Naden Harbour Carcass

The real thing?  the Naden Harbour carcass.

Unknown animal discovered in the stomach of a
recently caught sperm whale at the Naden Harbour
whaling station (Queen Charlotte Islands, BC) in the
summer of 1937. The creature was described by a
witness as  ‘The remains of a Sperm Whale’s Lunch,
a creature of reptilian appearance 10 ft 6 in in length
with animal-like vertebrae and a tail similar to that of
a horse. The head resembles that of a large dog with
features of a horse and the turn down nose of a camel.”

Naden Harbour 1
For larger images including enlargements CLICK HERE.
Naden Harbour 2
Flensing crew at work at Naden Harbour (1939) All Photographs B.C. Archives
The Naden Harbour staff were well-acquainted with
fetal baleen whales as shown in the photograph with
staff member Jim Wakelen, an eyewitness to the
unknown creature, with a baleen whale fetus. The
carcass was located in the first stomach, where no
digestion takes place. The Harbor staff commented
on the body having very little damage and described
it as a single entire animal with a thin white film on
the surface. The animal was hailed as a "juvenile
Cadborosaurus" in the press. The carcass was
shipped to the American Whaling Company home
base in Bellevue, Washington, where it was shown
to the public in a barrel of acetone.

The carcass was then transported to Victoria B.C. where Francis Kermode, the director of the museum,
had dismissed it as the remains of a fetal baleen whale; it was then presumably discarded.


                                                                                                     Here are three newspaper articles on the Naden Harbour          
                                                                                                     carcass appearing in the Victoria Colonist July 10th 1937,
                                                                                                     the Bellevue American July 15 1937, and again in the
                                                                                                     Victoria Colonist July 24 1937.
                                                                                                     CLICK TO ENLARGE

A.Nixon, James Wakelen, James Wakelen Sr. Naden
Harbour Wharf, July 1938 (Holding Fetal Baleen Whale)
Naden Harbour 3
Daily Colonist July 10 1937
Bellevue American July 15 1937
Daily Colonist July 24 1937
With the efforts of Dr. Paul Leblond and Dr. Ed Bousfield, in searching archives, contacting news
publishers as well as Jim Wakelen, who had personally witnessed the carcass, here is a detailed
timeline of the short but active history of the Naden Harbour carcass.

Temporal History, 1937.

July 4. Slender 3.5 m carcass of unidentified aquatic prey animal removed by flensers from the fore
stomach of a large bull sperm whale harpooned 8-10 hours previously on the continental slope off
Langara I. On instructions from station manager F. S. Huband, the carcass was immediately placed on
a table and packing boxes that had been suitably prepared for photography with white cloth and white
board backgrounds. At least three black and white photographs were taken, presumably on "Brownie
box" cameras, from variously different angles and heights, at distances of about 8-10 ft. from the
carcass, by two different photographers (F. S. Huband, and G. V. Boorman, medical officer). No human
images are in these photos. Among the other staff witnesses are whaling captain Finn John, station
blacksmith James Wakelen and his father Cyril Wakelen, bookkeeper. Curatorial treatment of the
carcass was confirmed by eyewitness Jim Wakelen, that following photography the carcass was coiled
up and preserved in salt.

July 5-6. Carcass in transit aboard CPR ship, from Naden Harbour to the APWC (American Pacific
Whaling Company) winter headquarters at Bellevue, WA.

July 8 -22. Carcass, in tub of acetone, was placed on display, to general public, at the APWC
headquarters building at 9905 NE Lake Washington Boulevard in Bellevue.

July 23. Carcass transported by whaler from Bellevue dock to Canadian whaling substation in Victoria,
B. C., at the southeast end of the Pt. Ellis (Bay St.) bridge.

July 25. Francis Kermode, Director, RBC museum, examined specimen, presumably aboard the whale
boat. He declares the carcass to be that of a (fetal) baleen whale. Pronouncement is made to the press
(Victoria Colonist, July 25, 1937).

July 28. Dr. Ian McTaggart Cowan, RBCM vertebrate zoologist, returns to Victoria from field work in
Revelstoke B. C. to find: no carcass in museum collections, no entry in museum accession book, and no
mention of the episode by the Director (Kermode) to him.