The Monsters in Our Waters - Dundurn
Aug 05, 2021

The Monsters in Our Waters

Canada has more lakes than any other country on Earth. Given our surplus of fresh water, and that we have oceans to the east, west, and north, it should come as no surprise that we have almost as many legends of monsters inhabiting these bodies of water as bodies of water themselves.

Scotland’s Nessie might be the undisputed world champion of lake monster lore, but in Canada, diversity is our strength. From coast to coast, sightings of mysterious creatures have been reported since at least the 19th century, and likely before.

Cadborosaurus, a long, serpentine creature with a head like a camel, had been seen off the BC coast since the 1880s. Named for Cadboro Bay, where the creature had been spotted, “Caddy” rose to fame in 1933, the same year as Nessie. As has been pointed out by scientists like Donald Prothero and Darren Naish, this was likely not a coincidence, local newspapers trying to capitalize on the sensation that was the Loch Ness Monster.

Cadborosaurus is one of the few of Canada’s water monsters that has been photographed. A carcass of “Caddy” was pulled from the belly of a sperm whale in 1937 at a whaling station on the Haida Gwaii. Although the carcass itself has been lost, photos resurfaced after decades and are widely available online. For some it is an undiscovered species of sea serpent, for others it is a surviving species of a marine reptile not seen since the age of dinosaurs. However, it is more likely the remains of a basking shark or sturgeon, as has been suggested by scientists such as Ben Speers-Roesch and Darren Naish.  

Unlike Caddy, Ogopogo is said to live in a lake, Lake Okanagan to be precise, which from a biological standpoint, presents a host of problems. That is, how do smaller bodies of water sustain a breeding population of large aquatic creatures? How are we not finding their carcasses when they die? How are they sustaining themselves? How did they evolve in seeming isolation without relatively recent fossils showing us that such creatures might be around today?

Ogopogo isn’t even Canada’s only “pogo,” as Manitoba boasts “Manipogo” in Lake Manitoba, and Ontario has “Igopogo” in Lake Simcoe, not far from Toronto. Although these lakes are fairly large, we wouldn’t expect a large, unknown lifeform to have existed in them for generations without leaving hard evidence.

Moving eastward, we have Memphre in Quebec, not to mention the most famous lake monster in the US, Champ, lives in Lake Champlain, which enters Quebec at the northern end. Then there’s Old Ned in Lake Utopia, New Brunswick and the Cape Sable Serpent in Nova Scotia.

Perhaps one of the country’s most fascinating monsters, Cressie, lives in Robert’s Arm, Newfoundland. What is intriguing about this giant eel is its plausibility. The eyewitness accounts don’t offer anything monstrous or prehistoric, only a creature larger than the American eels common in the area. Adding to the plausibility is the fact that Lake Crescent connects to the Atlantic Ocean, meaning an ocean conger eel could have conceivable become lost when travelling to the Sargasso Sea to spawn and have grown abnormally large.

Still, water is a great medium for misidentification. Not only are we bad at gauging the size of objects in water, but there is never total visibility of an object in water and it is usually moving oddly due to the water itself. That’s not to say that our lakes don’t host monsters. Anyone who has ever seen a sturgeon, especially one breaching, will tell you that they have seen a monster.  

J.J. Dupuis writes fiction, poetry, and satire. He is the author of Roanoke Ridge and Lake Crescent, the first two books in the Creature X Mystery series. His work has been published in magazines and journals such as Valve, Foliate Oak, Spadina Literary Review, and University of Toronto Magazine. J.J. is the founding editor of the Quarantine Review, a literary journal born out of self-isolation. He lives and works in East York, Toronto, and is an avid outdoorsman and martial artist. Learn more here.