This is George Augustus Sala’s satirical view (1850) of the Daedalus sighting. McQuhae is shown presenting his ‘celebrated friend’ for display at the Great Exhibition. Though a creature, it is really a gigantic corkscrew, an image that implies the sighting owes more to the bottle than to a real encounter. At the same time, Sala plays on maritime lore: ‘Mother Carey’s chickens’ were a sign of ill omen (another term for the sea petrel), and the Flying Dutchman is a ghost ship, another symbol of ill-fortune. In part joke and in part a curse, the serpent is indeed an ambiguous phenomenon. The design was engraved on wood and appeared in Sala’s first panorama, The Great Exhibition. Pen and pencil drawing. 2½ x 9½ inches. Reproduced with Permission of the British Museum. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Image capture and text by Simon Cooke.

Related Material


Sala, G. A. The Great Exhibition: ‘Wot it is to Be’. London: The Society for Keeping Things in Their Places, 1850.

Created 6 July 2021