1995 "Second Printing"; Alfred A. Knopf publishers, New York; hardbound; very good condition with unmarked pages; dust jacket very good.
In Monsters of the Sea, Richard Ellis, one of the country's foremost authorities on ocean life, casts his net wide in search of the most unusual aquatic fauna, real and imagined - from mermaids and manatees to the Loch Ness monster. He initiates us into the cult of "cryptozoologists, " who doggedly pursue scientific truth without ever really wanting to dispel the mystery surrounding their quarry - be it Nessie or the considerably less famous Bermuda blob. He examines the literary sources of sea monster lore, from The Odyssey to Jules Verne to Peter Benchley, demonstrating how the mythic view of an animal can give way to knowledge, only to be reinstated by Hollywood and the tabloids. He consults the early naturalists - such as the Dutch entomologist Antoon Cornelis Oudemans, who was obsessed with sea serpents - for their often wild and zoologically brash interpretations of what they observed on the high seas. He gives detailed anatomical descriptions and accounts of the bizarre behavior of many species, including the sperm whale, with its tendency to strand itself on the beach (maybe "a function of a mental malaise, something like a painful migraine headache"). And he comes to the defense of the octopus, the shark, and other misunderstood beasts, whose plight should remind us of our opportunity and responsibility to preserve the planet: "Instead of fearing them, " he writes, "we fear for them."