Monsters of the Deep: Science Fact and Fiction at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall (July to 3rd January 2022)

We might be living in a world of track and trace, where everywhere we go and who we meet can be uploaded into a gargantuan database, but there is a part of our planet that remains relatively unknown even in today’s digitally dominated environment.  The deep, dark depths of our oceans harbour some of the most bizarre and amazing creatures to have ever evolved and a recently re-opened exhibition at the National Maritime Museum (Falmouth, Cornwall), permits visitors to meet up with some of nature’s most curious creatures as well as plunging into the depths of our own imagination to explore legendary sea monsters – all without getting our feet wet.

Monsters of the Deep: Science Fact and Fiction

Monsters of the Deep exhibition.

Monsters of the Deep: Science Fact and Fiction at the National Maritime Museum (Cornwall).  Take the plunge!  Encounter myths, legends and real sea monsters. 

Picture Credit: Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum Cornwall 

Deep-sea Monsters Real and Imagined

Running until January 2022, this carefully crafted exhibition takes visitors on a voyage of discovery from Medieval folklore through cryptozoology and the modern-day monster hunters employing the very latest maritime technology used to explore those parts of planet Earth furthest from our sun.

A Collection of Ocean-dwelling Curiosities

Giant Isopods on display.

Curious crustaceans such as giant isopods with their huge compound eyes stare back at you.  The exhibition permits visitors to closely examine some of the most amazing ocean-dwelling creatures known to science.

Picture Credit: Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum Cornwall 

A Collaboration Between Leading Institutions

World class scientific collections from such august bodies as the British Museum, the National Oceanography Centre, the Science Museum, Royal Museums Greenwich and Cambridge University Library have been plundered by modern day buccaneers on a mission to inform, educate and entertain.  Rarely seen specimens, artwork and artefacts all housed under one roof including a large scale reproduction of the Carta Marina, the world’s most famous medieval map of the sea, complete with fanciful monsters and mermaids.  The exhibition highlights the myths associated with early exploration and showcases exquisite illustrations of sea monsters including the strange “mirror creatures”, denizens of the deep that haunted the nightmares of many a seafarer in the age of sail.

Early Explorers Brought Home Tales of Encounters with Fantastic Sea Creatures

Explorers and sea monsters.

Early explorers brought back fanciful tales of sea serpents, mermaids and monsters.

As Real as Elephants and Giraffes

Prior to the Age of Enlightenment which hastened a revolution in scientific thinking in the 17th century, little was known about the exotic fauna that inhabited our world.  On display at this exhibition is the Hortus sanitatis, the first ever natural history encyclopaedia.  Originally printed in 1491, the year before Christopher Columbus set out on his voyage that led to the discovery of the New World, it represents a significant landmark in our attempts to document and understand the natural world with unicorns and mermaids considered just as real as elephants and giraffes.

A Collection of Books on Cryptozoology on Display

Books about Sea Monsters on Display

A large number of books documenting our fascination with monsters of the deep are on display.

Picture Credit: Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum Cornwall 

Guest Curators and Leading Specialists

Monsters of the Deep: Science Fact and Fiction has been developed in co-operation with leading specialists and guest curators, including Viktor Wynd, the custodian of the “UnNatural History Museum”, bringing together a collection of curiosities including a mummified feegee mermaid and a skeleton of a unicorn!  This section of the exhibition is dedicated to exploring ideas about what is real and what can be falsified or faked.

A Rearing “Unicorn” on Display at the National Maritime Museum

A rearing unicorn skeleton.

An exhibit from the “UnNatural History Museum” – a rearing unicorn skeleton.

Picture Credit: Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum Cornwall 

As well as exploring the theme of sea monsters in popular culture, the exhibition provides an insight into some of the very latest cutting-edge technical developments that have allowed marine biologists rare glimpses of the natural wonders that still exist in the largely unexplored regions of our planet such as the vast abyssal plain.

Combining Myth and Fantasy with Scientific Endeavour and Research

Meet Boaty McBoatface.

The exhibition highlights state-of-the-art technology such as the latest mini submersibles that are transforming our understanding of the world’s oceans.

Picture Credit: Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum Cornwall 

To ensure the safety and wellbeing of all visitors and staff, the Museum has implemented a number of new health and safety measures, in line with the latest government advice including timed arrival slots, social distancing measures and on-line only booking.

As half-term approaches, escape your bubble and take the plunge!  Immerse yourself in a world of folklore, fun, facts and fantasy.

Monsters of the Deep: Science Fact and Fiction at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall (July to 3rd January 2022).  For further details: The National Maritime Museum.

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