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Monsters of the Deep

1 Apr 2023 - 19 Nov 2023

Legends, Folklore and modern day science combined decide what lies beneath



Explore the centuries-old myths and legends, when chance sightings and odd appearances led to tall tales of deep sea creatures. Learn how, even today, these stories continue to capture imaginations, fuelled by fake news and conspiracy theories.

Become a 19th century pioneer scientist aboard HMS Challenger and advance our understanding of the sea. Handle real objects, try out the microscopes and understand what it felt like to be an explorer aboard a floating laboratory.

Progress to the modern day and discover how today’s scientists explore the seas aboard submersibles, going deeper and further into uncharted waters. Get lost amongst specially selected specimens, the real monsters of the deep – more beautiful and fantastical than any of us could have imagined.

“This is a show to plumb the imagination. For the adults it might be almost as philosophical as it is fun for the kids … I took two 11-year-olds along and the pair of them couldn’t talk about anything else for the entire journey home.” The Times

Monsters of the Deep has been curated by National Maritime Museum Cornwall, in partnership with Arts Council England.


Admission to Monsters of the Deep is FREE as part of an entry ticket to The Historic Dockyard.

Top 6 reasons to visit Monsters of the Deep

1. Come face to face with a kraken

Before you even set foot into the Monsters of the Deep exhibition you’re confronted with the looming eye of a terrifying monster. Are you brave enough to walk past the beast?

2. Enter the medieval mind

Enter the mind of our ancestors and discover why they believed sea monsters are real. The skeleton of a killer whale and the skull of a fin whale provide all the evidence they would have needed to explain the existence of strange and other worldly monsters.

3. Uncover internationally important objects

From the most intricately detailed celestial globes, the 15th century Hortus Sanitatis and items from the actual HMS Challenger voyage, Monsters of the Deep is crammed with objects that are influential and significant to our understanding of the natural world.

4. Discover mermaids

Roll up, roll up, roll up – head inside the sideshow and discover a magical mermaid. See how the skeleton of a manatee, with its long, delicate fin bones, led people into believing in mermaids. Learn how monsters pop up in Royal Naval traditions and the local legends of the River Medway.

5. Delve into modern day deep sea discovery

We couldn’t discuss modern day deep sea discovery without mentioning Boaty McBoatface – whilst the real Boaty is being used to carry out important research a replica is on display here. Explore the most important modern day discoveries, all contrasted with the story of the Crytozoologists, a group of people who firmly believe in the existence of sea monsters.

6. Meet the real monsters of the deep

On top of colourful bubbling tubes sit 12 exciting but gruesome specimens – it is here you’ll meet the real Monsters of the Deep.

With thanks to


And our lenders:

National Maritime Museum Cornwall

National Oceanographic Centre

The Challenger Society for Marine Science

Royal Museums Greenwich

Science Museum Group

University of Cambridge Library

The British Library

The Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust, Brighton & Hove

Toulouse Museum of Natural History

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

UK Research and Innovation

Leeds Museums and Galleries

The Royal Engineers Museum

Whitstable Community Museum and Gallery

The Guildhall Museum Rochester

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