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Monday, 29 August 2011

Unusual Shark off Somalia 1931, Possible New Cryptid Category

In, "montalban767" wrote:

I found the folowing item in The Marine Obsever volume 9 1932 page 91:
"The following is an extract from the Meteorological Log of S.S Peshawar, Captain A.E McBryde,Colombo to Suez.Observer Mr D.Meikle, 3rd Officer.
"May 26th,1931, at 11.55am a shark of unusual dimensions was passed on the port side.The Commander, who has been over 35 years at sea,and who sighted the fish,stated that he had never seen a shark of this size or type before.

"At first sight,owing to its bulk,it appeared to be totally oblivious to the presence of the ship,which gave us the impression that it was dying.On inquiry,however,it would seem that this listless conduct was normal,and in accordance with the habits of the Basking Shark.

"It was heading in the a direction at right angles to the ship`s course,and before reaching the beam position the mouth was seen to be in the usual position,i.e well underneath the head,and as we got nearer,this appeared to be unusually large,probably about two feet in width,and greatly resembling that of a cat fish,having the usual whiskery appendages hanging down from the lower jaw or lip.

" The shark was of a reddish-brown colour,and was estimated to be not less than 25 feet long.The ship passed only about 40 feet in front of it,and from here,the full width of the head was thought to be about 4 feet;and,as nearly as we could see,this width extended for a distance of about 8 or 10 feet along the body almost as far as the dorsal fin,which protruded some 5 feet out of the water.

"The top of the head was absolutely flat,and the widely spaced white eyes lent it the characteristic evil appearance of its species. Position of ship,Latitude 11 degrees 49 N., Longitude 51 40 E"

Cape Guardafui is the eastern-most point in Africa, the apex of that area called the Horn of Africa.

The original reply I made was that the shark having whiskers under the snout sounded like the group of shallow-water sharks called the nurse sharks. They are relatives of the bottom-dwelling woebegongs of Australia but are larger, swim at medium depths and are more nearly the same shape as regular sharks. Atlantic nurse sharks grow to about fifteen feet long so this one is about ten feet longer than that. The large dorsal fin is also unusual (it would not be so unusual if it was actually the tail fin: nurse sharks have long tail fins) and the colouration is also unusual. So I do think this is a bona fide unidentified species; a cryptid. It is highly unusual as described and I would like to hear any more reports of it, if there are any.

My correspondant (who is actually CFZ Blogger Richard Muirhead in a secret identity) subsequently sent me the information that Francois de Sarre had written to him:
'I don't know this shark with appendages from the mouth like a cat-fish :-) Maybe it could be the 'nurse shark' (Gynglimostoma cirratum), but that is usually smaller'

And so I made the reply:
'So he said what I said, basically. Nurse sharks are related to both ther smaller carpet sharks and the larger whale sharks, and are in some ways intermediate between them; and the nurse shark species in the Atlantic [G. cirratum] is larger than the one that is normally present in East Africa. There is also another kind of shark that is called a nurse shark but not related, and it has not the projections near the mouth. And you may most certainly convey my thoughts to Francois as well.'

Best Wishes, Dale D.

Comparison made by adjusting Atlantic nurse shark species upwards to 25 feet long and enlarging the dorsal fin: the tail would still be in the size reported for the back fin and so it is possible there was a confusion about that in the sighting. Original artwork is by Michael Brough and made for a public-informational brochure: Copyright © 1999 The Cincinnati Post. My version makes some alterations to the original.

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