It is easy to enjoy, but discount, the sea monsters drawn on early printed maps. But they are not quite as fictional as you might think. In the times of these maps modern science was in its infancy and as the map delineated knowledge of the land so it also delineated knowledge of the sea, out of everyday sight, still holding to belief in tradition and hearsay, mariner's tales. Olaus Magnus, writing a History of the Northern Peoples, 1555, included a commentary on his Carta Marina, a chart of Scandinavia and the ocean bounded by those northern lands and Iceland and Scotland, which included descriptions of the various sea monsters to be found. The monsters and descriptions are given in Nigg 2013, qv, they are serious attempts to account for what you might find in the sea.
In copying small images from map to map, based on fanciful descriptions, it is not surprising that the beasts found on these maps cannot be matched exactly to Olaus Magnus's beasts.
Monsters on Maps
Examples of sea monsters on a selection of maps used in the Lakes Guides project. Some of the maps are of England and Wales, but show Cumbria clearly enough to be interesting.
Angliae Regni, Kingdom of England, with Wales:-
Prima Europe tabula, Europe map 1, British Isles;
Ptolemy's data plotted by Mercator:-
The only one of Olaus Magnus's beasts to have a beak is the Zuphius; beak, neck ruff, but it should have a spiked dorsal fin. One suggestion is that this is a sword fish, Xiphias gladius, but another is an orca or killer whale, Orcinus orca.
Also see Mercator 1595.
Westmorlandiae et Cumberlaniae Comitati, Counties of
Westmorland and Cumberland:-
In the Irish Sea far west of Silloth.
In the Irish Sea south west of Ravenglass.
Anglia, England and Wales:-
In the Irish Sea west of St Bees.
For an explanation, and a better drawing, see Speed 1695.
Neptune. the roman god of the sea, the greek god Poseidon, as a man-serpent, with a trident, and his wife Amphitrite. Neptune is drawn as part sea serpent.
This is a Polypus, a many feet, a giant lobster, Homarus gammarus.
Westmorlandia, Lancastria, Cestria etc, Westmorland,
Lancashire, Chesire etc; edn 1613-16:-
In the Irish Sea south of Cumbria.
See Ptolomy 1578.
Northumbria, Cumberlandia, Dunelm Episcopi,
Northumberland, Cumberland, Durham, England plate 2; edn
In the Irish Sea west of Cumberland.
Kingdome of Great Britaine and Ireland; edn 1676:-
This looks like a Sea Orm, or sea serpent, though it is not very long. There is no definitive prototype for the sea serpent, though the plesiosaur has been suggested.
Drawing on the idea that there is a sea counterpart to every animal found on land, the beasts carrying the flags of the nations might be regarded as sea monster equivalents:
A sea lion, with the flag of England; quarterly 1 and 4 gules three lions passant guardant or 2 and 3 azure three fleur de lys or.
A sea unicorn with the flag of Scotland; or a lion rampant gules within a double tressure flory counter flory gules.
and a sea beast with the flag of Ireland; azure a harp or stringed argent.
New Map of the Kingdom of England and Dominion of
The two beasts look like dolphins.
Cumberland and the Ancient City Carlile Described:-
A Balena; jaws full of teeth, spouting blowpipes, ruff around the neck, pawlike flippers. A possible identification is the northern right whale, Eubalaena glacialis.
In the Irish Sea west of St Bees.
Nigg, Joseph: 2013: Sea Monsters: Ivy Press (Lewes, East Sussex):: ISBN 978 1 78240 043 1; excellent bibliography
Magnus, Olaus: 1555: Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus & History of the Northern Peoples::: translated into English, 1658
Magnus, Olaus: 1658: Compendius History of the Goths, Swedes and Vandals and Other Northern Nations: (London)
Lynam, Edward: 1949: Carta Marina of Olaus Magnus, The