Z. is a minor celebrity in Thailand. However, most
people, Thai and farang alike, would probably not
recognize his face; none would know his name. Nonetheless,
many are familiar with a photograph in which he appears.
The photo is on display in bars, restaurants, guesthouses,
and markets around Thailand. It was even featured
in last year's box-office hit, Mekhong Full Moon Party.
Those who know of the photograph generally agree with
the caption above it which reads: "Queen of Nagas
seized by American Army at Mekhong River, Laos Military
Base on June 27, 1973 with the length of 7.80 meters."
Many people would be shocked to know it is Andy in
the photo. In fact many have denied that it is him:
"The first time I saw the photograph in Thailand I
was at Chatuchak Weekend Market," Andy explains. "I
pointed at myself in the photo and said to the man
who was selling copies of it, 'That's me', but he
just shook his head, laughed, and said 'No, no, no.'"
It is not that he looks so different now than when
the photo was taken that makes so many disbelieve
his claim. It is because today he looks so much like
he did on the day the photo was taken. In fact, Andy
is now only 30 years old.
one would ever believe that it was me," Andy recalls.
"'No. Impossible.' They kept saying 'The words say
In fact, the photo was taken on September 19, 1996
at the Naval Special Warfare Center, Coronado, California.
"We were on our morning physical fitness run," Andy
recalls, "when we came across this huge fish lying
on the sand." At 23 feet in length and 4 feet in circumference,
it was quite a shocking site for the Navy SEAL cadets.
"We called it the AGE fish, because if you saw it
underwater you would rocket to the surface, exploding
your lungs, hence AGE (Arterial Gas Embolism)."
carrying the enormous fish back to the Naval Amphibious
Base the SEALs contacted scientist H.J. Walker from
The University of California, San Diego's Scripps
Institution of Oceanography. Walker identified the
fish as an oarfish (Regalecus glesne), a reclusive
fish that inhabits the depths of warm tropical waters
around the world. Encounters with this enormous fish
are rare and not much is known of their habits. The
oarfish normally stay down at extreme depths of 700ft
Walker surmised that this particular fish had wandered
to the surface because it was sick or dying, and then
perished as a result of a laceration from a boat propeller.
Andy's recollection of the fish's condition confirms
this hypothesis, and a quick examination of the original
photograph supports this conclusion, as a large cleave
is apparent just behind the head, and another long
gash runs along the bottom of the fish for several
feet. The Thai version of the photo has clearly been
changed to mask these injuries. "In reality, the fish's
head was about to come off, but all the photos in
Thailand have been touched up," Andy explains, "especially
the eyes." While the eye in the altered photo does
appear unrealistic, the smudging to cover the cuts
is deceptively effective.
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