- Education and Science
Beware the Kraken
Save us from the Kraken!
No Sea Monster was as terrifying as the Kraken!.
Its monstrous size often caused it to be mistaken for an island but, when curious mariners drew near, the grisly truth would be revealed.
The 'island' would erupt into a seething mass of multiple heads, horns and waving arms that could grasp and sink even the largest of ships.
The beast would attack a hapless vessel, wrap its arms around the hull and slowly capsize it. Those unfortunate souls who couldn't escape would be eaten by the monster.
Lord, save us from the Kraken!
The Kraken Attacks
Norwegian Tales of the Kraken
The Norwegians knew the Sykraken, a frightening creature out of a nightmare, who lurked beneath the waves.
This Sea-Kraken, they said, was an enormous monster quite capable of pulling a ship and its crew under the sea in a single jerk.
In The Natural History of Norway, the 12th century Bishop of Bergen described the Kraken as a floating island measuring one and a half miles across.
It seems these are the creature’s arms, and, it is said, if they were to lay hold of the largest man-of-war, they would pull it down to the bottom.
Ulysses and the Kraken
Probably the first recorded mention of the Kraken is in The Odyssey, when the hero, Ulysses, had to navigate his boat past Scylla’s lair.
But we cannot mention Scylla without her sister, Charybdis!
Scylla and Charybdis were two immortal and irresistible monsters who beset the narrow waters of the Straits of Messina destroying ships as they attempted to navigate through.
The sea has always inspired the deepest respect from those who spend time upon it, for the dangers of shipwreck and drowning are manifold. In earlier times there was the added threat of monsters lurking in the depths to cast fear into the hearts of mariners.
Scylla and Charybdis
Scylla was dreadful with six heads, twelve feet and a voice like the howl of a maddened dog. She dwelt in a sea-cave looking to the west, far up the face of a huge cliff. Out of her cave she stuck her heads, fishing for marine creatures and snatching the sailors out of passing ships.
Within a bowshot of this cliff was another lower cliff with a great figtree growing on it. Under this second rock dwelt Charybdis, who thrice a day sucked in and thrice spouted out the sea water.
Odysseus had to sail through straits that are bracketed by these two monsters, and he had to choose a course which leads closer to one or the other.
One choice, Scylla, would lead to certain doom for six crewman, the other, Charybdis, posed a risk to the entire ship and crew.
Between these rocks Odysseus sailed, and Scylla snatched six men out of his ship.
As Odysseus said :
Next came Chaybdis who swallows the sea in a whirlpool, then spits it up again. Avoiding this we skirted the cliff where Scylla exacts her toll. Each of her six slavering maws grabbed a sailor and wolfed him down.
These dreadful monsters have become proverbial as a choice between equally dreadful alternatives but, once upon a time, they were a just a whirlpool, and a squid.
The Kraken in Jules Verne
In 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, the classic 19th century fantasy, Jules Verne describes the Kraken.
I looked in my turn, and could not repress a gesture of disgust. Before my eyes was a horrible monster worthy to figure in the legends of the marvellous. It was an immense cuttlefish, being eight yards long. Its eight arms, or rather feet, fixed to its head were twice as long as its body, and were twisted like the furies’ hair.
The monster’s mouth, a horned beak like a parrot’s, opened and shut vertically. Its tongue, a horned substance, furnished with several rows of pointed teeth, came out quivering from this veritable pair of shears. What a freak of nature, a bird’s beak on a mollusc!
Jules Verne Classic
The classic Jules Verne fantasy
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Giant Squid on Camera
The Kraken is a Giant Squid
These cephalods are very aggressive and sometimes rise to the surface where they are seen by modern sailors. Although giant squids are considerably less then a mile and a half across, they’re quite large enough to tackle a sperm whale and, on at least three occasions in the 1930s, attacked ships crossing the Atlantic.
While the squids got the worst of these encounters with ships fitted with propellers, the fact that they attacked at all shows that it’s possible for these creatures to mistake a vessel for a whale.
It’s no wonder early navigators had nightmares about these grisly giants. Imagine if a large squid, perhaps a hundred feet long and weighing two or three tons, attacked a small sailing ship.
The Real Kraken
The Kraken in 2013
Ocean Researcher, Edie Widder, shot footage of a giant squid in 2013.
"The color was utterly different than any of us expected. A lot of deep-sea squid are red. But this was a spectacular silver and gold. It just looks like it was carved out of metal, it's just completely breathtaking and completely unexpected."
How about you?
What would you do if you saw a Kraken?
What do you think?
How many Giant Squids are still lurking beneath the waves?
Or have we slaughtered them all with billhooks,harpoons and plastic waste?.
There are many mysteries of the Deep and the Kraken is a legend from the past which may appear, again, at any time.
Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water.
© 2014 Susanna Duffy