Nicaragua Sea Serpent Stamp

Sea Serpent Stamps

Sightings of ocean-going sea serpents go back centuries. Old sailors tales tell of giant sea serpents drowning ships. Magnus was a Swedish Catholic who fled the Reformation and sought refuge in Italy. In his book entitled "The History of the Nordic People" Olaus offered many illustrations of the sea serpent. He wrote:

"Those who sail along the coasts of Norway to trade or to fish all tell a strange story, a tale of a serpent of immense proportions, two hundred feet long or twenty feet thick, that inhabits caves and caverns in the sea outside Bergen. This serpent comes out of its caves in light summer nights to feed on calves, lambs or pigs, or it goes out into the ocean to eat polyps, crabs and other sea food. It has two feet long hair hanging down from its neck, sharp black scales and flaming red eyes. It attacks vessels, catches and eats people, as it lifts itself out of the water like a pillar."

Depictions of sea serpents encountering ships often appeared on European maps.

Of course it was not just Northern Europeans who sighted sea serpents. One of the most famous series of sightings was that of the Great New England Sea Serpent of the early 1800s in the United States. Cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans in his 1968 book In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents covered over five hundred sightings of sea serpents and giant squid through the middle 1960s. Heuvelmans suggested that sea serpent sightings could be broken down into nine different types of animals.

Palau Oar Fish Stamp
Oar fish (called "rooster fish" here)
Palau 564c
Issued 2000

Some sea serpent sightings may refer to known but rare species. For example, reports of a giant eel-like creature may represent sightings of the oar fish (right). This fish (scientific name Regalecus glesne) normally lives at depths of 250 meters or more and rarely appears near the surface unless ill or injured. Its eel-like body can reach lengths of ten meters and weigh nearly 200 kg. It is reputed to be the longest known bony fish. Two smaller and even more rare species of the oar fish are known, Regalecus russeli and Regalecus kinoi. All three species of oar fish are ocean dwellers, but some posit that oar fish trapped in fresh-water lakes give rise to tales of lake monsters.

See the Sea Serpents section of my cryptozoology links page for more sites offering information about sea serpents.

Selected Sea Serpent Stamps
Antigua and Barbuda Sea Serpent Stamp
Antigua and Barbuda

Scott # 1997
Issued 1996

This souvenir sheet is part of a set of stamps featuring Walt Disney characters in roles from stories by the French author Jules Verne. In this scene Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy face off against the sea monster from Verne's novel Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Guinea Sea Serpent Souvenir Sheet

Issued 2000

This souvenir sheet contains two stamps depicting sea monsters. The first shows a twelfth century Viking vessel confronting a sea monster, possibly a sea serpent. The second shows several sea monsters, including a sea serpent, from maps around 1500 A.D.

Nicaragua Sea Serpent Stamp

Scott # 1087
Issued 1978

This sea serpent stamp is part of a four stamp set honoring the 150th anniverary of the birth of the French author Jules Verne. The scene is from Verne's novel Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Sierra Leone Sea Serpent Stamp
Sierra Leone

Scott # 1970
Issued 1996

This sea serpent souvenir sheet appears in a series entitled "Mysteries of the Sea." The sheet depicts a sea serpent modeled after those which appeared on old European maps. The sheet includes a description of a sea serpent written by Norwegian missionary Hans Egede in 1734.

South Africa Sea Serpent Stamp
South Africa

Issued 2001

This sea serpent stamp is part of a five stamp set depicting myths and legends of South Africa. You can see all five stamps on a first-day cover. The legend of the Hole in the Wall, an impressive natural arch, comes from the Transkei region of Eastern Cape Province. The legend recounts how a giant sea serpent created the arch by ramming its head into the rock wall.

South West Africa Sea Serpent Stamp
South West Africa

Scott # 491
Issued 1982

In 1487 the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Diaz sailed down the west coast of Africa, touching down in territory which would later become South West Africa (now Namibia). In 1982 South West Africa issued a set of four stamps honoring Diaz. One of the stamps depicts a sea serpent. The stamp is modeled on a 1558 Swiss engraving depicting the sea serpent seen by the Archbishop Olaus Magnus. The colors are typical of period Portuguese maps. Legends recount how the great sea serpents of the southern oceans sunk many ships. All four stamps honoring Diaz appear on the first day cover.

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Last modified by pib on July 6, 2003.