Was fish ever on the Australian Museum Curator's breakfast menu?

The Australian Museum archive holds the documents that record the accessioning details of new specimens. Buried amongst these schedules, one of our industrious volunteers came across a letter with a delightful post script.

This letter referred to a “curious” fish caught by W P McLean at 1pm on May 23rd 1881. The fish was described in the letter : “the wings were extended and shone through the water with great brilliancy and beauty” and was sent to the Australian Museum for identification. W P McLean, who had fished in the waters around La Perouse for many years, had never seen such a fish before.

As the accompanying extract shows, the fish, if not worth preserving, was offered for the Curator’s breakfast.  Being 19 ½ inches in length it would have been a substantial meal. Was the Curator tempted?  Of course, we do not know as being a “very fine specimen”of a Chelidonichthys kumu  it was duly registered in the Australian Museum’s fish collection.

A recent enquiry of our current Collection Manager said he had never received a similar offer – offers of this type were of their time.