Phnglui mglw nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah nagl fhtagn

October 19, 2011 - 6:34 pm
Irradiated by LabRat
Comments Off on Phnglui mglw nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah nagl fhtagn

I have been sitting here trying to figure out what the hell I can possibly say about this article other than “………DUDE!” and am forced to conclude there is very little.

So…. DUDE!!.

Here are the salient facts.

1) There is a fossil bed in Nevada of Ichthyosaur vertebral discs arranged in geometric, linear patterns. The animals these belong to, for reference, were bus-sized, air-breathing, very sharp-toothed more or less reptilian critters that slotted nichewise about where the big, heavy-hitting toothed whales do today.

2) Not all of the vertebra are likely to be from the same animal, or killed at the same time. The water was apparently very deep at the site. There are other bones at the site, suggesting some kind of trauma to the animals before death and not something like a toxic algal bloom (which would also require shallow water), but only the vertebral discs appear to have been rearranged after death.

3) The arrangements really resemble the patterns of suckers on a cephalopod’s tentacle, seem to be carefully fitted together, in a double line patterns, also like a cephalopod tentacle.

This plus the fact that modern octopuses sometimes keep bone middens they like to play with, and can kill* big, fast, predatory animals, has led one paleontologist to suggest that the origin of the strange and apparently inexplicable fossil bed was the bone midden of a hundred-foot-long super-intelligent cephalopod who was killing ichthyosaurs and arranging their bones into a self-portrait for fun. Cephalopods leave very little fossil trace behind, so a physical record of the critter would be nearly impossible to find.

“They worshipped, so they said, the Great Old Ones who lived ages before there were any men, and who came to the young world out of the sky. Those Old Ones were gone now, inside the earth and under the sea; but their dead bodies had told their secrets in dreams to the first men, who formed a cult which had never died. This was that cult, and the prisoners said it had always existed and always would exist, hidden in distant wastes and dark places all over the world until the time when the great priest Cthulhu, from his dark house in the mighty city of R’lyeh under the waters, should rise and bring the earth again beneath his sway. Some day he would call, when the stars were ready, and the secret cult would always be waiting to liberate him.

– H.P. Lovecraft, Call of Cthulhu

*Though I find the narrator’s description of that poor little spiny dogfish as a voracious super-predator kind of awkward. They’re inoffensive schooling sharks that eat small fish and, yes, the occasional octopus- LITTLE ones. They are also being badly overfished, but apparently sharks with a poisonous spine are not as cute as, say, tuna.

No Responses to “Phnglui mglw nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah nagl fhtagn”

  1. Roadkill Says:

    “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming”

    A friend of mine once pointed out that we have all most annihilated most of the giant squids enemies and that ‘we work for the Squid’

  2. Mousie762 Says:

    Dogfish always remind me of Cladoselache because of an illustration in _The Rise of Fishes_ that uses both to show how little sharks have changed in overall body plan.

    We chordates thought in the Devonian we’d taken over the top predator roles from the molluscs, apparently they’ve never really accepted this idea.

  3. bluntobject Says:

    Iä! Iä!

  4. DaddyBear Says:

    Cthulhu loves me
    This I know
    Because he craves
    My bone marrow

  5. perlhaqr Says:

    Well, I’m glad I read this after I woke up and not just before I went to bed…

  6. Tam Says:

    While perhaps not the best science ever, it sure does conjure up some awesome mental pictures. :)

  7. Kristopher Says:

    hmmm … if they continue the disturb the elder seal that cephalopod created, they may ( briefly ) have a bigger subject to study.

  8. LabRat Says:

    Yeah, all the science here really is is a plausible explanation for a fossil bed that defies normal explanations that merely requires a postulated massive self-aware cephalopod.

    Posted for coolness value, one might say.

  9. Hunt Johnsen Says:

    Re cute tuna – Long ago I saw a series of photographs of a big yellowfin tuna going after some flying fish – there was nothing cute about it – just fierce climax predator at work.
    I will also say I had a juvenile yellowfin that would eat out of my hand and was cute, though not cuddly.

  10. TBeck Says:

    I would like to extend a warm, non-Euclidean welcome to our cephalopod overlords.

  11. Tam Says:

    Posted for coolness value, one might say.

    It’s okay; I have a Cthulhu-shaped hole in my heart, too. He chewed it there. 😀

  12. Sigivald Says:

    Small problem: Cthulhu is not a cephalopod*.

    He** merely resembles one vaguely in a single aspect.

    (* Fun fact of the day. Cephalopod is not in the default Firefox spelling dictionary.

    ** Because in English, the masculine is the generic. Cthulhu is best considered genderless, on the available evidence.)

  13. Eric Wilner Says:

    So how do we know it was a self-portrait? Coulda been done by one of His servants, possibly a shoggoth of an artistic bent.

  14. LabRat Says:

    Yes, but the presumed self-portrait is only of a tentacle, and we know by description that Cthulhu definitely had those.

    I think the next step is to get in a long and wanky argument about the relative fossilizability of elder gods.

  15. Tam Says:

    I think the next step is to get in a long and wanky argument about the relative fossilizability of elder gods.

    I so totally <3 you!

  16. LabRat Says:

    <3 Mutual, dear.

    It could be a REALLY long and wanky argument, too. I mean, Cthulhu is described as "A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings". It sounds more or less bipedal when combined with the suggestion earlier in the description that it is somehow humanoid, but the pulpy cephalopod-like head suggests invertebrate while bipedality suggests vertebrate, or at least something with an internal skeleton. Are the scales fishlike, or in keeping with "dragonlike", crocodilian scutes? Those would fossilize beautifully. We can’t even count on a tetrapod body plan, so we have no clue whatsoever on wings.

    Then you can come along and point out that Great Lord Cthulhu rejects your restrictive phyla, and we’re back to square one again.

  17. Chas Clifton Says:

    Your fellow New Mexico blogger Peculiar (and I) got there first. 😉

  18. TBeck Says:

    Can something that never dies fossilize? We know the Elder Race that formerly inhabited Antarctica was capable of hibernation for millions of years, but they were not Great Old Ones. The Mi-Go exist in vacuum at near absolute zero (Yuggoth lacks an atmosphere, not even so much as a Chinese restaurant) while the Hounds of Tindalos are extra-dimensional so they don’t really count.

  19. Jack Says:

    Heh I got the same vibe from the ancient cephalopodic art.

    But I really like Kristopher’s idea. Elder sign indeed.

    Well, TBeck we haven’t found the body yet have we? Just some of the happy fellow’s art ;p

  20. LabRat Says:

    I only didn’t hat tip because I had no idea which of the three of you on my blogroll I’d seen it first at… the other being the fellow at Vox Michaeli. At that point I considered it Weird Westerner Common Knowledge.

  21. Kristopher Says:


    Did you find that here? :

  22. DaddyBear Says:

    LR, you just made my day.

  23. Kaerius Says:

    I dig the self-portrait angle. Cephalopods are quite intelligent for sure, and a very very large one could’ve been correspondingly smart, and self-aware.

    The shark vs octopus video has an insufferable commentator. Besides that, dogfish are small sharks, they’re the puppies of the sharkworld, with temperament to match(they’re inquisitive, but lose interest fairly quick). If you come across a pack of them, you can expect them to come over, check you out, and speed off again. They’re not particularly scared of divers.

    You can even pet them:

  24. Mousie762 Says:

    To me the dragonlike body always suggested some sort of internal support structure. What would it be made of though? Given that the door from which he emerged in R’lyeh was two miles high, and assuming that he vaguely matches the scale of the door, it would certainly not be calcified bone. The square-cube ratio would forbid it; his weight goes up with the cube of his height, his volume, but compressive strength of his bones and other components goes up with the cross-sectional area, the square.

    Assume that he has an approximately humanoid body as so often illustrated. Assume that he is 1.8 miles high, so he clears the door conveniently; ~2900 meters. Compare him with a 2-meter tall man. He would have weight 3×10-9 times greater than a man, but cross-sectional area only 2×10-6 greater. His “bones” need to be 1448 times stronger.

    Bone has a compressive strength of about 1700 Bar. Perfect, monomolecular diamond has a compressive strength on the 111 plane of about 4,100,000 Bar. That would be about 2412 times stronger, or 166% of the required strength.

    That would basically be a pretty perfect fossil already. Osmium would be better, and has even better compressive strength. But, he exploded (and then immediately began to reform) when rammed with a steamship. Diamond is weak along the exact right fracture planes, so that might explain how materials strong enough to get him two miles tall might be destroyed by ramming with a steamship; and perhaps he simply reforms along the nice, neat fracture planes of perfect diamond.

  25. Chas Clifton Says:

    Another science blogger asks, “What Triassic kraken??”.

  26. LabRat Says:

    Yeah, I figure Meyers is right. Still, it was a fun idea.

  27. pun the librarian Says:

    “To me the dragonlike body always suggested some sort of internal support structure.”

    I believe that description comes from someone looking at a cult object. It’s second or third-hand information at best and the object could be an anthropocentric view of the actual creature. Or like one band put it :

    God is good and God is great
    God’s a big invertebrate

  28. Cybrludite Says:

    We will worship great Cthulhu,
    running naked like a Zulu,
    then we’ll feed him Mr. Sulu,
    ’cause He’s good enough for me

  29. Steve Bodio Says:

    Re his structure: Darren Naish at Tetrapod Zoology told me years ago that the only reason that he has never blogged on Cthulhu is because he is not a tetrapod (would one say sextopod?)

  30. Sigivald Says:

    I think the next step is to get in a long and wanky argument about the relative fossilizability of elder gods.

    Challenge accepted*.

    (* Not really.)

  31. Squid Says:

    * Fun fact of the day. Cephalopod is not in the default Firefox spelling dictionary.

    Tell me about it, brother.

  32. Jack Says:

    Yeah and what does Firefox think it should be?



    Heh, LabRat I was pretty sure it was a coincidence, because of how many had posted on it.

    I mean it’s just too Lovecraftian to NOT comment on, right?

  33. Ted N(not the Nuge) Says:

    Well, I guess I’m not sleeping tonight anyway.

    I need to get my edumacation on, so I can play this game too. I know enough to follow along, but not enough to contribute. Me <3 sad me <3 cry. Me go find college counselor, get this shizzy started.

    Ia! Ia!

  34. Cowboy Blob Says:

    But do Balrogs have wings?

  35. TBeck Says:

    Blob, yes, they do.

  36. Azathoth Says:

    Great Cthulhu, being extra-dimensional, does not have ‘bones’ or ‘mass’ in the way humans can yet comprehend. The ‘stars being right’ are an indicator to beings limited as humans are, that the extra-planar spaces are in sync and It can once more move on this planet as the other >spaces< needed for this are extant.

    BTW, does anyone know where I might find those OWS organizers–I hear they can stop drum circles–perhaps they can do something about this incessant piping. It's driving Me mad.

  37. mikee Says:

    I just pray he will make me mad and take me first, so I can avoid the rush when he gets around to the rest of humanity that does not yet worship him fearfully.

  38. elmo iscariot Says:

    [I know I’m five days late to this party, which is, like, a year and a half in Internet time. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.]

    Compare him with a 2-meter tall man. He would have weight 3×10-9 times greater than a man, but cross-sectional area only 2×10-6 greater.

    I think it’s safe to say that Cthulhu shouldn’t be compared to a human for the purposes of estimating his mass. Note that he has wings, which couldn’t possibly work if he had humanlike density at that size. Their primary purpose is probably for interstellar flight, like a byakhee’s wings (for pushing off “the aether”, presumably a human-friendly abstraction of a concept we don’t have the knowledge to understand), as it’s taken for granted that he can travel between planets, but he still has to get out of a planet’s gravity to do so. Cthulhu is likely very light for his size.

    And we know that mythos creatures are not made only of matter as we know it. At least the Mi-go are described as having unprecedented physical properties:

    I have seen and touched one of the things, or part of one of the things…I tried to save it in the woodshed to convince people of the whole thing, but it all evaporated in a few hours. Nothing left. You know, all those things in the rivers were seen only on the first morning after the flood. And here’s the worst. I tried to photograph it for you, but when I developed the film there wasn’t anything visible except the woodshed. What can the thing have been made of? I saw it and felt it, and they all leave footprints. It was surely made of matter—but what kind of matter?

    Note that these are also large critters with an unlikely interplanetary flying ability.

    I suspect Cthulhu is made of an extremely light but very strong kind of matter unknown to humans. Given that the Mi-go are our only precedent, it’s probably best to assume similarity, as far as we’re prepared to assume anything. So I wouldn’t be too optimistic about finding any fossils.