One day, some little time after this adventure, the weather having moderated to a calm, a number of ripples appeared upon the sea, which at first we took to be a breeze, but on drifting among them we found the phenomenon to be caused by a number of water snakes, varying in size from a few inches to many feet in length. Some of them appeared to be asleep, whilst others reared their heads at us, although they made no attempt to attack us. Suddenly they disappeared, as though scared by the approach of a common enemy.
We had now been for some days becalmed, and at length we began to fear we had drifted into a dead sea, where the wind never rose, and the currents ran in a circle. The sun by day blistered the decks so that the tar bubbled in the seams. The nights were more tolerable, but the air below had become so foul that the cabins were deserted for the open. A musty smell rose out of the water, and made it hard to breathe the oppressive atmosphere. We lay about the deck exhausted, like a company of sick men.
One night the watch came aft to where Hartog and I were trying to obtain some rest, with the report that a monstrous shape had been noticed passing under the vessel, and on looking to leeward we could see that the water was agitated by some large body. Hartog inclined to the belief that the disturbance was caused by a number of whales, the one following the other, but the men declared the shape they had seen was a monster of amazing proportions. Both Hartog and the men were equally resolved upon their respective theories; but while they were arguing the matter, and the dawn being now come, all doubts were set at rest by the appearance of a prodigy so incredible that I scarce dare set down, in this plain tale, a description of it. Within fifty yards from the vessel a serpent’s head, not unlike those we had seen, but infinitely larger, rose above the surface of the water, and presently a great water-snake began to swim slowly round our ship in decreasing circles. Its length could not have been less than 200 feet, while its girth, in the middle, was almost that of a fair-sized whale, tapering towards the head and tail. Lashing the sea around it into foam, the serpent drew closer until it looked as though it would crush the ship in its folds. Hartog, the only man amongst us who preserved his presence of mind, ordered our guns to be loaded and fired at the monster. This was done, but our broadside had no more effect upon the leviathan than to cause it to swerve from its circling movement, when it made off with incredible speed towards the horizon, whence it returned apparently bent upon destroying us.
We now gave ourselves up for lost, when suddenly out of the sea rose another huge bulk, resembling the sea-spider which had carried off poor Moira, but ten times larger, when a combat ensued between the leviathans which created waves around our vessel, and caused her to rock and plunge as in a storm. The battle raged for the best part of an hour, and sometimes when the monsters came near it seemed likely that the ship would be swamped by the volume of water which they lashed into the air. Suddenly the combat terminated by both monsters disappearing into the depths without our being able to ascertain which had proved the victor.