Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Where do we go from Here? Is it down to the lake I fear? fa-fa-fa-fa......

Curiouser and curiouser......

When I wrote the last blog entry a week or so ago, the Lake Windermere investigation was still in its infancy, but if - as Harold Wilson is supposed to have said - a week is a long time in politics, then it can be a bloody long time in cryptozoology! It's one of the weirdest things about this business that something is always afoot!

I have always wanted to use the stupid analogy of London buses with cryptozoology; that you wait for ages for one to turn up, and then shed-loads of unknown animals crawl out of the woodwork at times. But that just ain't so! Since the internet made truly global and almost instantaeneous communication a reality, rather than part of one of Arthur C Clarke's pipe dreams, we receive more information on the subject of unknown animals than we know what to do with. Practically every day something gets reported to us, and it is sometimes a very real temptation to get blase about it all. However the vast majority of these reports are from far-flung parts of the world, and in most of these cases we can do little but post the news on our forum, and file it away in our every expanding archive.

Of course, we do have a fighting fund, so that if we are overtaken by events we can fly off at a moment's notice to investigate somethig, but on the whole our foreign trips take some months to organise, and I will admit that it is one of my enduring paranoias that one of these days something will happen that will force us to organise a foreign trip on a moment's notice.

There have been several occasions in the past few years when we have had to mobilise as a `rapid response team` in order to investigate a UK based mystery. The most notable were Martin Mere (2002), Bolam Lake (2003) and the Cannock Crocodile (2003), but I have a sneaking suspicion that the events that are rapidly unfolding on Lake Windermere are going to knock all of the above into a cocked hat.

Our appeal in the Westmoreland Gazette was an overwhelming success.We have now received six witness statements which appear to be of large eels in the lake - what's more; they stretch back over the last half century, so although there is no canonical history of lake monster sightings per se in the Lake District, it does seem that there is a very real mystery to investigate. The most interesting thing about these reports is that not only do they cover a long time frame, but some of them are unquestionably reports of eels, but eels considerably larger than any that are accepted by ichthyologists at the present day. If we can catch or photograph one of these - even if it isn't the monstrous 10-15 footer that was reported by three separate witnesses in July, we are - in my humble opinion - well on our way to proving our big eel hypothesis as an explanation for the animals reported in monster-haunted lakes all across the northern hemisphere.

I waxed lyrical on this subject nearly a year ago after Richard's and my short trip to Loch Ness last November. I quote:

"The European eel (Anguillia anguilla) lives in freshwater until it reaches sexual maturity when the reproductive imperative kicks in and the elongate fish swim down to the sea where (according to most sources) they cannot feed, and swim down to the Sargasso Sea in the South Atlantic where they mate, spawn and die. The larval eels (known as leptocephelae)are the shape of leaves and about the size of a little fingernail. They sweim up the Atlantic to coastal waters where they metamorphose into tiny eels called elvers. These swim up the rivers and the cycle begins again. Howeverr, it has been suggested that occasionally an elver becomes sterile, and so when its peers have attained a length of 4-6 feet and sexual maturity, the biological imperative does not kick in and the eunuch eel (as theyhave been dubbed) stay in freshwater and continue to grow.

This is partly hypothesis, but it makes a fair amount of sense and would certainly explain some of the lake monster sightings which have taken place across the northern hemisphere. For years one of the main stumbling blocks for a viable population of giant animals living in any of the monster-haunted lakes (with the possible exception of Lake Okanagan in Canada, and some of the lesser known lakes in Siberia and Tibet), is the sheer lack of biomass in the waters. There just simply isn't enough food to support them. Another problem is thatthe prehistoric giant reptiles were all e=air breathers, and would have to surface to breathe, and presumably come onto land to breed. There are just simply not enough sightings of these creatures to support such a hypothesis.If, however, our hypothesis is true then we can scratch both of these objections immediately: They obtain their oxygen from the water, and they are occasional visitors or mutations rather than an unknown species of animal."

So there you have it. A small expeditionary force from the CFZ, which will include Me and Richard, and two or three others will be going up to Windermere in the second week of October, and once again the game is afoot.

I am just wondering whether I should insist that everyone reads at least one Arthur Ransome book before we go...