The Coelacanth

On December 22 , 1938 the curator of the East London Museum took into their collection a specimen that was latter identified as the Coelacanth.  The Coelacanth was thought to have been extinct for 65 million years.  Estimated population size in Comores region: 400 adults

Further discoveries:
December 1938 one specimen by trawler, Nerine, captained by Cpt Hendrik Goosen,  near the mouth of the Chalumnae River off the coast of East London, South Africa.

December 1952 one speciman in the waters of the Comores, Adjouan Island, by local fisherman and given to Cpt Eric Hunt (an aquaintance of JLB and Margaret Smith). This fish was flown to South Africa in a miliatry airplane.

Since 1952 over 190 recorded catches have been made in the Comores region.  1995 one specimen was caught off Madagascar.  In 1998, two coelacanths were caught at Sulawesi, in the Indonesian Archipelago.  Although it seems likely that the South Africa, mozambique, Madagascar  and Comoran Specimens are all Latimeria chalumnae;   a DNA comparison indicated that the Indonesian coelacanths seem to be a separate species.

Coelacanths filmed at 108 metres at Sodwana, east coast of South Africa.  October 2000, two members of a trimix dive team sited coelacanths although one of them did not recognise the fish.  Pieter Venter, the first to site the fish, was convinced they were coelacanths and resolved to go down again with camera equipment to film his siting.

November 2000, Venter returned to the location with his team, Gilbert Gunn, and camermen Christo Serfontein and Dennis Harding. and support divers Pieter Smith, Martin Bensch and Etienne le Roux.  After searching for a full 12 minutes they sited three coelacanths and filmed them.  Unfortunately one
of the cameramen, Harding,  lost his life in the ascent.

More info:

This is the second coelacanth caught. ©JLBSI

a drawing of the coelacanth  ©JLBSI

Many thanks to the J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology, Grahamstown, South Africa and for this information.

© 2001