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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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

GLEN VAUDREY: Steller's sea cow

There would be no mistaking an adult Steller’s sea cow, weighing in at 8 tons and measuring up to 28 feet in length. The largest member of the order Sirenia was a true monster but only in size, for this was a gentle herbivorous giant. All had been going well for the 2000 odd sea cows that could be found eating kelp in the shallow waters around the isles of Bering and Cooper in the Commander Island chain, that was until 1741. It’s funny to think that had pre-packed ready-to-eat meals been available and ships’ navigation a bit better then the story of the sea cow might have had a happier ending.

As it turned out in the winter of 1741 Vitus Bering’s ship St Peter was wrecked and the crew found themselves stranded upon the very same islands that the sea cows swam around. It is doubly unfortunate that not only was the sea cow docile and easy to approach but it was by all accounts rather tasty. From its first appearance on the menu in 1742 it would only take another twenty-six years for the animal to be eaten into extinction, or at least that’s the official line.

You see reported sightings of these great herbivores continued long after their supposed extinction in 1768. The first wave of sightings was reported in the 1780s but unfortunately for the sea cow’s survival prospects the report came from hunters who had just killed them.

Still there was better luck with the next sighting in 1854 when two locals saw a sea cow and appeared to have successfully fought the urge to eat it. Then it all went a bit quiet on the sightings for nearly a hundred years, that was until the 1950s when a harpooner claimed that sea cows still visited the Bering Isles each July, and it would be in July 1962 that the crew of the whaling ship Buran reported a sighting of six sea cows happily feeding in a lagoon near Cape Navarin, Siberia.

The final sighting in the area would be made in 1976 when a fisherman going by the name of Ivan Chechulin claimed that he had not only seen a sea cow but had actually been able to get close enough to touch the animal.

So the question has to be asked, do the waters off Cape Navarin still play host to Steller’s sea cow?

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