Book: Sea Monsters
Author: William Knowlton
Illustrator: Helen Damrosch Tee-van
Publisher: Random Library, reprinted in 2000
Language level: 3 (one use of the God’s name in vain)
Reading level: Probably intended for ages 10-14
Rating: 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Knowlton, William. Sea Monsters (published in 1959 by Alfred A. Knopf Inc., New York City, NY). Some friends gave us this book which had been discarded from the St. Louis County Public Library. A note “About the author” says, “This is Mr. Knowlton’s second book for young people. His first, Let’s Explore Beneath the Sea, was published in 1957.” A web search turned up about ten used copies of each book. Sea Monsters is a fascinating discussion about creatures of the sea, both real and legendary. Beginning with accounts through history of huge sea monsters, the author then talks about prehistoric sea creatures, whales, giant squids, sharks and rays, and sea snakes, to see if there are any natural explanations for supposed sea monster sightings. He concludes with some more recent claims of sea monsters, including that of Loch Ness in Scotland. If you ever do come across the book, be forewarned that there are a few items of which one should beware.
For example, the author says, “From the ingredients of danger and mystery, myths and legends are apt to bubble and froth,” and regarding these he says, “The Biblical account of Jonah spending three days and three nights in the blackness of the whale’s belly is by no means the only such story. The early peoples of Italy, Russia, Wales, China, India, Greece, and North America all told of whales swallowing men,” thus placing the Biblical account of Jonah in the realm of myth and legend. Is it not reasonable to conclude that the story of Jonah is true (Jesus believed it, Matt. 12:40) and that as a real account it influenced the myths and legends of other peoples? Also, he says, “The great Leviathan was an early Jewish contribution to the lore of sea monsters,” again putting it in the realm of myth or legend. Many Bible scholars believe that the passages in the Bible about the Leviathan (Job 41.1; Ps. 74.14, 104.26; Isa. 27.1) could possibly be references to dinosaurs and serve as evidence that man and dinosaurs did co-exist on earth.
This brings us to the main objection, and that is that the author obviously accepts evolutionary theory, talking about giant reptiles “two hundred million years ago” and saying that if a paleontologist knows what rocks fossils are found in he can learn when the animal lived give or take a few million years. The truth is evolutionists simply guess at the age of the rocks based on the supposed geologic column which nowhere exists on earth, and then date the fossils in them based on their guess. It is interesting that the author notes, speaking of the fossils of ancient giant sea reptiles, “Scientists have noted striking similarities between them and certain modern sea monsters” which people have claimed to see and mentions the theory “that these ‘fabulous originals’ may have survived to this day in remote areas of the sea.” That might be a possibility, but why cannot people at least entertain the obvious conclusion that many ancient claims of sea monster sightings may have been by people who actually saw dinosaurs or other “prehistoric” reptiles, since the Bible says that all living forms were created in the same week (given other evidences that men and dinosaurs lived at the same time as well)? Finally, in one account of a whale attack, the word “God” is used as an interjection in material quoted from a witness. This book, though it would probably be considered outdated in many ways today, does contain some interesting information and suggestions.