Tuesday, 18 December 2012

From the archives: Eric Latimer's diary

Marjorie and the 1938 coelacanth

Eric Latimer was the father of Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer. We are fortunate to have a transcript of part of his diary, which chronicles the childhood and early adulthood of his daughter.  Only 24, she was appointed in 1931 as curator of the East London Museum, South Africa, in 1931. She is credited with recognising the coelacanth as a unique find.

Marjorie's sketch
This 'wonderful fish' was trawled off the Chalumna River near East London,  South Africa, on 23 December 1938. She sent a sketch to JLB Smith on Christmas Eve for identification. Smith later confirmed this fish to be the first specimen of the so-called "living" coelacanth.The coelacanth was named in her honour as Latimeria chalumnae (Smith 1939).

This page from the diary records some of the excitement and anxiety: (click to enlarge)