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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, October 15, 2009

MUIRHEAD'S MYSTERIES: Mylodons in New Zealand? Surely not!

Richard Muirhead is an old friend of the CFZ. I have been friends with him for 40 years now, since we were kids together in Hong Kong. He is undoubtedly one of the two best researchers I have ever met; he and Nigel Wright both have what Charlie Fort would have no doubt called a wild talent: a talent for going into a library, unearthing a stack of old newspapers, and coming back with some hitherto overlooked gem of arcane knowledge. Twice a week he wanders into the Macclesfield Public Library and comes out with enough material for a blog post.

Dear folks,

No, you are not hallucinating and no, it isn`t April 1st. Whilst reading Gavin Menzies`s book 1421: The Year China Discovered The World (2002), which I mentioned in conjunction with a giant tortoise in Hong Kong, I came across comments about once-living mylodons in New Zealand!! The following is a copy of the notes I made about a year ago on this subject:

(This is the reason I made enquiries about New Zealand cryptozoologists in my blog the other day.)

`Several years ago…I made an interesting discovery, which may be relevant to the history of New Zealand`s fauna. Menzies`s theory is that huge Chinese vessels set forth from their home to reach much of the world, including South America and New Zealand via the east coast of Australia. Menzies says `The Chinese would have had to claw their way back against the current;[in the Tasman Sea] as they did so, at least two of the great treasure ships were lost. The wreck of an old wooden ship was found two centuries ago at Dusky Sound in Fjordland at the south-west tip of South Island. “It was said to be very old and of Chinese build and to have been “there before Cook” according to the local people.(1)

This Chinese voyage would have taken place c.1421

Furthermore : “Even more bizarre was a story,also reported to Collector of Customs in Sydney when the Sydney Packet returned home in 1831. One of the ship`s gangs which had been stationed in Dusky Sound told of the discovery of an enormous animal of the kangaroo species.

The men had been boating in a cove in some quiet part of the inlet where the rocks shelved from the water`s edge up to the bushline. Looking up they saw a strange animal percing at the edge of the bush and nibbling the foliage. It stood on its hind legs, the lower part of its body curving to a thick pointed tail,and when they took note of the height it reached against the trees,allowing a metre and a half for the tail,they estimated it stood nearly nine metres in height! The men were to windward of the animal and were able to watch it feeding for some time before it spotted them. They watched it pull down a heavy branch with comparative ease, turn it over and tilt it up to reach the leaves it wanted. When it finally saw them, the animal stood watching the men for a short time, then made one almighty leap from the edge of the bush towards the water`s edge. There it landed on all fours but immediately stood erect before making another great leap into the water. The men were able to measure the first jump and found it covered eighteen metres. They watched the animal plough its way down the Sound at tremendous speed, its wake extending from one side of the Sound to the other. (2)

Menzies, commenting on this, says, “The animal described corresponds in size, posture and eating habits with the mylodons the Chinese could have taken aboard in Patagonia. Perhaps a pair escaped from the wreck, survived and bred in similar conditions to their home territories in Patagonia-the latitudes are the same. Sea-otters, which are not indigenous to New Zealand but, of course, were kept in the Chinese junks to herd fish, have been seen swimming in the fjords of South Island. (3)

Forty three years later,the Otago Witness reported on `Notes of the Luna`s trip.` on April 11th 1874, thus:

There are two things, however, mentioned by Cook on which little reliance can be placed. One of these is that the sailors reported seeing a four-footed quadruped, with a bushy tail,in the bush, and from this statement of the sailors Cook concluded that there were land mammals at Dusky Bay. What this animal the sailors saw was, I know not.(4) Cook visited New Zealand in 1772. So if Menzies is to be believed, mylodons were supposed to have survived in New Zealand at least 351 years between 1421 and 1772,not to mention up to at least 1831.

Part two will examine his claims of living mylodons further, otters on South Island, New Zealand, and other alleged animal travels from China`s vessels to other parts of the world.

1.R.Gossett New Zealand Mysteries (1996) p.31

2. R.Gossett Ibid. pp148-149

3. G.Menzies 1421 The Year China Discovered The World (2002) p.173

4.Otago witness Issue 1167 11 April 11 1874 p.10

4 comments:

Dale Drinnon said...

Ground sloths were not leaping animals, and a leap of 18 meters is almost unheard-of even for a large kangaroo (that's sixty feet)

I would prefer some kind of a giant kangaroo to the ground sloth on that basis, but the whole story sounds a bit off to me. I will be glad to hear more. So far as I know there was some mention of some kind of unidentified "Wild pig or a cow" in Maori lore as well as what sounds like traditional descriptions of sheep and wolves.

Gary said...

Didn't know how to contact you other than by posting a comment - any idea what this is: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_P09jpHp5b_U/StYkzHyLdBI/AAAAAAAACHU/79gc60imlfM/s320/seaton2.jpg

Nothing wrong with Europe '72 either - I saw The Dead on that tour.
cheers
Gary

Chris Clark said...

Some confusion between feet and metres surely? I can believe in a nine foot mylodon, but at nine metres it would be the biggest land mammal that ever lived.

Tilmeeth said...

I concur with Dale. Besides, weren't mylodons only found in the Americas?