Coast exhibition full of surprises

STEPHEN PULLINGER Next to a thresher shark of awesome size and an exotic-looking opah, the small stuffed fish pointed out by museum curator Tony Irwin looks decidedly plain.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

Next to a thresher shark of awesome size and an exotic-looking opah, the small stuffed fish pointed out by museum curator Tony Irwin looks decidedly plain.

But while it has lain in store uncelebrated for more than a century, Mr Irwin said there was good reason to consider it one of the star exhibits of the forthcoming Coast exhibition at Yarmouth's Time and Tide Museum.

He said: “When it was found alive off Sea Palling in 1898 it was identified as a black fish and it has sat in our stores as such since then.


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“It was only when I looked at it as I was preparing for this exhibition that I realised that it was in fact a barrel fish - and the only one ever to be found in the North Sea.”

Mr Irwin, natural history curator at Norwich Castle museum, said barrel fish - so-called because they liked to swim along under floating bits of wood - were normally found off the East Coast of the US.

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The Coast Exhibition, mirroring the popular BBC television programme, opens to the public on Saturday January 28 and will run until Sunday July 2.

It is the fourth in a programme of six temporary exhibitions that has already brought 25,000 visitors through the doors of the maritime heritage gallery at the £4.7m museum that opened in the summer of 2004.

Maritime development officer James Steward said: “This is our biggest temporary exhibition to date and it accords with our aim to establish Time and Tide as a centre of excellence in maritime heritage.”

The display focuses on Norfolk's coastline and - rather alarmingly - all the 150 natural history exhibits were found in local waters.

They include the head of a hammer-head shark, caught in 1829, to a stuffed swordfish, believed to have been found stranded at Yarmouth.

The rare opah, normally found in warmer Atlantic waters, was caught in the Wash.

Mr Irwin said the poisonous, spiny great weever fish on display was relatively common, and it was perhaps surprising more people did not step on them buried in the sand.

Other exhibits include a stuffed 2m porbeagle shark - relatively common in British waters - and a sturgeon, more normally associated with the Russian Black Sea.

Mr Irwin said: “It will be the first time to view most of these exhibits for 20 years and some have never been on display. There is nowhere to exhibit them at the castle.”

The exhibition also includes panels devoted to local people's experiences of the Norfolk coast and a collection of fossils.

Time and Tide Museum has been developed out of a former herring curing factory, and tells the story of the town, focusing on its important fishing industry. Until April, the museum is open 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday, and noon to 4pm at weekends. Entry to the museum costs £5.45 adults, £3.50 children. Entry just to the exhibition costs £1.50 adults, £1 children.

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