this ﬁ nd,
but without a radiophone to contact them, the next best thing was to sail up there
in the morning. Agreeing on this, we ﬁ lled a large plastic bucket with seawater
and dumped our creature into it. We retired early, for I intended to leave at ﬁ rst
light, but sleep would not come to me. Instead, I lay awake, acutely aware of the
little creature trapped in our bucket. In the stillness of the anchorage I could hear
the splashes made by his tail, and the scratching of his little teeth and ﬂ ippers as
he attempted to grasp the smooth surface of the bucket. Such exertion, I began to
realize, could cause him to perish before morning.
My uneasiness grew until I ﬁ nally climbed back on deck and shone my
ﬂ ashlight down into the bucket. He stopped swimming immediately, and faced
the light as though it were an enemy, his mouth opened slightly, the lips drawn
back exposing his teeth, and the tufts of whiskers standing stifﬂ y out from each
side of his snout, while his large eyes reﬂ ected the glare of my ﬂ ashlight. I felt
a strong compassion for that little face staring up at me, so bravely awaiting its
Just as strongly came the feeling that, if he was as rare a creature as my
limited knowledge led me to believe, then the miracle of his being in Pirate’s
Cove at all should not be undone by my impulsive capture. He should be allowed
to go free, to survive, if possible, and to fulﬁ ll his purpose. If he were successful,
we could possibly see more of his kind, not less.
If he perished in my hands, he would only be a forgotten curiosity. I
lowered the bucket over the side and watched him swim quickly away into the
darkness, then returning to my bunk for a peaceful rest, my mind untroubled by
Hagelund included an illustration of his creature (reproduced in Figure 1)
with the following notes: hooked upper jaw, 3 inches (brackets include head),
large eyes, plate scales, black on top and brown on sides, ragged ends (arrow
pointing to tail), yellow tail, approximately 1 to 1½ inches in diameter, yellow
fuzz (pointing to belly), tiny teeth on both jaws, 16 inches (brackets including
head, body, and tail).
Hagelund’s account includes 24 reported traits: an eel-like appearance (= sea
snake–like; long, slender body), head held out of the water while swimming,
A Baby Sea-Serpent No More 501
undulatory movement, dark eyes, limpid eyes, large eyes, seal-like face,
slender head, slightly hooked snout, long snout, length of 16 inches (40 cm),
diameter of 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5–3.8 cm), tiny teeth in both jaws, plate-like
scales on the back, undersides with a soft yellow fuzz, ﬂ ipper-like feet near
the shoulder, spade-shaped tail, tail composed of two overlapping ﬂ ipper-like
ﬁ ns, lips, whiskers, coloration of black on top and brown on the sides, yellow
tail, and a head length of 3 inches (7.6 cm). It is likely the ragged ends of the
tail mentioned in the illustration’s text represent damage rather than an actual
trait, which raises the possibility that “overlapping ﬂ ipper-like ﬁ ns” are also the
result of damage.
Our objective was to use these and other traits in comparing Hagelund’s
specimen with other plausible candidate species. In order for some of the traits
to be usable in comparison with known animals and proposed cryptids, some
needed to be more strictly deﬁ ned or modiﬁ ed. Body diameter and head length
were not used directly, but were rather modiﬁ ed into proportions relative to
the total length (i.e. including the tail appendage), giving a depth:TL of 1:16
to 1:10.7, and a head:TL of 1:5.33. “Eel-like” was taken to mean an elongate
and cylindrical body, and is not necessarily redundant in conjunction with the
aforementioned proportions, as eel-like animals may not be proportionally
similar and animals with similar head:TL proportions may not be eel-like.
For the given traits of “eel-like,” “large eyes,” “slightly hooked snout,” “long
snout,” and “slender head,” the illustrated morphology was used to determine
the threshold of these traits, e.g., if the eyes are at least the same size in
proportion they were considered “large.” While the account suggests that only
the back had plate-like scales, the illustration shows them covering most of
the animal’s side; due to this apparent contradiction, the trait was simpliﬁ ed
to the presence of plate-like scales. Since several of the candidates lack teeth
entirely, it was decided that the simple presence or absence of teeth would be
a more worthwhile trait rather than attempting to determine the threshold for
“tiny” teeth; specifying teeth in both jaws is unnecessary in this analysis as
none of the candidates, and few animals in general, have teeth in only one jaw.
The trait of “undulatory” movement unfortunately does not specify a plane, so
was interpreted as eel- or snake-like locomotion occurring either horizontally
or laterally. It is not clear if “slender head” refers to head depth or width, so the
illustrated depth was used as a guide but given low weight (see below).
For comparisons with ﬁ sh candidates, the traits of dorsal ﬁ n(s), pelvic
ﬁ ns, and anal ﬁ n were added to determine which candidates are the closest
ﬁ t. The description of “ﬂ ipper-like feet” near the shoulder is confusing since
Hagelund’s illustration appears to show ﬁ n rays typical for actinopterygian ﬁ sh;
accordingly, this trait is regarded as synonymous with pectoral appendages of
502 M. A. Woodley, D. Naish, C. A. McCormick
Hagelund’s illustration does not clarify how dark the eyes are, so this
trait was assumed to indicate that the eyes were somewhat darker than the
surrounding body. It is hard to objectively deﬁ ne how eyes could be described
as “limpid,” although this trait was retained since it still has comparative value
with one aberrant report.
Due to the uncertainty of eyewitness observations, multiple character states
were used in our analysis. While a certain trait may be present (e.g., poacher
pelvic ﬁ ns), there may be a plausible reason why it could be overlooked (e.g.,
the ﬁ n could be folded and/or is small and transparent enough to be easily
overlooked). Additionally, a trait may not be present (e.g., tail composed of two
separate ﬂ ippers in cutlassﬁ shes) but could be explained by the misinterpretation
of another trait (e.g., a strongly forked tail). This does not mean that overlooking
or inventing a trait is impossible; it is merely less likely than the suggestion that
these may be ﬂ awed descriptions of real character states.
It is apparent that not every trait should carry the same comparative weight
due to both occasional nebulous descriptions and the potential for eyewitness
confusion: We therefore argue that traits should be sorted into different
categories based on their importance. Traits regarded as having high importance
are clearly described and difﬁ cult to misinterpret: They involved such obvious
morphological traits as plate-like scales, eel-like appearance, teeth, head
held out of the water while swimming, black dorsal coloration, brown lateral
coloration, and yellow tail.
In total 29 morphological characters were used. A simple coding system was
developed to determine whether a particular trait was present or not. When a trait is
unambiguosly present, it is coded with P (for present), when a trait is occasionally
present due to individual variability, it is coded with an O (for occasionally
present). The use of A indicates the absence of a particular trait, whereas a
question mark indicates that it is not known whether or not this trait or something
that could be mistaken for it is present. As there is an element of subjectivity to
the inference of a particular trait, the addition of * next to a trait indicates that the
presence of the trait may be open to eyewitness interpretation. Each character was
ranked as either similar (s), in that it co-occurs (is either simultaneously present
or absent) in both the Hagelund specimen and candidate, somewhat similar (ss),
in that it or something that could be mistaken for it could co-occur, or dissimilar
(d) indicating no co-occurrence. Co-occurrent (similar) traits were awarded a
whole point. An occasionally present (somewhat similar) trait was given half a
point in all cases as the trait must be either present or absent at least some of the
time in the candidate. Stand-alone question marks (indicating unknown presence
or absence) were awarded zero points, and a co-occurrent score followed by *
(suggesting uncertainty) incurred a “subjectivity penalty” of a quarter of a point.
This gives rise to a simple formula with which the overall similarity with respect
to the Hagelund specimen could be ascertained for a given candidate:
A Baby Sea-Serpent No More 503
Similar scores (1 point) + Somewhat similar scores (0.5 point) − Subjectivity penalty (0.25 point)
= Candidate’s overall similarity score.
It was decided not to include a separate penalty for dissimilarity, as this
would have further complicated the measure. For example, calculating separate
dissimilarity scores and then subtracting them from the similarity score resulted
in negative scores in the case of some candidate identities. Furthermore,
dissimilarity scores were deemed to be less informative in instances where
there were large numbers of “unknown” character states which couldn’t be
honestly described as dissimilar (for example in the case of the Finn John
description there were 21 “uncertain” character states vs. 8 character states that
were unambiguously present, i.e. were “similar” with respect to the Hagelund
specimen and no unambiguously disimilar characters—in this instance
similarity scores are simply more informative). Therefore, while not perfect, the
similarity measure developed here should serve as an adequate metric allowing
for candidate identities to be easily compared.
To determine the possible identiﬁ cation of the Hagelund specimen,
the reported characteristics were compared with those of the cryptid C.
willsi proposed by LeBlond and Bousﬁ eld and with those of an unusual
“caddy” report from one Finn John reported by Hagelund. Crocodilians and
elasmosaurids were also included in the analysis following LeBlond and
Bousﬁ eld’s proposal of reptilian afﬁ nities for C. willsi. The traits of ear and/
or horn presence, long neck (quantiﬁ ed as more than twice the length of head),
and presence of a “toothed” or spiny tail were also included in our comparative
analysis. A generic pinniped was also included as a candidate owing to
Hagelund’s description of his specimen possessing a “seal-like face.” One of
us (McCormick) noted a strong similarity between the Hagelund specimen and
pipeﬁ sh; the hypothesis that the specimen represents a known ﬁ sh rather than
a reptilian cryptid is signiﬁ cant, so a number of ﬁ sh from the northeast Paciﬁ c
(all morphologically reminiscent of the specimen) were incorporated as well:
bay pipeﬁ sh (Syngnathidae; Syngnathus leptorhynchus), poachers (Agonidae;
Podothecus accipenserinus, Pallasina barbata, Sarritor frenatus), tube-snout
(Aulorhynchidae; Aulorhynchus ﬂ avidus), green sturgeon (Acipenseridae;
Acipenser medirostris), and cutlassﬁ shes (Trichiuridae; Aphanopus arigato,
Lepidopus ﬁ tchi). A decapod candidate (Pandalus platyceros) was also included
due to Staude and Lambert’s (1995) suggestion that a representative of this
order might have been the culprit behind Hagelund’s specimen.
For a listing of the traits ascribed to “caddy” by LeBlond and Bousﬁ eld
(1995), refer to the Introduction above. A review of the reports utilized by
LeBlond and Bousﬁ eld (1995) shows that no one individual account possesses
504 M. A. Woodley, D. Naish, C. A. McCormick
the full complement of traits present in the Hagelund description, furthermore
contradictions are frequent (as discussed above), and singular traits such
as “ﬁ ns all over the body,” “turtle-like,” “cat-like head,” “like a huge diver
wearing a helmet,” et cetera, are not uncommon. Clearly, the establishment
of C. willsi by LeBlond and Bousﬁ eld was subjective, and conclusions drawn
from comparisons with the set of traits have to be limited.
Table 1 presents an analysis of the similarity of 14 candidate identities
to Hagelund’s specimen with respect to 29 different characters. Based on this
analysis it is evident that conﬂ ating LeBlond and Bousﬁ eld’s C. willsi with the
Hagelund specimen is problematic for a number of reasons: most strikingly, the
plate-like scales of the latter. While the traits of a serrated crest and toothed/
spiny tail are reportedly present in C. willsi, the former does not necessarily
imply armor (it could be a soft structure or even hair), and the latter appears
to have occurred exclusively in the enigmatic Naden Harbour carcass. Also
conspicuously absent in the Hagelund specimen is a long neck. While the
Hagelund specimen and C. willsi share the traits of large eyes and whiskers,
the rarity of the traits in “caddy” reports, coupled with their fairly generic
nature, suggests they have little diagnostic value. Overall, C. willsi exhibited a
relatively low similarity to the Hagelund specimen (8.25 points out of a possible
29). The Finn John “caddy” report shares a number of speciﬁ c traits with
Hagelund’s encounter such as a spade-shaped tail, large limpid eyes, whiskers,
fur, and plates on the back, although its overall similarity was low (8 points out
of a possible 29); this unusual report was in fact recalled by Hagelund, and its
dissimilarity to other reports aside from traits speciﬁ c to Hagelund’s specimen
is no doubt signiﬁ cant (see below).
Interestingly, the Hagelund specimen shares more traits in common with the
generalized crocodilians (plate-like scales, sometimes coloration) (scoring 13
points out of 29); however, signiﬁ cantly with respect to LeBlond and Bousﬁ eld’s
thesis, it seems to share no more traits in common with the elasmosaurids than
it does with C. willsi (8 points out of 29). A generic pinniped was included for
comparison owing to Hagelund’s reference to his specimen possessing a “seal-
like face.” There are ﬁ ve seal species native to British Columbia belonging to
both the Otariidae family (northern fur seal Callorhinus ursinus, Steller sea lion
Eumetopias jubatus, and California sea-lion Zalophus californianus), and the
Phocidae family (northern elephant seal Mirounga angustirostris and harbor
seal Phoca vitulina) (Allen, 1974). While the pinnipeds as a whole scored a
respectable 14.75 out of 29, no single species possesses all of the traits present
in Hagelund’s specimen. The fact that Hagelund’s specimen was small (33cm)
is also grounds to rule out pinnipeds as plausible candidates, as this size falls
far below that of any pinniped species. One point of similarity between these
candidates and the Hagelund specimen is swimming with the head out of the
A Baby Sea-Serpent No More 505
* open to eyewitness interpretation; ? unknown presence; O occasionally present due to variability; P present; A absent; s co-occurs as present or absent in the Hagelund specimen;
ss somewhat similar in that it or something that could be mistaken for it sometimes co-occurs; d dissimilar indicating no co -occurrence
Traits Hagelund C. willsi Finn Thalatto- Elasmosaur- Pinnipedia S. lepto- P. accipen- Pa. bar- Sa. Fren
Au. Flav- A. arigato L. fitchi Ac. Medi- Pan. Platy-
John suchia spp . idae spp. spp. rhynchus serinus bata atus idus rostris ceros
Teeth P ? ? P (s) P (s) P (s) A (d) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) A (d) A (d)
Lips P ? ? A (d) A (d) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) A (d)
Head held out of water P P (s) ? P (s) P (s) P (s) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d)
Ears and/or horns A O (ss) ? A (s) A (s) O (ss) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s)
Tail dorsally toothed, spin
A P (d) ? A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s)
Black dorsally, brown laterall
P A (d) ? ? ? O (ss) O (ss) P (s) A (d) P (s) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d)
Yellow tail P A (d) ? ? ? A (d) A (d) P (s) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) O (ss) A* (d)
Plate-like scales P ? P (s) O (ss) A (d) A (d) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) A* (d) A (d) A (d) P (s) A* (d)
Eel-like P P (s) P (s) A (d) A (d) A* (d) P (s) A* (d) P (s) A* (d) P (s) P (s) P (s) A (d) A (d)
P P (s) P (s) P (s) A (d) O (ss) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) A* (d)
Large eyes P O (ss) P (s) O (ss) O (ss) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) A (d) P (s)
A P (d) ? A (s) P (d) A* (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s) A (s)
Snout slightly hooke
P A (d) ? A (d) A (d) A (d) A* (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d)
40 cm approximate total lengt
P A (d) ? P (s) ? A (d) O* (ss) A* (d) A (d) A* (d) A (d) P (s) P (s) P (s) A (d)
Diameter:TL ~ 1:16 to 1:10.7 P A (d) ? O (ss) O (ss) A* (d) P (s) P (s) P (s) A* (d) P (s) P (s) P (s) A* (d) P (s)
Head:TL ~ 1:5.33 P A (d) ? O (ss) A (d) A (d) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) A (d)
P P (s) ? P (s) A (d) O (ss) P (s) A* (d) A* (d) A* (d) A (d) O (ss) O (ss) A* (d) A (d)
Flipper-like feet near shoulde
P P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) A (d)
Dorsal fin(s) A A (s) ? A (s) A (s) A (s) P* (d) P* (d) P* (d) P* (d) P* (d) P* (d) P* (d) P (d) A (s)
Pelvic fins A O* (ss) ? P (d) P (d) P* (d) A (s) P* (d) P* (d) P* (d) P* (d) P* (d) P* (d) P (d) A (s)
Anal fin A A (s) ? A (s) A (s) A (s) P* (d) P* (d) P* (d) P* (d) P* (d) P* (d) P* (d) P (d) A (s)
Dark eyes P A (d) ? ? ? P (s) P (s) A* (d) A* (d) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) P (s) A (s)
Tail composed of separate flippers P A* (d) ? A (d) A (d) P (s) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) A* (d) A* (d) A* (d) A* (d) A* (d)
Whiskers P O (ss) P (s) A (d) A (d) P (s) A (d) A* (d) A* (d) A* (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) A* (d) A* (d)
Underbelly w/ soft yellow fuz
P A* (d) ? A (d) A (d) A (d) A* (d) A* (d) A* (d) A* (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) A (d) A* (d)
Slender head P ? ? ? ? ? P (s) ? P (s) ? P (d) ? ? ? ?
Seal-like face P ? ? ? ? P (s) ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
P ? P (s) ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Spade-shaped tail P ? P (s) ? ? ? O* (ss) ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Total similar (out of 29
29 8.25 8 13 8 14.75 16 13 13 12 12 13.5 13.5 10.5 9
Analysis of the Similarity of 14 Candidate Identities to Hagelund’s Specimen with Respect to 29 Different Characters
506 M. A. Woodley, D. Naish, C. A. McCormick
water, which as air breathers these candidates must do at least some of the time.
This trait would seemingly imply that the Hagelund specimen was also an air-
breather; however, Hagelund never mentioned breathing. Rather than dismiss
the local ﬁ sh species that superﬁ cially resemble the Hagelund specimen on the
basis of surface activity, the possibility of aberrant behavior in those ﬁ sh must
be considered: After all, this is in no way less likely than the identiﬁ cation
of Hagelund’s animal as a cryptid. Another possibility is that Hagelund added
“caddy”-like behavior during his recollection of the encounter, although it
would still require the animal to be at or near the surface.
The bay pipeﬁ sh is common to the bays and sloughs of the west coast of
Canada, the US, and Mexico, where it lives among common eelgrass, feeding
on small invertebrates (Eschmeyer & Herald, 1983). Data suggest that this
species does venture into more open water (Hart, 1973), so the location of
Hagelund’s encounter is not necessarily problematic. The presence of plate-like
scales, pectoral ﬁ ns (= “fore ﬂ ippers”), large eyes, a long snout, and lips all
strongly agree with traits reported from the Hagelund specimen. In Hagelund’s
illustration (reproduced in Figure 1), the specimen was described as having a
black dorsum, brown ﬂ anks, and yellow ventral fur; this appears to fall within
the known color variation of S. leptorhynchus which has been described as
varying from green to mottled brown with streaks of black on the dorsal portion,
coupled with a yellowish ventrum (Filisky & Peterson, 1998, Girard, 1858).
The reported head length of 7.62 cm (3″) for the Hagelund specimen gives a
head:TL (TL = total length) proportion of 1:5.3, which is similar to the head:SL
(Standard Length = tip of snout to end of caudal peduncle) proportion of 1:6.5
reported for S. leptorhynchus (Girard, 1858). Since the individual measured by
Girard (1858) was 15 cm in length, it might be possible that positive allometric
growth of the pipeﬁ sh’s head would yield an even closer proportion for a large
While S. leptorhynchus has not been observed to reach 40 cm in length,
the maximum reported length of 33 cm is within a reasonable margin of
observer error (Eschmeyer & Herald, 1983). The 2.54 cm (1″) body depth of
the Hagelund specimen (body depth:TL = 1:16) seems excessive for a pipeﬁ sh,
but this could be explained by the possibility that the Hagelunds captured a
pregnant male, as pregnancy in pipeﬁ sh causes considerable swelling. The lack
of a dorsal ﬁ n and anal ﬁ n in Hagelund’s description could be explained by
their being folded down or being overlooked entirely as they are semi-opaque
structures composed of only 32 and 3 soft rays, respectively (Girard, 1858). The
presence of a bifurcated caudal appendage reportedly composed of two separate
and overlapping ﬁ ns could be due to a misinterpretation of a folded caudal
ﬁ n or damage to the ﬁ n. Hagelund’s description of integumentary structures
is curious; hair-like appendages used for camouﬂ age are present in some
A Baby Sea-Serpent No More 507
syngnathids such as Urocampus carinirostris, however these ﬁ sh are weak
swimmers which lack a dispersive egg and larval phase, implying that the entire
life cycle occurs in localized areas in the western Paciﬁ c (Neira et al., 1998,
Chenoweth et al., 2002). While the possibility exists that the Hagelund pipeﬁ sh
represents an undescribed, large, “hairy” syngnathid from the northeast Paciﬁ c,
we contend that the fur-like growth reported on the specimen’s underside could
be a misinterpretation of the ventral coloration, which has been described as
yellowish with a mesh work pattern of brown lines (Girard, 1858). Alternately,
a covering of algae could create the impression of a fur-like integument.
The most problematic morphological aspect reported by Hagelund is the
presence of “whiskers” and of teeth. Since Hagelund already referred to “fore
ﬂ ippers,” it seems very unlikely that he would interpret the pectoral ﬁ ns again
as “whiskers,” and it is also unlikely that the coloration pattern would give the
impression of a structure protruding from the head of the ﬁ sh. Pipeﬁ sh have
very small, toothless mouths quite unlike what Hagelund described. Despite
these problematic details, the pipeﬁ sh is still the strongest candidate for the
Hagelund specimen, scoring 16 out of a possible 29. Other local ﬁ sh species,
however, also deserve consideration:
Poachers (Agonidae spp) are morphologically distinctive scorpaeniforms
with rows of bony armor covering their typically elongated bodies; due to a
superﬁ cially similar appearance to pipeﬁ shes, they are also somewhat plausible
candidates for the Hagelund specimen. Large eyes, long snouts, small teeth, and
lips are typically present in members of the clade, as are barbel-like structures,
which could be interpreted as “whiskers.” The spines associated with the
armor of some species could potentially be confused for hairs. The often-
large pectoral ﬁ ns are the primary means of locomotion except for the c-start
escape behavior, which utilizes the caudal ﬁ n; this appears to be comparable
with the behavior that Hagelund observed in his specimen (Nowroozi et al.,
2009). Problematically, however, poachers are benthic and strongly negatively
buoyant (Nowroozi et al., 2009), which makes the capture of a specimen near
the surface in relatively deep water seem rather improbable. The presence of a
prominent spiny ﬁ rst dorsal ﬁ n (sometimes absent), a soft-rayed second dorsal
ﬁ n, a prominent anal ﬁ n, and a small, thoracic pelvic ﬁ n would have to have
gone unnoticed in Hagelund’s specimen if an agonid was involved, as such
traits go unreported (one possibility is that they were folded). Like pipeﬁ sh,
the caudal ﬁ n is rounded and could only be interpreted as bifurcated if it was
Most of the approximately 50 poacher species occur in the North Paciﬁ c,
and it is noteworthy that they are not well-known (Jensen, 2005). While at least
17 species are known to occur in the same broad geographical area as Hagelund’s
sighting, most of these species fall considerably under 40 cm in length and
508 M. A. Woodley, D. Naish, C. A. McCormick
some are even fairly stout-bodied (Froese & Pauly, 2009). The superﬁ cially
sturgeon-like Podothecus accipenserinus can reach 30.5 cm in length, has
very prominent barbels, and has a coloration which can be roughly similar to
that of the Hagelund specimen (Hart, 1973); this species obtained a similarity
score of 13 out of 29, however, it is not particularly attenuated since the body
depth:total length is approximately 1:7.5 instead of 1:16, which was observed
in the Hagelund specimen. This difference falls far outside a comfortable
margin of error. Other strong candidate species include Pallasina barbata and
Sarritor frenatus; P. barbata has a slender head and similar proportions as the
Hagelund specimen, but is small (max. 17 cm) with a prominent stripe on its
head (Eschmeyer & Herald, 1983), Sa. frenatus is somewhat larger (max. 27
cm) and matches the coloration description as well as the head:total length
proportion, but not the body depth:total length, and the known range does not
include southern British Columbia (although it is close) (Eschmeyer & Herald,
1983). These candidates both obtained similarity scores of 13 and 12 out of
29, respectively. It does not appear that there is any long-snouted poacher,
which matches the size, proportions, and reported coloration of the Hagelund
specimen (Tokranov & Orlov, 2005, Miller & Lea, 1976, Froese & Pauly, 2009).
While Agonidae as a whole may display almost all of the characters reported
in the Hagelund specimen, no one species is more probable as a candidate
identity than the bay pipeﬁ sh, and suggesting an unknown species is outside the
applicability of the present data.
The tubesnout (Aulorhynchus ﬂ avidus) is a marine gasterosteoid
(stickleback relative) with a long snout, large eyes, and body that is both slender
and elongate; notably, the caudal ﬁ n is forked (Hart, 1973), and sharp teeth are
present in the mouth (Jordan & Gilbert, 1882). 24–27 membrane-free dorsal
spines are located anterior to the soft rays (Hart, 1973). The skin is naked with
the exception of rugose shields near the lateral line and dorsal ﬁ n (Jordan &
Gilbert, 1882). It could be possible for the shields and/or spines to suggest
more extensive plate-like scales to an eyewitness, but this is not very likely.
A soft dorsal ﬁ n is located far back on the body and mirrors the anal ﬁ n (Hart,
1973). The ﬁ sh is described as pale mottled brown with an olive-brown or
yellow-brown dorsum, white ventrum, and a silver patch bordered by a dark
band near the head and gills (Hart, 1973). This candidate species obtained a
similarity score of 12 out of 29, however the maximum recorded size is 18.8
cm (Bayer, 1980), and coupled with the distinctive coloration, lack of actual
armor, and lack of morphology which can be interpreted as whiskers and fuzz,
the tubesnout can be ruled out as a strong candidate for Hagelund’s specimen.
Cutlassﬁ shes regularly exceed 40 cm in length, and have big eyes, teeth,
subtle pelvic ﬁ ns, and a forked caudal ﬁ n. Aphanopus arigato (formerly A.
intermedius) and Lepidopus ﬁ tchi occur in the northeast Paciﬁ c Ocean and
A Baby Sea-Serpent No More 509
appear to be the strongest candidates for the Hagelund specimen within the
group; A. arigato is coppery black in color with an iridescent tint, has a body
depth:standard length proportion ranging from 1:12 to 1:16.4 and a head
length:standard length proportion ranging from 1:4.9 to 1:5.5; L. ﬁ tchi has a
black or brown coloration with a silver abdomen, a body depth:standard length
proportion of 1:9.2 to 1:13.3, and a head length:standard length proportion
of 1:4.2 to 1:5.5 (Nakamura & Parin, 1993). It is presumed both species use
similar locomotion as A. carbo, which involves ostraciiform swimming (i.e.
caudal ﬁ n only) when stalking prey and anguilliform when in striking distance;
it is notable that the dorsal and anal ﬁ ns are retracted when in the former and
the median ﬁ ns are erected in the latter (Bone, 1971). Both candidate species
obtained similarity scores of 13.5 out of 29, however the absence of plate-like
scales, structures which may explain “yellow fuzz” (the anal ﬁ n occurs only in
the far posterior of the body), and strikingly different coloration compared with
Hagelund’s specimen provides substantative grounds upon which this group
can be ruled out as a strong candidate identity.
All sturgeon species (Acipenseridae) can exceed 40 cm in length and have
ﬁ ve rows of dorsal, lateral, and ventrolateral scutes, which could complement
Hagelund’s description of plate-like scales. The Green sturgeon (Acipenser
medirostris) is present in the northeast Paciﬁ c Ocean, has a nearly homocercal
tail (i.e. consisting of two equal lobes) which could be regarded as separate
“ﬂ ippers,” lips, pectoral ﬁ ns, barbels (potential “whiskers”), and a similar
head:body length proportion as the Hagelund specimen (Girard, 1858). This
candidate obtained a similarity score of 10.5 out of 29, however it is not eel-like
and it seems unlikely an observer could overlook a dorsal ﬁ n, pelvic ﬁ ns, an
anal ﬁ n, strongly ventral mouth, and prominent lateral stripes, which effectively
rules out this candidate species as a strong contender.
Staude and Lambert (1995) proposed decapods as a candidate for Hagelund’s
specimen, but did not specify a species. Presumably, the authors suggested this
crustacean order due to the possibility of an exoskeleton being interpreted as
plate-like scales, antennae as whiskers, pereopods and pleopods (swimming
and walking legs) as “fuzz,” and uropods as a tail composed of two ﬂ ippers. The
reported presence of lips, teeth, pectoral appendages, and the overall vertebrate-
like appearance of the drawing are problematic for any decapod candidate. The
Spot prawn (Pandalus platyceros) is the largest shrimp in the region, with an
eyestalk-telson length that may exceed 20 cm, and coloration that is orange in
large individuals with white spots on the ﬁ rst and ﬁ fth pleura (Hoffman, 1972).
American lobster (Homarus americanus) have been introduced to the region
(Ray, 2005), and ﬁ t the size criterion, but are highly unlikely to be found at
the surface and to go unrecognized. While the decapod hypothesis is certainly
novel and thought-provoking, the lack of a viable candidate species, coupled
510 M. A. Woodley, D. Naish, C. A. McCormick
with a low similarity score for P. platyceros (9 out of 29), means that it can be
ruled out as a plausible candidate.
As can be seen through comparison of the illustrations in Figure 1,
Hagelund’s drawing bears more than a superﬁ cial resemblance to the bay
pipeﬁ sh. Despite the problematic description of whiskers and teeth, given how
well the majority of the details reported by Hagelund seem to complement our
proposed S. leptorhynchus identiﬁ cation, is it therefore possible that Hagelund
simply misremembered the details of the specimen in his 1987 description?
One piece of evidence supportive of this is the 18-year gap between Hagelund
making his observations and recounting them in his book. Memories are hardly
infallible and are subject to distortion with the passage of time (Wiseman &
Lamont, 1996, Wright & Loftus, 2008). Hagelund claimed that the description
of C. willsi he heard from Finn John had slipped his mind at Pirate Cove but
perhaps there was a subconscious inﬂ uence upon recollection; Finn John’s
account shares traits with Hagelund’s account that are reported in no other
“Caddy” reports (ventral fur, dorsal overlapping plates) and shares several
details with little variation (horse-like head, large eyes, whiskers, slender
body, ﬂ ippers, spade-shaped tail). Perhaps as Hagelund became increasingly
convinced that what he and his family had caught was a baby sea-serpent, his
memory of the specimen correspondingly adapted by taking on the “appropriate”
The bay pipeﬁ sh shares more characteristics in common with Hagelund’s
specimen than any other candidate species. Although certain observed traits
are congruent with similar traits reported in C. willsi, Hagelund’s “sea-serpent”
differs markedly from typical accounts of C. willsi and is comparatively far
less similar. Based on this analysis it is therefore suggested that the theory that
Hagelund (1987) describes a pipeﬁ sh, most probably S. leptorhynchus, is the
most probable explanation.
Both cryptozoologists and those skeptical of the ﬁ eld have reinterpreted
reports of sea-serpents and lake-monsters as reports of either known animals
perhaps engaged in unusual behaviors or as inanimate objects viewed under
unusual conditions. Naish (1997) argued that photographs of an alleged C.
willsi “carcass” taken on the beach at Camp Fircom, British Columbia, in
the 1930s, do not represent an animal carcass but are in fact composed of a
montage of beach debris. Similarly Naish (2001) and Radford (2003) have
both independently suggested that the “lake monster” photographed by Sandra
Mansi in 1977 at Lake Champlain might have been a tree stump propelled to the
surface by gas generated through bacterial decay. Paxton et al. (2005) suggested
that Egede’s alleged account of a “most dreadful monster” witnessed off the
A Baby Sea-Serpent No More 511
coast of Greenland in 1734, which was interpreted by Heuvelmans (1968) as
a sighting of a “super-otter” (a hypothetical primitive mega-archaeocete), may
actually have been of a whale in a state of arousal, owing to morphological
similarities between the description of the terminal end of the monster and
whale penises (Paxton et al., 2005). Many additional examples represent
probable misidentiﬁ cation of this kind; even Heuvelmans (1968) ruled out 52
reports in In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents on the grounds that they were likely
misidentiﬁ cations of known species or other more mundane objects.
At this stage it is necessary to make two points. Firstly, in suggesting
that Hagelund’s 1968 baby sea-serpent was in all likelihood a bay pipeﬁ sh,
we are in no way implying that he deliberately falsiﬁ ed the details of his
encounter, although we have reason to suspect that certain details may have
Figure 1. A reproduction of Hagelund’s drawing of his “baby sea-serpent”
(top) along with an illustration of the bay pipe sh S. leptorhynchus
(middle), and C. willsi (bottom) along with scales (40 cm and 3m,
Note that the maximum girth:total length ratio in Hagelund’s illustration is approximately 1:11
while the description gives a signi cantly more attenuated ratio of 1:16. Pipe sh and Hagelund
specimen by Cameron A. McCormick, C. willsi by Darren Naish.
512 M. A. Woodley, D. Naish, C. A. McCormick
been misremembered subsequently. Similarly, there is no reason to believe that
Hagelund (or his family) should have been familiar with pipeﬁ sh as they are
far less well-known than their close relatives the sea horses; even experienced
whalers like Hagelund would never normally encounter pipeﬁ sh in their line of
work. It is therefore easy to imagine how a bizarre-looking, long, serpentine,
armour-plated sea creature might excite the imaginations of those encountering
it for the ﬁ rst time.
Additionally, in suggesting a bay pipeﬁ sh identity for Hagelund’s animal,
we are not suggesting that all “Caddy” reports are simply cases of mistaken
identity. Since the Hagelund specimen, by far the smallest reported “Caddy,”
was already at the extreme of bay pipeﬁ sh size variation, it is highly improbable
that pipeﬁ sh misidentiﬁ cation resulted in any other reports of the cryptid. The
possibility that cutlassﬁ shes and sturgeons may have been responsible for some
“Caddy” sightings cannot be ruled out, however.
It is our contention that Hagelund’s encounter should not be used in support
of the existence of “Caddy,” let alone form the basis of entirely speculative
theories concerning its putative reproductive and life-history characteristics.
Although the elimination of this encounter lessens the overall likelihood for
the existence of “Caddy,” rooting out the probable misidentiﬁ cations advances
enquiry, as researchers can focus their efforts on the more robust and ultimately
We would like to thank Charles Paxton and one anonymous reviewer for comments that
greatly improved the quality of this manuscript.
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