SEA DANGERS 1. The “Weird” Ocean 2. Fantasms: Ghostly Ships a. The Flying Dutchman b. La Belle Rosalie 3. Mystery Ships a. The Mary Celeste 4. St. Elmo’s Fire 5. Mythical Monsters
THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE The infamous Bermuda Triangle – at least one of them! First – define! There are Various definitions of the Bermuda triangle changing its size from 500,000 to 1,510,000 square miles. A change of this magnitude will change what events are considered to have happened there. Some people claimed the Mary Celeste (later) was a Victim of the triangle – but Found near the Azores, nowhere near this version of the triangle. A similar “Devil’s triangle or sea” has been claimed near Formosa/Taiwan in the Pacific Most reports are spurious and Most of the remainder have Perfectly normal explanations. Given it is one of the most Heavily traveled areas in the ocean, it is surprising there haven’t been more “mysterious” Happenings there! Ships do disappear all over the ocean(s) where the cause of the disappearance is not known. there are many explanations possible, like rogue waves, but supposing demons, aliens, sea serpents for which there is no evidence is a bit over the top! However the triangle is defined, insurance companies do NOT charge any more insurance if one sails or flies into it!
THE DEVIL’S SEA OR DRAGON’S TRIANGLE The Devil’s Sea is roughly the area of the Philippine Sea and is Centered around Miyake Island about 110 miles SE of Tokyo. It Is with other islands in the group, volcanic and inhabited. This is an area like the Bermuda triangle in that it is heavily Trafficked. The earliest reports of anything “supernatural” stem from the 1950’s although these are, like reports from the Bermuda triangle elaborated and misleading. Some feel there are stories about the area going back some time It is an unstable area because of faulting and geologically quite Active. New islands appear regularly off the Japan coast as a Result of undersea earthquakes.
SARGASSO SEA The Sargasso Sea is another area that Has been linked with supernatural Events in literature. It is a gyre, and the only named sea without a land boundary. It takes its name from Sargassum seaweed which is abundant and floats on the water here. It is no threat to navigation, but the area is known for becalmed ships, which usually results from the calm winds in these latitudes. There is no truth to the idea that Ships have been trapped here for generations although this is frequently an idea expressed In literature. The sea is bounded on four sides: On the west by the Gulf Stream, On the north by the North Atlantic Current On the east by the Canary Current, On the south by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current, a clockwise- circulating system of ocean currents termed the North Atlantic Gyre. Its length is about 700 by 2,000 statute miles). It’s proximity to Bermuda is probably a part of the reason it is included sometimes in the Bermuda traingle
FOLKLORE STUDIES Some terms Folklore covers a large area of material. Basically any of the art forms that are not seen as having an “authoritative” version fall into this category – folk arts have in effect many variations none of which can be called the “definitive” version. They are, in effect, constantly being reworked by the people in general. Folklore often distinguishes three kinds of prose narrative forms: Myths: Stories believed to be true and sacred (e.g. Many creation stories that tell the origin of the universe or of things Legends: Stories about real people in the not to distant past (e.g. George Washington and the cherry tree) 3. Tales: Stories not believed to be true (e.g. “Fairy Tales”)
Fantasm: An apparition or specter. A Ghost Ship In this category are “ghost ships”. Generally while they may be believed in, there is no indication they were ever real. There are many stories about such ships that appear out of nowhere and disappear almost as quickly.
The Caleuche This is part of Chilote mythology. Chilote refers to people who live on Chiloé Archipelagooff the southern tip of Chile. A Stringly maritime culture, there is a rich mythology about the sea. The mythology is very syncretic mixing indigenous stories with those of the conquistadores. This ship is thought to be both conscious and sentient. There are many versions of the story But most deal with people who drowned at sea being on board as guests at a party or serving as crew members
TheOctavius Like many “ghost ship” stories, the vessel is believed to have been real at one time, although there is no record of these ships. “Real ships” (those of which records exist) are generally thought of as “mystery ships”. Most “ghost ships” continue to sail as “phantoms”. The Octavius was a ship that was found by a whaler called The Herald, which found the ship adrift in 1775 off Greenland. The entire crew was dead, having frozen to death. It was discovered that the ship had been missing and presumably adrift for 13 years. (an appropriate number and a clue to the legendary nature of the story). It was believed that the ship tried to go from the Pacific back to England via a short cut, across a “hoped for” passage over the north of North America. The ship is not one that is reported as being seen, so its status as a “ghost ship” is unusual. The crew of the Herald find the frozen captain of The Octavius.
La Belle Rosalie The story of La Belle Rosalie is one in which the ship is seen in the story, but there is little mention of anyone ever having seen it outside of the people in the story! According to the story, In Dieppe, Marie and Francois want to be married, but he sails off to the Azores on a ship Called La Belle Rosalie vowing to return by the time the bells ring on All Souls Day (Nov. 2nd). She waits and waits, but the ship does not return. Finally as she looks out over the ocean into the fog covering the sea, the bells ring out All Souls Day, and through the mist, the ship appears, only to fade away with the mist as the sun rises. The appearance of love interests, and religious days like All Souls Day generally indicate some prefabrication of The story.
THE FLYING DUTCHMAN This is probably the most famous fantasm of them all. It has been the subject of stories, books, films and opera. It origins are old and it bears mythical significance to other stories. The ship is a sailing vessel, seen by many and is thought of as an omen of doom. The crew of the ships attempts to give letters to the live crew to deliver to people who are long dead. According to one version, the captain, attempting to round The Cape of Good Hope against a fierce wind swore by all the devil’s of hell, he would keep trying even if it took through all eternity. Accordingly, he got just that. He and his crew must sail on forever. Some folklorists (and others) have compare this to the story of “The Wandering Jew” a 13th Century tale about a Jew who taunts Christ at the crucifixion and as a result is doomed to travel the earth until the 2nd coming. Both blaspheme and are cursed to wander. In some version he can be rescued by a woman. He is allowed to go on shore once every seven years to find a woman who will be true to him until death Albert Pinkham Ryder’s painting of Flying Dutchman, completed by 1887 Smithsonian American Art Museum
A MYSTERY SHIP THE MARY CELESTE This is a “mystery ship” not a ghost ship. This is a real ship that was discovered by another ship, the Dei Gratia near the Azores on 5 Dec. 1872. The ship was partially under sail, her crew and lifeboat were missing. The last entry in the log book was 10 days earlier. The ship had left NYC for Genoa on the 7th of November and the cargo of denatured alcohol was in tact. On board was Benjamin Briggs, part owner and captain, his wife and infant daughter, 3 officers and 4 general seaman from the Frisian Islands in Germany. After the ship was found, a hearing was held which worried more about whether the crew of the Dei Gratia had “done in” the crew of Mary Celeste than what actually happened. There was much poplar speculation about what had happened. The Mary Celeste mystery was even blamed on the Bermuda Triangle – with a little enlarging of the triangle why not? The mystery remained for many years. Arthur Conan Doyle had written a story about the ship called "J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement", which was fictional, but popularized the ship in the minds of the general public. More recently the mystery has been “solved” and the answers were much more mundane, dealing with re-fittings and the fact that only one chronometer was on board and that one was defective. And you Know what that means! A wood engraving of the Mary Celeste as she appeared when first sighted by the Dei Gratia. Engraving by Rudolph Ruzicka
ST. ELMO’S FIRE This is a rather odd weather phenomenon in which certain somewhat pointed objects start to glow as a result of Electrical charges in the atmosphere. Masts on ships as well as yard arms can exhibit this eerie glow on them. The color is often a blue or violet light. It is not a steady light but Moves about and flickers. It is mentioned in many works on the sea. Some of these are “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Coleridge and Melville’s Moby Dick. Shakespeare’s Tempest also refers to it. Although slightly unnerving, many sailors regarded it as a Good omen. There are reports of St. Elmo’s Fire from ancient times and from All around the world. In addition to ships, St. Elmo’s Fire can be seen on the wings of airplanes, among other places.
OCEAN AND MONSTERS If sailors in the era of exploration were tense about just where they were going, they were doubtless equally worried about what might be living in the area they were going over! A number of “monsters”, some mythological and some possibly real were seen (or misinterpreted) by these adventurous sea rovers. Some things which were reported are listed hre: Scylla and Charybdis The Kraken Mermaids Unicorns (I know they aren’t sea creatures – but wait! Sea Serpents Loch Ness Monster Much has been written, explaining the “monsters” and mythical creatures as misidentifications of real animals. This might not always be the case.
THE KRAKEN For years sailors reported the sighting of the Giant Kraken which could pull the ship down under The water. It may look like a giant squid, but could a squid (giant or otherwise do that? The giant squid can reach a length of about 13 meters (43 feet). The Colossal squid is somewhat bigger. A male squid Is typically smaller than the female. In 2007 a male Colossal squid was caught which was 10 meters (32.8 feet) long. Estimates are as long as 14 meters (46 feet) Measurements are difficult because the legs And tentacles are often bitten off. Estimates are made from the length of the mantle. Is the Kraken a mistaken identification Of the giant squid? The Kraken
Mermaids Mermaids seem to be only female – we don’t usually hear of “mermen” or “merbutlers” so I am not really sure what the males would be called – if the exist! The general feeling is that these are misidentifications of the manatee, a mammal found in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, Amazon basin and West Africa. A related animal the Dugong is found in warm coastal waters from the Western Pacific to the East Coast of Africa. One does have to wonder if sailors were really that desperate to see women that they could mistake the manatee for a woman! Besides, there is a long tradition of half human-half animal beings in the West. Think about centaurs and satyrs. Are they male or female or both? Besides, the manatee is found on the coast of West Africa and even the Vikings had made it down there!
UNICORNS OK. Maybe unicorns aren’t sea creatures. But they are another example of a mythological animal associated with the sea. “How”, you ask. I will tell you. The unicorn is associated with the southern part of Europe and although no one ever caught one (although they may have seen One while imbibing wine, they were thought to be real and getting a unicorn horn would be wonderful. Well, the Southern Europeans didn’t think much of the crazy people to the North, the Vikings, who held a similarly dim view Of Southern Europeans. So when the Vikings learned about the Southern Europeans belief in the non-existent unicorns they thought it was very funny and that the Southern crew were pretty stupid. So they went and got some “unicorn” horns and sold them to the Southern Europeans (perhaps proving the Vikings were perhaps correct). So what were they selling? Narwhal tusks! Narwhal “tusk” Unicorn Narwhal
SEA SERPENTS Sea serpents are probably the most commonly sighted “monsters of the deep. Doubtless, there are many possible mis- Identifications possible since there are many snake like animals in the ocean. Here are some: Moray eel (up to 4 meters (13 feet) Frilled shark (up to 6.6 feet) Plesiosaur 23 foot long Oarfish (up to 36 feet (11 meters)
MAP OF SCOTLAND MAP OF INVERNESS/LOCH NESS AREA
LOCH NESS MONSTER Surely the Loch Ness monster affectionately known as “Nessie is the most famous monster in the world today. Although A variety of other lake monsters have been “discovered” and named like “Champie” the resident of Lake Champlain in Upstate New York. The Loch – the Scots form of “lake” is one of a series of lochs which lie across Scotland. It flows through Inverness and connects to the North sea by way of The Ness River, the Beauly Firth and the Moray Firth. It is 37 miles long and covers 22 square miles. It has a maximum depth of 755 feet. It has low visibility since there is a great deal of peat washed into the loch. Sightings of underwater creatures are difficult (there are several different kinds of fish in the loch). It is also reasonably large enough to support a reasonably sized animal. There is no evidence to prove its existence however. None the less it is a great boon to the tourist industry there! Although the lake is fresh water, it does connect to the North Sea which has led To speculations that something from the Ocean might have gotten in. But the loch, while deep, is connected to the sea by a rather shallow river. Trapped Plesiosaurs are again sited as possible forms for Nessie, but problems of feeding and maintaining a breeding population make the idea impossible. The famous “Surgeon’ photo that was admittedly faked. Loch Ness