Water World as Another Home for the English Nation

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Perhaps, the most famous of all water monsters is that of Loch Ness, first mentioned in a life of St Columba written in 700 AD.

Some 150 years earlier one of the saints followers was apparently swimming in the loch when the monster suddenly swam up to the surface, and with gaping mouth and with great roaring rushed towards the man. Fortunately, Columba was watching and ordered the monster to turnback: it obeyed. The creature (or its successor) then lay dormant for some 1 300 years, for the next recorded sighting was in 1871.

However, during the last fifty years there have been frequent reports and controversies. In1987 a painstaking and and expencive sonar scan of the loch revealed a moving object of some 400 lb in weight which scientists were unable to identify. Sir Peter Scott dubbed the monster Nessiterras Rhombopteryx, after the diamond shaped fin shown on a photograph taken by some American visitors; the Monster Exhibition Centre at Drumnadrochit on Loch Ness describes it as The Worlds Greatest Mystery. Tourists from all over the world flock to visit Loch Ness, monster and centre.

NAUTICAL CUSTOMS

The seas will always be potentially dangerous for those who choose to sail them and most seafarers tried hard to avoid incurring the wrath of Davy Jones they once were sometimes reluctant even to save drowning comrades lest they deprive the deep of a victim which would serve as a propitiatory sacrifice though the dilemma could be resolved by throwing the drowning man a rope or spar. This was a much less personal intervention than actually landing a hand or diving in to help and therefore less risky.

Various shipboard ceremonies were observed and maintained religiously: at Christmas a tree would be lashed to the top of the mast (the custom is still followed, and on ships lacking a mast the tree is tied to the railings on the highest deck). At midnight as New Years Eve becomes New Years Day the ships bell is rung eight times for the old year and eight times for the new midnight on a ship is normally eight bells the oldest member of the crew giving the first eight rings, the youngest the second.

Burying the Dead Horse was a ceremony which was continued in merchant ships until late in the nineteenth century, and kept up most recently in vessels on the Australian run. The horse was a symbol for the months pay advanced on shore (and usually spent before sailing); after twenty-eight days at sea the advance was worked out. The horses body was made from a barrel, its legs from hay, straw or shavings covered with canvas, and the main and tail of hemp. The animal was hoisted to the main yardarm and set on fire. It was allowed to blase for a short time and was then cut loose and dropped into the sea. Musical accompaniment was provided by the shanty Poor Old Horse:

Now he is dead and will die no more,

And we say so, for we know so.

It makes his ribs feel very sore,

Oh, poor old man.

He is gone and will go no more,

And we say so, for we know so.

So goodbye, old horse,

We say goodbye.

On sailing ships collective work at the capstan, windlass, pumps and halliards was often accompanied by particular songs known as shanties.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries big, full-rigged vessels were bringing cargoes of nitrate, guano and saltpetre to Britain to South America ports. When a ship was loaded and ready to sail round Cape Horn and home, the carpenter would make a large wooden cross to which red and white lights were fixed in the shape of the constellation known as the Southern Cross. As this was hoisted to the head of the mainmast, the crew would sing the shanty Hurrah, my boys, were homeward bound, and then the crew of every ship in harbour took turns to cheer the departing vessel.

Seafarers crossing the equator for the first time and sometimes the tropics of the polar circles are often put through a sort of baptism or initiation ceremony. The earliest recorded reference to such a ritual dates back to 1529 on a French ship, but by the end of the following century English vessels were involved in the same custom, which continues to this day in both Royal Navy and merchant service.

One of the crew appears as Neptune, complete with crown, trident and luxuriant beard; others represent Queen Amphitrite, a barber, a surgeon and various nymphs and bears. Neptune holds court by the side of a large canvas bath full of sea - water, and any on board who have not previously crossed the Line are ceremonially shaved with huge wooden razors, then thoroughly ducked. Finally, the victim is given a certificate which protects him from the same ordeal on ane future occasion. Even passengers are put through a modified form of the proceedings, though women are given a still softer version of the treatment.

: 20/10/2006