Friday, March 24, 2006

Crapto-zoology (or the vernal delusions of a disturbed mind)

An unconfirmed sighting of a cryptozoologist at work - or a more believable explanation, is it just a common swamp-dwelling mandrel on the planet Eden being held captive inside a laser crystal?

On my daily train ride into work yesterday I came across an interview in the Metro, that paper given out free to bored commuters to keep their minds occupied on that soulless silent journey through the bowels of London. Most of the interviews they do are with some has-been celebrity who’s just written their autobiography or is making an ill-advised comeback. However this one caught my eye as it was with the bloke who heads up the Centre for Fortean Cryptozoology or whatever it’s called – in plain English a research foundation dedicated to the study of animals that don’t exist. This guy and his geeky mates go on expeditions in search of yetis, Loch Ness monsters, bigfeet, giant Mongolian worms and any other strange creatures their lurid imaginations can dream up. It’s hard to tell if he’s taking the piss or being serious, but he claims to be a properly qualified zoologist, who in a previous life was head of reptiles (chiefly sea devils and silurians, I believe) at a leading zoo. So he’s given up the study of real animals for the study of non-existent animals. An interesting career move. He’s also just written a book, so the interview was really a subtle way of getting a plug in. I already have an ever-expanding list of books I should read (see previous post), but this one will certainly not be joining the ranks.

When asked what got him interested in crypto-bullshit our man cites Dr Who – more specifically when Jon Pertwee played the lead role in the early 1970s. During this time the Doctor and been exiled on Earth by the Time Lords for allegedly interfering in the affairs of the universe – ie piss-easy way of keeping the budget down so the production crew wouldn’t have to build elaborate sets of alien planets. Not surprisingly the earth was invaded by some new alien species every few weeks during this period, only for the Doctor to thwart their evil plans. The funny thing is they never seemed to plan their invasions when the Doctor wasn’t around.

Deluded this guy may be, but what struck me is that he’s doing something he feels passionate about. In response to a question about outsiders’ perceptions of his work he makes the classic, indisputable observation that too many people waste their lives in dull 9 to 5 jobs. And here I was on the perpetually overcrowded Northern Line on the way to my 9 to 5 job… It makes you think…

Another thing is that if it was proven that all these mysterious creatures really did exist would cryto-zoology as a cease to exist and be replaced by real zoology? I think this is the very point the concept hinges on. As it can never be proven outright that yetis or lake monsters don’t exist, crypto-zoology is in effect a self-perpetuating science. So its proponents can be likened to the leprechauns perpetually seeking the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow or the myth of Sisyphus forever pushing the rock up the hill only to find that as soon as he’s reached the top the rock just rolls back down or to Tim Henman’s neverending quest for a Wimbledon title that will never happen.

And like the old joke about the boy who went to the zoo only to find that all it had was one dog (it was a shitzu), would a zoo full of Loch Ness monsters and bigfeet by a cryto-zoo? We all know it’s bollocks, but deep down in the subconscious we want to believe in these things.

With the availability of cheap no-frills space travel from QueasyJet and Ryan(we don’t c)Air (about our customers as long as we make massive profits) just around the corner I’ve come up with a list of possible expedition these crypto-zoologist people could undertake:

• A Field trip to Skaro to study the mating habits of daleks
• A project to see how the giant spiders of Metebelis III interact on the worldwide web
• A caving expedition to Androzani to investigate how magma beasts survive in high temperatures

And the most daunting task of all would be to explore darkest recesses of the blogosphere in search of that mysterious creature known as the dreaming armadillo. I know it exists, but nobody will ever find it.

1 comment:

Caroline said...

I'd like them to find the Clangers and see if the BBC wont give them a new contract. :)