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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Friday, December 02, 2005

It ain't Nessie-cerally So!!! (Part One)

It has always been one of the great ironies of the CFZ that despite fast becoming the best known cryptozoologists in the world, we have - to date at least - done very little investigations regarding the world's best known monster. Earlier this year, CFZ stalwart David "Geordie Dave" Curtis paid for a three person CFZ expedition to Loch Morar in Scotland to start work on investigating a theory propounded by Richard Freeman and myself that some sightings of lake monsters across the world may be giant eels.

The European eel (Anguillia anguilla) lives in freshwater until it reaches sexual maturity when the reproductive imperative kicks in and the elongate fish swim down to the sea where (according to most sources) they cannot feed, and swim down to the Sargasso Sea in the South Atlantic where they mate, spawn and die. The larval eels (known as leptocephelae)are the shape of leaves and about the size of a little fingernail. They sweim up the Atlantic to coastal waters where they metamorphose into tiny eels called elvers. These swim up the rivers and the cycle begins again. Howeverr, it has been suggested that occasionally an elver becomes sterile, and so when its peers have attained a length of 4-6 feet and sexual maturity, the biological imperative does not kick in and the eunuch eel (as theyhave been dubbed) stay in freshwater and continue to grow.

This is partly hypothesis, but it makes a fair amount of sense and would certainly explain some of the lake monster sightings which have taken place across the northern hemisphere. For years one of the main stumbling blocks for a viable population of giant animals living in any of the monster-haunted lakes (with the possible exception of Lake Okanagan in Canada, and some of the lesser known lakes in Siberia and Tibet), is the sheer lack of biomass in the waters. There just simply isn't enough food to support them. Another problem is thatthe prehistoric giant reptiles were all e=air breathers, and would have to surface to breathe, and presumably come onto land to breed. There are just simply not enough sightings of these creatures to support such a hypothesis.

If, however, our hypothesis is true then we can scratch both of these objections immediately: They obtain their oxygen from the water, and they are occasional visitors or mutations rather than an unknown species of animal.

Richard's methodology during the Loch Morar expedition was simple: "We used nylon rope with empty plastic milk bottles as floatation devices. We tied one end to a tree or rock. We then lased another length to the bottle connecting the two lengths. At the end of the second length, 20 feet or so beneath the float was the bait. This was a mixture of mussels, fish guts, herring, cow liver and Van Den Eynd Predator Plus, a fish-attracting chemical. The mixture was placed in Hessian sacks so it could permeate through.

Sadly nothing touched the bait, but the floatation devices worked a treat. We suspect that it may have been too early in the year and the creatures may have been torpid. Most sightings have been in warm weather and calm conditions."

In October we were approached by an American TV Company who were making the second season of a show called "Penn and Teller's Bullshit" which features the two legendary stage magicians (who are also rumoured to be members ofthe art-rock band `The Residents`), looking at claims of strange phenomena. Would we be interested in going to Loch Ness? We agreed on the condition that we were able to do the investigation our way.........

Loch Ness (Scottish Gaelic: Loch Nis) is a large, deep freshwater lake (known in Scotland as a loch) in the Scottish Highlands, extending for approximately 37 km (23 miles) southwest of Inverness. It is the largest body of water in the geologic fault known as the Great Glen, which runs from Inverness in the north to Fort William in the south. The Caledonian Canal, which links the sea at either end of the Great Glen, uses Loch Ness for part of its route.

Loch Ness is one of a series of interconnected, murky lakes in Scotland that were carved by glaciers during previous ice ages. Quite large and deep, Loch Ness has exceptionally low water visibility due to a high peat content in the surrounding soil.Loch Ness is the second largest Scottish loch by surface area at 56.4 km2 (21.8 sq mi) but due to its extreme depth is the largest by volume. The loch contains more fresh water than all that in England and Wales combined. At its deepest part, 226 m (740 feet), London's BT Tower at 189 m (620 feet) would be completely submerged.

As the legendary Loch Ness investigator Adrian Shine was to confirm to us later in the week, there is practically no empirical evidence for the existance of the the archetypal long necked lake monster in any of the Scottish lakes, there is a firm body of evidence to support the hypothesis that there are occasional sightings of large fish. Some of these are described as being like 'Upturned Boats' and are - in Shine's opinion at least - probably stray sturgeon, others are more elongate, and these are what Richard and I believe may be huge eunuch eels.

Although once upon a time Richard and I used to travel together a lot, and undertake investigations all around the country, times have changed and it wasn't until we were sitting together in the departure lounge at Exeter Airport thatI realised that we hadn't been together on a trip that involved just the two of us since our infamous hunt for the Wallaby Slasher of Cleveland in August 2002! That is not to say that we haven't investigated anythingn - since then Richard has been to Mongolia and Sumatra (twice), and I have been to the States four times and Puerto Rico (once). However it was fun o be back together on the track of unknown whatsits, and we were quite excited about the prospect of the journey ahead.

This is neither the time or the plce to bore on about the rigours of air travel in the 21st Century.I seem to have spent much of my adult life on aeroplaces travelling between one place and another. We left the CFZ in Woolsery just after 7 am - and didn't check into our Edinburgh hotel until nearly twelve hours later. Only jusat over two of those hours were spent in the air - the rest were taken up hanging around in airport bars and baggage check-ins.

However it was great to spend some time with Richard again after so long, and on the whole it was a reasonably enjoyable experience.

When we finally got to the hotel it was full of men in kilts drinking whisky!

No, Honestly!

In one of the most bizarre fortean coincidences that have happened to me in a long history of weird fortean coincidences, we had arrived right in the middle of the alchohol fuelled obsequies for Iam Cameron - the person who went down in history for havingthe longest unbroken `Nessie` sighting in history.

In his own words:

"mid-summer, June 1965. I, along with a friend, was on the south shore of Loch Ness, fishing for brown trout, looking almost directly into Urquhart Bay, when I saw something break the surface of the water. I glanced there, and I saw it, and then it wasn't there, it had disappeared.

But while watching, keeping an eye, and fishing gently, I saw an object surface. It was a large, black object—a whale-like object, going from infinity up, and came round onto a block end—and it submerged, to reappear a matter of seconds later. But on this occasion, the block end, which had been on my right, was now on my left, so I realized immediately that while in the process of surfacing, as it may, it had rotated. And with the predominant wind, the south-west wind, it appeared to be, I would say, at that stage drifting easily across.

So I called to my friend Willie Frazer, who incidentally had a sighting of an object on the Loch almost a year ago to the very day. I called him, and he come up and joined me. We realized that it was drifting towards us, and, in fact, it came to within I would say about 250, 300 yards.

In no way am I even attempting to convert anybody to the religion of the object of Loch Ness. I mean, they can believe it, but it doesn't upset me if they don't believe it. Because I would question very much if I hadn't the extraordinary experience of seeing this object. If I hadn't seen it I would have without question given a lot of skepticism to what it was. But I saw it, and nothing can take that away."

Richard stayed up drinking with Ian's son Willie and other family members, but after dinner and a couple of beers (yes, gys - only a couple), I went to bed. My hard drinking days are behind me now, and the next day I had to hire a car, and drive to Loch Ness. There was too much ice on the roads for me to risk a hangover...



Mark Lewin said...

Talking of giant eels, have you seen this?

Check out the DNA analysis of what the guy originally thought was a giant statue....

Oll Lewis said...

Having seen pen and tellers bullshit program I am slightly concerned that they might be after an opertunity to 'take the piss', possibly useing clever editing or haveing a skeptical 'expert' (who probably dosen't know much about freshwater biology but has important sounding letters after his name attchived from the study of another subject) pooh-poohing the theory.

I hope that doesen't happen though and that you are instead presented as a sane alternative to someone saying nessie is a prehistoric reptile or something.

Jon Downes said...

Oll -

I will not be at all surprised if P+T do take the piss. It was always a serious possibility, but I think it was worth it because we not only got paid a heck of a lot of money which was badly neeeded to swell CFZ coffers (100% of my fee went into the CFZ funds as usual), but got to make good relationships with Adrian Shine and Willy Cameron.

Luckily it is only shown on Bravo in the UK (as far as I know), and Nick Redfern tells me that it is on a subscription only channel in the States..

So damage will be limited whatever happens


Oll Lewis said...

it's also on FX on sky digital. but again thats a pretty much minority channel (although it dose show lots and lots of xfiles repeats).

Oll Lewis said...

"Mark Lewin said...
Talking of giant eels, have you seen this?

Check out the DNA analysis of what the guy originally thought was a giant statue....

10:52 AM "

Yes seen that, it's a hoax as part of an advertising campain for a video game.

have you seen this:

perkin2000 said...

I have a sneaking suspicion that P&T might actually be fair in thier portrayl.

Not in as much as the legend of Nessie his/her/its-self, (alot of which, in all fairness, does need debunking) but I think, or at least hope, the cryptozoologists involved will be treated fairly.

If not, then stuff 'em anyway. Hopefully the money will go towards proving the naysayers wrong.

Oh, did the little one (Teller, if I remember correctly) talk?