It’s a funny old world. Or rather, a Mysterious Universe… in which monstrous sea serpents swim about frightening sailors off the island of St Helena.
On the 9 May, 1830, the Rob Roy, a vessel of His Majesty’s Royal Navy was passing the island when a vast brute of a fish reared up out of the water, to the dismay of the captain, James Stockdale.
“His head was square with our topsail and his tail was square with the foremast,” wrote the captain. “There was no mistake or doubt of its length – for the brute was so close I could even smell his nasty fishy smell.”
Lest anyone should think the only thing that smells fishy about this story is the story itself, then consider a second encounter off the island on 13 December, 1857, with a “huge marine animal… its neck and head about ten or twenty feet out of the water.”
Both descriptions appear in Admiralty records, according to the Mysterious Universe website, which celebrates “the strange, extraordinary, weird and wonderful, and everything in between.”
Of course, one could invest a lot of energy in trying to verify the stories in the National Archives in London. But really, why bother?