Monster-Spotting on a 16th Century Map

(reblogged from Nicholas Rossis)


Continuing my infatuation with maps, I came across this fine 16th-century example of a cartographer’s imagination running wild in an excellent post by Urvija Banerji of Atlas Obscura.




Scandinavian Map | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books


The creatures depicted on land in the 16th-century Carta Marina are not particularly unusual: the map’s lands contain knights on horseback, wild boars and bears climbing trees. The west side of the map, however, shows a much more fanciful plethora of wildlife. Cartographer Olaus Magnus created the Carta Marina above while staying in Rome, between the years 1527 and 1539.


However, Magnus was originally from Sweden and chose to depict the Nordic countries in his map. The Carta Marina was one of the most precise depictions of any part of Europe at the time. Which is more than can be said about its portrayal of the oceans. As you can see, the northern seas are filled to the brim with all kinds of aquatic monsters. Some maps of the era depicted dragons to metaphorically indicate uncertainties or dangers in a region.


But the Carta Marina’s mythological sea creatures were thought to really exist at the time Magnus drew them. He even identified each creature in the map’s key. You can take a closer look at some of them below.


Unsuspecting sailors cook a meal on a sea monster off the coast of Iceland.

Magnus described this creature as a whale whose skin resembled the sand on a seashore. An English ship is depicted as having laid anchor on the whale, and two unwitting sailors are cooking a meal on its rump.


Sailors attempt to scare away attacking sea monsters with frightening sounds and empty barrels.

Read the rest of the post here.