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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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Sunday, February 20, 2011

MIKE HALLOWELL: Geordie rock/frog story

We've all heard the story: man finds rock. Man splits rock open. Frog jumps out of rock. Man exclaims “Bloody hell, there's a frog just jumped out of that there rock.”

The point is that this sort of incident has happened not just once, but scores of times. I'm aware of at least two dozen such tales from Tyneside and Wearside alone. There are a number of points that need addressing regarding such events, so instead of simply rattling off yet another Frog Jumps Out of Rock story (although I will refer to one in just a minute) I'll cut straight to the chase and get to the heart of the issue.

But first, the aforementioned account.

On the morning of Wednesday, April 18 1827, several workmen were engaged in their duties at Fulwell Quarry, Sunderland. At some juncture they happened upon a large block of limestone that needed transporting to another place, the exact location of which I haven't been able to determine. The problem was that the boulder was simply too large for them to lift onto the cart. By employing the creative genius for which we Geordies are known across the globe, they figured that if they split the rock into two, each piece would weigh only half of the original, and that lifting two smaller boulders onto the cart would be infinitely easier than hoisting up one big one.

And so they set about the boulder with their sledgehammers, and eventually cleaved it into two pieces. Now I know what you're thinking: a frog jumped out of the remains of the boulder, right? Wrong. What jumped – or rather slithered – out of a recess in one part of the rock was a 5-inch-long snake with “a brown back and a freckled belly”. Five inches isn't incredibly big for a snake, but there again, if you'd been trapped inside a rock since the Triassic era you'd probably have lost a bit of weight yourself. I know I would.

Anyhoo, here are the knotty issues – and questions - as I see them.

1) How can an animal be encapsulated in rock, which, presumably, must have been molten when the event occurred, without being fried to a crisp?

2) In the event that such a thing is possible, how could the animal survive for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years without food, water or air in anything but negligible amounts, if any at all?

3) If the above two points make such an event impossible, how have so many people reported being witnesses to them?

4) If it is physically impossible for a creature to be encapsulated in rock in such a manner, then what other explanations are available? Are all the witnesses lying? A ridiculous suggestion. Are they all mistaken? That's hard to imagine, as the cavities from which such animals have emerged often fit their body shape and size perfectly, and are hard to explain away if the animal in question was never inside the cavity in the first place.

If you'll excuse the pun, we're caught between a rock (with or without a beast incarcerated in it) and a hard place, for on one hand the events as described seem impossible, whilst on the other the sheer volume of witness testimony makes them hard to deny.

Answers on a post-card, please....

1 comment:

BobSkinn said...

Having just corresponded briefly with you today about something else, I was very interested and excited to find this Blog entry Mike, as entombed animals is my main area of research.
I was not previously aware of this snake case, but have details of hundereds of others of Toads and frogs (and sometimes of other creatures too!) found apparently entombed in rock, or in the centre of trees. In 1985 I wrote "Toad in the Hole", which as published as an occasional paper by Fortean Times. I am still collecting data when I come across it, and would be delighted if we could exchange data on this phenomenon.
There's no easy solution to all the cases, and despite the hoaxes, urban legends, mistaken observations etc. etc., I think there is still something interesting behing this mystery!
Best regards
Bob