The principal navigations, voyages, traffiques, and discoveries of the English nation, by Richard Hakluyt

A briefe note of the Morsse and the vse thereof.

In the first voyage of Iaques Carthier, wherein he discouered the Gulfe of S. Laurence and the said Isle of Ramea, in the yeere 1534. as you may reade in pag. 250 of this present volume,1 he met with these beasts, as he witnesseth in these words. About the said Island are very great beasts as great as oxen, which haue two great teeth in their mouthes like vnto Elephants teeth, and liue also in the sea. Wee sawe one of them sleeping vpon the banke of the water, and thinking to take it, we went to it with our boates, but so soone as he heard vs, he cast himselfe into the sea. Touching these beasts which Iaques Carthier saith to be as big as Oxen, and to haue teeth in their mouthes like Elephants teeth: True it is that they are called in Latine Boues Marini, or Vaccæ Marinæ, and in the Russian tongue Morsses, the hides whereof I haue seene as big as any Oxe hide, and being dressed I haue yet a piece of one thicker then any two Oxe or Buls hides in England. The Leather dressers take them to be excellent good to make light targets against the arrowes of the Sauages; and I hold them farre better then the light leather targets which the Moores vse in Barbarie against arrowes and lances, whereof I haue seene diuers in her Maiesties stately Armorie in the towre of London. The teeth of the sayd fishes, whereof I haue seene a dry flat full at once, are a foote and some times more in length: and haue bene sold in England to the combe and knife makers, at 8 groats and 3 shillings the pound weight, whereas the best Iuory is solde for halfe the money: the graine of the bone is somewhat more yellow then the Iuorie. One M. Alexander Woodson of Bristoll my old friend, an excellent Mathematician and skilful Phisition, shewed me one of these beasts teeth which were brought from the Isle of Ramea in the first prize, which was half a yard long or very little lesse: and assured mee that he had made tryall of it in ministering medicine to his patients, and had found it as soueraigne against poyson as any Vnicornes horne.2

1 This page refers to Vol. III. of the Edition of 1812. For Jacques Cartier’s voyage, see farther on.

2 A very curious account of the Unicorn is to be found in Goldsmid’s Myths of Ancient Science, 1886.

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 19:52