Monday, 9 November 2009

If we continue conducting nuclear tests it's possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again.

You know New Zealand is an odd country.

Now the reason I say that is no way related to the fact that the New Zealand All Blacks defeated Wales in a game of Rugby Union this past Saturday. Heck New Zealand have dominated these matches for so long now you kind of get used to losing them. Kind of.

No, there are other way more important reasons why New Zealand is an odd country. For a start you’ve got the crazy ways in which the folks there entertain themselves.

About two weeks ago the free London paper Metro reported a story which is, well, completely bonkers. Basically every year in New Zealand the South Island town Waiau holds an annual pig hunt. To kick of the hunt a competition is held amongst the town’s children. This year however the contest has been banned after a section of the public kicked up a fuss about it’s nature. The reason?

Well the competition is to see who can throw a dead rabbit the furthest.

No really.

Obviously while it may be unbelievable that anyone could possibly find this offensive, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals disagrees. They complained so passionately that the organisers felt compelled to call the whole thing off. The best bit of all this hullaballo (Gee Note: Good word usage) is a pair of polar opposite quotes. The first comes from dead bunny chucking head honcho Jo Moriarty. When asked about the ban he replied

It's political correctness gone mad!

(Gee Note: Yeah! Manholes being renamed Personnel Access Covers to avoid offending women, and local councils renaming Christmas “Winter Holiday” to make it more “accessible” to non-Christians was bad enough. But not letting children throw around deceased vermin! That’s just not on!)

The second comes from SPCA animal cruelty inspector Charles Cadwallader who said

Do you throw your dead grandmother around for a joke at her funeral?

(Gee Note: Well no. I mean we did try giving the old girl a whirl, but her jawbone detached and hit little Jimmy square in the forehead. I can still hear him crying now. And the smell. Good God. I mean there’s only so many Pine Forrest air fresheners you can hang off one corpse you know?)

Isn’t it amazing how two different groups can have such contrasting views on something as simple as allowing children to throw rabbits around? Is it any wonder then that a possible plesiosaur can also cause as much debate?

Allow me to explain. On April 25 1977 the Japanese fishing vessel Zuiyo Maru was off the coast of New Zealand looking for some fun times. Or fish. You know, one of the two. Anyway they were sailing East of Christchurch, chilling out max and relaxing all cool, when all of a sudden one of the eagle eyed crew spotted something, er, fishy in their nets.

The Japanese sailors spied a carcass clogging up their trawl the likes of which they had never seen before. Convinced that they had discovered a previously unknown form of animal the men aboard the Zuiyo Maru proceeded to do the smart thing and collect a couple of samples here and there, as well as taking pictures of it like it was 1930‘s Paris and Jean Cocteau had just stepped on to the deck. And then the captain of the ship, one Akira Tanaka, decided that they needed to dump it overboard and carry on their merry way (Gee Note: Look before you get all “Awww why did he do that?” bringing back undiscovered mega fauna is good and all. But it don’t put no food on the table. Tanaka gotta eat. So do the little Tanaka’s. You want that on your conscience, huh? Hungry little Tanaka’s? No. No of course you don’t).

Measuring this badly decomposed body the folks aboard the Zuiyo Maru estimated it to be about 10 metres long and weighed it in at two tons. According to their reports the creature also had a one and half metre long neck, four large fins, and a two metre long tail. Also a massive lack of dorsal fin. Oh and no gills.

Upon it’s arrival back on Japanese shores the Zuiyo Maru and her able seamen (Gee Note: Oh please don’t cheapen this by giggling) were greeted by a storm of controversy. The samples and pictures taken were whisked away and studied by the top bods at various universities. Astonishingly two of them, Professor Tokio Shimaka and Dr Fujiro Yasuda came to the same independent conclusion. It was, they said, the remains of….


Dun dun duuuuuunnnnnnnn.

Nah I’m just kidding. They both said it was…

A plesiosaur .

Dun dun… Um. Actually that bit‘s not made up. They genuinely believed that it was a plesiosaur. For those of you who aren’t familiar plesiosaurs, picture in your head the Loch Ness Monster. You got it? Good. What your looking at is a plesiosaur. For those of you who have no imagination then here’s a picture of one. Admittedly I could have just posted it to begin with. But if watching pre-school programming for the past two hours straight has taught me anything it’s that our brain is like any other muscle. It needs a good workout every so often.

However, the thing is not everyone agrees with Messers Shimaka and Yasuda. Most notably Glen J. Kuban put forward the theory that the dino-fish is undoubtedly the rotten corpse of a basking shark. You see when a basking shark decomposes it takes on a form not unlike that of a plesiosaur. Also amino acid test on the samples provided by the Zuiyo Maru seemed to indicate that the unidentified animal was most likely Chondrichthyes in origin. Or Shark to you and me.

Nonsense cried others, such as Professor Yoshinori Imaizumi of the Japanese National Science Museum who said, "It's not a fish, whale, or any other mammal.". And Fujiro Yasuda himself was another to rule out the whole shark theory "No animal of that size has such an elongated body.”. Claiming that the position of the fins was all out of whack for a basking shark he continues, “We can't find any known species of fish that correspond with the animal caught outside New Zealand. If it is a shark, it is a species unknown to science.”

And so before you could say “Nerdfight!!!!!!” it was on like Donkey Kong. The carcass on the Zuiyo Maru sparked a debate which has pretty much raged on till this day. Most scientists agree that it is likely a decomposed basking shark. But there’s enough people outside of the usual crackpots creationists who are questioning the accepted theory. And that in itself is enough to make this New Zealand Monster very interesting indeed.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to see how far I can throw a dead rabbit. What? It sounds like fun.

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