Tales of sea monsters terrified sailors and explorers. Many of these sea monsters were based on folklore or a common medieval belief that every land animal had its counterpart in the sea. Cartographers and mapmakers used images of these fabled monsters to decorate their maps, indicating unexplored areas or dangerous oceans.
This hand-coloured woodcut shows various sea-monsters, taken from the 1550 German edition of Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia. A giant lobster traps a doomed sailor in its claws. A massive serpent is entwined around a galleon. Another galleon attempts to outrun a tusked, twin-spouted serpent as the crew throw cargo overboard and one sailor aims his musket at the creature.