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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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Friday, February 06, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER GLEN VAUDREY: Jellyfish japes

Glen is a very new recruit to Planet CFZ. Indeed, we had never heard from him until a few months ago when he wrote - slightly diffidently - to us, asking whether he could write a volume in our ongoing series The Mystery Animals of The British Isles. We asked him for a proposed synopsis and a sample of his writing, and were overawed by what we received. Here was a man who loved both words and the countryside, and could use one to describe the other in poetic but always down to earth terms. We were beginning to come to the conclusion that here was someone that Bob Marley would have described as a `Natural Mystic`, when the final manuscript arrived, and we knew that we were right. So we asked him to be a guest blogger..

But I’m not really thinking of swarms of little jellyfish, I’m not even considering big jellyfish, I’m thinking about those giant jellyfish that have occasionally been sighted.

There is, let’s face it, something so alien about the jellyfish that makes it hard to empathise or to make a connection with. Just consider, the fearsome mysterious big cat the Mngwa which hails from Tanzania might reach the size of a donkey but it did actually start its life as a rather cuddly kitten, and even the monster phantom black hell hounds that are rumoured still to plod along lonely country lanes at some stage would have been lovely little puppies, even if in their case they would posses cute blazing red eyes.

But jellyfish don’t go through that cute and cuddly phase, no big eyes staring up at you lovingly just a tentacle-waving lump. While they might start off small miniatures of their adult selves some have a fair bit of growing to do especially if they are destined to be a dirty great big man-eating leviathan.

In 1865 a lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) was recorded in Massachusetts bay as having a bell of seven feet in diameter with a fine set of tentacles measuring up to 120 feet in length, now I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to be in the sea when that one went by, and thinking about it it might take a while for it to actually go by.

But there are tales of even bigger jellyfish out there, a sighting made by two skin divers off the coast of Bermuda, Pat Boatwright and Richard Winer claimed to have observed a giant jellyfish swimming beneath them. They would later give a description of a very large jellyfish having a pink and purple bell that they estimated to be between 50 and 100 foot in diameter.

On other occasions the jellyfish isn’t below you, sometimes it lands on you! Such was the case in 1973 when a jellyfish landed on the deck of the 1,483 ton ship the Kuranda during a storm as it was sailing between Australia and Fiji. The Kuranda’s Captain, Langley Smith, described how after crashing through a large wave the receding water left behind an unwelcome present, a giant jellyfish.

He estimated it to have a weight of around 20 tons and it had ended up spread across the deck to a depth of two feet, if that wasn’t bad enough it also possessed a fine set of tentacles that the good captain believed would have stretch in excess of 200 feet. It would in the end take a water jet from a salvage tug to shift this great lump off the Kuranda.

If all these sighting weren’t bad enough what are we to make of the tale told of a French fisherman going by the name of Henri Baiselle who claimed that a giant jellyfish the size of a car ate not only his wife but his two children in the Bay of Biscay.

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