A Whale at Wivenhoe

Posted in Local History at 9:06 pm by henrysgauntlet

Here’s how some of our Essex ancestors wrote about seeing a whale in the 17th century.

 On the 23rd of this present month April, the neighbouring inhabitants to a fair river in Essex, known by the name of Wivner River (whose mouth opens to the sea) perceived a great disturbance in the water. Country men threw down their shovels and spy’d the back of a fish of an extraordinary size who seem’d to quarrel with the river for more elbow-room.  She sometimes threw her prodigious head above the waves, at other times, with her spreading tail, shovelled the sands so high, that part of them fell on the spectator’s heads. While she floundered, they beheld the greatest part of her body, and with the ponderous squelch of her large bulk falling into the water, she made the depressed waves out-swell their banks and threaten an over-flow of the Neighbouring meadows. In this discontented motion she continued to go up the river till she came within six miles of Colchester, where the sands being washt away by the proceeding tide, she was fain to struggle for life in a low water. With her extraordinary endeavour to quit herself, she brake off part of her tail and with a deluge of blood, coloured the whole stream.

“At length, for want of both breath and blood, she dyed in the water, being of so large a bulk that the river could not cover her. Her body strutted out of the waters like a hill, and when she was drawn out of the river and came to be measured, she was found to be no less than fifty foot in length, and twenty eight in thickness.” 

Author  –  Christopher Thompson