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Serpents, Serpents Everywhere!

By givemegmail111 in Science
Mon May 19, 2008 at 11:10:42 AM EST
Tags: marine biology, serpents (all tags)

It went something like this, aboard many an ancient vessel:

A calm sea, a quiet voyage along a route traveled by hundreds of ships a year. Suddenly, the lookout's voice pierced the stillness: "Serpent off the bow!"

The crew came charging forward, crowding the rail, gaping in disbelief at the stunning sight before them. For here indeed was a grotesque creature shaped like a huge snake, its body shimmering and undulating, its fangs bared menacingly. Then as mysteriously as it appeared, the fearful thing dipped below the surface, vanished, never to be seen again.

Thus was born another sea serpent legend—a legend which reasonable men scoffed at and scientists ridiculed. And yet, if there are no such things as sea serpents, how could every man in the crew have witnessed the same sight? How were all of them able to give the same description of something that was strictly a figment of their superstitious imaginations?


The answer is simple -- what they saw was not imaginary! True, they hadn't come across a "new" creature, although that's sometimes what did happen. Nor were their imaginations not playing tricks on them, though only in a small way. Even today, we hear of an occasional serpent, sighted by crew and passengers alike.

Optical illusions are what usually explain serpent sightings. Among ordinary sea animals, the giant squid is most frequently mistaken for a serpent, because of its two enormous arms that trail through the water as it swims along. Sea lions, when they come up for a breath of air are frequently taken for something weird, snake-like, when viewed in a fading light. Other sea beings, such as ribbon fish or nemertines, with their extra-long bodies, appear serpentine to the uninitiated eye.

But even some of the familiar species are known to play "tricks" on startled observers, who, unfamiliar with the fishes' habits, conclude that there are serpents on the loose.

Porpoises, for example, generally travel in schools, one behind the other. As they swim along, they rise and dip, from front to rear, creating the illusion of a single, massive serpent undulating up and down through the surface.

When basking sharks go on the prowl, it's usually in pairs, tandem fashion. Because only their fins and the upper parts of their tails pierce the surface, these fish give the impression of one body, over 60 feet long.

Many other fish, because of their unique mode of travel, are responsible for serpent legends. Among the most well-known are tunnies, porbeagles and chimaeras.

Fish aren't the only creatures responsible for serpent illusions. Given the right lighting conditions—as at dawn or dusk—a brood of ducks could be mistaken for an enormous snake skimming the water's surface. Low-flying lines of gulls have been known to give the same appearance.

Some serpents have even turned out to be seaweed! Floating along in thick, lengthy masses, this plant creates a very scary sight, particularly under moonlight.

All in all, however, not all serpent sightings could be so conviently explained. For that reason, many scientists have advanced a theory that's yet to be proven.

The sea, as everyone knows, is still vastly unexplored. Man has only descended to relatively shallow depths. What exists in the untapped depths? Many a marine biologist speculates that prehistoric reptiles still inhabit the deeper part of the oceans. From time to time, these ancient creatures come to surface—and if a ship happens to be passing in their vicinity, you've got a new serpent legend.

Still another theory is that so-called serpents are really mutations—ordinary fish that were born weirdly shaped, strictly by accident. To the untrained observer, even the slightest alteration of shape might seem monstrous. This theory, too, awaits proof.

But proved or unproved, these notions at least indicate that modern man no longer believes in the existence of genuine serpents. So if you're ever sailing the seas, and happen to spot "something weird" on the horizon, don't let your imagination run away with you. Take a closer look—and try to figure out what sort of optical illusion you're having.

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Poll
Sea Serpents:
o Fact 66%
o Fiction 33%

Votes: 15
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o giant squid
o ribbon fish
o nemertines
o basking sharks
o tunnies
o porbeagles
o chimaeras
o Also by givemegmail111


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Serpents, Serpents Everywhere! | 32 comments (28 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
i've decided (3.00 / 7) (#1)
by nononoitaintmebabe on Sat May 17, 2008 at 11:01:21 PM EST

to make it a policy to vote up any article about sea serpents.  

Did not read but tags looked interesting: +1FP. (none / 0) (#2)
by LilDebbie Lover on Sat May 17, 2008 at 11:07:50 PM EST

sage

Signature of Disutility:
* Jedi Warrior Betrayal
* Emo Jedi Warrior Betrayal
* Betrayal of Aalya Secura
* Death of Spartan 117
* Enslavement of Man
* Humanity's Destruction
* Rise of the Horde

Also:
* "ALL I REQUIRE IS A PURPLE MARKER" ~LilDebbie
* "I'm straight but I like having sex with men" ~xC0000005
LEVIATHAN LIVES (3.00 / 7) (#3)
by LilDebbie on Sat May 17, 2008 at 11:11:34 PM EST

    1 "Can you pull in the Leviathan with a fishhook
       or tie down its tongue with a rope?

    2 Can you put a cord through its nose
       or pierce its jaw with a hook?

    3 Will it keep begging you for mercy?
       Will it speak to you with gentle words?

    4 Will it make an agreement with you
       for you to take it as your slave for life?

    5 Can you make a pet of it like a bird
       or put it on a leash for the young women in your house?

    6 Will traders barter for it?
       Will they divide it up among the merchants?

    7 Can you fill its hide with harpoons
       or its head with fishing spears?

    8 If you lay a hand on it,
       you will remember the struggle and never do it again!

    9 Any hope of subduing it is false;
       the mere sight of it is overpowering.

    10 No one is fierce enough to rouse it.
       Who then is able to stand against me?

    11 Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
       Everything under heaven belongs to me.

    12 "I will not fail to speak of Leviathan's limbs,
       its strength and its graceful form.

    13 Who can strip off its outer coat?
       Who can penetrate its double coat of armor?

    14 Who dares open the doors of its mouth,
       ringed about with fearsome teeth?

    15 Its back has rows of shields
       tightly sealed together;

    16 each is so close to the next
       that no air can pass between.

    17 They are joined fast to one another;
       they cling together and cannot be parted.

    18 Its snorting throws out flashes of light;
       its eyes are like the rays of dawn.

    19 Flames stream from its mouth;
       sparks of fire shoot out.

    20 Smoke pours from its nostrils
       as from a boiling pot over burning reeds.

    21 Its breath sets coals ablaze,
       and flames dart from its mouth.

    22 Strength resides in its neck;
       dismay goes before it.

    23 The folds of its flesh are tightly joined;
       they are firm and immovable.

    24 Its chest is hard as rock,
       hard as a lower millstone.

    25 When it rises up, the mighty are terrified;
       they retreat before its thrashing.

    26 The sword that reaches it has no effect,
       nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin.

    27 Iron it treats like straw
       and bronze like rotten wood.

    28 Arrows do not make it flee;
       slingstones are like chaff to it.

    29 A club seems to it but a piece of straw;
       it laughs at the rattling of the lance.

    30 Its undersides are jagged potsherds,
       leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing sledge.

    31 It makes the depths churn like a boiling caldron
       and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.

    32 It leaves a glistening wake behind it;
       one would think the deep had white hair.

    33 Nothing on earth is its equal--
       a creature without fear.

    34 It looks down on all that are haughty;
       it is king over all that are proud."

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

An optical illusion and nothing more. (none / 0) (#4)
by givemegmail111 on Sat May 17, 2008 at 11:25:52 PM EST

Probably just swamp gas.

--
McDonalds: i'm lovin' it
Start your day tastefully with a Parent ]
Jose Chung (none / 0) (#7)
by anaesthetica on Sat May 17, 2008 at 11:39:53 PM EST

Most sea snake sightings are actually the planet Venus.

—I'm the little engine that didn't.
k5: our trolls go to eleven
[A]S FAR AS A PERSON'S ACTIONS ARE CONCERNED, IT IS NOT TRUE THAT NOTHING BUT GOOD COMES FROM GOOD AND NOTHING BUT EVIL COMES FROM EVIL, BUT RATHER QUITE FREQUENTLY THE OPPOSITE IS THE CASE. ANYONE WHO DOES NOT REALIZE THIS IS IN FACT A MERE CHILD IN POLITICAL MATTERS. max weber, politics as a vocation


[ Parent ]
lol @ judaeo-xtian god (3.00 / 4) (#5)
by livus on Sat May 17, 2008 at 11:29:44 PM EST

boasting to some poor mortal dude.

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
i think it was more mocking him (3.00 / 3) (#8)
by LilDebbie on Sat May 17, 2008 at 11:59:44 PM EST

"OH YOU THINK YOU'RE HOT SHIT, DO YOU? LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT MY NIGGA LEVI-SAN".

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
either way, its totally pathetic (3.00 / 4) (#17)
by livus on Sun May 18, 2008 at 07:05:05 AM EST

especially since the whole thing was started by god trying to impress the devil. Who does that?

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
gotta love Job, even if God didn't // (none / 1) (#15)
by The Hanged Man on Sun May 18, 2008 at 03:39:10 AM EST


-------------

Dificile est saturam non scribere - Juvenal
[ Parent ]
you DO know that there ARE sea snakes, right? n (3.00 / 3) (#6)
by livus on Sat May 17, 2008 at 11:30:35 PM EST



---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

Hirez proof of mythological-type serpents (none / 1) (#19)
by givemegmail111 on Sun May 18, 2008 at 08:14:47 AM EST

or the article stays.

--
McDonalds: i'm lovin' it
Start your day tastefully with a Parent ]
why mythological? (none / 0) (#23)
by livus on Sun May 18, 2008 at 09:35:40 PM EST

I quite like the article.

I was just idly wondering whether you knew about real sea serpents, like these or these.

You know, common varieties. I've seen a small stripey one.  

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]

Wow, this was awful (3.00 / 2) (#10)
by BottleRocket on Sun May 18, 2008 at 12:34:07 AM EST

Are you suffering from brain damage or something? I'll assume so. +1 FP, you poor thing.

$ . . . . . $ . . . . . $ . . . . . $
. ₩ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . *
$ . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $
Yes I do download [child pornography], but I don't keep it any longer than I need to, so it can yield insight as to how to find more. --MDC
$ . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $
. . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . *
. ₩ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
$ . . . . . $ . . . . . $ . . . . . $
$B R Σ III$

I seen plenty of weird shit out in the ocean (none / 1) (#11)
by tdillo on Sun May 18, 2008 at 12:57:24 AM EST

but I also know that when sailors hit the beach and get liquored up they like to tell tales. I can well imagine a bunch of drunk sailors telling some lubbers in a bar, 'Yeah, we seen this big old serpent musta been 40 foot if it was an inch, eyes like lucifer himself and horns, what you don't believe me? Ask Brent over there, hey Brent ya remember that sea serpent?' And ol Brent is like 'Hell yeah, had purple scales and green glowing teeth!' Then Mikey is like, 'Yeah the damn head was big as an elephant...'
You get the idea.

The stories and information posted here are artistic works of fiction and falsehood.Only a fool would take anything posted here as fact.

One of the coolest things I saw was during flight (none / 1) (#13)
by tdillo on Sun May 18, 2008 at 01:19:41 AM EST

ops late one night in the IO, a damn rainbow at night. That was awesome. I seen the Nimitz run over one of its own fighter planes. I seen frigates in the North Atlantic go through the waves, not up and over but straight through the damn things. Waterspouts are pretty cool if they're not too close. Watching a CIWS in action will just about give you a hard-on. Lots of cool shit but I never saw any serpents.

The stories and information posted here are artistic works of fiction and falsehood.Only a fool would take anything posted here as fact.[ Parent ]

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe (3.00 / 6) (#18)
by livus on Sun May 18, 2008 at 07:16:24 AM EST

attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate.

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
ya well i saw (3.00 / 7) (#24)
by the77x42 on Mon May 19, 2008 at 04:34:33 AM EST

a story on the front page of k5 that didn't suck. once.


"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]
I CALL BULLSHIT -rn (3.00 / 5) (#27)
by Sgt York on Mon May 19, 2008 at 11:00:09 AM EST


There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

should have been (3.00 / 5) (#14)
by the77x42 on Sun May 18, 2008 at 02:56:52 AM EST

'Yeah, we seen this big old serpent musta been 13 inches if it was an inch, one eye, a purple head, and it looked like it had tears of yogurt.'


"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]
lololol you funny you /nt (none / 1) (#16)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Sun May 18, 2008 at 05:21:47 AM EST


--
It's hard to be humble when even Mr Bigballs rates me as #1 Kuro5hit.


[ Parent ]
you forgot flying squid (3.00 / 5) (#12)
by circletimessquare on Sun May 18, 2008 at 12:57:48 AM EST

no really, flying squid

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_Flying_Squid

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

go fuck yourself (none / 1) (#25)
by the77x42 on Mon May 19, 2008 at 04:35:13 AM EST

no really, go fuck yourself


"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]
No link? -rn (none / 1) (#28)
by Sgt York on Mon May 19, 2008 at 02:28:33 PM EST


There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

why do you think i am posting here? i am (3.00 / 2) (#30)
by circletimessquare on Mon May 19, 2008 at 10:12:06 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
DICKS EVERYWHERE (2.62 / 8) (#20)
by Aurochs on Sun May 18, 2008 at 12:15:17 PM EST


--
if you were walking through the woods with a baseball bat and some dude jumped on your back and started humping you, would you beat him off?
--
A common sea turtle is most likely what you saw (none / 0) (#21)
by givemegmail111 on Sun May 18, 2008 at 12:48:13 PM EST

Or another of the water-dwelling testudines.

--
McDonalds: i'm lovin' it
Start your day tastefully with a Parent ]
I was so disappointed when the next line wasn't (none / 0) (#31)
by lawngnomehitman on Fri May 30, 2008 at 03:50:09 PM EST

"but not a snake to swallow"...

`Serpent!' screamed the Pigeon. (none / 0) (#32)
by rpresser on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 02:49:44 PM EST


`I'm NOT a serpent!' said Alice indignantly. `Let me alone!'

`Serpent, I say again!' repeated the Pigeon, but in a more subdued tone, and added with a kind of sob, `I've tried every way, and nothing seems to suit them!'

`I haven't the least idea what you're talking about,' said Alice.

`I've tried the roots of trees, and I've tried banks, and I've tried hedges,' the Pigeon went on, without attending to her; `but those serpents! There's no pleasing them!'

Alice was more and more puzzled, but she thought there was no use in saying anything more till the Pigeon had finished.

`As if it wasn't trouble enough hatching the eggs,' said the Pigeon; `but I must be on the look-out for serpents night and day! Why, I haven't had a wink of sleep these three weeks!'

`I'm very sorry you've been annoyed,' said Alice, who was beginning to see its meaning.

`And just as I'd taken the highest tree in the wood,' continued the Pigeon, raising its voice to a shriek, `and just as I was thinking I should be free of them at last, they must needs come wriggling down from the sky! Ugh, Serpent!'

`But I'm NOT a serpent, I tell you!' said Alice. `I'm a--I'm a--'

`Well! WHAT are you?' said the Pigeon. `I can see you're trying to invent something!'

`I--I'm a little girl,' said Alice, rather doubtfully, as she remembered the number of changes she had gone through that day.

`A likely story indeed!' said the Pigeon in a tone of the deepest contempt. `I've seen a good many little girls in my time, but never ONE with such a neck as that! No, no! You're a serpent; and there's no use denying it. I suppose you'll be telling me next that you never tasted an egg!'

`I HAVE tasted eggs, certainly,' said Alice, who was a very truthful child; `but little girls eat eggs quite as much as serpents do, you know.'

`I don't believe it,' said the Pigeon; `but if they do, why then they're a kind of serpent, that's all I can say.'

This was such a new idea to Alice, that she was quite silent for a minute or two, which gave the Pigeon the opportunity of adding, `You're looking for eggs, I know THAT well enough; and what does it matter to me whether you're a little girl or a serpent?'

`It matters a good deal to ME,' said Alice hastily; `but I'm not looking for eggs, as it happens; and if I was, I shouldn't want YOURS: I don't like them raw.'

`Well, be off, then!' said the Pigeon in a sulky tone, as it settled down again into its nest. Alice crouched down among the trees as well as she could, for her neck kept getting entangled among the branches, and every now and then she had to stop and untwist it. After a while she remembered that she still held the pieces of mushroom in her hands, and she set to work very carefully, nibbling first at one and then at the other, and growing sometimes taller and sometimes shorter, until she had succeeded in bringing herself down to her usual height.
------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty

Serpents, Serpents Everywhere! | 32 comments (28 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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