Sea Monsters of Olaus Magnus' Carte marina


Sebastian Munster/©Bettmann/CORBIS

It's easy to dismiss the sea monsters of medieval and Renaissance maps as the fantasies born of ignorance and superstition. But as Julie and I discuss in our episode "Here There Be Sea Monsters," these impossible beasts call to us from a time when learned men attempted to build something we take for granted everyday: an accurate deception of the natural world in all its wonders.

They charted Earth's dark, forbidding oceans and attempted to showcase the many exotic forms of life contained within. Certainly, they worked with limited resources and often from sources many times, many miles and many centuries removed from their writing desks. And so the sea monsters that populate these maps pulse with myth, science, artistry and error.

Do listen to the podcast for a more in-depth discussion, and dive even deeper with Chet Van Duzer's "Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps."

But in the mean time, let's explore some of the many monsters of Olaus Magnus' Carte marina.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.