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mentioned in Scripture under its proper name.
It does not appear, that the writers of Greece and Home were acquainted with any animal which can be considered as synonimous with the Great Sea Serpent. An amphibious animal of great size, which lived chiefly in fresh water, is mentioned by several of these authors. Of this kind was that described by Livy in his first book of the Punic war, which struck such terror into the army of Regulus, on the banks of the river Bagrada. The same animal is mentioned both by Pliny and Valerius Maximus.* It was 120 feet in length, killed several men, and was found to be almost invulnerable. A singular story is also told by Diodorus Siculus, lib. M, of an Egyptian serpent, sixty feet long, which was brought alive to Alexandria, as a present to Ptolemy the II. This creature was observed to leave the water every day te prey upon the cattle of the neighbouring farmers. Many unsuccessful attacks were made upon it, during which several men lost their lives, but at last it was surprised in a narrow defile by means of a net made of strong ropes, and carried alive to Ptolemy's court.
In modern times the Sea Serpent appears to occur chiefly in the northern ocean. It is described at considerable length, though with some circumstances of exaggeration, by Eric Pontoppidan, to whose work we have already had occasion so frequently to refer. He observes, that in all his inquiries concerning it, he has hardly spoken to one intelligent person of the Manor of Nordland, who did not give the strongest assurances of its existence; and many of the northern traders think it is as ridiculous to be questioned regarding the Great Serpent, as if they were asked, whether there be such fish as Cod or Eel. Along the Norwegian coast it is known by the names of Soe Ormen and Aaale Tust. The following letter from the Hon. Captain Lawrence de Ferry to Keutz of Bergen, serves to illustrate the history of this animal.
"The latter end of August, in the year 17-16, as I was on a voyage, in my return from Trundheim, in a very calm and hot day, having a mind to put in to Molde, it happened that when we were arrived with
"Hist. Nat lib. viii. cap. xiv. VaL Max. lib. i. cap. ulu
my vessel within six English miles aforesaid Molde, being at a place Jule-Ntess, as I was reading in a heard a kind of murmuring voice f mongst the men at the oars, who wei in number, and observed that the ma helm kept off from the land. Upo inquired what was the matter, and formed that there was a Sea Snake us. I then ordered the man at the keep to the land again, and to come this creature, of which I had heard s stories. Though the fellows were some apprehension, they were obi obey my orders. In the mean tir Sea-Snakc passed by us, and we v liged to tack the vessel about to ge to it As the snake swam faster I could row, I took my gun, that we charged, and fired at it; on this he diately plunged under the water. l ed to the place where it sunk dowr in the calm might easily be o and lay upon our oars, thinking i come up again to the surface; ho did not. When the Snake plunge the water appeared thick and red; some of the shot might wound it, tance being very little. The head Snake, which it held more than above the surface of the water, re that of a horse. It was of a grayish and the mouth was quite black a large. It had black eyes, and a loi mane that hung down from the net surface of the water. Besides the 1: neck, we saw seven or eight folds or this Snake, which were very thick far as we could guess, there was fathom distance between each fold lated this affair in a certain compan there was a person of distinction who desired that I would commui him an authentic detail of all that cd; and for this reason, two of my who were present at the same ti place when I saw this monster, Nicholas Pederson Kopper, and Nicholson Anglewigen, shall ap court to declare on oath the truth particular herein set forth; and the favour of an attested copy of descriptions. I remain, sir, your servant, (Signed) 1. Di
Bergen, %\it February 1751.
Its exact dimensions do not i be accurately known. Accort some accounts it attains the en length of 100 fathoms, or 600 ] feet, but such a measurement probability, much exceeds the It is frequently mentioned northern poets, particularly Pete whose poetical description of i mencing with
"Om Soe-ormen vecd jeg ey nogen Bi is well known.
In the curious description of Norway, by Jonas Ramus, there is the following passage:
"Anno 1687, a large Sea-Snake was seen by many people in Dramsfiorden; and, at one time, by eleven persons together. It was in very calm weather; and so soon as the sun appeared, and the wind blew a little, it shot away just like a coiled cable that is suddenly thrown out by the sailors; and they observed that it was some time in stretching out its many folds. Olaus Magnus, in his Hist. Sept lib. xxi. c 84, speaks of a Norwegian Snake 80 feet long, but not thicker than a child's arm, 'Est in littoribus Norwegicis vermis glauci colons, longitudine xl cubitorum, et atnplius vix spissitudinem infantis brachii habens.'"
With regard to this last mentioned animal, we are entirely of Pontoppidan's opinion, that there must have been some mistake in the measurement, as the thickness of a child's arm is quite disproportioned to such a length. The existence of the animal itself we can scarcely doubt, as Olaus affirms, "Hunc vermem sapius uidi, ab ejus tactu, nautarum information, abstinens." There is, in all probability, some typographical error.
It appears, from several passages in the works of the Scandinavian writers, that there is a current belief in the existence of a great serpent of an amphibious nature, which, like that mentioned by the ancient historians, does not confine its depredations to the water. Whether this animal should be considered as synonymous with the great Sea Serpent, which, according to some accounts recently received from America, is also reported to have been observed on shore, or otherwise, it is not at present easy to determine. According to Pontoppidan, it is said, by the people who inhabit the Norwegian coast, that the latter species is not generated in the sea, but on the land; and that when they become so large that they cannot easily move upon the ground, they go into the sea and attain their full growth. In favour of this tradition, we may quote the following passage from the Mundus Mirabilis of Happelius:
"Xicolaus Gramius, minister at London in Norway, gives, 16th Jan. anno 1656, of such a serpent, the following account, from the report of Gulbrandi Hougsrud and Olaus Anderson, that they had seen, in the last autumnal inundation, a large water serpent, or worm, in the Spseriler Sea; and it is believed that it had been seen before in Mies, and had been hitherto bid in the river
Bang. As soon as it reached the shore of this river, it proceeded, on the dry land, to the Spasriler Sea; it appeared like a mighty mast, and whatever stood in its way was thrown down—even the very trees and huts; the people were terrified with its hissing and frightful roaring; and almost all the fish, in the aforesaid sea, were devoured or drove away by it. The inhabitants of Odale were so terrified at this monster, that none would venture to go to the sea to follow their customary fishing and wood-trade, nor would any body walk along the shore. At the end of the autumn, before the waters were frozen, this monster was seen at a distance, and, by its enormous size, surprised every body; its head was as big as an nogshead, and the thickness of its body, as far as the same appeared above water, was like a tun; the length of the whole body was vast; it reached, as far as the spectators could judge, the length of three Norway danncn-trees, and rather exceeded."
An amphibious serpent, equally terrific, is described by Olaus Magnus in his xxvii. chapter:
"Those that visit the coasts of Norway tell us of a very strange phenomenon, namely, that there is in these seas a snake 800 feet long, and 80 feet round, which lives in the hollows of the rocks, and under the cliffs, about Bergen, and goes out in the moonlight nights to devour calves, sheep, and swine; or else it goes to the sea, and catches star-fish, crabs, &c. It has it mane two feet long; it is covered with scales, and has fiery eyes; it disturbs ships, and raises itself up like a mast, and sometimes snaps some of the men from the deck."
We consider it extremely improbable, that so great a change in the habits of any animal should take place, as that presumed, by the alleged fact of the Great Snake dwelling in the deep only, after having attained a considerable degree of maturity. Such changes never take place without corresponding alterations in the most important organs and functions of the animal itself, and alterations of that nature have never been observed to occur in any of the snake tribe, or among cetaceous animals. It is scarcely more probable, that it should be even an occasional inhabitant of the land, although it is very likely that it possesses the power of living for a long period of time in moist or marshy ground, or even among rocks, if accidentally deserted by the waters. Such accounts must have originated in the circumstance of some great snake having been carried on shore by unusually high tides, or forced, by the inundation of a river, into the wet grounds in its vicinity." We shall return to the SeaSerpent, more properly so called.
The animal described by Paul Egede, as seen by him during his second voyage to Greenland, must have been of this kind.
"July 6th, a most hideous sea-monster was seen, which reared itself so high above the water, that its head overtopped our mainsail. It had a long pointed nose, out of which it spouted like a whale. Instead of fins, it had great broad flaps like wings; its body seemed to be grown over with shellwork, and its skin very rugged and uneven; it was shaped like a serpent behind, and . when it dived into the water again, it plunged itself backwards, and raised its tail above the water a whole ship-length from its body."
The above account is the only one with which we are acquainted, in which the Sea-Snake is said to spout water like the whale. It is indeed singular, that that character has not been more frequently remarked; and this omission induces us to suppose it not improbable, that two kinds of animals exist, bearing a general resemblance to each other, to both of which the name of Sea-Snake has been applied. The Orkney animal, afterwards mentioned, appears, from the testimony of different witnesses, to have been provided with air-holes and a lengthened neck, and, consequently, with lungs; from which it follows, that it must frequently have had occasion to spout out water after the manner of the more common cetaceous animals. The Great Serpent, recently seen off the American coast, was sometimes visible, about the sameplace, for an entire day, but was not observed to exert any such faculty. If that character, as mentioned in the Greenland relation, was not the result of some deception, it may be concluded, that the animal described by Egede differed considerably from those usually observed in the North Sea, which have never been described as posse ssed of such a power, although various accounts agree in stating, that when they approach, they c. use a great agitation in the water, and sometimes make it tun like the current at a mill. It has been said to shed its skin an nua'ly, like the Land-Snake; and at Kopperwiig, in Norway, it was affirmed, that a cover for a table was made
* Petms Undalinus makes mention of huge water snakes being occasionally observed in some of the Norwegian Lakes.— Cap. vii. p. M.
of one of these skins.
This report excited the curiosity of Pontoppidan, who was anxious to know the truth, and accordingly wrote for proper information; but he could learn nothing of it. He was, however, informed, that in 1720, a Sea-Snake had lain for some time in a creek near that place; that it came there at high water, through a narrow channel about seven or eight feet broad, but went away, after lying there a whole week, and left behind it a skin, which the informer, whose name was Korlack Korlacksen, declared he saw and handled. It lay with one end under water in the creek, and how long it was could not be determined. The creek, within the channel, was several fathoms deep, and the skin lay stretched out a great way; but one end having been floated on shore by the tide, lay there for a long time, and was seen by every one. This skin was of a soft and slimy consistence, as the body of the animal itself is also said to be, according to some accounts. Thus a party of Norwegian sailors once caught a young one, and laid it upon the deck of their vessel, where itlay till they were obliged to throw it overboard, owing to the insupportable ftetor which emanated from a soft and viscid slime, to which its body was partly dissolved.*
All the accounts which we have read agree in this, that the slightest gust of wind is particularly hateful to this animal, and immediately causes it to sink to the bottom of the sea. This
* " We have the same account from Pere Labat, of a small Sea-Serpent about four feet long, and as thick as a man's arm. His words are, ' Nous l'attachames au mat aprcs l'avoir assomme pour voir quelle figure il auroit le lendemain. Nous connumes combien notre bonheur avoil ete grand, de n'avoir point touche a ce poisson, qui sans (Unite nous auroit tous euipoisonnez. Car nnus trouvames le matin qu'il s'etoit entierement dissous en une cau verdatre et puante, qui aveit coule sur le pont, sans qu'il restat pre6que autre chose, que la pt-au et la reste, quot qu'il nous eut paru le soir fort fernie it fort bon. Nous conclumcs, on que cc poisson ctoit empoisonne par accident, on que de sa nature ce n'etoit qu'un compose de venin. Je crois que e'etoit quelque vipere niarin. J'en ay parle a plusieurs pescheurs et autrcs gens de mer, sans avoir jamais pu etrc bicn eclairci de ce que je voulois scavoir touchant ce Poisson." Nouvcuux Voyages aux Isles Francoises de 1' \n:erique, tom. 5, cap. xiv, p. 335." Pontopp. vol. 2, p. 201.
probably arises from the inconvenience arrow from a bow.
resulting from the waves at the surface, and the strong power which a swell would exert upon a body of such great length and comparative slenderness. According to Pontoppidan, a great Sea-Snake was seen at Amunds Vaagen, in Nordriord, a few years before he wrote. It came in between the rocks, probably at high water, and died there, and its carcase tainted the neighbouring air for a long time. A similar animal was seen in the island of Karmen, where it perished; and several more are recorded as having occurred in other places. The ScaSnake, it is said, possesses a very quick scent, and has been observed to fly from the smell of castor. On this account, the Norwegian fishermen, during the warm summer months, when it is most likely to shew itself, are frequently provided with this substance when they go to sea; and when they apprehend the near approach of one of these monsters, they sprinkle a little on all sides overboard. The same device is said by Debes to be resorted to by the boatmen around the Feme Isles, as a protection against the Trokl-Whalc, a mischievous species, which likewise dreads the shavings of juniper-wood. Many curious anecdotes, concerning the power of castor, may be found in the writings of Thomas Bartholinus.
The Bishop of Bergen mentions, that he has been informed by the northern traders, that the sea-snake sometimes throws itself across a boat in such a manner as to sink it hy its weight. One person, in particular, informed him, that he has been near enough to some of these animals to feel their smooth skin; and he added, that sometimes they will raise up their frightful heads, and snap a man out of a boat, without hurting the rest; "but this," says the bishop, "I will not affirm for a truth, because it is not certain that they are a fish of prey." Perhaps this animal may be alluded toby the prophet Amos: "And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the •ea, thence will I command the serF*t, and he shall bite them."—Chap, a- v. 3. Its motion is said to be exceedingly rapid, and is compared by •ne Norwegian poet to the flight of an
When perceived by the fishermen, they generally row away in the direction of the sun, which favouis their escape, as the creature cannot perceive them when its head is turned towards that luminary.
"It is said, that they sometimes fling themselves in a wine circle round a boat, sa that the men are surrounded on all sides. This snake, I observed before, generally appears on the water in folds or coils; and the fishermen, from a known custom in that case, never row towards the openings, or those places where the body is not seen, but is concealed under the water; if they did, the snake would raise itself up, and overset the boat. On the contrary, they row full against the highest part that is visible, which makes the snake immediately dive; and thus they are released from their fears. This is their method when they cannot avoid them; but when they see one of these creatures at a distance, they row away with all their might (by which they sonieUci.es injure their health) towards the shore, or into a creek where it cannot follow them.'"
When they are overtaken, without being provided with any castor, their only resource is to throw a scuttle or any light thing at it, which frequently has the effect of making it dive and take another course.
We come now to the more modern instances of the occurrence of this singular animal. The following letter from the Rev. Mr Maclean of Small Isles to the Secretary of the Wernerian Natural History Society, will be deemed sufficient to dispel the doubts of those who feel less inclined than ourselves, to place some degree of confidence in the accounts of the earlier writers.
"Eigg hland, 2ith April 1809. "Sin,—Your letter of the 1st instant I received, and would have written in answer thereto sooner, had I not thought it desirable to examine others relative to the animal of which you wish me to give a particular account.
"According to my best recollection, I saw it in June 1808, not on the coast of Kigg, but on that of Coll. Rowing along that coast, I observed, at about the distance of half a mile, an object to windward, which gradually excited asumisliment. At first view, it appeared like a small rock. Knowing there was no rock in that situation, I fixed my eyes on it close. Then I saw it elevated considerably above the level of the sea, and, after a slow movement, distinctly perceived one of its eyes. Alarmed at the unusual appearance and magnitude of the animal, I steered so as to be at no great
* Nat. Hist of Norway, vol. ii, p. 203.
distance from the shore. When nearly in a line betwixt it and the shore, the monster, directing its head (which still continued above water) towards us, plunged violently under water. Certain that he was in chase of us, we plied hard to get ashore. Just as we leaped out on a rock, taking a station as high as we conveniently could, we saw it coming rapidly under water towards the item of our boat. When within a few yards of the boat, finding the water shallow, it raised its monstrous head above water, and, by a winding course, got, with apparent difficulty, clear of the creek where our boat lay, and where the monster seemed in danger of being imbayed. It continued to move off, with its head above water, and with the wind, for about half a mile, before we lost sight of it. Its head was rather broad, of a form somewhat oval. Its neck somewhat smaller. Its shoulders, if I can so term them, considerably broader, and thence it tapered towards the tail, which last it kept pretty low in the water, so that a view of it could not be taken so distinctly as I wished. It had no fin that I could perceive, and seemed to me to move progressively by undulation up and down. Its length I believed to be from 70 to 80 feet. When nearest to me, it did not raise its head wholly above water, so that the neck being under water, I could perceive no shining filaments thereon, if it had any. Its progressive motion under water I took to be rapid, from the shortness of the time it took to come up to the boat. When the head was above water, its motion was not near so quick; and when the head was most elevated, it appeared evidently to take a view of distant objects.
"About the time I saw it, it was seen about the island of Canna. The crews of thirteen fishing-boats, I am told, were so much terrified at its appearance, that they in a body fled from it to the nearest creek for safety. On the passage from Rum to Canna, the crew of one boat saw it coming towards them with the wind, and its head high above water. One of the crew pronounced its head as large as a little boat, and each of its eyes as large as a plate. The men were much terrified, but the monster offered them no molestation. From those who saw it, I could get no interesting particulars additional to those above mentioned. I remain, Sir, &c
(Signed) Donald Maclean."
A few months after the appearance of this animal off the Island of Coll, the dead body of'a monstrous Sea-Snake was found driven on shore on Stronsa, one of the Orkney Isles. It measured fifty-five feet in length, and about ten feet in circumference, and was furnished with a kind of mane or ridge of bristles, which extended from the shoulder to within two feet and a half
of the tail. These bristles, while moist, were luminous in the (lark; and it was provided with fins or swimming paws, which measured four feet and a half in length, and in shape resembled the wing of a goose without feathers." This monster was seen and examined by many individuals, who all agree in regard to its great size and general appearance. It remained entire for some time, but separated before any correct drawing or detailed description could be obtained.t
We shall conclude this investigation by presenting our readers with an account of the latest, and one of the most satisfactory instances of the appearance of the Great Sea Serpent, off the American coast. This we are fortunately enabled to do, by means of a very judicious report published by a committee appointed by the Linnaan Society of New England, to collect all the evidence which could be obtained on the subject.
In the month of August 1817, it was generally reported, that a very singular animal, of prodigious size, had been frequently seen in the harbour of Gloucester, Cape Ann, about thirty milei from Boston. In general appearand it resembled a serpent, and was said t move with astonishing rapidity. I was visible only in calm and bright weather, and floated on the surface < the water like a number of buoys < casks following each other in a lin Such was the general description given of this animal, betwixt which, and t accounts by the Norwegians, our rea ers will not fail to observe a striki coincidence.
In the report to which we have ferred, the affidavits of a great mi people of unblemished character collected concerning it, which lc: no room to apprehend any thing deceit. These statements, as m
• In this character it agrees with Great Sea Snake seen by Egede the nonary,
t The accounts of this singular cr< are contained in the affidavits made' the Justices of the Peace for the covin men of character and respectability. several interesting particulars concern anatomical structure, we refer the to Dr Barclay's paper on the subject lished in the first volume of the Wei Society's Memoirs. Sir Everard seemed to consider the Orkney anin Squalus maximus, but this opinion i rally regarded as erroneous.