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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES Living mammoth and a giant crane

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I found the following two stories recently, one on a possible mammoth and the other on a giant crane and no this wasn`t a mechanical crane (please see the Journal of Fortean Mechanics-1.)  but the stork-like bird.  

Firstly, the crane. Please note,the usual maximum height of the tallest crane is supposed to be 5ft 11 inches high (the sarus crane) and according to Wikipedia that is an inhabitant of N. Australia, S.E. Asia and the Indian subcontinent. It is non-migratory so the chances are slim it ever reached N.America. I think this crane that turned up in Virginia in 1817 was really a pterosaur or something similar.
From the Richmond Compiler (Virginia) of Sept 9 1817: “ To the Editor- Observing from the newspapers, that considerable interest has been excited in the public mind by the Serpent that is said to have made its appearance in and about Gloucester  harbour, Massachusetts; I am induced to believe that it may not be out of the way to give you a description of a mammoth CRANE, which was observed feeding out of the Brook Stream, in this county, a few days past.

At the time I discovered this huge animal of the feathered race, I was in pursuit of a flock of wild Turkies. He was standing apparently five yards from the margin of the water, upon a slight eminence or hill from which he from time to time reached out his monstrous long neck for the purpose of making depredations on the Finney tribe. When I first observed him, the distance couldn`t have been much short of eighty yards. But I determined instantly to fire at him, lest he should discover me and take wing. Accordingly I levelled and discharged my rifle at him; which had no other apparent effect than that of attracting his attention, by turning his enormous long bill in the direction from which the sound proceeded. At the same time he raised himself up and extended his neck to an elevation of more than fifteen feet, which I afterwards ascertained from the boughs of a poplar under which he was standing.

Not at all disheartened by the failure of my first fire, I put in a second charge, and veering a little to the right of of my first position, effectually concealed myself by advancing  in a range with a large white Oak, until I approached within about forty paces…As he rose above the tops of the trees, I observed that his wings on either side brushed the leaves of two poplars that grew within a few paces of each other. And on placing myself in a line with the boughs of the one, and stepping off the distance to a like range with the other established to myself that his wings must have measured at least seven and a half feet each, besides allowing three feet for the space of the body! I assure you Sir, when I came to reflect what an acquisition this bird would have been to your new Museum; which I am happy to hear is in a rapid state of progression; I could not but regret most sincerely, the unfortunate circumstance of my noy having made prize of him.” (2)

And now the living mammoth,or whatever it was: From the Bangor Weekly Register (Maine) of Nov 12th 1818: Living Mammoth? Bangor Weekly Register (Maine) Nov 12th 1818:" Huge Animal - A correspondent in Constable`s Edinburgh Mag signing himself "Thomas Pollock,Blantire by Hamilton" ,avers that being a sergeant in the Hudson`s Bay Company in 1803,and travelling with the late Mr. Louis ,into the interior of North America,he suddenly came upon an animal of immense size. It appeared about 20 feet in height and had a very unwieldy appearance. The largeness of its belly was enormous, and nearly touching the ground.Its colour was a dirty black. Mr Louis saw its footsteps and dung: the latter indicated that its food was vegetables,and the former gave a print nearly two feet square. The hoof was not divided but from the impression,seemed as if hollow in the middle." (3)

Richard Muirhead.

  1. Joke!
  2. Richmond Compiler Sept 9 1817
  3. Bangor Weekly Register  Nov 12 1818

Images are from Wikipedia Commons. Sarus crane. Woolly Mammoth. 

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