sea serpents

Dragons of Oceania: Araiteuru of New Zealand!



Araiteuru is one of  the famous taniwha—guardians of the seas around Aotearoa (New Zealand). She was a female taniwha, believed to have escorted the Māmari canoe to New Zealand from Hawaiki. In other traditions,Araiteuru and another taniwha named Ruamano guided the Tākitimu canoe.
Araiteuru gave birth very shortly after her voyage. She had eleven taniwha sons,and she asked all of her children to go forth and see the country in which they lived, burrowing as far as they could. Then they were to return and report what they had seen.
On the sons’ journeys,they burrowed and dug trenches and valleys – creating the many branches of the Hokianga Harbour and surrounding geography as part of their burrowing quests.
Today, Araiteuru lives in a cave to the south of Hokianga Harbour  opening,where passersby can see the surf breaking across the bar. She is the guardian taniwha of the region, companioned with another taniwha named Niua, who lives to the north of the harbour.  Locals make sure not to bother or anger Araiteuru, for she has been known to raise storms or even wreck traveling vessels if provoked.

Monsters of Europe: Morgawr, the Cornish Sea Serpent!


First sighted in 1906,Morgawr’s name means “sea giant in Cornish. It is a plesiosaur-like creature reported to inhabit the general area of Falmouth Bay, Cornwall. It has been photographed: in February 1976, ‘Mary F’ sent two photographs, apparently of Morgawr, to the Falmouth Packet, along with an explanatory letter: ” It looked like an elephant waving its trunk, but the trunk was a long neck with a small head at the end, like a snake’s head. It had humps on its back which moved in a funny way… the animal frightened me. I would not like to see it any closer. I do not like the way it moved when swimming.”

Various theories have been proposed for as to the identity of the creature, ranging from hoax  to mistaken identity to the suggestion that the creature is a surviving species of Plesiosaur or that it is a previously undiscovered species of long necked seal.

Monsters of the Sea: Sea Serpent of Gloucester!


This image is drawn from an early engraving depicting the monster with the caption, “Taken from life as appeared in Gloucester Harbour, August 23, 1817”.
First mentioned in 1638, and last seen in 1962, it was about seventy feet long, with big eyes, sharp teeth, and a scaly body. The serpentine beast was said to lurk in the waters off the harbor of Gloucester,located just north of Boston on the lower portion of Cape Ann.
During the summer of 1817, the serpent made its temporary home in the harbor. For almost an entire month, sightings were reported. This is particularly significant as Gloucester has always been a fishing community populated by individuals who were well familiar with the fauna of the sea.
General David Humphreys, a former member of George Washington’s staff, travelled down to Gloucester to interview witnesses. According to the testimony he gathered, the creature’s head, which it held above the water, was “much like the head of a turtle… and larger than the head on any dog.” Its color was like “dark chocolate”, although as the years went on its skin seemed to turn darker, to almost black. In a compilation of sightings printed in the Boston Weekly Messenger it was further reported that the creature was sixty to seventy feet in length, that it was about as wide as a barrel, that it moved rapidly in a serpentine fashion, that it was able to double back upon itself instantaneously. Countless people tried to kill it with muskets and harpoons but failed. Between 1817 and 1819, hundreds of people  reported seeing the monster.

Fiery Friday Dragons: The Drac of France!

Drac of France_0002.jpg


In the south of France, the little town of Beaucarie nestles on the banks of the River Rhone. In the 13th century,in the deep waters of this river, lived the Drac, an immense scaly beast that killed over 3,000 villagers and knights. Although it primarily lurked in the water, this serpentlike dragon had wings.
Early French and Germanic histories tell of the many unsuccessful campaigns to slay the Drac. Ocino, Ragnarold, and Umberto of Guineve all attempted to kill it, but their campaigns failed,and it is supposed that the Drac eventually died of old age.

A legend is told that a young woman was taken by the dragon to care for the beast’s  hatchlings. The woman was under a spell that made her forget her mortal life for seven years as she cared for the young dragons. She and all mortals were unable to see the dragon unless the Drac wished. The woman was made to rub a magic cream on the eyes of the hatchlings under the instructions of the dragon, and in the process she accidentally smeared some in her own eye. This action caused her to be gifted with draconic sight, and she was able to see the dragon on her own. The Drac returned the woman to her village after seven years.
The young woman then tried to warn the townspeople of the dragon but no one would believe her story. When the dragon discovered that the woman could see her, she returned with venegance, and ripped out the woman’s dragon-sighted eye so that the woman could no longer detect her presence.


Fiery Friday: Bakunawa, The Moon Eater!



The Bakunawa is a dragon in Philippine mythology that is often represented as a gigantic sea serpent. It is believed to be the cause of eclipses because it is so enamored with the shininess of the moon and swallows it. One legend says that there were once seven moons, but the Bakunawa swallowed them. Ancient Filipinos would go out of their homes with pots and pans and crash them together, as well as sing,to make noise in order to scare the Bakunawa into spitting out the moon back into the sky.

Monster Monday: Unknown Sea Monster Caught in Nantes.

Unknown sea monster caught in Nantes,© 2015 Liz Vitale

Unknown sea monster caught in Nantes,© 2015 Liz Vitale

I drew this after a peculiar engraving I found while looking for Map Monsters. Made in France in the 18th century, this image shows a creature with some sea turtle-like features but it also has a strange penguin-like form as well. I am going to guess that, like a lot of sea serpent carcasses hauled up from the depths, this creature was probably the decayed remains of a perfectly natural and normal animal and decomposition rendered it unrecognizable.

This is also the first page in a new journal/sketchbook given to me by Crazy Cuz’n Jaime, after she got to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios!

Potter Book 6_8_2015

Thank you, Jaime!

Monster Monday: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Serpent

20,000 Leagues Serpent, © 2015 Liz Vitale

20,000 Leagues Serpent, © 2015 Liz Vitale

Sometimes I don’t know whether to file sea serpents under “dragons” or “monsters”. Today it will be “monsters”.
This image, bright and colorful as it seems, was actually drawn from various photos I have seen around the web of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride at Walt Disney World after it had been closed down, drained, and the diorama figures were left to rot. So although for the first time ever I can get a great look at the serpent other than peering through a porthole into the murky depths for the quick glance you always got when riding the attraction, the circumstances are…very sad for me.