“Remarkable Monster”

valhalla sea serpent, illustrated london news, 1906

On Dec. 7, 1905, British naturalists J. Nicoll and E.G.B. Meade-Waldo spotted “a creature of most extraordinary form and proportions” during a research cruise off the coast of Brazil. Nicoll described a head “shaped somewhat like that of a turtle” above a 6-foot “eel-like” neck that “lashed up the water with a curious wriggling movement.” Below the water “we could indistinctly see a very large brownish-black patch, but could not make out the shape of the creature.”

They later spied it doing about 8.5 knots, slightly faster than the ship: “From the commotion in the water it looked as if a submarine was going along just below the surface.” The witnesses insisted it was not a whale, though Nicoll felt it was a mammal. That’s all we know.

Coming and Going

A curious episode from Goethe’s autobiography:

I rode along the footpath towards Drusenheim, and here one of the most singular forebodings took possession of me. I saw, not with the eyes of the body, but with those of the mind, my own figure coming towards me, on horseback, and on the same road, attired in a dress which I had never worn ; — it was pike-grey with some gold about it. But as I shook myself out of this dream, the figure had entirely disappeared. It is strange, however, that eight years afterwards, I found myself on that very road, on my way to pay one more visit to Frederica, wearing the dress of which I had dreamed, and that, not from choice, but by accident.

“Whatever one may think on such matters in general,” he wrote, “in this instance my strange illusion helped to calm me in this farewell hour.” So there’s that.

Washington’s Rules

As a teenager, George Washington copied out “110 rules of civility and decent behavior in company and conversation,” probably as an exercise in penmanship. Samples:

  • “Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.”
  • “Let your Discourse with Men of Business be Short and Comprehensive.”
  • “Be not hasty to believe flying Reports to the Disparagement of any.”
  • “Eat not in the Streets, nor in the House, out of Season.”
  • “Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest Scoff at none although they give Occasion.”
  • “Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Careful to keep your Promise.”
  • “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”

Washington didn’t compose these — they were originally devised by French Jesuits in 1595 — but both Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin later wrote their own rules of good conduct.

“A Bill of Particulars”

A certain gentleman of Worcester (Mass.) sent a very fine French clock to a well-known jeweler to be repaired, saying that he wished each item of repairing specified. The following is a copy of the bill as rendered:

To removing the alluvial deposit and oleaginous conglomerate from clock a la French, … $0.50
To replacing in appropriate juxtaposition the constituent components of said clock, … .50
To lubricating with oleaginous solution the apex of pinions of said clock, … .50
To adjusting horologically the isochronal mechanism of said clock, … .50
To equalizing the acoustic resultant of escape wheel percussion upon the verge pallets of said clock, … .50
To adjusting the distance between the centre of gravity of the pendulum and its point of suspension, so that the vibrations of the pendulum shall cause the index hand to indicate approximately the daily arrival of the sun at its meridian height, … .50
Total: $3.00

— Frank H. Stauffer, The Queer, the Quaint and the Quizzical, 1882

Measuring the River

measuring the river

A traveler reaches a river at the point A and wishes to know the width across to B. As he has no means of crossing the river, what is the easiest way of finding its width?

From Henry Dudeney.

Click for Answer