reports could be cases of whale erections

Sea monsters: reports could be cases of whale erections

Scene drawn by WH Lizars of a ship being ensnared and damaged by a “colossal octopus” (according to Denys-Montfort, experimented on by French sailors off the coast of Angola), but reclassified as a kraken here in the engraving from the book “The Naturalist’s Library”, by Robert Hamilton. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Reports from sailors around the world over the centuries have led to the popular imagination of mysterious monsters attacking ships. The IFLScience website recalled in a matter some of these fantastic beings, and included among the possible explanations an unexpected and bizarre one: nothing less than whale erections.

THE kraken, a giant tentacled sea monster, would have its origins in 1180, when King Sverre of Norway wrote about a sea monster. Over time, the size of the being and its destructive potential increased: sailors claimed that the animals were the size of an island, attacked ships with colossal tentacles and, at one time, managed to create gigantic whirlpools that carried entire vessels to the bottom of the ocean. ocean. Currently, the most prosaic explanation for the kraken would be sightings of giant squid.

Already the famous sea serpents appear in reports of the 17th and 18th centuries. When reporting seeing one of these sea serpents, the Danish Lutheran missionary Hans Egede wrote that on July 6, 1734, he and those aboard his ship had seen “ a terrible creature that looked like nothing they had seen before. The monster lifted its head so high that it appeared to be higher than the crow’s nest on the mainmast. The head was small and the body short and wrinkled. The unknown creature wore giant fins that propelled it through the water. sailors also saw its tail. The monster was longer than our entire ship.”

In the accounts, the creatures were described as serpent-like and drawn as such. Check it out in the image below.

Credit: Biodiversity Heritage Library/Flickr

“Whitened Pillar”

Charles Paxton, a research fellow at the University of St. Andrews (UK), took a look at this and other cases of sea snake sightings in 2005, for possible explanations of the reports. His conclusion – with comparisons to modern photos and descriptions – is that several of the reports actually referred to whale erections.

“A more serious objection to a cetacean is that the back of the animal has been described and drawn as being snake-like. Although whales are found and can survive, without a stroke of luck, snake- or eel-like bodies are not generally associated with the rapid thrust that would be required to lift the entire body out of the water,” he and several other authors wrote in the journal. Archives of Natural History.

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Whale penis (top) and drawing of sea serpent sighting (above). credit: twitter

“However, there is an alternative explanation for the snake-like tail,” they continued. “Many of the large baleen whales have long snake-shaped penises. If the animal had actually fallen on its back, its ventral surface would have been up, and if the whale had been aroused, the normally retracted penis would have been visible. The penises of the North Atlantic right whale and the (Pacific) gray whale can be at least 1.8 meters long and 1.7 meters long, respectively, and could be mistaken by a naive witness for a tail. (…) The fact that a tail was seen from a distance from a ship suggests the presence of more than one male whale.”

A miscellaneous incident that could be more conclusively explained by a large whale erection is that of sailors aboard the merchant ship Pauline in 1875. They saw a sea serpent which they described as a “white pillar”. This particular snake was seen in the midst of a group of sperm whales, who were currently “frenzied with excitement”.

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