Sea Monsters, Part III
Continuing with the Sea Monsters series, this week focuses on sea serpents. Are they giant sea snakes? Mythical creatures that never truly existed? This post is my take on the frightening creatures.
I don’t recall the first time I heard of a sea serpent, but the first one I ever saw was on an old map. As a young child, I thought that drawing in the middle of the sea meant that’s where you could find these scary, giant snakes that attacked ships. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for me to learn the fallacy of that belief.
Regardless of the sea serpent illustrations I see or the stories I hear, the serpents on historical maps always stick in my mind. Why are they there? What is the significance?
The best theory I have, and one that’s shared by at least a few others, is that the sea monsters on those old maps served as a kind of warning to sailors to beware of dangers in the water. It’s hard to say whether the dangers were uncharted waters, erratic or strong currents, whale migration paths, or something else entirely. Considering sea serpents have been appearing on maps since people still believed the Earth was flat, it could be as simple as a fear of the unknown bringing to mind all manner of frightening beasts that could destroy a ship and take the lives of everyone on board.
While the sea serpents of legends may be a myth, there are sea snakes that are highly venomous and some can grow to nearly nine feet in length. There are also eels, which can range in length from four inches to over eleven feet. It is possible sailors of old spotted one of these very real creatures and that is where the mythical sea serpents were first imagined.
Wherever the legends began, they have been around for hundreds of years and will likely live on until the end of time.