1883 newspaper found inside huge sunfish

1883 newspaper found inside huge sunfish
Once upon a time, fish came wrapped in newspaper, but what about a newspaper found stuffed inside a fish?

Curators at the Natural History Museum in London went to work restoring the insides of an amazing three-metre high sunfish.

​Inside they found straw, bits of old floorboards, an old wicker chair seat - and part of The Sydney Morning Herald from January 26, 1883.

The tale of how it found its way there is fascinating.

News of the restoration came to light when presenter of ABC radio's Science Show, Robyn Williams, was in London recently and was astounded to be shown the huge original sunfish.

"I was in the basement of the museum and I came around a corner and saw a sunfish and i just went: 'My god, it's gigantic! It's the size of a small car.'," Williams said.

Williams will take a look at the fish in his program on Saturday at noon on Radio National.

The fish was collected in Sydney Harbour by the zoologist Edward Ramsay, on December 12, 1882.

It was "found aground near Chadwick's Mills in Darling Harbour ... forced up between the vessels and the shallows into the black mud", according to Gilbert Whitley's Studies in Ichthyology (1931).

It weighed 1 ton, 3cwt (1166 kilograms) and was "eight feet [2.4m] in length and 11 feet [3.4m] from tip to tip of the fins".

Using a crane, the still-living fish was lifted onto a truck on the wharf where "some fools began to hack it about the head and pectoral fin with an axe".

The foreman intervened and sent the fish to the Australian Museum.

Not only did this fish end up with a Herald stuffed inside it, the Herald itself reported on its landing - in its "Social" column, no less.

The Sydney Morning Herald of December 28, 1882: "An enormous sunfish was discovered stranded in Darling Harbour on December 12 and Mr Robert Chadwick, sawmill proprietor, very promptly set some of his men to work with derrick and tackle to secure the monster and haul it up high and dry.

"Several peculiarities in its structure render it likely that it is of a species hitherto undescribed." And so it was.

Mark McGrouther is in charge of the ichthyology collection at the museum. He said adult sunfish of that size are generally found offshore.

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