Reproduction of 16th century map of Africa by the Dutch cartographer Abraham Ortelius.
Reproduction of a 16th century map of Africa by the Dutch cartographer Abraham Ortelius.

Here be dragons

Our oceans are no longer just a “vast unknown”; they are slowly and surely being revealed by researchers. However, this wasn’t always the case.

Portrayals of sea monsters were common features on maps of our oceans, suggesting a world full of dangers lurking beneath the waves.

The Portuguese documented a lot of sea monsters while they were on voyages of discovery. The most famous monster is the Adamastor. It was the rock in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, that was later immortalised by Luis Vaz de Camõens in The Lusiad. It shows how important the sea and sea monsters were in the 15th and 16th centuries. An English translation of The Lusiad is available online.

You can learn and discover more about sea monsters by exploring the link below.

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Exploring Our Oceans

University of Southampton