History File: HMS Daedalus Encounters a Sea Serpent or Sea-lizard

August 6, 1848 -- On this day in strange history, the Captain and crew of HMS Daedalus encountered a sea monster of some sort. It is somewhat fitting that a ship named after a mythological character would have at least one encounter with a legendary creature.

Illustration of the Sea Serpent HMS Daedalus Encountered

On the 6th of August 1848, HMS Daedalus, on her way from the Cape of Good Hope to St Helena, came near a singular-looking object in the water. Captain M'Quhae attempted to wear the ship close up to it, but the state of the wind prevented a nearer approach than two hundred yards.

The officers, watching carefully through their glasses, could trace eye, mouth, nostril, and form, in the floating mass to which their attention was directed. The general impression produced was, that the animal belonged rather to the lizard than to the serpent tribe; its movement was steady, rapid, and uniform, as if propelled by fins rather than by undulating power. The size appeared to be very great ; but as only a portion of the animal was above water, no exact estimate of dimensions could be made. Neither officers nor seamen ever saw anything similar to it before.

The report of this incident caused a stir among the British naturalists, who were eager to meet the popular fancy of the sea-serpent with facts shewing the extreme improbability of the existence of any such creature. Captain M'Quhae, nevertheless, insisted on the correctness of his report, and many professed to attach little consequence to the merely negative evidence brought against it.

Source: The Book of Days, A Miscellany In Connection With The Calendar Including Anecdote & Biography, History, Curiosities of Literature and Oddities of Human Life and Character. (1888) Edited By R. Chambers; p. 184

Illustration Source: Wikipedia: Daedalus sea serpent (PD)

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