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Friday, 5 July 2013

Cetacean Centipede

I recently found a bestiary illustration for Rondelet's Cetacean Centipede:
My favorite sea monster, Rondelet’s “Scolopendre cetacée" from his 1558 L’Histoire Entière des Poissons. Rondelet claimed to have an eyewitness illustration, so it’s curious his portrait is in the same style as his other cetaceans. It was also inspired by 3rd Century tales of a similar beast from Claudius Aelianus.

Another version from Rondelet’s 1554 Libri de piscibus marinis, or more accurately a version by Alika Watteau from Bernard Heuvelmans’ 1968 In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents. On the basis of old myths and sketchy anecdotes, Heuvelmans resurrected the concept of the “cetacean centipede" — now a surviving armored basilosaurid — but it never really caught on.
And so presumably the first illustration is to be preferred to the second. Not much can be said for the first one except it bears a strong resemblance to a humpback whale with a series of peculiar mutant growths on it. Following is Heuvelmans' version of the Sea Serpent incarnation:

"The strangest whale ever imagined, based on my favorite sea monster, the cetacean centipede. See my “Super-Otter” rant for background on Heuvelmans’ sea serpents.
Bernard Heuvelmans imagined that in the tropics of the world there lived a walrus-headed, ridge-backed, lateral-finned, armored whale…which in addition to the cetacean centipede also inspire the Leviathan of the Bible, the con rit from Vietnam, the tompondrano from Madagascar, and both Chinese and Western dragons. Heuvelmans went a bit nuts there."

I consider that to be unfortunately a fair assessment of the situation. DD.

I surmise that the author is Cameron McCormick, Lord Geekington.

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