Sea monsters. People are continually fascinated by them. You've got those who believe fervently that there are still undiscovered monsters of the deep, and then you have those who wonder what the monsters we've already sighted...really are. Did someone really see Nessie? Or did they really see something else? And if they saw something else, what is it likely that they saw?
Well, how about a whale. And his penis.
(Is that a sea monster in your pocket or are you happy to see me?)
Paxton et al. "Cetaceans, sex and sea serpents: an analysis of the Egede accounts of a “most dreadful monster” seen off the coast of Greenland in 1734" Archives of Natural History, 2005.
Oh yes, there are pictures below the fold. You know you want to look.
This paper took a 1734 account of a "sea monster" off the coast of Greenland and attempted to dissect it, figure out just what the confused sailors had seen. The witnesses were Hans and Poul Egede (ok, only Poul saw it, Hans just wrote about it), while they were on their way from Denmark to Disco Bay in Greenland. Poul said that he saw
The 6th [July] let itself show [be visible] a very horrible sea-creature which rose itself so high over the water
that the head of it reached above our big yard arm. It had a long pointed snout and it blew [spouted] like a
whale [it] had broad big ﬂippers and the body seemed to be grown [covered] with carapace and [it] was very
wrinkled and uneven [rough] on its skin; it was otherwise created below like a serpent and where it went
under the water again threw itself backwards and raised thereafter the tail up from the water a whole ship’s
length from the body.
So what WAS it? There are three other, similar accounts (two written by the same person), but they all look...kind of like a whale (ok, except for the bit about the burning red devil's eyes in one account, but we're pretty sure that was added in later). After all, it "blows like a whale", has flippers like a whale, and is as big as a whale. And as the author notes...that means it's most likely to be a whale. The "carapace" and hardened scales described could easily be barnacles. It clearly had a whale tail. But the witnesses were all very clear about a "strange protuberance" which showed out of the water when the animal flipped over on its back. What is this?
(Focus carefully on the upper left there. That's what they actually saw. What they think it WAS is pictured on the bottom right)
Now, if you've seen any of my other posts on whales, you'll note that picture on the top left...LOOKS like something. It looks like this.
And that, my friends, is a whale dick. The authors hypothesize that this was a whale "in a state of arousal". Oh yeah, a whale with a hardon. Was the whale happy to see the sailors? Was he caught in flagrante delecto with a female unseen? Or was he just having a happy male whale time all by himself? History is silent on this subject.
The authors note that the sailors in question were actually acquainted with whales, and could identify most of them on sight. Whether they were blinded by the...glory...and it confused their identification, or whether the animal sighted really IS some sort of new sea monster with a long and phallic appendage in unclear. After all, this is a sort-of scientific analysis of an eyewitness account from 1734 of which there are no pictures and only things that were drawn after the fact. So really, it could be anything. But the whale with the willy is my own personal favorite.
Paxton, C., Knatterud, E., & Hedley, S. (2005). Cetaceans, sex and sea serpents: an analysis of the Egede accounts of a “most dreadful monster” seen off the coast of Greenland in 1734 Archives of Natural History, 32 (1), 1-9 DOI: 10.3366/anh.2005.32.1.1