Sea Serpents Are Really Whale Penises

Status: Interesting theory
It's long been argued that when people report seeing sea serpents, they might actually be seeing floating logs, strange waves, or shadows on the water, and mistaking these things for sea serpents. Now Dr. Charles Paxton has come up with an interesting extension of this theory. He argues that people might also be misidentifying whale penises as sea serpents. He presents this theory in the current issue of the Archives of Natural History. As an example he uses the case of an eighteenth-century missionary named Hans Egede who reported a sighting of a sea serpent, and drew a picture of the creature. Paxton demonstrates that Egede's picture closely resembles what a whale's aroused penis rising from the water might look like. The abstract of Paxton's paper is as follows:

A re-evaluation of the “most dreadful monster” originally described by the “Apostle of Greenland” Hans Egede in 1741 suggests that the missionary’s son Poul probably saw an unfamiliar cetacean. The species seen was likely to have been a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), a North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) or one of the last remaining Atlantic grey whales (Eschrichtius robustus) either without flukes or possibly a male in a state of arousal.

So if Egede mistook a whale penis for a sea serpent, it's logical to assume others might also have done so. This theory has the ring of truth to it.


Posted on Fri Nov 04, 2005


I thought the whale's penis was on the bottom of the animal... If it is then why is the whale floating on it's back?
Posted by Jade_Rust  on  Fri Nov 04, 2005  at  11:14 PM
Whales can swim on their backs. If you look up mating, you should be able to see something about it - they have a whole elaborate twisting movement to it.
Posted by Winona  on  Fri Nov 04, 2005  at  11:55 PM
here are a couple of pics of Shamu getting a belly rub from a trainer and getting a bit ummm, excited. (also illustrates Winona's points to a certain degree)

Seeing as how Shamu is a member (pun not intended)of one of the smaller species of whales, logic dictates that something along the lines of a grey or blue whale would be sporting something of sea serpent proportions.
Posted by Chuck  on  Sat Nov 05, 2005  at  09:07 AM
Maybe I'm a little slow, but I'm not quite getting this.
Is Dr. Paxton saying all these people saw erect whale penises *without* whales attached to them?
And, all right, whales can float on their backs, but they usually and normally swim belly-down, don't they?
Wouldn't be a simpler and more likely explanation to say that sea serpent legends came from sightings of serpent-like creatures, such as sea snakes, moray eels, or even giant squids?
Posted by Big Gary, still wet behind the ears  on  Sat Nov 05, 2005  at  10:52 AM
Wow. I guess that makes "Beany and Cecil" the filthiest TV show I've ever seen.
Posted by booch  on  Sat Nov 05, 2005  at  04:20 PM
🐛 🐛


Hey, Chuck, where'd you get those pics from?

HAHAHAHAHA! WHALE PENISES! So I guess that means that the Ogopogo and Nessie must just be genitals then!
Posted by Carmen  on  Sat Nov 05, 2005  at  06:27 PM
Given that the average whale wang isn't *that* big, and as pointed out, is usually attatched to the whale, it's more likely that sea serpent sitings are somethign else.

My personal theory is giant squid. Dead ones, since they're deep-sea critters, but a stray tentacle could easily be mistaken for a giant snake-thing in the water, even if it won't do the 'head rearing up' thing that is usually portrayed.
Posted by Robin Bobcat  on  Sun Nov 06, 2005  at  12:05 AM
Some of the images there might explain it... but I doubt it.
Posted by lyn  on  Sun Nov 06, 2005  at  12:37 AM
sorry about that link... I can't change the post and I meant to have this one
Posted by again  on  Sun Nov 06, 2005  at  12:38 AM
"Nessie the Loch Ness Whale Penis" just doesn't have the same ring to it...

...and opens up new questions...

...but it would be a great name for a band.
Posted by karen  on  Sun Nov 06, 2005  at  03:17 PM
Well, as Lyn notes, some of those pictures show whale willies sticking out of the water, but in all of them they appear to be very clearly attached to whales, not monsters in their own right.
Posted by Big Gary, trying spats on his hamster  on  Sun Nov 06, 2005  at  06:00 PM
I never sat on Ari's "Christina"'s bar stool, but they're apparently of simmilar construct.
Posted by Chadds Ford Prefect  on  Sun Nov 06, 2005  at  08:08 PM
Has anyone ever seen Ambroise Pare's drawings of the "monk fish" and the "pope fish"? Those look like they could've easily been based on whale dongs. Still doesn't explain what whale boners were doing floating around sans whale, though.
Posted by Elizabeth  on  Sun Nov 06, 2005  at  08:17 PM
(too many similar letters: 'm's)

Mmmm, whale willies - blech.
Posted by Chadds Ford Prefect  on  Sun Nov 06, 2005  at  08:19 PM
Yes, but that is sort of what does it. Think, for instance, that if that was just the head sticking out the of water, the rest of the body would have to be below, and someone uneducated might think 'sea monster!"

funny as that is.
Posted by lyn  on  Sun Nov 06, 2005  at  08:33 PM
For an explanation of sea serpents, this has the ring of authentic bullshit. However, the Grauniad article say that the reference was not to a sea serpent but to '[an] animal [with] a serpent-like tail that appeared out of the water when the rest of the beast had disappeared.' In other words, the claim is not that he saw just a penis (which is very unlikely) but that seeing the penis and mistaking it for a tail led him to mis-identify the whate as something else.

Incidentally, I don't think a giant moray is a probable candidate - they're not bit enough and usually hang out in holes. I'm pretty sure that you wouldn't see one when out at sea, too, though I suppose that some stories could have originated with pearl divers.

My guess is that sea serpents, etc, were pretty much made out of whole cloth, maybe with a bit of fear-, malnutrition-, and thirst-induced hallucination thrown in.
Posted by outeast (paul in prague)  on  Mon Nov 07, 2005  at  01:49 AM
I can totally understand this, people mistake mine for a serpent all the time.
Posted by Craig  on  Mon Nov 07, 2005  at  05:51 AM
Carmen, kinda ashamed to admit it but did a google image search with the keywords Whale Penis and surprisingly enough the returns generally involved whale penis' and not some nasty porn.
Posted by Chuck  on  Mon Nov 07, 2005  at  07:24 AM
Thats why I shouldn't go skinney dipping....
Posted by X  on  Mon Nov 07, 2005  at  08:13 AM
I assumed the guy was talking about whale penises still attached to whales. Also, I didn't think he was saying that ALL sea serpent sightings are really whale penis sightings. Just that some sea serpent sightings might actually be whale penis sightings.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Mon Nov 07, 2005  at  09:38 AM
Actually, while we're on the subject, I should point out that the proper name for a whale penis is the 'Dork', and was considered a delicacy, served at the captain's table as one of the spoils of a successful hunt.
Posted by Robin Bobcat  on  Mon Nov 07, 2005  at  11:23 PM
Bobcat, do you have a source for that information? I'd like to read more about it-- it combines my interest in the history of whaling with my interest in strange foods.
Posted by Big Gary, much too interested  on  Tue Nov 08, 2005  at  06:00 PM
Puts a whole new spin on the "one eyed trouser snake"...
Posted by Nigel Pond  on  Fri Nov 11, 2005  at  08:24 AM
According to Hans Egede himself, the thing he saw was "as thick as our ship, and three or four times as long".
Now THAT'S what I's call well endowed! :-D

Btw, Mr Egede was not at all unfamiliar with whales, and he even compares the movement patterns of the two animals.
Posted by eovti  on  Sat Dec 03, 2005  at  06:08 AM
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