No maritime experience is complete without a mythical creature or two. From the classic hero Nessie to those Siren sluts, the high seas play host to all sorts of bizarre beasts. Consider this a primer on which ones to adore, which to ignore and which would make a nice allegory for oppression in your next term paper.
KRAKEN: You may remember a Kraken-like beast from outside the Mines of Moria in “Lord of the Rings” (the “Watcher in the Water”). Imagine the calamari in your pasta magnified about 10,000 times. The Kraken means business, packin’ eight tentacles and a hunger for human flesh (especially fishermen: watch your backs Jason Gilliland ’10 and other Yale anglers) to fill its mile and a half long belly. The scariest thing about a Kraken is that it’s real. Kind of. In the depths of the sea you’ll only ever view on “Planet Earth” reside massive squid up to 66 feet in length. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in his poem “The Kraken,” wrote that at the end of the world, the apocalyptic inferno “shall heat the deep” and bring the Kraken “roaring” out of the sea … (at which point he declares that the beast dies? Anti-climactic?) Bottom line: avoid the Kraken and other giant octopi — they’ll make confetti of your internal organs.
BARNACLE GOOSE: As if barnacles and geese weren’t scary enough on their own, legends from the Middle Ages tell of a plant-animal grown from driftwood or seaside trees. Sadly, real arctic geese with black and white plumage have now taken on the common name of “barnacle goose.” We’d rather imagine those gummy things from the ocean with beaks and webbed feet. Menacing!
SIREN: Villainesses of Homeric lore, the sirens are the original a cappella group, except better: no potential tap turns down a chance to join these fine ladies, and they get more play than the Duke’s Men any day. When the Sirens perform, you listen, but mostly because you don’t have a choice. Upon hearing their song, all men are drawn inexorably toward their island paradise. Not such a paradise for you, though, seeing as once you’re within reach the Sirens with grab and devour you. Cute but evil.
MERMAID: The Paris Hilton of the deep sea, this diva enjoys shopping for sea shell bras and playing hard-to-get with seamen. Mermaids are totally part of the in-crowd; they’ve appeared in Greek, Near Eastern, Caribbean and British mythology, and everyone and their mom has claimed sightings since the mid-19th century. This past August, residents of the Israeli town Quiryat Yam swore that a mermaid lived off their coast and promised a million bucks to anyone with proof. Mermaids, perhaps feeling objectified, fled the scene.
LOCH NESS MONSTER: Nessie’s been playing with our hearts since 565 A.D. Sometimes quiet and sometimes sighted left and right, Nessie is an elusive plesiosaur from the Triassic Period who somehow survived the giant meteor to take up residence in Scotland (WTF? No better options?). For the past century, photos of random lumps and ripples in Loch Ness have been used as undeniable proof of Nessie’s existence, but so far searches of the loch have failed to uncover the giant fish. When asked if he believed in Nessie, one philosophy T.A. from Yorkshire, England (basically Scotland, which is basically Loch Ness) said “no.”
YALE: It’s midterm season. This place has become more brutal than the Kraken, Siren and Barnacle Goose combined. But a mythical Yale does, indeed, exist in the form of a strange, horse-sized mountain goat whose swiveling horns are less threatening than a microecon problem set. In case you think we’re kidding, check out the gateway to Davenport College, on which is engraved the real inspiration behind this institution of higher learning. Sorry, Eli. Call us when your horns start to swivel.