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Living With Megafauna

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Drakevarg, Jul 23, 2017.

  1. Drakevarg

    Drakevarg Troubadour

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    So, latest in my miscellaneous worldbuilding contemplations is how humans would adapt to living in a world bristling with megafauna - particularly in the oceans.

    The sea is a scary place, even in our world. But it's thankfully scarce in things like krakens, mosasaurs, megalodons and other such creatures that are fully capable of mistaking a full-sized ship for food. So the thing I've been wondering lately is how shipwrights would adapt to these concerns, at least in the age before ironclads appeared and the threat of chunks being bitten out of the hull could be sufficiently mitigated.

    Right now the only ideas I can think of would be nails sticking out of the hull, long enough to dissuade potential maws before teeth could stick in and angled so as to minimize drag, or spiked chains being dragged from the keel. But I thought I'd offer up the question to the forum, see if any other ideas came to mind.
     
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  2. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    Hmmm.... well first imediate thoughts would coastal sailing where it's too shallow for the megafauna would be more developed than ocean going sailing. Second thought is that just because they're big doesn't mean they'll attack ships. Third's possibly doing something to repeal the megafauna. Maybe like shaping the boats so that from underwater the mega fauna sees them as another sea monster 'n one too big to risk casually fighting.
     
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  3. elemtilas

    elemtilas Sage

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    All excellent points. Even *here*, sharks, giant squids and killer whales don't generally attack ships. Maybe it's a size thing? Others, like whalesharks and blue whales eat plankton, not huge prey. So yeah, just because an animal is big doesn't mean it's going to attack a ship.

    Camouflage is a good idea. If the beast your ship builders worry about is scared of some other monster, make the ship look like that monster!

    Another kind of camouflage is to make your ships look like the beasts you're worries about. They're less likely to attack one of their own, perhaps.
     
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  4. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    My first impression would be that it'd only be an issue for a small window of time. It wasn't until about the 15th century when we first started crossing oceans, wasn't it? Prior to that, most sailing was done close to land. I imagine the marine megafauna wouldn't be an issue until these people's equivalent of the age of discovery.
     
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  5. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

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    Perhaps the way to go is to avoid the feeding grounds of whatever the creature of greatest concern eats. How about coating the ships with something poisonous or at least bad tasting...I have no idea how to make the material stay on!
     
  6. Drakevarg

    Drakevarg Troubadour

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    This is an interesting point, but on the other hand plenty of marine megafauna have historically lived in (relatively) shallow waters, exactly the sort of places ships would often travel. By my understanding the majority of sea life lives relatively close to shore as open waters both offer very little concealment and have next to nothing in terms of plant life.

    Of course. The relevant concern would be the ones who would attack large prey and are big enough to mistake a ship for, say, a whale. Sharks attack surfers because they look like seals. A mosasaur or a megalodon might mistake a ship for a whale.

    This is one angle I've been considering, but less about disguising the ship as something equal or higher on the food chain, and more about making it distinctly not food-shaped, give it a different silhouette somehow that doesn't look like a whale or anything from below.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2017
  7. Holman

    Holman Minstrel

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    What about a chemical response - ships are designed so that a substance that the creatures don't like is put into the water somehow - this along with brightly painted hulls warns the creatures that the ship tastes bad.
     
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  8. Drakevarg

    Drakevarg Troubadour

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    It's possible, though the likelihood of any chemical treatment washing off or otherwise diluting in the water over the course of the voyage would probably make it an expensive procedure, another "fuel" alongside food and fresh water that determines how long a ship can afford to remain at sea.

    (You could potentially risk going without the treatment in high-traffic waters where the local predators would be conditioned to assume any ship with the warning colors is unpalatable, but on longer voyages there'd be an increasing risk of running into ones that have never encountered a ship before and don't know the meaning of the markings, at which point a lack of 'fuel' could be fatal.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2017
  9. Holman

    Holman Minstrel

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    Exactly - but would allow for additional dilemmas and solutions that are more novel than running out of water, etc.
     
  10. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    Probably apocryphal but didn't the USN try anti-shark chemicals back in 40s-50s? It was supposed to make the water around a downed crew unpleasant. They found out that it got the shark's attention well enough, and so rather than dissuade attacks the chemical drew them on to the new potential food source.
    I'd go with stealth. Do not try to stop an attack from succeeding, but rather try not to get attacked in the first place.
     
  11. Holman

    Holman Minstrel

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    You mean that Batman's can of shark repellent wouldn't work! - another childhood myth destroyed :p
     
  12. elemtilas

    elemtilas Sage

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    Or perhaps worse, a large sea creature that sees your ship as a convenient scratching post.

    In the end, I think the best way to deal with pesky pelagics is avoidance. Put a couple spotters up in the crow's nest and have em watch for sea monsters.

    Next might be bait and switch. If a pod of hungry mosasaurs comes too close, harpoon one of em to lure the others away to an easier, more tasty meal.

    Things like chemicals and even comouflage really require a deeper understanding of the animals' behaviour. That's something I doubt any non-modern non-scientific culture will know much about.
     
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  13. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    In One Piece, some captains coat their ships in Sea-Prism Stone (or Seastone) that makes the "sea kings," giant sea creatures, think the ship is just part of the ocean, so they won't attack.

    I vaguely wonder whether the bottoms of ships could be painted so that they look just like the rippling sky above. Maybe a kind of special paint might be used, one that's somewhat phosphorescent so that the ship doesn't appear to be a shadow above. There's actually an evolutionary idea behind this, since a lot of animals have a lighter colored underside that helps them camouflage: Countershading - Wikipedia

    Edit: elemtilas makes a decent point about deeper understanding of animal behavior; but on the other hand, the light-underbelly thing is something easily observable in many creatures, including some sharks, and putting two and two together wouldn't be too far fetched. Plus, there's nothing saying such a procedure would be 100% effective maybe, and this could still allow some dramatic tension and suspense for a story.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2017
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  14. Viorp

    Viorp Minstrel

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    I think the cultural implications would be massive.
    I actually think more people would go to sea.

    Think for a bit how in inuit tribes or in japan whale hunters were heroes once.
    They risked their lifes to hunt incredibly huge beasts to bring valuable resources back.

    In this world there are both more resources and more dangerous creatures in the sea.
     
  15. Drakevarg

    Drakevarg Troubadour

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    I've considered this angle, both for the sea and the land-based megafauna. Hunters would be bona fide badasses and considered a specialized skillset on par with artisans, as going after prey would not only mean taking down things like mammoths, but competing with predators the size of buses to do so.

    Serving on a whaling ship or being part of a hunter's lodge would probably be the closest you could get to being an "adventurer" in the classic heroic fantasy sense while still having an actual job description.
     
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  16. arboriad

    arboriad Scribe

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    What if you go the angler fish route, where a lead boat would be brightly lit, perhaps phosphorescent, from the underside. It attracts the megafauna before the darker,larger hull of the main ship.

    When that gets attacked/disappears , then a poison is dumped into the sea to ward it off the bigger ship.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G920A using Tapatalk
     
  17. Drakevarg

    Drakevarg Troubadour

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    That sounds like it would be enormously expensive. Sailing ships aren't something that come off an assembly line, and aside from the sorry bastards who would draw "bait" duty, an entire ship going down - even a small one capable of long sea voyages - every time a predator attacked does not seem even remotely economical.
     
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  18. arboriad

    arboriad Scribe

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    I figured. ;)

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G920A using Tapatalk
     
  19. Creed

    Creed Sage

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    Fifthview has some great ideas! Rolling off of them, using large glass decorations/prisms could potentially be used to divert sunlight directly below a ship. This could erase the silhouette, or potentially make the ship seem like a second sun from below.

    This won't work if your sea monster is using other methods of navigation besides sight (like a massive hammerhead shark, yikes). Not sure how that would be diverted.

    An alternative could be the production of noise, if there are no other options. Some contraption on board that generates a lot of noise could confuse or actually hurt certain sea creatures, like dolphins, or a sea monster that uses echolocation. Otherwise, sailors could grab pots and pans and attempt to make a racket large enough to dissuade the megafauna.

    In one of my WIPs the mariners of the world have to watch out for serpent people and the Great Serpents. Some are lucky enough to have a mage on board that specializes in the manipulation of sound and vibration. Others mount spears on the deck, offer sacrifices, and sail the nights in complete silence.
     
  20. DMThaane

    DMThaane Sage

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    I see a lot of suggestions for avoidance and not a lot on simply murdering the damn things. Man didn't get to the top of the food chain by passing up the opportunity to murder any inconvenient predator we came across. Interesting historical side-note, did you know that the first record of the concept of the torpedo was in the late 13th century by Hasan al-Rammah? A fascinating man, also listed a lot of gunpowder recipes. This isn't strictly relevant but it does show how inventive we are as a species.

    The simplest devices would be lures that were designed, painted, or scented to attract creatures and give other ships warning. The ships could then respond with other defensive measures. More violent plays on the 'lure' idea could be a soft-shelled device like a large inflated animal bladder containing a spiked ball, something like a nastier caltrop, that would tear up the insides of the creature. A cruder method is to simply stuff an animal carcass with sharp objects or poison said carcass. Certain chemicals could also be used, such as lye. Other devices could use gunpowder, incendiaries, or chemical reactions triggered by fuses. The basic idea is that if a creature is known for eating things you attack it through its stomach.

    To throw an idea out there, you could have a floating device constructed of wood or iron and covered with animal hides, tethered to a vessel by rope. The device would be scented with animal meat and the underside would be painted with bioluminescence harvested from reefs or underwater caves. When grabbed or, better yet, eaten whole by a megafauna the rope would be pulled taught and snap, triggering the fuse to the explosive charge and blowing up at least a portion of the creature. Pressure waves can be highly dangerous in water so that alone could kill the thing but at the very least you've mangled a tentacle.

    Now this is just one off the cuff suggestion but it's an example of how you can combine historical technology and concepts with some fantasy and a little ruthlessness to create something that at least sounds like it could work and while this is a high-tech solution plenty of more primitive variants on the same concept are viable. And these megafauna sea mines are only one solution to the problem. Humans would likely develop an impressive variety and test them until at least something went extinct.
     
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