Saturday 15 October 2022

A Bug-Eyed Monster off New Zealand

      Readers will no doubt be familiar with the name of Ivan T. Sanderson who, along with Bernard Heuvelmans, was one of the founders of cryptozoology. All sorts of other Fortean phenomena captured his imagination, if not always his critical faculties, with the result that he founded the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained (SITU), with its journal, Pursuit. Now, in my old age, I am going through my own copies of this journal, and thus happened to come across an article inspired by a clipping from a Japanese newspaper. So, as this blog seeks to rescue stories which are likely to get overlooked or lost, I shall republish it here verbatim. The comments at the end were, I presume, written by Sanderson himself. As for the last sentence, there does not appear to have been any follow-up. And no, I have no idea what the animal was. If any reader is an expert in large marine life and has any suggestions, they are welcome.


Pursuit 4(4) [Oct 1971] pp 95-6

     A correspondent resident in Japan has sent us a clipping from the Manichi Daily News of the 18th July 1971. It is datelined Yaizu, Shizuoka.
   "A bug-eyed monster (BEM) startled crew members of the 253-ton
Kompira Maru as it observed their fishing operations off the South Coast of New Zealand recently. News of the BEM and a sketch of the monster - see cut - was released after the 26-man crew returned to Yaizu Port, Shizuoka Prefecture, recently. The crewmen reported that the BEM's head reared about 1.5 meters [roughly 5 feet] above the sea's surface, and that its eyes appeared to be about 15 cm. [roughly 6 inches] in diameter. The captain of the vessel drew the sketch. It appeared to have a nose like a deformed hippopotamus so they named it 'Kabagon,' after Kaba, the Japanese term for the river animal. The ship's log gave the date of the sighting as about noon on April 28 and at 44.15 degrees south latitude and 173.34 east longitude and about 40 kilometers [roughly 25 miles] southeast of Lyttelton on South Island. The sea depth was about 40 meters, the weather was fine with a north wind. According to the fishermen's testimony, the animal looked something like a hippopotamus. But one noted that the hippopotami live only in fresh water.
     "When the boat got within about 30 meters of the monster and a harpoon-gun was being loaded, it disappeared, according to the fishermen. Meanwhile, a weekly magazine in New Zealand reported strange footprints had been found on Lyttelton Peninsula."

     Although hippos do occasionally go to sea, they are confined to Africa, and the sketch reproduced in the Mainichi Daily News (reproduced here in simplified form) does not look anything like a hippo to us in any event.  What it does resemble is a female walrus, but this doesn't help very much since the Walrus is - so far as anyone knows! - native only to the Northern Hemisphere. One wishes that the crew had been a lot nippier with that harpoon-gun. If there is a Southern Hemisphere Walrus, it must be enormous.  'Ordinary' male walruses reach a maximum length of abut 12-½ feet (the females are much smaller), so that an animal with a head reported to measure 5 feet in 'length' would be heaven knows how long. Six-inch eyes are not to be sneered at either; and one should note that enormous eyes are commonly reported by those who say they have observed sea as opposed to freshwater monsters.
     We have thus far been unable to find out anything more about the tracks on the beach at Lyttelton (at least presumably on a beach), but walruses do not 'walk' and therefore do not leave tracks in the ordinary sense. Whether there us in fact any connection between the two is open to debate as yet. We are continuing our enquiries and will attempt to report further on this at a later date.


  1. It could be a whale’ s head surfacing. The blowholes could be mistaken for eyes.

    1. That's a thought. Unfortunately, they didn't tell us such obvious details as how long it was in sight, in the same position, but clearly it was long enough for them to approach it and get out the harpoon gun. I wouldn't have thought that a whale would remain very long in such a posture and, of course, its blowholes would "blow". But one can't rule it out.

  2. As always interesting. I anticipate your posts and appreciate them.

  3. Illustration reminds me of a harbor seal.