Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The "Nemesis" Sea Serpent of 1900

     In In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents, Bernard Heuvelmans mentioned two alleged sea serpent sightings reported in The Wide World Magazine which he declared to be bogus. One was the Tresco sighting, which  I dealt with in my October post. The second was described on p 366 of his book.
     I shall therefore deal only very briefly with the dramatic tale of Captain Laurence Thomson of the steamer Nemesis published in Wide World Magazine, which specialized in 'true adventure' stories. In 1900 he saw what he called a sea-serpent off Cape Naturaliste. There is a photograph of the sailor and his ship to convince us they existed - but one still cannot believe in the truth of his story for a moment, nor in the drawing in the magazine. It was a rubbery worm-like animal some 300 feet long and 3 feet in diameter, which rose out of the water in three huge arches in a way that was both mechanically and dynamically utterly impossible. In front of these arches a head rose on the end of a long neck, and on the spine was a sort of high soft fin that could fold up like a parasol.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

More Forgotten Sea Serpent Sightings

    Pity poor Dr Bernard Heuvelmans! He wrote In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents before the advent of the internet, which means he had to carefully cull bits and pieces of information from the far corners of the world, squirreled away in obscure newspapers and magazines, often having to rely on brief summaries in secondary sources. These days, at least in Australia, you will find the vast majority of newspapers, even minor local ones, digitalised on Trove to at least 1955. This means that a some casual references made by Heuvelmans can be investigated in more details. Let's try a few.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The "Tresco" Sea Serpent of 1903

      On pages 368 - 369 of In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents, Bernard Heuvelmans describes the sea serpent allegedly seen by the crew of the Tresco near Cape Hatteras in 1903. His opinion was that the story "reaches the peak of fantasy", and I have to admit that, from the summary provided, it did seem to suffer from credibility problems. Nevertheless, one always wishes to refer to the original document, which was cited as the October 1903 issue of The Wide World Magazine. Now, The Wide World was a monthly magazine in which members of the public related their own adventures in various parts of the world. It was a requirement of publication that they certify that the story was true in all particulars and, in most cases, I suspect they were. Most of them lacked the normal structure of fiction - the beginning, middle, and end - and had the air of truth about them. Just the same, there was no method of confirmation, and a number of hoaxes certainly did make their appearances in its pages.
     I have been an avid fan of The Wide World ever since I was introduced to it as a boy, and have collected every edition I could lay my hands on. Regrettably, this includes only a couple before World War II. Then, a couple of months ago, a light bulb went off in my head. The Internet Archive contains a number of the early bound editions, including volume 12, where the relevant article appears on pages 147-155. I would really like to introduce you to this wonderful magazine, and I would seriously suggest that you read it. But for those who lack either the time or the inclination, I shall publish the article here.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Another Queensland "Black Panther"

     At last! People are using the "How to report a sighting" function at the top of this blog. On Saturday 15 August this year I received an e-mail form Mark and Bronwyn (Bronnie) Welbeloved [4 syllables] about an experience they had six days before. The site was just outside the Cordalba State Forest, a reserve of 11,000 hectares [about 27,000 acres, or 42½ square miles] which, as the name implies, lies just west of the village of Cordalba. The latter is situated at 25° 10' S, 152° 13' E, and the site itself would have been somewhat to the north of that. The nearest significant town is Childers, to the south. As is appropriate, they each wrote a separate account.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Up de Graff and the Giant Anacondas

     The green anaconda, Eunectes murinus, the great water boa of the Amazon, is the heaviest, and one of the longest snakes in the world, but how long does it grow? It certainly reaches 20 feet [6.1 m], although the vast majority are shorter. Any individuals longer than that are officially unconfirmed but, since they grow throughout life, and since every species contains freakishly large individuals, we should not doubt their existence. It is the truly gigantic forms which remain controversial. Perhaps it is natural for the white man to project onto the hostile wilderness monsters two or three times the known maximum (though we never hear of 30 foot long alligators). However, the fact that the Indians also tell of them might give us pause for thought. Percy Fawcett, we know, claims to have shot and measured (? by pacing it) an anaconda 62 feet [18.9 m] in length. So, either he was a bare-faced liar, or there really are such monsters out there.
     With this in mind, and since the aim of this blog is to rescue reports which may have got lost, I should like to share with you a record which, until now, appears to have been largely overlooked.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Barcelona Satyr, 1760

     A couple of months ago I published a translation of Michel Raynal's article on the legendary "wild man of the Pyrenees". This time, I shall follow it up with a translation of a follow-up article by the same author of the possible capture of such a creature in the mid-18th century. The original article is entitled, Une figuration de l'homme sauvage dans les Pyrénées? and it was published in Bipedia 4, 1990, pp 16-18, the original of which can be found here.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Journal of Cryptozoology, Volume 3

     Volume 3 of The Journal of Cryptozoology is now out, containing 97 pages, compared to 80 for the second volume and 62 for the first. The reason I have chosen to depict the rear cover is that because it is more interesting than the regular boring front cover, and by now you will have probably guessed that the contents involve ducks and dinosaurs. As in previous issues, the five papers are all of scientific journal quality, but it is interesting to note that none of the contributors cites a scientific establishment as an address. So what does this say about cryptozoology - that it is dominated by amateurs, or that it is dangerous for professionals to be associated with it?

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Mysterious Big Birds

I have posted this essay on my Anomalies blog because, although there are a lot of reports of "thunderbirds", these specific accounts contain elements of weirdness which suggest there might be more than just a mystery animal species involved.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The Wild Man of the Pyrenees

     This is my 50th post, and it appears I shall have to go back to translating, because I have run out of English language material. It seems only yesterday, but in reality it was a quarter century ago that Michel Raynal sent me his paper, in French, about the alleged "wild man of the Pyrenees". In effect, it is a local form of a legend which extends throughout Europe, and which used to be portrayed in pageants, and on the façades of churches and other public buildings, not to mention coats of arms. In English the term was wose or woodwose, from which the surname, Wodehouse derived. Classically, the wild man was conceived as solitary, hairy, speechless, and armed with a wooden club. Whether the idea related back to anything substantial is an open question. After all, the same people believed in the little people: fairies, elves, call them what you like. There is only a limited number of variations on the human form which the imagination can call upon to populate the local area. Very small humans is one variety, and another is the beast-man, who bridges the conceptional gap between humans and the natural world. Just the same, there is good evidence for similar such creatures in the Caucasus, so it cannot be ruled out that they once extended deep into the primeval heart of Europe, where they left residues on the collective memory.
     M. Raynal's paper was entitled, L'homme sauvage dans les Pyrénées et la survivance des néanderthaliens, and was published in an obscure journal, Bipedia, vol 3 (1989), pp 1-16. The original can be found here and, if you wish, you can use the "translate" facility to compare a human translation to a computer driven one.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Lake Monsters - What They Aren't

     They see them here, they see them there; they are - lake monsters. Now, far be it for me to reject or endorse every lake monster report, or to suggest that all of them, in every lake, belong to the same species. However, it might be an idea to consider some of the proposed explanations. For this, we could start with two propositions:
  1. It is far more likely they belong to a known group supposedly extinct than something which nobody has every heard of.
  2. They are part of the larger "sea serpent" phenomenon. The rule of parsimony would suggest that it is more likely that some unknown animals from the high seas have managed to get into freshwater lakes than that the sea serpents and lake monsters are two completely different phenomena. However, their presence in an enclosed lake raises issues not present in the open sea, as we shall see.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Footprints in the Sand

     I am not a footprint aficionado. They are hard enough to interpret at the best of times. Perhaps I am being unfair, for they have their use in cryptozoology. Several times I have seen a photo or sketch of a print left by an alleged "tiger", and recognized it immediately as having been made by a big dog. But the reverse is not the case. Although I have been shown prints which certainly looked like they came from a big cat, in no case could I be sure that they had been made by such a creature. Robert Downing and Virginia Fifield, who had been following "cougar" reports from the eastern U.S. for years, claimed that anybody who wanted to be able to distinguish dog tracks from those of "cougars" needed to first of all examine several thousand tracks of dogs of different breeds, under different conditions.
     In the Queensland Museum, Dr Ralph Molnar once showed me a cast of a footprint that was beyond weird. It was long and thin, with a groove down the middle. But apart from a couple of small side claws, the truly astonishing feature was the pair of huge, central clawed digits which bent downwards at a vertical angle of almost 90 degrees. It was hard to see how any animal could walk that way. Yet the explanation was simple: it belonged to a wallaby. Wallabies and kangaroos do not always hop; over short distances they walk, the large hindfeet moving in unison, and the smaller forepaws being extended for support. Often, particularly over difficult terrain, the hindfeet are placed right next to each other. This is what happened in the above case, making it appear a single footprint, and the long central toe of each foot bent vertically down to gain purchase, because it was travelling through mud. I have also been caught out in another case, where a wallaby's combined hindfeet produced a composite, apparently single footprint. Moral of the story: the simple explanation is more likely to be the case.
     With this in mind, I'd like to share some clippings Dr Molnar gave me of The Brisbane Courier  of 1918. They refer to footprints discovered on Stradbroke Island, one of the large sand islands which guard the approach of Moreton Bay, east of Brisbane.

Friday, 6 February 2015

More on the Queensland Marsupial Tiger

     The last I heard of Dr Ralph Molnar, he was looking for dinosaur bones in America, but during the 1990s he was the official Queensland Museum palaeontologist. He was also the one staff member with an active interest in cryptozoology. Thus, after he had read my book, he contacted me, and was kind enough to provide me with photocopies of his large collection of newspaper articles on the subject. Looking back through them, I was pleased to note that some of them were follow-ons from the Great North Queensland Tiger Hunt of 1923.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

"The Tasmanian Tiger: Extinct or Extant?" - a Review

Rebecca Lang (editor)(2014), The Tasmanian Tiger: Extinct or Extant?", Strange Nation Publishing, available from Amazon and other online booksellers.
     As I pointed out in an earlier post, the extinction of various bandicoots and wallabies, not to mention those species which are holding on to the edge of the precipice by their little claws, has failed to register on most Australians, but the loss of the Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, has really touched a raw nerve.
     Now, Rebecca Lang, co-author of Australian Big Cats and co-founder of Strange Nation Publishing, has assembled an array of contributors to express their opinion as to whether this iconic marsupial is now completely extinct, or whether it still clings to existence in some place or other.
     And since it appears to have been taken for granted that I would end up writing a review, I suppose I had better make two things clear from the beginning:
     First disclaimer: I am one of the contributors.
     Second disclaimer: I know the editor and some of the contributors, and those I don't know I nevertheless respect. However, a reviewer should, ideally, attempt to be completely objective - indeed, brutally honest. That sounds like a good way to lose friends and make enemies, and I now understand how some professionals, working in a very limited field, end up getting an easy run through the peer review process. With all this in mind, let us continue.

The Possum Book

I am pleased to provide a link to a website of a friend of mine, Robyn Tracey, who has written a fascinating story about her dealings with brush-tailed possums in the outer suburbs of Sydney. You can download the book for free, or read it on the site. Go to: The Possum Book.

Blog Archive

Labels

Followers