Monday, April 19, 2010
From past off-topic posts, you may know that I am a fan of the blog Cryptomundo on which Loren Coleman and others report on the science and pseudo-science (generally in the comments more than the posts) of searching for hidden animals. You know, hunting for Bigfoot, Nessie, and their ilk. One such creature is the Steller Sea Cow. Unlike other cryptids, the SSC was a species known to science. It was, however, hunted to extinction by the end of the 18th century. Despite that, there appears to be hope in some quarters that the SSC, like the alleged Congolese sauropod Mokele-Mbembe and lingering Tasmanian thylacines, may still survive in isolated populations.
Why am I bringing this up here? Because everyday (more or less), I check the Federal Register for any tidbits that might be useful or interesting for my work or for you. Today, I was shocked to see a notice from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration issuing a letter of authorization for the taking of Steller Sea Cows incidental to rocket launches from Alaska. Obviously, this was some mistake. The SSC is extinct . . . or at least it is supposed to be. And, what might it have to do with rocket launches? Where, exactly are they taking these sea cows? It strikes me that Agents Fox and Mulder might surmise that the Steller Sea Cow is, in fact, not extinct and that the U.S. government is somehow using them in a plot involving aliens and space rockets. Hence, my excitement.
Unfortunately, it turns out that I misread the notice. Georg Wilhelm Steller apparently identified a number of species including the Steller Sea Lion, which is the actual subject of the Federal Register. It seems that rocket launches from the Kodiak Launch Complex pose a risk to the endangered, but very much known, sea lion. This notice simply grants an authorization for that to happen, as sad as that may be.
Now, if the Federal Register ever contains a notice regarding the Steller's Sea Ape, please let me know. Or Trunko.
In the event any readers of this blog now have concerns about my professional or legal judgment, just keep in mind that I did not say I think there is solid evidence pointing to the existence of any of these creature. I just think the pursuit is interesting in that it often bumps up against what I consider to be very well established scientific fact. I am all about the science. But as far as I can tell, there is nothing inherently inconsistent with the laws of nature for there to be, for example, a giant unidentified creature in Lake Champlain. It's just very unlikely.