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Curious Creatures in Zoology: With 130 Illustrations Throughout by John Ashton

The authentic records, if trust can be placed in them, are various and many — but are hardly worth recapitulating because of their sameness, and the smile of incredulity which their recital provokes. Let us therefore turn to the monarch of the deep, the Whale — and of this creature we get curious glimpses from the Northern Naturalists; but, before investigating this authentic denizen of ocean, we will examine some whose title to existence is not quite so clearly made out.

There are monstrous fish on the Coasts or Sea of Norway , of unusual Names, though they are reputed a kind of Whales; and, if men look long on them they will fright and amaze them. Their forms are horrible, their heads square, all set with prickles, and they have sharp and long Horns round about, like a tree rooted up by the roots: they are ten or twelve Cubits long, very black, and with huge eyes, the Compass whereof i.

For, to the danger of Sea men, he will sometimes raise himself beyond the Sail yards, and cast such floods of Waters above his head, which he had sucked in, that with a cloud of them, he will often sink the strongest ships, or expose the Marriners to extream danger. This Beast hath also a long and large round mouth like a Lamprey, whereby he sucks in his meat or water, and by his weight cast upon the Fore or Hinder-Deck, he sinks, and drowns a ship.

He hath a thick black Skin, all his body over; long fins, like to broad feet, and a forked tail 15 or 20 foot broad, wherewith he forcibly binds any parts of the ship, he twists it about. Also, I must add, that on the Coasts of Norway , most frequently both Old and New Monsters are seen, chiefly by reason of the inscrutable depth of the Waters. Moreover, in the deep Sea, there are many kinds of fishes that are seldome or never seen by Man. This whale lies asleep on the water, and is of such a deceptive appearance that seamen mistake it for an island, and cast anchor into it, a proceeding which this peculiar class of whale does not appear to take much heed of.

But, when it comes to lighting a fire upon it, and cooking thereon, it naturally wakes up the whale. Lane, whose translation ed. He cast the anchor, and put forth the landing plank, and all who were in the ship landed upon that island.

They had prepared for themselves fire-pots, and they lighted the fires in them, and their occupations were various: some cooked, others washed, and others amused themselves. I was among those who were amusing themselves upon the shores of the island, and the passengers were assembled to eat and drink, and play and sport. The island had moved, and descended to the bottom of the sea, with all that were upon it, and the roaring sea, agitated with waves, closed over it.

This Whale, as I have said before of the Whirlpool and Pristes, sometimes so belcheth out the waves that he hath taken in, that, with a Cloud of Waters, oft times, he will drown the ship; and when a Tempest ariseth at Sea, he will rise above water, that he will sink the ships, during these Commotions and Tempests. Sometimes he brings up Sand on his back, upon which, when a Tempest comes, the Marriners are glad that they have found Land, cast Anchor, and are secure on a false ground; and when as they kindle their fires, the Whale, so soon as he perceives it, he sinks down suddenly into the depth, and draws both men and ships after him, unless the Anchors break.

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But apropos of the whale casting forth such quantities of water, it is, as a matter of fact, untrue. The whale has a tremendously strong exhalation, and when it breathes under water, its breath sends up two columns of spray , but, if its head is above water, it cannot spout. Whales, that have no Gills, breathe by Pipes, which is found but in few creatures. They carry their young ones, when they are weak and feeble; and if they be small, they take them in at their mouths. This they do also when a Tempest is coming; and after the Tempest, they Vomit them up.

When for want of water their young are hindered, that they cannot follow their Dams, the Dams take water in their mouths, and cast it to them like a river, that she may so free them from the Land they are fast upon. Also she accompanies them long, when they are grown up; but they quickly grow up, and increase ten years. But their two Dog teeth, or Tushes, are longer than the rest, underneath, like a Horn, like the teeth of Bores, or Elephants. This kind of whale hath a fit mouth to eat, and his eyes are so large, that fifteen men may sit in the room of each of them, and sometimes twenty, or more, as the beast is in quantity.

These grow together, to defend his eyes in tempestuous weather, or when any other Beast that is his enemy sets upon him; nor is it a wonder, that he hath so many Horns, though they be very troublesome to him; when, as between his eyes, the space of his forehead is 15 or 20 foot.

The Spermaceti whale Physeter macrocephalus is the subject of a curious story, according to Olaus Magnus. He declares Ambergris is the sperm of the male Whale, which is not received by the female.

Curious Creatures in Zoology Antique Illustrated Book John Ashton C1890

It is white; and if it be found, that is of the colour of Gyp, it is the better. It is sophisticated with the powder of Lignum, Aloes, Styrax, Musk, and some other things. But this is discovered because that which is sophistocated will easily become soft as Wax, but pure Amber-greese will never melt so. It hath a corroborating force, and is good against swoundings and the Epilepsie.

As a matter of fact, it is believed to be a morbid secretion in the intestinal canal of the whale, originating in its bile. It is found in its bowels, and also floating on the sea, grey-coloured, in lumps weighing from half an ounce to one hundred pounds. It is much used in perfumery, but not in medicine, at least in Europe: but in Asia and Africa, it is, in some parts, so used, and also in cookery.

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Last Christmas I stumbled on an incredible book by French artist, Philippe Mignon, called Elephasme, Rhinolophon, Cameluche et autres merveilles de la nature, in the almost year-old Parisian taxidermy specialist store, Deyrolle. For anyone interested in this centuries-old practice, this shop is a must-visit, because you can watch the staff mount the most incredible looking beetles, some in classical arrangements, others in odd and very beautiful patterns, at little tables right next to the cash register.

Mignon stocks his book exclusively there, and it's filled with beautiful illustrations of duckbilled shrews, monkey-faced sea birds, and saw-nosed arctic wolves, each with their own scientific name and description. I cannot recommend it enough as an obscure Christmas gift. You can buy it online here. Here's a highlight:. Animal or Vegetable? Legend of the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary. Order my book, Zombie tits, astronaut fish and other weird animals from Amazon. The views expressed are those of the author s and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Bec Crew is a Sydney-based science writer and award-winning blogger. You have free article s left. Already a subscriber? Sign in.

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A Su only ever made it to a Patagone camp as a corpse. According to 5th Century Greek physician and historian Ctesias, the Mantichora or manticore was an Indian creature with the strength and body of a lion and the face and ears of a man. It also had three rows of terrible, terrible teeth.

Centuries later, Pliny added his own spin to the Martichora myth, describing its azure blue eyes and ability to imitate human speech oh god , and Topsell was careful to mention that its mouth stretched from ear to ear like an even more nightmarish Cheshire Cat. Otherwise known as the Getulian Dogge, Ashton assumes the legendary Mimicke Dog was a poodle, reportedly having the disposition and smarts of an ape, but the face, shape and colouring of a hedgehog.

As pups, they were supposedly brought up by apes, and so could imitate anything they saw, which made them pretty good servants for poor people and could also be employed as stage actors. They were such good actors, said Plutarch, that they would be responsible for multiple human roles in the same play, and were particularly good at acting drunk or dying. Topsell, too, is singularly silent on the merits of Cats. While the closest we're going to get to mythological animals these days is the Blue Mountains panther , that doesn't stop people illustrating what could have been.

Last Christmas I stumbled on an incredible book by French artist, Philippe Mignon, called Elephasme, Rhinolophon, Cameluche et autres merveilles de la nature, in the almost year-old Parisian taxidermy specialist store, Deyrolle. For anyone interested in this centuries-old practice, this shop is a must-visit, because you can watch the staff mount the most incredible looking beetles, some in classical arrangements, others in odd and very beautiful patterns, at little tables right next to the cash register.

Mignon stocks his book exclusively there, and it's filled with beautiful illustrations of duckbilled shrews, monkey-faced sea birds, and saw-nosed arctic wolves, each with their own scientific name and description. I cannot recommend it enough as an obscure Christmas gift. You can buy it online here.