Sea Serpents & Monsters

Mighty_Emperor

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#91
An interesting followup crossing into Giant/Colossal Squid territory (the photo also makes it look even more like Cthulhu):

Monday, February 16, 2004

They solved the mystery of the Blob, Is the giant squid next?


One thing's for sure: The slop that washed ashore in Chile is not the remains of a giant squid. But now the scientific community is pulling out all the stops to better understand the mysterious underwater beast.

Story by Bennett Grossman
[email protected]
February 16, 2004



When a huge, gelatinous blob weighing 13 tons and measuring 41 feet long and 19 feet wide washed up on a beach in Chile in July, many locals speculated that it was the remains of a giant squid, or Architeuthis.

But, after several tests, including electron microscopy, which looks at high magnifications of individual cells, and DNA analysis, the blob was determined to be the remains of a decomposing sperm whale, said Skip Pierce, a professor of biology at USF.

The remains of the blob were originally found by Elsa Cabrera, director of the Center for Cetacean Conservation in Santiago, Chile, who sent samples to Pierce. Pierce then compared the Chilean blob sample with other preserved samples.

After running tests on the sample and comparing it to other samples, it was determined that the blob was made up of almost all collagen fibers. These fibers are indigestible and unlike those that make up the structure of an octopus or squid, said Steve Massey, a postdoctoral student in biology at USF.

"There are only a few enzymes that can deal with it and break it down. So not many animals or bacteria are able to break it down," Massey said.

Collagen is a long, fibrous protein that is found in skin and gives it its shape, Massey said. As part of the aging process, collagen gradually becomes less fibrous and the skin becomes wrinkly and soggy.

When whales die, Pierce said, two things can happen to the decomposing body. The first is that the remains sink to the bottom of the ocean, where the carcass becomes food for other aquatic life. Or, alternatively, the remains float around at the surface for months, slowly rotting away and being eaten. Eventually, the head falls off and sinks to the bottom, then the fluke or tail fin and finally the spine and ribs fall out, leaving a floating mass of rotting whale blubber at the surface.

"Squids don't have a skeleton, but whales do. That is part of why these things aren't particularly recognizable when they wash in on the beach: because the skeleton has fallen out," Pierce said.

This is not the first time that an unidentifiable blob has washed up on a beach and thought to be the remains of the fabled giant squid. Such cases have been documented twice in Bermuda (in 1995 and 1997), once in St. Augustine in 1986, Tasmania in 1960 and Nantucket, Mass., in 1996.

To people unfamiliar with the sea, these mammoth creatures may seem to be mere myth, creatures spoken of in salty tales told by fisherman gathered around a bar in a musty old shanty tavern. But these giant marine creatures are very real and live as close as the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean and as far away as New Zealand and the Antarctic.

Although more recent sightings of the giant squid date back as far as the 17th century, it has only been in the last 100 years that marine scientists have actually been able to recover physical specimens intact or at least partially intact said Nancy Voss, a research professor of Marine Biology and Fisheries and Director of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami.

Voss has been studying cephalopods, the class to which giant squids belong, since 1954, when she received her master's degree in Marine Science from the University of Miami. She has also been involved with several organizations that deal with marine studies, including the Cephalopod International Advisory Council, the Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean and the American Association for Zoological Nomenclature. She even had help from her late husband, Gilbert Voss, who also studied and collected specimens of deep-sea dwelling creatures.

Voss said most physical specimens of giant squid have been found either dead or dying near the surface of the water or in the stomach of sperm whales. Although sightings of the giant squid used to be rare, they have increased in recent times.

"It is because there are more people out there fishing and more people see these TV shows or read magazines and they are more aware of the importance of what they are seeing," Voss said.

Voss said she has had about 16 authenticated sightings since 1950. Out of the 16 specimens found, one would be found about every three to five years. But over the last four years, Voss has received a report of at least one or two giant squids a year around the area of the Bahamas and the Straits of Florida. She even has three recently found specimens in her laboratory freezer.

As far as looks go, the giant squid is similar in appearance to smaller squids. It has a body composed of a head, arms, tentacles, fins and a mantle. The mantle is attached to the top of the squid's head and looks like a giant dunce cap with fins attached to the sides. Eight arms jut out from the giant squid's head as well as two tentacles, both endowed with hooks and sucker rings. The tentacles of the giant squid are usually two to three times the size of the arms and can be up to five times the size of the body. The giant squid is also thought to be a carnivore, dining on fish, crustaceans and smaller squids.

Steve O'Shea, a professor and researcher at the Earth and Ocean Sciences Research Center at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and the world's foremost expert on giant squids, said there have been reports of the giant squid reaching sizes of up to 60 feet, but the largest known specimen that washed ashore on New Zealand measured 55 feet 2 inches in total length.

Although giant squids may seem large, an even larger species of squid has been discovered in the last 75 years. This new species is called the colossal squid, or Mesonychoteuthis. O'Shea said the colossal squid is not necessarily longer than the giant squid, but it is certainly the largest in terms of bulk or actual animal size.

"When you see a colossal squid, my God, your eyes are going to shoot out and you're going to tell yourself that there is no way I want to be in the water with this thing. It's a truly formidable predator," O'Shea said.

No fully mature colossal squids have ever been found, so marine researchers do not know exactly how big they get. But many researchers believe that the colossal squid attains a larger size than a giant squid based on the remains they have found. Since 1925, only six specimens of the colossal squid have been found. Three of the specimens came from the stomach contents of giant sperm whales, while the other three were caught in commercial fishing nets.

Since marine researchers have only been able to obtain giant and colossal squid specimens that are dead or dying, they only know a little about them. Because of this, researchers have attempted to capture live video of giant squids in their natural habitats. They did this by attaching tiny wireless video cameras to the back of sperm whales, O'Shea said.

The cameras were attached near the blowholes of the whales and were timed to release and rise to the surface after a few days. The reason this method was chosen was because squid makes up a large part of a sperm whale's diet. According to O'Shea, one sperm whale eats a ton of squid, about 800 to 1,000 squid every day in order to sustain itself. For every 2,000 to 3,000 squid that the whale eats, it will eat one giant squid.

Unfortunately, the cameras only caught sight of one giant squid. A sperm whale was eating it. One of the main reasons cited for the project's failure was that the cameras were placed far away from the whale's mouth.

"They said it was a waste of time," O'Shea said.

Another method used to capture live video of giant squids in their natural habitat was attempted by Clyde Roper, in collaboration with National Geographic. Roper used a submersible to spot giant squids and record their behavior, but Roper's attempts went as well as the whale-and-camera stunt.

"When I talked to the National Geographic people, they said they had wonderful pictures of bottom topography," said Voss.

Although both of these attempts failed, O'Shea is attempting two new methods of recording giant squids. As O'Shea lives and works in New Zealand, a prominent place for giant squid sightings, he said he believes he has a foolproof plan to capture the giant squid on film. He plans to use female squid pheromones in order to lure giant squids near the surface. He will use underwater cameras to film them and document their behavior. O'Shea said he knows the exact locations of where some giant squid live and will attempt this project sometime this year.

The second method O'Shea has in mind is capturing juvenile or immature giant squids. In 2001, O'Shea caught around 18 juvenile giant squids, but they died shortly after in captivity. Although it has been difficult to keep juvenile deep-water squids alive in captivity, O'Shea said researchers are trying to refine the technique.

"(Before now) the longest (a giant squid had been kept) had been 13 days. More recently, me and my team were able to keep one alive for 125 days. So you can see that there has been huge progress already," O'Shea said.

Catching the colossal squid on video would be a bit harder, O'Shea said. This particular species of squid lives too deep in the water to be caught on film.

Although the future of giant squid research is unknown at this point, O'Shea hopes that everyone will be able to see one in an aquarium in the near future. If he is able to catch juvenile giant squid and keep them alive in captivity, then this may become a reality.

"You can't go anywhere in the world and see any other squid other then the cuttlefish in a tank. No one has been able to do it," O'Shea said. "So what we are doing is very simple. It just requires a few unique things in a tank environment that people haven't thought of yet. But it won't be long -- just a year or so."
http://www.usforacle.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2004/02/16/4030cf82b1581

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Mighty_Emperor

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#92
Emperor said:
This is not the first time that an unidentifiable blob has washed up on a beach and thought to be the remains of the fabled giant squid. Such cases have been documented twice in Bermuda (in 1995 and 1997), once in St. Augustine in 1986, Tasmania in 1960 and Nantucket, Mass., in 1996.

http://www.usforacle.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2004/02/16/4030cf82b1581
I suspect the 1986 year is a typo:

Sea monster: An octopus or a whale?

Dan Kincaid
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 23, 2004 12:00 AM

QUESTION: What was the St. Augustine octopus?

ANSWER: From time to time, mysterious masses of organic tissue wash up from the sea.

The grandaddy of all such "globsters," as they are called informally, washed ashore near St. Augustine, Fla., in 1896. Partly buried in sand, it was a fibrous, pinkish mass nearly 20 feet long. What seemed to be several massive arms, one more than 30 feet long, were found later. A local scientist decided the mass was an octopus.

The carcass weighed several tons. It washed out to sea and back onto the beach a couple of times before disappearing from the record. Although the globster was gone, some samples made their way to Addison Emery Verrill, a prominent zoologist at Yale University.

Verrilldecided the specimens came from a truly colossal octopus, which he dubbed Octopus giganteus. Later, though, he changed his mind, deciding the blob was probably the badly decayed carcass of a whale.

Verrill's specimens were lost, but the Smithsonian Institution had a few other scraps. In 1957, researchers examined the Smithsonian samples and declared they were probably from an octopus after all.

In 1995, Sidney Pierce of the University of South Florida re-examined tissue samples from the Smithsonian and concluded that it was probably from the skin of a dead whale. That's where the St. Augustine octopus saga stands, for now.
http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0323didyouknow23.html
 

Mighty_Emperor

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#93
Mystery 'blob creatures' just whales

From AFP
June 24, 2004

ONE of the myths of the sea has been skewered by gene researchers, who say that huge "blobs" of weird tissue that have washed up on shorelines and sparked tales of sea monsters are in fact the remains of whales.

A 13-tonne lump of boneless tissue that came ashore at Los Muermos, Chile, in July last year ignited speculation that it could be the body of a new species of deep-sea giant octopus.

But tests of fragments of its DNA prove that the tissue came from a sperm whale, say University of Southern Florida biologists. The team also checked preserved samples from other blobs.

They found that the "Giant Octopus of St. Augustine" from 1896, the "Tasmanian West Coast Monster" of 1960, as well as three blobs that were found in Bermuda and Nantucket in the 1990s were all washed-up whale remains.

The research is reported in next Saturday's issue of the weekly British magazine New Scientist.
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,9938805%5E30417,00.html
 
A

Anonymous

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#94
how many of these globsters have really been DNA tested is my question. sure it's probable that it's a whale that washed up, but the record already shows 2 confirmed giant octopi being ID'd as globsters from DNA analysis, the St. Augustine globster included. it was originally misidentified as a squid. I think it'd be unscientific to not test every specimen that washes up. I hate how arrogant "scientists" just like to explain away everything with probabilities and "common knowledge" rather than using science to test and prove. that generalization in the article Emp posted just proves how disappointing the situation is. New species may be going undiscovered cause some cocky or quite simply lazy, scientist doesn't wish to analyze the tissue that washes up with these globsters. So much for curiosity right? :(
 

Mighty_Emperor

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#95
The paper:

Sidney K. Pierce, Steven E. Massey, Nicholas E. Curtis, Gerald N. Smith, Jr., Carlos Olavarría and Timothy K. Maugel (2004) Microscopic, Biochemical, and Molecular Characteristics of the Chilean Blob and a Comparison With the Remains of Other Sea Monsters: Nothing but Whales. The Biological Bulletin. 206. 125-133.

http://www.biolbull.org/cgi/content/abstract/206/3/125

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Mighty_Emperor

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#96
Beach blob mystery solved at last

12:30 27 June 04



"An ocean without unnamed monsters," wrote John Steinbeck, "would be like sleep without dreams." But the dream that a new species of sea monster washed up in Chile in 2003 is over.

Marine biologists have definitively shown that the "Chilean Blob" and other similar mysteries are simply the remains of whales.


In July 2003, a 13-tonne blob of amorphous tissue rolled ashore in Los Muermos, Chile. Local marine biologists could find no bones in it, prompting speculation that it might be the body of a new species of giant octopus.

Even the discovery of the unique dermal glands of the sperm whale in the blob could not dampen this popular hope.

But Sidney Pierce of the University of Southern Florida in Tampa and his colleagues have put the blob through further tests. As they now report in The Biological Bulletin (vol 206, p 125), electron microscopy has revealed a network of tough collagen fibres that are consistent with whale tissue. Also, although no cells remain in the blob, fragments of its DNA match that of a sperm whale.

By putting preserved samples through similar tests, the researchers have confirmed that the "giant octopus of St Augustine" from 1896, the 1960 Tasmanian west coast monster, two Bermuda blobs from the 1990s and the 1996 Nantucket blob are also just the washed-up remains of whales.
http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996060
 

Mighty_Emperor

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#97
Ogre? Octopus? Blobologists Solve an Ancient Mystery

By WILLIAM J. BROAD

Published: July 27, 2004



The world far beneath the waves has always been dark with menace.

One sinister word for it, abyss - from the Greek, a ("without") byssos ("bottom") - perfectly evokes the dark infinities and the primal chaos.

The deep is a blank slate for the expression of human fears and insecurities, an estuary for paranoia. And enough scary creatures abide in the depths to give credence to all that fear.

These beasts often have enormous mouths and needlelike fangs. Their names say everything - dragon fish, devilfish, viper fish, gulper eels, blacktail netdevils, ghost sharks. And then there's the repulsive triplewart seadevils, covered with spines and furrows and warts, their large mouths set in a perpetual frown.

But they all seem tame compared to the mysterious whiteish blobs that for decades arose from the sea and from time to time washed ashore on beaches across the world. What were they? They could be anything.

For more than a century, scientists and laymen who examined the tons of that protoplasm filled in the glaring gaps in knowledge of blob anatomy by imagining eyes, mouths and slimy tentacles long enough to sink cruise ships. Warnings were issued. Perhaps the blobs were remnants of living fossils more fearsome than the dinosaurs.

In 1972, a jittery analyst wondered if one particularly enigmatic blob was the decomposing body of a giant alien from outer space.

Last summer, a gelatinous blob as long as a school bus washed up in Chile. While experts oohed and aahed over what appeared to be fragments of its huge tentacles, the Internet buzzed over news of the monster and the BBC pronounced it perhaps the remains of a lost species of giant octopus. Other experts suggested it was a giant squid or perhaps an entirely new kind of sea creature unknown to science.

But now a team of six highly skilled, if somewhat whimsical biologists centered at the University of South Florida has applied DNA analysis to the blobs and, alas, solved the mystery. The answer is all too mundane: The blobs are old whale blubber.

"To our disappointment," the scientists wrote last month in The Biological Bulletin, "we have not found any evidence that any of the blobs are the remains of gigantic octopods, or sea monsters of unknown species."

Richard Ellis, author of the 1994 book "Monsters of the Sea," an exploration of some of the world's most bizarre fauna, called the DNA finding convincing and devastating.

This does in fact appear to be the end of the great blob story, a tale that began in late 1896 near St. Augustine, Fla., when two boys found a gigantic lump of white, rubbery flesh, 21 feet long, 7 feet wide and weighing perhaps 7 tons. Local doctors, naturalists, photographers and journalists thought they could discern the remains of a head, eyes, mouth, tentacles and a tail.

Dr. Addison Verrill of Yale, the nation's foremost expert on cephalopods, pronounced it a remnant of an unknown species of massive octopus, and gave it a scientific name - Octopus giganteus. "When living," he wrote, "it must have had enormous arms, each one a hundred feet or more in length, each as thick as the mast of a large vessel, and armed with hundreds of saucer-shaped suckers, the largest of which would have been at least a foot in diameter."

By contrast, the largest reliably known octopus measured about 20 feet from arm tip to arm tip.

Chunks of the monster were hacked off and shipped to the museum that later became the Smithsonian. To be honest, a few experts wondered even then if the oddity was just so much decaying whale flesh. The samples languished for decades.

In 1971, there was a sudden surge of interest in the mystery, with three articles in Natural History magazine discussing what one called the "Stupefying Colossus of the Deep." In another, Dr. Joseph F. Gennaro Jr., a cell biologist at the University of Florida, told of how he got a sample of the blob from the Smithsonian and examined it closely under microscopes and polarized light. In his article, "The Creature Revealed," he declared the specimen part of a true ogre.

"The sample was not whale blubber," he wrote. "The evidence appears unmistakable that the St. Augustine sea monster was in fact an octopus, but the implications are fantastic."

-----------------
Even as the Florida blob became a symbol of the unthinkable, new examples were washing ashore to baffle and enthrall investigators. Fleshy globs appeared in Tasmania, New Zealand, Bermuda, Nantucket and Newfoundland.

In the early 1990's, Dr. Sidney K. Pierce, then at the University of Maryland and later at the University of South Florida, became fascinated with the topic and managed to get samples of both the Bermuda and St. Augustine blobs.

He and three colleagues used light and electron microscopes, as well as biochemical methods, to examine the tissues. They then compared the blob samples to octopus and whale parts. Their verdict was unanimous.

The blobs were made of almost pure collagen, the fibrous protein found in connective tissue, bone and cartilage. The scientists concluded that it had come not from giant squids or octopuses or any other kind of mysterious invertebrates. Rather, the Bermuda blob arose from a fish or a shark, and the St. Augustine one from a whale.

The Florida sensation, they said, had probably consisted of a huge whale's entire skin.

"With profound sadness at ruining a favorite legend," they wrote in the April 1995 issue of The Biological Bulletin, published by the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., a distinguished research institution, "we find no basis for the existence of Octopus giganteus."

Mr. Ellis, the author, had gotten a manuscript of the paper and criticized it in "Monsters of the Sea," saying the findings raised more questions than they answered. How, for instance, did known animals use such vast quantities of collagen? "We must conclude," he wrote, "that the mysteries remain unsolved."

Over the years, Dr. Pierce pressed ahead, expanding his collection of gelatinous samples to a total of five, including one from the Chilean blob that came ashore last summer.

Joining with experts from Indiana University, the University of Auckland in New Zealand and the University of Maryland, he zoomed in on the specimens with a new battery of microscopes, chemical tests and, for the first time, DNA technology that, even more than fingerprints, can cast powerful light on issues of identity.

The results, Dr. Pierce and his five colleagues wrote last month, unequivocally demonstrate that the Chilean blob and all the rest of the mysterious finds are simply deteriorating whale blubber, in particular, the collagen matrix that holds it together.

"It is clear," they said, "that all of these blobs of popular and cryptozoological interest are, in fact, the decomposed remains of large cetaceans."

In an interview, Mr. Ellis, who lives in New York City, conceded defeat. "I'm crushed," he said. "It's a blow for people who continue to want there to be great and scary monsters out there."

Then he cheered up. "It may be the requiem for blobdom," he said. "But there are other possibilities" in the sunless depths of the sea.

"We have yet to see a living adult representative of our friend the giant squid," he said of the shy creature whose very long tentacles are thought to writhe like a nest of snakes. "So there's hope for monster watchers."
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/27/science/27blob.html
 
A

Anonymous

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#98
I've just read this thread, which I found very interesting. However, all the links to stories on CNN's site come up with CNN's own personalised '404 Error' message, claiming they don't exist. Are they just having a bad day at the office over at CNN, or is my computer being odd, or are they making 'news' they've reported disappear afterwards?
 
A

Anonymous

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#99
I think they get rid of news stories they don't consider to be important after a while to free up space. A lot of the news sites do this actually, if you try clicking on a lot of older links they no longer work.

Thankfully us fore-sighted Forteans tend to post the text as well as just the link.
 

Mighty_Emperor

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101: Yep I was quite suprised when I went through some old threads which may have been interesting but compromise just a link to a news story followed by a bit of general discussion and a couple more links to a news story and they are all dead making the whole thng

That, as Mr. Fandango says, is why we include the actual text in thread. It may make the threads bigger but it does mean they don't become utterly irrelevant due to the ephemeral nature of news on some services. The copyright situation is tricky but if you ackonledge the source you aren't passing it off as your own work and you can consider us a Fortean Google cache or Wayback Machine of Weird. It also makes searching for things easier as some threads don't mention iportant keywords (like people's names) makin it tricky finding older stories).
 

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From mini-AIR: Are sea serpents whale erections?

Some reformating was necessary to post this newsletter. I recommend a subscription (it's free, and while not a Fortean publication per se, it is certainly in tune with the Cosmic Jokester and the anomalies of scientific researchers, if not Science).

I have bolded the sea serpent item but there is much of interest, and the item on magnetic stimulation of the brain may recall to you the research of Canadian researcher, Michael Persinger, into Ghoulies, Ghosties and Things that Go Bump in the Night--or rather the Brain.

mini-AIR PLEASE FORWARD/POST AS APPROPRIATE
================================================================
The mini-Annals of Improbable Research ("mini-AIR")
Issue number 2005-04
April 2005
ISSN 1076-500X
Key words: improbable research, science humor, Ig Nobel, AIR, the
----------------------------------------------------------------
A free newsletter of tidbits too tiny to fit in the
Annals of Improbable Research (AIR),
the journal of inflated research and personalities
================================================================

-----------------------------
2005-04-01 TABLE OF CONTENTS

2005-04-02 Imminent Events
2005-04-03 What's New in the Magazine
2005-04-04 Sea Monster Discovery
2005-04-05 Attilla the Undersung
2005-04-06 Banana Petioles Morphology Limerick Contest
2005-04-07 Video Minute History of the Universe
2005-04-08 Project Cuppa, Third Serving
2005-04-09 Ig UK Photos on the way
2005-04-10 hair, hair, Hair, HAIR, Hair, hair, hair
2005-04-11 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Sunshine -- Surf and Sand
2005-04-12 On Our Blog
2005-04-13 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Anger and Girdles

2005-04-14 Improbable Research Events
2005-04-15 How to Subscribe to AIR (*)
2005-04-16 Our Address (*)
2005-04-17 Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)
2005-04-18 How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

Items marked (*) are reprinted in every issue.

mini-AIR is a free monthly *e-supplement* to AIR, the print magazine

----------------------------------------------------------
2005-04-02 Imminent Events

April 1 -- MUSEUM OF SCIENCE, BOSTON, MA
April 9 -- I-CON 24, STONY BROOK, NY
April 17 -- NATIONAL WRITERS' WORKSHOP, HARTFORD, CT

For details see section 2005-04-14 below.

----------------------------------------------------------
2005-04-03 What's New in the Magazine

The Mar/Apr issue (vol. 11, no. 2) of the Annals of Improbable
Research is the special PUZZLING SOLUTIONS Issue.

Highlights include:

<> "The Lost Theorems of Kakutani," by Stanley Eigen. This article is online at
<http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume11/v11i2/AIR-11-2-kakutani.pdf>

<> "Dracula's Pellagra and Lois Lane's Lungs: Further Gleanings
from the Medical Literature," by Christopher D. McManus.

<> "Other Einsteins (Part 2)," by A.S. Kaswell, with Jessica Girard.

<> "Stilettos and Schizophrenia," by Paul Mackin, Peter Gallagher and Lucy Ro.

and many other things. The table of contents is at:
<http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume11/v11i2/v11i2.html>


----------------------------------------------------------
2005-04-04 Sea Monster Discovery

We are proud to announce (if only at second-hand) the 21st
century's first great discovery about sea monsters.

In a paper to be published this month in the Archives of Natural
History, Charles Paxton and two colleagues reveal a possible
historical truth about certain sea monsters. Here is the citation:

"Cetaceans, Sex and Sea Serpents: An Analysis of the Egede
Accounts of a 'Most Dreadful Monster' Seen Off the Coast of
Greenland in 1734," C.G.M. Paxton, E. Knatterud and S.L. Hedley,
Archives of Natural History, vol. 32, no. 1, 2005, pp. 1-9. The
authors report that:

[T]here is an alternative explanation for the [reported
sighting of a] serpent-like tail. Many of the large baleen
whales have long, snake-like penises. If the animal did
indeed fall on its back then its ventral surface would have
been uppermost and, if the whale was aroused, the usually
retracted penis would have been visible. The penises of the
North Atlantic right whale and (Pacific) grey whale can be
at least 1.8 metres long, and 1.7 metres long respectively,
and could be taken by a naïve witness for a tail.

[Paxton is of course a 2002 Ig Nobel Biology Prize winner. He and
three other colleagues were honored that year for their report
"Courtship Behaviour of Ostriches Towards Humans Under Farming
Conditions in Britain," which was published in volume 39 of the
journal British Poultry Science.]

----------------------------------------------------------
2005-04-05 Attilla the Undersung

This month's undersung scientist is Dr. Attila Grandpierre, who is
chief research assistant of the Konkoly Observatory of the
Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary.

Attila Grandpierre's publications include "The Fundamental
Principles of the Universe and the Origin of Physical Laws." His
web sites are <http://www.konkoly.hu/staff/grandpierre.html> and
<http://www.grandpierre.hu>

Attila Grandpierre is also a poet and musician:
<http://vhk.mediastorm.hu>

(Thanks to Dany Adams for bringing Doctor Grandpierre to our
attention.)


----------------------------------------------------------
2005-04-06 Banana Petioles Morphology Limerick Contest

We invite you to enter the first and last annual BANANA PETIOLES
MORPHOLOGY LIMERICK COMPETITION, for the best (NEWLY composed!)
limerick that elucidates this research report, which was brought
to our attention by investigator Nancy Sloat:

"The Functional Morphology of the Petioles of the
Banana, Musa textiles," A.R. Ennos, H-Ch. Spatz and.
T. Speck, Journal of Experimental Botany, vol. 51,
no. 353, December 2000, pp. 2085-93. The authors are,
variously, at the University of Manchester, UK,
and at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany.

RULES: Please make sure your rhymes actually do, and that your
limerick at least pretends to adhere to classic limerick form.

PRIZE: The winning poet will receive a free, morphologically
functional issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. Send
entries (one entry per entrant) to:

BANANA PETIOLES MORPHOLOGY LIMERICK CONTEST
c/o <[email protected]>


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2005-04-07 Video Minute History of the Universe

Eric Schulman's one-minute history of the universe can now be seen
online, in video, thanks to the NSF. For the video, and a bit of
history of the history, see
<http://improbable.typepad.com/improbable_research_whats/2005/03/history_of_the_.html>

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2005-04-08 Project Cuppa, Third Serving

Here is another serving from the submissions to Project Cuppa.
Project Cuppa is our attempt to collect the best scientists' best
rituals for preparing tea or coffee.

JOSEPHINE SCOBLE, who is presently working in research in
molecular parasitology at the Pasteur Institute in Lille, France,
then continuing in September at Keele Univeristy Staffordshire
England to do her finals, writes:

"No teapot required! I never use teapots because I believe every
'cuppa' must be unique. It is essential that a mug is used with a
thin 'lip', preferably bone china and white. The colour of the mug
is quite important as it allows me to judge how strong the tea bag
is after adding the boiling water. When adding the water, I make
sure the water hits the top of the tea bag and I like to let it
inflate whilst continuing to pour over the hot water. Once I have
finished pouring on the water at a steady rate, I wait for the tea
bag to deflate and with a teaspoon I squeeze the teabag once
against the side of the mug. One lump of sugar is added, then a
splash of milk (semi skimmed) and stir in both directions... drink
immediately holding mug in both hands.

"I would have loved to have accompanied this information with a
schematic, but I feel I have given enough detail."

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2005-04-09 Ig UK Photos on the way

A big thank you to everyone connected with last month's Ig Nobel
Tour of the UK -- especially to the British Association for the
Advancement of Science, The Guardian newspaper, and all of the
participants in the events.

In the coming weeks, we will be posting photos on our web site. In
the meantime, you can study journalist Donald MacLeod's haunting
accounts of certain persons and incidents related to the tour:

<http://www.improbable.com/ig/2005/ig-tour-UK/2005-britain-ig.html#accounts>

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2005-04-10 hair, hair, Hair, HAIR, Hair, hair, hair

The Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS) has
several new members:
<http://www.improbable.com/projects/hair/hair-club-top.html#newest>

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2005-04-11 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Sunshine -- Surf and Sand

Each month we select for your special attention a research report
that seems especially worth a close read. This month's pick:

"Surfing Injuries," Sam Sunshine, Current Sports Medicine Reports,
vol. 2, 2003, pp. 136-41. (Thanks to Robert Lauder for bringing
this to our attention.) Dr. Sunshine, who practices medicine as
part of the Pacific Crest Medical Group in Aliso Viejo,
California, reports that:

Compared with other sports, surfing is relatively safe.
Contact with the surfboard, rocks, coral, or sand causes
most injuries. Environmental factors such as sun exposure
and marine animal bites and stings are other causes of
injury. Surfing with common sense, sunscreen, and proper
equipment can help prevent injury.


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2005-04-12 On Our Blog

Here are some recent topics (a new one appears every weekday) in
our blog:

The Book of Weird Experiments

Feynman Ice Cream

Beatle Wing Music

The Adventures of Hideto Tomabechi

Suicide -- A Poisson Process?

What's Up With Max Gerson?

... and many others

Read the blog via <http://www.improbable.com>

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2005-04-13 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Anger and Girdles

MACHINE AGAINST THE RAGE
"Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation of Medial-Frontal Cortex
Impairs the Processing of Angry Facial Expressions," C.J. Harmer,
et al., Nature Neuroscience, vol. 4, no. 1, January 2001, pp. 17-
8. The authors are at the Institute of Neurology, London, U.K.

WAIST NOT?
"Effect of Clothing Pressure on the Tightness Sensation of
Girdles," A.P. Chan and J. Fan, International Journal of Clothing
Science and Technology, vol. 14, no. 2, 2001, pp. 100-10.

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2005-04-14 Improbable Research Events

==> For details and updates see
<http://www.improbable.com/navstrip/schedule.shtml>
==> Want to host an event? <[email protected]> 617-491-4437.
==> <http://www.improbable.com/navstrip/airshows/airshows.html>

MUSEUM OF SCIENCE, BOSTON, MA -- APR 1, 2005
Improbable Research Show, 7:00 PM.
INFO: http://www.mos.org/doc/1136
PHONE: (617) 589-0386

I-CON 24, STONY BROOK, NY
-- APR 8-10, 2005
Improbable Research show, 3:00 PM Saturday, April 9.
<http://www.iconsf.org>

NATIONAL WRITERS' WORKSHOP, HARTFORD, CT
-- APR 16/17, 2005
Marc Abrahams's talk on "Improbable Writing" will be at 11:50 AM
on Sunday, April 17.
<http://www.courant.com/features/lifestyle/hc-nww2005.htmlstory>

IG NOBEL TOUR OF AUSTRALIA
for NATIONAL SCIENCE WEEK
-- AUGUST, 2005

CASCADIACON, SEATTLE
-- THURS, SEPT 1 - MON, SEPT. 5, 2005

FIFTEENTH 1ST ANNUAL IG NOBEL PRIZE CEREMONY
-- OCT 6, 2005
Sanders Theatre, Harvard University.
Tickets will go on sale in August.

IG INFORMAL LECTURES
-- OCT 8, 2005
MIT. Room and time to be announced.


--------------------------------------------------------------
2005-04-15 How to Subscribe to AIR (*)

Here's how to subscribe to the magnificent bi-monthly print
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just the little bits of overflow material you've been reading in
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2005-04-16 Our Address (*)

Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)
PO Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238 USA
617-491-4437 FAX:617-661-0927

EDITORIAL: [email protected]
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2005-04-17 Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

Please distribute copies of mini-AIR (or excerpts!) wherever
appropriate. The only limitations are: A) Please indicate that the
material comes from mini-AIR. B) You may NOT distribute mini-AIR
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(c) copyright 2005, Annals of Improbable Research


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ruffready

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GIANT SEA SERPENT CALIFORNIA COAST MANY WITNESSES

I have a BOOK (which I don't fill like digging out right now , but maybe soon if I remember or get reminded) of a really cool sea serpent report , that I have not been able to find ( after many google attemps) anywhere else. It was witnessed by workers over looking a beach (coron del mar, california??? ) (its in the book) and it wasn't too long ago., anyway, they say this massive object moving from out at sea toward the beach , yes, there where folks on the beach at the time. The workers, from up on the ridge , saw as it got closer it was like a hugh serpent going (with humps , ..I'm really wing it her!! I need to dig that book out!!) toward the area were folks were in the watrer etc...they I think (the workers) tried to make noise to get folks attention..the story is probably one of the coolest I remember (I gues thats why I'm talking about it now! ) ..ANYONE HEARD ABOUT THIS report that was within the last 25 years or so???
 

ruffready

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a volume of "mysteries of the unknown" Time-life b

OK HERE , I dug out the book (it was in the last box at the bottom of the stack, of course! mysteries of the unknown-vol.title : mysterious creatures) On the afternoon of October 31, 1983 a construction crew in Marin county, California, was hard at work on a costal Cliffside, repairing a stretch of highway 1 . Beneath them lay the sandy expanse of Stinson Beach and the vast waters of the pacific. shortly before two o'clock , a flag man on the crew turned away from his post and peered out to sea: he had spotted something very large and very strange speeding through the water toward the shore. The flagman quickly radio a fellow worker . Matt Ratto, to grab his binoculars and take a closer look. (ruff says, I will just get to the meat of it here leaving out the dull parts) Ratto , saw nothing like this before ! It was about 1/4 mile out and looked to be a hundred feet long and quite thin, with three vertical humps or coils.
As he watch the creature picked his head up out of the water, appearing to look around. Then it reversed direction, turning sharply and submerging its head, and swam back out to sea. Another witness, a truck driver named Steve Bjora, estimated its speed at forty-five miles an hour. who saw only two humps and said it resembled a long eel .
A total of five workers viewed the spectacle that day, and their descriptions were in agreement concerning the beast great length, slimness, and dark color. Another witness, transportation inspector Marlene Martin saw "four humps and the biggest thing that she ever saw"
Yet another witness, 19 year old Roland Curry, saw the beast that afternoon also , but said it was the second time in a week that he'd seen it!!
THREE weeks after the Stinson beach sightings, a group of surfers spotted the monster 400 miles to the south , near Costa Mesa, California. Young Hutchinson, a 29 year old surfer, said it emerged from the waters off the Santa Ana River jetty just 10 feet from his board. (Ruff says: I'd a died of a heart attack) At first Hutchinson was reluctant to speak of the incident , thinking that it was "too crazy" But after reading about the Marin County sightings, he came forward, confirming that the creature was just as the highway workers had described it -"a long black eel".
 

ruffready

Justified & Ancient
Joined
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after finding the above book and doing google searches I found some related "back up" reports on same
The sketch above is of a creature sighted many times since 1976 in the waters around San Francisco Bay. It has been sighted near Stinson beach and Agate Beach. A road crew spotted the creature in November 1983 at 2:30 pm from a cliff above the water. A description of the creature from a Stinson beach sightings stated the animal was about 100 ft long, 5 ft in diameter and black in color. It was observed trashing about and speeding around.
Sea Serpents have also been reported off the North American West Coast too. There have been many reports from along the Pacific coast near Vancouver of several different shaped creatures including a snake-like sea serpent. Further south more reports center around the city of San Fransico.

On November 1st, 1983, a construction crew was working on Route 1 just north of the Golden Gate Bridge near Stinson Beach. Suddenly they spotted a creature, underwater, approaching the land. They estimated the creature's length at 100 feet and it's diameter at five. Using binoculars they watched it making coils, throwing it's head about and whipping it's body around. http://theshadowlands.net/serpent2.htm

Two years later, in San Fransico bay, twins Robert and William Clark were sitting in a car near the sea wall. They watched two seals swimming extremely fast across the bay. Then they noticed a "large black snake-like" animal" chasing the seals. They saw that the creature moved by forming it's body into coils and wiggling up and down. The animal apparently also had small, translucent fan-like fins that acted as stabilizers.
http://www.unmuseum.org/seasnake.htm
California Sea Serpent Flap
California Sea Serpent Flap
During October and November 1983, several sightings of a dark, eel-like creature came from the California coast. (Stinson Beach, north of San Francisco, and Costa Mesa). Three humps (just like in the classic sea serpents on old maps) followed a small head, which rose above the surface to look around. Many individuals saw the serpent, some with binoculars. At Stinson Beach, the animals was followed by about 100 birds and two dozen sea lions.

(Anonymous; "'Sea Serpents' Seen off California Coast," International Society of Cryptozoology Newsletter, 2:9, Winter 1983.)

http://www.science-frontiers.com/sf033/sf033p12.htm
 

Mighty_Emperor

Gone But Not Forgotten
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More sea serpent = whale whanger:

Found at sea

Something monstrous lurks beneath water

Marc Abrahams
Tuesday November 1, 2005
The Guardian

Courtship Behaviour of Ostriches Towards Humans Under Farming Conditions in Britain is the title of a scientific study written by Charles Paxton and three colleagues. In 2002, when I informed Paxton that his team would be awarded that year's Ig Nobel biology prize, he took the news matter-of-factly. "I'm not surprised to be getting this telephone call," he said, "but I expected that if I ever won an Ig Nobel prize, it would be for my work with sea monsters."

This year, Paxton and two colleagues, Erik Knatterud and Sharon Hedley, published a study about sea monsters that will change the way scientists look at them. Paxton and Hedley are at St Andrews University in Scotland, Knatterud is based in Stavsjoe, Norway.

Here are four surprising facts about Charles Paxton:

1. Of the four ostrich researchers, he was the ostriches' favourite.

2. It would be misleading to say that he studies ostriches. Paxton no longer works with long-necked, sexually aggressive birds. These days his main research work concerns fish.

3. He is a friend of the celebrated and glamorous biologist Olivia Judson, whose book, Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation, which presents detailed, deliciously graphic how-to sex advice from the fictional doctor to a variety of fish, birds, reptiles, mammals, slime moulds and other species, was all the rage several years ago. Paxton and Judson were students together at Oxford University.

4. It is slightly misleading to say, as some do, that he studies sea monsters. What he studies are reports about sea monsters. Sea monster reports are, for him, part scholarly research, part pastime.

You may have noticed a hint of a pattern in facts number one, two and three: sex. Charles Paxton's newest sea monster report, published in the Archives of Natural History, continues the pattern. It gives a fresh interpretation to an old sea-monster sighting.

In 1741, a Danish-Norwegian missionary named Hans Egede published what became a famous account of "a most dreadful monster" that appeared off the coast of Greenland. "The case is interesting," the modern scientists write, "in that Egede had drawn and described a number of large northern whale species in his book, so he obviously felt the 'dreadful' monster was something different."

Paxton says that most historians have relied solely on a bad translation of Egede's book. He and his colleagues apply modern biological insights to the case.

Egede's animal had a serpent-like tail that appeared out of the water when the rest of the beast had disappeared. But rather than a tail, Paxton et al say, this was most likely a penis. They present photographs of well-endowed male whales, and also a drawing from Egede's book, in which we see the sea monster's serpent-like tail. The latter is remarkably similar to what we see in the photographs.

The case is not proved definitively, but it should be an inspiration to both biologists and whale-watching tourists.
http://education.guardian.co.uk/egweekl ... 09,00.html
 

Kondoru

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Hans Egerdes creature was probably a beaked whale

I was told this by a top Cetologist.

He didnt mention no whang.
 

Xanatico

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Knowing this universe, this is so bizarre and stupid it is probably true.
 

ruffready

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SF Sea Serpent

SF Sea Serpent

All the latest about sightings of sea serpents in San Francisco Bay and the West Coast of California

There was a loud crash and with a spray of water the creature seemed to stop dead in its tracks. The sea lion, apparently being familiar with the shoreline, had swum over a shelf of rocks bringing the beast into shallow water, only three feet deep. Instantaneously, a long black neck popped up, twisted backwards away from shore,
go here for all info and pics >> http://home.access4less.net/~sfseaserpent/index.html
 

Iggore

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En même temps, une enquête rapporte qu'une créature avait fait surface, parait-il, ressemblant à celle de l'immense Cthulhu, au large de la Malaisie; D'après une lettre de Pursuit (v21, n2, p89, 1988) de Keith L. Partain, un de ses collègues décrivit, pour l'avoir vue, " un énorme poulpe, peut-être d'origine extra terrestre " (J'essaie toujours de localiser la lettre dans le fichier SITU)

This is from the oeil du sphynx website. Emperor, my man, you wouldnt happen to have any info on that giant octopus of possibly alien origine? Because I'm certain a case like this would be well known and maybe even well documented.
 

Leaferne

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Bouncing this up to the top as another example of swimming elephants. :) (for the benefit of readers of the Nessie thread)
 

mrpoultice

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Washed up Sea Monster? or not

Well I for one think it looks ikky...

Sea monster - or a load of old barnacles?
The Dominion Post | Friday, 8 June 2007

Nightmarish sea monster or natural wonder?
A 14-metre, tentacle-covered mass has horrified and fascinated Waikanae beachgoers this week.

However, Conservation Department community relations programme manager Stacy Moore said it was actually a lot of goose barnacles (Lepas anatifera), each about 30 centimetres long with a shell attached to each long pinkish tube. They were stuck to a piece of wood or rope.

Goose barnacles were carried on driftwood, rope or the bottom of ships. Timber cast ashore was often completely covered with the barnacles.

The barnacles prompted one of Britain's strangest ancient animal beliefs. The heart- shaped shell was believed to resemble the head of the barnacle goose, Branta leucopsis.

Because the geese rarely nested in Britain, no one saw the eggs or nests, prompting the belief that the geese grew up on the planks of ships and emerged clothed in feathers and flew away.

Ms Moore expected the mass on Waikanae Beach to remain just north of the Waimea Stream mouth till a storm surge swept it back out to sea.
Here with photo

Mr P
 

GNC

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It sort of reminds me of a pink version of that famous tadpole sea monster picture. A photo that used to be on this site, but now I can't find.
 

PaulwRus

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Black Sea monster

A report on Russian TV.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjfIxeygDCM

The commentary is:

An unknown sea monster has been caught in the Black Sea not far from Sevastopol. It has such an evil-looking appearance that it made even experienced fishermen shudder. The predator tried to attack one of the men, by the way, which cost it its life. For the moment Sevastopol ichthyologists are only conjecturing as to what the monster might be. The scientists have two versions: it's either a goblin shark that lives in the Sea of Japan or a relict species of shark that became extinct hundreds of thousands of years ago, but all the same the main puzzle is how such a predator came to be in the Black Sea at all.
 
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