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On December 24 1952, the passenger ship Dunnottar Castle docked at Durban harbour. On board were ichthyologists JLB Smith and his wife, Margaret. They had just returned from a fruitful but exhausting fish-collecting mission in Kenya. Before he’d even disembarked, Smith received a telegram from East African trader Eric Hunt: "Have five-foot specimen coelacanth injected with formalin here killed 20th Dzaoudzi Comores."

Ever since his involvement in discovering, describing and naming the first coelacanth, caught off East London in 1938, Smith had been searching for a second specimen, posting reward notices along the East African coast. The discovery of the coelacanth had catapulted Smith, and SA science, to global fame. But the 1938 specimen had been gutted by the time he saw it, and he was desperate to get a look at the internal organs to understand more about a fish that’s been around in some form for at least 400-million years...

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