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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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Thursday, September 10, 2009

LINDSAY SELBY: The Norfolk sea serpent?



A sea serpent reported to be up to 60ft in length and very fast moving has been sighted at least four times off the coast of Norfolk. The descriptions evoke classic sea-serpent characteristics of small head, long slim body and diamond-shaped frill along the back.

The earliest written report appeared in The Gentleman's Magazine in their December 1750 issue:

"The creature was about five feet long from what could be viewed of it above the water, with a head like a dog and a beard like a lion. The skin was spotted like that of a leopard. It passed in a leisurely fashion, finally disappearing beneath the waves to the great amazement of all those watching from the shore..."

In the mid-1800s there were more accounts of "a creature with a head such as a serpent might have with humps behind."

There is a well documented account about the reported sighting by the daughter of Sir Henry Rider Haggard, the author, who owned Kessingland Grange in Norfolk. Rider Haggard was working on a novel at his home in Ditchingham, when he received the following letter from his daughter Lilias, dated 20th July 1912:

"We had a great excitement here this evening, and we are convinced we saw a sea serpent! I happened to look up when I was sitting on the lawn, and saw what looked like a thin, dark line with a blob at one end, shooting through the water at such a terrific speed it hardly seemed likely that anything alive could go at such a pace. It was some way out over the sandbank, and travelling parallel with the shore. I tore into the morning room and got the glasses and though it had at that moment nearly vanished in the distance we could make out it had a sort of head at one end and then a series of about 30 pointed blobs which dwindled in size as they neared the tail. As it went along it seemed to get more and more submerged and then vanished. You can't imagine the pace it was going. I suppose it was about 60 feet long."

Rider Haggard went to Kessingland Grange and his daughter’s story was confirmed by the cook and the gardener. Rider Haggard decided to write to the Eastern Daily Press to tell the story and seek further information. On Wednesday 24th July 1912 the paper duly printed the original letter from Lilias to her famous father, together with this note from Rider Haggard himself asking for some clarification or further information. However, none was forthcoming.

In August 1923 a survey ship, H. M. S. Kellett, was taking observations off the Norfolk coast when Captain F. E. B. Haselfoot and the navigator Lt Commander R. M. Southern observed something strange. Captain Haselfoot wrote:

"The time was about 9am. It was a summer day and the weather was calm and clear. I am not sure whether the sun was actually shining. I then observed rising out of the water about 200 yards from the ship, a long, serpentine neck, projecting from six or seven feet above the water. I observed this neck rising out of the water twice, and it remained up, in each case, for four or five seconds. Viewing with the naked eye only, I could not make out precisely what the head was like."

In July 1978 a holidaymaker walking on Kessingland beach was moved to write (although he asked to remain anonymous) to the East Anglian Magazine:

"The sea was quite calm when my attention was suddenly drawn to what I can only say looked like the head of a seal on a long neck sticking up out of the water. There seemed to be some humps behind the head, but the creature only remained visible for a matter of a few seconds before diving beneath the surface. I would be inclined to think that I had imagined everything if I had not read the story of the Kessingland Sea Serpent."

There appear to be no other recent sightings. However, in the 1978 sighting by the anonymous man, he does state he knew about the story, which means it could have influenced what he saw. The men on the ship, however, if they were seasoned sailors, would surely have recognised any known sea creature, yet did not recognise this one. It does sound like a ribbon fish, except ribbon fish do not swim like that and do not hold their heads out of the water. Another interesting story to ponder over.

1 comment:

Sally Barnes said...

Can I just point out that Kessingland is in Suffolk, not Norfolk? With all the access to Google and Maps we have now, you'd think someone would pick up on it... ;)