Greetings From the Land of the Make-Believe Species
Postcards provided proof of lake serpents, jackalopes and assorted curious monsters
- By Peter A. Smith
- Smithsonian.com, March 29, 2012
The postcard once provided a fast, reliable means of communication. The images on the cards carried strong implications of objectivity, underscored by concise captioning. Among these postcards emerges a unique flowering of the beastly taxonomic tree: dozens of distinctive, little-known species spotted by solitary farmers, hunters and fishermen, lurking all across the country, creatures that came alive through hyperbole, exaggeration and the perceived authenticity of postcards.
(Courtesy of Steve Shook)
Geoduck clams can live to be 163 years old—really. The bivalve's elephant trunk of a siphon extends three feet from its buried shell to the muddy ocean floor. The clams can weigh up to 16 pounds. When an unknown photographer dug up this memorable specimen, a clam so large and unwieldy it had be wheeled out of the Puget Sound, the image left a lasting impression. So much so that, in 1981, the journal Science republished the photograph. Judging by the mismatched shadows on the clam and the kid, though, the photo may better reflect our outsized perception of one of the West Coast’s wildest clams rather than a one-of-a-kind find.