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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.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: EXCLUSIVE! A HITHERTO OVERLOOKED SEA MONSTER OFF ALASKA-1903

I have recently come across a highly interesting and useful web-based archive of American newspapers http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/newspapers/ which has enabled me, in the last few days to find a number of 'new' cryptozoological reports, namely on flying snakes in N. America, which I have passed onto Nick Sucik, probably the world`s leading authority on flying snakes. I also found today`s report on some kind of sea monster, which attacked rorqual whales near Admiraly (i.e. Admiralty) Island near Alaska in the summer of 1903.

I spoke to Dr Darren Naish on the evening of December 28th and he couldn`t identify the creature. He suggested I look at There are Giants in The Sea by Michael Bright but it wasn`t mentioned in that book either. Whatever it was, it used a huge 'club' to attack the rorquals. Darren suggested it could be mating activity, the club being the male`s penis or a giant squid. I used the phrase 'strange creature' when I used the search facility.

ENEMY OF WHALES

Strange Creatures Said to Exist in Alascan [sic] Waters

While operating a fishery on Admiraly [sic] Island, Alaska, last summer, says a writer, my attention and the attention of my fishing crew was almost daily attracted to a large marine creature that would appear in the main channel of Seymour canal and our immediate vicinity. There are large numbers of whales of the species rorqual there, and the monster seemed to be their natural enemy. The whales generally travel in schools, and while at the surface to blow on would be singled out and attacked by the fish, and a battle was soon in order.

It is the nature of the rorqual to make three blows at intervals of from two to three minutes each, and then sound deep and stay beneath the surface for 30 to 40 minutes. As a whale would come to the surface, there would appear always at the whale’s right side and just above where his head would connect with the body, a great, long tail or fin, “judged by five fishermen and a number of Indians after seeing about 15 times at various distances,” to be about 24 feet long, 2½ feet wide at the end, and tapering down to the water, when it seemed to be about 18 inches in diameter, looking very much like the blade of the fan of an old-fashioned Dutch windmill.

The great club was used on the back of the unfortunate whale in such a manner that it was a wonder to me that every whale attacked was not instantly killed. Its operator seemed to have perfect control of its movements, and would bend it back till the end would touch the water forming a horseshoe loop, then with a sweep it would be straightened and brought over and down on the back of the whale with a whack that could be heard for several miles. If the whale was fortunate enough to submerge his body before the blows came, the spray would fly to a distance of 100 feet from the effect of the strike, making a report as loud as a yacht’s signal gun.

What seemed most remarkable to me was that no matter which way the attacked whale went, or how fast (the usual speed is about 14 knots) that great club would follow right along by its side and deliver these tremendous blows at intervals of about four or five seconds. It would always get in from three to five blown at each of the three times the whale would come to the surface to blow. The whale would generally rid itself of the enemy when it took its deep sound, especially if the water was 40 fathoms or more deep. During the day the attack was always off shore, but at night the whales would be attacked in the bay and within 400 yards of the fishery.

“I do not know of any whales being killed, but there were several that had great holes and sores on their backs. Questioning the Indians about it, I was told that there was only one, that it had been there for many years, and that it once attacked an Indian canoe and with one stroke of the great club smashed the canoe into splinters, killing and drowning several of its occupants."

I found this story in the Leavenworth Echo, Leavenworth, Washington, January 30th 1914: Petrified Animal in Mine. A petrified body,apparently that of a seal, was found at a depth of 176 feet in a mine at Carthage, Mo. The head resembles that of a calf, but the body is shaped like a seal. The strange creature is now on exhibition in Carthage. (2)


It would be interesting to see if the age of the 'seal' and the age of the mine strata coincided.

(1) The Falls City Tribune. January 22nd 1904.(Falls City,Nebraska)
(2) Leavenworth Echo January 30th 1914.

Talking Heads-Life During Wartime.

Heard of a van that is loaded with weapons
Packed up and ready to go
Heard of some gravesites,out by the highway,
A place where nobody knows
The sound of gunfire,off in the distance,
I`m getting used to it now
Lived in a brownstone,lived in a ghetto,
I`ve lived all over this town,…

2 comments:

Dale Drinnon said...

Any chance that big fin would belong to a humpback whale? The size could be misjudged as well as the interpretation of the action going on could be.

Max Blake said...

Male humpbacks are known to slap one another with their pectoral flippers. The huge flipper size (5m maximum) gives them their genus name, _Megaptera_, meaning giant wing. It is a common rorqual, so it could be the species of rorqual seen by the witness. Alaska is also within the species' range.