Friday, April 23, 2010
As you know, Oll has been working on the archiving project since early February 2009 and he is now working on a general mish-mash of a section known as `General Forteana`. This eighth trenche is a real mixed bag. It includes stuff on Piltdown man, witchcraft, animal sacrifice, and quite a lot of peculiar archaeology. Good stuff.
In the 1920s Frank L. Griffiths was out hunting deer near the head of the New River in California’s Trinity Alps. While looking into the water he spotted five salamanders at the bottom of the lake. Good going, you might think, spotting salamanders in the water; they are, after all, small little critters. Well, that might be the normal case but these were no common-or-garden salamanders. No, these were giant salamanders and as such were slightly bigger than the norm. Actually, they were considerably bigger than the norm: Griffiths stated the salamanders he observed measured between 5 and 9 feet long. Astounded or not by his sighting he nevertheless managed to hook one of the salamanders but not too unpredictably, he was unable to drag it out of the water. Hardly surprising, considering the size.
In 1948 biologist Thomas L. Rodgers made four unsuccessful trips to the area looking for a trace of these giant salamanders but it would not be until 1960 that animal handler Vern Harden claimed to see a dozen huge salamanders in Hubbard Lake. He claimed to have hooked one of these giants but had to release it because of a threatening snowstorm that was closing in. However, before letting the creature go he measured it, getting a measurement over 8 feet long. Impressive stuff, but then so are the tales of all fishermen who tell you about the one that got away.
Perhaps there are giant salamanders still awaiting discovery somewhere in the Trinity Alps. One thing is for certain: you really wouldn’t want to be licking one if you found it.
I found this report in an online newspaper archive that is part of the Hong Kong Central Library Multmedia Information System network. (1) It has proved very useful in finding information on some of the more usual aspects of Hong Kong`s fauna, which will be found in Jon and my book The Mystery Animals of Hong Kong in a few years time. The report, dated December 31st 1929, is below, at the end of which I will explain why I asked you to read carefully. It seems the early 1930s were the heyday of tiger reports in Hong Kong, petering off till the mid 1960s.
COW MAULED IN THE NEW TERRITORIES
Enquiries made at Police Headquarters last night for confirmation of a Report that a tiger had made its appearance at Fung Yuen Village, Taipo, and Attacked a cow which died from loss of blood after the tiger had been frightened awayresulted (?) in a statement To the effect that a cow had been attacked by the some animal, but it was not known If the tiger as no one saw it. No official report was available as Police Stations had not been circularised.
The story goes that a woman saw an animal which she took to be a tiger attack a cow which was grazing about two miles outside this village In her fright she screamed, frightening the animal, which ran away up a nearby hill. Sargt Tuckett and a party of police visited the spot and found five-clawed paw marks on the dying cow`s shoulders, these measuring six and a half inches across, and pointing to the beast being most probably a tiger. The Police cast round in the hope of finding some sort of spoor, but without success as the ground in the vicinity is hard.
In 1915 a tiger was shot in the New Territories, this being the only actual case on record and it caused the death of Sargt Groucher and two Indian constables before it was killed. Since then there have been several reports of
Tigers been seen.
If a tiger is, in fact, at large, it has probably been driven from the hills further inland by the recent cold weather. (2)
What I wanted you to notice is this: the feature of these tiger incidents in the part of Hong Kong known as the New Territories, which became a part of Britain from China in 1898, is the fact that even in this case, after Britain had owned the New Territories for over 30 years there was still the unwritten question, 'is this really a tiger?' This has happened more than once. Was this because the colonial authorities were dense? Or was it because of leopard reports? It raises the interesting possibility of other long-lost animals being responsible.
Now, the unicorn. Here is a poem I wrote about 6 months ago:
T H E U N I C O R N
Dedicated to Jon and Corinna
I can see something coming out of the mist,
Indistinct, clothed in a white coat,
A primeval shape adored by mediaeval maids,
Never ridden by woman or child,
Now, what quest are you on-
Do hunters stalk you still, as you step out of time?
A demigoddess of vegetarian persuasion, and medicinal horn,
Now captured by fervent bearded cryptozoologists
And amateur mystics, in the pages of a
Book found in the dusty,cobwebbed corner of an attic.
2. The Hong Kong Telegraph December 31st 1929
Never leaves a gap
Always pays on time
Always fits the bill
He comes well prepared
90 degree angles
Stares straight ahead
The other night in Reading Gavin L-W, our tireless newsblogger, told us that he had recently videoed something very strange - hedhehogs mating face to face. This is very rare in nature and there are only a very few species (most notably us) that do it. This would, we believe, be unprecedented. And yes, the video certainly looks like it.
However, he later wrote: 'However, a hedgehog carer, Gill from Newbury, has burst my bubble and tells me that: "The female isn't on her back she's flattened and concaved so it looks like she's up the other way. Many of my female hogs do that to me when I'm trying to give injections. Trying to find skin under the spines is a nightmare." I'm also attaching a photo of the pair afterwards with the female curled up in a ball whilst the male nudges her wanting more (this went on for about two hours), and another photo of hedgehogs mating from earlier in the week (female very definitely not on her back here).'
Now, Richard and I watched it, and to be quite honest we didn't see a bloody thing. Are we just being dumb?
On this day in 1967 cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov died when his parachute failed to open, making him the first man to die during a space mission.
And now, the news:
Two-headed bobtail lizard found in Australia
Sea lion mystery: pup found on surfer's rooftop deck
Beetlecam gets up-close with dangerous animals
RARE LIZARD KILLED IN TRAP
Ohio St. gets livestock lesson from roaming cows
Q: Why do cow’s have bells?
A: In case their horns don’t work.