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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

DALE DRINNON: The PAULINE SS, 1875, And Its Most Improbable Proportions

One of the more famous Sea-serpent sightings was supposedly witnessed in 1875 by the crew of the ship Pauline (by all hands, as a matter of fact)

From Charles Gould's classic Mythical Monsters (1886):

The Barque "Pauline" Sea-serpent.

To the Editor of the Calcutta Englishman.

SIR,—As I am not sure that my statement respecting the sea-serpent reached the Shipping Gazette in London, I enclose a copy that may be interesting to your numerous readers. I have been sent plenty of extracts from English papers, nearly all of them ridiculing my statement. I can laugh and joke on the subject as well as anyone, but I can't see why, if people can't fairly refute my statement, they should use falsehood to do so. The Daily Telegraph says, "The ribs of the ill-fated fish were distinctly heard cracking one after the other, with a report like that of a small cannon; its bellowings ceased, &c. To use the eloquent words of the principal spectator, it 'struck us all aghast with terror.'" If the writer knew anything of sailors, he would not write such bosh. Fear and terror are not in Jack's composition; and such eloquent words he leaves to such correspondents as described the ever-doubtful "man-and-dog-fight." I am just as certain of seeing what I described, as that I met the advertisement that the Telegraph has the largest circulation in the world staring me at every street corner in London. It is easy for such a paper to make any man, good, great, or interesting, look ridiculous. Little wonder is it that my relatives write saying that they would have seen a hundred sea-serpents and never reported it; and a lady also wrote that she pitied anyone that was related to anyone that had seen the sea-serpent. It is quite true that it is a sad thing for any man to see more, to feel more, and to know more, than his fellows; but I have some of the philosophy that made O'Connell rejoice in being the most abused man in the United Kingdom, for he also had the power of giving a person a lick with the rough side of his tongue. If I had any such power I would not use it, for contempt is the sharpest reproof; and this letter is the only notice I have taken of the many absurd statements, &c. &c. &c.


GEORGE DEEVAR,


Master of the Pauline.
Barque Pauline,

Chittagong, January 15, 1876.


Barque Pauline, January 8th, 1875, lat. 5° 13' S., long. 35° W., Cape Roque, north-east corner of Brazil distant twenty miles, at 11 A.M.

The weather fine and clear, the wind and sea moderate. Observed some black spots on the water, and a whitish pillar, about thirty-five feet high, above them At the first glance I took all to be breakers, as the sea was splashing up fountain-like about them, and the pillar, a pinnacle rock bleached with the sun; but the pillar fell with a splash, and a similar one rose. They rose and fell alternately in quick succession, and good glasses showed me it was a monster sea-serpent coiled twice round a large sperm whale. The head and tail parts, each about thirty feet long, were acting as levers, twisting itself and victim around with great velocity. They sank out of sight about every two minutes, coming to the surface still revolving, and the struggles of the whale and two other whales that were near, frantic with excitement, made the sea in this vicinity like a boiling cauldron; and a loud and confused noise was distinctly heard. This strange occurrence lasted some fifteen
minutes, and finished with the tail portion of the whale being elevated straight in the air, then waving backwards and forwards, and laving [lashing?] the water furiously in the last death-struggle, when the whole body disappeared from our view, going down head-foremost towards the bottom, where, no doubt, it was gorged at the serpent's leisure; and that monster of monsters may have been many months in a state of coma, digesting the huge mouthful. Then two of the largest sperm whales that I have ever seen moved slowly thence towards the vessel, their bodies more than usually elevated out of the water, and not spouting or making the least noise, but seeming quite paralysed with fear; indeed, a cold shiver went through my own frame on beholding the last agonising struggle of the poor whale that had seemed as helpless in the coils of the vicious monster as a small bird in the talons of a hawk. Allowing for two coils round the whale, I think the serpent was about one hundred and sixty or one hundred and seventy feet long, and seven or eight in girth. It was in colour much like a conger eel, and the head, from the mouth being always open, appeared the largest part of the body. . . . . I think Cape San Roque is a landmark for whales leaving the south for the North Atlantic. . . . . I wrote thus far, little thinking I would ever see the serpent again; but at 7 A.M., July 13th, in the same latitude, and some eighty miles east of San Roque, I was astonished to see the same or a similar monster. It was throwing its head and about forty feet of its body in a horizontal position out of the water as it passed onwards by the stern of our vessel. I began musing why we were so much favoured with such a strange visitor, and concluded that the band of white paint, two feet wide above the copper, might have looked like a fellow-serpent to it, and, no doubt, attracted its attention While thus thinking, I was startled by the cry of "There it is again," and a short distance to leeward, elevated some sixty feet in the air, was the great leviathan, grimly looking towards the vessel. As I was not sure it was only our free board it was viewing, we had all our axes ready, and were fully determined, should the brute embrace the Pauline, to chop away for its backbone with all our might, and the wretch might have found for once in its life that it had caught a Tartar. This statement is strictly true, and the occurrence was witnessed by my officers, half the crew, and myself; and we are ready, at any time, to testify on oath that it is so, and that we are not in the least mistaken A vessel, about three years ago, was dragged over by some sea-monster in the Indian Ocean.

GEORGE DREVAR, Master of the Pauline.
Chittagong, January 15, 1876.


Captain George Drevar, of the barque Pauline, appeared on Wednesday morning at the Police-court, Dale-street, before Mr. Raffles, stipendiary magistrate, accompanied by some of his officers and part of the crew of the barque, when they made the following declaration:—

“We, the undersigned, captain, officers, and crew of the barque Pauline, of London, do solemnly and sincerely declare that on July 8th, 1875, in latitude 5° 13´, longitude 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 large serpent. The head and tail appeared to have a length beyond the coils of about thirty feet, and its girth eight 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 first.

“GEORGE DREVAR, Master,
“HORATIO THOMPSON,
“HENDERSON LANDELLO,
“OWEN BAKER,
“WILLIAM LEWAN.

“Again, on July 13th, 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.
“GEORGE DREVAR, Master.

“A few moments after, it was seen elevated some sixty feet perpendicularly in the air by the chief officer and the following able seamen, Horatio Thompson, Owen Baker, William Lewan. And we make this solemn declaration, conscientiously believing the same to be true.

“GEORGE DREVAR, Master.
“WILLIAM LEWAN, Steward.
“HORATIO THOMPSON, Chief Officer,
“JOHN HENDERSON LANDELLO, 2nd Officer,
“OWEN BAKER."

Some confirmation of Captain Drevar's story is afforded by one quoted by the Rev. Henry T. Cheeves, in The Whale and his Captors. The author says:—
“From a statement made by a Kinebeck shipmaster in 1818, and sworn to before a justice of the peace in Kinebeck county, Maine, it would seem that the notable sea-serpent and whale are sometimes found in conflict. At six o'clock in the afternoon of June 21st, in the packet Delia, plying between Boston and Hallowell, when Cape Ann bore west-south-west about two miles, steering north-north-east, Captain Shuback West and fifteen others on board with him saw an object directly ahead, which he had no doubt was the sea-serpent, or the creature so often described under that name, engaged in fight with a large whale. . . . .
“The serpent threw up its tail from twenty-five to thirty feet in a perpendicular direction, striking the whale by it with tremendous blows, rapidly repeated, which were distinctly heard, and very loud, for two or three minutes; they then both disappeared, moving in a south-west direction; but after a few minutes reappeared in-shore of the packet, and about under the sun, the reflection of which was so strong as to prevent their seeing so distinctly as at first, when the serpent's fearful blows with his tail were repeated and clearly heard as before. They again went down for a short time, and then came up to the surface under the packet's larboard quarter, the whale appearing first, and the serpent in pursuit, who was again seen to shoot up his tail as before, which he held out of water for some time, waving it in the air before striking, and at the same time his head fifteen or twenty feet, as if taking a view of the surface of the sea. After being seen in this position a few minutes, the serpent and whale again disappeared, and neither was seen after by any on board. It was Captain West's opinion that the whale was trying to escape, as he spouted but once at a time on coming to the surface, and the last time he appeared he went down before the serpent came up.”

Several authors have stated their belief that the crew of the Pauline had witnessed a struggle between a sperm whale and a giant squid, with the tentacles of the squid presumed to be the loops of the "Serpent" and the whale diving head-down at the end in order to finish his meal. Bernard Heuvelmans in his classic In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents (1968) does push for the notion that this was a sighting of what he calls a "Super-eel" fighting a whale by constriction.

Heuvelmans has not done the math.

In order for a long snake or eel to get two loops arround the whale's body and to have a thirty-foot length before and after the loops (noting that the before and after segments alone are worth the length of the entire whale), the gigantic eel has got to be at least 180 feet long, pushing 200 feet: and since its girth (not diameter) is seven or eight feet, the diameter is something like 2 1/2 feet, the creature ends up with a length 64 times its diameter. or close to it.

Furthermore the Delia account is not only similar, it is very nearly the same excat story over again. At which point nothwithstanding the weight of the swon testimony, I am inclined to call both stories hoaxes. The easier way out is to agree that the sailors could have been watching combats between sperm whales and retelling with some exaggeration.

There was a separate series of reports from New Caledonia in1923 and which Heuvelmans calls a fight between a giant squid and a "Merhorse" (ibid, pp.414-415) in this case, the definite "Merhorse" reports were made separately several days before and it seems some native women confused different reports together in the retelling. The "Merhorse" reports had been coming since June and the "Fight" was "on September 22 and also the 30th" the confusion of dates a week apart alone gives just cause to suspect that different events were jumbled together in local memory. At any event, the Policeman Millot's account does describe three whales (he thought like sperm whales but bigger) and in indian file (three 60-foot-humps in a line again) but what seems to have been a fight with a giant squid was going on at the time.


The story is very similar to the Pauline and I would suggest that in the squidfight, there was no "Merhorse" involved, only some sperm whales.

In these cases the "Head and Tail" were seen flailing about while egaged in fighting the whale, and they were showing above water as being entwined around the whale. So that is not the same thing as a squid in the water hoisting its arms high into the air unaided. It may be beyond the squid's limit of strength to be able to do that unaided. Certainly some authorities have maintained that point. On the other hand, these sightings would tend to go against the notion that observers had not seen live giant squids at the surface in historical times: these would be unusual emcounters, and the squids probably in the process of being killed, but they would have been lively enough for the duration.

All sightings of this type together probably make up something like 1/2 of 1% of Sea-serpent sightings.

2 comments:

Jon Downes said...

RICHARD KING WRITES: I have trouble getting a message posted to the CFZ blog. Today I tried to post a message in reply to Dale's blog and it did not work even after four tries. Here is the reply I wrote.

looking at Dale's scale drawing and then at the captain of the Pauline's drawing you can tell that there had to be some kind of mistake. 30 feet for the head and tail parts either way is half the whole length of the whale. The drawing made by the witness does not show anything like that it shows a part supposed to be the head only 10 or 12 feet long. And the supposed loops around the body are bunched up together in front like they would be if they were actually only tentacles reaching back out from where the whale's mouth would be underwater.
Dale didn't mention the follow-up sighting of the 60-foot periscope by the captain of the Pauline but I gather that he puts no stock in it.

Incidentally, great series about the Almas lately, Dale! Richard K.

Dale Drinnon said...

Thanks Jon for posting Richard's comment. Richard had asked me to add it before you got it in, but I couldn't seem to make the posting part work either at that particular time.

In regards to the later sightings by the Pauline, I indicated in a reply to Richard that ANY report of a 60-foot-high periscope is AUTOMATICALLY suspect. The most tactful way of putting it would be that some sort of a mistake must've been made by jumpy crew members who reacted in a fashion close to hysteria. At the very least, the size of whatever-it-was must've been blown up out of all probability, probably in line with the exaggerated measurement for the presumptive head and neck in the initial Pauline sighting. It might have been nothing more exotic than a whale's tail seen briefly while diving.

And Richard's remark about the Almas messages is in reference to my group, the Frontiers-of-Zoology, during the course of which I pointed out the Mongolian white jade skull replica comparble to a Neanderthal skull, subject of an earlier CFZ blog posting.