Monday, October 18, 2010
Andrew Battell (1565-1614), was an English sailor, who was part of an expedition led by Captain Abraham Cocke to loot Portuguese and Spanish settlements in South America. However he was captured by the natives in Brazil and handed over to the Portuguese who imprisoned him. He was later rescued and wrote about his adventures.
In his account, he mentions in the River Plate, an: "Isle of Lobos Marinos [Sea wolves] that doth abound with seals and sea-morses
This island, located close (12 km - 7.5 mi.) to Punta del Este city in Uruguay (35° 1' 60 S, 54° 52' 60 W), on the northern tip of the Río de la Plata (River Plate) estuary, is currently the second most important reserve of "lobos" in the world. It has a surface area of only 41 hectares (101 acres).
It is home to two (2) different kinds of seals, the South American Sea Lion or "lobo de un pelo" (Otaria flavescens) and the South American Fur Seal or "lobo de dos pelos" (Arctocephalus australis. Hunting these seals was only banned in 1992 and current population is about 180,000 "Fur seals" and 6,500 "Sea Lions".
But, at least nowadays there are no "sea-morses" or walrus in the Southern Hemisphere. I recently posted on the possible existence of Patagonian walrus in the recent past. Perhaps Battell came across the last survivors of this now extinct species.
Or, he may have mistakenly believed that the sea lions were walrus. Or, besides the two varieties of seals, there were "sea morses" (morse is an old name applied to walrus, it is a Russian word (morss) also found in Lapp (morsk), Englishmen in the 1600s used the word "morse" when referring to walrus.
Though the Isla de los Lobos is not within Patagonia, it is quite close, and to the north of it, so if our mysterious "morse" lived on that island, it would also have lived in the colder Patagonian waters just to the south of it.
 The strange adventures of Andrew Battell of Leigh, in Angola and the adjoining regions. (1901). London. Hakluyt Society. pp. 5
Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia2010 International Year of Biodiversity Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall ©