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, February 03, 2010

DALE DRINNON: A commentary on Darren Naish's blog on the Mansi Champ photo


[I was supposed to be getting a report from one of the locals and he has so far failed to deliver: it has been more than a week since he emailed me and said he had important news on the matter. I was also in communication with Dick Raynor (mentioned in Naish's blog) but have not heard back from him again either.]

There has been a lot of commentary on the Sandra Mansi photo taken at Lake Champlain and usually taken to be the best evidence for a Long-necked cryptid hiding at the lake. Usually there is little commentary from supporters other than declarations that the image in the photo is a real object. However, there are detractors and Naish's blog discusses the arguments on the side against the idea that the photograph shows an unknown animal.

One of the objections was that a monster could supposedly not be able to hide in only 3-4 feet of water. A Loch Ness Monster supposedly 30 feet long has a thickness of about 3 feet in some of the accounts as stated in Gould's The Monster of Loch Ness and other early sources, so it COULD theoretically happen that a smallish monster could hide in water that shallow. And Benjamin Radford's illustrations 2 and 3 DO present a very good Plesiosaur-shaped appearance.

My conclusion was basically that the object in the photo had a weird 'Neck', especially if it was supposed to be a plesiosaur, and yes, it did seem that the 'Head' part is further away from the viewer than the bulge part of the neck in front - which is definitely convex. That the 'Skin' resembled bark is inconsequential and consistent with other 'Monster' reports otherwise. I am inclined to call the thing in the photo unidentified but a probable piece of driftwood. Its size does seem to be a good deal less than LeBlond indicated in his article in CRYPTOZOOLOGY that I had cited recently. My main input was actually that the object is in a mechanically improbable flexture and seems to have held the pose for all the time that it was viewed, and that judging from other Lake Monster reports, the proportions are off. I would therefore tentatively agree with the driftwood explanation, NOT because I don't think Champ could be a Plesiosaur-shaped animal (hence the mock-up on an earlier blog) but because of the mechanical problems of the neck flexed in that posture (And holding that uncomfortable position stock-still)

I have attempted to make a flat diagram of the way the neck is turning - difficult to do because the curve is a complex spiral in two planes. But I think the drawing shows it is a very kinky piece of work. It looks more like an octopus tentacle than the neck of a Plesiosaur or even any bird. Now one of the things I have discovered in my own research is that the neck usually reported in Long-necks is actually consistent with some reconstructions of a Plesiosaur's neck: thick and not very flexible on the end nearest the body; and thin and much more flexible near the head end. That is why the neck is held in such typical postures as the "Spar sticking straight out at the front at an inclined angle" and then again the "Periscope" or front-end-of-a-stretched-s-shape (for the whole neck). The shape of the thing in the Mansi photograph is pretty much boneless; the shape of Champ's neck as specified by witnesses (as demonstrated in the Sinclair-dinosaur mock-up) is much more reasonable for a long-necked swimming animal.

This ties into a series of problems in physics of how the neck works. Incidentally, the physics of Heuvelmans's Long-neck resconstruction are all wrong when he has a very fast swimmer with a very flexible neck: you can't have both of those things at the same time. The animal would break its neck from the water pressure if it was swimming at great speeds and speeds in excess of 35 mph are often stated; even 75 to 100 mph for some of Heuvelmans's cases.

It is better not to dwell on suspicious photos or other evidence; actually, we have reached the point where NO photographic evidence is good enough: ANYTHING could be faked. That is going to be hard on us researchers, but it is what we have to work with. My own opinion is that SOME of the photos are indeed genuine, and they show essentially the same sort of Long-Necked creature world-wide. But unfortunately that the point is not PROVEABLE.

The Mansi photo is in Naish's blog so I did not think I needed to reproduce it and I would emphasise that the photographer appears to be a truthful and sincere individual.

The reference to LeBlond's article again is:

LeBlond, Paul H. "An Estimate of the Dimensions of the Lake Champlain Monster from the Length of the Adjacent Waves in the Mansi Photograph", CRYPTOZOOLOGY, vol.1, Winter 1982.


Dale Drinnon said...

This was a very difficult blog posting for me to make up and go through with for various reasons. But my bottom line is I had to be realistic about it and the bottom line is Champ is supposed to look like a Plesiosaur from (that segment of) the reports and if the neck shown in the photo does not work right as a Plesiosaur's neck, then presumably the photograph does not represent Champ. (That is a syllogism, BTW)

Phillip ODonnell said...

I believe that Dennis Hall is right in the idea that champ is a Tanystropheus. The neck of Tanystropheus was much shorter in its younger days(matching the Mansi photo). With this animal, it also appears the neck pivoted near the base, making the posture in the Mansi photo possible.