Thursday, August 03, 2006

Dr Karl Shuker writes

I was very interested and pleased to learn of the team's unearthing of new info re the ninki nanka, which indicates that it is similar to or synonymous with the crowing crested cobra, reported widely across Africa.As for the Gambian sea serpent: I am sad, though not overly surprised, that the body was not recovered - it was always most likely that after having been buried on a beach over 20 years ago, its remains would have disappeared, which is a great pity as its conclusive identification would have ended a longstanding mystery.As it is, the naming of it as a huge dolphin by the eyewitness inteviewed by the team is unfortunately of little if any use in furthering the matter of its identity. Many years ago, this creature's principal eyewitness, Owen Burnham, an honorary Senegambian Mandinka fluent in their language, revealed to me a very pertinent piece of etymlogical information - I've just been re-reading his letter describing this issue, which I have on file. The local tribespeaople in this area of West Africa do not create new names for any rare or mysterious creature encountered by them. Instead, even if it only vaguely resembles a more common animal, it is immediately called by the name that they give that common animal. So if a mystery animal had, for example, a dolphin-like beak, or dolphin-like flippers, this would be enough for them to call it a dolphin, irrespective of any non-delphinoid features that it possessed, which, in the Gambian beast's case, included nostrils at the end of its beak, a long fluke-less tail, two pairs of limbs, and no dorsal fin. Indeed, this etymological situation is exactly what Owen himself encountered back in the 1980s when investigating his sighting - locals to whom he described his beast referrred to it as a dolphin - even though Owen's description and detailed drawings clearly suggested otherwise, and even though the locals themselves knew that it wasn't a dolphin! It's just that they didn't have any other name for it.It seems safe to say that the mystery of just what Owen did see lying on Bungalow Beach two decades ago is destined to remain precisely that, but the CFZ team should be congratulated for their valiant bid to solve it by actually going out to the source and seeking the carcase. If only more field searches like this one were conducted, we may all learn a lot more, because however much discussion occurs regarding the identity of a given cryptid, ultimately the only way in which a conclusive answer can ever be obtained is by examining physical evidence. So well done for trying, guys - and every success for your next planned Gambian trip to continue your ninki nanka investigations.