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Title: Sea Monsters Unmasked and Sea Fables Explained
Author: Lee, H. W. (Henry William), 1865-1932
Language: English
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  (_International Fisheries Exhibition_ LONDON, 1883)



  HENRY LEE, F.L.S., F.G.S., F.Z.S.





As I commence this little history of two sea monsters there comes to my
mind a remark made to me by my friend, Mr. Samuel L. Clemens--"Mark
Twain"--which illustrates a feeling that many a writer must have
experienced when dealing with a subject that has been previously well
handled. Expressing to me one day the gratification he felt in having
made many pleasant acquaintances in England, he added, with dry humour,
and a grave countenance, "Yes! I owe your countrymen no grudge or
ill-will. I freely forgive them, though one of them did me a grievous
wrong, an irreparable injury! It was Shakspeare: if he had not written
those plays of his, I should have done so! They contain _my_ thoughts,
_my_ sentiments! He forestalled me!"

In treating of the so-called "sea-serpent," I have been anticipated by
many able writers. Mr. Gosse, in his delightful book, 'The Romance of
Natural History,' published in 1862, devoted a chapter to it; and
numerous articles concerning it have appeared in various papers and

But, for the information from which those authors have drawn their
inferences, and on which they have founded their opinions, they have
been greatly indebted, as must be all who have seriously to consider
this subject, to the late experienced editor of the _Zoologist_, Mr.
Edward Newman, a man of wonderful power of mind, of great judgment, a
profound thinker, and an able writer. At a time when, as he said, "the
shafts of ridicule were launched against believers and unbelievers in
the sea-serpent in a very pleasing and impartial manner," he, in the
true spirit of philosophical inquiry, in 1847, opened the columns of his
magazine to correspondence on this topic, and all the more recent
reports of marine monsters having been seen are therein recorded. To
him, therefore, the fullest acknowledgments are due.

The great cuttles, also, have been the subject of articles in various
magazines, notably one by Mr. W. Saville Kent, F.L.S., in the 'Popular
Science Review' of April, 1874, and a chapter in my little book on the
Octopus, published in 1873, is also devoted to them. In writing of them
as the living representatives of the kraken, and as having been
frequently mistaken for the "sea-serpent," my deductions have been drawn
from personal knowledge, and an intimate acquaintance with the habits,
form, and structure of the animals described. It was only by watching
the movements of specimens of the "common squid" (_Loligo vulgaris_),
and the "little squid" (_L. media_), which lived in the tanks of the
Brighton Aquarium, that I recognised in their peculiar habit of
occasionally swimming half-submerged, with uplifted caudal extremity,
and trailing arms, the fact that I had before me the "sea-serpent" of
many a well-authenticated anecdote. A mere knowledge of their form and
anatomy after death had never suggested to me that which became at once
apparent when I saw them in life.

It is a pleasure to me to acknowledge gratefully the kindness I have
met with in connection with the illustrations of this book. The
proprietors of the _Illustrated London News_ not only gave me permission
to copy, in reduced size, their two pictures of the _Dædalus_ incident,
but presented to me electrotype copies of all others small enough for
these pages--namely, "Jonah and the Monster," Egede's "Sea-Serpent," and
the Whale as seen from the _Pauline_. Equally kind have been the
proprietors of the _Field_. To them I am greatly indebted for their
permission to copy the beautiful woodcuts of the "Octopus at Rest," "The
Sepia seizing its Prey," and the arms of the Newfoundland squids, and
also for "electros" of the two curious Japanese engravings, all of which
originally appeared in their paper. From the _Graphic_ I have had
similar permission to copy any cuts that might be thought suitable, and
the illustrations of the sea-serpent, as seen from Her Majesty's yacht
_Osborne_ and the _City of Baltimore_, are from that journal. Messrs.
Nisbet most courteously allowed me to have a copy of the block of the
_Enaliosaurus_ swimming, which was one of the numerous pictures in Mr.
Gosse's book, published by them, already referred to. And last, not
least, I have to thank Miss Ellen Woodward, daughter of my friend, Dr.
Henry Woodward, F.R.S., for enabling me to better explain the movements
and appearances of the squids when swimming, and when raising their
bodies out of water in an erect position, by carefully drawing them from
my rough sketches.

                                        HENRY LEE.

    _July 21st, 1883_.


_Frontispiece._--The Sea Serpent as first seen from H.M.S. _Dædalus_.

  FIG.                                                              PAGE

   1. Beak and Arms of a Decapod Cuttle                               16

   2. The Octopus (_Octopus vulgaris_)                                18

   3. The Cuttle (_Sepia officinalis_)                                21

   4. Hooked Tentacles of _Onychoteuthis_                             23

   5. Japanese fisherman attacked by a Cuttle                         29

   6. Arms of a great Cuttle exhibited in a Japanese fish-shop        29

   7. Facsimile of De Montfort's "_Poulpe colossal_"                  32

   8. Gigantic Calamary caught by the French despatch vessel
      _Alecton_, near Teneriffe                                       39

   9. Tentacle of a great Calamary (_Architeuthis princeps_)
      taken in Conception Bay, Newfoundland                           43

  10. Head and Tentacles of a great Calamary (_Architeuthis
      princeps_) taken in Logie Bay, Newfoundland                     44

  11. Jonah and the Sea Monster                                       55

  12. Sea Serpent seizing a man on board ship                         58

  13. Gigantic Lobster dragging a man from a ship                     58

  14. Pontoppidan's "Sea Serpent"                                     63

  15. The Animal drawn by Mr. Bing as having been seen by Egede       66

  16. The Animal which Egede probably saw                             67

  17. The Sea Serpent of the Wernerian Society (_facsimile_)          69

  18. A Calamary swimming at the surface of the sea                   77

  19. The Sea Serpent passing under the quarter of H.M.S.
      _Dædalus_                                                       81

  20. The Sea Serpent and Sperm Whale as seen from the _Pauline_      91

  21. The Sea Serpent as seen from the _City of Baltimore_            93

  22. The Sea Serpent as seen from H.M. yacht _Osborne_. Phase 1      94

  23. The Sea Serpent as seen from H.M. yacht _Osborne_. Phase 2      94

  24. Skeleton of the _Plesiosaurus_, restored by Mr. Conybeare       98

  25. The Sea Serpent on the Enaliosaurian hypothesis                100



In the legends and traditions of northern nations, stories of the
existence of a marine animal of such enormous size that it more
resembled an island than an organised being frequently found a place. It
is thus described in an ancient manuscript (about A.D. 1180), attributed
to the Norwegian King Sverre; and the belief in it has been alluded to
by other Scandinavian writers from an early period to the present day.
It was an obscure and mysterious sea-monster, known as the Kraken, whose
form and nature were imperfectly understood, and it was peculiarly the
object of popular wonder and superstitious dread.

Eric Pontoppidan, the younger, Bishop of Bergen, and member of the
Royal Academy of Sciences at Copenhagen, is generally, but unjustly,
regarded as the inventor of the semi-fabulous Kraken, and is constantly
misquoted by authors who have never read his work,[1] and who, one after
another, have copied from their predecessors erroneous statements
concerning him. More than half a century before him, Christian Francis
Paullinus,[2] a physician and naturalist of Eisenach, who evinced in his
writings an admiration of the marvellous rather than of the useful, had
described as resembling Gesner's 'Heracleoticon,' a monstrous animal
which occasionally rose from the sea on the coasts of Lapland and
Finmark, and which was of such enormous dimensions, that a regiment of
soldiers could conveniently manoeuvre on its back. About the same date,
but a little earlier, Bartholinus, a learned Dane, told how, on a
certain occasion, the Bishop of Midaros found the Kraken quietly
reposing on the shore, and mistaking the enormous creature for a huge
rock, erected an altar upon it and performed mass. The Kraken
respectfully waited till the ceremony was concluded, and the reverend
prelate safe on shore, and then sank beneath the waves.

  [1] 'Natural History of Norway.' A.D. 1751.

  [2] Born 1643; died 1712.

And a hundred and fifty years before Bartholinus and Paullinus wrote,
Olaus Magnus,[3] Archbishop of Upsala, in Sweden, had related many
wondrous narratives of sea-monsters,--tales which had gathered and
accumulated marvels as they had been passed on from generation to
generation in oral history, and which he took care to bequeath to his
successors undeprived of any of their fascination. According to him, the
Kraken was not so polite to the laity as to the Bishop, for when some
fishermen lighted a fire on its back, it sank beneath their feet, and
overwhelmed them in the waters.

  [3] Olaus Magnus has sometimes been mistaken for his brother and
  predecessor in the archiepiscopal see, Johan Magnus, author of a
  book entitled 'Gothorum, Suevorumque Historia.' Olaus was the last
  Roman Catholic archbishop of the Swedish church, and when the
  Reformation, supported by Gustavus Vasa, gained the ascendancy in
  Sweden, he remained true to his faith, and retired to Rome, where
  he wrote his work, 'Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus,' Romæ,
  1555. An English translation of this book was published by J.
  Streater, in 1658. It does not contain the illustrations.

Pontoppidan was not a fabricator of falsehoods; but, in collecting
evidence relating to the "great beasts" living in "the great and wide
sea," was influenced, as he tells us, by "a desire to extend the popular
knowledge of the glorious works of a beneficent Creator." He gave too
much credence to contemporary narratives and old traditions of floating
islands and sea monsters, and to the superstitious beliefs and
exaggerated statements of ignorant fishermen: but if those who ridicule
him had lived in his day and amongst his people, they would probably
have done the same; for even Linnæus was led to believe in the Kraken,
and catalogued it in the first edition of his 'Systema Naturæ,' as
'_Sepia Microcosmos_.' He seems to have afterwards had cause to
discredit his information respecting it, for he omitted it in the next
edition. The Norwegian bishop was a conscientious and painstaking
investigator, and the tone of his writings is neither that of an
intentional deceiver nor of an incautious dupe. He diligently
endeavoured to separate the truth from the cloud of error and fiction by
which it was obscured; and in this he was to a great extent successful,
for he correctly identifies, from the vague and perplexing descriptions
submitted to him, the animal whose habits and structure had given rise
to so many terror-laden narratives and extravagant traditions.

The following are some of his remarks on the subject of this gigantic
and ill-defined animal. Although I have greatly abbreviated them, I have
thought it right to quote them at considerable length, that the modest
and candid spirit in which they were written may be understood:[4]

     "Amongst the many things," he says, "which are in the ocean, and
     concealed from our eyes, or only presented to our view for a few
     minutes, is the Kraken. This creature is the largest and most
     surprising of all the animal creation, and consequently well
     deserves such an account as the nature of the thing, according to
     the Creator's wise ordinances, will admit of. Such I shall give at
     present, and perhaps much greater light on this subject may be
     reserved for posterity.

     "Our fishermen unanimously affirm, and without the least variation
     in their accounts, that when they row out several miles to sea,
     particularly in the hot summer days, and by their situation (which
     they know by taking a view of different points of land) expect to
     find eighty or a hundred fathoms of water, it often happens that
     they do not find above twenty or thirty, and sometimes less. At
     these places they generally find the greatest plenty of fish,
     especially cod and ling. Their lines, they say, are no sooner out
     than they may draw them up with the hooks all full of fish. By this
     they know that the Kraken is at the bottom. They say this creature
     causes those unnatural shallows mentioned above, and prevents their
     sounding. These the fishermen are always glad to find, looking upon
     them as a means of their taking abundance of fish. There are
     sometimes twenty boats or more got together and throwing out their
     lines at a moderate distance from each other; and the only thing
     they then have to observe is whether the depth continues the same,
     which they know by their lines, or whether it grows shallower, by
     their seeming to have less water. If this last be the case they
     know that the Kraken is raising himself nearer the surface, and
     then it is not time for them to stay any longer; they immediately
     leave off fishing, take to their oars, and get away as fast as they
     can. When they have reached the usual depth of the place, and find
     themselves out of danger, they lie upon their oars, and in a few
     minutes after they see this enormous monster come up to the surface
     of the water; he there shows himself sufficiently, though his whole
     body does not appear, which, in all likelihood, no human eye ever
     beheld. Its back or upper part, which seems to be in appearance
     about an English mile and a half in circumference (some say more,
     but I chuse the least for greater certainty), looks at first like a
     number of small islands surrounded with something that floats and
     fluctuates like sea-weeds. Here and there a larger rising is
     observed like sand-banks, on which various kinds of small fishes
     are seen continually leaping about till they roll off into the
     water from the sides of it; at last several bright points or horns
     appear, which grow thicker and thicker the higher they rise above
     the surface of the water, and sometimes they stand up as high and
     as large as the masts of middle-sized vessels. It seems these are
     the creature's arms, and it is said if they were to lay hold of the
     largest man of war they would pull it down to the bottom. After
     this monster has been on the surface of the water a short time it
     begins slowly to sink again, and then the danger is as great as
     before; because the motion of his sinking causes such a swell in
     the sea, and such an eddy or whirlpool, that it draws everything
     down with it, like the current of the river Male.

     "As this enormous sea-animal in all probability may be reckoned of
     the Polype, or of the Starfish kind, as shall hereafter be more
     fully proved, it seems that the parts which are seen rising at its
     pleasure, and are called arms, are properly the tentacula, or
     feeling instruments, called horns, as well as arms. With these they
     move themselves, and likewise gather in their food.

     "Besides these, for this last purpose the great Creator has also
     given this creature a strong and peculiar scent, which it can emit
     at certain times, and by means of which it beguiles and draws other
     fish to come in heaps about it. This animal has another strange
     property, known by the experience of many old fishermen. They
     observe that for some months the Kraken or Krabben is continually
     eating, and in other months he always voids his excrements. During
     this evacuation the surface of the water is coloured with the
     excrement, and appears quite thick and turbid. This muddiness is
     said to be so very agreeable to the smell or taste of other fishes,
     or to both, that they gather together from all parts to it, and
     keep for that purpose directly over the Kraken; he then opens his
     arms or horns, seizes and swallows his welcome guests, and converts
     them after due time, by digestion, into a bait for other fish of
     the same kind. I relate what is affirmed by many; but I cannot give
     so certain assurances of this particular, as I can of the existence
     of this surprising creature; though I do not find anything in it
     absolutely contrary to Nature. As we can hardly expect to examine
     this enormous sea-animal alive, I am the more concerned that nobody
     embraced that opportunity which, according to the following account
     once did, and perhaps never more may offer, of seeing it entire
     when dead."

  [4] 'Natural History of Norway,' vol. ii., p. 210.

The lost opportunity which the worthy prelate thus lamented, with the
true feeling of a naturalist, was made known to him by the Rev. Mr.
Friis, Consistorial Assessor, Minister of Bodoen in Nordland, and Vicar
of the college for promoting Christian knowledge, and was to the
following effect:

     "In the year 1680, a Krake (perhaps a young and foolish one) came
     into the water that runs between the rocks and cliffs in the parish
     of Alstaboug, though the general custom of that creature is to keep
     always several leagues from land, and therefore of course they must
     die there. It happened that its extended long arms or antennæ,
     which this creature seems to use like the snail in turning about,
     caught hold of some trees standing near the water, which might
     easily have been torn up by the roots; but beside this, as it was
     found afterwards, he entangled himself in some openings or clefts
     in the rock, and therein stuck so fast, and hung so unfortunately,
     that he could not work himself out, but perished and putrefied on
     the spot. The carcass, which was a long while decaying, and filled
     great part of that narrow channel, made it almost impassable by its
     intolerable stench.

     "The Kraken has never been known to do any great harm, except,"
     the Author quaintly says, "they have taken away the lives of those
     who consequently could not bring the tidings. I have heard but one
     instance mentioned, which happened a few years ago, near
     Fridrichstad, in the diocess of Aggerhuus. They say that two
     fishermen accidentally, and to their great surprise, fell into such
     a spot on the water as has been before described, full of a thick
     slime almost like a morass. They immediately strove to get out of
     this place, but they had not time to turn quick enough to save
     themselves from one of the Kraken's horns, which crushed the head
     of the boat, so that it was with great difficulty they saved their
     lives on the wreck, though the weather was as calm as possible; for
     these monsters, like the sea-snake, never appear at other times."

Pontoppidan then reviews the stories of floating islands which suddenly
appear, and as suddenly vanish, commonly credited, and especially
mentioned by Luke Debes in his 'Description of Faroe.'

     "These islands in the boisterous ocean could not be imagined," he
     says, "to be of the nature of real floating islands, because they
     could not possibly stand against the violence of the waves in the
     ocean, which break the largest vessels, and therefore our sailors
     have concluded this delusion could come from no other than the
     great deceiver, the devil."

This accusation, the good bishop, in his desire to be strictly
impartial, will not admit on such hear-say evidence, but is determined
to, literally, "give the devil his due;" for he warns his readers that
"we ought not to charge that apostate spirit without a cause; for," he
adds, "I rather think that this devil who so suddenly makes and unmakes
these floating islands, is nothing else but the Kraken."

Referring to a monster described by Pliny, he repeats his belief that
"This sea-animal belongs to the Polype, or Star-fish species;" but he
becomes very much "mixed" between the _Cephalopoda_ and the _Asteridæ_,
between the pedal segments, or arms, of the cuttle radiating from its
head, and the rays of a Star-fish radiating from a central portion of
the body. He evidently inclines strongly towards a particular Star-fish,
the rays of which continually divide and subdivide themselves, or, as he
describes it, "which shoots its rays into branches like those of trees,"
and to which he gave the name of "Medusa's Head," a title by which, in
its Greek form, _Gorgonocephalus_, it is still known to zoologists.
"These Medusa's Heads," he says, "are supposed by some seafaring people
here, to be the young of the Sea-Krake; perhaps they are its smallest
ovula." After considering other reports concerning the Kraken, he
arrives at the following definite opinion:

     "We learn from all this that the Polype or Starfish have amongst
     their various species some that are much larger than others; and,
     according to all appearance, amongst the very largest inhabitants
     of the ocean. If the axiom be true that greatness or littleness
     makes no change in the species, then this Krake must be of the
     Polypus kind, notwithstanding its enormous size."

His diagnosis is correct; but it is stated with a modesty which his
detractors would do well to imitate; and his concluding words on this
subject place him in a light very different from that in which he is
popularly regarded:

     "I do not in the least insist on this conjecture being true," he
     writes, "but willingly submit my suppositions in this and every
     other dubious matter to the judgment of those who are better
     experienced. If I was an admirer of uncertain reports and fabulous
     stories, I might here add much more concerning this and other
     Norwegian sea-monsters, whose existence I will not take upon me to
     deny, but do not chuse, by a mixture of uncertain relations to make
     such account appear doubtful as I myself believe to be true and
     well attested. I shall therefore quit the subject here, and leave
     it to future writers on this plan to complete what I have
     imperfectly sketched out, by further experience, which is always
     the best instructor."

It is easy to recognise in Pontoppidan's description of the Kraken, the
form and habits of one of the "Cuttle-fishes," so-called. The appearance
of its numerous arms, with which it gathers in its food, and which grow
thicker and thicker as they rise above the surface, is just what would
take place in the case of one of the pelagic species of these mollusks
raising its head out of the sea. The rendering of the water turbid and
thick by the emission of a substance which the narrator supposed to be
fæcal matter, is exactly that which occurs when a cuttle discharges the
contents of the remarkable organ known as its ink-bag; and the strong
and peculiar scent mentioned as appertaining to it, is actually
characteristic of its inky secretion. The musky odour referred to, is
more perceptible in some species than in others. In one of the Octopods
(_Eledone moschatus_), it is so strong, that the specific name of the
animal is derived from it.

The ancient Greeks and Romans, who were well acquainted with the
various kinds of cuttles and regarded them all as excellent food, and
even as delicacies of the table, applied the word "polypus" especially
to the octopus. But Pontoppidan evidently uses it as descriptive of all
the cephalopods. It must not be forgotten, however, that when he wrote,
science was only slowly recovering from neglect of many centuries'
duration. In the enlightened times of Greece and Rome, natural history
flourished, and as in our day, attracted and occupied the attention of
the man of science, and afforded recreation to the man of business and
the politician. Aristotle wrote 322 years before the birth of Christ,
and his works are monuments of practical wisdom. When we consider the
period during which he lived, and the isolated nature of his labours,
and compare them with the information which he possessed, we are
astonished at his sagacity and the great scope and general accuracy of
his knowledge. Pliny, 240 years later, lived in times more favourable
for the cultivation of science; but with all his advantages made little
improvement on the work of the great master. And then, later still, the
sun of learning set; and there came over Europe the long night of the
dark ages which succeeded Roman greatness, during which science was
degraded and ignorance prevailed; and it is not till the middle of the
sixteenth century, that the zoologist finds much to interest and
instruct him. When we further reflect, that until within the past five
and twenty years--till our large aquaria were constructed--Aristotle's
knowledge of the habits and life-history of marine animals, and amongst
them the cephalopods, was incomparably greater and more perfect than
that possessed by any man who had lived since he recorded his
observations, we cannot help feeling that in some departments of
knowledge there is still lost ground to be recovered.

In the old days of the Cæsars, a Greek or Roman house-wife who was
accustomed to see the cuttle, the squid, and the octopus daily exposed
for sale in the markets, would of course have laughed at the idea of
mistaking the one for the other; but there are comparatively few persons
in our own country, at the present day, except those who have made
marine zoology their study, whose ideas on the subject are not
exceedingly hazy. This want of technical knowledge is not confined to
the masses; but is common, if not general, amongst those who have been
well educated, and is frequently apparent even in leaders in the daily
papers--the productions, for the most part, of men of receptive minds,
trained discrimination, and great general knowledge. As the subject is
one in which I have long felt especial interest, I venture to hope that
I may succeed in making clear the difference between the eight-footed
octopus and its ten-footed relatives, and thus enable the reader to
identify the member of the family from which we are to strip the dress
and "make up" in which it masqueraded as the Kraken, and cause it to
appear in its true and natural form.

One of the great primary groups or divisions of the animal kingdom is
that of the soft-bodied mollusca; which includes the cuttle, the oyster,
the snail, &c. It has been separated into five "classes," of which the
one we have especially to notice is the _Cephalopoda_,[5] or
"head-footed,"--the animals belonging to it having their feet, or the
organs which correspond with the foot of other molluscs, so attached to
the head as to form a circle or coronet round the mouth. Some of these
have the foot divided into eight segments, and are therefore called the
_Octopoda_:[6] others have, in addition to the eight feet, lobes, or
arms, two longer tentacular appendages, making ten in all, and are
consequently called the _Decapoda_.

  [5] From the Greek words _cephale_, the head; and _poda_, feet.

  [6] From _octo_, eight; and _pous_ (_poda_), feet.

Of the ten-footed section of the cephalopods, there are four "families;"
two only of which exist in Britain--the _Teuthidæ_, and the _Sepiidæ_.
The _Teuthidæ_ are the Calamaries, popularly known as "Squids," and are
represented by the long-bodied _Loligo vulgaris_, that has internally
along its back a gristly, translucent stiffener, shaped like a
quill-pen; from which and its ink it derives its names of "calamary"
(from "_calamus_," a "pen"), "pen-and-ink fish," and "sea-clerk." The
_Sepiidæ_ are generally known as the Cuttles proper. As a type of them
we may take the common "cuttle-fish," _Sepia officinalis_, the owner of
the hard, calcareous shell often thrown up on the shore, and known as
"cuttle-bone," or "sea-biscuit."

It must here be remarked, that as these head-footed mollusks are not
"fish," any more than lobsters, crabs, oysters, mussels, &c., which
fishmongers call "shell-fish," are "fish," the word "fish" is
misleading, and should be abandoned; and secondly, that the names
"cuttle" and "squid," as distinctive appellations, are unsatisfactory.
The word "cuttle" is derived from "cuddle," to hug, or embrace--in
allusion to the manner in which the animal seizes its prey, and enfolds
it in its arms; and "squid" is derived from "squirt," in reference to
its habit of squirting water or ink. But as all the known members of the
class, except the pearly nautilus, _Nautilus pompilius_, have these
habits in common, the distinguishing terms are hardly apposite. As,
however, they are conventionally accepted and understood, I prefer to
use them. As with other mollusks, so with the cephalopods, some have
shells, and some are naked or have only rudimentary shells. The
Argonaut, or paper nautilus, has been regarded as the analogue of the
snail, which, like it, secretes an _external_ shell for the protection
of its soft body; and the octopus as that of the garden slug, which,
having organs like those of the snail, as the octopus has organs like
those of the shell-bearing argonaut, has no shell. The cuttles and
squids may be compared to some of the sea-slugs, as _Aplysia_ and
_Bullæa_, and to some land-slugs, as _Parmacella_ and _Limax_, which
have an _internal_ shell.

The argonaut and the other families of the cephalopods do not come
within the scope of this treatise; we will therefore confine our
attention to the three above mentioned. Of the anatomy and homology of
the _Octopus_, _Sepia_, and _Calamary_ we need say no more than will
suffice to show in what manner they resemble each other, and wherein
they differ, in order that we may the more clearly perceive to which of
them the story of the Kraken probably owes its origin.

The octopus, the sepia, and the calamary are all constructed on one
fundamental plan. A bag of fleshy muscular skin, called the mantle-sac,
contains the organs of the body, heart, stomach, liver, intestines, a
pair of gills by which oxygen is absorbed from the water for the
purification of the blood, and an excurrent tube by which the water thus
deprived of its life-sustaining gas is expelled. The outrush of water
with more or less force, from this "syphon-tube," is also the principal
source of locomotion when the animal is swimming, as it propels it
backward--not by the striking of the expelled fluid against the
surrounding water, as is generally supposed; but by the unbalanced
pressure of the fluid acting inside the body in the direction in which
the creature goes. Into this syphon-tube, or funnel, opens, by a special
duct, the ink-bag; and from it is squirted at will the intensely black
fluid therein secreted. I doubt very much the correctness of the
statement mentioned by Pontoppidan and others, that the cuttle ejects
its ink with a desire to lie hidden and in ambush for its intended prey,
or with the intention to attract fish within its reach by their
partiality for the musky odour of this secretion. It may be so, but
during the long period that I had these animals under close observation
at the Brighton Aquarium, I never witnessed such an incident. I believe
that the emission of the ink is a symptom of fear, and is only employed
as a means of concealment from a suspected enemy. I have found, that
when first taken, the _Sepia_, of all its kind, is the most sensitively
timid. Its keen, unwinking eye watches for and perceives the slightest
movement of its captor; and if even most cautiously looked at from
above, its ink is belched forth in eddying volumes, rolling over and
over like the smoke which follows the discharge of a great gun from a
ship's port, and mixes with marvellous rapidity with the surrounding
water. But, like all of its class, the _Sepia_ is very intelligent. It
soon learns to discriminate between friend and foe, and ultimately
becomes very tame, and ceases to shoot its ink, unless it be teased and
excited. By means of the communication between the ink-bag and the
locomotor tube, it happens that when the ink is ejected, a stream of
water is forcibly emitted with it, and thus the very effort for escape
serves the double purpose of propelling the creature away from danger,
and discolouring the water in which it moves. Oppian has well described

    "The endangered cuttle thus evades his fears,
    And native hoards of fluids safely wears.
    A pitchy ink peculiar glands supply
    Whose shades the sharpest beam of light defy.
    Pursued, he bids the sable fountains flow,
    And, wrapt in clouds, eludes the impending foe.
    The fish retreats unseen, while self-born night
    With pious shade befriends her parent's flight."

Professor Owen has remarked that the ejection of the ink of the
cephalopods serves by its colour as a means of defence, as corresponding
secretions in some of the mammalia by their odour.

It is worthy of notice that the pearly nautilus and the allied fossil
forms are without this means of concealment, which their strong external
shells render unnecessary for their protection.

From the sac-like body containing the various organs, protrudes a head,
globose in shape, and containing a brain, and furnished with a pair of
strong, horny mandibles, which bite vertically, like the beak of a
parrot. By these the flesh of prey is torn and partly masticated, and
within them lies the tongue, covered with recurved and retractile teeth,
like that of its distant relatives, the whelk, limpet, &c., by which the
food is conducted to the gullet. Around this head is, as I have said,
the organ which is equivalent to the foot in other molluscs--that by
which the slug and the snail crawl--only that the head is placed in the
centre, instead of in the front of it, and it is divided into segments,
which radiate from this central head. These segments are very flexible,
and capable of movement in every direction, and are thus developed into
arms, prehensile limbs, by which their owner can seize and hold its
living prey. That this may be more perfectly accomplished, these arms
are studded along their inner surface with rows of sucking discs, in
each of which, by means of a retractile piston, a vacuum can be
produced. The consequent pressure of the outer atmosphere or water,
causes them to adhere firmly to any substance to which they are applied,
whether stone, fish, crustacean, or flesh of man.

But, although in all these highly-organised head-footed mollusks the
same general build prevails, it is admirably modified in each of them to
suit certain habits and necessities. Thus the octopus, being a shore
dweller, its soft and pliant, but very tough body, having merely a very
small and rudimentary indication of an internal shell (just a little
"style") is exactly adapted for wedging itself amongst crevices of
rocks. A large, rigid, cellular float, or "sepiostaire," such as _Sepia_
possesses, or a long, horny pen such as _Loligo_ has, would be in the
way, and worse than useless in such places as the octopus inhabits. Its
eight long powerful arms or feet are precisely fitted for clambering
over rocks and stones, and as its food of course consists principally of
the living things most abundant in such localities, namely, the
shore-crabs, its great flexible suckers, devoid of hooks or horny
armature, are exactly adapted to firm and air-tight attachment to the
smooth shells of the crustacea.


_a_, the eight shorter arms; _t_, the tentacles; _f_, the funnel, or
locomotor tube.]

Unlike the octopus, which is capable only of short flights through the
water, the "cuttles" and "squids," such as _Sepia_ and _Loligo_, are all
free swimmers. For them it is necessary for accuracy of natation that
their soft, and in the squids long bodies, should be supported by such a
framework as they possess. In _Sepia_, the mantle-sac is flattened
horizontally all along its lateral edges so as to form a pair of fins,
which nearly surround the trunk. These fins could never be used, as they
are, to enable the animal to poise itself delicately in the water by
means of their beautiful undulations, which I have often watched with
delight, if their attached edges were not kept in a straight line on
either side. Then, these ten-footed or ten-armed genera have not,
because they need them not, eight long, strong and highly mobile arms
like those of the octopus, nor have they large suckers upon them.
Whereas a great length of reach is an advantage to the octopus, animals
which are purely swimmers, and which hunt and overtake their prey by
speed, would be impeded by having to drag after them a bundle of stout,
lengthy appendages trailing heavily astern. Their eight pedal arms are
short and comparatively weak, though strong enough, in individuals such
as are regarded on our own coasts as fullgrown, to seize and hold a fish
or crustacean as strong as a good sized shore-crab. But, as compensation
for the shortness of the eight arms, they are provided with two others
more than three times the length of the short ones. These are so slender
that they generally lie coiled up in a spiral cone in two pockets, one
on each side, just below the eye, when the animal is quiescent, and are
only seen when it takes its food. These long, slender tentacular arms
are expanded at their extremity, and the inner surface of their enlarged
part is studded with suckers--some of them larger in size than those on
the eight shorter arms. As the food of these swimmers consists, of
course, chiefly of fish, their sucking disks are curiously modified for
the better retention of a slippery captive. A horny ring with a sharply
serrated edge is imbedded in the outer circumference of each of them,
and when a vacuum is formed, the keen, saw-like teeth are pressed into
the skin or scales of the unfortunate prisoner, and deprive it of the
slightest chance of escape.

The manner in which the eight-armed and ten-armed cephalopods capture
their prey is similar in principle and plan, but differs in action in
accordance with their mode of life. The ordinary habit of the octopus is
either to rest suspended to the side of a rock to which it clings with
the suckers of several of its arms, or to remain lurking in some
favourite cranny; its body thrust for protection and concealment well
back in the interior of the recess; its bright eyes keenly on the watch;
three or four of its limbs firmly attached to the walls of its hiding
place--the others gently waving, gliding, and feeling about in the
water, as if to maintain its vigilance, and keep itself always on the
alert, and in readiness to pounce on any unfortunate wayfarer that may
pass near its den. To a shore-crab that comes within its reach the
slightest contact with one of those lithe arms is fatal. Instantaneously
as pull of trigger brings down a bird, or touch of electric wire
explodes a torpedo or a mining fuse, the pistons of the series of
suckers are simultaneously drawn inward, the air is removed from the
pneumatic holders, and a vacuum created in each: the crab tries to
escape, but in a second is completely pinioned: not a movement, not a
struggle is possible; each leg, each claw is grasped all over by
suckers, enfolded in them, stretched out to its fullest extent by them;
the back of the carapace is completely covered by the tenacious disks,
brought together by the adaptable contractions of the limb, and ranged
in close order, shoulder to shoulder, touching each other; and the
pressure of the air is so great that nothing can effect the relaxation
of their retentive power but the destruction of the air-pump that works
them, or the closing of the throttle-valve by which they are connected
with it. Meanwhile the abdominal plates of the captive crab are dragged
towards the mouth; the black tip of the hard horny beak is seen for a
single instant protruding from the circular orifice in the centre of the
radiation of the arms; and, the next, has crushed through the shell, and
is buried deep in the flesh of the victim.

[Illustration: FIG. 2.--THE OCTOPUS (_Octopus vulgaris_).]

Unlike the skulking, hiding octopus, its ten-armed relative, the
_Sepia_ loves the daylight and the freedom of the upper water. Its
predatory acts are not those of a concealed and ambushed brigand lying
in wait behind a rock, or peeping furtively from within the gloomy
shadow of a cave; but it may better be compared to the war-like Comanche
vidette seated gracefully on his horse, and scanning from some elevated
knoll a wide expanse of prairie, in readiness to swoop upon a weak or
unarmed foe. Poised near the surface of the water, like a hawk in the
air, the _Sepia_ moves gently to and fro by graceful undulations of its
lateral fins,--an exquisite play of colour occasionally taking place
over its beautifully barred and mottled back. When thus tranquil, its
eight pedal arms are usually brought close together, and droop in front
of its head, like the trunk of an elephant, shortened; its two longer
tentacular arms being coiled up within their pouches and unseen. Only
when some small fish approaches it does it arouse itself. Then, its eyes
dilate, and its colours become more bright and vivid. It carefully takes
aim, advancing or retreating to such a distance as will just allow the
two hidden tentacles to reach the quarry when they shall be shot out.
Next, the two highest or central feet are lifted up, and the three
others on each side are spread aside, so that they may be all out of the
way of the two concealed tentacles, presently to be launched forth; and
then, in a moment--so instantaneously that the eye of an observer, be he
ever so watchful, can hardly see the act--this pair of tentacles, side
by side, are projected and withdrawn, as if in a flash. The fish or
shrimp has vanished, the suckers of the dilated ends of the tentacles
having adhered to it, and left it, as they re-entered their pouches,
within the fatal "cuddle," or embrace, where it is torn to pieces by the
devouring beak.[7] This action of the tentacles of the decapods is the
most rapid motion that I know of in the whole animal kingdom--not
excepting even that of the tongue of the toad and the lizard. These long
tentacles are not used when the food is within reach of the shorter

  [7] See an excellent article in the _Field_, Sept. 2, 1876, on the
  'Ten Footed Cuttle' (_Sepia officinalis_), by the late Mr. W. A.
  Lloyd, an earnest and accomplished aquatic zoologist; eccentric,
  but in all that relates to the construction and management of an
  aquarium a master of his craft. It was his wish that in any future
  edition of my little book on the Octopus, or other writings on the
  cephalopods, I should use the woodcuts which illustrated his
  articles on Sepia and Octopus. By the kind permission of the
  proprietors of the _Field_, I reproduce them in suitable size for
  these pages.

[Illustration: FIG. 3.--THE CUTTLE (_Sepia officinalis_).]

The calamaries or squids of our British Seas seize their prey in the
same manner as _Sepia_, and the description of one will suffice for
both. But there exist two groups of them, which are armed with curved
and sharp-pointed hooks or claws, either in addition to, or instead
of suckers. In the one group (_Onychoteuthis_), the hooks are
restricted to the extremities of the pair of tentacles, in the other
(_Enoploteuthis_), both the tentacles and the shorter arms have hooks.
Professor Owen, in his description of these hook-armed calamaries in the
_Cyclopædia of Anatomy_, notices also another structure which adds
greatly to their prehensile power (Fig. 4.). "At the extremity of the
long tentacles a cluster of small, simple, unarmed suckers may be
observed at the base of the expanded part. When these latter suckers are
applied to one another the tentacles are securely locked together at
that part, and the united strength of both the elongated peduncles can
be applied to drag towards the mouth any resisting object which has been
grappled by the terminal hooks. There is no mechanical contrivance which
surpasses this structure; art has remotely imitated it in the
fabrication of the obstetrical forceps, in which either blade can be
used separately, or, by the inter-locking of a temporary blade, be made
to act in combination."

The cephalopods obtain and eat their food very much like the rapacious
birds. They are the falcons of the sea. Some of them, like
_Onychoteuthis_, strike their prey with talons and suckers also, others
lay hold of it with suckers alone; but they all tear the flesh with
their beaks, and swallow and digest their food in the same manner as the
hawk or vulture.

[Illustration: FIG. 4.--HOOKED TENTACLES OF _Onychoteuthis_.]

The _Sepia_, the owner of the broad, flattened bone, has a decided
predilection for the vicinity of the shore, and for comparatively
shallow water. It there attaches its grape-like eggs to some convenient
stone or growing alga, and delights occasionally to sink to the bottom,
and there to rest half covered by the sand, a habit for which the form
of its body is well adapted. But the calamaries--they of the horny
pen--prefer the wide waters of the open ocean; and although they, too,
especially the smaller species, are common upon the coasts, they are
frequently met with far out at sea, and away from any land. The
elongated and almost arrow-like shape of their bodies enables them to
glide through the water with great rapidity, and the momentum exerted by
a vigorous out-rush from their syphon-tube is sometimes so great that
when the opposite pressure thus produced is so exerted as to cause them
to take an upward direction they leap out of the water to so great a
height as to fall on the decks of ships; and are, therefore, called by
sailors, "flying squids." Their spawn is very different from that of
either octopus, or sepia. It consists of dozens of semi-transparent,
gelatinous, slender, cylindrical sheaths, about four or five inches
long, each containing many ova imbedded in it (making a total number of
about 40,000 embryos), all springing from a common centre and resembling
a mop without a handle. I have never seen any of these "sea-mops"
attached to anything, and the pelagic habits of the calamaries render it
probable that they are left floating on the surface of the sea.

Having made ourselves acquainted with the structure and habits of these
three divisions of the eight-footed and ten-footed mollusks, let us take
evidence as to the size to which they are respectively known to attain,
and the degree in which they may be regarded as dangerous to man.

An octopus from our own coasts having arms two feet in length may be
considered a rather large specimen; and Dr. J. E. Gray, who was always
most kindly ready to place at the disposal of any sincere inquirer the
vast store of knowledge laid up in his wonderful memory, told me that
"there is not one in the British Museum which exceeds this size, or
which would not go into a quart pot--body, arms and all." The largest
British specimen I have hitherto seen had arms 2 ft. 6 in. long. We have
sufficient evidence, however, that it exceeds this in the South of
France, and along the Spanish and Italian coasts of the Mediterranean;
and my deceased friend John Keast Lord tells us in his book, 'The
Naturalist in British Columbia,' that he saw and measured, in
Vancouver's Island, an octopus which had arms five feet long.

I have often been asked whether an octopus of the ordinary size can
really be dangerous to bathers. Decidedly, "Yes," in certain situations.
The holding power of its numerous suckers is enormous. It is almost
impossible forcibly to detach it from its adhesion to a rock or the flat
bottom of a tank; and if a large one happened to fix one or more of its
strong, tough arms on the leg of a swimmer whilst the others held firmly
to a rock, I doubt if the man could disengage himself under water by
mere strength, before being exhausted. Fortunately the octopus can be
made to relax its hold by grasping it tightly round the "throat" (if I
may so call it), and it may be well that this should be known.

That men are occasionally drowned by these creatures is, unhappily, a
fact too well attested. I have elsewhere[8] related several instances of
this having occurred. Omitting those, I will give two or three others
which have since come under my notice. Sir Grenville Temple, in his
'Excursions in the Mediterranean Sea,' tells how a Sardinian captain,
whilst bathing at Jerbeh, was seized and drowned by an octopus. When his
body was found, his limbs were bound together by the arms of the animal;
and this took place in water only four feet deep.

  [8] See 'The Octopus; or, the Devil-fish of Fiction and of Fact.'
  1873. Chapman and Hall.

Mr. J. K. Lord's account of the formidable strength of these creatures
in Oregon is confirmed by an incident recorded in the _Weekly Oregonian_
(the principal paper of Oregon) of October 6th, 1877. A few days before
that date an Indian woman, whilst bathing, was held beneath the surface
by an octopus, and drowned. The body was discovered on the following day
in the horrid embrace of the creature. Indians dived down and with their
knives severed the arms of the octopus and recovered the corpse.

Mr. Clemens Laming, in his book, 'The French in Algiers,' writes:--"The
soldiers were in the habit of bathing in the sea every evening, and from
time to time several of them disappeared--no one knew how. Bathing was,
in consequence, strictly forbidden; in spite of which several men went
into the water one evening. Suddenly one of them screamed for help, and
when several others rushed to his assistance they found that an octopus
had seized him by the leg by four of its arms whilst it clung to the
rock with the rest. The soldiers brought the 'monster' home with them,
and out of revenge they boiled it alive and ate it. This adventure
accounted for the disappearance of the other soldiers."

The Rev. W. Wyatt Gill, who for more than a quarter of a century has
resided as a missionary amongst the inhabitants of the Hervey Islands,
and with whom I had the pleasure of conversing on this subject when he
was in England in 1875, described in the _Leisure Hour_ of April 20th,
1872, another mode of attack by which an octopus might deprive a man of
life. A servant of his went diving for "poulpes" (octopods), leaving his
son in charge of the canoe. After a short time he rose to the surface,
his arms free, but his nostrils and mouth completely covered by a large
octopus. If his son had not promptly torn the living plaister from off
his face he must have been suffocated--a fate which actually befell some
years previously a man who foolishly went diving alone.

In _Appleton's American Journal of Science and Art_, January 31st,
1874, a correspondent describes an attack by an octopus on a diver who
was at work on the wreck of a sunken steamer off the coast of Florida.
The man, a powerful Irishman, was helpless in its grasp, and would have
been drowned if he had not been quickly brought to the surface; for when
dragged on to the raft from which he had descended, he fainted, and his
companions were unable to pull the creature from its hold upon him until
they had dealt it a sharp blow across its baggy body.

A similar incident occurred to the government diver of the colony of
Victoria, Australia. Whilst pursuing his avocation in the estuary of the
river Moyne he was seized by an octopus. He killed it by striking it
with an iron bar, and brought to shore with him a portion of it with the
arms more than three feet long.

Mr. Laurence Oliphant, in his 'China and Japan,' describes a Japanese
show, which consisted of "a series of groups of figures carved in wood,
the size of life, and as cleverly coloured as Madame Tussaud's
wax-works. One of these was a group of women bathing in the sea. One of
them had been caught in the folds of a cuttle-fish; the others, in
alarm, were escaping, leaving their companion to her fate. The
cuttle-fish was represented on a huge scale, its eyes, eyelids, and
mouth being made to move simultaneously by a man inside the head."

An attack of this kind is most artistically represented in a small
Japanese ivory-carving in the possession of Mr. Bartlett, of the
Zoological Gardens.[9]

  [9] This carving was figured in illustration of an interesting
  paper by Professor Owen, C.B., F.R.S., &c., "On some new and rare
  Cephalopoda," in the Transactions of the Zoological Society, April
  20, 1880.

The Japanese are well acquainted with the octopus; for it is commonly
depicted on their ornaments, and forms no unimportant item in their

I have recently had an opportunity of inspecting a most curious
Japanese book, in the possession of my friend Mr. W. B. Tegetmeier,
which is chiefly devoted to the representations of the fisheries and
fish-curing processes of the country. It is in three volumes, and is
entitled, 'Land and Sea Products,' by Ki Kone. It is evidently ancient,
for it is slightly worm-eaten, but the plates, each 12 inches by 8
inches, are full of vigour. Two of these illustrate in a very
interesting manner the subject before us, and by the kindness of Mr.
Tegetmeier I am able to give facsimiles of them, which appeared with an
article by him on this book, in the _Field_ of March 14th, 1874. Fig. 5
represents a fisherman in a boat out at sea: a gigantic octopus has
thrown one of its arms over the side of the boat; the man, who is alone,
has started forward from the stern of the boat, and has succeeded, by
means of a large knife attached to a long handle, in lopping off the
dangerous limb of his enemy. As Mr. Tegetmeier says, "From the extreme
matter of fact manner in which all these engravings are made, and the
total absence of exaggeration in any other representation, I cannot but
regard the relative sizes of the man, the boat, and the octopus, as
correctly given, in which case we have evidence of the existence of
gigantic cephalopods in Japanese waters." The only doubt I have is
whether the fisherman correctly described his assailant as an octopus,
and whether it was not a calamary. Fig. 6 is a vivid picture of a
fishmonger's shop in a market, under the awning of which may be seen two
arms of a gigantic cuttle hung up for sale as food. These are evidently
of most unusual size, judging from the action of the lookers on; the one
to the left, with a tall stand or case on his back, like a Parisian
cocoa-vendor, is holding out his hand in mute astonishment; whilst the
attention of the smaller personage in the right-hand corner is directed
to the suspended arms of the cuttle by the man nearest to him, who is
pointing to them with upraised hand. In another plate in this most
interesting work a Japanese mode of fishing for cuttles is delineated. A
man in a boat is tossing crabs, one at a time, into the sea, and when a
cuttle rises at the bait he spears it with a trident and tosses it into
the boat.



The octopus, therefore, though not abundant on our own coasts, is found
in every sea in the temperate zone; and in so far as that it secretes an
ink with which it can render the water turbid, and has many radiating
arms with which it can seize and drown a man, it possesses certain
attributes of the Kraken; but we have no authentic knowledge of its ever
attaining to greater dimensions than I have stated, nor does it bask on
the surface of the sea. It is not amongst the _Octopidæ_ therefore that
we must look for a solution of the mystery.

The basking condition is fulfilled by the _Sepia_; and its flattened
back, supported and rendered hard and firm to the touch by the
calcareous _sepiostaire_ beneath the skin, is broader in proportion than
that of the octopus or the squid. Thus _Sepia_ might pass as a
microscopic miniature of the great Scandinavian monster. But it lacks
the character of size. We have no reason to believe that any true
_Sepia_ exists, as the family is now understood, that has a body more
than eighteen inches long. If it were otherwise it would be more likely
to be known of this family than of its relatives, for its lightly
constructed and well known "cuttle-bone" would float on the surface for
many weeks after the death of its owner, and large specimens of it would
be seen and recognised from passing ships.

As we can find no species of the _Octopidæ_ or _Sepiidæ_ which can
furnish a pretext for the stories told of the Kraken, we must try to
ascertain how far a similitude to it may be traced in the third family
we have discussed, the _Teuthidæ_.

The belief in the existence of gigantic cuttles is an ancient one.
Aristotle mentions it, and Pliny tells of an enormous polypus which at
Carteia, in Grenada--an old and important Roman colony near
Gibraltar--used to come out of the sea at night, and carry off and
devour salted tunnies from the curing depots on the shore; and adds that
when it was at last killed, the head of it (they used to call the body
the head, because in swimming it goes in advance) was found to weigh 700
lbs. Ælian records a similar incident, and describes his monster as
crushing in its arms the barrels of salt fish to get at the contents.
These two must have been octopods if they were anything; the word
"polypus" thus especially designates it, and moreover, the free-swimming
cuttles and squids would be helpless if stranded on the shore. Some of
the old writers seem to have aimed rather at making their histories
sensational than at carefully investigating the credibility or the
contrary of the highly coloured reports brought to them. These were, of
course, gross exaggerations, but there was generally a substratum of
truth in them. They were based on the rare occurrence of specimens,
smaller certainly, but still enormous, of some known species, and in
most cases the worst that can be said of their authors is that they were
culpably careless and foolishly credulous.

Unhappily so lenient a judgment cannot be passed on some comparatively
recent writers. Denys de Montfort, half a century later than
Pontoppidan, not only professed to believe in the Kraken, but also in
the existence of another gigantic animal distinct from it; a colossal
_poulpe_, or octopus, compared with which Pliny's was a mere pigmy. In a
drawing fitter to decorate the outside of a showman's caravan at a fair
than seriously to illustrate a work on natural history,[10] he depicted
this tremendous cuttle as throwing its arms over a three masted vessel,
snapping off its masts, tearing down the yards, and on the point of
dragging it to the bottom, if the crew had not succeeded in cutting off
its immense limbs with cutlasses and hatchets. De Montfort had good
opportunities of obtaining information, for he was at one time an
assistant in the geological department of the Museum of Natural History,
in Paris; and wrote a work on conchology,[11] besides that already
referred to. But it appears to have been his deliberate purpose to
cajole the public; for it is reported that he exclaimed to M. Defrance:
"If my entangled ship is accepted, I will make my 'colossal poulpe'
overthrow a whole fleet." Accordingly we find him gravely declaring[12]
that one of the great victories of the British navy was converted into a
disaster by the monsters which are the subject of his history. He boldly
asserted that the six men-of-war captured from the French by Admiral
Rodney in the West Indies on the 12th of April, 1782, together with four
British ships detached from his fleet to convoy the prizes, were all
suddenly engulphed in the waves on the night of the battle under such
circumstances as showed that the catastrophe was caused by colossal
cuttles, and not by a gale or any ordinary casualty.

  [10] 'Histoire Naturelle générale et particulière des Mollusques,'
  vol. ii., p. 256.

  [11] 'Conchyliologie Systématique.'

  [12] 'Hist. Nat. des Moll.,' vol. ii., pp. 358 to 368.

[Illustration: FIG. 7.--FACSIMILE OF DE MONTFORT'S "_Poulpe colossal_."]

Unfortunately for De Montfort, the inexorable logic of facts not only
annihilates his startling theory, but demonstrates the reckless falsity
of his plausible statements. The captured vessels did not sink on the
night of the action, but were all sent to Jamaica to refit, and arrived
there safely. Five months afterwards, however, a convoy of nine
line-of-battle ships (amongst which were Rodney's prizes), one frigate,
and about a hundred merchantmen, were dispersed, whilst on their voyage
to England, by a violent storm, during which some of them unfortunately
foundered. The various accidents which preceded the loss of these
vessels was related in evidence to the Admiralty by the survivors, and
official documents prove that De Montfort's fleet-destroying _poulpe_
was an invention of his own, and had no part whatever in the disaster
that he attributed to it.

I have been told, but cannot vouch for the truth of the report, that De
Montfort's propensity to write that which was not true culminated in his
committing forgery, and that he died in the galleys. But he records a
statement of Captain Jean Magnus Dens, said to have been a respectable
and veracious man, who, after having made several voyages to China as a
master trader, retired from a seafaring life and lived at Dunkirk. He
told De Montfort that in one of his voyages, whilst crossing from St.
Helena to Cape Negro, he was becalmed, and took advantage of the
enforced idleness of the crew to have the vessel scraped and painted.
Whilst three of his men were standing on planks slung over the side, an
enormous cuttle rose from the water, and threw one of its arms around
two of the sailors, whom it tore away, with the scaffolding on which
they stood. With another arm it seized the third man, who held on
tightly to the rigging, and shouted for help. His shipmates ran to his
assistance, and succeeded in rescuing him by cutting away the creature's
arm with axes and knives, but he died delirious on the following night.
The captain tried to save the other two sailors by killing the animal,
and drove several harpoons into it; but they broke away, and the men
were carried down by the monster.

The arm cut off was said to have been twenty-five feet long, and as
thick as the mizen-yard, and to have had on it suckers as big as
saucepan-lids. I believe the old sea-captain's narrative of the incident
to be true; the dimensions given by De Montfort are wilfully and
deliberately false. The belief in the power of the cuttle to sink a ship
and devour her crew is as widely spread over the surface of the globe,
as it is ancient in point of time. I have been told by a friend that he
saw in a shop in China a picture of a cuttle embracing a junk,
apparently of about 300 tons burthen, and helping itself to the sailors,
as one picks gooseberries off a bush.

Traditions of a monstrous cuttle attacking and destroying ships are
current also at the present day in the Polynesian Islands. Mr. Gill, the
missionary previously quoted, tells us[13] that the natives of Aitutaki,
in the Hervey group, have a legend of a famous explorer, named Rata, who
built a double canoe, decked and rigged it, and then started off in
quest of adventures. At the prow was stationed the dauntless Nganaoa,
armed with a long spear and ready to slay all monsters. One day when
speeding pleasantly over the ocean, the voice of the ever vigilant
Nganaoa was heard: "O Rata! yonder is a terrible enemy starting up from
ocean depths." It proved to be an octopus (query, squid?) of
extraordinary dimensions. Its huge tentacles encircled the vessel in
their embrace, threatening its instant destruction. At this critical
moment Nganaoa seized his spear, and fearlessly drove it through the
head of the creature. The tentacles slowly relaxed, and the dead monster
floated off on the surface of the ocean.

  [13] _Leisure Hour_, October, 1875, p. 636.

Passing from the early records of the appearance of cuttles of unusual
size, and the current as well as the traditional belief in their
existence by the inhabitants of many countries, let us take the
testimony of travellers and naturalists who have a right to be regarded
as competent observers. In so doing we must bear in mind that until
Professor Owen propounded the very clear and convenient classification
now universally adopted, the squids, as well as the eight-footed
_Octopidæ_, were all grouped under the title of _Sepia_.

Pernetty, describing a voyage made by him in the years 1763-4,[14]
mentions gigantic cuttles met with in the Southern Seas.

  [14] 'Voyage aux Iles Malouines.'

Shortly afterwards, during the first week in March 1769, Banks and
Solander, the scientific fellow-voyagers with Lieutenant Cook
(afterwards the celebrated Captain Cook), in H.M.S. _Endeavour_, found
in the North Pacific, in latitude 38° 44´ S. and longitude 110° 33´ W.,
a large calamary which had just been killed by the birds, and was
floating in a mangled condition on the water. Its arms were furnished,
instead of suckers, with a double row of very sharp talons, which
resembled those of a cat, and, like them, were retractable into a sheath
of skin from which they might be thrust at pleasure. Of this cuttle they
say, with evident pleasurable remembrance of a savoury meal, they made
one of the best soups they ever tasted. Professor Owen tells us, in the
paper already referred to, that when he was curator of the Hunterian
Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, and preparing, in 1829, his
first catalogue thereof, he was struck with the number of oceanic
invertebrates which Hunter had obtained. He learned from Mr. Clift that
Hunter had supplied Mr. (afterwards Sir Joseph) Banks with stoppered
bottles containing alcohol, in which to preserve the new marine animals
that he might meet with during the circumnavigatory voyage about to be
undertaken by Cook. Thinking it probable that Banks might have stowed
some parts of this great hook-armed squid in one of these bottles for
his anatomical friend, he searched for, and found in a bottle marked
"J. B.," portions of its arms, the beak with tongue, a heart ventricle,
&c., and, amongst the dry preparations, the terminal part of the body,
with an attached pair of rhomboidal fins. The remainder had furnished
Cook and his companions Banks and Solander with a welcome change of diet
in the commander's cabin of the _Endeavour_. As the inner surface of the
arms of the squid, as well as the terminals of its tentacles, were
studded with hooks, Professor Owen named it _Enoploteuthis Cookii_. He
estimates the diameter of the tail fin at 15 inches, the length of its
body 3 feet, of its head 10 inches, of the shorter arms 16 inches, and
of the longer tentacles about the same as its body--thus giving a total
length of about 6 ft. 9 in. Although individuals of other species, of
larger dimensions, are known to have existed, this is the largest
specimen of the hook-armed calamaries that has been scientifically
examined. It would have been a formidable antagonist to a man under
circumstances favourable to the exertion of its strength, and the use of
its prehensile and lacerating talons.

Peron,[15] the well-known French zoologist, mentions having seen at sea,
in 1801, not far from Van Diemen's Land, at a very little distance from
his ship, _Le Géographe_, a "Sepia," of the size of a barrel, rolling
with noise on the waves; its arms, between 6 and 7 feet long, and 6 or 7
inches in diameter at the base, extended on the surface, and writhing
about like great snakes. He recognised in this, and no doubt correctly,
one of the calamaries. The arms that he saw were evidently the animal's
shorter ones, as under such circumstances, with neither enemy to combat
nor prey to seize at the moment, the longer tentacles would remain

  [15] 'Voyage de Découvertes aux Terres Australes.'

Quoy and Gaimard[16] report that in the Atlantic Ocean, near the
Equator, they found the remains of an enormous calamary, half eaten by
the sharks and birds, which could not have weighed less, when entire,
than 200 lbs. A portion of this was secured, and is preserved in the
Museum of Natural History, Paris.

  [16] 'Voyage de l'Uranie: Zoologie,' vol. i., part 2, p. 411. 1824.

Captain Sander Rang[17] records having fallen in with, in mid-ocean, a
species distinct from the others, of a dark red colour, having short
arms, and a body the size of a hogshead.

  [17] 'Manuel des Mollusques,' p. 86.

In a manuscript by Paulsen (referred to by Professor Steenstrup, at a
meeting of Scandinavian naturalists at Copenhagen in 1847) is a
description of a large calamary, cast ashore on the coast of Zeeland,
which the latter named _Architeuthis monachus_. Its body measured 21
feet, and its tentacles 18 feet, making a total of 39 feet.

In 1854 another was stranded at the Skag in Jutland, which Professor
Steenstrup believed to belong to the same genus as the preceding, but to
be of a different species, and called it _Architeuthis dux_. The body
was cut in pieces by the fishermen for bait, and furnished many
wheelbarrow loads. Mr. Gwyn Jeffreys[18] says Dr. Mörch informed him
that the beak of this animal was nine inches long. He adds that another
huge cephalopod was stranded in 1860 or 1861, between Hillswick and
Scalloway, on the west of Shetland. From a communication received by
Professor Allman, it appears that its tentacles were 16 feet long, the
pedal arms about half that length, and the mantle sac 7 feet. The
largest suckers examined by Professor Allman were three-quarters of an
inch in diameter.

  [18] 'British Conchology,' vol. v., p. 124.


We have also the statement of the officers and crew of the French
despatch steamer, _Alecton_, commanded by Lieutenant Bouyer, describing
their having met with a great calamary on the 30th of November, 1861,
between Madeira and Teneriffe. It was seen about noon on that day
floating on the surface of the water, and the vessel was stopped with a
view to its capture. Many bullets were aimed at it, but they passed
through its soft flesh without doing it much injury, until at length
"the waves were observed to be covered with foam and blood." It had
probably discharged the contents of its ink-bag; for a strong odour of
musk immediately became perceptible--a perfume which I have already
mentioned as appertaining to the ink of many of the cephalopoda, and
also as being one of the reputed attributes of the Kraken. Harpoons were
thrust into it, but would not hold in the yielding flesh; and the animal
broke adrift from them, and, diving beneath the vessel, came up on the
other side. The crew wished to launch a boat that they might attack it
at closer quarters, but the commander forbade this, not feeling
justified in risking the lives of his men. A rope with a running knot
was, however, slipped over it, and held fast at the junction of the
broad caudal fin; but when an attempt was made to hoist it on deck the
enormous weight caused the rope to cut through the flesh, and all but
the hinder part of the body fell back into the sea and disappeared. M.
Berthelot, the French consul at Teneriffe, saw the fin and posterior
portion of the animal on board the _Alecton_ ten days afterwards, and
sent a report of the occurrence to the Paris Academy of Sciences. The
body of this great squid, which, like Rang's specimen, was of a deep-red
colour, was estimated to have been from 16 feet to 18 feet long, without
reckoning the length of its formidable arms.[19]

  [19] In the accompanying illustration, the size of the squid is
  exaggerated, but not so much as has been supposed.

These are statements made by men who, by their intelligence, character,
and position, are entitled to respect and credence; and whose evidence
would be accepted without question or hesitation in any court of law.
There is, moreover, a remarkable coincidence of particulars in their
several accounts, which gives great importance to their combined

But, fortunately, we are not left dependent on documentary evidence
alone, nor with the option of accepting or rejecting, as caprice or
prejudice may prompt us, the narratives of those who have told us they
have seen what we have not. Portions of cuttles of extraordinary size
are preserved in several European museums. In the collection of the
Faculty of Sciences at Montpellier is one six feet long, taken by
fishermen at Cette, which Professor Steenstrup has identified as
_Ommastrephes pteropus_. One of the same species, which was formerly in
the possession of M. Eschricht, who received it from Marseilles, may be
seen in the museum at Copenhagen. The body of another, analogous to
these, is exhibited in the Museum of Trieste: it was taken on the coast
of Dalmatia. At the meeting of the British Association at Plymouth in
1841, Colonel Smith exhibited drawings of the beak and other parts of a
very large calamary preserved at Haarlem; and M. P. Harting, in 1860,
described in the Memoirs of the Royal Scientific Academy of Amsterdam
portions of two extant in other collections in Holland, one of which he
believes to be Steenstrup's _Architeuthis dux_, a species which he
regards as identical with _Ommastrephes todarus_ of D'Orbigny.

Still there remained a residuum of doubt in the minds of naturalists
and the public concerning the existence of gigantic cuttles until,
towards the close of the year 1873, two specimens were encountered on
the coast of Newfoundland, and a portion of one and the whole of the
other, were brought ashore, and preserved for examination by competent

The circumstances under which the first was seen, as sensationally
described by the Rev. M. Harvey, Presbyterian minister of St. John's,
Newfoundland, in a letter to Principal Dawson, of McGill College, were,
briefly and soberly, as follows:--Two fishermen were out in a small punt
on the 26th of October, 1873, near the eastern end of Belle Isle,
Conception Bay, about nine miles from St. John's. Observing some object
floating on the water at a short distance, they rowed towards it,
supposing it to be the _débris_ of a wreck. On reaching it one of them
struck it with his "gaff," when immediately it showed signs of life, and
shot out its two tentacular arms, as if to seize its antagonists. The
other man, named Theophilus Picot, though naturally alarmed, severed
both arms with an axe as they lay on the gunwale of the boat, whereupon
the animal moved off, and ejected a quantity of inky fluid which
darkened the surrounding water for a considerable distance. The men went
home, and, as fishermen will, magnified their lost "fish." They
"estimated" the body to have been 60 feet in length, and 10 feet across
the tail fin; and declared that when the "fish" attacked them "it reared
a parrot-like beak which was as big as a six-gallon keg."

All this, in the excitement of the moment, Mr. Harvey appears to have
been willing to believe, and related without the expression of a doubt.
Fortunately, he was able to obtain from the fishermen a portion of one
of the tentacular arms which they had chopped off with the axe, and by
so doing rendered good service to science. This fragment (Fig. 9), as
measured by Mr. Alexander Murray, provincial geologist of Newfoundland,
and Professor Verrill, of Yale College, Connecticut, is 17 feet long and
3½ feet in circumference. It is now in St. John's Museum. By careful
calculation of its girth, the breadth and circumference of the expanded
sucker-bearing portion at its extremity, and the diameter of the
suckers, Professor Verrill has computed its dimensions to have been as
follows:--Length of body 10 feet; diameter of body 2 feet 5 inches. Long
tentacular arms 32 feet; head 2 feet; total length about 44 feet. The
upper mandible of the beak, instead of being "as large as a six-gallon
keg" would be about 3 inches long, and the lower mandible 1½ inch
long. From the size of the large suckers relatively to those of another
specimen to be presently described, he regards it as probable that this
individual was a female.

[Illustration: FIG. 9.--TENTACLE OF A GREAT CALAMARY (_Architeuthis

In November, 1873--about three weeks after the occurrence in Conception
Bay--another calamary somewhat smaller than the preceding, but of the
same species, also came into Mr. Harvey's possession. Three fishermen,
when hauling their herring-net in Logie Bay, about three miles from St.
John's, found the huge animal entangled in its folds. With great
difficulty they succeeded in despatching it and bringing it ashore,
having been compelled to cut off its head before they could get it into
their boat.

(_Architeuthis princeps_) TAKEN IN LOGIE BAY, NEWFOUNDLAND, NOV. 1873.]

The body of this specimen was over 7 feet long; the caudal fin 22
inches broad; the two long tentacular arms 24 feet in length; the eight
shorter arms each 6 feet long, the largest of the latter being 10 inches
in circumference at the base; total length of this calamary 32 feet.
Professor Verrill considers that this and the Conception Bay squid are
both referable to one species--Steenstrup's _Architeuthis dux_.

Excellent woodcuts from photographs of these two specimens were given in
the _Field_ of December 13th, 1873, and January 31st, 1874,
respectively, and I am indebted to the proprietors of that journal for
their kind and courteous permission to copy them in reduced size for the
illustration of this little work.

For the preservation of both of the above described specimens we have to
thank Mr. Harvey, and he produces additional evidence of other gigantic
cuttles having been previously seen on the coast of Newfoundland. He
mentions two especially, which, as stated by the Rev. Mr. Gabriel, were
cast ashore in the winter of 1870-71, near Lamaline on the south coast
of the island, which measured respectively 40 feet and 47 feet in
length; and he also tells of another stranded two years later, the total
length of which was 80 feet.

In the _American Journal of Science and Arts_, of March 1875, Professor
Verrill gives particulars and authenticated testimony of several other
examples of great calamaries, varying in total length from 30 feet to 52
feet, which have been taken in the neighbourhood of Newfoundland since
the year 1870. One of these was found floating, apparently dead, near
the Grand Banks in October 1871, by Captain Campbell, of the schooner
_B. D. Hoskins_, of Gloucester, Mass. It was taken on board, and part of
it used for bait. The body is stated to have been 15 feet long, and the
pedal or shorter arms between 9 feet and 10 feet. The beak was forwarded
to the Smithsonian Institution.

Another instance given by Professor Verrill is of a great squid found
alive in shallow water in Coomb's Cove, Fortune Bay, in the year 1872.
Its measurements, taken by the Hon. T. R. Bennett, of English Harbour,
Newfoundland, were, length of body 10 feet; length of tentacle 42 feet;
length of one of the ordinary arms 6 feet: the cups on the tentacles
were serrated. Professor Verrill also mentions a pair of jaws and two
suckers in the Smithsonian Institution, as having been received from the
Rev. A. Munn, with a statement that they were taken from a calamary
which went ashore in Bonavista Bay, and which measured 32 feet in total

On the 22nd of September, 1877, another gigantic squid was stranded at
Catalina, on the north shore of Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, during a
heavy equinoctial gale. It was alive when first seen, but died soon
after the ebbing of the tide, and was left high and dry upon the beach.
Two fishermen took possession of it, and the whole settlement gathered
to gaze in astonishment at the monster. Formerly it would have been
converted into manure, or cut up as food for dogs, but, thanks to the
diffusion of intelligence, there were some persons in Catalina who knew
the importance of preserving such a rarity, and who advised the
fishermen to take it to St. John's. After being exhibited there for two
days, it was packed in half-a-ton of ice in readiness for transmission
to Professor Verrill, in the hope that it would be placed in the Peabody
or Smithsonian Museum; but at the last moment its owners violated their
agreement, and sold it to a higher bidder. The final purchase was made
for the New York Aquarium, where it arrived on the 7th of October,
immersed in methylated spirit in a large glass tank. Its measurements
were as follows:--length of body 10 feet; length of tentacles 30 feet;
length of shorter arm 11 feet; circumference of body 7 feet; breadth of
caudal fin 2 feet 9 inches; diameter of largest tentacular sucker 1
inch; number of suckers on each of the shorter arms 250.

The appearance of so many of these great squids on the shores of
Newfoundland during the term of seven years, and after so long a period
of popular uncertainty as to their very existence had previously
elapsed, might lead one to suppose that the waters of the North Atlantic
Ocean which wash the north-eastern coasts of the American Continent
were, at any rate, temporarily, their principal habitat, especially as a
smaller member of their family, _Ommastrephes sagittatus_, is there
found in such extraordinary numbers that it furnishes the greater part
of the bait used in the Newfoundland cod fisheries. But that they are by
no means confined to this locality is proved by recent instances, as
well as by those already cited.

Dr. F. Hilgendorf records[20] observations of a huge squid exhibited for
money at Yedo, Japan, in 1873, and of another of similar size, which he
saw exposed for sale in the Yedo fish market.

  [20] 'Sitzungsberichte der Gesellschaft naturforschender Freunde zu
  Berlin,' pp. 65-67, quoted by Professor Owen, _op. cit._

When the French expedition was sent to the Island of St. Paul, in 1874,
for the purpose of observing the transit of Venus, which occurred on the
9th of December in that year, it was fortunately accompanied by an able
zoologist, M. Ch. Velain. He reports[21] that on the 2nd of November a
tidal wave cast upon the north shore of the island a great calamary
which measured in total length nearly 23 feet, namely: length of body 7
feet; length of tentacles 16 feet. There are several points of interest
connected with its generic characters, and M. Velain's grounds for
regarding it as being of a previously unknown species, but they are too
technical for discussion here. This specimen was photographed as it lay
upon the beach by M. Cazin, the photographer to the expedition.

  [21] 'Comptes Rendus,' t. 80, 1875, p. 998.

The following account of the still more recent capture of a large squid
off the west coast of Ireland was given in the _Zoologist_ of June 1875,
by Sergeant Thomas O'Connor, of the Royal Irish Constabulary:--

     "On the 26th of April, 1875, a very large calamary was met with on
     the north-west of Boffin Island, Connemara. The crew of a 'curragh'
     (a boat made like the 'coracle,' with wooden ribs covered with
     tarred canvas) observed to seaward a large floating mass,
     surrounded by gulls. They pulled out to it, believing it to be
     wreck, but to their astonishment found it was an enormous
     cuttle-fish, lying perfectly still, as if basking on the surface of
     the water. Paddling up with caution, they lopped off one of its
     arms. The animal immediately set out to sea, rushing through the
     water at a tremendous pace. The men gave chase, and, after a hard
     pull in their frail canvas craft, came up with it, five miles out
     in the open Atlantic, and severed another of its arms and the head.
     These portions are now in the Dublin Museum. The shorter arms
     measure, each, eight feet in length, and fifteen inches round the
     base: the tentacular arms are said to have been thirty feet long.
     The body sank."

Finally, there is in our own national collection, preserved in spirit
in a tall glass jar, a single arm of a huge cephalopod, which, by the
kindness and courtesy of the officers of the department, I was permitted
to examine and measure when I first described it, in May, 1873. It is 9
feet long, and 12 inches in circumference at the base, tapering
gradually to a fine point. It has about 300 suckers, pedunculated, or
set on tubular footstalks, placed alternately in two rows, and having
serrated, horny rings, but no hooks; the diameter of the largest of
these rings is half an inch; the smallest is not larger than a pin's
head. This is one of the eight shorter, or pedal, and not one of the
long, or tentacular, arms of the calamary to which it belonged. The
relative length of the arms to that of the body and tentacles varies in
different genera of the _Teuthidæ_, and it is not impossible that this
may be the case even in individuals of the same species. But, judging
from the proportions of known examples, I estimate the length of the
tentacles at 36 feet, and that of the body at from 10 to 11 feet: total
length 47 feet. The beak would probably have been about 5 inches long
from hinge socket to point, and the diameter of the largest suckers of
the tentacles about 1 inch. So much for De Montfort's "suckers as big as
saucepan-lids." From a well defined fold of skin which spreads out from
each margin of that surface of the arm over which the suckers are
situated, Professor Owen has given to this calamary the generic name of
_Plectoteuthis_, with the specific title of _grandis_ to indicate its
enormous size. No history relating to this interesting specimen has been
preserved. No one knows its origin, nor when it was received, but Dr.
Gray told me that he believed it came from the east coast of South
America. It has, however, long formed part of the stores of the British
Museum, and, although previously open to public view, was more recently
for many years kept in the basement chambers of the old building in
Bloomsbury, which were irreverently called by the initiated "the spirit
vaults and bottle department," because fishes, mollusca, &c., preserved
in spirits were there deposited. I hope the public will have greater
facility of access to it in the new Museum.

Here, then, in our midst, and to be seen by all who ask permission to
inspect it, is, and has long been, a limb of a great cephalopod capable
of upsetting a boat, or of hauling a man out of her, or of clutching one
engaged in scraping a ship's side, and dragging him under water, as
described by the old master-mariner Magnus Dens. The tough, supple
tentacles, shot forth with lightning rapidity, would be long enough to
reach him at a distance of a dozen yards, and strong enough to drag him
within the grasp of the eight shorter arms, a helpless victim to the
mandibles of a beak sufficiently powerful to tear him in pieces and
crush some of his smaller bones. For, once within that dreadful embrace,
his escape, unaided, would be impossible. The clinging power of this
_Plectoteuthis_ is so enormously augmented by the additional surface
given by the expanded folds to the under side of the arms, that I doubt
if even one of the smaller whales, such as the "White Whale," or the
"Pilot Whale," could extricate itself from their combined hold, if those
eight supple, clammy, adhesive arms, each 9 feet long, and 5 inches in
diameter at the base on the flat under surface, and armed with a battery
of 2400 suckers, were once fairly lapped around it.

Ought it to surprise us, then, that an uneducated seafaring population,
such as the fishermen of Fridrichstad, mentioned by Pontoppidan,
absolutely ignorant of the habits and affinities, and even unacquainted
with the real external form of such a creature, should exaggerate its
dimensions and invest it with mystery? All that they knew of it was that
whilst their friends and neighbours, whom we will call Eric Paulsen,
Hans Ohlsen, and Olaf Bruhn were out fishing one calm day, a shapeless
"something" rose just above the surface of the tranquil sea not far from
their boat. They could see that there was much more of its bulk under
water, but how far it extended they could not ascertain. Mistrusting its
appearance, and with foreboding of danger, they were about to get up
their anchor, when, suddenly, from thirty feet away, a rope was shot on
board which fastened itself on Hans; he was dragged from amongst them
towards the strange floating mass; there was a commotion; from the
foaming sea upreared themselves, as it seemed to Eric and Olaf, several
writhing serpents, which twined themselves around Hans; and as they
gazed, helpless, in horror and bewilderment, the monster sank, and with
a mighty swirl the waters closed for ever over their unfortunate
companion. The men would naturally hasten home, and describe the
dreadful incident--their imagination excited by its mysterious nature;
the tale would spread through the district, losing nothing by
repetition, and within a week the fabled Kraken would be the result.

The existence, in almost every sea, of calamaries capable of playing
their part in such a scene has been fully proved, and this vexed
question of marine zoology set at rest for ever. The "much greater light
on this subject," which, as Pontoppidan sagaciously foresaw, was
"reserved for posterity," has been thrown upon it by the discoveries of
the last few years; and the "further experience which is always the best
instructor," and which he correctly anticipated would be possessed by
the "future writers," to whom he bequeathed the completion of his
"sketch," has been obtained. Viewed by their aid, and seen in the
clearer atmosphere of our present knowledge, the great sea-monster which
loomed so indefinitely vast in the mist of ignorance and superstition,
stands revealed in its true form and proportions--its magnitude reduced,
its outline distinct, and its mystery gone--and we recognise in the
supposed Kraken, as the Norwegian bishop rightly conjectured that we
should, an animal "of the Polypus (or cuttle) kind, and amongst the
largest inhabitants of the ocean."


The belief in the existence of sea-serpents of formidable dimensions is
of great antiquity. Aristotle, writing about B.C. 340, says[22]:--"The
serpents of Libya are of an enormous size. Navigators along that coast
report having seen a great quantity of bones of oxen, which they
believe, without doubt, to have been devoured by the serpents. These
serpents pursued them when they left the shore, and upset one of their
triremes"--a vessel of a large class, having three banks of oars.

  [22] 'History of Animals,' book 8, chap. 28.

Pliny tells us[23] that a squadron sent by Alexander the Great on a
voyage of discovery, under the command of Onesicritus and Nearchus,
encountered, in the neighbourhood of some islands in the Persian Gulf,
sea-serpents thirty feet long, which filled the fleet with terror.

  [23] 'Naturalis Historiæ,' Lib. vi., cap. 23.

Valerius Maximus,[24] quoting Livy, describes the alarm into which,
during the Punic wars, the Romans, under Attilius Regulus (who was
afterwards so cruelly put to death by the Carthaginians), were thrown by
an aquatic, though not marine, serpent which had its lair on the banks
of the Bagrados, near Ithaca. It is said to have swallowed many of the
soldiers, after crushing them in its folds, and to have kept the army
from crossing the river, till at length, being invulnerable by ordinary
weapons, it was destroyed by heavy stones hurled by balistas, catapults,
and other military engines used in those days for casting heavy
missiles, and battering the walls of fortified towns. According to the
historian, the annoyance caused by it to the army did not cease with its
death, for the water was polluted with its gore, and the air with the
noxious fumes from its corrupted carcase, to such a degree that the
Romans were obliged to remove their camp. They, however secured the
animal's skin and skull, which were preserved in a temple at Rome till
the time of the Numantine war. This combat has been described, to the
same effect, by Florus (lib. ii.), Seneca (litt. 82), Silvius Italicus
(l. vi.), Aulus Gellius (lib. vi., cap. 3), Orosius, Zonaras, &c., and
is referred to by Pliny (lib. viii., cap. 14) as an incident known to
every one. Diodorus Siculus also tells of a great serpent, sixty feet
long, which lived chiefly in the water, but landed at frequent intervals
to devour the cattle in its neighbourhood. A party was collected to
capture it; but their first attempt failed, and the monster killed
twenty of them. It was afterwards taken in a strong net, carried alive
to Alexandria, and presented to King Ptolemy II., the founder of the
Alexandrian Library and Museum, who was a great collector of zoological
and other curiosities. This snake was probably one of the great boas.

  [24] 'De Factis, Dictisque Memorabilibus,' Lib. i., cap. 8, 1st

The "_Serpens marinus_" is figured and referred to by many other
writers, but as they evidently allude to the Conger and the Murena, we
will pass over their descriptions.

The sea-serpents mentioned by Aristotle, Pliny, and Diodorus were,
doubtless, real sea-snakes, true marine ophidians, which are more common
in tropical seas than is generally supposed. They are found most
abundantly in the Indian Ocean; but they have an extensive geographical
range, and between forty and fifty species of them are known. They are
all highly poisonous, and some are so ferocious that they more
frequently attack than avoid man. The greatest length to which they are
authentically known to attain is about twelve feet. The form and
structure of these _hydrophides_ are modified from those of land
serpents, to suit their aquatic habits. The tail is compressed
vertically, flattened from the sides, so as to form a fin like the tail
of an eel, by which they propel themselves; but instead of tapering to a
point, it is rounded off at the end, like the blade of a paper-knife, or
the scabbard of a cavalry sabre. Like other lung-breathing animals which
live in water, they are also provided with a respiratory apparatus
adapted to their circumstances and requirements--their nostrils, which
are very small, being furnished, like those of the seal, manatee, &c.,
with a valve opening at will to admit air, and closing perfectly to
exclude water.

Leaving these water-snakes of the tropics, we come, next in order of
date, upon some very remarkable evidence that there was current amongst
a community where we should little expect to find it, the idea of a
marine monster corresponding in many respects with some of the
descriptions given several centuries later of the sea-serpent. In an
interesting article on the Catacombs of Rome in the _Illustrated London
News_ of February 3rd, 1872, allusion is made by the author to the
collection of sarcophagi or coffins of the early Christians, removed
from the Catacombs, and preserved in the museum of the Lateran Palace,
where they were arranged by the late Padre Marchi for Pope Pius IX.
There are more than twenty of these, sculptured with various
designs--the Father and the Son, Adam and Eve and the Serpent, the
Sacrifice of Abraham, Moses striking the Rock, Daniel and the Lions, and
other Scripture themes. Amongst them also is Jonah and the "whale." A
facsimile of this sculpture (Fig. 11) is one of the illustrations of the
article referred to. It will be seen that Jonah is being swallowed feet
foremost, or possibly being ejected head first, by an enormous sea
monster, having the chest and fore-legs of a horse, a long arching neck,
with a mane at its base, near the shoulders, a head like nothing in
nature, but having hair upon and beneath the cheeks, the hinder portion
of the body being that of a serpent of prodigious length, undulating in
several vertical curves. This sculpture appears to have been cut between
the beginning and the middle of the third century, about A.D. 230, but
it probably represents a tradition of far greater antiquity.

[Illustration: FIG. 11.--JONAH AND THE SEA MONSTER.

_From the Catacombs of Rome._]

We will now consider the accounts given by Scandinavian historians, of
the sea-serpent having been seen in northern waters. Here, I suppose, I
ought to indulge in the usual flippant sneer at Bishop Pontoppidan. I
know that in abstaining from doing so I am sadly out of the fashion; but
I venture to think that the dead lion has been kicked at too often
already, and undeservedly. Whether there be, or be not, a huge marine
animal, not necessarily an ophidian, answering to some of the
descriptions of the sea-serpent--so called--Pontoppidan did not invent
the stories told of its appearance. Long before he was born the monster
had been described and figured; and for centuries previously the
Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, and Fins had believed in its existence as
implicitly as in the tenets of their religious creed. Olaus Magnus,
Archbishop of Upsala, in Sweden, wrote of it in A.D. 1555 as

     "They who in works 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 foot 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 on a clear night in summer, and devour
     calves, lambs, and hogs, or else he goes into the sea to feed on
     polypus (octopus), locusts (lobsters), 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 eyes. 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
     happeneth 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 an island called Moos
     in 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 rolls himself round like a sphere.[26] 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 shewed also the destruction of
     the country."

  [25] 'Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus,' Lib. xxi. cap. 43.

  [26] "Coils itself in spherical convolutions" is a better
  translation of the original Latin.

The Gothic Archbishop, amongst other signs and omens, also attributes
this power of divination to the small red ants which are sometimes so
troublesome in houses, and declares that they also portended the
downfall, A.D. 1523, of the abominably cruel Danish king, Christian II.,
above mentioned. His curious work is full of wild improbabilities and
odd superstitions, most of which he states with a calm air of
unquestioning assent; but as he wrote in the time of our Henry VIII.,
long before the belief in witches and warlocks, fairies and banshees,
had died out in our own country, we can hardly throw stones at him on
that score. It is a most amusing and interesting history, and gives a
wonderful insight of the habits and customs of the northern nations in
his day.

Amongst his illustrations of the sea monsters he describes are the two
of which I give facsimiles on the next page. In Fig. 12 a sea-serpent is
seen writhing in many coils upon the surface of the water, and having in
its mouth a sailor, whom it has seized from the deck of a ship. The poor
fellow is trying to grasp the ratlins of the shrouds, but is being
dragged from his hold and lifted over the bulwarks by the monster. His
companions, in terror, are endeavouring to escape in various directions.
One is climbing aloft by the stay, in the hope of getting out of reach
in that way, whilst two others are hurrying aft to obtain the shelter of
a little castle or cabin projecting over the stern. I am strongly of the
opinion that this is but the fallacious representation of an actual
occurrence. Read by the light of recent knowledge, these old pictures
convey to a practised eye a meaning as clear as that of hieroglyphics to
an Egyptologist, and my translation of this is the following: The crew
of a ship have witnessed the dreadful sight of a serpent-like form
issuing from the sea, rising over the bulwarks of their vessel, seizing
one of their messmates from amongst them, and dragging him overboard and
under water. Awe-stricken by the mysterious disappearance of their
comrade, and too frightened and anxious for their own safety to be able,
during the short space of time occupied by an affair, which all happened
in a few seconds, to observe accurately their terrible assailant, they
naturally conjecture that it must have been a snake. It was probably a
gigantic calamary, such as we now know exist, and the dead carcases of
which have been found in the locality where the event depicted is
supposed to have taken place. The presumed body of the serpent was one
of the arms of the squid, and the two rows of suckers thereto belonging
are indicated in the illustration by the medial line traversing its
whole length (intended to represent a dorsal fin) and the double row of
transverse septa, one on each side of it.





In Fig. 13 an enormous lobster is in the act of similarly dragging
overboard from a vessel a man whom it has seized by the arm with one of
its great claws. From the crude image of a lobster having eight minor
claws and two larger ones, to that of a cuttle having eight minor arms
and two longer ones, the transition is not great; and I believe that
this also is a pictorial misrepresentation of a casualty by the attack
of a calamary similar to that above described, possibly another view of
the same incident. The idea is that of a sea animal capable of suddenly
seizing and grasping a man, and we must remember that we have evidence,
in the writings of Pontoppidan and others, that, even two centuries
later than Olaus Magnus, the Norsemen's knowledge of the cuttles was
exceedingly vague and indistinct. Any one who has seen, as I frequently
have at the Brighton Aquarium, and as they doubtless had whilst
lobster-catching, the threatening and ferocious manner in which a
lobster will brandish, and, if I may use the term, "gnash" its claws at
an intruding hand, even if held above the surface of the water, can well
imagine a party of fishermen discussing such a tragic occurrence as the
foregoing, and differing in opinion as to the identity of the creature
which had caused the catastrophe, some maintaining that it must have
been a sea-serpent, and others shaking their heads and asserting that
nothing but a colossal lobster could have done it.

Pontoppidan, in writing his history of Norway, of course had before him
the statements of Olaus Magnus; but, though their author was an
archbishop, he did not accept them with the childlike simplicity
generally ascribed to him. Quoting, and, singularly enough, misquoting,
the Swedish prelate as referring to a sea-serpent, when he is
describing, incorrectly, one of the _Acalephæ_, or sea-nettles,
Pontoppidan says:--

     "I have never heard of this sort, and should hardly believe the
     good Olaus if he did not say that he affirmed this from his own
     experience. The disproportion makes me think there must be some
     error of the press.... He mixes truth and fable together according
     to the relations of others; but this was excusable in that dark age
     when that author wrote. Notwithstanding all this, we, in the
     present more enlightened age, are much obliged to him for his
     industry and judicious observations."

Of the sea-serpent Pontoppidan writes:--

     "I have questioned its existence myself, till that suspicion was
     removed by full and sufficient evidence from creditable and
     experienced fishermen and sailors in Norway, of which there are
     hundreds who can testify that they have annually seen them. All
     these persons agree very well in the general description; and
     others who acknowledge that they only know it by report or by what
     their neighbours have told them, still relate the same particulars.
     In all my inquiry about these affairs I have hardly spoke with any
     intelligent person born in the manor of Nordland who was not able
     to give a pertinent answer, and strong assurances of the existence
     of this fish; and some of our north traders that come here every
     year with their merchandize think it a very strange question when
     they are seriously asked whether there be any such creature: they
     think it as ridiculous as if the question was put to them whether
     there be such fish as eel or cod."

The worthy Bishop of Bergen did his best to sift truth from fable, but
he could not always succeed in separating them. Many stupendous
falsehoods were brought to him, and some of them passed through his
sieve in spite of his care. Of these are the accounts of the "spawning
times" of the sea-serpent, its dislike of certain scents, &c. We must
pass over all this, and confine ourselves to the evidence offered by him
of its having been seen.

The first witness he adduces is Captain Lawrence de Ferry, of the
Norwegian navy, and first pilot in Bergen, who, premising that he had
doubted a great while whether there were any such creature till he had
ocular demonstration of it, made the following statement, addressed
formally and officially to the procurator of Bergen:--

     "Mr. JOHN REUTZ--

     "The latter end of August, in the year 1746, as I was on a voyage,
     on my return from Trundhiem, on a very calm and hot day, having a
     mind to put in at Molde, it happened that when we were arrived with
     my vessel within six English miles of the aforesaid Molde, being at
     a place called Jule-Næss, as I was reading in a book, I heard a
     kind of a murmuring voice from amongst the men at the oars, who
     were eight in number, and observed that the man at the helm kept
     off from the land. Upon this I inquired what was the matter, and
     was informed that there was a sea-snake before us. I then ordered
     the man at the helm to keep to the land again, and to come up with
     this creature of which I had heard so many stories. Though the
     fellows were under some apprehension, they were obliged to obey my
     orders. In the meantime the sea-snake passed by us, and we were
     obliged to tack the vessel about in order to get nearer to it. As
     the snake swam faster than we could row, I took my gun, that was
     ready charged, and fired at it; on this he immediately plunged
     under the water. We rowed to the place where it sunk down (which in
     the calm might be easily observed) and lay upon our oars, thinking
     it would come up again to the surface; however it did not. Where
     the snake plunged down, the water appeared thick and red; perhaps
     some of the shot might wound it, the distance being very little.
     The head of this snake, which it held more than two feet above the
     surface of the water, resembled that of a horse. It was of a
     greyish colour, and the mouth was quite black, and very large. It
     had black eyes, and a long white mane, that hung down from the neck
     to the surface of the water. Besides the head and neck, we saw
     seven or eight folds, or coils, of this snake, which were very
     thick, and as far as we could guess there was about a fathom
     distance between each fold. I related this affair in a certain
     company, where there was a person of distinction present who
     desired that I would communicate to him an authentic detail of all
     that happened; and for this reason two of my sailors, who were
     present at the same time and place where I saw this monster,
     namely, Nicholas Pedersen Kopper, and Nicholas Nicholsen
     Anglewigen, shall appear in court, to declare on oath the truth of
     every particular herein set forth; and I desire the favour of an
     attested copy of the said descriptions.

     "I remain, Sir, your obliged servant,

     "L. DE FERRY.

     "Bergen, 21st February, 1751.

     "After this the before-named witnesses gave their corporal oaths,
     and, with their finger held up according to law, witnessed and
     confirmed the aforesaid letter or declaration, and every particular
     set forth therein to be strictly true. A copy of the said
     attestation was made out for the said Procurator Reutz, and granted
     by the Recorder. That this was transacted in our court of justice
     we confirm with our hand and seals. _Actum Bergis die et loco, ut

     "A. C. DASS (_Chief Advocate_).

     "H. C. GARTNER (_Recorder_)."

[Illustration: FIG. 14.--PONTOPPIDAN'S "SEA SERPENT."]

The figure of the sea-serpent (Fig. 14) given by Pontoppidan was drawn,
he tells us, under the inspection of a clergyman, Mr. Hans Strom, from
descriptions given of it by two of his neighbours, Messrs. Reutz and
Teuchsen, of Herroe; and was declared to agree in every particular with
that seen by Captain de Ferry, and another subsequently observed by
Governor Benstrup. The supposed coils of the serpent's body present
exactly the appearance of eight porpoises following each other in line.
This is a well-known habit of some of the smaller cetacea. They are
often met with at sea thus proceeding in close single file, part only of
their rotund forms being visible as they raise their backs above the
surface of the water to inhale air through their "blow-holes." Under
these circumstances they have been described by naturalists and seamen
as resembling a long string of casks or buoys, often extending for
sixty, eighty, or a hundred yards. This is just such a spectacle as that
described by Olaus Magnus--his "long line of spherical convolutions,"
and also as one reported to Pontoppidan as being descriptive of the

     "'I have been informed,' he says, 'by some of our sea-faring men
     that a cable[27] would not be long enough to measure the length of
     some of them when they are observed on the surface of the water in
     an even line. They say those round lumps or folds sometimes lie one
     after another as far as a man can see. I confess, if this be true,
     that we must suppose most probably that it is not one snake, but
     two or more of these creatures lying in a line that exhibit this
     phenomenon.' In a foot-note he adds: 'If any one enquires how many
     folds may be counted on a sea-snake, the answer is that the number
     is not always the same, but depends upon the various sizes of them:
     five and twenty is the greatest number that I find well attested.'
     Adam Olearius, in his Gottorf Museum, writes of it thus: 'A person
     of distinction from Sweden related here at Gottorf that he had
     heard the burgomaster of Malmoe, a very worthy man, say that as he
     was once standing on the top of a very high hill, towards the North
     Sea, he saw in the water, which was very calm, a snake, which
     appeared at that distance to be as thick as a pipe of wine, and had
     twenty-five folds. Those kind of snakes only appear at certain
     times, and in calm weather.'"

  [27] Six hundred feet.

I believe that in every case so far cited from Pontoppidan, as well as
that given by Olaus Magnus, the supposed coils or protuberances of the
serpent's body, were only so many porpoises swimming in line in
accordance with their habit before mentioned. If an upraised head, like
that of a horse, was seen preceding them, it was either unconnected with
them, or it certainly was not that of a snake; for no serpent could
throw its body into those vertical undulations. The form of the vertebræ
in the ophidians renders such a movement impossible. All their flexions
are horizontal; the curving of their body is from side to side, not up
and down.

The sea-monster seen by Egede was of an entirely different kind; and
his account of it--let sceptics deride it as they may--is worthy of
attention and careful consideration. The Rev. Hans Egede, known as "The
Apostle of Greenland," was superintendent of the Christian missions to
that country. He was a truthful, pious, and single-minded man,
possessing considerable powers of observation, and a genuine love of
natural history. He wrote two books on the products, people, and natural
history of Greenland,[28] and his statements therein are modest,
accurate, and free from exaggeration. His illustrations are little, if
at all, superior in style of art to the two Japanese wood-cuts shown on
page 29, but they bear the same unmistakable signs of fidelity which
characterise those of the Japanese.

  [28] 'Des alten Grönlands neue Perlustration,' 8vo., Frankfurt,
  1730, and 'Det Gamle Grönlands nye perlustratione eller Naturel
  Historie.' 4to., Copenhagen, 1741.

In his 'Journal of the Missions to Greenland' this author tell us that--

     "On the 6th of July, 1734, there appeared a very large and
     frightful sea monster, which raised itself so high out of the water
     that its head reached above our main-top. It had a long, sharp
     snout, and spouted water like a whale; and very broad flappers. The
     body seemed to be covered with scales, and the skin was uneven and
     wrinkled, and the lower part was formed like a snake. After some
     time the creature plunged backwards into the water, and then turned
     its tail up above the surface, a whole ship-length from the head.
     The following evening we had very bad weather."

The high character of the narrator would lead us to accept his
statement that he had seen something previously unknown to him (he does
not say it was a sea-serpent) even if we could not explain or understand
what it was that he saw. Fortunately, however, the sketch made by Mr.
Bing, one of his brother missionaries, has enabled us to do this. We
must remember that in his endeavour to portray the incident he was
dealing with an animal with the nature of which he was unacquainted, and
which was only partially, and for a very short time, within his view. He
therefore delineated rather the impression left on his mind than the
thing itself. But although he invested it with a character that did not
belong to it, his drawing is so far correct that we are able to
recognise at a glance the distorted portrait of an old acquaintance, and
to say unhesitatingly that Egede's sea-monster was one of the great
calamaries which have since been occasionally met with, but which have
only been believed in and recognised within the last few years. That
which Mr. Egede believed to be the creature's head was the tail part of
the cuttle, which goes in advance as the animal swims, and the two side
appendages represent very efficiently the two lobes of the caudal fin.
In propelling itself to the surface the squid raised this portion of its
body out of the water to a considerable height, an occurrence which I
have often witnessed, and which I have elsewhere described (see pp. 23
and 27). The supposed tail, which was turned up at some distance from
the other visible portion of the body, after the latter had sunk back
into the sea, was one of the shorter arms of the cuttle, and the suckers
on its under side are clearly and conspicuously marked. Egede was, of
course, in error in making the "spout" of water to issue from the mouth
of his monster. The out-pouring jet, which he, no doubt, saw, came from
the locomotor tube, and the puff of spray which would accompany it as
the orifice of the tube rose to the surface of the water is sketched
with remarkable truthfulness. In quoting Egede, Pontoppidan gives a copy
(so-called) of this engraving, but his artist embellished it so much as
to deprive it of its original force and character, and of the honestly
drawn points which furnish proofs of its identity.



Pontoppidan records other supposed appearances of the sea-serpent, but
from the date of his history I know of no other account of such an
occurrence until that of an animal "apparently belonging to this class,"
which was stranded on the Island of Stronsa, one of the Orkneys, in the
year 1808:--

     "According to the narrative, it was first seen entire, and measured
     by respectable individuals. It measured fifty-six feet in length,
     and twelve in circumference. The head was small, not being a foot
     long from the snout to the first vertebra; the neck was slender,
     extending to the length of fifteen feet. All the witnesses agree in
     assigning it blow-holes, though they differ as to the precise
     situation. On the shoulders something like a bristly mane commenced
     which extended to near the extremity of the tail. It had three
     pairs of fins or paws connected with the body; the anterior were
     the largest, measuring more than four feet in length, and their
     extremities were something like toes partially webbed. The skin was
     smooth and of a greyish colour; the eye was of the size of a
     seal's. When the decaying carcass was broken up by the waves,
     portions of it were secured (such as the skull, the upper bones of
     the swimming paws, &c.) by Mr. Laing, a neighbouring proprietor,
     and some of the vertebræ were preserved and deposited in the Royal
     University Museum, Edinburgh, and in the Museum of the Royal
     College of Surgeons, London. An able paper," says Dr. Robert
     Hamilton, in his account of it,[29] "on these latter fragments and
     on the wreck of the animal was read by the late Dr. Barclay to the
     Wernerian Society, and will be found in Vol. I. of its
     Transactions, to which we refer. We have supplied a wood-cut of the
     sketch" (of which I give a _facsimile_ here) "which was taken at
     the time, and which, from the many affidavits proffered by
     respectable individuals, as well as from other circumstances
     narrated, leaves no manner of doubt as to the existence of some
     such animal."

  [29] Jardine's Naturalists' Library: 'Marine Amphibia,' p. 314.


Well! one would think so. It looks convincing, and there is a savour of
philosophy about it that might lull the suspicions of a doubting
zoologist. What more could be required? We have accurate measurements
and a sketch taken of the animal as it lay upon the shore, minute
particulars of its outward form, characteristic portions of its skeleton
preserved in well-known museums, and any amount of affidavits
forthcoming from most respectable individuals if confirmation be
required. And yet,

    "'Tis true, 'tis pity;
    And pity 'tis 'tis true,"

the whole fabric of circumstances crumbled at the touch of science.
When the two vertebræ in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons
were examined by Sir Everard Home he pronounced them to be those of a
great shark of the genus _Selache_, and as being undistinguishable from
those of the species called the "basking shark," of which individuals
from thirty to thirty-five feet in length have been from time to time
captured or stranded on our coasts. Professor Owen has confirmed this.
Any one who feels inclined to dispute the identification by this
distinguished comparative anatomist of a bone which he has seen and
handled can examine these vertebræ for himself. If they had not been
preserved, this incident would have been cited for all time as among the
most satisfactorily authenticated instances on record of the appearance
of the sea-serpent. As it is, it furnishes a valuable warning of the
necessity for the most careful scrutiny of the evidence of well-meaning
persons to whom no intentional deception or exaggeration can be imputed.

In 1809, Mr. Maclean, the minister of Eigg, in the Western Isles of
Scotland, informed Dr. Neill, the secretary of the Wernerian Society,
that he had seen, off the Isle of Canna, a great animal which chased his
boat as he hurried ashore to escape from it; and that it was also seen
by the crews of thirteen fishing-boats, who were so terrified by it that
they fled from it to the nearest creek for safety. His description of it
is exceedingly vague, but is strongly indicative of a great calamary.

In 1817 a large marine animal, supposed to be a serpent, was seen at
Gloucester Harbour, near Cape Ann, Massachusetts, about thirty miles
from Boston. The Linnæan Society of New England investigated the matter,
and took much trouble to obtain evidence thereon. The depositions of
eleven credible witnesses were certified on oath before magistrates, one
of whom had himself seen the creature, and who confirmed the statements.
All agreed that the animal had the appearance of a serpent, but
estimated its length, variously, at from fifty to a hundred feet. Its
head was in shape like that of a turtle, or snake, but as large as the
head of a horse. There was no appearance of a mane. Its mode of
progressing was by vertical undulations; and five of the witnesses
described it as having the hunched protuberances mentioned by Captain de
Ferry and others. Of this, I can offer no zoological explanation. The
testimony given was apparently sincere, but it was received with
mistrust; for, as Mr. Gosse says, "owing to a habit prevalent in the
United States of supposing that there is somewhat of wit in gross
exaggeration or hoaxing invention, we do naturally look with a lurking
suspicion on American statements when they describe unusual or disputed

On the 15th of May, 1833, a party of British officers, consisting of
Captain Sullivan, Lieutenants Maclachlan and Malcolm of the Rifle
Brigade, Lieutenant Lister of the Artillery, and Mr. Ince of the
Ordnance, whilst crossing Margaret's Bay in a small yacht, on their way
from Halifax to Mahone Bay, "saw, at a distance of a hundred and fifty
to two hundred yards, the head and neck of some denizen of the deep,
precisely like those of a common snake in the act of swimming, the head
so far elevated and thrown forward by the curve of the neck, as to
enable them to see the water under and beyond it. The creature rapidly
passed, leaving a regular wake, from the commencement of which to the
fore part, which was out of water, they judged its length to be about
eighty feet." They "set down the head at about six feet in length
(considerably larger than that of a horse), and that portion of the neck
which they saw at the same." "There could be no mistake--no delusion,"
they say; "and we were all perfectly satisfied that we had been favoured
with a view of the true and veritable sea-serpent." This account was
published in the _Zoologist_, in 1847 (p. 1715), and at that date all
the officers above named were still living.

The next incident of the kind in point of date that we find recorded
carries us back to the locality of which Pontoppidan wrote, and in which
was seen the animal vouched for by Captain de Ferry. In 1847 there
appeared in a London daily paper a long account translated from the
Norse journals of fresh appearances of the sea-serpent. The statement
made was, that it had recently been frequently seen in the neighbourhood
of Christiansand and Molde. In the large bight of the sea at
Christiansand it had been seen every year, only in the warmest weather,
and when the sea was perfectly calm, and the surface of the water
unruffled. The evidence of three respectable persons was taken, namely,
Nils Roe, a workman at Mr. William Knudtzon's, who saw it twice there,
John Johnson, merchant, and Lars Johnöen, fisherman at Smolen. The
latter said he had frequently seen it, and that one afternoon in the
dog-days, as he was 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 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 large, 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 scarcely a
fathom in length. These undulations were not so high that he could see
between them and the water.

In confirmation of this account Mr. Soren Knudtzon, Dr. Hoffmann,
surgeon in Molde, Rector Hammer, Mr. Kraft, curate, and several other
persons, testified that they had seen in the neighbourhood of
Christiansand a sea-serpent of considerable size.

Mr. William Knudtzon, and Mr. Bochlum, a candidate for holy orders, also
gave their account of it, much to the same purport; but some of these
remarks are worthy of note for future comment. They say, "its motions
were in undulations, and so strong that white foam appeared before it,
and at the side, which stretched out several fathoms. It did not appear
very high out of the water; the head was long and small in proportion to
the throat: as the latter appeared much greater than the former,
probably it was furnished with a mane."

Sheriffe Göttsche testified to a similar effect. "He could not judge of
the animal's entire length; he could not observe its extremity. At the
back of the head there was a mane, which was the same colour as the rest
of the body."

We must take one more Norwegian account, for it is a very important
one. The venerable P. W. Deinbolt,[30] Archdeacon of Molde, gives the
following account of an incident that occurred there on the 28th of
July, 1845:

  [30] Hitherto erroneously printed "Deinboll."

     "J. C. Lund, bookseller and printer; G. S. Krogh, merchant;
     Christian Flang, Lund's apprentice, and John Elgenses, labourer,
     were out on Romsdal-fjord, fishing. The sea was, after a warm,
     sunshiny day, quite calm. About seven o'clock in the afternoon, at
     a little distance from the shore, near the ballast place and Molde
     Hooe, they saw a long marine animal, which slowly moved itself
     forward, as it appeared to them, with the help of two fins, on the
     fore-part of the body nearest the head, which they judged by the
     boiling of the water on both sides of it. The visible part of the
     body appeared to be between forty and fifty feet in length, and
     moved in undulations, like a snake. The body was round and of a
     dark colour, and seemed to be several ells in thickness. As they
     discerned a waving motion in the water behind the animal, they
     concluded that part of the body was concealed under water. That it
     was one continuous animal they saw plainly from its movement. When
     the animal was about one hundred yards from the boat, they noticed
     tolerably correctly its fore parts, which ended in a sharp snout;
     its colossal head raised itself above the water in the form of a
     semi-circle; the lower part was not visible. The colour of the head
     was dark-brown and the skin smooth; they did not notice the eyes,
     or any mane or bristles on the throat. When the serpent came about
     a musket-shot near, Lund fired at it, and was certain the shots hit
     it in the head. After the shot it dived, but came up immediately.
     It raised its neck in the air, like a snake preparing to dart on
     his prey. After he had turned and got his body in a straight line,
     which he appeared to do with great difficulty, he darted like an
     arrow against the boat. They reached the shore, and the animal,
     perceiving it had come into shallow water, dived immediately and
     disappeared in the deep. Such is the declaration of these four men,
     and no one has cause to question their veracity, or imagine that
     they were so seized with fear that they could not observe what took
     place so near them. There are not many here, or on other parts of
     the Norwegian coast, who longer doubt the existence of the
     sea-serpent. The writer of this narrative was a long time
     sceptical, as he had not been so fortunate as to see this monster
     of the deep; but after the many accounts he has read, and the
     relations he has received from credible witnesses, he does not dare
     longer to doubt the existence of the sea-serpent.

     "P. W. DEINBOLT.

     "Molde, 29th Nov., 1845."

We may at once accept most fully and frankly the statements of all the
worthy people mentioned in this series of incidents. There is no room
for the shadow of a doubt that they all recounted conscientiously that
which they saw. The last quoted occurrence, especially, is most
accurately and intelligently described--so clearly, indeed, that it
furnishes us with a clue to the identity of the strange visitant.

Here let me say--and I wish it to be distinctly understood--that I do
not deny the possibility of the existence of a great sea serpent, or
other great creatures at present unknown to science, and that I have no
inclination to explain away that which others have seen, because I
myself have not witnessed it. "Seeing is believing," it is said, and it
is not agreeable to have to tell a person that, in common parlance, he
"must not trust his own eyes." It seems presumptuous even to hint that
one may know better what was seen than the person who saw it. And yet I
am obliged to say, reluctantly and courteously, but most firmly and
assuredly, that these perfectly credible eye-witnesses did not correctly
interpret that which they witnessed. In these cases, it is not the eye
which deceives, nor the tongue which is untruthful, but the imagination
which is led astray by the association of the thing seen with an
erroneous idea. I venture to say this, not with any insolent assumption
of superior acumen, but because we now possess a key to the mystery
which Archdeacon Deinbolt and his neighbours had not access to, and
which has only within the last few years been placed in our hands. The
movements and aspect of their sea monster are those of an animal with
which we are now well acquainted, but of the existence of which the
narrators of these occasional visitations were unaware; namely, the
great calamary, the same which gave rise to the stories of the Kraken,
and which has probably been a denizen of the Scandinavian seas and
fjords from time immemorial. It must be remembered, as I have elsewhere
said, that until the year 1873, notwithstanding the adventure of the
_Alecton_ in 1861, a cuttle measuring in total length fifty or sixty
feet was generally looked upon as equally mythical with the great
sea-serpent. Both were popularly scoffed at, and to express belief in
either was to incur ridicule. But in the year above mentioned, specimens
of even greater dimensions than those quoted were met with on the coasts
of Newfoundland, and portions of them were deposited in museums, to
silence the incredulous and interest zoologists. When Archdeacon
Deinbolt published in 1846 the declaration of Mr. Lund and his
companions of the fishing excursion, he and they knew nothing of there
being such an animal. They had formed no conception of it, nor had they
the instructive privilege, possessed of late years by the public in
England, of being able to watch attentively, and at leisure, the habits
and movements of these strangely modified mollusks living in great tanks
of sea-water in aquaria. If they had been thus acquainted with them, I
believe they would have recognised in their supposed snake the elongated
body of a giant squid.


When swimming, these squids propel themselves backwards by the
out-rush of a stream of water from a tube pointed in a direction
contrary to that in which the animal is proceeding. The tail part,
therefore, goes in advance, and the body tapers towards this, almost to
a blunt point. At a short distance from the actual extremity two flat
fins project from the body, one on each side, as shown in Figs. 16 and
18, so that this end of the squid's body somewhat resembles in shape the
government "broad arrow." It is a habit of these squids, the small
species of which are met with in some localities in teeming abundance,
to swim on the smooth surface of the water in hot and calm weather. The
arrow-headed tail is then raised out of water, to a height which in a
large individual might be three feet or more; and, as it precedes the
rest of the body, moving at the rate of several miles an hour, it of
course looks, to a person who has never heard of an animal going tail
first at such a speed, like the creature's head. The appearance of this
"head" varies in accordance with the lateral fins being seen in profile
or in broad expanse. The elongated, tubular-looking body gives the idea
of the neck to which the "head" is attached; the eight arms trailing
behind (the tentacles are always coiled away and concealed) supply the
supposed mane floating on each side; the undulating motion in swimming,
as the water is alternately drawn in and expelled, accords with the
description, and the excurrent stream pouring aft from the locomotor
tube, causes a long swirl and swell to be left in the animal's wake,
which, as I have often seen, may easily be mistaken for an indefinite
prolongation of its body. The eyes are very large and prominent, and the
general tone of colour varies through every tint of brown, purple, pink,
and grey, as the creature is more or less excited, and the pigmentary
matter circulates with more or less vigour through the curiously moving

Here we have the "long marine animal" with "two fins on the forepart of
the body near the head," the "boiling of the water," the "moving in
undulations," the "body round, and of a dark colour," the "waving motion
in the water behind the animal, from which the witnesses concluded that
part of the body was concealed under water," the "head raised, but the
lower part not visible," "the sharp snout," the "smooth skin," and the
appearance described by Mr. William Knudtzon, and Candidatus Theologiæ
Bochlum, of "the head being long and small in proportion to the throat,
the latter appearing much greater than the former," which caused them to
think "it was _probably_ furnished with a mane." Not that they _saw_ any
mane, but as they had been told of it, they thought they _ought to have
seen it_. Less careful and conscientious persons would have persuaded
themselves, and declared on oath, that they _did see it_.

I need scarcely point out how utterly irreconcileable is the
proverbially smooth, gliding motion of a serpent, with the supposition
of its passage through the water causing such frictional disturbance
that "white foam appeared before it, and at the side, which stretched
out several fathoms," and of "the water boiling around it on both sides
of it." The cuttle is the only animal that I know of that would cause
this by the effluent current from its "syphon tube." I have seen a
deeply laden ship push in front of her a vast hillock of water, which
fell off on each side in foam as it was parted by her bow; but that was
of man's construction. Nature builds on better lines. No swimming
creature has such unnecessary friction to overcome. Even the seemingly
unwieldy body of a porpoise enters and passes through the water without
a splash, and nothing can be more easy and graceful than the feathering
action of the flippers of the awkward-looking turtle.

We now come to an incident which, from the character of those who
witnessed it, immediately commanded attention, and excited popular
curiosity. In the _Times_ of the 9th of October, 1848, appeared a
paragraph stating that a sea-serpent had been met with by the _Dædalus_
frigate, on her homeward voyage from the East Indies. The Admiralty
immediately inquired of her commander, Captain M'Quhæ, as to the truth
of the report; and his official reply, as follows, addressed to Admiral
Sir W. H. Gage, G.C.H., Devonport, was printed in the _Times_ of the
13th of October, 1848.

     "H.M.S. _Dædalus_, Hamoaze,
     October 11th, 1848.

     "Sir,--In reply to your letter of this date, requiring information
     as to the truth of the statement published in the _Times_
     newspaper, of a sea-serpent of extraordinary dimensions having been
     seen from H.M.S. _Dædalus_, 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 5
     o'clock P.M. on the 6th of Aug. last, in lat. 24° 44' S. and long.
     9° 22' E., the weather dark and cloudy, wind fresh from the N.W.
     with a long ocean swell from the W., the ship on the port tack,
     head being 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, Lieut. Edgar Drummond, with whom and Mr. Wm.
     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 main-topsail yard would show in the
     water, there was at the very least sixty feet of the animal _à
     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 easily have
     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 it continued in sight of
     our glasses, once below the surface of the water; its colour dark
     brown, and 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 the 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.--PETER M'QUHÆ, Captain."

The sketches referred to in the captain's letter were made under his
supervision, and copies of them, of which he certified his approbation,
were published in the _Illustrated London News_ on the 28th of October,
1848. I am kindly permitted by the proprietors of that journal to
reproduce two of them, reduced in size to suit these pages--one showing
the relative positions of the "serpent" and the ship when the former was
first seen (_Frontispiece_), and the other (Fig. 19) representing the
animal afterwards passing under the frigate's quarter. An enlarged
drawing of its head was also given, which I have not thought it
necessary to copy.


Lieutenant Drummond, the officer of the watch mentioned in Captain
M'Quhæ's report, published his memorandum of the impression made on his
mind by the animal at the time of its appearance. It differs somewhat
from the captain's description, and is the more cautious of the two.

     "I beg to send you the following extract from my journal. H.M.S.
     'Dædalus,' August 6, 1848, lat. 25° S., long. 9° 37' E., St. Helena
     1,015 miles. In the 4 to 6 watch, at about 5 o'clock, we observed a
     most remarkable fish on our lee-quarter, crossing the stern in a
     S.W. direction. The appearance of its head, which with the back fin
     was the only portion of the animal visible, was long, pointed and
     flattened at the top, perhaps ten feet in length, the upper jaw
     projecting considerably; the fin was perhaps 20 feet in the rear of
     the head, and visible occasionally; the captain also asserted that
     he saw the tail, or another fin, about the same distance behind it;
     the upper part of the head and shoulders appeared of a dark brown
     colour, and beneath the under-jaw a brownish-white. It pursued a
     steady undeviating course, keeping its head horizontal with the
     surface of the water, and in rather a raised position, disappearing
     occasionally beneath a wave for a very brief interval, and not
     apparently for purposes of respiration. It was going at the rate of
     perhaps from twelve to fourteen miles an hour, and when nearest was
     perhaps one hundred yards distant; in fact it gave one quite the
     idea of a large snake or eel. No one in the ship has ever seen
     anything similar; so it is at least extraordinary. It was visible
     to the naked eye for five minutes, and with a glass for perhaps
     fifteen more. The weather was dark and squally at the time, with
     some sea running.--EDGAR DRUMMOND, Lieut. H.M.S. 'Dædalus;'
     Southampton, Oct. 28, 1848."

Statements so interesting and important, of course, elicited much
correspondence and controversy. Mr. J. D. Morries Stirling, a director
of the Bergen Museum, wrote to the Secretary of the British Admiralty,
Captain Hamilton, R.N., saying that while becalmed in a yacht between
Bergen and Sogne, in Norway, he had seen, three years previously, a
large fish or reptile of cylindrical form (he would not say "sea
serpent") ruffling the otherwise smooth surface of the fjord. No head
was visible. This appears to have been, like the others from the same
locality, a large calamary. Mr. Stirling unaware, doubtless, that Mr.
Edward Newman, editor of the _Zoologist_, had previously propounded the
same idea, suggested that the supposed serpent might be one of the old
marine reptiles, hitherto supposed only to exist in the fossil state.
This letter was published in the _Illustrated News_ of October 28th, and
four days afterwards, November 2nd, a letter signed F.G.S. appeared in
the _Times_, in which the same idea was mooted, and the opinion
expressed that it might be the _Plesiosaurus_. This brought out that
great master in physiology, Professor Owen, who in a long, and, it is
needless to say, most able letter to the _Times_, dated the 9th of
November, 1848, set forth a series of weighty arguments against belief
in the supposed serpent, which I regret that I am unable, from want of
space, to quote _in extenso_. The reasoning of the most eminent of
living physiologists of course had its influence on those who could best
appreciate it; but, as it went against the current of popular opinion,
it met with little favour from the public, and has been slurred over
much too superciliously by some subsequent writers. He suggested also
that the creature seen might have been a great seal, such as the leonine
seal, or the sea-elephant (the head, as shown in the enlarged drawing,
was wonderfully seal-like), but it was generally felt that this
explanation was unsatisfactory. The nature of his criticism of the
official statement will be seen from Captain M'Quhæ's reply, which was
promptly given in the _Times_ of the 21st of November, 1848, as

     "Professor Owen correctly states that I evidently saw a large
     creature moving rapidly through the water very different from
     anything I had before witnessed, neither a whale, a grampus, a
     great shark, an alligator, nor any of the larger surface-swimming
     creatures fallen in with in ordinary voyages. I now assert--neither
     was it a common seal nor a sea-elephant, its great length and its
     totally differing physiognomy precluding the possibility of its
     being a '_Phoca_' of any species. The head was flat, and not a
     'capacious vaulted cranium;' nor had it a stiff, inflexible
     trunk--a conclusion at which Professor Owen has jumped, most
     certainly not justified by the simple statement, that no portion of
     the sixty feet seen by us was used in propelling it through the
     water either by vertical or horizontal undulation.

     "It is also assumed that the 'calculation of its length was made
     under a strong preconception of the nature of the beast;' another
     conclusion quite contrary to the fact. It was not until after the
     great length was developed by its nearest approach to the ship, and
     until after that most important point had been duly considered and
     debated, as well as such could be in the brief space of time
     allowed for so doing, that it was pronounced to be a serpent by all
     who saw it, and who are too well accustomed to judge of lengths and
     breadths of objects in the sea to mistake a real substance and an
     actual living body, coolly and dispassionately contemplated, at so
     short a distance, too, for the 'eddy caused by the action of the
     deeper immersed fins and tail of a rapidly moving gigantic seal
     raising its head above the surface of the water,' as Professor Owen
     imagines, in quest of its lost iceberg.

     "The creative powers of the human mind may be very limited. On
     this occasion they were not called into requisition; my purpose and
     desire throughout being to furnish eminent naturalists, such as the
     learned Professor, with accurate facts, and not with exaggerated
     representations, nor with what could by any possibility proceed
     from optical illusion; and I beg to assure him that old Pontoppidan
     having clothed his sea-serpent with a mane could not have suggested
     the idea of ornamenting the creature seen from the 'Dædalus' with a
     similar appendage, for the simple reason that I had never seen his
     account, or even heard of his sea-serpent, until my arrival in
     London. Some other solution must therefore be found for the very
     remarkable coincidence between us in that particular, in order to
     unravel the mystery.

     "Finally, I deny the existence of excitement or the possibility of
     optical illusion. I adhere to the statements, as to form, colour,
     and dimensions, contained in my official report to the Admiralty,
     and I leave them as data whereupon the learned and scientific may
     exercise the 'pleasures of imagination' until some more fortunate
     opportunity shall occur of making a closer acquaintance with the
     'great unknown'--in the present instance most assuredly no ghost.

     "P. M'QUHÆ, late Captain of H.M.S. 'Dædalus.'"

Of course neither Professor Owen, nor any one else, doubted the
veracity or _bona fides_ of the captain and officers of one of Her
Majesty's ships; and their testimony was the more important because it
was that of men accustomed to the sights of the sea. Their practised
eyes would, probably, be able to detect the true character of anything
met with afloat, even if only partially seen, as intuitively as the Red
Indian reads the signs of the forest or the trail; and therefore they
were not likely to be deceived by any of the objects with which sailors
are familiar. They would not be deluded by seals, porpoises, trunks of
trees, or Brobdingnagian stems of algæ; but there was one animal with
which they were not familiar, of the existence of which they were
unaware, and which, as I have said, at that date was generally believed
to be as unreal as the sea-serpent itself--namely, the great calamary,
the elongated form of which has certainly in some other instances been
mistaken for that of a sea-snake. One of these seen swimming in the
manner I have described, and endeavoured to portray (p. 77), would
fulfil the description given by Lieutenant Drummond, and would in a
great measure account for the appearances reported by Captain M'Quhæ.
"_The head long, pointed and flat on the top_," accords with the pointed
extremity and caudal fin of the squid. "_Head kept horizontal with the
surface of the water, and in rather a raised position, disappearing
occasionally beneath a wave for a very brief interval, and not
apparently for purposes of respiration._" A perfect description of the
position and action of a squid swimming. "_No portion of it perceptibly
used in propelling it through the water, either by vertical or
horizontal undulations._" The mode of propulsion of a squid--the
outpouring stream of water from its locomotor tube--would be unseen and
unsuspected, because submerged. Its effect, the swirl in its wake, would
suggest a prolongation of the creature's body. The numerous arms
trailing astern at the surface of the water would give the appearance of
a mane. I think it not impossible that if the officers of the _Dædalus_
had been acquainted with this great sea creature the impression on their
mind's eye would not have taken the form of a serpent. I offer this,
with much diffidence, as a suggestion arising from recent discoveries;
and by no means insist on its acceptance; for Captain M'Quhæ, who had a
very close view of the animal, distinctly says that "the head was,
without any doubt, that of a serpent," and one of his officers
subsequently declared that the eye, the mouth, the nostril, the colour,
and the form were all most distinctly visible.

In a letter addressed to the Editor of the _Bombay Times_, and dated
"Kamptee, January 3rd, 1849," Mr. R. Davidson, Superintending Surgeon,
Nagpore Subsidiary Force, describes a great sea animal seen by him
whilst on board the ship _Royal Saxon_, on a voyage to India, in 1829.
The features of this incident are consistent with his having seen one of
the, then unknown, great calamaries.

Dr. Scott, of Exeter, sent to the Editor of the _Zoologist_ (p. 2459),
an extract from the memorandum-book of Lieutenant Sandford, R.N.,
written about the year 1820, when he was in command of the merchant ship
_Lady Combermere_. In it he mentions his having met with, in lat. 46,
long. 3 (Bay of Biscay), an animal unknown to him, an immense body on
the surface of the water, spouting, not unlike the blowing of a whale,
and the raising up of a triangular extremity, and subsequently of a head
and neck erected six feet above the surface of the water. This was
evidently a great squid seen under circumstances similar to those
described by Hans Egede (p. 67).

In the _Sun_ Newspaper of July 9th, 1849, was published the following
statement of Captain Herriman, of the ship _Brazilian_:

     "On the morning of the 24th February, the ship being becalmed in
     lat. 26° S., long. 8° E. (about forty miles from the place where
     Captain M'Quhæ is said to have seen the serpent), the captain
     perceived something right astern, stretched along the water to a
     length of twenty five or thirty feet, and perceptibly moving from
     the ship, with a steady sinuous motion. The head, which seemed to
     be lifted several feet above the water, had something resembling a
     mane running down to the floating portion, and within about six
     feet of the tail. Of course Captain Herriman, Mr. Long, his chief
     officer, and the passengers who saw this came to the conclusion
     that it must be the sea-serpent. As the 'Brazilian' was making no
     headway, to bring all doubts to an issue, the captain had a boat
     lowered, and himself standing in the bow, armed with a harpoon,
     approached the monster. It was found to be an immense piece of
     sea-weed, drifting with the current, which sets constantly to the
     westward in this latitude, and which, with the swell left by the
     subsidence of a previous gale, gave it the sinuous snake-like

Captain Harrington, of the ship _Castilian_, reported in the _Times_ of
February 5th, 1858, that:

     "On the 12th of December, 1857, N.E. end of St. Helena distant ten
     miles, he and his officers were startled by the sight of a huge
     marine animal which reared its head out of the water within twenty
     yards of the ship. The head was shaped like a long nun-buoy,[31]
     and they supposed it to have been seven or eight feet in diameter
     in the largest part, with a kind of scroll or tuft of loose skin,
     encircling it about two feet from the top. The water was
     discoloured for several hundred feet from its head, so much so that
     on its first appearance my impression was that the ship was in
     broken water."

  [31] See illustration, p. 67.

Evidently, again, a large calamary raising its caudal extremity and fin
above the surface, and discolouring the water by discharging its ink.

This was immediately followed by a letter from Captain Frederick Smith,
of the ship _Pekin_, who stated that:

     "On December 28th, 1848, being then in lat. 26° S., long. 6° E.
     (about half-way between the Cape and St. Helena), he saw a very
     extraordinary-looking thing in the water, of considerable length.
     With the telescope, he could plainly discern a huge head and neck,
     covered with a shaggy-looking kind of mane, which it kept lifting
     at intervals out of water. This was seen by all hands, and was
     declared to be the great sea-serpent. A boat was lowered; a line
     was made fast to the 'snake,' and it was towed alongside and
     hoisted on board. It was a piece of gigantic sea-weed, twenty feet
     long, and completely covered with snaky-looking barnacles. So like
     a huge living monster did this appear, that had circumstances
     prevented my sending a boat to it, I should certainly have believed
     I had seen the great sea-serpent."

In September, 1872, Mr. Frank Buckland published, in _Land and Water_,
an account by the late Duke of Marlborough, of a "sea-serpent" having
been seen several times within a few days, in Loch Hourn, Scotland. A
sketch of it was given which almost exactly accorded with that of
Pontoppidan's sea-serpent, namely, seven hunches or protuberances like
so many porpoises swimming in line, preceded by a head and neck raised
slightly out of water. Many other accounts have been published of the
appearance of serpent-like sea monsters, but I have only space for two
or three more of the most remarkable of them.

On the 10th of January, 1877, the following affidavit was made before
Mr. Raffles, magistrate, at Liverpool:

     "We, the undersigned officers and crew of the barque 'Pauline' (of
     London), of Liverpool, in the county of Lancaster, in the United
     Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, do solemnly and sincerely
     declare that, on July 8, 1875, in lat. 5° 13' S., long. 35° W., we
     observed three large sperm whales, and one of them was gripped
     round the body with two turns of what appeared to be a huge
     serpent. The head and tail appeared to have a length beyond the
     coils of about thirty feet, and its girth eight feet or nine feet.
     The serpent whirled its victim round and round for about fifteen
     minutes, and then suddenly dragged the whale to the bottom, head


     "Again, on July 13, a similar serpent was seen, about two hundred
     yards off, shooting itself along the surface, head and neck being
     out of the water several feet. This was seen only by the captain
     and one ordinary seaman.


     "A few moments after it was seen some 60 feet elevated
     perpendicularly in the air by the chief officer and the following
     seamen:--Horatio Thompson, Owen Baker, Wm. Lewarn. And we make this
     solemn declaration, conscientiously believing the same to be true."

In the _Illustrated London News_, of November 20th, 1875, there had
previously appeared a letter from the Rev. E. L. Penny, Chaplain to
H.M.S. _London_, at Zanzibar, describing this occurrence and also the
representation of a sketch (which I am kindly permitted to reproduce
here), drawn by him from the descriptions given by the captain and crew
of the _Pauline_. "The whale," he said, "should have been placed deeper
in the water, but he would then have been unable to depict so clearly
the manner in which the animal was attacked." He adds that, "Captain
Drevar is a singularly able and observant man, and those of the crew and
officers with whom he conversed were singularly intelligent; nor did any
of their descriptions vary from one another in the least: there were no
discrepancies." The event took place whilst their vessel was on her way
from Shields to Zanzibar, with a cargo of coals, for the use of H.M.S.
_London_, then the guard ship on that station.

It is impossible to doubt for a moment the genuineness of the
statement made by Captain Drevar and his crew, or their honest desire to
describe faithfully that which they believed they had seen; but the
height to which the snake is said to have upreared itself is evidently
greatly exaggerated; for it is impossible that any serpent could
"elevate its body some sixty feet perpendicularly in the air"--nearly
one-third of the height of the Monument of the Great Fire of London. I
have no desire to force this narrative of the master and crew of the
_Pauline_ into conformity with any preconceived idea. They may have seen
a veritable sea-serpent; or they may have witnessed the amours of two
whales, and have seen the great creatures rolling over and over that
they might breathe alternately by the blow-hole of each coming to the
surface of the water; or the supposed coils of the snake may have been
the arms of a great calamary, cast over and around the huge cetacean.
The other two appearances--1st, the animal "seen shooting itself along
the surface with head and neck raised" (p. 77), and 2nd, the elevation
of the body to a considerable height, as in Egede's sea monster, (p.
67), would certainly accord with this last hypothesis; but, taking the
statement as it stands, it must be left for further elucidation.


On the 28th of January, 1879, a "sea-serpent" was seen from the s.s.
_City of Baltimore_, in the Gulf of Aden, by Major H. W. J. Senior, of
the Bengal Staff Corps. The narrator "observed a long, black object
darting rapidly in and out of the water, and advancing nearer to the
vessel. The shape of the head was not unlike pictures of the dragon he
had often seen, with a bull-dog expression of the forehead and eyebrows.
When the monster had drawn its head sufficiently out of the water, it
let its body drop, as it were a log of wood, prior to darting forward
under the water. This motion caused a splash of about fifteen feet in
length on either side of the neck much in the 'shape of a pair of
wings.'" This last particular of its appearance, as well as its
movements, suggest a great calamary; but, as one with "a bull-dog
expression of eyebrow, visible at 500 yards distance," does not come
within my ken, I will not claim it as such.


In June 1877 Commander Pearson reported to the Admiralty, that on the
2nd of that month, he and other officers of the Royal Yacht _Osborne_,
had seen, off Cape Vito, Sicily, a large marine animal, of which the
following account and sketches were furnished by Lieutenant Haynes, and
were confirmed by Commander Pearson, Mr. Douglas Haynes, Mr. Forsyth,
and Mr. Moore, engineer.

     "Lieutenant Haynes writes, under date, 'Royal Yacht _Osborne_,
     Gibraltar, June 6': On the evening of that day, 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 cables' 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 to 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 herewith
     beg to enclose a rough sketch, showing the view of the 'ridge of
     fins,' and also of the animal in the act of propelling itself by
     its two fins."





It seems to me that this description cannot be explained as applicable
to any one animal yet known. The ridge of dorsal fins might, possibly,
as was suggested by Mr. Frank Buckland, belong to four basking sharks,
swimming in line, in close order; but the combination of them with long
flippers, and the turtle-like mode of swimming, forms a zoological
enigma which I am unable to solve.

This brings us face to face with the question: "Is it then so
impossible that there may exist some great sea creature, or creatures,
with which zoologists are hitherto unacquainted, that it is necessary in
every case to regard the authors of such narratives as wilfully
untruthful, or mistaken in their observations, if their descriptions are
irreconcileable with something already known?" I, for one, am of the
opinion that there is no such impossibility. Calamaries or squids of the
ordinary size have, from time immemorial, been amongst the commonest and
best known of marine animals in many seas; but only a few years ago any
one who expressed his belief in one formidable enough to capsize a boat,
or pull a man out of one, was derided for his credulity, although
voyagers had constantly reported that in the Indian seas they were so
dreaded that the natives always carried hatchets with them in their
canoes, with which to cut off the arms or tentacles of these creatures,
if attacked by them. We now know that their existence is no fiction; for
individuals have been captured measuring more than fifty feet, and some
are reported to have measured eighty feet, in total length. As marine
snakes some feet in length, and having fin-like tails adapted for
swimming, abound over an extensive geographical range, and are
frequently met with far at sea, I cannot regard it as impossible that
some of these also may attain to an abnormal and colossal development.
Dr. Andrew Wilson, who has given much attention to this subject, is of
the opinion that "in this huge development of ordinary forms we discover
the true and natural law of the production of the giant serpent of the
sea." It goes far, at any rate, towards accounting for its supposed
appearance. I am convinced that, whilst naturalists have been searching
amongst the vertebrata for a solution of the problem, the great unknown,
and therefore unrecognized, calamaries by their elongated, cylindrical
bodies and peculiar mode of swimming, have played the part of the
sea-serpent in many a well-authenticated incident. In other cases, such
as some of those mentioned by Pontoppidan, the supposed "vertical
undulations" of the snake seen out of water have been the burly bodies
of so many porpoises swimming in line--the connecting undulations
beneath the surface have been supplied by the imagination. The dorsal
fins of basking sharks, as figured by Mr. Buckland, or of ribbon-fishes,
as suggested by Dr. Andrew Wilson, may have furnished the "ridge of
fins;" an enormous conger is not an impossibility; a giant turtle may
have done duty, with its propelling flippers and broad back; or a marine
snake of enormous size may, really, have been seen. But if we accept as
accurate the observations recorded (which I certainly do not in all
cases, for they are full of errors and mistakes), the difficulty is not
entirely met, even by this last admission, for the instances are very
few in which an ophidian proper--a true serpent--is indicated. There has
seemed to be wanting an animal having a long snake-like neck, a small
head and a slender body, and propelling itself by paddles.[32]

  [32] It must be noted, however, that in almost every case, except
  that of the _Osborne_, the paddles were _supposed_, not _seen_, and
  were invented to account for an animal of great length progressing
  at the surface of the water at the rate of twelve to fifteen miles
  an hour without its being possible to perceive, upon the closest
  and most attentive inspection, any undulatory movement to which its
  rapid advance could be ascribed. As the great calamaries were
  unknown, their mode of swift retrograde motion, by means of an
  outflowing current of water, was of course unsuspected.

The similarity of such an animal to the _Plesiosaurus_ of old was
remarkable. That curious compound reptile, which has been compared with
"a snake threaded through the body of a turtle," is described by Dean
Buckland, in his _Bridgewater Treatise_, as having "the head of a
lizard, the teeth of a crocodile, a neck of enormous length resembling
the body of a serpent, the ribs of a chameleon, and the paddles of a
whale." In the number of its cervical vertebræ (about thirty-three) it
surpasses that of the longest-necked bird, the swan.

The form and probable movements of this ancient saurian agree so
markedly with some of the accounts given of the "great sea-serpent,"
that Mr. Edward Newman advanced the opinion that the closest affinities
of the latter would be found to be with the _Enaliosauria_, or marine
lizards, whose fossil remains are so abundant in the oolite and the
lias. This view has also been taken by other writers, and emphatically
by Mr. Gosse. Neither he nor Mr. Newman insist that the "great unknown"
must be the _Plesiosaurus_ itself. Mr. Gosse says, "I should not look
for any species, scarcely even any genus, to be perpetuated from the
oolitic period to the present. Admitting the actual continuation of the
order _Enaliosauria_, it would be, I think, quite in conformity with
general analogy to find some salient features of several extinct forms."

[Illustration: FIG 24.

_Plesiosaurus Dolichodeirus restored by The Rev. W. D. Canybeare._]

The form and habits of the recently-recognized gigantic cuttles account
for so many appearances which, without knowledge of them, were
inexplicable when Mr. Gosse and Mr. Newman wrote, that I think this
theory is not now forced upon us. Mr. Gosse well and clearly sums up the
evidence as follows: "Carefully comparing the independent narratives of
English witnesses of known character and position, most of them being
officers under the crown, we have a creature possessing the following
characteristics: 1st. The general form of a serpent. 2nd. Great length,
say above sixty feet. 3rd. Head considered to resemble that of a
serpent. 4th. Neck from twelve to sixteen inches in diameter. 5th.
Appendages on the head, neck, or back, resembling a crest or mane.
(Considerable discrepancy in details.) 6th. Colour dark brown, or green,
streaked or spotted with white. 7th. Swims at surface of the water with
a rapid or slow movement, the head and neck projected and elevated above
the surface. 8th. Progression, steady and uniform; the body straight,
but capable of being thrown into convolutions. 9th. Spouts in the manner
of a whale. 10th. Like a long nun-buoy." He concludes with the
question--"To which of the recognized classes of created beings can this
huge rover of the ocean be referred?"

I reply: "To the Cephalopoda. There is not one of the above judiciously
summarized characteristics that is not supplied by the great calamary,
and its ascertained habits and peculiar mode of locomotion.

"Only a geologist can fully appreciate how enormously the balance of
probability is contrary to the supposition that any of the gigantic
marine saurians of the secondary deposits should have continued to live
up to the present time. And yet I am bound to say, that this does not
amount to an impossibility, for the evidence against it is entirely
negative. Nor is the conjecture that there may be in existence some
congeners of these great reptiles inconsistent with zoological science.
Dr. J. E. Gray, late of the British Museum, a strict zoologist, is cited
by Mr. Gosse as having long ago expressed his opinion that some
undescribed form exists which is intermediate between the tortoises and
the serpents."[33]

  [33] Dr. Gray wrote in his 'Synopsis of Genera of Reptiles,' in the
  Annals of Philosophy, 1825: "There is every reason to believe from
  general structure that there exists an affinity between the
  tortoises and the snakes; but the genus that exactly unites them is
  at present unknown to European naturalists; which is not
  astonishing when we consider the immense number of undescribed
  animals which are daily occurring. If I may be allowed to speculate
  from the peculiarities of structure which I have observed, I am
  inclined to think that the union will most probably take place by
  some newly discovered genera allied to the marine or fluviatile
  soft-skinned turtles and the marine serpent."


_After_ Mr. P. H. GOSSE, F.R.S.]

Professor Agassiz, too, is adduced by a correspondent of the _Zoologist_
(p. 2395), as having said concerning the present existence of the
_Enaliosaurian_ type that "it would be in precise conformity with
analogy that such an animal should exist in the American Seas, as he had
found numerous instances in which the fossil forms of the Old World were
represented by living types in the New."

On this point, Mr. Newman records, in the _Zoologist_ (p. 2356), an
actual testimony which he considers, "in all respects, the most
interesting natural-history fact of the present century." He writes:

     "Captain the Hon. George Hope states that when in H.M.S. 'Fly,' in
     the Gulf of California, the sea being perfectly calm and
     transparent, he saw at the bottom a large marine animal with the
     head and general figure of the alligator, except that the neck was
     much longer, and that instead of legs the creature had four large
     flappers, somewhat like those of turtles, the anterior pair being
     larger than the posterior; the creature was distinctly visible, and
     all its movements could be observed with ease; it appeared to be
     pursuing its prey at the bottom of the sea; its movements were
     somewhat serpentine, and an appearance of annulations, or ring-like
     divisions of the body, was distinctly perceptible. Captain Hope
     made this relation in company, and as a matter of conversation.
     When I heard it from the gentleman to whom it was narrated, I
     enquired whether Captain Hope was acquainted with those remarkable
     fossil animals _Ichthyosauri_ and _Plesiosauri_, the supposed forms
     of which so nearly correspond with what he describes as having seen
     alive, and I cannot find that he had heard of them; the alligator
     being the only animal he mentioned as bearing a partial similarity
     to the creature in question."

Unfortunately, the estimated dimensions of this creature are not given.

That negative evidence alone is an unsafe basis for argument against the
existence of unknown animals, the following illustrations will show:

During the deep-sea dredgings of H.M.S. _Lightning_, _Porcupine_, and
_Challenger_, many new species of mollusca, and others which had been
supposed to have been extinct ever since the chalk epoch, were brought
to light; and by the deep-sea trawlings of the last-mentioned ship,
there have been brought up from great depths fishes of unknown species,
and which could not exist near the surface, owing to the distension and
rupture of their air-bladder when removed from the pressure of deep

Mr. Gosse mentions that the ship in which he made the voyage to Jamaica
was surrounded in the North Atlantic, for seventeen continuous hours by
a troop of whales of large size of an undescribed species, which on no
other occasion has fallen under scientific observation. Unique specimens
of other cetaceans are also recorded.

We have evidence, to which attention has been directed by Mr. A. D.
Bartlett, that, "even on land there exists at least one of the largest
mammals, probably in thousands, of which only one individual has been
brought to notice, namely, the hairy-eared, two horned rhinoceros (_R.
lasiotis_), now in the Zoological Gardens, London. It was captured in
1868, at Chittagong, in India, where for years collectors and
naturalists have worked and published lists of the animals met with, and
yet no knowledge of this great beast was ever before obtained, nor is
there any portion of one in any museum. It remains unique."

I arrive, then, at the following conclusions: 1st. That, without
straining resemblances, or casting a doubt upon narratives not proved to
be erroneous, the various appearances of the supposed "Great
Sea-serpent" may now be nearly all accounted for by the forms and habits
of known animals; especially if we admit, as proposed by Dr. Andrew
Wilson, that some of them, including the marine snakes, may, like the
cuttles, attain to an extraordinary size.

2nd. That to assume that naturalists have perfect cognizance of every
existing marine animal of large size, would be quite unwarrantable. It
appears to me more than probable that many marine animals, unknown to
science, and some of them of gigantic size, may have their ordinary
habitat in the great depths of the sea, and only occasionally come to
the surface; and I think it not impossible that amongst them may be
marine snakes of greater dimensions than we are aware of, and even a
creature having close affinities with the old sea-reptiles whose fossil
skeletons tell of their magnitude and abundance in past ages.

It is most desirable that every supposed appearance of the "Great
Sea-serpent" shall be faithfully noted and described; and I hope that no
truthful observer will be deterred from reporting such an occurrence by
fear of the disbelief of naturalists, or the ridicule of witlings.



[Illustration: A MERMAID.

_From a Picture by Otto Sinding._]

  _International Fisheries Exhibition_ LONDON, 1883



  HENRY LEE, F.L.S., F.G.S., F.Z.S.







The little book 'Sea Monsters Unmasked,' recently issued as one of the
Handbooks in connection with the Great International Fisheries
Exhibition has met with so favourable a reception, that I have been
honoured by the request to continue the subject, and to treat also of
some of the Fables of the Sea, which once were universally believed, and
even now are not utterly extinct.

The topic is not here exhausted. Other sea fables and fallacies might be
mentioned and explained; but the amount of letter-press, and the number
of illustrations that can be printed without loss for the small sum of
one shilling--the price at which these Handbooks are uniformly
published--is necessarily limited. I have, therefore, thought it better
to endeavour to make each chapter as complete as possible than to crowd
into the space allotted to me a greater variety of subjects less fully
and carefully discussed.

I have the pleasure of acknowledging the kind assistance I have again
received in the matter of illustrations. I gratefully appreciate Mr.
Murray's permission to use the woodcut of Hercules slaying the Hydra,
taken from Smith's 'Classical Dictionary,' and those of the golden
ornaments found by Dr. Schliemann at Mycenæ, and figured in the very
interesting book in which his excavations there are described. I have
also to thank the proprietors of the _Illustrated London News_, the
_Leisure Hour_, and _Land and Water_, for the use of illustrations
especially mentioned in the text.

                                        HENRY LEE.

  _Sept. 4th, 1883_.



  THE MERMAID                          1

  THE LERNEAN HYDRA                   48

  SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS                59

  THE "SPOUTING" OF WHALES            62




  FIG.                                                          PAGE

   A MERMAID. _From a picture by Otto Sinding_        _Frontispiece_

      _From a gem in the Florentine Gallery. After Calmet_

   2. HEA, OR NOAH, THE GOD OF THE FLOOD. _Khorsabad_              3

   3. DAGON. _From a bas-relief. Nimroud_                          4

   4. DAGON: HALF MAN, HALF FISH. _From Lamy's 'Apparatus          5

   5. DAGON. _From an agate signet. Nineveh_                       "

   6. FISH AVATAR OF VISHNU. _After Calmet and Maurice_            6

   7. ATERGATIS, THE GODDESS OF THE SYRIANS. _From a               8
      Phoenician Coin_


   9. VENUS DRAWN IN HER CHARIOT BY TRITONS. _From two            10
      Corinthian Coins_

  10. DITTO.                                                      11

  11. SEAL, DRAWN AS A FISH. _From the Catacombs at Rome_          "

  12. MERMAID AND FISHES OF AMBOYNA. _After Valentyn_             17

  13. A JAPANESE ARTIFICIAL MERMAID                               27

  14. AN ARTIFICIAL MERMAID. _Probably Japanese_                  28


  16. THE DUGONG. _From Sir J. Emerson Tennent's 'Ceylon'_        43

  17. THE MANATEE                                                 45



  20. DITTO.                                                      52

  21. DITTO.                                                      53

  22. DITTO.                                                       "

  23. HERCULES SLAYING THE LERNEAN HYDRA                          57

  24. THE PHYSETER INUNDATING A SHIP. _After Olaus Magnus_        64

      _After Olaus Magnus_

  26. SPERM WHALES "SPOUTING"                                     65

  27. THE PAPER NAUTILUS (_Argonauta argo_) SAILING               76

  28. DITTO. RETRACTED WITHIN ITS SHELL                           81

  29. DITTO. CRAWLING                                             86

  30. DITTO. SWIMMING                                             87

  31. SHELL OF THE PAPER NAUTILUS (_Argonauta argo_)              88

  32. SHELL OF THE PEARLY NAUTILUS (_Nautilus pompilius_)         89

  33. THE PEARLY NAUTILUS (_Nautilus Pompilius_) AND SECTION OF   90

  34. THE GOOSE-TREE. _From Gerard's 'Herball'_                  104

  35. DITTO. _Fac-simile from Aldrovandus_                       110

  36. DEVELOPMENT OF BARNACLES INTO GEESE. _Fac-simile from      111

  37. SECTION OF A SESSILE BARNACLE. _Balanus tintinnabulum_     113

  38. PEDUNCULATED BARNACLE. _Lepas anatifera_                   115


  40. WHALE BARNACLE. _Coronula diadema_                         117

  41. A YOUNG BARNACLE. _Larva of Chthamalus stellatus_          118



Next to the pleasure which the earnest zoologist derives from study of
the habits and structure of living animals, and his intelligent
appreciation of their perfect adaptation to their modes of life, and the
circumstances in which they are placed, is the interest he feels in
eliminating fiction from truth, whilst comparing the fancies of the past
with the facts of the present. As his knowledge increases, he learns
that the descriptions by ancient writers of so-called "fabulous
creatures" are rather distorted portraits than invented falsehoods, and
that there is hardly one of the monsters of old which has not its
prototype in Nature at the present day. The idea of the Lernean Hydra,
whose heads grew again when cut off by Hercules, originated, as I have
shown in another chapter, in a knowledge of the octopus; and in the form
and movements of other animals with which we are now familiar we may, in
like manner, recognise the similitude and archetype of the mermaid.

But we must search deeply into the history of mankind to discover the
real source of a belief that has prevailed in almost all ages, and in
all parts of the world, in the existence of a race of beings uniting the
form of man with that of the fish. A rude resemblance between these
creatures of imagination and tradition and certain aquatic animals is
not sufficient to account for that belief. It probably had its origin in
ancient mythologies, and in the sculptures and pictures connected with
them, which were designed to represent certain attributes of the deities
of various nations. In the course of time the meaning of these was lost;
and subsequent generations regarded as the portraits of existing beings
effigies which were at first intended to be merely emblematic and


_From a Gem in the Florentine Gallery. After Calmet._]

Early idolatry consisted, first, in separating the idea of the One
Divinity into that of his various attributes, and of inventing symbols
and making images of each separately; secondly, in the worship of the
sun, moon, stars, and planets, as living existences; thirdly, in the
deification of ancestors and early kings; and these three forms were
often mingled together in strange and tangled confusion.

Amongst the famous personages with whose history men were made
acquainted by oral tradition was Noah. He was known as the second father
of the human race, and the preserver and teacher of the arts and
sciences as they existed before the Great Deluge, of which so many
separate traditions exist among the various races of mankind.
Consequently, he was an object of worship in many countries and under
many names; and his wife and sons, as his assistants in the diffusion of
knowledge, were sometimes associated with him.

According to Berosus, of Babylon,--the Chaldean priest and astronomer,
who extracted from the sacred books of "that great city" much
interesting ancient lore, which he introduced into his 'History of
Syria,' written, about B.C. 260, for the use of the Greeks,--at a time
when men were sunk in barbarism, there came up from the Erythrean Sea
(the Persian Gulf), and landed on the Babylonian shore, a creature named
Oannes, which had the body and head of a fish. But above the fish's head
was the head of a man, and below the tail of the fish were human feet.
It had also human arms, a human voice, and human language. This strange
monster sojourned among the rude people during the day, taking no food,
but retiring to the sea at night; and it continued for some time thus to
visit them, teaching them the arts of civilized life, and instructing
them in science and religion.[34]

  [34] Berosus, lib. i. p. 48.

[Illustration: FIG. 2.--HEA, OR NOAH, THE GOD OF THE FLOOD.

In this tale we have a distorted account of the life and occupation of
Noah after his escape from the deluge which destroyed his home and
drowned his neighbours. Oannes was one of the names under which he was
worshipped in Chaldea, at Erech ("the place of the ark"), as the sacred
and intelligent fish-god, the teacher of mankind, the god of science and
knowledge. There he was also called Oes, Hoa, Ea, Ana, Anu, Aun, and
Oan. Noah was worshipped, also, in Syria and Mesopotamia, and in Egypt,
at "populous No,"[35] or Thebes--so named from "Theba," "the ark."

  [35] Nahum iii. 8.

[Illustration: FIG. 3.--DAGON. _From a bas relief. Nimroud._]

The history of the coffin of Osiris is another version of Noah's ark,
and the period during which that Egyptian divinity is said to have been
shut up in it, after it was set afloat upon the waters, was precisely
the same as that during which Noah remained in the ark.

Dagon, also--sometimes called Odacon--the great fish-god of the
Philistines and Babylonians, was another phase of Oannes. "Dag," in
Hebrew, signifies "a male fish," and "Aun" and "Oan" were two of the
names of Noah. "Dag-aun" or "Dag-oan" therefore means "the fish Noah."
He was portrayed in two ways. The more ancient image of him was that of
a man issuing from a fish, as described of Oannes by Berosus; but in
later times it was varied to that of a man whose upper half was human,
and the lower parts those of a fish. The image of Dagon which fell upon
its face to the ground before "the ark of the God of Israel," was
probably of this latter form, for we read[36] that in its fall, "the
head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the
threshold: only the _stump_ (in the margin, "_the fishy part_") of Dagon
was left to him." This was evidently Milton's conception of him:

     "Dagon his name; sea-monster, upward man
     And downward fish."[37]

  [36] 1 Samuel v. 4.

  [37] 'Paradise Lost,' Book i. l. 462.

[Illustration: FIG. 4.--DAGON. _After Calmet._]

[Illustration: FIG. 5.--DAGON. _From an Agate Signet. Nineveh._]

In some of the Nineveh sculptures of the fish-god, the head of the fish
forms a kind of mitre on the head of the man, whilst the body of the
fish appears as a cloak or cape over his shoulders and back. The fish
varies in length; in some cases the tail almost touches the ground; in
others it reaches but little below the man's waist.

[Illustration: FIG. 6.--FISH AVATAR OF VISHNU.

_After Calmet and Maurice._]

In one of his "avatars," or incarnations, the god Vishnu "the
Preserver," is represented as issuing from the mouth of a fish. He is
celebrated as having miraculously preserved one righteous family, and,
also, the Vedas, the sacred records, when the world was drowned. Not
only is this legend of the Indian god wrought up with the history of
Noah, but Vishnu and Noah bear the same name--Vishnu being the Sanscrit
form of "Ish-nuh," "the man Noah." The word "avatar" also means "out of
the boat." In fact the whole mythology of Greece and Rome, as well as of
Asia, is full of the history and deeds of Noah, which it is impossible
to misunderstand. In all the representations of a deity having a
combined human and piscine form, the original idea was that of a person
coming out of a fish--not being part of one, but issuing from
it, as Noah issued from the ark. In all of them the fish denoted
"preservation," "fecundity," "plenty," and "diffusion of knowledge."[38]
As the image was not the effigy of a divine personage, but symbolized
certain attributes of Divinity, its sex was comparatively unimportant,
although it is possible that, combined with the fecundity of the fish,
the idea of Noah's wife, as the second mother of all subsequent
generations, according to the widely-spread and accepted traditions of
the deluge, may have influenced the impersonation.

  [38] Some writers are of the opinion that the legend of Oannes
  contains an allusion to the rising and setting of the sun, and that
  his semi-piscine form was the expression of the idea that half his
  time was spent above ground, and half below the waves. The same
  commentators also regard all the "civilizing" gods and goddesses
  as, respectively, solar and lunar deities. The attributes
  symbolized in the worship of Noah and the sun are so nearly alike
  that the two interpretations are not incompatible.

Atergatis, the far-famed goddess of the Syrians, was also a
fish-divinity. Her image, like that of Dagon, had at first a fish's body
with human extremities protruding from it; but in the course of
centuries it was gradually altered to that of a being the upper portion
of whose body was that of a woman and the lower half that of a fish.
Gatis was a powerful queen of Sidon, and mother of Semiramis. She
received the title of "Ater," or "Ader," "the Great," for the benefits
she conferred on her people; one of these benefits being a strict
conservation of their fisheries, both from their own imprudent use, and
from foreign interference. She issued an edict that no fish should be
eaten without her consent, and that no one should take fish in the
neighbouring sea without a licence from herself. It is not improbable
that she and her celebrated daughter, who is said by Ovid and others to
have been the builder of the walls of Babylon, were worshipped together;
for that Atergatis was the same as the fish-goddess Ashteroth, or
Ashtoreth, "the builder of the encompassing wall," we have, amongst
other proofs, a remarkable one in Biblical history. In the first book of
Maccabees v. 43, 44, we read that "all the heathen being discomfited
before him (Judas Maccabeus) cast away their weapons, and fled unto the
temple that was at _Carnaim_. But they took the city, and burned the
temple with all that were therein. Thus was _Carnaim_ subdued, neither
could they stand any longer before Judas." In the second book of
Maccabees xii. 26, we are told that "Maccabeus marched forth to
_Carnion_, and to the temple of _Atargatis_, and there he slew five and
twenty thousand persons." In Genesis xiv. 5, this city and temple are
referred to as "_Ashteroth Karnaim_."

Fig. 7 is a representation of Atergatis on a medal coined at Marseilles.
It shows that when the Phoenician colony from Syria, by whom that city
was founded, settled there, they brought with them the worship of the
gods of their country.

[Illustration: FIG. 7.--ATERGATIS.

_From a Phoenician coin._]

Atergatis was worshipped by the Greeks as Derceto and Astarte. Lucian
writes[39]:--"In Phoenicia I saw the image of Derceto, a strange sight,
truly! For she had the half of a woman, and from the thighs downwards a
fish's tail." Diodorus Siculus describes (lib. ii.) the same deity, as
represented at Ascalon, as "having the face of a woman, but all the rest
of the body a fish's." And this very same image at Ascalon, which
Diodorus calls Derceto, or Atergatis, is denominated by Herodotus[40]
"the celestial Aphrodite," who was identical with the Cyprian and Roman
Venus. Of all the sacred buildings erected to the goddess, this temple
was by far the most ancient; and the Cyprians themselves acknowledged
that their temple was built after the model of it by certain Phoenicians
who came from that part of Syria.

  [39] 'Opera Omnia,' tom. ii. p. 884, edit. Bened. de Dea. Syr.

  [40] Lib. i. cap. cv.


_After Calmet._]

Thus the worship of Noah, as the second father of mankind, the
repopulator of the earth, passed through various phases and
transformations till it merged in that of Venus, who rose from the sea,
and was regarded as the representative of the reproductive power of
Nature--the goddess whom Lucretius thus addressed:

    "Blest Venus! Thou the sea and fruitful earth
    Peoplest amain; to thee whatever lives
    Its being owes, and that it sees the sun:"

and to whom refers the passage in the Orphic hymn:

    "From thee are all things--all things thou producest
    Which are in heaven, or in the fertile earth,
    Or in the sea, or in the great abyss."

Under this latter phase--the impersonation of Venus--the fish portion of
the body was discarded, and the cast-off form was allotted in popular
credence to the Tritons--minor deities, who acknowledged the supremacy
of the goddess, and were ready to render her homage and service by
bearing her in their arms, drawing her chariot, etc., but who still
possessed considerable power as sea-gods, and could calm the waves and
rule the storm, at pleasure.


FIG. 9. FIG. 10.

VENUS DRAWN IN HER CHARIOT BY TRITONS. _From two Corinthian coins._]

Figs. 9 and 10 are from two Corinthian medals, each shewing Venus in a
car or chariot drawn by Tritons, one male, the other female. On the
obverse of Fig. 9, is the head of Nero, and on that of Fig. 10, the head
of his grandmother Agrippina.[41]

  [41] It is worthy of note that the fish was also adopted as an
  emblem by the early Christians, and was frequently sculptured on
  their tombs as a private mark or sign of the faith in which the
  person there interred had died. It alluded to the letters which
  composed the Greek word [Greek: Ichthys] ("a fish") forming an
  anagram, the initials of words which conveyed the following
  sentiment: [Greek: Iêsous], Jesus; [Greek: Christos], Christ;
  [Greek: Theou], of God; [Greek: gios], Son; [Greek: Sôtêr],
  Saviour. But it doubtless bore, also, the older meaning of
  "preservation" and "reproduction," of which the fish was the
  symbol, and betokened a belief in a future resurrection, as Noah
  was preserved to dwell in, and populate, a new world. In 'Sea
  Monsters Unmasked,' page 55, I gave a figure, copied by permission
  from the _Illustrated London News_, of a rough sculpture in the
  Roman catacombs, of Jonah being disgorged by a sea-monster. Near to
  it was found, on another Christian tomb, one of these designs of
  the "fish;" and it is not a little curious that, whereas the animal
  depicted as casting forth Jonah is not a whale, but a sea-serpent,
  or dragon, the _ichtheus_ in this instance is apparently not a
  fish, but a seal.

  [Illustration: FIG. 11.--CHRISTIAN SYMBOL. _From the Catacombs at

  The article referred to appeared in the _Illustrated London News_ of
  February 3rd, 1872, and the woodcut (fig. 11), an electrotype of
  which was most kindly presented to me by the proprietors of that
  paper, was one of the sketches that accompanied it.

From the very earliest period of history, then, the conjoined human and
fish form was known to every generation of men. It was presented to
their sight in childhood by sculptures and pictures, and was a
conspicuous object in their religious worship. By the lapse of time its
original import was lost and debased; and, from being an emblem and
symbol, it came to be accepted as the corporeal shape and structure of
actually-existent sea-deities, who might present themselves to the view
of the mariner, in visible and tangible form, at any moment. Thus were
men trained and prepared to believe in mermen and mermaids, to expect to
meet with them at sea, and to recognise as one of them any animal the
appearance and movements of which could possibly be brought into
conformity with their pre-conceived ideas.

Accordingly, and very naturally, we find that from north to south this
belief has been entertained. Megasthenes, who was a contemporary of
Aristotle, but his junior, and whose geographical work was probably
written at about the period of the great philosopher's death, reported
that the sea which surrounded Taprobana, the ancient Ceylon, was
inhabited by creatures having the appearance of women. Ælian stated that
there were "whales," or "great fishes," having the form of satyrs. The
early Portuguese settlers in India asserted that true mermen were found
in the Eastern seas, and old Norse legends tell of submarine beings of
conjoined human and piscine form, who dwell in a wide territory far
below the region of the fishes, over which the sea, like the cloudy
canopy of our sky, loftily rolls, and some of whom have, from time to
time, landed on Scandinavian shores, exchanged their fishy extremities
for human limbs, and acquired amphibious habits. Not only have poets
sung of the wondrous and seductive beauty of the maidens of these
aquatic tribes, but many a Jack tar has come home from sea prepared to
affirm on oath that he has seen a mermaid. To the best of his belief he
has told the truth. He has seen some living being which looked
wonderfully human, and his imagination, aided by an inherited
superstition, has supplied the rest.

Before endeavouring to identify the object of his delusion, it may be
well to mention a few instances of the supposed appearance of mermen and
mermaidens in various localities.

Pliny writes[42]: "When Tiberius was emperor, an embassy was sent to him
from Olysippo (Lisbon) expressly to inform him that a Triton, which was
recognised as such by its form, had shown itself in a certain cave, and
had been heard to produce loud sounds on a conch-shell. The Nereid,
also, is not imaginary: its body is rough and covered with scales, but
it has the appearance of a human being. For one was seen upon the same
coast; and when it was dying those dwelling near at hand heard it
moaning sadly for a long time. And the Governor of Gaul wrote to the
divine Augustus that several Nereids had been found dead upon the shore.
I have many informants--illustrious persons in high positions--who have
assured me that they saw in the Sea of Cadiz a merman whose whole body
was exactly like that of a man, that these mermen mount on board ships
by night, and weigh down that end of the vessel on which they rest, and
that if they are allowed to remain there long they will sink the ship."

  [42] _Naturalis Historia_, Lib. ix. cap. v.

Ælian in one of his short, jerky, disconnected chapters,[43] which
rarely exceed a page in length, and some of which only contain two
lines, writes: "It is reported that the great sea which surrounds the
island of Taprobana (Ceylon) contains an immense multitude of fishes and
whales, and some of them have the heads of lions, panthers, rams, and
other animals; and (which is more wonderful still) some of the cetaceans
have the form of satyrs. There are others which have the face of a
woman, but prickles instead of hair. In addition to these, it is said
there are other creatures of so strange and monstrous a kind that it
would be impossible exactly to explain their appearance without the aid
of a skilfully drawn picture: these have elongated and coiled tails,
and, for feet, have claws[44] or fins. And I hear that in the same sea
there are great amphibious beasts which are gregarious, and live on
grain, and by night feed on the corn crops and grass, and are also very
fond of the ripe fruit of the palms. To obtain these they encircle in
their embrace the trees which are young and flexible, and, shaking them
violently, enjoy the fruit which they thus cause to fall. When morning
dawns they return to the sea, and plunge beneath the waves."

  [43] _De Naturâ Animalium_, Lib. xvi. cap. xviii.

  [44] "_Forfices_," literally "shears," or "nippers," like the claws
  of a lobster.

Ælian seems to have derived this information from Megasthenes, already
referred to; but in another chapter,[45] he writes with greater
certainty concerning these semi-human whales, and claims divine
authority for his belief in the existence of tritons. "Although," he
says, "we have no rational explanation nor absolute proof of that which
fishermen are said to be able to affirm concerning the form of the
tritons, we have the sworn testimony of many persons that there are in
the sea cetaceans which from the head down to the middle of the body
resemble the human species. Demostratus, in his works on fishing, says
that an aged triton was seen near the town of Tanagra, in Boeotia, which
was like the drawings and pictures of tritons, but its features were so
obscured by age, and it disappeared so quickly, that its true character
was not easily perceptible. But on the spot where it had rested on the
shore were found some rough and very hard scales which had become
detached from it. A certain senator--one of those selected by lot to
carry on the administration of Achaia and the duties of the annual
magistracy" (the mayor, in fact,) "being anxious to investigate the
nature of this triton, put a portion of its skin on the fire. It gave
out a most horrible odour; and those standing by were unable to decide
whether it belonged to a terrestrial or marine animal. But the
magistrate's curiosity had an evil ending, for very soon afterwards,
whilst crossing a narrow creek in a boat, he fell overboard and was
drowned; and the Tanagreans all regarded this as a judgment upon him for
his crime of impiety towards the triton--an interpretation which was
confirmed when his decomposing body was cast ashore, for it emitted
exactly the same odour as had the burned skin of the triton. The
Tanagreans and Demostratus explain whence the triton had strayed, and
how it was stranded in this place. I believe," continues Ælian, "that
tritons exist, and I reverentially produce as my witness a most
veracious god--namely, Apollo Didymæus, whom no man in his senses would
presume to regard as unworthy of credit. He sings thus of the triton,
which he calls the sheep of the sea:

  [45] Lib. xiii. cap. xxi.

    '_Dum vocale maris monstrum natat æquore triton,
    Neptuni pecus, in funes forte incidit extra
    Demissos navim_';"

which I venture to translate as follows:

    A triton, vocal monster of the deep,
    One of a flock of Neptune's scaly sheep,
    Was caught, whilst swimming o'er the watery plain,
    By lines which fishers from their boat had lain.

"Therefore," Ælian concludes, "if he, the omniscient god, pronounces
that there are tritons, it does not behove us to doubt their existence."

Sir J. Emerson Tennent, in his 'Natural History of Ceylon,' quoting
from the _Histoire de la Compagnie de Jésus_, mentions that the annalist
of the exploits of the Jesuits in India gravely records that seven of
these monsters, male and female, were captured at Manaar, in 1560, and
carried to Goa, where they were dissected by Demas Bosquez, physician to
the Viceroy, "and their internal structure found to be in all respects
conformable to the human." He also quotes Valentyn, one of the Dutch
colonial chaplains, who, in his account of the Natural History of
Amboyna,[46] embodied in his great work on the Netherlands' possessions
in India, published in 1727,[47] devoted the first section of his
chapter on the fishes of that island to a minute description of the
"Zee-Menschen," "Zee-Wyven," and mermaids, the existence of which he
warmly insists on as being beyond cavil. He relates that in 1663, when a
lieutenant in the Dutch service was leading a party of soldiers along
the sea-shore in Amboyna, he and all his company saw the mermen swimming
at a short distance from the beach. They had long and flowing hair of a
colour between grey and green. Six weeks afterwards the creatures were
again seen by him and more than fifty witnesses, at the same place, by
clear daylight. "If any narrative in the world," adds Valentyn,
"deserves credit it is this; since not only one, but two mermen together
were seen by so many eye-witnesses. Should the stubborn world, however,
hesitate to believe it, it matters nothing, as there are people who
would even deny that such cities as Rome, Constantinople, or Cairo,
exist, merely because they themselves have not happened to see them. But
what are such incredulous persons," he continues, "to make of the
circumstance recorded by Albrecht Herport[48] in his account of India,
that a merman was seen in the water near the church of Taquan on the
morning of the 29th of April, 1661, and a mermaid at the same spot the
same afternoon? Or what do they say to the fact that in 1714 a mermaid
was not only seen but captured near the island of Booro, five feet,
Rhineland measure, in height; which lived four days and seven hours,
but, refusing all food, died without leaving any intelligible account of
herself?" Valentyn, in support of his own faith in the mermaid, cites
many other instances in which both "sea-men and sea-women" were seen and
taken at Amboyna; especially one by a district visitor of the
church, who presented it to the Governor Vanderstel. Of this
"well-authenticated" specimen he gives an elaborate portrait amongst the
fishes of the island,[49] with a minute description of each for the
satisfaction of men of science.

[Illustration: FIG. 12.--MERMAID AND FISHES OF AMBOYNA. _After

  [46] One of the Dutch spice-islands in the Banda Sea, between
  Celebes and Papua.

  [47] _Beschrijving van Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien_, etc., 5 vols.
  folio, Dordrecht and Amsterdam, 1727, vol. iii. p. 330.

  [48] _Itinerarium Indicum_, Berne, 1669.

  [49] With the permission and assistance of Messrs. Longman, the
  accompanying wood-cut of this picture, and that of the Dugong, on
  page 43, are copied from Sir J. Emerson Tennent's book published in

The fame of this creature having reached Europe, the British minister in
Holland wrote to Valentyn on the 28th of December, 1716, whilst the
Emperor Peter the Great, of Russia, was his guest at Amsterdam, to
communicate the desire of the Czar that the mermaid should be brought
home from Amboyna for his inspection. To complete his proofs of the
existence of mermen and merwomen, Valentyn points triumphantly to the
historical fact that in Holland, in the year 1404, a mermaid was driven,
during a tempest, through a breach in the dyke of Edam, and was taken
alive in the lake of Purmer. Thence she was carried to Haarlem, where
the Dutch women taught her to spin, and where several years after, she
died in the Roman Catholic faith;--"but this," says the pious
Calvinistic chaplain, "in no way militates against the truth of her
story." The worthy minister citing the authority of various writers as
proof that mermaids had in all ages been known in Gaul, Naples, Epirus,
and the Morea, comes to the conclusion that as there are "sea-cows,"
"sea-horses," "sea-dogs," as well as "sea-trees," and "sea-flowers,"
which he himself had seen, there are no reasonable grounds for doubt
that there may also be "sea-maidens" and "sea-men."

In an early account of Newfoundland,[50] Whitbourne describes a
"maremaid or mareman," which he had seen "within the length of a pike,"
and which "came swimming swiftly towards him, looking cheerfully on his
face, as it had been a woman. By the face, eyes, nose, mouth, chin,
ears, neck and forehead, it appeared to be so beautiful, and in those
parts so well proportioned, having round about the head many blue
streaks resembling hair, but certainly it was no hair. The shoulders and
back down to the middle were square, white, and smooth as the back of a
man, and from the middle to the end it tapered like a broad-hooked
arrow." The animal put both its paws on the side of the boat wherein its
observer sat, and strove much to get in, but was repelled by a blow.

  [50] Whitbourne's 'Discourse of Newfoundland.'

In 1676, a description was given by an English surgeon named Glover, of
an animal of this kind. The author did not designate it by any name, but
the incident has the honour of being recorded in the _Philosophical
Transactions_.[51] About three leagues from the mouth of the river
Rappahannock, in America, while alone in a vessel, he observed, at the
distance of about half a stone-throw, he says, "a most prodigious
creature, much resembling a man, only somewhat larger, standing right up
in the water, with his head, neck, shoulders, breast and waist, to the
cubits of his arms, above water, and his skin was tawny, much like that
of an Indian; the figure of his head was pyramidal and sleek, without
hair; his eyes large and black, and so were his eyebrows; his mouth very
wide, with a broad black streak on the upper lip, which turned upwards
at each end like mustachios. His countenance was grim and terrible. His
neck, shoulders, arms, breast and waist, were like unto the neck, arms,
shoulders, breast and waist of a man. His hands, if he had any, were
under water. He seemed to stand with his eyes fixed on me for some time,
and afterwards dived down, and, a little after, rose at somewhat a
greater distance, and turned his head towards me again, and then
immediately fell a little under water, that I could discern him throw
out his arms and gather them in as a man does when he swims. At last, he
shot with his head downwards, by which means he cast his tail above the
water, which exactly resembled the tail of a fish, with a broad fane at
the end of it."

  [51] Glover's 'Account of Virginia,' ap. Phil. Trans. vol. xi. p.

Thormodus Torfæus[52] maintains that mermaids are found on the south
coast of Iceland, and, according to Olafsen,[53] two have been taken in
the surrounding seas, the first in the earlier part of the history of
that island, and the second in 1733. The latter was found in the stomach
of a shark. Its lower parts were consumed, but the upper were entire.
They were as large as those of a boy eight or nine years old. Both the
cutting teeth and grinders were long and shaped like pins, and the
fingers were connected by a large web. Olafsen was inclined to believe
that these were human remains, but the islanders all firmly maintained
that they were part of "a marmennill," by which name the mermaid is
known among them.

  [52] _Historia rerum Norvegicarum._

  [53] _Voyage en Islande_, tom. iii. p. 223.

Of course the worthy bishop of Bergen, Pontoppidan, has something to
tell us about mermaids in his part of the world. "Amongst the sea
monsters," he says,[54] "which are in the North Sea, and are often seen,
I shall give the first place to the Hav-manden, or merman, whose mate is
called Hav-fruen, or mermaid. The existence of this creature is
questioned by many, nor is it at all to be wondered at, because most of
the accounts we have had of it are mixed with mere fables, and may be
looked upon as idle tales." As such he regards the story told by Jonas
Ramus in his 'History of Norway,' of a mermaid taken by fishermen at
Hordeland, near Bergen, and which is said to have sung an unmusical song
to King Hiorlief. In the same category he places an account given by
Besenius in his life of Frederic II. (1577), of a mermaid that called
herself Isbrandt, and held several conversations with a peasant at
Samsoe, in which she foretold the birth of King Christian IV., "and made
the peasant preach repentance to the courtiers, who were very much given
to drunkenness." Equally "idle" with the above stories is, in his
opinion, another, extracted from an old manuscript still to be seen in
the University Library at Copenhagen, and quoted by Andrew Bussæus
(1619), of a merman caught by the two senators, Ulf Rosensparre and
Christian Holch, whilst on their voyage home to Denmark from Norway.
This sea-man frightened the two worshipful gentlemen so terribly that
they were glad to let him go again; for as he lay upon the deck he spoke
Danish to them, and threatened that if they did not give him his liberty
"the ship should be cast away, and every soul of the crew should

  [54] 'Natural History of Norway,' vol. ii. p. 190.

"When such fictions as these," says Pontoppidan, "are mixed with the
history of the merman, and when that creature is represented as a
prophet and an orator; when they give the mermaid a melodious voice, and
tell us that she is a fine singer, we need not wonder that so few people
of sense will give credit to such absurdities, or that they even doubt
the existence of such a creature." The good prelate, however, goes on to
say that "whilst we have no ground to believe all these fables, yet, as
to the existence of the creature we may safely give our assent to it,"
and, "if this be called in question, it must proceed entirely from the
fabulous stories usually mixed with the truth." Like Valentyn, he argues
that as there are "sea-horses," "sea-cows," "sea-wolves," "sea-dogs,"
"sea-hogs," etc., it is probable from analogy, that "we should find in
the ocean a fish or creature which resembles the human species more than
any other." As for the objection "founded on self-love and respect to
our own species which is honoured with the image of God, who made man
lord of all creatures, and that, consequently, we may suppose he is
entitled to a noble and heavenly form which other creatures must not
partake of," he thinks "its force vanishes when we consider the form of
apes, and especially of another African creature called 'Quoyas Morrov'
described by Odoard Dapper" in his work on Africa, and which appears to
have been a chimpanzee. Pontoppidan regarded it as being the Satyr of
the ancients. He therefore claims that "if we will not allow our
Norwegian Hastromber the honourable name of merman, we may very well
call it the 'Sea-ape,' or the 'Sea-Quoyas-Morrov;'" especially as the
author already quoted says that, "in the Sea of Angola mermaids are
frequently caught which resemble the human species. They are taken in
nets, and killed by the negroes, and are heard to shriek and cry like

The Bishop adds that in the diocese of Bergen, as well as in the manor
of Nordland, there were hundreds of persons who affirmed with the
strongest assurances that they had seen this kind of creature; sometimes
at a distance and at other times quite close to their boats, standing
upright, and formed like a human creature down to the middle--the rest
they could not see--but of those who had seen them out of water and
handled them he had not been able to find more than one person of credit
who could vouch it for truth. This informant, "the Reverend Mr. Peter
Angel, minister of Vand-Elvens Gield, on Suderoe," assured his bishop,
when he was on a visitation journey, that "in the year 1719, he (being
then about twenty years old) saw what is called a merman lying dead on a
point of land near the sea, which had been cast ashore by the waves
along with several sea-calves (seals), and other dead fish. The length
of this creature was much greater than what has been mentioned of any
before, namely, above three fathoms. It was of a dark grey colour all
over: in the lower part it was like a fish, and had a tail like that of
a porpoise. The face resembled that of a man, with a mouth, forehead,
eyes, etc. The nose was flat, and, as it were, pressed down to the face,
in which the nostrils were very visible. The breast was not far from the
head; the arms seemed to hang to the side, to which they were joined by
a thin skin, or membrane. The hands were, to all appearance, like the
paws of a sea-calf. The back of this creature was very fat, and a great
part of it was cut off, which, with the liver, yielded a large quantity
of train-oil." The author then quotes a description by Luke Debes[55] of
a mermaid seen in 1670 at Faroe, westward of Qualboe Eide, by many of
the inhabitants, as also by others from different parts of Suderoe. She
was close to the shore, and stood there for two hours and a half, and
was up to her waist in water. She had long hairs on her head, which hung
down to the surface of the water all round about her, and she held a
fish in her right hand.

  [55] _Feroa Reserata_, or Description of the Faroe Islands. 8vo.
  Copenhagen, 1673.

Pontoppidan mentions other instances of similar appearances, and says
that the latest he had heard of was of a merman seen in Denmark on the
20th of September, 1723, by three ferrymen who, at some distance from
the land, were towing a ship just arrived from the Baltic. Having caught
sight of something which looked like a dead body floating on the water,
they rowed towards it, and there, resting on their oars, allowed it to
drift close to them. It sank, but immediately came to the surface again,
and then they saw that it had the appearance of an old man,
strong-limbed, and with broad shoulders, but his arms they could not
see. His head was small in proportion to his body, and had short,
curled, black hair, which did not reach below his ears; his eyes lay
deep in his head, and he had a meagre and pinched face, with a black,
coarse beard, that looked as if it had been cut. His skin was coarse,
and very full of hair. He stood in the same place for half a quarter of
an hour, and was seen above the water down to his breast: at last the
men grew apprehensive of some danger, and began to retire; upon which
the monster blew up his cheeks, and made a kind of roaring noise, and
then dived under water, so that they did not see him any more. One of
them, Peter Gunnersen, related (what the others did not observe) that
this merman was, about the body and downwards, quite pointed, like a
fish. This same Peter Gunnersen likewise deposed that "about twenty
years before, as he was in a boat near Kulleor, the place where he was
born, he saw a mermaid with long hair and large breasts." He and his two
companions were, by command of the king, examined by the burgomaster of
Elsineur, Andrew Bussæus, before the privy-councillor, Fridrich von
Gram, and their testimony to the above effect was given on their
respective oaths.

Brave old Henry Hudson, the sturdy and renowned navigator, who thrice,
in three successive years, gave battle to the northern ice, and was each
time defeated in his endeavour to discover a north-west or north-east
passage to China, though he stamped his name on the title-page of a
mighty nation's history, records the following incident: "This evening
(June 15th) one of our company, looking overboard, saw a mermaid, and,
calling up some of the company to see her, one more of the crew came up,
and by that time she was come close to the ship's side, looking
earnestly on the men. A little after a sea came and overturned her. From
the navel upward, her back and breasts were like a woman's, as they say
that saw her; her body as big as one of us, her skin very white, and
long hair hanging down behind, of colour black. In her going down they
saw her tail, which was like the tail of a porpoise and speckled like a
mackarel's. Their names that saw her were Thomas Hilles and Robert

Steller, who was a zoologist of some repute, reports having seen in
Behrings Straits a strange animal, which he calls a "sea-ape," and in
which one might almost recognise Pontoppidan's "Sea-Quoyas-Morrov." It
was about five feet long, had sharp and erect ears and large eyes, and
on its lips a kind of beard. Its body was thick and round, and it
tapered to the tail, which was bifurcated, with the upper lobe longest.
It was covered with thick hair, grey on the back, and red on the belly.
No feet nor paws were visible. It was full of frolic, and sported in the
manner of a monkey, swimming sometimes on one side of the ship and
sometimes on the other. It often raised one-third of its body out of the
water, and stood upright for a considerable time. It would frequently
bring up a sea-plant, not unlike a bottle-gourd, which it would toss
about and catch in its mouth, playing numberless fantastic tricks with

Somewhat similar accounts have been brought from the Southern
Hemisphere, two, at least, of which are worth transcribing.

Captain Colnett, in his 'Voyage to the South Atlantic,' says:--"A very
singular circumstance happened off the coast of Chili, in lat. 24° S.,
which spread some alarm amongst my people, and awakened their
superstitious apprehensions. About 8 o'clock in the evening an animal
rose alongside the ship, and uttered such shrieks and tones of
lamentation, so much like those produced by the female human voice when
expressing the deepest distress as to occasion no small degree of alarm
among those who first heard it. These cries continued for upwards of
three hours, and seemed to increase as the ship sailed from it. I never
heard any noise whatever that approached so near those sounds which
proceed from the organs of utterance in the human species."

Captain Weddell, in his 'Voyage towards the South Pole' (p. 143), writes
that one of his men, having been left ashore on Hall's Island to take
care of some produce, heard one night about ten o'clock, after he had
lain down to rest, a noise resembling human cries. As daylight does not
disappear in those latitudes at the season in which the incident
occurred, the sailor rose and searched along the beach, thinking that,
possibly, a boat might have been upset, and that some of the crew might
be clinging to the detached rocks.

    "Roused by that voice of silver sound,
    From the paved floor he lightly sprung,
    And, glaring with his eyes around,
    Where the fair nymph her tresses wrung,"[56]

guided by occasional sounds, he at length saw an object lying on a rock
a dozen yards from the shore, at which he was somewhat frightened. "The
face and shoulders appeared of human form and of a reddish colour; over
the shoulders hung long green hair; the tail resembled that of a seal,
but the extremities of the arms he could not see distinctly."

    "As on the wond'ring youth she smiled,
    Again she raised the melting lay,"[56]

  [56] John Leyden.

for the creature continued to make a musical noise during the two
minutes he gazed at it, and, on perceiving him, disappeared in an


The universality of the belief in an animal of combined human and
fish-like form is very remarkable. That it exists amongst the Japanese
we have evidence in their curious and ingeniously-constructed models
which are occasionally brought to this country. I have one of these
which is so exactly the counterpart of that which my friend Mr. Frank
Buckland described, originally in _Land and Water_, and which forms the
subject of a chapter in his 'Curiosities of Natural History,'[57] that
the portrait of the one (Fig. 13) will equally well represent the other.
The lower half of the body is made of the skin and scales of a fish of
the carp family, and fastened on to this, so neatly that it is hardly
possible to detect where the joint is made, is a wooden body, the ribs
of which are so prominent that the poor mermaid has a miserable and
half-starved appearance. The upper part of the body is in the attitude
of a Sphinx, leaning upon its elbows and fore-arms. The arms are thin
and scraggy, and the fingers attenuated and skeleton-like. The nails are
formed of small pieces of ivory or bone. The head is like that of a
small monkey, and a little wool covers the crown, so thinly and untidily
that if the mermaid possessed a crystal mirror she would see the
necessity for the vigorous use of her comb of pearl. The teeth are those
of some fish--apparently of the cat-fish, (_Anarchicas lupus_). These
Japanese artificial mermaids have brought many a dollar into the pockets
of Mr. Barnum and other showmen.

  [57] Third Series, vol. ii. p. 134, 2nd ed.

Somewhat different in appearance from this, but of the same kind, was an
artificial mermaid described in the _Saturday Magazine_ of June 4th,
1836. Fig. 14 is a facsimile of the woodcut which accompanied it. This
grotesque composition was exhibited in a glass case, some years
previously, "in a leading street at the west end" of London. It was
constructed "of the skin of the head and shoulders of a monkey, which
was attached to the dried skin of a fish of the salmon kind with the
head cut off, and the whole was stuffed and highly varnished, the better
to deceive the eye." It was said to have been "taken by the crew of a
Dutch vessel from on board a native Malacca boat, and from the reverence
shown to it, it was supposed to be a representative of one of their idol
gods." I am inclined to think that it was of Japanese origin.


Fig. 15 is described in the article above referred to as having been
copied from a Japanese drawing, and as being a portrait of one of their
deities. Its similarity to one of those of the Assyrians (Fig. 2, page
3) is remarkable. The inscription, however, does not indicate this. The
Chinese characters in the centre--"_Nin giyo_"--signify "human fish;"
those on the right in Japanese _Hira Kana_, or running-hand, have the
same purport, and those on the left, in _Kata Kana_, the characters of
the Japanese alphabet, mean "_Ichi hiru ike_"--"one day kept alive." The
whole legend seems to pretend that this human fish was actually caught,
and kept alive in water for twenty-four hours, but, as the box on which
it is inscribed is one of those in which the Japanese showmen keep their
toys, it was probably the subject of a "penny peep-show."

We need not travel from our own country to find the belief in mermaids
yet existing. It is still credited in the north of Scotland that they
inhabit the neighbouring seas: and Dr. Robert Hamilton, F.R.S.E.,
writing in 1839, expressed emphatically his opinion that there was then
as much ignorance on this subject as had prevailed at any former

  [58] Naturalist's Library, Marine Amphibiæ, p. 291.

[Illustration: FIG. 15.--A MERMAID. _From a Japanese picture._]

In the year 1797, Mr. Munro, schoolmaster of Thurso, affirmed that he
had seen "a figure like a naked female, sitting on a rock projecting
into the sea, at Sandside Head, in the parish of Reay. Its head was
covered with long, thick, light-brown hair, flowing down on the
shoulders. The forehead was round, the face plump, and the cheeks ruddy.
The mouth and lips resembled those of a human being, and the eyes were
blue. The arms, fingers, breast, and abdomen were as large as those of a
full-grown female," and, altogether,

    "That sea-nymph's form of pearly light
    Was whiter than the downy spray,
    And round her bosom, heaving bright,
    Her glossy yellow ringlets play."[59]

  [59] John Leyden.

"This creature," continued Mr. Munro, "was apparently in the act of
combing its hair with its fingers, which seemed to afford it pleasure,
and it remained thus occupied during some minutes, when it dropped into
the sea." The Dominie

                "saw the maiden there,
    Just as the daylight faded,
    Braiding her locks of gowden hair
    An' singing as she braided,"[60]

  [60] The Ettrick Shepherd.

but he did not remark whether the fingers were webbed. On the whole, he
infers that this was a marine animal of which he had a distinct and
satisfactory view, and that the portion seen by him bore a narrow
resemblance to the human form. But for the dangerous situation it had
chosen, and its appearance among the waves, he would have supposed it to
be a woman. Twelve years later, several persons observed near the same
spot an animal which they also supposed to be a mermaid.

A very remarkable story of this kind is one related by Dr. Robert
Hamilton in the volume already referred to, and for the general truth of
which he vouches, from his personal knowledge of some of the persons
connected with the occurrence. In 1823 it was reported that some
fishermen of Yell, one of the Shetland group, had captured a mermaid by
its being entangled in their lines. The statement was that "the animal
was about three feet long, the upper part of the body resembling the
human, with protuberant mammæ, like a woman; the face, forehead, and
neck were short, and resembled those of a monkey; the arms, which were
small, were kept folded across the breast; the fingers were distinct,
not webbed; a few stiff, long bristles were on the top of the head,
extending down to the shoulders, and these it could erect and depress at
pleasure, something like a crest. The inferior part of the body was like
a fish. The skin was smooth, and of a grey colour. It offered no
resistance, nor attempted to bite, but uttered a low, plaintive sound.
The crew, six in number, took it within their boat, but, superstition
getting the better of curiosity, they carefully disentangled it from the
lines and a hook which had accidentally become fastened in its body, and
returned it to its native element. It instantly dived, descending in a
perpendicular direction." Mr. Edmonston, the original narrator of this
incident, was "a well-known and intelligent observer," says Dr.
Hamilton, and in a communication made by him to the Professor of Natural
History in the Edinburgh University gave the following additional
particulars, which he had learned from the skipper and one of the crew
of the boat. "They had the animal for three hours within the boat: the
body was without scales or hair; it was of a silvery grey colour above,
and white below; it was like the human skin; no gills were observed, nor
fins on the back or belly. The tail was like that of a dog-fish; the
mammæ were about as large as those of a woman; the mouth and lips were
very distinct, and resembled the human. Not one of the six men dreamed
of a doubt of its being a mermaid, and it could not be suggested that
they were influenced by their fears, for the mermaid is not an object of
terror to fishermen: it is rather a welcome guest, and danger is
apprehended from its experiencing bad treatment." Mr. Edmonston
concludes by saying that "the usual resources of scepticism that the
seals and other sea-animals appearing under certain circumstances,
operating upon an excited imagination, and so producing ocular illusion,
cannot avail here. It is quite impossible that six Shetland fishermen
could commit such a mistake." It would seem that the narrator demands
that his readers shall be silenced, if unconvinced; but

    "He that complies against his will
    Is of his own opinion still."

This incident is well-attested, and merits respectful and careful
consideration; but I decline to admit any such impossibility of error in
observation or description on the part of the fishermen, or the further
impossibility of recognising in the animal captured by them one known to
naturalists. The particulars given in this instance, and also of the
supposed merman seen cast ashore dead in 1719 by the Rev. Peter Angel
(p. 22), are sufficiently accurate descriptions of a warm-blooded marine
animal, with which the Shetlanders, and probably Mr. Edmonston also,
were unacquainted, namely, the rytina, of which I shall have more to say
presently; and these occurrences afford some slight hope that this
remarkable beast may not have become extinct in 1768, as has been
supposed, but that it may still exist somewhat further south than it was
met with by its original describer, Steller.

Turning to Ireland, we find the same credence in the semi-human fish,
or fish-tailed human being. In the autumn of 1819 it was affirmed that
"a creature appeared on the Irish coast, about the size of a girl ten
years of age, with a bosom as prominent as one of sixteen, having a
profusion of long dark-brown hair, and full, dark eyes. The hands and
arms were formed like those of a man, with a slight web connecting the
upper part of the fingers, which were frequently employed in throwing
back and dividing the hair. The tail appeared like that of a dolphin."
This creature remained basking on the rocks during an hour, in the sight
of numbers of people, until frightened by the flash of a musket, when

    "Away she went with a sea-gull's scream,
    And a splash of her saucy tail,"[61]

  [61] Tom Hood. 'The Mermaid at Margate.'

for it instantly plunged with a scream into the sea.

From Irish legends we learn that those sea-nereids, the "Merrows," or
"Moruachs" came occasionally from the sea, gained the affections of men,
and interested themselves in their affairs; and similar traditions of
the "Morgan" (sea-women) and the "Morverch" (sea-daughters) are current
in Brittany.

In English poetry the mermaid has been the subject of many charming
verses, and Shakspeare alludes to it in his plays no less than six
times. The head-quarters of these "daughters of the sea" in England, or
of the belief in their existence, are in Cornwall. There the fisherman,
many a time and

            "Oft, beneath the silver moon,[62]
    Has heard, afar, the mermaid sing,"

and has listened, so they say, to

    "The mermaid's sweet sea-soothing lay
    That charmed the dancing waves to sleep."[62]

  [62] John Leyden.

Mr. Robert Hunt, F.R.S., in his collection of the traditions and
superstitions of old Cornwall,[63] records several curious legends of
the "merrymaids" and "merrymen" (the local name of mermaids), which he
had gathered from the fisher-folk and peasants in different parts of
that county.

  [63] 'Romances and Drolls of the West of England.' London: Hotten,

And, in a pleasant article in 'All the Year Round,'[64] 1865, "A Cornish
Vicar"[65] mentions some of the superstitions of the people in his
neighbourhood, and the perplexing questions they occasionally put to
him. One of his parishioners, an old man named Anthony Cleverdon, but
who was popularly known as "Uncle Tony," having been the seventh son of
his parents, in direct succession, was looked upon, in consequence, as a
soothsayer. This "ancient augur" confided to his pastor many highly
efficacious charms and formularies, and, in return, sought for
information from him on other subjects. One day he puzzled the parson by
a question which so well illustrates the local ideas concerning
mermaids, and the sequel of which is, moreover, so humorously related by
the vicar, that I venture to quote his own words, as follows:--

  [64] Vol. xiii. p. 336.

  [65] The "Cornish Vicar" was, evidently, the Rev. Robert Stephen
  Hawker, M.A., Vicar of Morwenstow, and author of 'Echoes from Old
  Cornwall,' 'Footprints of Former Men in Cornwall,' etc.

"Uncle Tony said to me, 'Sir, there is one thing I want to ask you, if
I may be so free, and it is this: why should a merrymaid, that will ride
about upon the waters in such terrible storms, and toss from sea to sea
in such ruckles as there be upon the coast, why should she never lose
her looking-glass and comb?' 'Well, I suppose,' said I, 'that if there
are such creatures, Tony, they must wear their looking-glasses and combs
fastened on somehow, like fins to a fish.' 'See!' said Tony, chuckling
with delight, 'what a thing it is to know the Scriptures, like your
reverence; I should never have found it out. But there's another point,
sir, I should like to know, if you please; I've been bothered about it
in my mind hundreds of times. Here be I, that have gone up and down
Holacombe cliffs and streams fifty years come next Candlemas, and I've
gone and watched the water by moonlight and sunlight, days and nights,
on purpose, in rough weather and smooth (even Sundays, too, saving your
presence), and my sight as good as most men's, and yet I never could
come to see a merrymaid in all my life: how's that, sir?' 'Are you sure,
Tony,' I rejoined, 'that there are such things in existence at all?'
'Oh, sir, my old father seen her twice! He was out one night for wreck
(my father watched the coast, like most of the old people formerly), and
it came to pass that he was down at the duck-pool on the sand at
low-water tide, and all to once he heard music in the sea. Well, he
croped on behind a rock, like a coastguardsman watching a boat, and got
very near the music ... and there was the merrymaid, very plain to be
seen, swimming about upon the waves like a woman bathing--and singing
away. But my father said it was very sad and solemn to hear--more like
the tune of a funeral hymn than a Christmas carol, by far--but it was so
sweet that it was as much as he could do to hold back from plunging into
the tide after her. And he an old man of sixty-seven, with a wife and a
houseful of children at home. The second time was down here by Holacombe
Pits. He had been looking out for spars--there was a ship breaking up in
the Channel--and he saw some one move just at half-tide mark, so he went
on very softly, step by step, till he got nigh the place, and there was
the merrymaid sitting on a rock, the bootyfullest merrymaid that eye
could behold, and she was twisting about her long hair, and dressing it,
just like one of our girls getting ready for her sweetheart on the
Sabbath-day. The old man made sure he should greep hold of her before
ever she found him out, and he had got so near that a couple of paces
more and he would have caught her by the hair, as sure as tithe or tax,
when, lo and behold, she looked back and glimpsed him! So, in one moment
she dived head-foremost off the rock, and then tumbled herself
topsy-turvy about in the water, and cast a look at my poor father, and
grinned like a seal.'" And a seal it probably was that Tony's "poor
father" saw.

What, then, are these mermaids and mermen, a belief in whose existence
has prevailed in all ages, and amongst all the nations of the earth?
Have they, really, some of the parts and proportions of man, or do they
belong to another order of mammals on which credulity and inaccurate
observation have bestowed a false character?

Mr. Swainson, a naturalist of deserved eminence, has maintained on
purely scientific grounds, that there must exist a marine animal uniting
the general form of a fish with that of a man; that by the laws of
Nature the natatorial type of the _Quadrumana_ is most assuredly
wanting, and that, apart from man, a being connecting the seals with the
monkeys is required to complete the circle of quadrumanous animals.[66]

  [66] 'Geography and Distribution of Animals.'

Mr. Gosse[67] argues that all the characters which Mr. Swainson selects
as marking the natatorial type of animals belong to man, and that he
being, in his savage state, a great swimmer, is the true aquatic
primate, which Mr. Swainson regards as absent. Mr. Gosse admits,
however, that "nature has an odd way of mocking at our impossibilities,
and" that "it _may be_ that green-haired maidens with oary tails, lurk
in the ocean caves, and keep mirrors and combs upon their rocky
shelves;" and the conclusion he arrives at is that the combined evidence
"induces a strong suspicion that the northern seas may hold forms of
life as yet uncatalogued by science."

  [67] 'Romance of Natural History,' 2nd Series.

That there are animals in the northern and other seas with which we are
unacquainted, is more than probable: discoveries of animals of new
species are constantly being made, especially in the life of the deep
sea. But I venture to think that the production of an animal at present
unknown is quite unnecessary to account for the supposed appearances of

We have in the form and habits of the _Phocidæ_, or earless seals, a
sufficient interpretation of almost every incident of the kind that has
occurred north of the Equator--of those in which protuberant _mammæ_ are
described, we must presently seek another explanation. The round, plump,
expressive face of a seal, the beautiful, limpid eyes, the hand-like
fore-paws, the sleek body, tapering towards the flattened hinder fins,
which are directed backwards, and spread out in the form of a broad fin,
like the tail of a fish, might well give the idea of an animal having
the anterior part of its body human and the posterior half piscine.

In the habits of the seals, also, we may trace those of the supposed
mermaid, and the more easily the better we are acquainted with them. All
seals are fond of leaving the water frequently. They always select the
flattest and most shelving rocks which have been covered at high tide,
and prefer those that are separated from the mainland. They generally go
ashore at half-tide, and invariably lie with their heads towards the
water, and seldom more than a yard or two from it. There they will often
remain, if undisturbed, for six hours; that is, until the returning tide
floats them off the rock. As for the sweet melody, "so melting soft,"
that must depend much on the ear and musical taste of the listener. I
have never heard a seal utter any vocal sounds but a porcine grunt, a
plaintive moan, and a pitiful whine. But another habit of the seals has,
probably more than anything else, caused them to be mistaken for
semi-human beings--namely, that of poising themselves upright in the
water with the head and the upper third part of the body above the

One calm sunny morning in August, 1881, a fine schooner-yacht, on board
of which I was a guest, was slowly gliding out of the mouth of the river
Maas, past the Hook of Holland, into the North Sea, when a seal rose
just ahead of us, and assumed the attitude above described. It waited
whilst we passed it, inspecting us apparently with the greatest
interest; then dived, swam in the direction in which we were sailing, so
as to intercept our course, and came up again, sitting upright as
before. This it repeated three times, and so easily might it have been
taken for a mermaid, that one of the party, who was called on deck to
see it, thought, at first, that it was a boy who had swam off from the
shore to the vessel on a begging expedition.

Laing, in his account of a voyage to the North, mentions having seen a
seal under similar circumstances.

A young seal which was brought from Yarmouth to the Brighton Aquarium
in 1873, habitually sat thus, showing his head and a considerable
portion of his body out of water. His bath was so shallow in some parts
that he was able to touch the bottom, and, with his after-flippers
tucked under him, like a lobster's tail, and spread out in front, he
would balance himself on his hind quarters, and look inquisitively at
everybody, and listen attentively to everything within sight and
hearing. When he was satisfied that no one was likely to interfere with
him, and that it was unnecessary to be on the alert, he would half-close
his beautiful, soft eyes, and either contentedly pat, stroke, and
scratch his little fat stomach with his right paw, or flap both of them
across his breast in a most ludicrous manner, exactly as a cabman warms
the tips of his fingers on a wintry day, by swinging his arms vigorously
across his chest, and striking his hands against his body on either
side. He was very sensitive to musical sounds, as many dogs are, and
when a concert took place in the building a high note from one of the
vocalists would cause him to utter a mournful wail, and to dive with a
splash that made the water fly, the audience smile, and the singer

Captain Scoresby tells us that he had seen the walrus with its head
above water, and in such a position that it required little stretch of
imagination to mistake it for a human being, and that on one occasion of
this kind the surgeon of his ship actually reported to him that he had
seen a man with his head above water.

Peter Gunnersen's merman (p. 24), who "blew up his cheeks and made a
kind of roaring noise" before diving, was probably a "bladder-nose"
seal. The males of that species have on the head a peculiar pad, which
they can dilate at pleasure, and their voice is loud and discordant.

The appearance and behaviour of Steller's "sea-ape," described on p.
25, may, I think, be attributed to one of the eared seals, the so-called
sea-lions, or sea-bears. Every one who has seen these animals fed must
have noticed the rapidity with which they will dive and swim to any part
of their pond where they expect to receive food, and how, like a dog
after a pebble, they will keenly watch their keeper's movements, and
start in the direction to which he is apparently about to throw a fish,
even before the latter has left his hand. This may be seen at the
Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park, and, better than anywhere else in
Europe, at the Jardin d'Acclimatation, Paris. It would be quite in
accordance with their habits that one of these _Otaria_ should dive
under a ship, and rise above the surface on either side, eagerly
surveying those on board, in hope of obtaining food, or from mere

The seals and their movements account for so many mermaid stories, that
all accounts of sea-women with prominent bosoms were ridiculed and
discredited until competent observers recognised in the form and habits
of certain aquatic animals met with in the bays and estuaries of the
Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, the west coast of Africa, and sub-tropical
America, the originals of these "travellers' tales." These were--first,
the _manatee_, which is found in the West Indian Islands, Florida, the
Gulf of Mexico, and Brazil, and in Africa in the River Congo,
Senegambia, and the Mozambique Channel; second, the _dugong_, or
_halicore_, which ranges along the east coast of Africa, Southern Asia,
the Bornean Archipelago, and Australia; and, third, the _rytina_, seen
on Behring's Island in the Kamschatkan Sea by Steller, the Russian
zoologist and voyager, in 1741, and which is supposed to have become
extinct within twenty-seven years after its discovery, by its having
been recklessly and indiscriminately slaughtered.[68] Then science, in
the person of Illeger, made the _amende honorable_, and frankly
accepting Jack's introduction to his fish-tailed _innamorata_, classed
these three animals together as a sub-order of the animal kingdom, and
bestowed on them the name of the _Sirenia_. This was, of course, in
allusion to the Sirens of classical mythology, who, in later art, were
represented as having the body of a woman above the waist, and that of a
fish below, although the lower portion of their body was originally
described as being in the form of a bird.

  [68] Almost all that is known of the living rytina is from an
  account published in 1751, in St. Petersburg, by Steller, who was
  one of an exploring party wrecked on Behring's Island in 1741.
  During the ten months the crew remained on the island they pursued
  this easily-captured animal so persistently, for food, that it was
  all but annihilated at the time. The last one there was killed in

It has been found difficult to determine to which order these _Manatidæ_
are most nearly allied. In shape they most closely resemble the whales
and seals. But the cetacea are all carnivorous, whereas the manatee and
its relatives live entirely on vegetable food. Although, therefore, Dr.
J. E. Gray, following Cuvier, classed them with the cetacea in his
British Museum catalogue, other anatomists, as Professor Agassiz,
Professor Owen, and Dr. Murie, regard their resemblance to the whales as
rather superficial than real, and conclude from their organisation and
dentition that they ought either to form a group apart or be classed
with the pachyderms--the hippopotamus, tapir, etc.--with which they have
the nearest affinities, and to which they seem to have been more
immediately linked by the now lost genera, _Dinotherium_ and
_Halitherium_. With the opinion of those last-named authorities I
entirely agree. I regard the manatee as exhibiting a wonderful
modification and adaptation of the structure of a warm-blooded land
animal which enables it to pass its whole life in water, and as a
connecting link between the hippopotamus, elephant, etc., on the one
side, and the whales and seals on the other.

The _Halitherium_ was a Sirenian with which we are only acquainted by
its fossil remains found in the Miocene formation of Central and
Southern Europe. These indicate that it had short hind limbs, and,
consequently, approached more nearly the terrestrial type than either
the manatee, the rytina, or the dugong, in which the hind limbs are
absent. The two last named tend more than does the manatee to the marine
mammals; but there is a strong likeness between these three recent
forms. They all have a cylindrical body, like that of a seal, but
instead of hind limbs there is in all a broad tail flattened
horizontally; and the chief difference in their outward appearance is in
the shape of this organ. In the manatee it is rounded, in the dugong
forked like that of a whale, in the rytina crescent-shaped. The tail of
the _Halitherium_ appears to have been shaped somewhat like that of the
beaver. The body of the manatee is broader in proportion to its length
and depth than that of the dugong. In a paper read before the Royal
Society, July 12th, 1821, on a manatee sent to London in spirits by the
Duke of Manchester, then Governor of Jamaica, Sir Everard Home remarked
of this greater lateral expansion that, as the manatee feeds on plants
that grow at the mouths of great rivers, and the dugong upon those met
with in the shallows amongst small islands in the Eastern seas, the
difference of form would make the manatee more buoyant and better fitted
to float in fresh water.

[Illustration: FIG. 16.--THE DUGONG. _From Sir J. Emerson Tennent's

In all the _Manatidæ_ the mammæ of the female, which are greatly
distended during the period of lactation, are situated very differently
from those of the whales, being just beneath the pectoral fins. These
fins or paws are much more flexible and free in their movements than
those of the cetæ, and are sufficiently prehensile to enable the animal
to gather food between the palms or inner surfaces of both, and the
female to hold her young one to her breast with one of them. Like the
whales, they are warm-blooded mammals, breathing by lungs, and are
therefore obliged to come to the surface at frequent intervals for
respiration. As they breathe through nostrils at the end of the muzzle,
instead of, like most of the whales, through a blow-hole on the top of
the head, their habit is to rise, sometimes vertically, in the water,
with the head and fore part of the body exposed above the surface, and
often to remain in this position for some minutes. When seen thus, with
head and breast bare, and clasping its young one to its body, the female
presents a certain resemblance to a woman from the waist upward. When
approached or disturbed it dives; the tail and hinder portion of the
body come into view, and we see that if there was little of the "_mulier
formosa superne_," at any rate "_desinit in piscem_." The manatee has
thence been called by the Spaniards and Portuguese the "woman-fish," and
by the Dutch the "manetje," or mannikin. The dugong, having the muzzle
bristly, is named by the latter the "baardmanetje," or "little bearded
man." There are no bristles or whiskers on the muzzle of the manatee;
all the portraits of it in which these are shown are in that respect
erroneous. The origin of the word "manatee" has by some been traced to
the Spanish, as indicating "an animal with hands." On the west coast of
Africa it is called by the natives "Ne-hoo-le." By old writers it was
described as the "sea-cow." Gesner depicts it in the act of bellowing;
and Mr. Bates, in his work, "The Naturalist on the Amazon," says that
its voice is something like the bellowing of an ox. The Florida
"crackers" or "mean whites," make the same statement. Although I have
had opportunities of prolonged observation of it in captivity, I have
not heard it give utterance to any sound--not even a grunt--and Mr.
Bartlett, of the Zoological Gardens, tells me that his experience of it
is the same. His son, Mr. Clarence Bartlett, says that a young one he
had in Surinam used to make a feeble cry, or bleat, very much like the
voice of a young seal. This is the only sound he ever heard from a

  [69] For a full description of the habits of this animal in
  captivity, see an article by the present writer in the 'Leisure
  Hour' of September 28, 1878; from which the illustration, Fig. 17,
  is borrowed by the kind consent of the Editor of that publication.

I believe the dugong to be more especially the animal referred to by
Ælian as the semi-human whale, and that which has led to this group
having been supposed by southern voyagers to be aquatic human beings. In
the first place, the dugong is a denizen of the sea, whereas the manatee
is chiefly found in rivers and fresh-water lagoons; and secondly, the
dugong accords with Ælian's description of the creature with a woman's
face in that it has "prickles instead of hairs," whilst the manatee has
no such stiff bristles.

In the case of either of these two animals being mistaken for a
mermaid, however, "distance" must "lend enchantment to the view," and a
sailor must be very impressible and imaginative who, even after having
been deprived for many months of the pleasure of females' society, could
be allured by the charms of a bristly-muzzled dugong, or mistake the
snorting of a wallowing manatee for the love-song of a beauteous


Unfortunately both the dugong and the manatee are being hunted to

The flesh of the manatee is considered a great delicacy. Humboldt
compares it with ham. Unlike that of the whales, which is of a deep and
dark red hue, it is as white as veal, and, it is said, tastes very like
it. It is remarkable for retaining its freshness much longer than other
meat, which in a tropical climate generally putrefies in twenty-eight
hours. It is therefore well adapted for pickling, as the salt has time
to penetrate the flesh before it is tainted. The Catholic clergy of
South America do not object to its being eaten on fast days, on the
supposition that, with whales, seals, and other aquatic mammals, it may
be liberally regarded as "fish." The "Indians" of the Amazon and Orinoco
are so fond of it that they will spend many days, if necessary, in
hunting for a manatee, and having killed one will cut it into slabs and
slices on the spot, and cook these on stakes thrust into the ground
aslant over a great fire, and heavily gorge themselves as long as the
provision lasts. The milk of this animal is said to be rich and good,
and the skin is valuable for its toughness, and is much in request for
making leathern articles in which great strength and durability are
required. The tail contains a great deal of oil, which is believed to be
extremely nutritious, and has also the property of not becoming rancid.
Unhappily for the dugong, its oil is in similarly high repute, and is
greatly preferred as a nutrient medicine to cod-liver oil. As its flesh
also is much esteemed, it is so persistently hunted on the Australian
coasts that it will probably soon become extinct, like the rytina of
Steller. The same fate apparently awaits the manatee, which is becoming
perceptibly more and more scarce.

I fear that before many years have elapsed the Sirens of the
Naturalist will have disappeared from our earth, before the advance of
civilization, as completely as the fables and superstitions with which
they have been connected, before the increase of knowledge; and that the
mermaid of fact will have become as much a creature of the past as the
mermaid of fiction. With regard to the latter--the Siren of the
poets,--the water-maiden of the pearly comb, the crystal mirror, and the
sea-green tresses,--there are few persons I suppose, at the present day
who would not be content to be classed with Banks, the fine old
naturalist and formerly ship-mate of Captain Cook. Sir Humphry Davy in
his _Salmonia_ relates an anecdote of a baronet, a profound believer in
these fish-tailed ladies, who on hearing some one praise very highly Sir
Joseph Banks, said that "Sir Joseph was an excellent man, but he had his
prejudices--he did not believe in the mermaid." I confess to having a
similar "prejudice;" and am willing to adopt the further remark of Sir
Humphry Davy:--"I am too much of the school of Izaac Walton to talk of
impossibility. It doubtless might please God to make a mermaid, but I
don't believe God ever did make one."


The mystery of the Kraken, of which I treated in a companion volume to
the present, recently published, is not difficult to unravel. The clue
to it is plain, and when properly taken up is as easily unwound, to
arrive at the truth, as a cocoon of silk, to get at the chrysalis within
it. It was a boorish exaggeration, a legend of ignorance, superstition,
and wonder. But when such a skein of facts has passed through the hands
of the poets, it is sure to be found in a much more intricate tangle;
and many a knot of pure invention may have to be cut before it is made

Nevertheless, we shall be able to discern that more than one of the most
famous and hideous monsters of old classical lore originated, like the
Kraken, in a knowledge by their authors of the form and habits of those
strange sea-creatures, the head-footed mollusks. There can be little
doubt that the octopus was the model from which the old poets and
artists formed their ideas, and drew their pictures of the Lernean
Hydra, whose heads grew again when cut off by Hercules; and also of the
monster Scylla, who, with six heads and six long writhing necks,
snatched men off the decks of passing ships and devoured them in the
recesses of her gloomy cavern.

Of the Hydra Diodorus relates that it had a hundred heads; Simonides
says fifty; but the generally received opinion was that of Apollodorus,
Hyginus, and others, that it had only nine.

Apollodorus of Athens, son of Asclepiades, who wrote in stiff, quaint
Greek about 120 B.C., gives in his 'Bibliotheca' (book ii. chapter 5,
section 2) the following account of the many-headed monster. "This
Hydra," he says, "nourished in the marshes of Lerne, went forth into the
open country and destroyed the herds of the land. It had a huge body and
nine heads, eight mortal, but the ninth immortal. Having mounted his
chariot, which was driven by Iolaus, Hercules got to Lerne and stopped
his horses. Finding the Hydra on a certain raised ground near the source
of the Amymon, where its lair was, he made it come out by pelting it
with burning missiles. He seized and stopped it, but having twisted
itself round one of his feet, it struggled with him. He broke its head
with his club: but that was useless; for when one head was broken two
sprang up, and a huge crab helped the Hydra by biting the foot of
Hercules. This he killed, and called Iolaus, who, setting on fire part
of the adjoining forest, burned with torches the germs of the growing
heads, and stopped their development. Having thus out-manoeuvred the
growing heads, he cut off the immortal head, buried it, and put a heavy
stone upon it, beside the road going from Lerne to Eleonta, and having
opened the Hydra, dipped his arrows in its gall."

If we wish to find in nature the counterpart of this Hydra, we must
seek, firstly, for an animal with eight out-growths from its trunk,
which it can develop afresh, or replace by new ones, in case of any or
all of them being amputated or injured. We must also show that this
animal, so strange in form and possessing such remarkable attributes,
was well known in the locality where the legend was believed. We have it
in the octopus, which abounded in the Mediterranean and Ægean seas, and
whose eight prehensile arms, or tentacles, spring from its central body,
the immortal head, and which, if lost or mutilated by misadventure, are
capable of reproduction.

[Illustration: FIG. 18.--FIGURE OF A CALAMARY. _From the temple of

That a knowledge of the octopus existed at a very early period of man's
history we have abundant evidence. The ancient Egyptians figured it
amongst their hieroglyphics, and an interesting proof that they were
also acquainted with other cephalopods was given to me by the late Mr.
E. W. Cooke, R.A. Whilst on a trip up the Nile, in January, 1875, he
visited the temple of Bayr-el-Bahree, Thebes (date 1700 B.C.), the
entrance to which had been deeply buried beneath the light, wind-drifted
sand, accumulated during many centuries. By order of the Khedive, access
had just at that time been obtained to its interior, by the excavation
and removal of this deep deposit, and, amongst the hieroglyphics on the
walls, were found, between the zig-zag lines which represent water,
figures of various fishes, copies of which Mr. Cooke kindly gave me, and
which are so accurately portrayed as to be easily identified. With them
was the outline of a squid fourteen inches long, a figure of which, from
Mr. Cooke's drawing, is here shown. As this temple is five hundred miles
from the delta of the Nile, it is remarkable that nearly all the fishes
there represented are of marine species.


That the octopus was a familiar object with the ancient Greeks, we know
by the frequency with which its portrait is found on their coins, gems,
and ornaments. Aldrovandus describes "very ancient coins" found at
Syracuse and Tarentum bearing the figure of an octopus. He says the
Syracusans had two coins, one of bronze, the other of gold, both of
which had an octopus alone on one side. On the reverse of the bronze one
was a veiled female face in profile, with the inscription [Greek: SURA].
I have one of these bronze Syracusan coins; it was kindly given to me,
some years ago, by my friend, Dr. John Millar, F.L.S. The octopus is
really well depicted. On the gold coin the female head was differently
veiled, and at the back of the neck was a fish. The inscription on this
coin was [Greek: SURAKOSIÔN]. Goltzius was of the opinion that the head
was that of Arethusa. The coins found at Tarentum had on one side a
figure of Neptune seated on a dolphin, and holding an octopus in one
hand and a trident in the other.


Lerne, or Lerna, the reputed home of the Hydra, was a port of Southern
Greece, situated at the head of the Gulf of Nauplia, and between the
existing towns of Argos and Tripolitza. Within a few miles of it was
Mycenæ; and it is remarkable that Dr. Schliemann, during his excavations
there in 1876, found in a tomb a gold plate, or button, two and a half
inches in diameter (Fig. 19), on which is figured an octopus, the eight
arms of which are converted into spirals, the head and the two eyes
being distinctly visible. In another sepulchre he discovered fifty-three
golden models of the octopus (Fig. 20), all exactly alike, and
apparently cast in the same mould. The arms are very naturally carved.
By the kindness of Mr. Murray, his publisher, I am enabled to give
illustrations of these and two other handsome ornaments.

Having ascertained that the octopus was a familiar object in the very
locality where the combat between Hercules and the Hydra is supposed to
have taken place, let us compare the animal as it exists with the
monstrous offspring of Typhon and Echidna.


FIG. 21. FIG. 22.


It is a not uncommon occurrence that when an octopus is caught it is
found to have one or more of its arms shorter than the rest, and showing
marks of having been amputated, and of the formation of a new growth
from the old cicatrix. Several such specimens were brought to the
Brighton Aquarium whilst I had charge of its Natural History Department.
One of them was particularly interesting. Two of its arms had evidently
been bitten off about four inches from the base: and out from the end of
each healed stump (which in proportion to the length of the limb was as
if a man's arm had been amputated halfway between the shoulder and the
elbow), grew a slender little piece of newly-formed arm, about as large
as a lady's stiletto, or a small button-hook--in fact just the
equivalent of worthy Captain Cuttle's iron hook, which did duty for his
lost hand. It was an illustrative example of the commencement of the
repair and restoration of mutilated limbs.

This mutilation is so common in some localities, that Professor
Steenstrup says[70] that almost every octopus he has examined has had
one or two arms reproduced; and that he has seen females in which all
the eight arms had been lost, but were more or less restored. He also
mentions a male in which this was the case as to seven of its arms. He
adds that whilst the _Octopoda_ possess the power of reproducing with
great facility and rapidity their arms, which are exposed to so many
enemies, the _Decapoda_--the _Sepiidæ_ and Squids--appear to be
incapable of thus repairing and replacing accidental injuries. This is
entirely in accord with my own observations.

  [70] Ann. and Mag. Nat. Hist. August, 1857.

This reparative power is possessed by some other animals, of which the
starfishes and crustacea are the most familiar instances. In the case of
the lobster or crab, however, the only joint from which new growth can
start is that connected with the body, so that if a limb be injured in
any part, the whole of it must be got rid of, and the animal has,
therefore, the power of casting it off at will. The octopus, on the
contrary, is incapable of voluntary dismemberment, but reproduces the
lost portion of an injured arm, as an out-growth from the old stump.

The ancients were well acquainted with this reparative faculty of the
octopus: but of course the simple fact was insufficient for an
imaginative people: and they therefore embellished it with some fancies
of their own. There lingers still amongst the fishermen of the
Mediterranean a very old belief that the octopus when pushed by hunger
will gnaw and devour portions of its arms. Aristotle knew of this
belief, and positively contradicted it; but a fallacy once planted is
hard to eradicate. You may cut it down, and apparently destroy it, root
and branch, but its seeds are scattered abroad, and spring up elsewhere,
and in unexpected places. Accordingly, we find Oppian, more than five
centuries later, disseminating the same old notion, and comparing this
habit of the animal with that of the bear obtaining nutriment from his
paws by sucking them during his hybernation.

    "When wintry skies o'er the black ocean frown,
    And clouds hang low with ripen'd storms o'ergrown,
    Close in the shelter of some vaulted cave
    The soft-skinn'd prekes[71] their porous bodies save.
    But forc'd by want, while rougher seas they dread,
    On their own feet, necessitous, are fed.
    But when returning spring serenes the skies,
    Nature the growing parts anew supplies.
    Again on breezy sands the roamers creep,
    Twine to the rocks, or paddle in the deep.
    Doubtless the God whose will commands the seas,
    Whom liquid worlds and wat'ry natives please,
    Has taught the fish by tedious wants opprest
    Life to preserve and be himself the feast."

  [71] The octopus is still called the "preke" in some parts of
  England, notably in Sussex. The translation of Oppian's
  'Halieutics,' from which this passage and others are quoted is that
  by Messrs. Jones and Diaper, of Baliol College, Oxford, and was
  published in 1722.

The fact is, that the larger predatory fishes regard an octopus as very
acceptable food, and there is no better bait for many of them than a
portion of one of its arms. Some of the cetacea also are very fond of
them, and whalers have often reported that when a "fish" (as they call
it) is struck it disgorges the contents of its stomach, amongst which
they have noticed parts of the arms of cuttles which, judging from the
size of their limbs, must have been very large specimens. The food of
the sperm whale consists largely of the gregarious squids, and the
presence in spermaceti of their undigested beaks is accepted as a test
of its being genuine. That old fish-reptile, the Ichthyosaurus, also,
preyed upon them; and portions of the horny rings of their suckers were
discovered in its coprolites by Dean Buckland. Amongst the worst enemies
of the octopus is the conger. They are both rock-dwellers, and if the
voracious fish come upon his cephalopod neighbour unseen, he makes a
meal of him, or, failing to drag him from his hold, bites off as much of
one or two of his arms as he can conveniently obtain. The conger,
therefore, is generally the author of the injury which the octopus has
been unfairly accused of inflicting on itself.

Continuing our comparison with the hydra, we have in the octopus an
animal capable of quitting its rocky lurking-place in the sea, and going
on a buccaneering expedition on dry land. Many incidents have been
related in connection with this; but I can attest it from my own
observation. I have seen an octopus travel over the floor of a room at a
very fair rate of speed, toppling and sprawling along in its own
ungainly fashion; and in May, 1873, we had one at the Brighton Aquarium
which used regularly every night to quit its tank, and make its way
along the wall to another tank at some distance from it, in which were
some young lump-fishes. Day after day, one of these was missing, until,
at last, the marauder was discovered. Many days elapsed, however, before
he was detected, for after helping himself to, and devouring a young
"lump-sucker," he demurely returned before daylight to his own quarters.

Of this habit of the octopus the ancients were, also, fully aware.
Aristotle wrote that it left the water and walked in stony places, and
Pliny and Ælian related tales of this animal stealing barrels of salt
fish from the wharves, and crushing their staves to get at the contents.
An octopus that could do this would be as formidable a predatory monster
as the Lernean Hydra, which had the evil reputation of devouring the
Peloponnesian cattle.

Whoever first described the counter-attack of the Hydra on Hercules must
have had the octopus in his thoughts. "It twisted itself round one of
his feet"--exactly that which an octopus would do.


_From Smith's 'Classical Dictionary.'_]

Finally, according to the legend, Hercules dipped his arrow-heads in the
gall of the Hydra, and, from its poisonous nature, all the wounds he
inflicted with them upon his enemies proved fatal. It is worthy of
notice that the ancients attributed to the octopus the possession of a
similarly venomous secretion. Thus Oppian writes:

    "The crawling preke a deadly juice contains
    Injected poison fires the wounded veins."

The accompanying illustration (Fig. 23) of Hercules slaying the Hydra
is taken from a marble tablet in the Vatican. It will be immediately
seen how closely the Hydra, as there depicted, resembles an octopus. The
body is elongated, but the eight necks with small heads on them bear
about the same proportion to the body as the arms to the body of an

The Reverend James Spence, in his 'Polymetis,' published in 1755, gives
a figure, almost the counterpart of this, copied from an antique gem, a
carnelian, in the collection of the Grand Duke of Tuscany at Florence.
Only seven necks of the hydra are, however, there visible, and there are
two coils in the elongated body. On the upper part are two spots which
have been supposed to represent breasts. This was probably intended by
the artificer; but that the idea originated from a duplication of the
syphon tube is evident from the figures (Figs. 21, 22) of the octopus on
the smaller gold ornaments found by Dr. Schliemann at Mycenæ. In the
same work is also an engraving from a picture in the Vatican Virgil,
entitled 'The River, or Hateful Passage into the Kingdom of Ades,'
wherein an octopus-hydra, of which only six heads and necks are shown,
is one of the monsters called by the author "Terrors of the


In the description given by Homer, in the twelfth book of the 'Odyssey,'
of the unfortunate nymph Scylla, transformed by the arts of Circe into a
frightful monster, the same typical idea as in the case of the Hydra is
perceptible. The lurking octopus, having its lair in the cranny of a
rock, watching in ambush for passing prey, seizing anything coming
within its reach with one or more of its prehensile arms, even
brandishing these fear-inspiring weapons out of water in a threatening
manner, and known in some localities to be dangerous to boats and their
occupants, is transformed into a many-headed sea monster, seizing in its
mouths, instead of by the adhesive suckers of its numerous arms, the
helpless sailors from passing vessels, and devouring them in the abysses
of its cavernous den.

Circe, prophesying to Ulysses the dangers he had still to encounter,
warned him especially of Scylla and Charybdis, within the power of one
of whom he must fall in passing through the narrow strait (between Italy
and Sicily) where they had their horrid abode. Describing the lofty rock
of Scylla, she tells him:

    "Full in the centre of this rock displayed
    A yawning cavern casts a dreadful shade,
    Nor the fleet arrow from the twanging bow
    Sent with full force, could reach the depth below.
    Wide to the west the horrid gulf extends,
    And the dire passage down to hell descends.
    O fly the dreadful sight! expand thy sails,
    Ply the strong oar, and catch the nimble gales;
    Here Scylla bellows from her dire abodes;
    Tremendous pest! abhorred by man and gods!
    Hideous her voice, and with less terrors roar
    The whelps of lions in the midnight hour.
    Twelve feet deformed and foul the fiend dispreads;
    Six horrid necks she rears, and six terrific heads;

           *       *       *       *       *

    When stung with hunger she embroils the flood,
    The sea-dog and the dolphin are her food;
    She makes the huge leviathan her prey,
    And all the monsters of the wat'ry way;
    The swiftest racer of the azure plain
    Here fills her sails and spreads her oars in vain;
    Fell Scylla rises, in her fury roars,
    At once six mouths expands, at once six men devours."[72]

  [72] Homer's 'Odyssey,' Pope's Translation, Book XII.

Circe then describes the perils of the whirling waters of Charybdis as
still more dreadful; and, admonishing Ulysses that once in her power all
must perish, she advises him to choose the lesser of the two evils, and

        "shun the horrid gulf, by Scylla fly;
    'Tis better six to lose than all to die."

Ulysses continues his voyage; and as his ship enters the ominous strait,

    "Struck with despair, with trembling hearts we viewed
    The yawning dungeon, and the tumbling flood;
    When, lo! fierce Scylla stooped to seize her prey,
    Stretched her dire jaws, and swept six men away.
    Chiefs of renown! loud echoing shrieks arise;
    I turn, and view them quivering in the skies;
    They call, and aid, with outstretched arms, implore,
    In vain they call! those arms are stretched no more.
    As from some rock that overhangs the flood,
    The silent fisher casts th' insidious food;
    With fraudful care he waits the finny prize,
    And sudden lifts it quivering to the skies;
    So the foul monster lifts her prey on high,
    So pant the wretches, struggling in the sky;
    In the wide dungeon she devours her food,
    And the flesh trembles while she churns the blood."


One of the sea-fallacies still generally believed, and accepted as true,
is that whales take in water by the mouth, and eject it from the
spiracle, or blow-hole.

The popular ideas on this subject are still those which existed hundreds
of years ago, and which are expressed by Oppian in two passages in his

    "Uncouth the sight when they in dreadful play
    Discharge their nostrils and refund a sea,"


    "While noisy fin-fish let their fountains fly
    And spout the curling torrent to the sky."

Eminent zoologists and intelligent observers, who have had full
opportunities of obtaining practical knowledge of the habits of these
great marine mammals, have forcibly combated and repeatedly contradicted
this erroneous idea; but their sensible remarks have been read by few,
in comparison with the numbers of those to whom a wrong impression has
been conveyed by sensational pictures in which whales are represented
_with their heads above the surface_, and throwing up from their
nostrils columns of water, like the fountains in Trafalgar Square. One
can hardly be surprised that the old writers on Natural History were
unacquainted with the real composition of the whale's "spout." Those of
them who sought for any original information on marine zoology, obtained
it chiefly from uninstructed and superstitious fishermen; but they
generally contented themselves with diligent compilation, and thus
copied and transmitted the errors of their predecessors, with the
addition of some slight embellishments of their own. Accordingly, we
find Olaus Magnus[73] describing, as follows, the _Physeter_, or, as his
translator, Streater, calls it, the _Whirlpool_. "The _Physeter_ or
_Pristis_," he says, "is a kind of whale, two hundred cubits long, and
is very cruel. For, to the danger of seamen, he will sometimes raise
himself above the sail-yards, and casts such floods of waters above his
head, which he had sucked in, that with a cloud of them he will often
sink the strongest ships, or expose the mariners to extreme danger. This
beast hath also a large round mouth, like a lamprey, whereby he sucks in
his meat or water, and by his weight cast upon the fore or hinder deck,
he sinks and drowns a ship."

  [73] 'Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus,' lib. xxi. cap. vi.
  A.D. 1555.

Figures 24 and 25 (p. 64) are facsimiles of the illustrations which
accompany the above description. It will be seen that, in the first, the
_Physeter_ is depicted as uprearing a maned neck and head, like that of
a fabled dragon; whilst in Fig. 25 it is shown as a whale flinging
itself on board a ship, which is sinking under its ponderous weight. In
both, torrents of water are issuing from its head, and it is evident
that they are merely exaggerated misrepresentations of the "spouting" of

Gesner copies many of Olaus Magnus's illustrations, and improves upon
Fig. 25 by putting a numerous crew on board the ship. The unfortunate
sailors are depicted in every attitude of terror and despair, and seem
to be incapacitated from any attempt to save themselves by the flood of
water which the whale is deliberately pouring upon them from its

[Illustration: FIG. 24.--THE PHYSETER INUNDATING A SHIP. _After Olaus

BLOW-HOLE. _After Olaus Magnus._]

[Illustration: FIG. 26--SPERM WHALES SPOUTING.]

These old pictures appear, no doubt, ridiculous, but they are, really,
very little more absurd and untrue to nature than many of those which
disfigure some otherwise useful books on Natural History of the present
day. I could refer to several, in which whales are represented as
spouting from their blow-holes one or more columns of water, which,
after ascending skyward to a considerable distance, fall over gracefully
as if issuing from the nozzle of an ornamental fountain. I select one
from amongst them (Fig. 26), not with any disrespect for the artist,
author, or publisher of the work from which it is taken, but because,
whilst it shows correctly the position of the blow-hole of the sperm
whale, it also exhibits exactly that which I wish to confute. The
publishers of the valuable work in which this picture appeared have
generously consented to my reproducing it here.

When, in describing, in 1877, the White Whale then exhibited at the
Westminster Aquarium, I said that whales do not spout water out of their
blow-holes, and that the idea that they do so is a popular error, the
statement was so contrary to generally-accepted notions that I was not
surprised by receiving more than one letter on the subject. One very
reasonable suggestion made to me was that, although the lesser whales,
such as the porpoises, which I had had opportunities of watching in
confinement at Brighton for two years, and the _Beluga_, which had been
observed for a similar period at the New York Aquarium, and also at
Westminster, did not "spout," the respiratory apparatus of the larger
whales might be so modified as to permit them to do so. Let us consider
the construction of the breathing apparatus which would have to be thus
modified, as shown in the porpoise.

In the first place, there is a pair of lungs as perfect as those of any
land mammal, fitted to receive air, and to bring the hot blood into
contact with the air, that it may absorb the oxygen of the air, and so
be purified. But this air cannot well be breathed through the mouth of
an animal which has to take its food from and in water; so it has to be
inhaled only by the nostrils. If these were situated as they are in land
mammals, near the extremity of the nose, the porpoise would be obliged
to stop when pursuing its prey, or, escaping from its enemies, to put
the tip of its nose above the surface of the water every time it
required to breathe. A much more convenient arrangement has, therefore,
been provided for it, and for almost all whales, by which that
difficulty is removed. Instead of running along the bones of the nose,
the nostrils are placed on the top of the head, and the windpipe is
turned up to them without having any connection with the palate. The
upper jaw is quite solid. Thus the mouth is solely devoted to the
reception of food, and the animal is enabled to continue its course when
swimming, however rapidly, by rising obliquely to the surface, and
exposing the top of its head above it. On the blow-hole being opened,
the air, from which the oxygen has been absorbed, is expelled in a
sudden puff, another supply is instantaneously inhaled, and rushes into
the lungs with extreme velocity, and then the porpoise can either
descend into the depths, or remain with its spiracle exposed to the air,
as it may prefer. In this act of breathing the spiracle is normally
brought above the water, the breath escapes, and the immediate
inhalation is effected almost in silence. But frequently, and in some
whales habitually, the blow-hole is opened just below the surface, and
then the outrush of air causes a splash upwards of the water overlying

I may here mention that I have frequently seen the porpoises at the
Brighton Aquarium lying asleep at the surface, with the blow-hole
exposed above it, breathing automatically, and without conscious effort.
Aristotle was acquainted with this habit of the cetacea 2,200 years ago,
for he wrote: "They sleep with the blow-hole, their organ of
respiration, elevated above the water."

The apparatus for closing the blow-hole, so that not a drop of water
shall enter the windpipe, even under great pressure, is a beautiful
contrivance, complex in its structure, yet most simple in its working.
The external aperture is covered by a continuation of the skin, locally
thickened, and connected with a conical stopper, of a texture as tough
as india-rubber, which fits perfectly into a cone or funnel formed by
the extremity of the windpipe, and closes more and more firmly as the
pressure upon it is increased. Whilst the orifice is thus guarded, the
lower end of the tube is surrounded by a strong compressing muscle,
which clasps also the glottis, and thus the passage from the blow-hole
to the lungs is completely stopped.

There is nothing in this which indicates the possibility of the spouting
of water from the nostrils; but as assertions that water had been seen
to issue from them were positive and persistent, anatomists seem to have
felt themselves obliged to try to account for it somehow. Accordingly
the theory was propounded by F. Cuvier that the water taken into the
mouth is reserved in two pouches (one on each side), until the whale
rises to blow, when, the gullet being closed, it is forced by the action
of the tongue and jaws through the nasal passages, somewhat as a smoker
occasionally expels the smoke of his cigar through his nostrils.
Although these pouches, or sacs analogous to them, are found at the base
of the nostrils of the horse, tapir, etc.,--animals which do not "spout"
from the nostrils water taken in by the mouth--the explanation was
accepted for a time.

Mr. Bell held this opinion when the first edition of his 'British
Quadrupeds' was published in 1837, but before the issue of the second
edition, in 1874, he had found reasons for taking a different view of
the matter; and, under the advice of his judicious editors, Mr. Alston,
and Professor Flower (the latter of whom supervised the proofs of the
chapters on the Cetacea) his sanction of the illusion was withdrawn as
follows:--"The results of more recent and careful observations, amongst
which we may notice those of Bennett, Von Baer, Sars and Burmeister, are
directly opposed to the statement that water is thus ejected; and there
can now be no doubt that the appearance which has given rise to the idea
is caused by the moisture with which the expelled breath is
supercharged, which condenses at once in the cold outer air, and forms a
cloud or column of white vapour. It is possible indeed that if the
animal begins to 'blow' before its head is actually at the surface, the
force of the rushing air may drive up some little spray along with it,
but this is quite different from the notion that water is really
expelled from the nasal passages. We may add that on the only occasion
when we ourselves witnessed the 'spouting' of a large whale we were much
struck with its resemblance to the column of white spray which is dashed
up by the ricochetting ball fired from one of the great guns of a

The simile is admirable, and nothing could better describe the
appearance of a whale's "spout"; but, in the previous portion of the
passage (except with reference to the sperm whale, the nostrils of which
are not on the top of the head), I think sufficient importance is not
conceded to the volume of water propelled into the air by the outrush of
breath from the submerged blow-hole. I do not know how many cubic feet
of air the lungs of a great whale are capable of containing, but the
quantity is sufficient to force up to a height of several feet the water
above the valve when the latter is opened, not only in "some little
spray," but, for some distance in a good solid jet--enough, in fact, to
give the appearance of its actually issuing from the blow-hole, and to
account for the erroneous belief of sailors that it does so. It must be
remembered that the escape of air is not by a prolonged wheeze, but by a
sudden blast, and thus when the spiracle is opened just beneath the
surface, an instant before it is uncovered to take in a fresh supply of
air, the water above its orifice is thrown up as by a slight subaqueous
explosion, or as by the momentary opening under water of the
safety-valve of a steam boiler. Some idea of the force and volume of the
blast of air from the lungs of even the common porpoise may be formed
when I mention that one of the porpoises at the Brighton Aquarium,
happening to open its spiracle just beneath an illuminating gas jet
fixed over its tank, blew out the light.

In the sperm whale the nostrils are placed near the extremity of the
nose, and therefore this whale has to raise its snout above the surface
when it requires to breathe; but instead of this being necessary, as in
the case of the porpoise twice or thrice in a minute, the sperm whale
only rises to "blow" at intervals of from an hour to an hour and twenty
minutes. Mr. Beale says[74] that in a large bull sperm whale the time
consumed in making one expiration and one inspiration is ten seconds,
during six of which the nostril is beneath the surface of the water--the
expiration occupying three seconds, and the inspiration one second. At
each breathing time this whale makes from sixty to seventy expirations,
and remains, therefore, at the surface ten or eleven minutes, and then,
raising its tail, it descends perpendicularly, head first. In different
individuals the time required for performing these several acts varies;
but in each they are minutely regular, and this well-known regularity is
of considerable use to the fishers, for when a whaler has once noticed
the periods of any particular whale which is not alarmed, he knows to a
minute when to expect it to come to the surface, and how long it will
remain there. The "spout" of the sperm whale differs much from that of
other whales. Unlike, for instance, the straight perpendicular twin jets
of the "right whale," the single, forward-slanting "spout" of the sperm
whale presents a thick curled bush of white mist. Each whale has a
different mode and time of breathing, and the form of the "spout"
differs accordingly.

  [74] 'Natural History of the Sperm Whale.' Van Voorst, 1839.

It is said that the blowing of the _Beluga_, or "White Whale," is not
unmusical at sea, and that when it takes place under water it often
makes a peculiar sound which might be mistaken for the whistling of a
bird. Hence is derived one of the names given to this whale by
sailors--the "Sea-canary." Though I have had opportunities of
attentively watching the breathing and other actions in captivity of two
specimens of this whale I have never been able to detect the sound
alluded to.

Besides the opinions cited by Mr. Bell concerning whales spouting water
from their blow-holes, we have other evidence which is most clear and
definite, and which ought to be convincing.

We will take first that of Mr. Beale, who as surgeon on board the
"Kent" and "Sarah and Elizabeth," South Sea whalers, passed several
seasons amongst sperm whales. He says:--"I can truly say when I find
myself in opposition to these old and received notions, that out of the
thousands of sperm whales which I have seen during my wanderings in the
South and North Pacific Oceans, I have never observed one of them to
eject a column of water from the nostril. I have seen them at a
distance, and I have been within a few yards of several hundreds of
them, and I never saw water pass from the spout-hole. But the column of
thick and dense vapour which is certainly ejected is exceedingly likely
to mislead the judgment of the casual observer in these matters; and
this column does indeed appear very much like a jet of water when seen
at the distance of one or two miles on a clear day, because of the
condensation of the vapour which takes place the moment it escapes from
the nostril, and its consequent opacity, which makes it appear of a
white colour, and which is not observed when the whale is close to the
spectator. It then appears only like a jet of white steam. The only
water in addition is the small quantity that may be lodged in the
external fissure of the spout hole, when the animal raises it above the
surface to breathe, and which is blown up into the air with the 'spout,'
and may probably assist in condensing the vapour of which it is
formed.... I have been also very close to the _Balæna mysticetus_ (the
Greenland, or Right whale) when it has been feeding and breathing, and
yet I never saw even that animal differ in the latter respect from the
sperm whale in the nature of the spout.... If the weather is fine and
clear, and there is a gentle breeze at the time, the spout may be seen
from the masthead of a moderate-sized vessel at the distance of four or
five miles."

Captain Scoresby, who was a veteran and successful whaler, a good
zoologist, and a highly intelligent observer, says:--"A moist vapour
mixed with mucus is discharged from the nostrils when the animal
breathes; but no water accompanies it unless an expiration of the breath
be made under the surface."

Dr. Robert Brown, who communicated to the Zoological Society, in May,
1868, a valuable series of observations on the mammals of Greenland,
made during his voyages to the Spitzbergen, Iceland, and Jan Mayen Seas,
and along the eastern and western shores of Davis's Strait and Baffin's
Bay to near the mouth of Smith's Sound, remarks, in a chapter on the
Right whale (_Balæna mysticetus_):--"The 'blowing,' so familiar a
feature of the _Cetacea_, but especially of the _Mysticetus_ is, quite
analogous to the breathing of the higher mammals, and the blow-holes are
the homologues of the nostrils. It is most erroneously stated that the
whale ejects water from the blow-holes. I have been many times only a
few feet from a whale when 'blowing,' and, though purposely observing
it, could never see that it ejected from its nostrils anything but the
ordinary breath--a fact which might almost have been deduced from
analogy. In the cold arctic air this breath is generally condensed, and
falls upon those close at hand in the form of a dense spray which may
have led seamen to suppose that this vapour was originally ejected in
the form of water. Occasionally, when the whale blows just as it is
rising out of or sinking in the sea, a little of the superincumbent
water may be forced upwards by the column of breath. When the whale is
wounded in the lungs, or in any of the blood-vessels immediately
supplying them, blood, as might be expected, is ejected in the
death-throes along with the breath. When the whaleman sees his prey
'spouting red,' he concludes that its end is not far distant; it is then
mortally wounded."

Captain F. C. Hall, the commander of the unfortunate "Polaris"
Expedition, thus describes, in his 'Life with the Esquimaux,' the spout
of a whale:--"What this blowing is like," he says, "may be described by
asking if the reader has ever seen the smoke produced by the firing of
an old-fashioned flint-lock. If so, then he may understand the 'blow' of
a whale--a flash in the pan and all is over."

Captain Scammon, an experienced American whaling captain, who, like
Scoresby, could wield well both harpoon and pen, in his fine work on
'The Marine Mammals of the North-Western Coast of America,' writes to
the same effect.

Mr. Herman Melville, who is not a naturalist, but has served before the
mast in a sperm-whaler and borne his part in all the hardships and
dangers of the chase, writes, in his remarkable book, 'The Whale':--"As
for this 'whale-spout' you might almost stand in it, and yet be
undecided as to what it is precisely. Nor is it at all prudent for the
hunter to be over curious respecting it. For, even when coming into
slight contact with the outer vapoury shreds of the jet, which will
often happen, your skin will feverishly smart from the acrimony of the
thing so touching you. And I know one who, coming into still closer
contact with the spout--whether with some scientific object in view or
otherwise I cannot say--the skin peeled off from his cheek and arm.
Wherefore, among whalemen, the spout is deemed poisonous; they try to
evade it. I have heard it said, and I do not much doubt it, that if the
jet were fairly spouted into your eyes it would blind you."

The only other eye-witness I will cite is Mr. Bartlett, of the
Zoological Gardens, whose experience and accuracy as an observer of the
habits of animals is unsurpassed. He spent an autumn holiday in
accompanying the late Mr. Frank Buckland and his colleagues, Messrs.
Walpole and Young, in a tour of inquiry into the condition of the
herring fishery in Scotland. When the commissioners left Peterhead, he
remained there for a few days as the guest of Captain David Gray, of the
steam whaler, "Eclipse," and as it was reported that large whales had
been seen in the offing, his host invited him to go in search of them,
and pay them a visit in his steam-launch. When about twelve miles out,
they saw the whales, which were "finners," at a distance of four or five
miles. Fourteen were counted--all large ones--some of which were seventy
feet in length. On approaching them the captain shut off steam, and the
launch was allowed to float in amongst them. So close were they to the
boat that it would not have been difficult to jump upon the back of one
of them had that been desirable. Mr. Bartlett tells me that he was
greatly astonished by the immense force of the sudden outrush of air
from their blow-holes, and the noise by which it was accompanied. He
believes that the blast was strong enough to blow a man off the spiracle
if he were seated on it. He authorizes me to say that having seen and
watched these whales under such favourable circumstances, he entirely
agrees with all that I have here written concerning the so-called
"spout." The volume of hot, vaporous breath expelled is enormous, and
this is accompanied by no small quantity of water, forced up by it when
the blow-hole is opened below the surface.

An effect similar in appearance to the whale's spout is produced by the
breathing of the hippopotamus. When this great beast opens its nostrils
beneath the surface, water and spray are driven and scattered upward by
the force of the air, but, of course, do not issue from the nasal
passages. I have, also, seen this effect produced, though in a less
degree, by the breathing of sea-lions.

I repeat, therefore, that not a drop of sea-water enters or passes out
of the blow-hole of a whale. If the spiracle valve were in a condition
to allow it to do so the animal would soon be drowned. Everyone knows
the extreme irritation and the horrible feeling of suffocation caused to
a human being, whilst eating or drinking, by a crumb or a little liquid
"going the wrong way"--that is, being accidentally drawn to the
air-passages instead of passing to the oesophagus. If water were to
enter the bronchi of a whale it would instantly produce similar

The neck of a popular error is hard to break; but it is time that one
so palpable as that concerning the "spouting" of whales should cease to
be promulgated and disseminated by fanciful illustrations of instructive


One of the prettiest fables of the sea is that relating to the Paper
Nautilus, the constructor and inhabitant of the delicate and beautiful
shell which looks as if it were made of ivory no thicker than a sheet of
writing paper.

[Illustration: FIG. 27.--THE PAPER NAUTILUS (_Argonauta argo_) SAILING.]

It is an old belief that in calm weather it rises from the bottom of
the sea, and, elevating its two broadly-expanded arms, spreads to the
gentle air, as a sail, the membrane, light as a spider's web, by which
they are united; and that, seated in its boat-like shell, it thus floats
over the smooth surface of the ocean, steering and paddling with its
other arms. Should storm arise or danger threaten, its masts and sail
are lowered, its oars laid in, and the frail craft, filling with water,
sinks gently beneath the waves.

When and where this picturesque idea originated I am unable to discover.
It dates far back beyond the range of history; for Aristotle mentions
it, and, unfortunately, sanctioned it. With the weight of his honoured
name in its favour, this fallacy has maintained its place in popular
belief, even to our own times; for the mantle of the great father of
natural history, who was generally so marvellously correct, fell on none
of his successors; Pliny, and Ælian, and the tribe of compilers who
succeeded them, having been more concerned to make their histories
sensational than to verify their statements.

Naturally, the Paper Nautilus has been the subject of many a poet's
verses. Oppian wrote of it in his 'Halieutics':--

    "Sail-fish in secret, silent deeps reside,
    In shape and nature to the preke[75] allied;
    Close in their concave shells their bodies wrap,
    Avoid the waves and every storm escape.
    But not to mirksome depths alone confined;
    When pleasing calms have stilled the sighing wind,
    Curious to know what seas above contain,
    They leave the dark recesses of the main;
    Now, wanton, to the changing surface haste,
    View clearer skies, and the pure welkin taste.
    But slow they, cautious, rise, and, prudent, fear
    The upper region of the watery sphere;
    Backward they mount, and as the stream o'erflows,
    Their convex shells to pressing floods oppose.
    Conscious, they know that, should they forward move,
    O'erwhelming waves would sink them from above,
    Fill the void space, and with the rushing weight,
    Force down th' inconstants to their former seat.
    When, first arrived, they feel the stronger blast,
    They lie supine and skim the liquid waste.
    The natural barks out-do all human art
    When skilful floaters play the sailor's part.
    Two feet they upward raise, and steady keep;
    These are the masts and rigging of the ship:
    A membrane stretch'd between supplies the sail,
    Bends from the masts, and swells before the gale.
    Two other feet hang paddling on each side,
    And serve for oars to row and helm to guide.
    'Tis thus they sail, pleased with the wanton game,
    The fish, the sailor, and the ship, the same.
    But when the swimmers dread some dangers near
    The sportive pleasure yields to stronger fear.
    No more they, wanton, drive before the blasts,
    But strike the sails, and bring down all the masts;
    The rolling waves their sinking shells o'erflow,
    And dash them down again to sands below."

  [75] The octopus.

Montgomery also thus exquisitely paraphrases the same idea in his
'Pelican Island':--

    "Light as a flake of foam upon the wind,
    Keel upwards, from the deep emerged a shell,
    Shaped like the moon ere half her orb is filled.
    Fraught with young life, it righted as it rose,
    And moved at will along the yielding water.
    The native pilot of this little bark
    Put out a tier of oars on either side,
    Spread to the wafting breeze a twofold sail,
    And mounted up, and glided down, the billows
    In happy freedom, pleased to feel the air,
    And wander in the luxury of light."

Byron mentions the Nautilus in his 'Mutiny of the Bounty' as follows:--

    "The tender Nautilus, who steers his prow,
    The sea-born sailor of his shell canoe,
    The ocean Mab--the fairy of the sea,
    Seems far less fragile, and alas! more free.
    He, when the lightning-winged tornadoes sweep
    The surge, is safe: his port is in the deep;
    And triumphs o'er the armadas of mankind
    Which shake the world, yet crumble in the wind."

The very names by which this animal is known to the science which some
persons erroneously think must be so hard and dry are poetic. In
Aristotle's day it was called the _Nautilus_ or _Nauticus_, "the
mariner," and though two thousand two hundred years have passed since
the great master wrote, the name still clings to it. As the Pearly
Nautilus, a very different animal, also bears that name, Gualtieri
perceived the necessity of distinguishing the Paper Nautilus from it,
and was followed by Linnæus, who therefore entitled the genus to which
the latter belongs, _Argonauta_, after the ship _Argo_, in which Jason
and his companions sailed to Colchis to carry off the "Golden Fleece"
suspended there in the temple of Mars, and guarded by brazen-hoofed
bulls, whose nostrils breathed out fire and death, and by a watchful
dragon that never slept. According to the Greek legend, the _Argo_ was
named after its builder Argus, the son of Danaus, and was the first ship
that ever was built. Oppian ('Halieutics,' book I.) expresses his
opinion that the Nautilus served as a model for the man who first
conceived the idea of constructing a ship, and embarking on the

    "Ye Powers! when man first felled the stately trees,
    And passed to distant shores on wafting seas,
    Whether some god inspired the wondrous thought,
    Or chance found out, or careful study sought;
    If humble guess may probably divine,
    And trace th' improvement to the first design,
    Some wight of prying search, who wond'ring stood
    When softer gales had smoothed the dimpled flood,
    Observed these careless swimmers floating move,
    And how each blast the easy sailor drove;
    Hence took the hint, hence formed th' imperfect draught,
    And ship-like fish the future seaman taught.
    Then mortals tried the shelving hull to slope,
    To raise the mast, and twist the stronger rope,
    To fix the yards, let fly the crowded sails,
    Sweep through the curling waves, and court auspicious gales."

Pope, too, in his 'Essay on Man' (Ep. 3), adopted the idea in his

    "Learn of the little Nautilus to sail,
    Spread the thin oar, and catch the driving gale."

Poetry, like the wizard's spell, can make

    "A nutshell seem a gilded barge,
    A sheeling seem a palace large,"

but the equally enchanting wand of science is able by a touch to dispel
the illusion, and cause the object to appear in its true proportions. So
with the fiction of the "Paper Sailor."

I have elsewhere described the affinities of the Nautili and their place
in nature, therefore it will only be necessary for me here to allude to
these very briefly, to explain the great and essential difference that
exists between the two kinds of Nautilus which are popularly regarded as
being one and the same animal.

The _Pearly_ Nautilus (_Nautilus pompilius_) and the Argonaut, which
from having a fragile shell of somewhat similar external form is called
the _Paper_ Nautilus, both belong to that great primary group of animals
known as the _Mollusca_, and to the class of it called the
_Cephalopoda_, from their having their head in the middle of that which
is the foot in other mollusks. In the Cephalopoda the foot is split or
divided into eight segments in some families, and in others into ten
segments, which radiate from the central head, like so many rays. These
rays are not only used as feet, but, being highly flexible, are adapted
for employment also as prehensile arms, with which their owner captures
its prey, and they are rendered more perfect for this purpose by being
furnished with suckers which hold firmly to any surface to which they
are applied. The Cephalopods which have the foot divided into ten of
these segments or arms are called the _Decapoda_, those which have only
eight of them are called the _Octopoda_. All of these have _two_
plume-like gills--one on each side--and so are called _Dibranchiata_;
and in the eight-armed section of these is the argonaut or Paper
Nautilus. Of the Pearly Nautilus and the four-gilled order I shall have
more to say by-and-by: at present we will follow the history of the

[Illustration: FIG. 28--THE PAPER NAUTILUS (_Argonauta argo_) RETRACTED

Notwithstanding all that has been written of it, it is only within the
last fifty years that this has been correctly understood. An eight-armed
cuttle was recognised and named _Ocythoe_, which, instead of having,
like the common octopus, all of its eight arms thong-like and tapering
to a point, had the two dorsal limbs flattened into a broad thin
membrane. Although this animal was sometimes seen dead without any
covering, it was generally found contained in a thin and slightly
elastic univalve shell of graceful form, and bearing some resemblance to
an elegantly shaped boat. It did not penetrate to the bottom of this
shell; it was not attached to it by any muscular ligament, nor was the
shell moulded on its body, nor apparently made to fit it. Hence it was
long regarded as doubtful, and even by naturalists so recent and eminent
as Dumeril and De Blainville, whether the octopod really secreted the
shell, or whether, like the hermit-crab, it borrowed for its protection
the shell of some other mollusk. Aristotle left the subject with the
faithful acknowledgment: "As to the origin and growth of this shell
nothing is yet exactly determined. It appears to be produced like other
shells; but even this is not evident, any more than it is whether the
animal can live without it." Pliny, as usual, instead of throwing light
on the matter, obscured it. He regarded the shell as the property of a
gasteropod like the snail, and the octopod as an amateur yachtsman who
occasionally went on board and took a trip in the frail craft, and
assisted its owner to navigate it for the fun of the thing. This is what
he says about it[76]: "Mutianus reports that he saw in the Propontis a
shell formed like a little ship, having the poop turned up and the prow
pointed. An animal called the _Nauplius_, resembling an octopus, was
enclosed in the shell with its owner, for its amusement in the following
manner. When the sea is calm the guest lowers his arms, and uses them as
oars and a helm, whilst the owner of the shell expands himself to catch
the wind; so that one has the pleasure of carrying and sailing, and the
other of steering. Thus, these two otherwise senseless animals take
their pleasure together; but the meeting them sailing in their shell is
a bad omen for mariners, and foretells some great calamity."

  [76] Naturalis Historia, lib. ix. cap. 30.

Although the animal was never found in any other shell, and the shell
was never known to contain any other animal, and though, when the shell
and the animal were found together they were always of proportionate
size, this octopod, as I have said, was looked upon by some
conchologists as a pirate who had taken possession of a ship which did
not belong to him, until Madame Jeannette Power, a French lady then
residing in Messina, having succeeded in keeping alive for a time an
argonaut the shell of which had been broken in its capture, discovered
that the animal quickly repaired the fracture, and reproduced the
portions that had been broken off. Induced by this to make further
experiments, she kept a number of living argonauts in cages sunk in the
sea near the citadel of Messina, and in 1836 laid before the "Academy"
at Catania the following results of her observations of them:--

1st. That the argonaut constructs the shell which it inhabits.

2nd. That it quits the egg entirely naked, and forms the shell after its

3rd. That it can repair its shell, if necessary, by a fresh deposit of
material having the same chemical composition as its original shell.

4th. That this material is secreted by the palmate, or sail, arms, and
is laid on the outside of the shell, to the exterior of which these
membranous arms are closely applied.

Madame Power was mistaken on two points. Firstly, the construction of
the shell does not commence after the birth of the animal, but, as has
been shown by M. Duvernoy, its rudimentary form is distinctly visible by
the aid of the microscope in the embryo, whilst still in the egg; and
secondly, she continued to believe in the use of the membranous arms as
sails, and of the others as oars. This fallacy was exploded by Captain
Sander Rang, an officer of the French navy, and "port-captain" at
Algiers, who carefully followed up Madame Power's experiments, and
confirmed the more important of them. Thus were set at rest questions
which for centuries had divided the opinions of zoologists.

The "Paper Nautilus" is, in fact, a female octopod provided with a
portable nest, in which to carry about and protect her eggs, instead of
brooding over them in some cranny of a rock, or within the recesses of a
pile of shells, as does her cousin the octopus. From the membranes of
the two flattened and expanded arms she secretes and, if necessary,
repairs her shell, and by applying them closely to its outer surface on
each side, holds herself within it, for it is not fastened to her body
by any attaching muscles. When disturbed or in danger she can loosen her
hold, and, leaving her cradle, swim away independently of it. It has
been said that, having once left it, she has not the ability nor perhaps
the sagacity to re-enter her nest, and resume the guardianship of her
eggs.[77] From my own observations of the breeding habits of other
octopods I think this most improbable. The use and purpose of the shell
of the argonaut will be better understood if I briefly describe what I
have witnessed of the treatment of its eggs by its near relative, the

  [77] Appendix to Sir Edward Belcher's 'Voyage of the "Samarang,"'
  by Mr. Arthur Adams, assistant surgeon to the expedition.

"The eggs of the octopus," as I have elsewhere said, "when first laid,
are small, oval, translucent granules, resembling little grains of rice,
not quite an eighth of an inch long. They grow along and around a common
stalk, to which every egg is separately attached, as grapes form part of
a bunch. Each of the elongated bunches is affixed by a glutinous
secretion to the surface of a rock or stone (never to seaweed, as has
been erroneously stated), and hangs pendent by its stalk in a long white
cluster, like a magnified catkin of the filbert, or, to use Aristotle's
simile, like the fruit of the white alder. The length and number of
these bunches varies according to the size and condition of the parent.
Those produced by a small octopus are seldom more than about three
inches long, and from twelve to twenty in number; but a full-grown
female will deposit from forty to fifty of such clusters, each about
five inches in length. I have counted the eggs of which these clusters
are composed, and find that there are about a thousand in each: so that
a large octopus produces in one laying, usually extended over three
days, a progeny of from 40,000 to 50,000. I have seen an octopus, when
undisturbed, pass one of her arms beneath the hanging bunches of her
eggs, and, dilating the membrane on each side of it into a boat-shaped
hollow, gather and receive them in it as in a trough or cradle which
exhibited in its general shape and outline a remarkable similarity to
the shell of the argonaut, with the eggs of which octopod its own are
almost identical in form and appearance. Then she would caress and
gently rub them, occasionally turning towards them the mouth of her
flexible exhalent and locomotor tube, like the nozzle of a fireman's
hose-pipe, so as to direct upon them a jet of the excurrent water. I
believe that the object of this syringing process is to free the eggs
from parasitic animalcules, and possibly to prevent the growth of
conferva, which, I have found, rapidly overspreads those removed from
her attention."[78]

  [78] 'The Octopus,' 1873, p. 57.

It has been suggested that the syringing may be for the purpose of
keeping the water surrounding the eggs well aerated; but this is
evidently erroneous, for the water ejected from the tube has been
previously deprived of its oxygen, and consequently of its health-giving
properties, whilst passing over the gills of the parent. Week after
week, for fifty days, a brooding octopus will continue to attend to her
eggs with the most watchful and assiduous care, seldom leaving them for
an instant except to take food, which, without a brief abandonment of
her position, would be beyond her reach. Aristotle asserted that while
the female is incubating she takes no food. This is incorrect; but in
every case of the kind that has come under my observation the mother
octopod, whenever she has been obliged to leave her nest, has returned
to it as quickly as possible; and so I believe can, and does, the female
argonaut to her shell, and that, too, without any difficulty. In her
case the numerous clusters of eggs are all united at their origin to one
slender and tapering stalk which is fixed by a spot of glutinous matter
to the body-whorl of the spiral shell.

[Illustration: FIG. 29.--THE PAPER NAUTILUS (_Argonauta argo_)

This "paper-sailor," then, whom the poets have regarded as endowed with
so much grace and beauty, and living in luxurious ease, is but a fine
lady octopus after all. Turn her out of her handsome residence, and,
instead of the fairy skimmer of the seas, you have before you an object
apparently as free from loveliness and romance as her sprawling,
uncanny-looking, relative. Instead of floating in her pleasure boat over
the surface of the sea, the argonaut ordinarily crawls along the bottom,
carrying her shell above her, keel uppermost; and the broad extremities
of the two arms are not hoisted as sails, nor allowed when at rest to
dangle over the side of the "boat;" but are used as a kind of hood by
which the animal retains the shell in its proper position, as a man
bearing a load on his shoulders holds it with his hands. When she comes
to the surface, or progresses by swimming instead of walking, she does
so in the same manner as the octopus: namely, by the forcible expulsion
of water from her funnel-like tube.

But if truth compels us to deprive her of the counterfeit halo conferred
on her by poets, we can award her, on behalf of science, a far nobler
crown; namely, that of the Queen of the whole great Invertebrate Animal
Kingdom. For, the _Cephalopoda_, of which the argonaut is a highly
organised member, are not only the highest in their own division, the
_Mollusca_, but they are as far superior to all other animals which have
no backbones, as man stands lord and king over all created beings that
possess them.

[Illustration: FIG. 30.--THE PAPER NAUTILUS (_Argonauta argo_)

[Illustration: FIG. 31.--SHELL OF THE PAPER NAUTILUS (_Argonauta

Although in outward shape the spiral shell of the Pearly Nautilus
(_Nautilus pompilius_) somewhat resembles that of the argonaut, its
internal structure is very different. A section of it shows that it is
divided into several chambers, each of which is partitioned off from the
adjoining ones, the last formed or external one, in which the animal
lives, being much larger than the rest. The object and mode of
construction of these chambers is as follows. As the animal grows, a
constant secretion of new material takes place on the edge of the shell.
By this unceasing process of the addition of new shell in the form of a
circular curve or coil around the older portion, the whole rapidly
increases in size, both in diameter, and in the length of the chamber.
The Nautilus, requiring to keep the secreting portion of its mantle
applied to the lip of the shell, finds the chamber in which it dwells
gradually becoming inconveniently long for it, and therefore builds up a
wall behind itself, and continues its work of enlarging its premises in
front. Each of these walls, concave in front, towards the mouth of the
shell, and concave behind, acts as a strong girder and support of the
arch of the shell against the inward pressure of deep water: and it was
formerly supposed that each successive chamber so constructed and
vacated remained filled with air, and _thus_ became an additional float
by which the constantly increasing weight of the growing shell was
counter-balanced. By this beautiful adjustment of augmented floating
power to increased weight, the buoyancy of the shell would be secured
and its specific gravity maintained as nearly as possible equal to that
of the surrounding water. This adjustment does probably take place, but
in a somewhat different manner. As the Nautilus inhabits a depth of from
twenty to forty fathoms, it is evident that the air within its shell
would be displaced by the pressure of such a column of water.[79]
Accordingly, in every instance of the capture of a Nautilus the chambers
of its shell have been found filled with water. It is not improbable
that the fluid they contain may be less compressed, and exert less
pressure from within outwards than that of the external superincumbent
column of water, and that by this unbalanced pressure--under the same
hydro-dynamic law which governs its mode of self-propulsion when
swimming, and possibly in some degree within the control of the
animal--the latter is relieved of much of the weight of its shell. When
the Nautilus is at the bottom of the sea its movement is like that of a
snail crawling along upon the ground with its shell above it. The shell,
in proportion to the size of the animal that inhabits it, is a heavy
one, and unless it were rendered semi-buoyant, its owner's strength
would be severely taxed by the effort to drag it along. By the means
indicated this portable domicile is borne lightly above the body of the
Nautilus, without in any way impeding its progress.

  [79] "At 100 fathoms the pressure exceeds 265 lbs. to the square
  inch. Empty bottles, securely corked, and sunk with weights beyond
  100 fathoms, are always crushed. If filled with liquid the cork is
  driven in, and the liquid replaced by salt water; and in drawing
  the bottle up again the cork is returned to the neck of the bottle,
  generally in a reversed position."--Sir F. Beaufort, quoted by Dr.
  S. P. Woodward in his 'Manual of the Mollusca.'

[Illustration: FIG. 32.--SHELL OF THE PEARLY NAUTILUS (_Nautilus

[Illustration: FIG. 33.--THE PEARLY NAUTILUS (_Nautilus pompilius_), AND
SECTION OF ITS SHELL. _After Professor Owen._

_a a_, Partitions; _b b_, chambers; _b'_, the last-formed chamber, in
which the animal lives; _c c_, the siphuncle; _d_, attaching muscle; _e
e_, the hollow arms; _f f_, retractile tentacles; _g_, muscular disk, or
foot; _h_, the eye; _i_, position of funnel.]

The chambers are all connected by a membranous tube slightly coated with
nacre, which is connected with a large sac in the body of the animal,
near the heart, and passes through a circular orifice and a short
projecting tube in the centre of each partition wall, till it ends in
the smallest chamber at the inner extremity of the shell. Dean Buckland
believed this "syphon" to be an hydraulic apparatus acting as a "fine
adjustment" of the specific gravity of the shell, by admitting water
within it when expanded, and excluding it when contracted. As it
contains an artery and vein near its origin at the mantle, Professor
Owen has regarded it as subservient to the maintenance of a low vitality
in the vacated portion of the shell. Dr. Henry Woodward is of the
opinion that, whilst in the early life of the Nautilus this siphuncle
forms the main point of attachment between the animal and its shell, it
is in the adult "simply an aborted embryonal organ whose function is now
filled by the shell-muscles, but which in the more ancient and
straight-shelled representatives of the group (the Orthoceratites) was
not merely an embryonal but an important organ in the adult."

Every one knows the shell of the Pearly Nautilus. It may be purchased
at any shell-shop in a seaside watering-place, and is imported by
hundreds every year from Singapore.[80] It is abundant in the waters of
the Indian Archipelago, especially about the Molucca and Philippine
Islands, and on the shores of New Caledonia and the Fiji and Solomon
Islands. It has also been found alive on Pemba Island, near Zanzibar. It
seems strange, therefore, that until about half a century ago hardly
anything was known of the animal that secretes and inhabits it.
Rumphius, a Dutch naturalist, in his 'Rarities of Amboyna,' published,
in 1705, a description of one with an engraving, incorrect in drawing,
and deficient in detail; and until 1832 this was the only information
which existed concerning it. The great Cuvier never saw one, and being
acquainted only with the two-gilled cephalopods, he regarded the
head-footed mollusks as absolutely isolated from all other animals in
the kingdom of nature, even from the other classes of the mollusca. It
seemed, however, to Professor Owen, then only nineteen years of age,
that in the only living representative of the four-gilled order,
_Nautilus pompilius_, might be found the "missing link." When,
therefore, in the year 1824, his fellow-student, Mr. George Bennett, was
about to sail from England to the Polynesian Islands, young Richard Owen
earnestly charged his friend to do his utmost to obtain, and bring home
in alcohol, a specimen of the much-coveted Pearly Nautilus. The
opportunity did not occur till one warm and calm Monday evening, the
24th of August, 1829, when a living Nautilus was seen at the surface of
the water not far distant from the ship, in Marekini Bay, on the
south-west coast of the Island of Erromango, New Hebrides, in the South
Pacific Ocean. It looked like a dead tortoise-shell cat, as the sailors
said. As it began to sink as soon as it was observed, it was struck at
with a boat-hook, and was thus so much injured that it died shortly
after being taken on board the ship. The shell was destroyed, but the
soft body of the animal was preserved in spirits, and great was the joy
of Mr. Owen when, in July, 1831, Mr. Bennett arrived with it in England,
and presented it to the Royal College of Surgeons. Mr. Owen was then
Assistant-Conservator of the Museum of the College under Mr. Clift, who
was afterwards his father-in-law. He immediately commenced to anatomise,
describe, and figure his rare acquisition, and in the early part of 1832
published the result of his work in the form of a masterly treatise,
which proved to be the foundation of his future fame.[81]

  [80] I need hardly say that before the nacreous layer of the shell
  from which this animal takes its name is made visible, an outer
  deposit of dense calcareous matter has to be removed by
  hydrochloric acid: the pearly surface thus exposed is then easily

  [81] It is so interesting to most of us to know something of the
  early work of our greatest men, and of the tide in their affairs,
  which, taken at the flood, led on to fortune, that I hope I may be
  excused for referring to the period when the distinguished chief of
  the Natural History Department of the British Museum, the great
  comparative anatomist, the unrivalled palæontologist, the
  illustrious physiologist, the venerable and venerated friend of all
  earnest students, was beginning to attract the attention, and to
  receive the approbation of his seniors as a promising young worker.
  In Messrs. Griffith and Pidgeon's Supplement to Cuvier's 'Mollusca
  and Radiata,' published in 1834, the treatise in question is thus
  mentioned: "We have much pleasure in referring to a most excellent
  memoir on _Nautilus pompilius_, by Mr. Owen, with elaborate figures
  of the animal, its shell, and various parts, published by direction
  of the Council of the College of Surgeons. The reader will find the
  most satisfactory information on the subject, and the scientific
  public will earnestly hope that the present volume will be the
  first of a similar series." This hope has been more than fulfilled.
  Dean Buckland, in his 'Bridgewater Treatise,' wrote of this work:
  "I rejoice in the present opportunity of bearing testimony to the
  value of Professor Owen's highly philosophical and most admirable
  memoir--a work not less creditable to the author than honourable to
  the Royal College of Surgeons, under whose auspices the publication
  has been so handsomely conducted."

Mr. Owen's investigations confirmed his previous supposition that the
Pearly Nautilus is inferior in its organisation to octopus, sepia, or
any other known cephalopod; that it is not isolated, but that it recedes
towards the gasteropods, to which belong the snail, the periwinkle, &c.,
and that in some of its characters its structure is analogously related
to the still lower _annulosa_, or worms. Mr. Owen was just about to
start for Paris with the intention of presenting a copy of his book to
his celebrated contemporary and friend, and of showing him his
dissections of the Nautilus which had been the subject of his research,
when he heard of Baron Cuvier's death. It must have been to him a great
sorrow and a grievous disappointment.

The Pearly Nautilus, then, is a true cephalopod, in that it has its foot
divided and arranged in segments around its head, but the form and
number of these segments are very different from those of any other of
its class. Instead of there being eight, as in the argonaut and octopus,
or ten, as in sepia and the calamaries, the Nautilus has about ninety
projecting in every direction from around the mouth. They are short,
round, and tapering, of about the length and thickness of the fingers of
a child. Some of them are retractile into sheaths, and they are attached
to fleshy processes (which might represent the child's hand), overlying
each other, and covering the mouth on each side. They have none of the
suckers with which the arms and tentacles of all the other cuttles are
furnished, but their annulose structure, like the rings of an
earthworm's body, gives them some little prehensile power. None of these
numerous finger-like segments of the foot are flattened out like the
broad membranous expansions of the argonaut, and, in fact, the Nautilus
is without any members which can possibly be regarded as sails to hoist,
or as oars with which to row. It has a strong beak, like the rest of the
cuttles; but it has no ink-sac, for its shell is strong enough to afford
it the protection which its two-gilled relatives have to seek in

The Pearly Nautilus usually creeps, like a snail, along the bed of the
sea. It lives at the bottom, and feeds at the bottom, principally on
crabs; and, as Dr. S. P. Woodward says, in his 'Manual of the Mollusca,'
"perhaps often lies in wait for them, like some gigantic sea-anemone,
with outspread tentacles." The shape of its shell is not well adapted
for swimming, but it can ascend to the surface, if it so please, in the
same manner as can all the cuttles--namely, by the outflow of water from
its locomotor tube. The statement that it visits the surface of the sea
of its own accord is at present, however, unconfirmed by observation.

But, if the Pearly Nautilus is the inferior and poor relation of the
argonaut, it lives in a handsome house, and comes of an ancient lineage.
The Ammonites, whose beautiful whorled and chambered shells, and the
casts of them, are so abundant in every stratum, especially in the lias,
the chalk, and the oolite, had four gills also. These Ammonites and the
Nautili were amongst the earliest occupants of the ancient deep; and,
with the Hamites, Turrilites, and others, lived upon our earth during a
great portion of the incalculable period which has elapsed since it
became fitted for animal existence, and in their time witnessed the rise
and fall of many an animal dynasty. But they are gone now; and only the
fossil relics of more than two thousand species (of which 188 were
Nautili) remain to tell how important a race they were amongst the
inhabitants of the old world seas. They and their congeners of the
chambered shells, however, left one representative which has lived on
through all the changes that have taken place on the surface of this
globe since they became extinct--namely, _Nautilus pompilius_, the
Nautilus of the pearly shell--the last of the Tetrabranchs.

I need offer no apology for endeavouring to explain the difference
between the Nautilus of the chambered shell and the argonaut with the
membranous arms which it was supposed to use as sails, when Webster, in
his great standard dictionary, describes the one and figures the other
as one and the same animal; and when a writer of the celebrity of Dr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes also blends the two in the following poem,
containing a sentiment as exquisite as its science is erroneous. I hope
the latter distinguished and accomplished author, whose delightful
writings I enjoy and highly appreciate, will pardon my criticism. I
admit that the beauty of the thought might well atone for its
inaccuracy, (of which the author is conscious,) were it not that the
latter is made so attractive that truth appears harsh in disturbing it.


    "This is the ship of pearl, which poets feign
                Sails the unshadowed main,
                The venturous bark that flings
    On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings,
    In gulfs enchanted, where the siren sings,
                And coral reefs lie bare,
    Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

    Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl,
                Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
                And every chambered cell,
    Where its dim, dreaming life was wont to dwell,
    As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
                Before thee lies revealed,
    Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!

    Year after year beheld the silent toil
                That spread his lustrous coil;
                Still, as the spiral grew,
    He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
    Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
                Built up its idle door,
    Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

    Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
                Child of the wandering sea,
                Cast from her lap forlorn!
    From the dead lips a clearer note is born
    Than ever Triton blew from wreathèd horn!
                While on mine ear it rings,
    Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:--

    'Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
                As the swift seasons roll!
                Leave thy low vaulted past;
    Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
    Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
                Till thou at length art free,
    Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea.'"


The belief that some wild geese, instead of being hatched from eggs,
like other birds, grew on trees and rotten wood has never been surpassed
as a specimen of ignorant credulity and persistent error.

There are two principal versions of this absurd notion. One is that
certain trees, resembling willows, and growing always close to the sea,
produced at the ends of their branches fruit in form like apples, and
each containing the embryo of a goose, which, when the fruit was ripe,
fell into the water and flew away. The other is that the geese were bred
from a fungus growing on rotten timber floating at sea, and were first
developed in the form of worms in the substance of the wood.

When and whence this improbable theory had its origin is uncertain.
Aristotle does not mention it, and consequently Pliny and Ælian were
deprived of the pleasure they would have felt in handing down to
posterity, without investigation or correction, a statement so
surprising. It is, comparatively, a modern myth; although we find that
it was firmly established in the middle of the twelfth century, for
Gerald de Barri, known in literature as Giraldus Cambrensis, mentions it
in his 'Topographia Hiberniæ,' published in 1187. Giraldus, who was
Archdeacon of Brecknock in the reign of Henry II., and tried hard, more
than once, for the bishopric of St. David's, the functions of which he
had temporarily administered without obtaining the title, was a vigorous
and zealous reformer of Church abuses. Amongst the laxities of
discipline against which he found it necessary to protest was the custom
then prevailing of eating these Barnacle geese during Lent, under the
plea that their flesh was not that of birds, but of fishes. He writes:--

     "There are here many birds which are called Bernacæ, which nature
     produces in a manner contrary to nature, and very wonderful. They
     are like marsh-geese but smaller. They are produced from fir-timber
     tossed about at sea, and are at first like geese upon it.
     Afterwards they hang down by their beaks, as if from a sea-weed
     attached to the wood, and are enclosed in shells that they may grow
     the more freely. Having thus, in course of time, been clothed with
     a strong covering of feathers, they either fall into the water, or
     seek their liberty in the air by flight. The embryo geese derive
     their growth and nutriment from the moisture of the wood or of the
     sea, in a secret and most marvellous manner. I have seen with my
     own eyes more than a thousand minute bodies of these birds hanging
     from one piece of timber on the shore, enclosed in shells and
     already formed. Their eggs are not impregnated _in coitu_, like
     those of other birds, nor does the bird sit upon its eggs to hatch
     them, and in no corner of the world have they been known to build a
     nest. Hence the bishops and clergy in some parts of Ireland are in
     the habit of partaking of these birds on fast days, without
     scruple. But in doing so they are led into sin. For, if any one
     were to eat of the leg of our first parent, although he (Adam) was
     not born of flesh, that person could not be adjudged innocent of
     eating flesh."

This fable of the geese appears, however, to have been current at least
a hundred years before Giraldus wrote, for Professor Max Müller, who
treats of it in one of his "Lectures on the Science of Language,"
amongst many interesting references there given, quotes a Cardinal of
the eleventh century, Petrus Damianus, who clearly describes, that
version of it which represents the birds as bursting, when fully
fledged, from fruit resembling apples.

It is a curious fact that these Barnacle geese have troubled the
priesthood of more than one creed as to the instructions they should
give to the laity concerning the use of them as food. The Jews--all
those, at least, who maintain a strict observance of the Hebrew Law--eat
no meat but that of animals which have been slaughtered in a certain
prescribed manner; and a doubt arose amongst them at the period we refer
to, whether these geese should be killed as flesh or as fish. Professor
Max Müller cites Mordechai,[82] as asking whether these birds are
fruits, fish, or flesh; that is, whether they must be killed in the
Jewish way, as if they were flesh. Mordechai describes them as birds
which grow on trees, and says, "the Rabbi Jehuda, of Worms (who died
1216) used to say that he had heard from his father, Rabbi Samuel, of
Speyer (about 1150), that Rabbi Jacob Tham, of Ramerü (who died 1171),
the grandson of the great Rabbi Rashi (about 1140), had decided that
they must be killed as flesh."

  [82] Riva, 1559, leaf 142.

Pope Innocent III. took the same view; for at the Lateran Council, in
1215, he prohibited the eating of Barnacle geese during Lent. In 1277,
Rabbi Izaak, of Corbeil, determined to be on the safe side, forbade
altogether the eating of these birds by the Jews, "because they were
neither flesh nor fish."

Michael Bernhard Valentine,[83] quoting Wormius, says that this
question caused much perplexity and disputation amongst the doctors of
the Sorbonne; but that they passed an ordinance that these geese should
be classed as fishes, and not as birds; and he adds, that in consequence
of this decision large numbers of these birds were annually sent to
Paris from England and Scotland, for consumption in Lent. Sir Robert
Sibbald[84] refers to this, and says that Normandy was the locality from
which the French capital was reported to be principally supplied; but
that in fact the greater number of these geese came from Holland. The
date of this edict is not given.

  [83] 'Historia Simplicium,' lib. iii. p. 327.

  [84] Prodrom. Hist. Nat. Scot. parts 2, lib. iii. p. 21, 1684.

Professor Max Müller says that in Brittany, Barnacle geese are still
allowed to be eaten on Fridays, and that the Roman Catholic Bishop of
Ferns may give permission to people out of his diocese to eat these
birds at his table.

In Bombay, also, where fish is prohibited as food to some classes of the
population, the priests call this goose a "sea-vegetable," under which
name it is allowed to be eaten.

Various localities were mentioned as the breeding-places of these
arboreal geese. Gervasius of Tilbury,[85] writing about 1211, describes
the process of their generation in full detail, and says that great
numbers of them grew in his time upon the young willow trees which
abounded in the neighbourhood of the Abbey of Faversham, in the county
of Kent, and within the Archiepiscopate of Canterbury. The bird was
there commonly called the _Barneta_.

  [85] Otia Imperialia, iii. 123.

Hector Boethius, or Boece, the old Scottish historian, combats this
version of the story. His work, written in Latin, in 1527, was
translated into quaint Scottish in 1540, by John Bellenden, Archdeacon
of Murray. In his fourteenth chapter, "Of the nature of claik geis, and
of the syndry maner of thair procreatioun, and of the ile of Thule," he

     "Restis now to speik of the geis generit of the see namit clakis.
     Sum men belevis that thir clakis growis on treis be the nebbis. Bot
     thair opinioun is vane. And becaus the nature and procreatioun of
     thir clakis is strange we have maid na lytyll laubore and deligence
     to serche ye treuth and verite yairof, we have salit throw ye seis
     quhare thir clakis ar bred, and I fynd be gret experience, that the
     nature of the seis is mair relevant caus of thir procreatioun than
     ony uther thyng."

From the circumstances attending the finding of "ane gret tree that was
brocht be alluvion and flux of the see to land, in secht of money pepyll
besyde the castell of Petslego, in the yeir of God ane thousand iiii.
hundred lxxxx, and of a see tangle hyngand full of mussill schellis,"
brought to him by "Maister Alexander Galloway, person of Kynkell," who
knowing him to be "richt desirus of sic uncouth thingis came haistely
with the said tangle," he arrives at the conclusion, by a process of
reasoning highly satisfactory and convincing to himself, that,

     "Be thir and mony othir resorcis and examplis we can not beleif
     that thir clakis ar producit be ony nature of treis or rutis
     thairof, but allanerly be the nature of the Oceane see, quhilk is
     the caus and production of mony wonderful thingis. And becaus the
     rude and ignorant pepyl saw oftymes the fruitis that fel of the
     treis (quhilkis stude neir the see) convertit within schort tyme in
     geis, thai belevit that thir geis grew apon the treis hingand be
     thair nebbis sic lik as appillis and uthir frutis hingis be thair
     stalkis, bot thair opinioun is nocht to be sustenit. For als sone
     as thir appillis or frutis fallis of the tre in the see flude thay
     grow first wormeetin. And be schort process of tyme are alterat in

In describing the bird thus produced, Boethius declares that the male
has a sharp, pointed beak, like the gallinaceous birds, but that in the
female the beak is obtuse as in other geese and ducks.

According to other authors, this wonderful production of birds from
living or dead timber was not confined to England and Scotland.
Vincentius Bellovacensis[86] (1190-1264) in his 'Speculum Naturæ,' xvii.
40, states that it took place in Germany, and Jacob de Vitriaco (who
died 1244) mentions its occurrence in certain parts of Flanders.

  [86] For this quotation and the following one I am indebted to
  Professor Max Müller's Lecture before referred to.

Jonas Ramus gives a somewhat different version of the process as it
occurs in Norway. He writes:[87] "It is said that a particular sort of
geese is found in Nordland, which leave their seed on old trees, and
stumps and blocks lying in the sea; and that from that seed there grows
a shell fast to the trees, from which shell, as from an egg, by the heat
of the sun, young geese are hatched, and afterwards grow up; which gave
rise to the fable that geese grow upon trees."

  [87] 'Chorographical Description of Norway,' p. 244.

But, strange to say, if any painstaking enquirer, wishing to investigate
the matter for himself, went to a locality where it was said the
phenomenon regularly occurred, he was sure to find that he had
literally, "started on a wild-goose chase," and had come to the wrong
place. This was the experience of Æneas Sylvius Piccolomini, afterwards
Pope Pius II., who complained that miracles will always flee farther and
farther away; for when he was on a visit (about 1430) to King James I.,
of Scotland,[88] and enquired after the tree which he most eagerly
desired to see, he was told that it grew much farther north, in the
Orkney Islands.

  [88] Æneas Sylvius gives us information concerning the personal
  appearance of his royal host, whom he describes as, "_hominem
  quadratum et multa pinguedine gravem_,"--literally, "a square-built
  man, heavy with much fat."

Notwithstanding the suspicious fact that the prodigy receded like Will
o' the Wisp, whenever it was persistently followed up, Sebastian
Munster, who relates[89] the foregoing anecdote of Æneas Sylvius,
appears to have entertained no doubt of the truth of the report, for he

  [89] 'Cosmographia Universalis,' p. 49, 1572.

[Illustration: FIG. 34.--THE GOOSE TREE. _Copied from Gerard's
'Herball,' 1st edition._[90]]

  [90] The original of this picture is a small wood-cut in Matthias
  de Lobel's 'Stirpium Historia,' published in 1870. The birds within
  the shells were added by Gerard. Aldrovandus, in copying it, gave
  leaves to the tree, as shown on page 110.

     "In Scotland there are trees which produce fruit, conglomerated of
     their leaves; and this fruit, when in due time it falls into the
     water beneath it, is endowed with new life, and is converted into a
     living bird, which they call the 'tree-goose.' This tree grows in
     the Island of Pomonia, which is not far from Scotland, towards the
     north. Several old cosmographers, especially Saxo Grammaticus,
     mention the tree, and it must not be regarded as fictitious, as
     some new writers suppose."

Julius Cæsar Scaliger[91] (1540) gives another reading of the legend, in
which it is asserted that the leaves which fall from the tree into the
water are converted into fishes, and those which fall upon the land
become birds.

  [91] Exercit. 59, sect. 2.

Thus this extraordinary belief held sway, and remained strong and
invincible, although from time to time some man of sense and independent
thought attempted to turn the tide of popular error. Albertus Magnus
(who died 1280) showed its absurdity, and declared that he had seen the
bird referred to lay its eggs and hatch them in the ordinary way. Roger
Bacon (who died in 1294) also contradicted it, and Belon, in 1551,
treated it with ridicule and contempt. Olaus Wormius[92] seems to have
believed in it, though he wrote cautiously about it. Olaus Magnus (1553)
mentions it, and apparently accepts it as a fact, occurring in the
Orkneys, on the authority of "a Scotch historian who diligently sets
down the secrets of things," and then dismisses it in three lines.

  [92] 'Museum,' p. 257.

Passing over many other writers on the subject, we come to the time of
the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when (in 1597) "John Gerarde, Master in
Chirurgerie, London," published his "Herball, or Generall Historie of
Plants gathered by him," and in the last chapter thereof solemnly
declared, that he had actually witnessed the transformation of "certaine
shell fish" into Barnacle Geese, as follows.

     _Of the Goose tree, Barnacle tree, or the tree bearing Geese._

     _Britanicæ Conchæ anatiferæ._


     ¶ _The Description._

     Hauing trauelled from the Grasses growing in the bottome of the
     fenny waters, the Woods, and mountaines, euen vnto Libanus itselfe;
     and also the sea, and bowels of the same, wee are arriued at the
     end of our History; thinking it not impertinent to the conclusion
     of the same, to end with one of the maruels of this land (we may
     say of the World). The history whereof to set forth according to
     the worthinesse and raritie thereof, would not only require a large
     and peculiar volume, but also a deeper search into the bowels of
     Nature, then my intended purpose will suffer me to wade into, my
     sufficiencie also considered; leauing the History thereof rough
     hewen, vnto some excellent man, learned in the secrets of nature,
     to be both fined and refined; in the meane space take it as it
     falleth out, the naked and bare truth, though vnpolished. There are
     found in the North parts of Scotland and the Islands adjacent,
     called Orchades, certaine trees whereon do grow certaine shells of
     a white colour tending to russet, wherein are contained little
     liuing creatures: which shells in time of maturity doe open, and
     out of them grow those little liuing things, which falling into the
     water do become fowles, which we call Barnacles; in the North of
     England, brant Geese; and in Lancashire, tree Geese: but the other
     that do fall vpon the land perish and come to nothing. Thus much by
     the writings of others, and also from the mouthes of people of
     those parts, which may very well accord with truth.

     But what our eies haue seene, and hands haue touched we shall
     declare. There is a small Island in Lancashire, called the Pile of
     Foulders, wherein are found the broken pieces of old and bruised
     ships some whereof haue beene cast thither by shipwracke, and also
     the trunks and bodies with the branches of old and rotten trees,
     cast vp there likewise; whereon is found a certaine spume or froth
     that in time breedeth vnto certaine shells, in shape like those of
     the Muskle, but sharper pointed, and of a whitish colour; wherein
     is contained a thing in forme like a lace of silke finely wouen as
     it were together, of a whitish colour, one end whereof is fastened
     vnto the inside of the shell, euen as the fish of Oisters and
     Muskles are: the other end is made fast vnto the belly of a rude
     masse or lumpe, which in time commeth to the shape and forme of a
     Bird: when it is perfectly formed the shell gapeth open, and the
     first thing that appeareth is the foresaid lace or string; next
     come the legs of the bird hanging out, and as it groweth greater it
     openeth the shell by degrees, til at length it is all come forth,
     and hangeth onely by the bill: in short space after it commeth to
     full maturitie, and falleth into the sea, where it gathereth
     feathers, and groweth to a fowle bigger than a Mallard, and lesser
     than a Goose, hauing blacke legs and bill or beake, and feathers
     blacke and white, spotted in such manner as is our Magpie, called
     in some places a Pie-Annet, which the people of Lancashire call by
     no other name than a tree Goose: which place aforesaid, and all
     those parts adjoyning do so much abound therewith, that one of the
     best is bought for three pence. For the truth hereof, if any doubt,
     may it please them to repaire vnto me, and I shall satisfie them by
     the testimonie of good witnesses.

     Moreover, it should seeme that there is another sort hereof; the
     History of which is true, and of mine owne knowledge; for
     trauelling vpon the shore of our English coast betweene Douer and
     Rumney, I found the trunke of an old rotten tree, which (with some
     helpe that I procured by Fishermen's wiues that were there
     attending their husbands' returne from the sea) we drew out of the
     water vpon dry land; vpon this rotten tree I found growing many
     thousands of long crimson bladders, in shape like vnto puddings
     newly filled, before they be sodden, which were very cleere and
     shining; at the nether end whereof did grow a shell fish, fashioned
     somewhat like a small Muskle, but much whiter, resembling a shell
     fish that groweth vpon the rockes about Garnsey and Garsey, called
     a Lympit: many of these shells I brought with me to London, which
     after I had opened I found in them liuing things without forme or
     shape; in others which were neerer come to ripenesse I found liuing
     things that were very naked, in shape like a Bird: in others, the
     Birds couered with soft downe, the shell halfe open, and the Bird
     ready to fall out, which no doubt were the Fowles called Barnacles.
     I dare not absolutely auouch euery circumstance of the first part
     of this history, concerning the tree that beareth those buds
     aforesaid, but will leaue it to a further consideration; howbeit,
     that which I haue seene with mine eies, and handled with mine
     hands, I dare confidently auouch, and boldly put downe for verity.
     Now if any will object that this tree which I saw might be one of
     those before mentioned, which either by the waues of the sea or
     some violent wind had beene ouerturned as many other trees are; or
     that any trees falling into those seas about the Orchades, will of
     themselves bear the like Fowles, by reason of those seas and
     waters, these being so probable conjectures, and likely to be true,
     I may not without prejudice gainsay, or endeauour to confute.

     ¶ _The Place._

     The bordes and rotten plankes whereon are found these shels
     breeding the Barnakle, are taken vp in a small Island adioyning to
     Lancashire, halfe a mile from the main land, called the Pile of

     ¶ _The Time._

     They spawn as it were in March and Aprill; the Geese are formed in
     May and June, and come to fulnesse of feathers in the moneth after.

     And thus hauing through God's assistance discoursed somewhat at
     large of Grasses, Herbes, Shrubs, Trees, and Mosses, and certaine
     Excrescenses of the Earth, with other things moe, incident to the
     historie thereof, we conclude and end our present Volume, with this
     wonder of England. For the which God's name be euer honored and

Gerard was probably a good botanist and herbalist; but Thomas Johnson,
the editor of a subsequent issue of his book, tells us that

     "He, out of a propense good will to the publique advancement of
     this knowledge, endeavoured to performe therein more than he could
     well accomplish, which was partly through want of sufficient
     learning; but," he adds, "let none blame him for these defects,
     seeing he was neither wanting in pains nor good will to performe
     what hee intended: and there are none so simple but know that
     heavie burthens are with most paines vndergone by the weakest men;
     and although there are many faults in the worke, yet iudge well of
     the Author; for, as a late writer well saith:--'To err and to be
     deceived is human, and he must seek solitude who wishes to live
     only with the perfect.'"

It is difficult to comply with the request to think well of one who,
writing as an authority, deliberately promulgated, with an affectation
of piety, that which he must have known to be untrue, and who was,
moreover, a shameless plagiarist; for Gerard's ponderous book is little
more than a translation of Dodonæus, whole chapters having been taken
verbatim from that comparatively unread author without acknowledgment.

After this series of erroneous observations, self-delusion, and
ignorant credulity, it is refreshing to turn to the pages of the two
little thick quarto volumes of Gaspar Schott.[93] This learned Jesuit
made himself acquainted with everything that had been written on the
subject, and besides the authors I have referred to, quotes and compares
the statements of Majolus, Abrahamus Ortelius, Hieronymus Cardanus,
Eusebius, Nierembergius, Deusingius, Odoricus, Gerhardus de Vera,
Ferdinand of Cordova, and many others. He then gives, firmly and
clearly, his own opinion that the assertion that birds in Britain spring
from the fruit or leaves of trees, or from wood, or from fungus, or from
shells, is without foundation, and that neither reason, experience, nor
authority tend to confirm it. He concedes that worms may be bred in
rotting timber, and even that they may be of a kind that fly away on
arriving at maturity (referring probably to caterpillars being developed
into moths), but that birds should be thus generated, he says, is simply
the repetition of a vulgar error, for not one of the authors whom he has
examined has seen what they all affirm; nor are they able to bring
forward a single eye-witness of it. He asks how it can be possible that
animals so large and so highly-organised as these birds can grow from
puny animalcules generated in putrid wood. He further declares that
these British geese are hatched from eggs like other geese, which he
considers proved by the testimony of Albertus Magnus, Gerhardus de Vera,
and of Dutch seamen, who, in 1569, gave their written declaration that
they had personally seen these birds sitting on their eggs, and hatching
them, on the coasts of Nova Zembla.

  [93] 'Physica Curiosa, sive Mirabilia Naturæ et Artis,' 1662, lib.
  ix. cap. xxii. p. 960.

[Illustration: FIG. 35.--THE BARNACLE GOOSE TREE. _After Aldrovandus._]

In marked and disgraceful contrast with this careful and philosophical
investigation and its author's just deductions from it, is 'A Relation
concerning Barnacles by Sir Robert Moray, lately one of His Majesty's
Council for the Kingdom of Scotland,' read before the Royal Society, and
published in the 'Philosophical Transactions,' No. 137, January and
February, 1677-8.


Describing "a cut of a large Firr-tree of about two and a half feet
diameter, and nine or ten feet long," which he saw on the shore in the
Western Islands of Scotland, and which had become so dry that many of
the Barnacle shells with which it had been covered had been rubbed off,
he says:--

     "Only on the parts that lay next the ground there still hung
     multitudes of little Shells, having within them little Birds,
     perfectly shap'd, supposed to be Barnacles. The Shells hung very
     thick and close one by another, and were of different sizes. Of the
     colour and consistence of Muscle-Shells, and the sides and joynts
     of them joyned with such a kind of film as Muscle-Shells are, which
     serves them for a Hing to move upon, when they open and shut....
     The Shells hang at the Tree by a Neck longer than the Shell, of a
     kind of Filmy substance, round, and hollow, and creased, not unlike
     the Wind-pipe of a chicken, spreading out broadest where it is
     fastened to the Tree, from which it seems to draw and convey the
     matter which serves for the growth and vegetation of the Shell and
     the little Bird within it. This Bird in every Shell that I opened,
     as well the least as the biggest, I found so curiously and
     compleatly formed, that there appeared nothing wanting as to
     internal parts, for making up a perfect Seafowl: every little part
     appearing so distinctly that the whole looked like a large Bird
     seen through a concave or diminishing glass, colour and feature
     being everywhere so clear and neat. The little Bill, like that of a
     Goose; the eyes marked; the Head, Neck, Breast, Wings, Tail, and
     Feet formed, the Feathers everywhere perfectly shap'd, and blackish
     coloured; and the Feet like those of other Water-fowl, to my best
     remembrance. All being dead and dry, I did not look after the
     internal parts of them. Nor did I ever see any of the little Birds
     alive, nor met with anybody that did. Only some credible persons
     have assured me they have seen some as big as their fist."

It seems almost incredible that little more than two hundred years ago
this twaddle should not only have been laid before the highest
representatives of science in the land, but that it should have been
printed in their "Transactions" for the further delusion of posterity.

Ray, in his edition of Willughby's Ornithology, published in the same
year as the above, contradicted the fallacy as strongly as Gaspar
Schott; and (except that he incidentally admits the possibility of
spontaneous generation in some of the lower animals, as insects and
frogs) in language so similar that I think he must have had Schott's
work before him when he wrote.

Aldrovandus[94] tells us that an Irish priest, named Octavianus, assured
him with an oath on the Gospels that he had seen and handled the geese
in their embryo condition; and he adds that he "would rather err with
the majority than seem to pass censure on so many eminent writers who
have believed the story."

  [94] 'Ornithologia,' lib. xix. p. 173, ed. 1603.

In 1629 Count Maier (Michaelus Meyerus--these old authors when writing
in Latin, latinized their names also) published a monograph 'On the
Tree-bird'[95] in which he explains the process of its birth, and states
that he opened a hundred of the goose-bearing shells and found the
rudiments of the bird fully formed.

    So slow Bootes underneath him sees,
    In th' icy isles, those goslings hatched on trees,
    Whose fruitful leaves, falling into the water,
    Are turned, they say, to living fowls soon after;
    So rotten sides of broken ships do change,
    To barnacles, O, transformation strange!
    'Twas first a green tree; then a gallant hull;
    Lately a mushroom; then a flying gull.[96]

  [95] 'De Volucri Arborea,' 1629.

  [96] Du Bartas' "Divine Week" p. 228. Joshua Sylvester's

Now, let us turn from fiction to facts.

[Illustration: FIG 37.--SECTION OF A SESSILE BARNACLE. _Balanus

Almost every one is acquainted with at least one kind of the Barnacle
shells which were supposed to enclose the embryo of a goose, namely the
small white conical hillocks which are found, in tens of thousands,
adhering to stones, rocks, and old timber such as the piles of piers,
and may be seen affixed to the shells of oysters and mussels in any
fishmonger's shop. The little animals which secrete and inhabit these
shells belong to a sub-class and order of the Crustacea, called the
_Cirrhopoda_, because their feet (_poda_), which in the crab and lobster
terminate in claws, are modified into tufts of curled hairs (_cirri_),
or feathers. When the animal is alive and active under water, a crater
may be seen to open on the summit of the little shelly mountain, and, as
if from the mouth of a miniature volcano, there issue from this
aperture, from between two inner shells, the _cirri_ in the form of a
feathery hand, which clutches at the water within its reach, and is then
quickly retracted within the shell. During this movement the
hair-fringed fingers have filtered from the water and conveyed towards
the mouth within the shell, for their owner's nutriment, some minute
solid particles or animalcules, and this action of the casting-net
alternately shot forth and retracted continues for hours incessantly, as
the water flows over its resting-place. The animal can live for a long
time out of water, and in some situations thus passes half its life.
Under such circumstances, the shells, containing a reserve of moisture,
remain firmly closed until the return of the tide brings a fresh supply
of water and food. These are the "acorn-barnacles," the _balani_,
commonly known in some localities as "chitters."

Barnacles of another kind are those furnished with a long stem, or
peduncle, which Sir Robert Moray described as "round, hollow, and
creased, and not unlike the wind-pipe of a chicken." The stem has, in
fact, the ringed formation of the annelids, or worms. The shelly valves
are thin, flat, and in shape somewhat like a mitre. They are composed of
five pieces, two on each side, and one, a kind of rounded keel along the
back of the valves, by which these are united. The shells are delicately
tinted with lavender or pale blue varied with white, and the edges are
frequently of a bright chrome yellow or orange colour.

It is not an uncommon occurrence for a large plank entirely covered with
these "necked barnacles" to be found floating at sea and brought ashore
for exhibition at some watering-place; and I have more than once sent
portions of such planks to the Aquaria at Brighton, and the Crystal

[Illustration: FIG. 38.--PEDUNCULATED BARNACLES. (_Lepas anatifera._)]

It is most interesting to watch a dense mass of living cirripedes so
closely packed together that not a speck of the surface of the wood is
left uncovered by them; their fleshy stalks overhanging each other, and
often attached in clusters to those of some larger individuals; their
plumose casting-nets ever gathering in the food that comes within their
reach, and carrying towards the mouth any solid particles suitable for
their sustenance. How much of insoluble matter barnacles will eliminate
from the water is shown by the rapidity with which they will render
turbid sea water clear and transparent. The most common species of these
"necked barnacles" bears the name of "_Lepas anatifera_," "the
duck-bearing _Lepas_." It was so entitled by Linnæus, in recognition of
its having been connected with the fable, which, of course, met with no
credit from him.

Fig. 39 represents the figure-head of a ship, partly covered with
barnacles, which was picked up about thirty miles off Lowestoft on the
22nd of October, 1857. It was described in the _Illustrated London
News_, and the proprietors of that paper have kindly given me a copy of
the block from which its portrait was printed.


Others of the barnacles affix themselves to the bottoms of ships, or
parasitically upon whales and sharks, and those of the latter kind often
burrow deeply into the skin of their host. Fig. 40 is a portrait of a
_Coronula diadema_ taken from the nose of a whale stranded at
Kintradwell, in the north of Scotland, in 1866, and sent to the late Mr.
Frank Buckland. Growing on this _Coronula_ are three of the curious
eared barnacles, _Conchoderma aurita_; the _Lepas aurita_ of Linnæus.
The species of the whale from which these Barnacles were taken was not
mentioned, but it was probably the "hunch-backed" whale, _Megaptera
longimana_, which is generally infested with this _Coronula_. This very
illustrative specimen was, and I hope still is, in Mr. Buckland's Museum
at South Kensington. It was described by him in _Land and Water_, of May
19th, 1866, and I am indebted to the proprietors of that paper for the
accompanying portrait of it.

[Illustration: FIG. 40.--WHALE BARNACLE (_Coronula diadema_), WITH THREE
_Conchoderma aurita_ ATTACHED TO IT.]

[Illustration: FIG. 41.--A YOUNG BARNACLE. (_Larva of Chthamalus

The young Barnacle when just extruded from the shell of its parent is a
very different being from that which it will be in its mature condition.
It begins its life in a form exactly like that of an entomostracous
crustacean, and, like a Cyclops, has one large eye in the middle of its
forehead. In this state it swims freely, and with great activity. It
undergoes three moults, each time altering its figure, until at the
third exuviation it has become enclosed in a bivalve shell, and has
acquired a second eye. It is now ready to attach itself to its
abiding-place; so, selecting its future residence, it presses itself
against the wood, or whatever the substance may be, pours out from its
two antennæ a glutinous cement, which hardens in water, and thus fastens
itself by the front of its head, is henceforth a fixture for life, and
assumes the adult form in which most persons know it best.[97]

  [97] If any of my readers wish to observe the development of young
  barnacles they may easily do so. The method I have generally
  adopted has been as follows: Procure a shallow glass or earthenware
  milk-pan that will hold at least a gallon. Fill this to within an
  inch of the top with sea-water, and place it in any shaded part of
  a room--not in front of a window. Put in the pan six or eight
  pebbles or clean shells of equal height, say 1½ or 2 inches, and
  on them lay a clean sheet of glass, which, by resting on the
  pebbles, is brought to within about 2½ inches of the surface of
  the water. Select some limpets or mussels having acorn-barnacles on
  them; carefully cut out the limpet or mussel, and clean nicely the
  interior of the shell; then place a dozen or more of these shells
  on the sheet of glass, and the barnacles upon them will be within
  convenient reach of any observation with a magnifying glass. If
  this be done in the month of March, the experimenter will not have
  to wait long before he sees young _Balani_ ejected from the summits
  of some of the shells. Up to the moment of their birth each of them
  is enclosed in a little cocoon or case, in shape like a
  canary-seed, and most of them are tossed into the world whilst
  still enclosed in this. In a few seconds this casing is ruptured
  longitudinally, apparently by the struggles of its inmate, which
  escapes at one end, like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis,
  and swims freely to the surface of the water, leaving the split
  cocoon or case at the bottom of the pan. Some few of the young
  barnacles seem to be freed from the cocoon before, or at the moment
  of, extrusion. From three to a dozen or more of these escape with
  each protrusion of the cirri of the parent, and as the parturient
  barnacle will put forth its feathery casting net at least twenty
  times in a minute for an hour or more, it follows that as many as
  ten thousand young ones may be produced in an hour. These, as they
  are cast forth at each pulsation of the parent's cirri, fall upon
  the clean sheet of glass, and may be taken up in a pipette, and
  placed under a microscope, or removed to a smaller vessel of
  sea-water, for minute and separate investigation. It seems strange
  that animals which, like the oyster and the barnacles, are
  condemned in their mature condition to lead so sedentary a life,
  should in the earlier stages of their existence swim freely and
  merrily through the water--young fellows seeking a home, and when
  they have found it, although their connubial life must be a very
  tame one, settling down, and not caring to rove about any more for
  the remainder of their days. These young _Balani_ dart about like
  so many water-fleas, and yet, after a few days of freedom, they
  become fixed and immovable, the inhabitants of the pyramidal shells
  which grow in such abundance on other shells, stones, and old wood.

It is unnecessary for me to describe more minutely the anatomy of the
Cirripedes; I have said enough to show the nature of the plumose
appurtenances which, hanging from the dead shells, were supposed to be
the feathers of a little bird within; but it is difficult to understand
how any one could have seen in the natural occupant of the shell, "the
little bill, like that of a goose, the eyes, head, neck, breast, wings,
tail, and feet, like those of other water-fowl," so precisely and
categorically detailed by Sir Robert Moray. As Pontoppidan, who
denounced the whole story, as being "without the least foundation," very
truly says, "One must take the force of imagination to help to make it
look so!"

As to the origin of the myth, I venture to differ entirely from
philologists who attribute it to "language," and "a similarity of
names," for, although, as Professor Max Müller observes in one of his
lectures, "words without definite meanings are at the bottom of nearly
all our philosophical and religious controversies," it certainly is not
applicable in this instance. Every quotation here given shows that the
mistake arose from the supposed resemblance of the plumes of the
cirrhopod, and the feathers of a bird, and the fallacious deductions
derived therefrom. The statements of Maier (p. 112), Gerard (p. 106),
Sir Robert Moray (p. 110), &c., prove that this fanciful misconception
sprang from erroneous observation. The love of the marvellous inherent
in mankind, and especially prevalent in times of ignorance and
superstition, favoured its reception and adoption, and I believe that it
would have been as widely circulated, and have met with equal credence,
if the names of the cirripede and of the goose that was supposed to be
its offspring had been far more dissimilar than, at first, they really

Setting aside several ingenious and far-fetched derivations that have
been proposed, I think we may safely regard the word "barnacle," as
applied to the cirrhopod, as a corruption of _pernacula_, the diminutive
of _perna_, a bivalve mollusk, so-called from the similarity in shape of
its shell to that of a ham--_pernacula_ being changed to _bernacula_. In
some old Glossaries _perna_ is actually spelt _berna_.

To arrive at the origin of the word "barnacle," or "bernicle," as
applied to the goose, we must understand that this bird, _Anser
leucopsis_, was formerly called the "brent," "brant," or "bran" goose,
and was supposed to be identical with the species, _Anser torquatus_,
which is now known by that name. The Scottish word for "goose" is
"clake," or "clakis,"[98] and I think that the suggestion made long ago
to Gesner[99] (1558), by his correspondent, Joannes Caius, is correct,
that the word "barnacle" comes from "branclakis," or "barnclake," "the
dark-coloured goose."

  [98] See the quotation from Hector Boethius, p. 101.

  [99] 'Historia Animalium,' lib. iii. p. 110.

Professor Max Müller is of the opinion that its Latin name may have been
derived from _Hibernicæ_, _Hiberniculæ_, _Berniculæ_, as it was against
the Irish bishops that Geraldus wrote, but I must say that this does not
commend itself to me; for the name _Bernicula_ was not used in the early
times to denote these birds. Giraldus himself described them as
_Bernacæ_, but they were variously known, also, as _Barliates_,
_Bernestas_, _Barnetas_, _Barbates_, etc.

I agree with Dr. John Hill,[100] that "the whole matter that gave
origin to the story is that the 'shell-fish' (cirripedes), supposed to
have this wonderful production usually adhere to old wood, and that they
have a kind of fibres hanging out of them, which, in some degree,
resemble feathers of some bird. From this slight origin arose the story
that they contained real birds: what grew on trees people soon asserted
to be the fruit of trees, and, from step to step, the story gained
credit with the hearers," till, at length, Gerard had the audacity to
say that he had witnessed the transformation.

  [100] 'History of Animals,' p. 422. 1752.

The Barnacle Goose is only a winter visitor of Great Britain. It breeds
in the far north, in Greenland, Iceland, Spitzbergen, and Nova Zembla,
and probably, also, along the shores of the White Sea. There are
generally some specimens of this prettily-marked goose in the gardens of
the Zoological Society in the Regent's Park, London; and they thrive
there, and become very tame. In the months of December and January these
geese may often be seen hanging for sale in poulterers' shops; and he
who has tasted one well cooked may be pardoned if the suspicion cross
his mind that the "monks of old," and "the bare-footed friars," as well
as the laity, may not have been unwilling to sustain the fiction in
order that they might conserve the privilege of having on their tables
during the long fast of Lent so agreeable and succulent a "vegetable" or
"fish" as a Barnacle Goose.



  Transcriber's note:

  _Underscores_ have been used to indicate _italic_ fonts.
  Inconsistent hyphenation has been left as written.
  Missing end quote marks have been inserted.
  The word irreconcileable has been left as written: "I
  need scarcely point out how utterly irreconcileable is the"
  The word gowden has been left as written: "Braiding her
  locks of gowden hair"
  The word fane has been left as written: "exactly resembled
  the tail of a fish, with a broad fane"
  The word engulphed has been left as written: "were all
  suddenly engulphed in the waves on the night of the battle"

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