Fishy Business: Coelacanth Caught

Well, the newspapers are full of it… the coelacanth — a fish which pre-dated the dinosaurs — has been found alive and well in Indonesia. Until now it thought that the species were limited to an area around southern Africa, so it comes somewhat of a surprise that they should turn up 10,000km away from there.
Until 1938, when a specimen was caught on the Chalumna Bank in the Indian Ocean, the coelacanth was known only (to science) by its fossil records, which quite reasonably lead to the conclusion that the fish was long extinct. They are now a protected species.


coelacanth
The Irish Times
Honeymooner’s fishy tale hits scales at 400m years
CNN
*New sighting of ‘living fossil’ intrigues scientists*
The Unnatural Museum – The Coelacanth
*An unknown species of coelacanth in the gulf of Mexico?* by Michel Raynal
IT AIN’T NESSIE-CERALLY SO
[Two weeks ago, in *Look, is it a Seal or Not*, we discussed a 10 second video piece which was claimed to show the Loch Ness Monster. Jon Downes of the Centre Fortean Zoology expounds…]
On the 10th September Loren Coleman posted the following news item to the *Cryptozoology* and *fortean* mailing lists:
“A short piece of video film which may or may not support the claim that a water monster exists in Scotland’s Loch Ness was shown early this morning on *GMTV* here in the UK. About 10 seconds in length the movie was recorded by Geoff Mitcheson who, with his wife and son took a boat ride last weekend on the loch in the vicinity Castle Urquahart, one of the deepest locations and scene of numerous past sightings.
“The clip shows quite clearly what appears to be a single greyish, flat-topped hump or head of moderate size almost stationary in the water not too far from the camera. It was moving very slowly as the boat passed by and is then seen to slip quickly beneath the surface of the loch. So clear is the movie that any possibility of the form being a wave, a log or even partially submerged vegetation can easily be discounted. Surface conditions at the time appear to have been quite calm.”
Well, I ain’t ever up early enough to watch breakfast TV, and I probably wouldn’t bother anyway, so it was completely by chance that my colleague Nigel Wright’s wife saw that it was on and videotaped it for us.
By the time we actually saw the film, events had moved on apace with “‘experts’ from Edinburgh Zoo” who “viewed the footage and were able to confirm it was not that of a seal, an otter or any other marine creature they are familiar with.” And Chris Packham, presenter of BBC1’s *X Creatures* claiming that it was merely a seal.
Gary Campbell, of the *Loch Ness Monster Fan Club* (an estimable organisation with a name that doesn’t really beg to be taken seriously) claimed that “As the hump or head retreated from view it submerged in a backwards motion, something a seal is unable to do,” and as I eased the video into the VCR I was actually quite excited, hoping that, although I don’t believe in plesiosaur survival or anything like that, that we were about to see something quite extraordinary…
…we weren’t.
I could see no evidence that as the “hump or head retreated from view it submerged in a backwards motion, something a seal is unable to do.”, and in fact what I did see was a fairly blurry film of a common seal whose head submerged in a perfectly pinnepedian (if there is such a word) way. Sorry guys. You ain’t gonna get anywhere with evidence like that.
Richard Freeman, my housemate and colleague, who spent many years at Leeds University studying zoology confirms that it isn’t an otter. “It has completely the wrong shaped head and you can’t see a paddle like tail on the surface. The only real mystery is the bizarre synchronicity of the story breaking the same day as the BBC programme on the subject”.
I find myself in the horrid position of having to agree with Mr Packham and not with the flaky dreamers who still watch and hope by the lochside. This ain’t to say that there’s nothing there – we just haven’t seen it yet.
Jon Downes
The Centre for Fortean Zoology
Notes:
Loch Ness Monster Fan Club
*Look, is it a Seal or Not*
WATER OFF A DUCK’S BACK
[Back in *Gubu Norge*, Blather told of the shenanigans which took place on the great serpent farce in Seljord, Norway. Jan-Ove Sundberg, who, unsatisfied with merely accusing this writer of having various attributes (‘cold, staring, murderous eyes’, Satanism, etc.) has spent the last few weeks haranguing other team members with rather puerile personal threats and accusations. His latest move is to announce that some video footage taken during the expedition has been found to show ‘hump-like back ploughing through the water, propelled by what could’ve been a set of large flippers on each side of a huge body…’
My erudite GUST teammate Peter Lakbar, from Sweden, shares his findings with Blather…]
On September 22nd I made a telephone call to Image Systems (here in Sweden) and introduced myself. I spoke with Jan Blom, the man who, according to Jan-Ove’s page, is responsible for the analysis of the video. I asked him if he could tell me a few things about the analysis and its results, but he denied that Image Systems had preformed a proper analysis.
According to Jan Blom, Image Systems have done no more than scan the footage and perform some image enhancement of “certain areas of interest”. TRACKEYE, the machine mentioned on Jan-Ove’s homepage, would appear to be a system for scanning and enlarging/enhancing film, not for analysing or confirming anything, despite what Jan-Ove writes on his page:
“What he detected – and this was later confirmed by TRACK EYE, their wonder machine – was a large, hump-like back that comes out of the water shortly before the thing is turning around, to swim back in the same direction it came from, but more towards the shore.”
Jan Blom also told me that he had not yet seen what Jan-Ove had written about this. I didn’t get a straight answer as to what they actually had seen on the film, as Jan Blom seemed to get increasingly nervous as the conversation continued.
I decided to ask Jan-Ove about this, and the following email conversation ensued:
“…what I understood from Jan Blom was that TRACKEYE is just a device for enhancing and enlarging images, not to analyse them.”
“-Well, that’s true I guess, but without Trackeye we would never have detected the “back” [the ‘hump-like back], so in that way Trackeye analysed that there was something interesting on the video.”
This at the very least shows that care should be taken when discussing such matters — the term “analysis” seems to be used in a very loose sense here. More precise terminology should be employed if Jan-Ove expects to gain credibility within in scientific circles.
This may prove to be either a true breakthrough or nothing at all, but I however will suspend final judgement until I see the stills from the video.
Peter Lakbar
(http://home4.swipnet.se/~w-40977/)
Notes:
*Gubu Norge*
*Video footage analyzed: Revealing a Hump-like Back* (since removed)
Dave Walsh
25th September 1998

daev
Chief Bottle Washer at Blather

Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and “known troublemaker” Dave Walsh is the founder of Blather.net, described both as “possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River”, and “the nicest website circulating in Ireland”. Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.