When I read the caption stuck on the back of this press photo of a certain Otto Kemmerich I was a bit taken aback, to say the least. According to the reporter,’ the famous German swimmer, accompanied by his trained lion ”Leo” have swum for more than 36 hours in a tank at the Circus Busch at Hamburg’. It was also reported that Kemmerich was planning to swim 50 hours without a break, also with his ‘pet’ and hoped to swim the Channel with Leo.
A bit of internet investigation revealed that the feat took place in April 1928 and that Leo wasn’t a feline at all, but a sea-lion, which suggests that the incompetent journalist had never heard of a cat’s dislike of water and had obviously never been shown any action shots of Herr K together with his pet. In fairness to ‘SSS’, the idiot in question, something may have been lost in translation from German to English, but surely any decent journalist must read back what he or she has written before releasing it to the world.
If the caption survived the sub-editor’s rigorous scrutiny there must have been red faces all around the press rooms of the papers that carried the story. Personally, that image of a fully grown lion swimming for 1 ½ days in a tank with a very edible human alongside him will remain with me for a long time.