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Humanities 2019, 8(1), 47; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010047

The Voice of Skogula in ‘Beasts Royal’ and a Story of the Tagus Estuary (Lisbon, Portugal) as Seen through a Whale’s-Eye View

CHAM—Centre for the Humanities, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas of Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Avenida de Berna 26-C, 1096-061 Lisboa, Portugal
Received: 30 November 2018 / Revised: 4 February 2019 / Accepted: 26 February 2019 / Published: 5 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Bayscapes—Shaping the Coastal Interface through Time)
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Abstract

Patrick O’Brian inspired this work, with his 1934 book of chronicles “Beasts Royal,” where he gives a voice to animals. Therein, among other animals, we find Skogula, a young sperm whale journeying with his family group across the South Seas and his views on the surrounding world, both underwater and on land. This paper tells a story of historical natural events, from the viewpoint of a fin whale that travelled, rested and stranded in the Tagus estuary mouth (Lisbon, Portugal) during the early 16th century. It allows us to move across time and explore the past of this estuarine ecosystem. What kind of changes took place and how can literature and heritage contribute to understand peoples’ constructions of past environments, local maritime histories and memories? In the second part of this essay we present a fictional short story, supported on historical documental sources and imagery research where Lily, the whale, is the main character. Thus, we see the Tagus estuary as perceived through this whale’s-eye view. Finally, we discuss past earthquakes, whale strandings, the occurrence of seals and dolphins and peoples’ perceptions of the Tagus coastal environment across time. We expect to make a contribution to the field of the marine environmental humanities. We will do so both by addressing, by means of this literary approach, the writing of “new thalassographies,” oceanic historiographies and “historicities” and by including all intervening actors—people, animals and the physical space—in the understanding of the past of more-than-human aquatic worlds.
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Keywords: environmental humanities; literature; heritage and memory; early modern oceanic history; animal studies; shores and seascapes; cetaceans environmental humanities; literature; heritage and memory; early modern oceanic history; animal studies; shores and seascapes; cetaceans
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Brito, C. The Voice of Skogula in ‘Beasts Royal’ and a Story of the Tagus Estuary (Lisbon, Portugal) as Seen through a Whale’s-Eye View. Humanities 2019, 8, 47.

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