Friday, 6 May 2016

Sea serpents

1/ Philip Hoare's Leviathan is a fascinating book, though the structure is a bit messy. 
Before reading, I thought it's only a scientific/ historical book about whales and whaling, with a few allusions to Moby Dick, but the novel is referenced throughout the book, with analysis and some Melville biography, that it feels like a companion to Melville's novel. It's almost similar to Michael Gorra's Portrait of a Novel

2/ I've just read a part in Hoare's book about sea serpents, or to be precise, about people's reports of seeing sea serpents. 
Let me digress a bit by saying that I've never been very fond of the ocean. I mean, the beach is fine and I like aquariums and I don't mind getting on a ship or a boat (I once travelled by ferry from Oslo to Copenhagen, for example) and the idea of being on a fancy cruise ship is very nice indeed. But that's it. That I decided to read Moby Dick, and then love it, I myself find strange. The ocean has always terrified me, being full of haunting, disgusting-looking creatures such as the red-lipped batfish, the humpback anglerfish, the blob fish, the hagfish, the monkfish, the goblin shark, and so on and so forth, all the stuff that nightmares are made of. 
Now, after reading about sea serpents in Hoare's book, I did a bit googling. Sea serpents have been suggested to be filled sharks, oarfishes or lungfishes
Somebody can't sleep tonight. 

3/ "Sea snakes or coral reef snakes don't look so bad", I thought. Then I remembered that they're snakes, and snakes are never not bad. 

4/ Pictures of sea serpents look like Chinese dragons

5/ Hoare mentions a New Bedford whaler named the Monongahela that "claimed not only to have seen a sea serpent, but to have pursued and harpooned it like a whale". This was reported in the British journal Zoology, "after the whale-ship had gammed with a brig which brought back the captain's letters describing the monster". However, the ship never returned. "A year later she was lost at sea with all hands, and her incredible cargo". 
Now I wish there had been a novel about that ship and the sea serpent. 


  1. i hope someone WILL sleep tonite; antidote: listen to H.M.S. Pinafore by G &S...