Sunday, 23 August 2009

Mega London Sharks?

For months now, one of the main sources for traffic to this site has been people searching for "Mega London Sharks". I've scratched my head and wondered; what exactly are they looking for? I thought maybe it was a sports team, or a show of some sort.

Now, looking back on it, I was a tad silly not to see what it was they were looking for. It's just I'd never said the words out loud. Finally I had a search to my site for "Is the Mega London Shark still alive?"

Mega London???? Megalodon. Problem solved. So for all those searching for Mega London Sharks, look no further... it's megalodon.

You can check out my post on those magnificent prehistoric creatures, and their possible survival, here. Or check out Wikipedia's entry

Further Reading

Sure it's fictional, but it's also highly entertaining. Plus it is likely to soon be a movie, so if you buy it now you'll have the kudos of being able to laugh at your ill informed friends when going to see the movie and can then complain post-movie about how the film "wasn't as good as the book".

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Saturday, 15 August 2009

One (Or Lots) Of My Cockroaches Are Missing!

Ever heard the one about the case of the disappearing cockroaches in the ex-USSR states? I saw this story and thought of you.

Reports are coming in from around the former USSR stating that the cockroach population is decreasing at a worrying rate. The story seems part urban legend/part scientific curiosity. You might think people would rejoice at the lack of cockroach activity, but of course there always comes the rough with the smooth:

Some see it as a sign of further ozone damage... and the end of the human race

Could it be mobile phones??? Why is everything always blamed on mobile phones?

Forum posts believe it to be a sign of the apocalypse.

One particularly far out theory suggests it might be the result of cockroach wars. Hmm...

Any truth to the rumours? Possibly, but maybe not. There are lots of references on this Wiki page to Russian articles regarding the scientific basis. I suspect it's the USSR just wasn't that good at manufacturing cockroach poison. They were too busy beating America into space and digging really amazing submarine bases.

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Giant Spiders

Bill Gibbons, he of Mokele Mbmeme fame, has also recorded stories of another cryptid in the jungles of Africa (in this case the Democratic Republic of Congo): a giant spider.

"I first became aware of a giant ground-dwelling spider through Miss Margaret Lloyd, formerly of Rhodesia and now living in England. Her parents, Reginald and Margurite Lloyd were exploring the interior of the old Belgian Congo in 1938 when they spotted something crossing the jungle track ahead of them. At first they took the object to be a large jungle cat or a monkey on all fours. When they stopped their vehicle (an old Ford truck) to allow the animal to pass, they were thunderstruck to see that it was a very large brown spider, similar in its appearance to a tarantula, with a leg span of at least four or five feet. Mr. Lloyd trembled so much with excitement that he was unable to retrieve his camera in time to take a snap, and Mrs. Lloyd was so distraught that she wanted to return home (Rhodesia) immediately. This creature is known as the J’ba Fofi; J’ba meaning “great” or “giant” Fofi meaning “spider” (spiders of all kinds are called Fofi)."

Certainly doesn't make me want to take a trip through the Congo without a very large gun!

I will admit to having a soft spot for movies like Eight Legged Freaks

So is there any more evidence for this massive creature? Not really... the "facts" as far as they can be ascertained, thanks to Karl Shuker's Extraordinary Animals Revisited, are that the spider is claimed by members of the Bake pygmy tribe of the area to be yellow with a purple abdomen when a spiderling, growing to up to 3 feet in length and brown in colour as an adult. Its eggs are supposed to be the size of peanuts. It builds hides that resemble the huts of the local tribes, and is supposed to be able to build webs that are capable of capturing birds and small forest antelopes. It has been said to eat humans if given the chance.

There are also other stories. Monster Quest recently did a show on giant spiders in the Amazon said to be big enough to attack even humans but mainly "livestock" (for which read chickens). This is pretty similar to reports, now quite likely substantiated, of a Chicken Eating Spider which appears to exhibit the strange, for a spider, behaviour of communal living and hunting!

The problem with spiders getting to any size much bigger than a dinner plate is the level of oxygen in the atmosphere. This causes problems with the growth of land invertebrates (as per this article) which is why in the past we had giant dragonflies and arachnids but not anymore. However evolution is a tricky process and will often throw up some new way of overcoming such problems.

More Arachnid Stories:

Still On The Track: Attack of the Camel Spider

Still On The Track: The Fearsome Frog-Eating Spider of Epping Forest

Cryptomundo: Flashback: Camel Spiders and Other Giant Spiders. Check out the giant spider in Louisiana!

Further Reading

Invertebrata Enigmatica: Giant Spiders, Dangerous Insects, and Other Strange Invertebrates in Classic Science Fiction and Fantasy - Chad Arment (Editor) (US Amazon, UK Amazon)

Extraordinary Animals Revisited - Karl P. Shuker (UK Amazon, US Amazon)

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Sunday, 2 August 2009

The 2009 Kentish UFO Flap

As some readers may know, I hail from Kent and grew up in the south east of the county in Folkestone. You may also realise I like Fortean things! So I thought, let's find something interesting and Fortean from Kent to write about today. I was thinking maybe some historical event, when my research found me looking at literally dozens of reports of orange lights over Kent, specifically in the last few months. There are quite few a comments regarding them on this BBC report about similar sightings in 2008. Now I don't mean to say these sightings are limited to Kent, but I'm limiting my focus there. The MoD, however, does suggest something strange is going on over Kent.

Below are a "few" more sightings, with links to the original witness report and more detail.

8th April 2009 - Sighting of three lights flying in a triangular formation over Kingsnorth, Ashford, Kent in a south westerly direction.

24th April 2009 - Kent, UK

4th May 2009 - 9 orange lights moving in formation of 3 rows of 3 spotted moving in south easterly direction. Reported from Benfleet, Essex and Brands Hatch, Kent

16th May 2009 - 3 orange lights in a row followed by a fourth over Margate, Kent heading east out over the sea. Described as looking a little like jellyfish.

30th May 2009 - A real clutch of sightings here: one fast moving orange object observed over various parts of south eastern UK, especially northern Kent. Other objects seen by some witnesses. One witness describes as being a little like a jellyfish.

30th May 2009 - Another report of two fast moving fireballs in Herne Bay, Kent

30th May 2009 - Two more orange balls in the sky, seen from Dover, Kent

9th - 12th June 2009 - Blinking orange lights seen rising over Romney Marsh three nights in a row.

13th June 2009 - Two bright orange objects seen rising into air near Maidstone, Kent. Looked like a jellyfish without the tendrils.

13th June 2009 - Two orange lights seen heading in south westerly direction over Maidstone, Kent

14th June 2009 - Three oranges light seen following each other over Paddock Wood, Kent

19th June 2009 - Yellow lights in the sky over Tonbridge, Kent

20th June 2009 - Three lights, at least one orange, reported rising into clouds over Ripple, Kent

21th June 2009 - Three bright orange lights seen rising into clouds over Welling, Kent

22nd June 2009 - Two orange lights seen in Snodland, Kent (famous for being the town of my birth, of course!) rising eventually extinguishing but visible dark object still seen.

26th June 2009 - Birchington, Kent

27th June 2009 - Rising orange light in Beckenham, Kent

30th June 2009 - More flashing orange lights over Romney Marsh, Kent

4th July 2009 - 7 bright orange lights seen over Stanford North, Kent

4th July 2008 - 3 orange lights seen over Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Described as very fast.

etc. etc. The two sites linked to multiple times during these sightings will provide many more similar things.

So what could they be?

Meteors: given the distances some were seen over within one hour (such as the 30th May sightings in northern Kent, down through to Dover) it is unlikely these can be explained by anything other than a meteor(s). Not only can meteors look like stable fireballs, some can also "flash" on and off.

Chinese Lanterns and "hoax" fire lit bags: I think the below video from Southampton shows the stunning effect that Chinese lanterns can have. The effect is amazingly similar to the reports described above. Also many descriptions indicate it looked like the top half of a jellyfish, which is again consistent with some sort of illuminated "bag". Do people really let off that many Chinese lanterns around the south east?? Erm... yes they do. This news story from Thanet last month indicates that not only are the emergency services being called about them more often "especially this summer" but also has comments from people stating they themselves have used them a number of times so far this year... just in Thanet! Also see this news story regarding video below.

Here's more videos from Kent this year which I think are very similar, if at a great a distance and filmed very badly, to the video above. The concept of them "rising" and also the Snodland report stating an object could still be seen rising even after the light extinguished again back up this theory.

Hot air balloons: You may think me mad, but Kent is well known for having hot air balloons up in the sky. Leeds Castle, near the centre of the county, has regular air balloon flights which travel for miles in all directions. As a kid in Snodland, we'd take great delight when we'd see one of these in trouble over the town as we knew they'd land over in the rec which meant we'd get to have a good look! At night it is difficult to see the outline of the balloons but easy to spot the flashing light caused by the fire inside the basket. I have, more than once, had to take a second look at the night sky before realising that "UFO" was in fact a hot air balloon.

Aliens/interdimensional beings/otherwise fortean explanation. This becomes difficult here... Of almost all the reports of the lights I can see no reason to believe they are intelligently controlled. Few make any abrupt turns, few seem to move at inexplicably fast speeds (check out the video above again, those lights are moving plenty fast and it doesn't seem that windy of a day!). Others say the lights "move at different speeds". Well yes aerodynamics and different wind speeds in different layers of air can explain that.

I think what we have here are many reports of Chinese lanterns, a few meteors, a couple of hot air balloons and a few sightings that remain "unexplained" but probably not "Fortean". If you really don't believe people can't tell the difference between Chinese Lanterns and "a craft" just check out this report from my hometown of Folkestone, Kent to see how easy a misidentification can be.

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist