Swimming – whether in a competition lane, a pond, the ocean, or even in a creek – has always been a passion of mine. I love visiting aquariums, going to the beach, and even seafood! Basically what I’m trying to say is: there is nowhere I feel more comfortable than in the water. In addition, I am fascinated by anything related to sea monsters, especially octopuses. I find the knowledge that creatures such as giant squid, great white sharks, and whales lurk beneath the surface of the ocean both fascinating and terrifying.
I found Monsters of the Sea in the pirate section of our library at work and couldn’t resist taking it off the shelf. This book is an amazingly-well researched, in-depth analysis of sea monsters. Author Richard Ellis lays everything on the table – historical analysis, biology, scientific facts, and personal accounts – to prove or disprove the existence of history’s most famous sea monsters. At almost 400 pages, Monsters of the Sea can be dry at times; but I must say, I can’t think of any other book that has taught me so many facts. I love learning new words, and boy did this book teach me a lot of them! I probably won’t ever use any of these new words, but I enjoyed learning them nonetheless.
I’m going to do this review in sections (corresponding to the chapters of the book) because I have so much to say and share about the wealth of information that is Monsters of the Sea. I would definitely recommend Ellis’s book for anyone interested in the truth behind the mysteries of the sea (as long as you’re patient enough to sit through a dense analysis and willing to look up a lot of biology terms).
Chapter One: An Introduction to Sea Monsters: In Which a Variety of Scaled, Serpentine, Anthropophagous, and Otherwise Terrifying Creatures are Introduced to the Reader.
The book’s introduction starts with one of the first references to a sea monster – the whale that swallowed Jonah. The first “fish” that Ellis presents his readers with is the coelacanth, which has been referred to as a “living fossil.” This word interested me because I recognized it as the obvious inspiration for the Pokemon Relicanth. The first time (out of many) that I turned to the dictionary was when I encountered the word “cryptozoology,” which is defined as the study of evidence tending to substantiate the existence of, or the search for, creatures whose reported existence is unproved. Finally, the introduction of Monsters of the Sea lures readers in with the explanation that the mermaid was eventually proven to be the manatee, the leviathan became the whale, the monstrous polyp became the octopus, and the infamous kraken was in actuality a giant squid.