Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

belief that he did this, not from any decided opinion of his own, but to make a show of superior shrewdness in the eyes of an Englishman, who, he at once concluded, must undoubtedly disbelieve the existence of the marine monster. That Englishman, however, certainly partakes of the credulity of the Northmen, and cannot withhold his belief in the existence of some huge inhabitant of those northern seas, when, to his mind, the fact of his existence has been so clearly proved by numerous eyewitnesses, many of whom were too intelligent to be deceived, and too honest to be doubted."

No record of the sea-serpent, however, ever caused greater interest, or evoked greater discussion, than that about to be mentioned. The reason will be obvious, when the character of the witnesses is considered the captain, and part of the officers and crew of one of her Majesty's ships, and also the medium through which it reached the publican official report to the Lords of the Admiralty.

The ball was set in motion by the Times newspaper, which on October 9, 1848, published the following statement:

“When the Dedalus frigate, Captain M'Quhæ, which arrived at Plymouth on the 4th instant, was on her passage home from the East Indies, between the Cape of Good Hope and St. Helena, her captain, and most of her officers and crew, at four o'clock one afternoon, saw a sea-serpent. The creature was twenty minutes in sight of the frigate, and passed under her quarter. Its head appeared to be about four feet out of the water, and there was about sixty feet of its body in a straight line on the surface. It is calculated that there must have been under water a length of thirty-five or forty feet

more, by which it propelled itself at the rate of fifteen miles an hour. The diameter of the exposed part of the body was about sixteen inches, and when it extended its jaws which were full of large, jagged teeth, they seemed sufficiently capacious to admit of a tall man standing upright between them."

This, a reporter's account, gathered doubtless from several months on the arrival of the ship at Plymouth, was copied all over the country, and evoked very considerable curiosity. The Admiralty immediately inquired at head-quarters into the truth of the matter, and on the morning of the 13th the Times gave its readers the benefit of this official inquiry. The following was the captain's statement:

"Her Majesty's ship Dedalus,

"Hamoaze, Oct. II. “Sir,

"In reply to your letter of this date, requiring information as to the truth of a statement published in the Times newspaper of a sea-serpent of extraordinary dimensions having been seen from her Majesty's ship Dedalus, under my command, on her passage from the East Indies, I have the honour to acquaint you, for the information of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that at five o'clock P. M. on the 6th of August last, in latitude 24° 44' S., and longitude 9° 22' E., the weather dark and cloudy, wind fresh from the N. W., with a long ocean swell from the S.W., the ship on the port tack heading N.E. by N., something very unusual was seen by Mr. Sartoris, midshipman, rapidly approaching the ship from before the beam. The circumstance

was immediately reported by him to the officers of the watch, Lieutenant Edgar Drummond, with whom and Mr. William Barrett, the master, I was at the time walking the quarter-deck. The ship's company were at supper.

“On our attention being called to the object, it was discovered to be an enormous serpent, with head and shoulders kept about four feet constantly above the surface of the sea, and, as nearly as we could approximate, by comparing it with the length of what our maintopsailyard 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 recognized his features with the naked eye; and it did not, either in approaching the ship or after it had passed our wake, deviate in the slightest degree from its course to the S.W., which it held on at the pace of from twelve to fifteen miles per hour, apparently on some determined purpose.

“The diameter of the serpent was about fifteen or sixteen inches behind the head, which was, without any doubt, that of a snake; and it was never, during the twenty minutes that it continued in sight of our glasses, once below the surface of the water; its colour a dark brown, with yellowish white about the throat. It had no fins, but something like the mane of a horse, or rather a bunch of sea-weed, washed about its back. It was seen by the quarter-master, the boatswain's mate, 1 Twist wind and water.

and the man at the wheel, in addition to myself and officers above mentioned.

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

"Peter M'QUHÆ, Captain. "To Admiral Sir W. H. Gage, G.C.H., Devonport."

Lieutenant Drummond also published his version of the case, which ran as follows:

"In the four to six watch, at about five o'clock, we observed a most remarkable fish on our lee quarter, crossing the stern in a south-west direction. The appearance of its head, which, with the black 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 twenty 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

[ocr errors]

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 sea running.

A recent report of the sea-serpent is that of the master, crew, and passengers of the German steamship Katie, supposed to have been seen about eight miles from the Butt of Lewis. It was “a long dark object,” when just seen, “but on getting nearer it was found to be a. sea-monster of tremendous size," the portions exhibited above the water being about eighty feet long, from the middle of which projected a moving fin, ten feet high.

On this account Clark Russell comments as follows: “This singular object might have been the sea-serpent indeed. It is to be hoped it was, for it is about time now that that marine wonder was fairly and honestly descried. I fear, however, that what the German captain and crew saw was nothing more than a very common source of danger to sailors and passengers-that is, the hull of a wreck. The projecting moving fin, ten feet high,' sounds uncommonly like the description of the stump of a mast with its gear washing about and the excited imagination of the German mariners might easily mistake the dark outline of a partially submerged hull, gleaming with wet and lifting slowly on the swell, for the coiling body of a monster taking its ease on the surface of the water. ... Dangerous as the sea-serpent may prove when he comes, he cannot possibly be more fertile of disaster than the floating wreck.” As we have seen elsewhere, derelicts are almost as fruitful of peril to vessels proceeding at great speed as are icebergs themselves.

« ForrigeFortsæt »