I’ve had a lifelong fascination with cryptozoology: the study of animals whose reported existence is unproven, like the yeti, the mothman and the Loch Ness monster.

That’s why I was thrilled to find in the basement of my home over the holidays two of my favourite cryptozoology books from my childhood, The World of the Unknown: Monsters, and Creatures From Elsewhere.

In the chapter called Monsters of the Deep from Creatures from Elsewhere, authors Janet and Colin Bord wrote: “Many scientists remain skeptical about the existence of underwater monsters, yet sightings of giant sea creatures, some extremely detailed, continue to be reported around the world.”

One of the most intriguing stories the Bords wrote about is of a 55-foot (17 metres) body that washed up on the shore of the Scottish island of Stronsay in the Orkneys in 1808, first seen by local fishermen and farmers.

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“But before any informed examination could be made, storms had smashed the rotting carcass to pieces,” the Bords wrote. “The drawing that was made from the witnesses’ descriptions showed an extraordinary animal with a long neck and undulating tail and three pairs of legs, a feature hitherto unknown in a vertebrate. The corpse was finally identified as a shark by a British surgeon, Everard Home, who had made a study of shark anatomy and was able to obtain specimens of bones that had been removed from the beast.”

The Bords wrote that the decomposition of shark carcasses, when washed up on shore, can leave what looks like an unworldly creature with a long thin neck and tail.

As a child, I would gaze for hours at pictures and illustrations in these books and was captivated by several sightings on the west coast of Canada.

The Bords wrote: “In the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and British Columbia, the creature known locally as Cadborosaurus or Caddy was sighted by the (native Canadians) long before the arrival of the white settlers.”

Caddy was seen frequently during the 1930s, the Bords explained, and was described as a serpent 45 feet (14 metres) long, with wide-open jaws, rising out of the water.

The descriptions were similar to those of the world’s most famous water monster, Nessie, said to inhabit the depths of Scotland’s Loch Ness.

I love the idea that unknown monsters — perhaps even surviving dinosaurs — may lurk beneath the surface of the world’s lakes and oceans.

Of course, as an adult, I understand that the vast majority of these beasts, perhaps all, are likely misidentified creatures or the result of overactive imaginations seeing perfectly natural phenomena.

But surely the enormous oceans of this planet are home to many species great and small that science has yet to identify.

Nature continues to surprise us, and I hope that one day we discover that some of the cryptids that fuelled my childhood imagination emerge from the depths into reality.

Marshall Ward is a freelance writer and artist. Email is welcome at marshall_ward@hotmail.com.

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