Dark rings break through the surface of the lake, moving forward at an alarmingly fast pace. A fleeting glimpse of a bobbing head reveals a mane, and then it is gone, leaving only a wake and a stunned observer.
Such sightings of the sea creature that has come to be known as Cadborosaurus have been recorded around Victoria since the 1930s. It has piqued the imaginations of many and created enthusiasts such as Jason Walton, a contract illustrator who has been gathering evidence and sightings of Caddy, as he affectionately calls the sea creature, since 1994.
"The facts [on Cadborosaurus] are good," says Walton. "Unfortunately they are all formed from sightings, but the sightings are very consistent and convincing."
Walton’s experience with Caddy is typical of cryptozoologists — people who study unknown species, which are known as cryptids. From Sasquatchs and Yeti, to the Loch Ness Monster and the wide variety of birds, reptiles and cat-like or bear-like animals that people claim are out there, cryptozoologists take on the challenge of bringing science together with the unknown, and work tireless to obtain solid, irrefutable evidence of these alleged species.
Walton has teamed up with oceanographers and marine biologists who invest their time and resources into proving Caddy’s existence and finding out more about the creature. "We’ve got high resolution cameras on motion sensors," he says. "Unfortunately, we have never had a photo sighting, but we are getting close."
But Caddy isn’t the only cryptid in Canada. Arlene Gaal has been studying Ogopogo, the renowned sea creature said to inhabit Okanogan Lake near Kelowna, B.C. since she moved to the area in the 1970s. As a journalist with the Kelowna Daily Courier, her professional interest in getting to the bottom of a story was the driving force behind her insatiable curiosity of Ogopogo’s existence.
"I have the most updated database on Ogopogo in the world. Ninety-nine percent of all the data is here in my home, which includes still photos, film footage, video footage and firsthand accounts of sightings from the mid 1800s to the present time," says Gaal. She has written three books on Ogopogo, the first was published in 1976 and the most recent in 2001.
"Having had at least six personal experiences on the lake left no doubt in my mind that we were indeed dealing with an unidentified animal," says Gaal. "These sightings were enough to convince me to continue on."
Both Gaal and Walton investigate sightings that people report. The cryptozoologists have found that most sightings are credible and many of the descriptions are consistent. "They have nothing to gain by coming forward and everything to lose," says Walton. "Some people coming forward have scientific degrees. Other people are relieved when you can explain to them what they have seen," he says
Gaal agrees that there is a certain stigma attached to admitting to having seen something that cannot be proven to exist. For Walton, the possibility of discovering a new species would be an exciting discovery for biology. "We don’t know whether Caddy is reptilian or mammalian," he says. His scientific partners believe it to be a deep-water animal, but do not know how it breathes or interacts with and effects the rest of the underwater world in which it lives.
"It is no easy task," says Gaal. "We don’t have a carcass or DNA evidence that would land us a seat in a scientific institute. However, I believe that those who have seen it will never be convinced otherwise."
For Gaal and Walton, seeing truly is believing.