Sea Monsters program to uncover maritime myths

Mermaid - NC Maritime Museum

BEAUFORT, N.C. — People might not look at the whale skeleton that hangs in the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort and think “dragon.”

But in all likelihood, there were some sailors who at one time did.

“Whales could have been the inspiration for dragons,” Christine Brin said, explaining that an unsuspecting sailor seeing his first whale jump out of the water could easily be confused and frightened by what he was seeing.

The fins, the museum’s program coordinator added, could look wing-like, particularly on a humpback whale. The spray from a waterspout could be mistaken for smoke. Teeth — the size of bottles on a sperm whale — could inspire man-eating visions.

For those who hear it, that description typically offers great insight into how sea monsters got their start, Brin said.

“People tend to have that ‘aha moment,’” she said, “looking at that time period, that early exploration period, with new eyes.”

Brin will go into greater detail on how dragons and other maritime myths got their start at the upcoming program “Sea Monsters.” The informal lecture will be held at the museum, located at 315 Front St. in Beaufort, on Oct. 31 at noon. The program is part of the museum’s Brown Bag Gam series, which invites patrons to bring their lunch and dine during the discussion. The free program is open to the public, and reservations are not required.

“This one is fun,” Brin said. “It’s academic, but when you get into the realm of legend, you get to exaggerate in a way. There are so many versions of the myth.

“And,” she added, “there’s a lot of drama.”

Brin said she is most fascinated by mermaids and how they have shown up in virtually every culture.

“I love the mermaid one, just the idea they share an almost universal aspect,” she said.

She said mermaids were likely inspired by lonely sailors who were also dehydrated, malnourished and maybe even a little drunk.

“Was it wishful thinking,” she asked, “looking for ladies?”

She’ll also talk about leviathan, as well as kraken, a sea monster that has gained a foothold thanks to the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, and how it has a more obvious origin in giant squid.

Since the program is on Halloween, Brin said she encourages costumes (she’ll be in one) and she’ll also have candy for “trick or treaters of all ages.”

“It’s quite an All Hallows Eve party,” Brin said.

The program itself, though, is more suited for older children and adults.

“It’s not inappropriate for younger kids,” she said, “but it might be over their heads in some places.”

For more information about the Sea Monsters program or the museum, call 252-504-7740 or visit

About the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort

The North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort reflects coastal life and interprets lighthouses and lifesaving stations, the seafood industry, motorboats, and more. Studies in marine life, science, and ecology are available for all ages. The Beaufort museum is the repository for artifacts from Blackbeard’s wrecked flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, among them cannons, grenades, belt buckles and beads. The Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center teaches boatbuilding for all ages.

The North Carolina Maritime Museum, located at 315 Front Street in Beaufort, is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.   The museum is open to the public with free admission. Donations are always appreciated.  For more information about the museum, call 252-504-7740 or visit

The North Carolina Maritime Museum system is comprised of the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras, the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Beaufort and the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport. All three museums are part of the Division of State History Museums in the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The system website is

About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR’s mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state’s history, conserving the state’s natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.

NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, 39 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C. Zoo, the nation’s first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, along with the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, call 919-807-7300 or visit

Submitted by: Cyndi Brown, Public Information Officer, N. C. Maritime Museums