Often interpreted in other editions as SEA-MELS (Seamew):
A list of possibilities:
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, Barge rousse;
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, Tadorne de Belon;
Red-Breasted Merganser Mergus serrator, Harle huppé;
Common Gull Larus canus, Goéland cendré;
Bermuda Petrel Pterodroma cahow, Pétrel des Bermudes.
TMP 2 2 172 Young scamels from the rock. Wilt thou go with me?
In The Tempest, among the island's products which Caliban offers to show to Trinculo there are "Young scamels from the rock." (2 2 72). It is difficult to know exactly what these "young scamels"are.
Frank KERMODE lists different possibilities in a footnote of the Arden Tempest:
Although scamel is not recorded elsewhere as a literary word, it appears in Wright's Dialect Dictionary, where it is described as a "bar-tailed godwit". OED does not give much credit to this entry. W.A. Osborne (MLR, xx 73) says that the variants scameler and scamler are used in N. Ireland and Scotland of sheldrakes and "even mergansers". It is known that the travellers preferred to give to foreign fauna the names of similar species familiar at home. [...] the context calls to mind Strachey's description of native methods of bird-catching on the rocks.
In Appendix A, KERMODE gives extracts from one of Shakespeare's sources for The Tempest, STRACHEY's True Reportery of the Wracke (Purchas His Pilgrimes, xix 5-72, p. 138)). An explanation may lie in the following extract:
A kinde of webbe-footed Fowle there is, of the bignesse of an English greene Plover, or Sea-Meawe, which all the summer we saw not... Their colour is inclining to Russet, with white bellies (as are likewise the long Feathers of their wings Russet and White) these gather themselves together and breed in those ilands which are high, and so farre alone into the Sea, that the Wilde Hogges cannot swimme over them and there in the ground they have their Burrowes, like Conyes in a Warren, and so brought [?wrought] in the loose Mould, though not so deepe: which Birds with a light bough in a darke night (as in our Lowbelling) wee caught. I have beene at the taking of three hundred in an houre, and wee might have laden our Boates. Our men found a prettie way to take them, which was by standing on the Rockes or Sands by the Sea side, and hollowing, laughing, and making the strangest outcry that possibly they could [...].
From this detailed description it is possible to say that these birds must belong to a species of Petrel. The Petrels are pelagic birds that come at night to remote islands to breed in burrows. They are therefore very sensitive to light at that moment, so that it is easy to catch them.
This mention of scamel in The Tempest is over-determined. Shakespeare must have been attracted by the exotic nature of these remote island birds. Everything over there is different and yet in a way the same, so why not using the name of seamew mentioned by Strachey and modify it in order to add a touch of exoticism? Given KERMODE's remark that "it is known that the travellers preferred to give to foreign fauna the names of similar species familiar at home", this would indeed seem a logical conclusion. Furthermore the technique devised by the sailors to catch these birds included making an awful row: precisely what Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban are doing since they are drunk and singing.