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Extinction - Steller's Sea Cow

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Frederick The Monk
160352.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 7:09 am Reply with quote

Q: What was pink, had pendulous breasts and winked at sailors?

Stellerís Sea Cow. The 25 foot long, whiskery, pink sirenians* were first described by Georg Wilhelm Steller. Steller was appointed as naturalist on Vitus Bering's Second Kamchatka Expedition, which was shipwrecked on what later became known as Bering Island. Here Bering died, and almost half of the crew perished from scurvy whilst the remaining men settled in to survive the winter. During this time Steller wrote De Bestiis Marinis, describing the fauna of the island, including the Northern Fur Seal, the Sea Otter, Steller's Sea Lion, Steller's Eider and Spectacled Cormorant.

Most famously however he discoverd and described Steller's Sea Cow, a large dugong which had first been noticed on off-shore by mariners from the expedition who had mistaken it for a mermaid. On closer inspection it wasn't quite so sexy as it's full bosom and pink skin was complemented by a fine set of whiskers so they decided that rather than marry it, they;d kill and eat it.

The dugong provided 7000 lbs of meat and fat and the rescued sailors took the news back to Russia that the Sea Cow was a rare delicacy with a flavour like prime beef. Soon hunters were flocking to Bering Island and the sea cow was rapidly driven to extinction, not helped by the fact that the lumbering creatures flocked to protect an attacked individual thus making it even easier to dispatch the lot.

26 years later the last Steller's Sea Cow was slaughtered before any other scientific expedition could study it further, giving Stellar the dubious honour of being both the first and last scientist to decribe the animal.

*Sirenia is an order of fully aquatic, herbivorous mammals that inhabit rivers, estuaries, coastal marine waters, swamps, and marine wetlands. Sirenians include manatees and the Dugong.

s:De Bestiis Marinis, or, The Beasts of the Sea (1751)
Browser's Book of Endings - Panati, C.
Pictures here
Wiki (Sea Cow)
Wiki (Georg Steller)

Frederick The Monk
160389.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 8:26 am Reply with quote

This one is a bit of a looker.

160394.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 8:37 am Reply with quote

Mmmm, sea cow ....

Where are the pendulous breasts, though?

Hide the head with your thumb and it looks like a turnip.

Frederick The Monk
160437.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 10:26 am Reply with quote

Are you suggesting I made the breasts bit up?

Well to be fair I would have done if it wasn't already in Panati's book. Perhaps the one pictured above is a bloke?

164815.  Wed Apr 11, 2007 7:42 am Reply with quote

Manatees are about to lose their "endangered" tag.


177374.  Thu May 24, 2007 1:00 am Reply with quote

While sailing the ocean near Haiti, Christopher Columbus in 1493 reported seeing three mermaids from a distance. The Genoese explorer was not impressed.

Up close, the sea maidens were "not as pretty as they are depicted," he wrote in his journal, "for somehow in the face they look like men."

Many scientists now think that what Columbus probably saw was a manatee, an aquatic mammal that resembles a flippered hippo.

from here: talking about an exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in which you can compare mythical creatures with the real-life ones supposed to have inspired them.

1127810.  Mon Apr 06, 2015 3:41 pm Reply with quote

Charles Panati was one of Pratchett's favourite Americans.

1127812.  Mon Apr 06, 2015 3:57 pm Reply with quote

Ever thought of adding this to the Pratchett thread, not the sea cow one? Seems an unlikely assertion anyway.

1127814.  Mon Apr 06, 2015 4:19 pm Reply with quote

A writer liking other writers, Posital?

Panati is a bit too obscure to be mentioned on the Pratchett thread, but as he has been mentioned here...?

1127834.  Mon Apr 06, 2015 6:58 pm Reply with quote

plinkplonk wrote:
A writer liking other writers, Posital?
[Channels DMitchell] Sorry, is that the best evidence you have? They were both writers, so they must like each other. Really? I also write stuff - does that mean I have to like them both too? I'm fairly sure there's quite a lot of people who write stuff too that I'm not entirely keen on. Blah blah...

Sorry about that - you clearly have good reason.


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