Jon de Vos: Aye, there be monsters in Nevada
October 13, 2011
The Kraken is a legendary monster that used to troll for ships in the Norwegian and the Barents seas. It would wrap its octopus-like tentacles around a passing vessel and pull it down into the cold, briny deeps, popping the crew down like gummy bears. Oh, and it was really big.
OK, how big was it? Big enough, according to legend, that sailors would drop anchor next to a sleeping Kraken, thinking it was a large, barren island. Trouble began when they built a campfire on the island, waking the Kraken and all perishing in the ensuing whirlpool as the Kraken dove to the bottom. How this tale was passed on when everybody perished is anybody’s guess.
You know it all started with Cassiopeia, mythical and oh-so-beautiful queen of Ethiopia. In a fit of exuberance, she brazenly announced that she and her daughter, Andromeda, were more beautiful than Poseidon’s nieces. Bad move to insult the god of the sea. With a casual wave of his trident, Poseidon sent a Kraken to destroy all Ethiopia.
“Oh, no!” shouted Cassiopeia, “What can I do to prevent this tragedy?”
“Hmm,” said Poseidon, “How ’bout you just toss your daughter to the Kraken and we’ll call it square.”
“Toss … toss my daughter to the Kraken?” cries a bereft Cassiopeia, “But, but … well, OK, why not?”
So she stakes her daughter to a rock known to be frequented by Kraken, but it’s not the end. Andromeda is saved by curly-haired Perseus who turned the Kraken to stone by showing it the face of the Gorgon, another monster whose head he kept in a holster for just such an occasion.
The legend of the Kraken is so important to eminent cryptozoologists that Disney incorporated it into their Pirates of the Caribbean Pinball Machine way back in 2006. Points are added when you fire a ball down the throat of the Kraken.
It’s also the name of a Florida roller coaster that is so twisty and fast that riders are often slapped in the face by the very same hot dog they ate before getting on the ride.
But wait! Cryptozoologists are uniquely clever at eking out funding sources for studying mythical creatures that don’t exist. They may be soon celebrating the finds of real scientists who now say maybe there was such a beast and maybe it was smarter than the crypto boys ever thought.
Mark McMenamin, a geology professor at Mount Holyoke College, announced at this month’s meeting of the Geological Society of America, that he’s found a 200 million year-old Kraken lair in a remote Nevada desert that used to be sea floor.
Mark claims that the lair shows signs of a ritual burial of the Kraken’s victims. He’s photographed a curious arrangement of the bones and spines of nine ichthyosaurs, that appear to be purposefully laid out in an artistic array. Ichthyosaurs were the size of a Greyhound bus, but the bones show evidence of them being forcefully grabbed and broken in half by the island-sized Kraken. He says it reminds him of an octopus midden, an area piled high with bones and debris to conceal their own lair.
So the next time you look at your kid and, exasperated, you tell him, “For the last time, Johnny, there are no monsters under your bed!” Remember, maybe science just hasn’t found them yet.