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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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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SUPER EELS

The Great Sea Serpent is surely one of the greatest enigmas of zoology. For as long as men have ventured out to sea there have been stories of sea monsters, and in 1968 the renowned Belgian zoologist Professor Bernard Heuvelmans wrote a classic book; In the Wake of the Sea Serpent on the subject. His thesis was that there was no single species of unknown animal responsible for the plethora of sea serpent reports. Instead, he suggested, there were at least eight unknown species of serpentine animal living in the world`s oceans. He hypothesised five unknown giant marine mammals, two unknown species of giant marine reptile and two new species of giant fish.
I had the privelige of knowing Bernard for ten years or so before his death last year and he was a fine zoologist. Recent advances in palaentology have cast doubts on some of his theorising, but is certain that he was spot on with at least one of his eight theorised sea serpent species.

Heuvelmans described how many of these mysterious creatures looked like gigantic eels, and he dubbed them `Super Eels`. He suggested that they may not all be of a single species, or indeed even belong to a single genus. However, there seems little doubt that such giant angilliformes do, indeed exist.

One of the most famous encounters with a super eel took place in 1848 when HMS Daedelus was on a voyage between the East Indies and Plymouth. She was in the Atlantic between St Helena and the western coast of Africa when they sighted a mighty fish. The subsequent report to The Admiralty read:

“Our attention being called to the object, it was discovered to be an enormous serpent with head and shoulders kept about four feet constantly above the surface of the sea and as nearly as we could approximate by comparing it with the length of what our main topsail yard would show in the water there was at the very least sixty feet of the animal `a fleur d,eau` no portion of which was, to our perception, used in propelling it through the water either by vertical or horizontal undulation. It passed rapidly but so close under our lee quarter that had it been a man of my acquaintaince I should have easily recognised his features with the naked eye.”

The report continued…

“Its colour was a dark brown with yellowish white about the throat. It had no fins but something like the mane of a horse or rather a bunch of seaweed washed about its back”.

Another famous encounter with a super eel took place in August 1872. A Norwegian barqye called the St Olaf was sailing between Newport and Texas and was two days off the Texas coast. The Captain later wrote:

“On nearer approach we saw an immense serpent with its head out of the water about two hundred feet from the vessel. He lay still on the surface of the water lifting his head up and moving his body in a serpentine manner. We could not see all of it but what we could see from after part of the head was about seventy feet long and the same thickness all the way excepting about the head and neck which were smaller and the former flat like the head of a serpent”…

Such giant creatures are still seen today, and for one of the best accounts of contemporary super eels I am indebted to the bloke who lives in my spare room. As a boy in the ‘70s, my colleague, friend and housemate Richard Freeman holidayed in Devon. One summer, when he was aged about 9 his grandfather got talking to a retired trawler man in Goodrington harbour. The old man recounted his life as a fisherman and one particular incident which had stuck in his mind. Some years previously he and his crew were trawling off Berry Head. The seas off this part of the coast are amongst the deepest waters around Britain. Such are the depths of this part of the English Channel that the area is commonly used to “scuttle” old ships. The drowned wrecks of these vessels has made an artificial “reef” that has attracted vast amounts of fish. Good catches were therefore almost guaranteed and the area has become a popular place to drop the nets,.

One night the crew had trouble lifting the nets and began to worry that they had got them entwined about a rotting mast. Soon though they felt some slack and began to haul the nets up. The men thought there catch must have been a particularly good one so heavy were their nets, but as their nets drew closer to the trawlers lights a frightening sight took shape. The crew had not caught hundreds of normal sized fish but one gigantic one.

“It was an eel, a giant eel. Its mouth was huge wide enough to have swallowed a man, the teeth were as long as my hand.” Even now Richard still remembers the words of the ancient fisherman and is convinced that this was not a tall story designed to entertain gullible tourists. “While it was still in the water it was buoyed up but as soon as we tried to pull it on board the nets snapped like cotton and it vanished back down. I was glad it went, I’ve been at sea all my life but I’ve never been as scared as I was that night .I can still see it’s eyes, huge, glassy.........”

The man couldn’t see what length the beast was as it had been coiled in the nets. We can however make a guess. We don’t know what the breaking strain is on the average trawlers’ net but logic dictates that it must be several tons, so this must have been a truly massive animal. In order to have a mouth wide enough to swallow a human, a standard conger eel would need to be scaled up to around 50 feet!.

This was only one of the legion of such tales from Devon’s rocky coastline. In the late 30s a creature described as a ”giant conger eel” terrorized the south coast of Devon, frightening fishermen and tourists from Berry Head to Plymouth. Events such as this clearly show we cannot confine monsters and dragons to story books and camp fire tales.

MORE BIRDS FROM THE ARCHIVING PROJECT

Oll has been jolly busy and the latest set of scanned news clippings and other stuff from the Archiving Project is ready for you to download HERE should you want to..

This is the third trenche of bird-related clippings and consists of 63 cuttings, mostly of our of place birds and vagrant species in the UK including flamingos, greater cuckoos and various parrots.

A twitcher's delight!

"DOC" SHIELS SENT THIS CLIPPING...

There were bits in here that amused him greatly...

SIMILAR STRANGE STAINS

Back in January our Indiana Representative Elizabeth Clem alerted us to a strange and rather unpleasant story.

Large amounts of a brown substance, described as "probably excrement" were found splattered on the side of buildings, and the two most likely culprits were birds, or aircraft lavatories.

Our jokes about the Illinoid big birds having hopped across a state fell on deaf ears.

However, down in the deep south, a similar event has occurred, but this time the "brown stains" look unlikely to be excrement of any sort. What could have caused them?

http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2009/03/mysterious_brown_substance_sta.html

CAVEAT LECTOR

The story over at www.forestsofmystery.com is getting increasingly entertaining. Of course its fiction, but it is very well done and entertaining fiction. But the thing that is important isn't its entertainment value, it is the way that it is being promulgated that interests me.

There is an entire network of websites that have been posted, each with their own URLs, and none of them even hinting that the main story is fiction. If you google any of the main characters they seem to exist and have a substantial backstory. From an artistic point of view this is fantastic, but from a scientific one, the implications are very dodgy indeed.

About ten years ago I wrote a "novel" called The Blackdown Mystery in which I lampooned various worthies within the UFO community. I put the word "novel" into quotation marks because I was playing games with form at the time. I had read Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and was fascinated with the concept of novelising `real` events, and I was also fascinated by the concept of what was `real` and what was not.

So, I wrote a book in which 75% of the characters were real, (including me, Richard, Graham, Nick Redfern etc), all the places were real, and most of the things that I said happened actually did happen, though not necessarily in the order which I said, or to the people that I said they did. Was it fiction? Yes, of course it was, and from 2001 when the second edition was published I said as much.

However people refused to believe me, and even now, ten years after the events in the book, I have telephone calls and e-mails asking for more details about the events in the book. The latest edition (the 3rd) even says "This is a Novel" in Times New Roman 10pt type. But people still refuse to believe it.

If people are so intransigent in their belief that The Blackdown Mystery is a true account of events that actually happened when - let's face it - it is nothing but a not terribly good novel that I wrote because my then publisher paid me to, then imagine how difficult it will be to persuade people that the events in Forests of Mystery, which is a far more complex and well executed affair, are fiction.

In the previous paragraph I nearly wrote "which is a far more complex and well executed hoax"
but then I stopped myself. A work of fiction is not a hoax. There is not a caveat in the opening pages of Pride and Prejudice saying "WARNING: Mr Darcy does not exist" nor should there be. But Jane Austen readers are not known to be overly credulous, and as I know from some of the more ridiculous e-mails that appear in my in-box on almost a daily basis, a large proportion of people who are interested in the subjects with which we deal are ridiculously gullible.

I am just waiting for the first e-mail warning me about the strange events happening in a forest in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and telling me that I should contact a Mr D Lansing without delay....

"For our Video Case File #5 in the 'Forests of Mystery' web series, Jeff and I return to Pacific Cascade University after receiving an urgent message from Dr. Susan Melbourne. As you will see from the video, Dr. Melbourne may have made a horrible decision regarding her laboratory testing...

Video Case File #5 is available online at
http://www.forestsofmystery.com/vcf5.htm
Again, thank you all for your continued support and emails, and please do remember to spread the word about our website!

Dewey Lansing"

www.forestsofmystery.com"

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

You want cryptozoology news? We’ve got cryptozoology news, from the CFZ daily news blog no less:

Pick Of The Day: The Lion Cub From Harrods
Batsquatch Sighted at Mt. Shasta
Creationism Feels Right, but That Doesn't Make it So
New animal discovered by Canadian researcher
Expedition sets off in Siberia to check Bigfoot sightings
'Armed' chimps go wild for honey
Fruit Picker Killed In Komodo Dragon Attack
Elusive panther spotted in southwest Elgin
And
Cat burglars are nabbed

Good to see the culprits of the crime spree have been ‘collar’ed.