On Feb. 12, 1937, a sea monster appeared in the waters off Bowen Island.
“It was reddish-brown, about 18 feet in length with a head like a polar bear,” reported Fred Wilson, who was fishing in Snug Cove with his wife.
“There was a long, bony structure above the eyes, but there appeared to be no hair on the body. It was feeding near the shore, and when its head and tail were submerged it looked much like a cedar log.”
Wilson was bewildered by what he had seen. But a reporter at The Vancouver Sun knew exactly what it was — Caddy Cadborosaurus, “or one of his relatives.”
The Cadborosaurus was a sea serpent/monster that had first been spotted in August 1932 by F.W. Kemp, an official at the provincial library in Victoria. But he didn’t tell anybody about it until Oct. 5, 1933, when two more prominent Victorians spotted it.
W.H. Langley was a lawyer who was clerk of the legislature, and R.C. Ross, a “prominent yachtsman.”
“The high reputation of these gentlemen in Victoria made their reports impressive, and they were believed by thousands,” The Province reported. “The phenomenon is not being handled like the usual sea serpent story of the silly season, but rather as an important scientific discovery.”
Well, somewhat. A wag at the Victoria Daily Times dubbed it the Cadborosaurus, after Cadboro Bay, which the creature seemed to frequent. Naturally it was soon nicknamed Caddy.
The Bowen Island creature was a lot smaller than the Cadboro Bay sea monster, however.
Kemp told The Province he was picnicking on Chatham Island with his family when he “observed a large wash coming down the gulf from the north. I paid no attention at first, thinking it was just a tide-rip.
“Then I was amazed to observe huge coils come out of the top of the water like a snake. Judging by logs lying in the water nearby the total length of these coils must have been at least 80 feet, and they were five feet thick, I should think.
“They seemed a bluish green colour but shone in the sun like aluminum. The rear part of the creature was serrated with protuberances like dorsal fins. The extreme end thrashed about in the water like a propeller.”
Several more people reported sightings, some saying it had a head like a camel, others a head like a horse. Cyril Andrews of Pender Island got a close-up view when he paddled a boat out to pick up a duck he had shot.
“About 10 feet away, out of the sea rose two coils,” he said in the Dec. 6, 1933, Province.
“They reached a height of at least six feet above me, gradually sinking under the water again, when a head appeared. The head was that of a horse without ears or nostrils, but its eyes were in the front of its head, which was flat just like a horse.
“I was only about 10 feet away from it, with the duck right beside the thing, when to my horror it gulped the bird down its throat.”
Some American fishermen in Port Angeles called the sea monster Bosco, or Old Hiaschuckoluk, and said they’s spotted it several times while they were fishing for salmon and herring. One fisherman claimed he was reeling in a salmon when the creature gulped it down and took off with the fishing line still attached to the fish, taking the fisherman and his boat with it.
“His boat leaped into the air and headed for Vancouver Island, at airplane speed,” said an Oct. 22, 1933, story out of Seattle.
There were annual sightings of the Cadborosaurus through the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. Finally on May 30, 1963, a tourist from Brandon, Man., got a photo of a sea monster with a long camel neck and several humps in the water off Mill Bay on Vancouver Island.
But the next day, The Canadian Press discovered the sea monster in a boathouse. It turned out to be a man-made Cadborosaurus fashioned from “a dozen rubber tires nailed upright with inner tube rubber, a tire-covered wooden neck and inner tube supported outrigger.”
It had been made for a local fishing derby. No photos of the real Cadborosaurus have ever emerged.