Sargasso Sea

Tagged: Theme

This region in the west of the North Atlantic Ocean, with Bermuda near its western edge, is named for the Sargassum seaweed that grows there and which – along with historical accounts of sailing ships being becalmed there – gave rise to the popular legend of a seaweed-choked zone of mystery, a mist-shrouded oceanic Lost World of derelict ocean craft, very probably infested with Monsters and concealing lost Islands where Lost Races dwell. Beyond a perhaps exaggerated density of seaweed, these excitements do not feature in the brief expository visit to the Sargasso in Jules Verne's Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (20 March 1869-20 March 1870 Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation; 1870 2vols; trans Lewis Mercier as Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas 1872).

Stories invoking some or all of the more sensational elements include: Julius Chambers's "In Sargasso": Missing, a Romance; Narrative of Capt. Austin Clark, of the Tramp Steamer "Caribas," Who, for Two Years, Was a Captive Among the Savage People of the Seaweed Sea (1896), a Lost Race tale; Thomas A Janvier's In the Sargasso Sea (1898); Frank Aubrey's A Queen of Atlantis: A Romance of the Caribbean (1898), whose Lost Race has the gift of Telepathy; several tales by William Hope Hodgson including his first weird nautical fiction, "From the Tideless Sea" (April 1906 Monthly Story Magazine) and its continuation "More News of the Homebird" (August 1907 Blue Book), about a family trapped for years in the Sargasso, his first-published novel The Boats of the "Glen Carrig": Being an Account of Their Adventures in the Strange Places of the Earth (1907), and "The Voice in the Dawn" (5 November 1920 Premier Magazine; vt "The Call in the Dawn" in Deep Waters coll 1967); Stacey Blake's "The Derelict Hunters: A Thrilling Story of the Dread Sargasso Sea" (29 April 1908 Chums) as by Stacey-Blake; Crittenden Marriott's The Isle of Dead Ships (January-April 1909 The Scrap Book; 1909; vt The Isle of Lost Ships 1930), twice filmed as The Isle of Lost Ships (1923 and 1929); Cecil H Bullivant's The Gold of Treasure Island (1916 anonymous; cut vt Spanish Gold 192? as by Maurice Everard), featuring another Lost Race; John William Duffield's Don Sturdy in the Port of Lost Ships; Or, Adrift in the Sargasso Sea (1926); Lester Dent's The Sargasso Ogre: A Doc Savage Adventure (October 1933 Doc Savage magazine; 1967) as by Kenneth Robeson; Dennis Wheatley's Uncharted Seas (1938), filmed as The Lost Continent (1968); and C E Scoggins's Lost Road (1941), in which relics of Atlantis are found. An unusually late example, yet again including a Lost Race despite the trope's dwindling plausibility, is Lloyd Kropp's The Drift (1969). The numerous nautical allusions of China Miéville's The Scar (2002) include a nod to the Sargasso's legendary graveyard of derelicts in the form of the living sea-City Armada which is built from captured ships and constantly incorporates more.

Inevitably sf authors occasionally shifted the Sargasso myth into space, as in Edmund Hamilton's The Sargasso of Space (September 1931 Astounding; 2009 ebook), James Blish's Okie tale "Sargasso of Lost Cities" (Spring 1953 Two Complete Science-Adventure Books) and Andre Norton's Sargasso of Space (1955) as Andrew North.

Presumably as a result of better real-world maps, the supposed mystery of the Sargasso has long faded, although some of its ambience transferred without great difficulty to the less clearly delineated Bermuda Triangle. [DRL]

see also: Premier Magazine; Arno Schmidt; Francis H Sibson; Star Ocean.

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