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Mythical Creatures -

Amazons
The race of Amazons or fighting women, is not yet extinct, ...

Pygmies
The antitheses of men--Dwarfs, and Giants--must not be over...

Giants
This last sentence seems almost a compendium of The History...

Early Men
On the antiquity of man it is impossible to speculate, beca...

Wild Men
Sometimes a specimen of humanity has got astray in infancy,...

Hairy Men
If, as we may conjecture from the above, the ancient Briton...

The Ouran Outan
Transition from hirsute humanity to the apes, is easy, and ...

Satyrs
He also mentions and delineates a curious Ape which closely...

The Sphynx
"The SPHYNGA or Sphinx, is of the kind of Apes, but his bre...

Apes
Sluper, who could soar to the height of delineating a Cyclo...

Animal Lore
We are indebted to Pliny for much strange animal lore--whic...

The Manticora
Of curious animals, other than Apes, depicted as having som...

The Lamia
The Lamiae are mythological--and were monsters of Africa, w...

The Centaur
This extraordinary combination of man and animal is very an...

The Gorgon
In the title-page of one edition of "The Historie of Foure-...

The Unicorn
What a curious belief was that of the Unicorn! Yet what myt...

The Rhinoceros
The true Unicorn is, of course, the Rhinoceros, and this pi...

The Gulo
Olaus Magnus thus describes the Gulo or Gulon:--"Amongst...

The Bear
As Pliny not only uses all Aristotle's matter anent Bears, ...

The Fox
By Englishmen, the Fox has been raised to the height of at ...

The Wolf
The Wolf, as a beast of prey, is invested with a terror pec...

Were-wolves
But of all extraordinary stories connected with the Wolf, i...

The Antelope
When not taken from living specimens, or skins, the arti...

The Horse
Aldrovandus gives us a curious specimen of a horse, which t...

The Mimick Dog
"The Mimicke or Getulian Dogge," is, I take it, meant fo...

The Cat
Aldrovandus gives us a picture of a curly-legged Cat, but, ...

The Lion
Of the great Cat, the Lion, the ancients give many wonderfu...

The Leontophonus The Pegasus The Crocotta
The Lion has a dreadful enemy, according to Pliny, who says...

The Leucrocotta The Eale Cattle Feeding Backwards
"There are oxen, too, like that of India, some with one hor...

Animal Medicine
We have already seen some of the wonderfully curative prope...

The Su
Topsell mentions a fearful beast called the Su. "There is a...

The Lamb-tree
As a change from this awful animal, let us examine the Plan...

The Chimaera
Aldrovandus gives us the accompanying illustration of a ...

The Harpy And Siren
The conjunction of the human form with birds is very eas...

The Barnacle Goose
Of all extraordinary beliefs, that in the Barnacle Goose, w...

Remarkable Egg
No wonder that a credulous age, which could see nothing ...

Moon Woman
One would have imagined that this Egg would be sufficien...

The Griffin
There always has been a tradition of birds being existent, ...

The Phoenix
Pliny says of the Phoenix:--"AEthiopia and India, more espe...

The Swallow
"And is the swallow gone? Who beheld it? Wh...

The Martlet And Footless Birds
Of the Martin, or, as in Heraldry it is written, Martlet, G...

Snow Birds
But we must leave warm climes, and birds of Paradise, and s...

The Swan
The ancient fable so dear, even to modern poets, that Swans...

The Alle Alle
"There is also in this Lake (the White Lake) a kind of b...

The Hoopoe And Lapwing
Whether the following bird is meant for the Hoopoe, or the ...

The Ostrich
Modern observation, and especially Ostrich farming, has ...

The Halcyon
Of this bird, the Kingfisher, Aristotle thus discourses:--"...

The Pelican
The fable of the Pelican "in her piety, vulning herself,...

The Trochilus
This bird, as described by Aristotle, and others, is of a p...

Woolly Hens
Sir John Maundeville saw in "the kingdome named Mancy, whic...

Two-headed Wild Geese
Near the land of the Cynocephali or dog-headed men, there w...

Four-footed Duck
Gesner describes a four-footed duck, which he says is li...

Fish
Terrestrial and Aerial animals were far more familiar to th...

The Sea-mouse
"The Sea-Mouse makes a hole in the Earth, and lays her Eggs...

The Sea-hare
"The Sea-Hare is found to be of divers kinds in the Ocean, ...

The Sea-pig
Again we are indebted to Gesner for the drawing of thi...

The Walrus
Of the Walrus, Rosmarus, or Morse, Gesner draws, and Ola...

The Ziphius
This Voracious Animal, whose size may be imagined by compar...

The Saw Fish
"The Saw fish is also a beast of the Sea; the body is huge ...

The Orca
is probably the Thresher whale. Pliny thus describes it:--"...

The Dolphin
Pliny says:--"The Dolphin is an animal not only friendly to...

The Narwhal
generally called the Monoceros or Sea Unicorn, is thus show...

The Swamfisck
The accompanying illustration, though heading the chapte...

The Sahab
"There is also another Sea-Monster, called Sahab, which hat...

The Circhos
"There is also another Monster like to that, called Circhos...

The Remora
Of this fish Pliny writes:--"There is a very small fish tha...

The Dog-fish And Ray
Olaus Magnus writes of "The cruelty of some Fish, and th...

The Sea Dragon
Of the Ray tribe of fishes, the Sea Dragon is the most ...

The Sting Ray
Pliny mentions the Sting Ray, and ascribes to it marvellous...

Senses Of Fishes
He also tells us about the senses of fishes, and first of t...

Zoophytes
Writing on the lower phases of Marine Animal life, he says:...

Sponges
"We find three kinds of sponges mentioned; the first are th...

The Kraken
This enormous monster, peculiar to the Northern Seas, is sc...

Crayfish And Crabs
Pliny tells us that in the Indian Ocean are Crayfish four c...

The Sea-serpent
Of the antiquity of the belief in the Sea-Serpent there can...

Serpents
Of Serpents Topsell has written a "Historie," which, if not...

The Crocodile
The largest of the Saurians which we have left us, is the C...

The Basilisk And Cockatrice
Aldrovandus portrays the Basilisk with eight legs. Topse...

The Salamander
Many writers have essayed this fabled creature, but almost ...

The Toad
Toads were always considered venomous and spiteful, and the...

The Leech
The Leech has, from a very early age, been used as a means ...

The Scorpion
Of the Scorpion, Pliny says:--"This animal is a dangerous s...

The Ant
No one would credit the industrious Ant, whose ways we are ...

The Bee
The Busy Bee, too, according to Olaus Magnus, developed, in...

The Hornet
So also, up North, they seem to have had a special breed...



The Sea-serpent








Of the antiquity of the belief in the Sea-Serpent there can be no doubt,
for it is represented on the walls of the Assyrian palace at Khorsabad,
more than once, in the sculpture representing the voyage of Sargon to
Cyprus, thus giving it an authentic antiquity of over 2600 years: but as
its existence must then have been a matter of belief, it naturally comes
that it must be much older than that.



Aristotle, who wrote nearly 400 years later, speaks of them, and their
savage disposition:--"In Libya, the serpents, as it has been already
remarked, are very large. For some persons say that as they sailed along
the coast, they saw the bones of many oxen, and that it was evident to
them that they had been devoured by the serpents. And, as the ships
passed on, the serpents attacked the triremes, and some of them threw
themselves upon one of the triremes, and overturned it."

These, together with Sargon's Sea-Serpent, were doubtless marine snakes,
which are still in existence, and are found in the Indian Ocean, but the
larger ones seem to have been seen in more northern waters. It has been
the fashion to pooh-pooh the existence of this sea monster, but there
are many that still do believe in it most thoroughly; only, to express
that belief would be to certainly expose oneself to ridicule. No one
doubts the bona fides of those who narrate having seen them, but some
one is sure to come forward with his pet theory as to its being a school
of porpoises, or an enormous cuttle-fish, with its tentacles playing on
the surface of the water; so that no one likes to confess that he has
seen it.



Both Olaus Magnus and Gesner give illustrations of the Sea-Serpent of
Norway, and I give that of the latter, as it is the best. The former
says:--"They who Work of Navigation, on the Coasts of Norway, employ
themselves in fishing, or merchandize, do all agree in this strange
Story, that there is a Serpent there which is of a Vast Magnitude,
namely 200 feet long, and, moreover, 20 foot thick; and is wont to live
in Rocks and Caves toward the Sea Coast about Berge; which will go
alone from his holes in a clear night in Summer, and devour Calves,
Lambs, and Hogs, or else he goes into the Sea to feed on Polypus,
Locusts, and all sorts of Sea Crabs. He hath commonly hair hanging from
his neck a cubit long, and sharp Scales, and is black, and he hath
flaming shining eys. This Snake disquiets the Shippers, and he puts up
his head on high like a pillar, and catcheth away men, and he devours
them; and this hapneth not, but it signifies some wonderful change of
the Kingdom near at hand; namely, that the Princes shall die, or be
banished; or some Tumultuous Wars shall presently follow. There is also
another Serpent of an incredible magnitude in a town called Moos, of
the Diocess of Hammer; which, as a Comet portends a change in all the
World, so, that portends a change in the Kingdom of Norway, as it was
seen, Anno 1522, that lifts himself high above the Waters, and rouls
himself round like a sphere. This Serpent was thought to be fifty Cubits
long by conjecture, by sight afar off: there followed this the
banishment of King Christiernus, and a great persecution of the
Bishops; and it shew'd also the destruction of the Country."

Topsell, in his Historie of Serpents, 1608, does not add much to
Sea-Serpent lore, but he adds the picture of another kind of Serpent, as
does also Aldrovandus, whose illustration I give. (See p. 272.) Erik
Pontoppidan, Bishop of Bergen, in his Natuerlichen Historie von
Norwegen, gives a picture of the Sea-Serpent, somewhat similar to that
previously given by Hans Egede, "the Apostle of Greenland." (See next
page.) Pontoppidan tried to sift the wheat from the chaff, in connection
with the Natural History of the North, but he was not always successful.
He gives several cases, one seemingly very well authenticated, of the
appearance of Sea-Serpents.

But possibly more credence may be given to more modern instances. Sir
Walter Scott, in the Notes to The Pirate, says (speaking of Shetland
and Orkney fishermen):--"The Sea-Snake was also known, which, arising
out of the depths of the ocean, stretches to the skies his enormous
neck, covered with a mane like that of a war-horse, and with his broad
glittering eyes, raised mast-head high, looks out, as it seems, for
plunder or for victims." "The author knew a mariner, of some reputation
in his class, vouch for having seen the celebrated Sea-Serpent. It
appeared, as far as could be guessed, to be about a hundred feet long,
with the wild mane and fiery eyes which old writers ascribe to the
monster; but it is not unlikely the spectator might, in the doubtful
light, be deceived by a good Norway log on the water."



Mr. Maclean, the pastor of Eigg, an island in the Small Isles parish,
Inverness-shire, wrote, in 1809, to Dr. Neill, the Secretary of the
Wernerian Society, that he had seen a Sea-Serpent, while he was in a
boat about two miles from land. The serpent followed the boat, and the
minister escaped by getting on to a rock. He described it as having a
large head and slender tail, with no fins, its body tapering to its
tail. It moved in undulations, and he thought its length might be
seventy to eighty feet. It was seen, also, by the crews of thirteen
fishing-boats, who, being frightened thereat, fled to the nearest creek
for safety.



A Sea-Serpent, judged to be of the length of about eighty feet, was seen
by a party of British officers, in Margaret's Bay, whilst crossing from
Halifax to Mahone Bay, on 15th May 1833.

In 1847 a Sea-Serpent was seen frequently, in the neighbourhood of
Christiansand and Molde, by many persons, and by one Lars Johnoeen,
fisherman at Smolen, especially. He said that one afternoon, in the
dog-days, when sitting in his boat, he saw it twice in the course of two
hours, and quite close to him. It came, indeed, to within six feet of
him, and, becoming alarmed, he commended his soul to God, and lay down
in the boat, only holding his head high enough to enable him to observe
the monster. It passed him, disappeared, and returned; but a breeze
springing up, it sank, and he saw it no more. He described it as being
about six fathoms (thirty-six feet) long, the body (which was as round
as a serpent's) two feet across, the head as long as a ten-gallon cask,
the eyes round, red, sparkling, and about five inches in diameter; close
behind the head, a mane, like a fin, commenced along the neck, and
spread itself out on both sides, right and left, when swimming. The
mane, as well as the head, was of the colour of mahogany. The body was
quite smooth, its movements occasionally fast and slow. It was
serpent-like, and moved up and down. The few undulations which those
parts of the body and tail that were out of water made, were scarce a
fathom in length. His account was confirmed by several people of
position, a Surgeon, a Rector, and a Curate, being among those who had
seen a Sea-Serpent.

But an appearance of the Sea-Serpent, without doubt, is most
satisfactorily attested by the captain and officers of H.M.S. Daedalus.
The first notice of it was in the Times of 10th October 1848, in which
was a paragraph, dated 7th October, from Plymouth:--

"When the Daedalus frigate, Captain M'Quhae, which arrived here on the
4th inst., was on her passage home from the East Indies, between the
Cape of Good Hope and St. Helena, her captain, and most of her officers
and crew, at four o'clock one afternoon, saw a Sea-Serpent. The creature
was twenty minutes in sight of the frigate, and passed under her
quarter. Its head appeared about four feet out of the water, and there
was about sixty feet of its body in a straight line on the surface. It
is calculated that there must have been under water a length of thirty
or forty feet more, by which it propelled itself at the rate of fifteen
miles an hour. The diameter of the exposed part of the body was about
sixteen inches; and when it extended its jaws, which were full of large
jagged teeth, they seemed sufficiently capacious to admit of a tall man
standing upright between them. The ship was sailing north at the rate of
eight miles an hour. The Daedalus left the Cape of Good Hope on the
30th of July, and reached St. Helena on the 16th of August."

Captain M'Quhae sent the following letter to Admiral Sir W. H. Gage,
G.C.H., at Devonport:--

"HER MAJESTY'S SHIP DAEDALUS, HAMOAZE,
Oct. 11, 1848.

"SIR,--In reply to your letter of this day's date, requiring
information as to the truth of a statement published in the Times
newspaper, of a Sea-Serpent of extraordinary dimensions having been
seen from Her Majesty's Ship Daedalus, under my command, on her
passage from the East Indies, I have the honour to acquaint you, for
the information of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that at
five o'clock P.M., on the 6th of August last, in latitude 24 deg. 44' S.
and longitude 9 deg. 22' E., the weather dark and cloudy, wind fresh
from the N.W., with a long ocean swell from the S.W., the ship on
the port tack heading N.E. by N., something very unusual was seen by
Mr. Sartoris, midshipman, rapidly approaching the ship from before
the beam. The circumstance was immediately reported by him to the
officer of the watch, Lieutenant Edgar Drummond, with whom, and Mr.
William Barrett, the master, I was at the time walking the
quarter-deck. The ship's company were at supper.



"On our attention being called to the object, it was discovered to
be an enormous Serpent, with head and shoulders kept about four feet
constantly above the surface of the sea; and, as nearly as we could
approximate by comparing it with the length of what our
maintopsail-yard would show in the water, there was, at the very
least, sixty feet of the animal a fleur d'eau, no portion of which
was, to our perception, used in propelling it through the water,
either by vertical or horizontal undulation. It passed rapidly, but
so close under our lee quarter that, had it been a man of my
acquaintance, I should have easily recognised his features with the
naked eye; and it did not, either in approaching the ship or after
it had passed our wake, deviate in the slightest degree from its
course to the S.W., which it held on at the pace of from twelve to
fifteen miles per hour, apparently on some determined purpose.

"The diameter of the Serpent was about fifteen or sixteen inches
behind the head, which was, without any doubt, that of a snake; and
it was never, during the twenty minutes that it continued in sight
of our glasses, once below the surface of the water. Its colour, a
dark brown, with yellowish white about the throat. It had no fins,
but something like the mane of a horse, or rather a bunch of
seaweed, washed about its back. It was seen by the quartermaster,
the boatswain's mate, and the man at the wheel, in addition to
myself and officers above mentioned.

"I am having a drawing of the Serpent made from a sketch taken
immediately after it was seen, which I hope to have ready for
transmission to my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty by
to-morrow's post.--I have, &c.,

PETER M'QUHAE, CAPTAIN."

Space will not allow me to chronicle all the other appearances of
Sea-Serpents from 1848 to the present time. Suffice it to say, they are
not very uncommon, and as for veracity, I will give another instance of
its being seen on board the Royal Yacht Osborne, on 2nd June 1877, off
Cape Vito, Sicily. Lieutenant Haynes made sketches, and wrote a
description, of it, which was confirmed by the Captain and several
officers. He wrote:--

"ROYAL YACHT OSBORNE, GIBRALTAR,
June 6, 1877.

"On the evening of that day (June 2), the sea being perfectly
smooth, my attention was first called by seeing a ridge of fins
above the surface of the water extending about thirty feet, and
varying from five to six feet in height. On inspecting it by means
of a telescope, at about one and a half cable's distance, I
distinctly saw a head, two flappers, and about thirty feet of an
animal's shoulder.

"The head, as nearly as I could judge, was about six feet thick, the
neck narrower, about four or five feet, the shoulder about fifteen
feet across, and the flappers each about fifteen feet in length. The
movements of the flappers were those of a turtle, and the animal
resembled a huge seal, the resemblance being strongest about the
back of the head. I could not see the length of the head, but from
its crown or top to just below the shoulder (where it became
immersed) I should reckon about fifty feet. The tail end I did not
see, being under water, unless the ridge of fins to which my
attention was first attracted, and which had disappeared by the time
I got a telescope, were really the continuation of the shoulder to
the end of the object's body. The animal's head was not always above
water, but was thrown upwards, remaining above for a few seconds at
a time, and then disappearing. There was an entire absence of
'blowing' or 'spouting.'"

I think the verdict may be given that its existence, although belonging
to "Curious Zoology," is not impossible, and can hardly be branded as a
falsehood.





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