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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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Saturday, January 09, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US

A year ago today we were surrounded by all sorts of weirdness and controversy after a dead seal washed up on Croyde beach. Various papers and pundits announced that it was the carcass of the Beast of Exmoor when it was obviously no such thing. We retrieved the skull for posterity and got attacked in the national press for having done so.

Of course I blogged about it, and as we discovered that putting multiple blogs out on the same day suddenly upped the hits on the blog from about thirty a day to nearly five hundred we decided to continue. Quickly it evolved into what was essentially a daily magazine, and eventually into what you are reading now.

So I would like to thank everyone who has been involved over the last year. There isn't room for me to list everyone, but I would like to single out my wife Corinna, Richard Muirhead, Dale Drinnon, Oll Lewis, and my sub-editor Lizzy Clancy who are involved on a daily or pretty well a daily basis. It takes a lot of committment, and I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. It means a lot to me.
Now for year 2.

LINDSAY SELBY: Thylacine resource

For anyone interested in the Thylacine, this website has an article with reports up to and including 2008. Worth a read.

http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2008/02/26/2172927.htm

DAVEY CURTIS: As The Motors would say....Airport wooo woooo!

Dear Jon,

As you may recall, a young Belarusian lady called Tatyana was spending her Christmas holidays with us. On her return home she was due to fly first to Gatwick then on back home to Minsk at 6.30 in the morning. Those plucky Northumbrian ground staff cleared the snow from the runways of Newcastle in below-freezing conditions with their bare hands and their sleeves rolled up with nothing to keep them warm but the glow of their Embassy Regal king size tabs. Alas, the same could not be said for their southern shandy-drinking counter-parts! It seems that a little smattering of snow is not condusive to mincing about as the snow may wet their crushed velvet uniforms and damage their patent leather shoes so all flights out of Gatwick are cancelled! It seems Tatyana will have to put up with all that Seaham-on-Sea has to offer for a little while longer.

Regards

Davy C

P.S

After Redfern's little quip a while ago about Orb spiders, I feel justified in retaliation now and can safely say that if Redders worked at an Airport... it would, indeed, be Gatwick!

DALE DRINNON: CryptoClydes

Since the remains of possible post-Cretaceous Plesiosaurs seem to indicate an as-yet-not-properly named genus (or closely related genera) related to the well known Cryptoclidus at about 25-35 feet long, I have done some comparisons between some depictions of the Loch Ness Monster and reconstructions of that genus.
The first one of these was done at the beginning of the Frontiers-of-Zoology group and compared Arthur Grant's land sighting to the Cryptoclidus represented in Walking With Dinosaurs. This was a paste-up I called 'CryptoClyde' and was meant to demonstrate that Grant's sighting corresponded in proportions and dimensions to the reconstructed plesiosaur. I have cannibalised that comparison into the larger version below. I added the insert with the 'Surgeon's Photo' from Loch Ness on the strength of Paul LeBlond's analysis of the photo from CRYPTOZOOLOGY, in which he estimated the size of the thing being depicted as about four feet high, six feet long when stretched out. In another article in CRYPTOZOOLOGY, LeBlond had compared the 'Surgeons Photo' to the Mansi photo from Lake Champlain and found them to be similar enough to most likely be the same sort of creature.
The neck in the 'Surgeon's Photo' is also just about the same size as Grant had reported. I add another comparison with the Rhines AAS underwater head and neck photo, of similar proportions but estimated as twice the size, and then another comparison with the Rhines head and neck to another reconstruction of Cryptoclidus.

Frankly, I do not like the way the head and neck in the 'Surgeon's photo' are aligned if it is actually a plesiosaur, but then perhaps current theory on the flexibility of Plesiosaur necks does not cover living Plesiosaurs, n'est-pas? I also did a very exhaustive comparison of the head and neck in the photo to various kinds of waterbirds native to the area and none of them match at all well. It is the opinion of both Mackal and Coleman that the photo is authentic but represents a bird in the water. Such a bird must therefore be an unknown animal in itself.

There have been attacks made on both the 'Surgeon's Photo' and on Rhine's underwater photo at Loch Ness, most infamously with the assertion that Christian Spurling confessed to hoaxing the 'Surgeon's Photo' on his deathbed. Christian Spurling's account 'frames' the Daily Mail for hoaxing the photo to boost readership and is a libelous statement. Christian Spurling did not make a deathbed declaration and the account shows that he had no real knowledge of the photos in question - specifically the fact that there was more than one photo, with the object in different configurations, and not possibly the same object photographed twice.

There have also been statements made that a toy submarine made of materials at hand in the 1930s with a monster's-head superstructure would be top-heavy and tip over rather than stay afloat. A rather more peculiar problem is that there seems to have been no model he could have copied to look like the 'Sea Monster' in the photo: I have not seen any previous Plesiosaur reconstructions that actually match it. After the image of the photo was established in the imagination of the public, it seemed obvious to say that "I made a model of how the Loch Ness Monster looked" but it was not possible to say that before hand!

As to the Rhines AAAS underwater photo from the mid-1970s, it has been criticised by saying the head is not obviously continuous to the neck and that it needs to be aligned in the vertical plane. The critics that say this then go on to re-orientate the photo in the horizontal plane, inverted of its usual orientation. They then say it is a photograph of the bottom. It does not match the other photos more obviously showing the bottom, but the real problem is that saying this destroys their own argument. If the photo is indeed meant to be horizontal, then there is no reason why you need to say it must be vertical, and if it represents the bottom, then the tow parts really are continuous and the apparent break is only a trick of the shadows. Which is what supporters had been saying all along.

I am not saying that the 'Surgon's Photograph' is necessarily NOT a hoax; what I am saying is that it is consistent and that part could not have been known before hand. And in the matter of analysis I defer to LeBlond.



REFERENCES




CRYPTOZOOLOGY vol. 1, winter 1982
"An Estimate of the Dimensions of the Lake Champlain Monster from the Length of Adjacent Waves in the Mansi Photograph" Paul H. LeBlond, p. 54
CRYPTOZOOLOGY vol. 6 , 1987
"The Wilson Nessie Photo: A Size Determination Based on Physical Principles" Paul H. LeBlond and Michael J. Collins, p. 55
Le Blond is also the source for the comparison of the Wilson Nessie and Mansi Champ photos. The Champ photo depicts a much larger object but of similar shape.

Additional note: Many sources attribute a date of April 1 to the Wilson photo. The date was meant to be April 19, and what had happened was that one popular source had printed the '19' at the end of one line of text and the last digit '9' had fallen off the end of the line of type. This happened in Gould's book The Loch Ness Monster and Others, and I own a copy.

OLL LEWIS: 5 Questions on… Cryptozoology - NICK MOLLOY

Next up in the hotseat is Nick Molloy. Nick has been on a number of expeditions hunting cryptids and also works as a professional adult entertainer under the name ‘Sexecute’. Nick has written several books; Predator Deathmatch, published by CFZ press (buy it here) and his eye-opening autobiography Road Warrior - Confessions of a Male Stripper, published by Pen Press.
So, Nick Molloy, here are your 5 questions on… Cryptozoology.

1) How did you first become interested in cryptozoology?

As a kid I had an unhealthy interest in dinosaurs and the thought that some of them still lived in our lakes or jungles peaked my interest.

2) Have you ever personally seen a cryptid or secondary evidence of a cryptid, if so can you please describe your encounter?

No.

3) Which cryptids do you think are the most likely to be scientifically discovered and described some day, and why?

This depends on exactly how we define 'cryptid.' For example, if the Loch Ness Monster is revealed to be a whale that strayed into the loch when the river Ness was in flood, does that classify it as a cryptid? I think many so-called cryptids probably have very plausible explanations that are less romantic than some cryptozoologists would like to believe! I used to think Orang Pendek would head the list of most likely cryptid conversions to flesh and blood but having been to Western Sumatra looking for it, I am now less convinced than I was before. This is because too many journalists have written too many fanciful articles painting a false picture whereby those that have never been to Sumatra and have only read the articles think Orang-Pendeks are seen by locals very regularly. If we believe the articles, it stands to reason that it would only be a matter of time before orang pendek walks out of the forest and announces itself to the world! I actually found very few Indonesians that believed in Orang-Pendek. Most thought it was a myth. That doesn't mean I have ruled it out; I am just less of a believer now than I was before. Maybe sightings of Orang-Pendek actually were Orang-Utans. They still inhabit the north of Sumatra and would closely fit most descriptions of Orang-Pendek. This may not be a popular view in cryptozoological circles but it fits the available evidence better in my view.

The believability of Sasquatch is growing on me rapidly. I have always had a healthy distrust of eyewitness testimony of cyptids. People as a species crave attention. Just look at the proliferation these days of trash TV talent shows where people will literally do anything to gain a little attention and be on TV. In the past I think a lot of people have found attention by claiming they saw something in the lake, forest, etc. They get their 15 minutes of fame, authors are able to write books on their claims, but genuine researchers simply waste time by following up their claims. I have always found (historically at least) photos or video to be far more interesting. They are more difficult to fake and may capture a genuine moment in time when a cryptid was present. When I first saw a still from the Patterson-Gimlin film when I was about 10 years old I dismissed it as a man in a monkey suit. However, as time has worn on, I have become more convinced that there might be something in it. With new technology we are better able to weed out the hoaxers of those old images. For example, the surgeon's photograph at Loch ness is widely believed to have been a hoax. They have certainly been able to reproduce a very similar image using a hoax-able method. The Patterson-Gimlin film by contrast has got better with age! The more it is analysed with modern technology the more detail it appears to reveal that suggests it might be more flesh and blood as opposed to man in a suit. It also seems to have defied replication. Attempts that I have seen at replication look like very poor copies. If it is a hoax it is a damned good one. From the falling off the horse (wobbly film footage at the start), to the size of the creature, to the muscles that appear to ripple under the skin (modern analysis), to the fact that it appears to have breasts! If you are going to hoax it, why give it breasts? It is also interesting that many mainstream scientists are now daring to discuss the possibility that an unknown primate may actually be wondering around the Pacific northwest. I'm still disturbed by the fact that we don't have any remains yet, but the Sasquatch possibility is growing on me. Also, the Skookum cast is very interesting.

Finally, there are probably some large cryptids still lying undiscovered in the oceans. Think Megamouth shark and Colossal squid.

4) Which cryptids do you think are the least likely to exist?

Well, I don't think a Plesiosaur lives in Loch Ness, Okanagan, Champlain or any other large freshwater lake. However, that doesn't mean there are not plenty of strange occurrences to explain. If somebody could please tell me what those images show from the underwater cameras in Loch Ness in 1972 and 1975, I'd like to know. As an anti-plesiosaur theorist, that Robert Rhines image puts a big hole in my argument. I'm not aware of any sceptic successfully explaining what the image shows nor am I aware of anybody claiming it is an out-and-out hoax. The image has always fascinated me yet for some reason writers and broadcasters on the subject of Loch Ness always seem to give it a wide berth. Do they know something I don't? Answers on email please....

5) If you had to pick your favourite cryptozoological book (not including books you may have written yourself) what would you choose?

That's a difficult one. I read several books on Loch Ness and it was probably my first real cryptozoological fascination. As a student I read several of the classic tomes on the Loch Ness Monster. They inspired me to catch a train up there and sleep rough on the shore for a couple of nights (at least Feltham has his van!). Actually, having met the man a couple of times, I would like to read something by him. The last time I saw Steve Feltham was in 2001. I'd love to know whether his views remain steadfast or whether time has altered them at all. He told me he wasn't keeping a diary and had no plans to write a book; a shame, because I'd love to read it and that video diary he did for the BBC remains one of my all time favourite cryptozoological TV programmes.

SNOW DRYAD?

Woolsery is a very strange place at times. About a mile and a half south of the village is an area of Forestry Commission woodland called Powler's Peice.

I have always liked it down there; there are deer a-plenty; both roe and red (and the occasional muntjac); and there are several small ponds that are chocker with palmated newts every spring. But it is undoubtedly freaky.

It has a very strange atmosphere, and Corinna has always refused to ever go there on her own. On several occasions when she has been walking the dog down there with the girls she has felt the sensation of "being watched" and the dog has stopped dead in his tracks in exactly the same place.

Yesterday afternoon she, Shosh and Gavin were taking the dog for his afternoon run (it is far too slippery for me to even risk it) and deep in the woods on one of the rides, traversed only by the occasional Forestry Commission worker and the most intrepid of dog walkers, she found a small, squat, and very ritualistic looking snowman. Or rather snow-woman, because her above-the-waist secondary sexual characteristics were clearly visible. It is only the lack of anything below the waist that stops me labelling her a snowy sheela-na-gig.

It is hard not to see her as a depiction of one of the tree spirits who guard the wood and make visitors feel so uncomfortable.

Very strange.

Even Biggles felt compelled to make several offerings to this snowy dryad (note the lower picture and the yellow stains on her right hand side in the upper).

...AND THE ANSWER IS

Jon...

This type of print ONLY happens in deep snow. Made in this case by chickens, but I have seen almost identical marks made by pheasants and short-eared owls. It’s when the bird is too deep in the snow and uses its wings to balance it before flying off. You can see the blobby thing at the bottom right of the picture, which is the body; two or three perfectly formed bird footsteps above the blobby body mark, and the marks made by the wing feathers. Harder to see in the photo, but also part of the print, are tail-feather markings, which can help identify the type of bird.

Can you see it now?

Jan

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

http://cfztemporarynews.blogspot.com/

On this day in 2009 Jon's blog Still On The Track evolved into the bloggo network you see before you today. Happy birthday to us!

And here’s the latest Fortean zoology news:

'Bear Cam' from a Minn. den may show live birth
Disturbing spread of invasive bees
Earliest Four-Limbed Animals Left Mud Tracks
BBC to launch review into allegations of bias in its science coverage
'Scary' internet plot to disrupt live TV ghost-hunter show sparks security alert

Q. Why didn’t the ghost go to the cinema?
A. Because he had no body to go with.