The Search for the Last Dinosaur?

In two days, the Newmac Expedition will head to the Republic of Congo. The members hope to find something that will stun the world. Do Africa’s deepest jungles conceal mokele-mbembe, the last of the dinosaurs?

Background on the Newmac Expedition

The Newmac Expedition consists of five young explorers. Using Kickstarter, they raised $28,925 from 750 backers in order to categorize “plant and animal species in the vastly unexplored Republic of the Congo.” They describe the Congo Basin as “a region of Central Africa larger than the state of Florida, more than 80% of which has been totally unexplored.”

“Our first expedition will be dubbed The Newmac Expedition. It will be a preliminary three month (or as long as our health allows) four man venture. We’ll launch on June 26th and we anticipate discovering hundreds of new insect, plant, and fish species during the course of our research and work in the area. There is also the legitimate hope of discovering many reptile and mammalian species as well. We have received reports from week to two week expeditions in the region of eye witnesses seeing canine sized tarantulas, large river dwelling sauropods, and a species of man eating fish (which was recently discovered on river monsters).” ~ Stephen Mccullah, Newmac Expedition

Large River Dwelling Sauropods = Mokele-mbembe?

Good lord. Canine sized tarantulas? Man eating fish? And what’s this about sauropods? Sauropods were dinosaurs. They possessed long necks, giant tails, and rather tiny heads. Their ranks included the Diplodocus and the Apatosaurus (better known as the Brontosaurus). Like all dinosaurs, the sauropods are believed to have died out 65.5 million years ago in the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction event. The exact cause of the K-Pg extinction event is unknown. Many scientists blame it on the asteroid that caused the Chicxulub crater in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. But this is controversial to say the least.

“However, not everyone believes the official story. These individuals point to the fact that dinosaur bones become less frequent as they approach the K-Pg boundary. Also, there is a “fossil gap” since no bones have ever been found within the boundary itself. Taken together, these things indicate that the extinction predated the impact at Chicxulub. If this is the case, then dinosaurs were probably killed off more gradually, by things such as a volcanic winter, the Deccan traps, falling sea levels, and/or climate change.” ~ David Meyer, What Killed the Dinosaurs?

Could a living, breathing sauropod exist today? It seems unlikely. Dinosaur bones have never been found above the K-Pg boundary, which is a layer of sediment in the earth’s crust marking the switch from the Cretaceous Period (K) to the Paleogene Period (Pg). This indicates that non-avian dinosaurs became extinct at or before the creation of this boundary.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

However, that hasn’t stopped the stories. According to native tribes, a mythological creature known as mokele-mbembe (“one who stops the flow of rivers”) exists in the Congo Basin. Many cryptozoologists believe this creature could be a real-life sauropod. However, no one has ever found definitive proof of its existence.

Does the mokele-mbembe exist? Is it a sauropod? Curiously enough, in 2009, the television show MonsterQuest claimed to have seen sonar images of long, serpent-like creatures in the Congo Basin. Of course, sonar imagery is always problematic. But still…


Guerrilla Explorer’s Coverage of the Newmac Expedition

Searching for Bigfoot?

When it comes to Bigfoot, we’re pretty skeptical here at Guerrilla Explorer. But can science prove its existence?

Searching for Bigfoot?

Recently, Oxford University and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology in Switzerland joined forces to research Bigfoot, the Yeti, and alleged similar creatures. The idea is to gather organic remains purporting to be from these animals and subject them to genetic testing.

“There have been DNA tests done on alleged yetis and other such things but since then the testing techniques, particularly on hair, have improved a lot due to advances in forensic science.” ~ Bryan Sykes, Wolfson College

DNA tests are nothing new. In fact, a recent DNA test indicated the infamous Yeti hand from Pangboche, Nepal actually belonged to a human. However, Sykes and Michel Sartori, director of the Lausanne Museum, wish to conduct a “systematic review” of all Bigfoot and Yeti material.

They plan to start with remains currently housed at the Lausanne Museum. Specifically, material gathered by Bernard Heuvelmans from 1950 through 2001. Then they’ll reach out to other institutions as well as cryptozoologists for more material. As part of their tests, Sykes and Sartori hope to take DNA samples from areas rife with Bigfoot or Yeti sightings. The idea is to see if the local population has unusually high amounts of Neanderthal DNA (modern research shows that the average person living outside of Africa carries Neanderthal genetic material in the range of one to four percent). If so, it might lend credence to a recent hypothesis that the legendary creature is actually a Neanderthal.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

It seems unlikely they’ll break new ground. The most believable cryptids are so-called sea monsters such as the Daedalus Sea Serpent and the Valhalla Sea Serpent. Air or land-based cryptids like the Thunderbird or Bigfoot are far less likely to exist. We have slightly more faith in the Yeti, although not much. The Yeti supposedly lives in the frigid, treacherous Himalayas. Few people live in that area and the conditions make expeditions difficult.

Still, we’re big supporters of this type of research. All scientific claims deserve the chance to be taken seriously…even when they involve so-called monsters.

“But while I’m extremely skeptical of Bigfoot, I certainly don’t reject the possibility of its existence. One of the things that frustrates me about modern science is the built-in disdain many researchers hold for fields like cryptozoology. Regardless of our opinions, we must continue to evaluate any and all scientific claims with an open mind…even if its about the legendary Sasquatch. After all, that’s what science is all about.” ~ David Meyer, Bigfoot Lives…!

A Dinosaur…during the Civil War?

Did Union soldiers shoot down a living dinosaur during the midst of the Civil War?

A Living Dinosaur During the Civil War?

Take a good look at this image. It appears to show a group of soldiers standing around a dead pterodactyl. What do you think…is it real? Believe it or not, the answer is yes…with a big caveat. The photograph definitely isn’t photo-shopped. But its not from the 1860s either. Rather, it was a promotional tool for a science fiction TV show called Freaky Links. The soldiers are Civil War reenactors and the pterodactyl is a prop (incidentally, used for Episode 4, “Subject: Coelacanth This!“).

“What’s interesting is that this story was picked up by many other websites who simply repeated the information without spending five minutes to check, which all the time I devoted to this. Life is short, after all.” ~ Sean McLachlan, Civil War soldiers shoot down a pterodactyl???

That pretty much sums up the problem with cryptozoology and claims of living dinosaurs. The field is ripe for hoaxers. Heck, even the earliest claim of this specific type was nothing more than a hoax.

Perhaps the earliest ‘living pterosaur’ account dates to 1856 when, according to the Illustrated London News, a live pterodactyl with a 3 m wingspan emerged alive from within a rock dislodged during the construction of a French railway tunnel…This story is clearly a hoax: the pterosaur allegedly represented a new species dubbed Pterodactylus anas. Anas means duck; in France (where the pterosaur was allegedly found), a duck is called a canard. Canard is another word for hoax.” ~ Darren Naish, Pterosaurs alive in, like, the modern day!

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, is there any chance living dinosaurs exist in this day and age? It’s pretty unlikely. If such creatures still existed, it’s hard to believe legions of bird watchers would’ve missed them. The 1890 Thunderbird story is slightly more believable, but not by much. And Ivan T. Sanderson’s famous 1932 encounter with a possible olitiau is interesting but even Sanderson believed the creature to be a giant bat rather than a living dinosaur (with a 4 meter wingspan, that must’ve been one helluva bat!).

So, for now we have to side with the skeptics. Although I have to admit I’m tempted to trek out to the Huachua Desert one of these days and see if I can’t locate the 1890 Thunderbird’s skeleton. Anyone up for an expedition?

The Loch Ness Monster…caught on Sonar?

The Internet is abuzz with the latest Loch Ness Monster news coming out of Scotland. It seems a ship captain named Marcus Atkinson snapped a picture of a sonar image showing “a long, 5ft-wide serpent-like creature.” Furthermore, this creature was 75 feet below water level, deep enough that it’s fairly unlikely to be a normal school of fish.

Proof of the Loch Ness Monster?

“The object got bigger and bigger, and I took a picture of it with my mobile phone. I was in shock as it looked like a big serpent. You can’t fake a sonar image and I’ve never seen anything like this on the fish finder. I’ve shown it to other experienced skippers and none of us know what it is.” ~ Marcus Atkinson

At least some cryptozoologists are convinced Atkinson has captured proof of the Loch Ness Monster.

“It’s very exciting and the best evidence we’ve had in donkey’s years. It’s images like this that will keep me going with my hunt for the next 20 years.” ~ Steve Feltham

Does the Loch Ness Monster really Exist?

One of the running themes here at Guerrilla Explorer is our deep skepticism toward most so-called cryptids. Not all cryptids, mind you. But many of the popular ones.

“If undiscovered megafauna still exist on Earth, the most likely place to find them is in the ocean. After all, in the past twenty years, scholars have discovered eight large previously-unknown marine animals. Thus, from where I stand, the most believable cryptids are so-called sea monsters such as the Daedalus Sea Serpent and the Valhalla Sea Serpent.” ~ David Meyer, Bigfoot Lives…!

Unlike the ocean, Loch Ness is a closed body of water. And researchers have scoured its waters for decades, searching for proof of the Monster. But evidence remains scanty. That’s not to say the Loch Ness Monster is impossible. Loch Ness is plenty deep to hold an unknown creature, reaching 755 feet at its lowest point. In all the British Isles, only Loch Morar is deeper, at 1,017 feet (incidentally, Loch Morar contains its own monster, the little known Morag).

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Still, proof remains elusive. And unfortunately, there is plenty to question about this latest sonar image. First, a monster is not the only feasible explanation for the image. Plenty of similar sonar images have been misidentified in the past. For example, it might be nothing more than algae.

“The image shows a bloom of algae and zooplankton that would exist on what would be a thermocline. Zooplankton live off this algae and reflect sound signals from echo sounders and fish finders very well.” ~ Dr. Simon Boxall, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, Hampshire

The second problem relates to motive. Marcus Atkinson isn’t just some innocent fisherman. He stands to benefit handsomely from all the news surrounding the sonar image.

“But perhaps truly damning, this year ‘Cruise Loch Ness’ are running special monster hunting trips with underwater cameras on the boat skippered by…Marcus Atkinson – the man behind all the publicity of this new ‘discovery.'” ~ Loren Coleman

The best we can say about the sonar image is that it’s interesting. But it certainly doesn’t constitute proof. However, that doesn’t mean we should reject Nessie out of hand. Like Bigfoot and other so-called cryptids, we should always keep an open mind about it.

“But while I’m extremely skeptical of Bigfoot, I certainly don’t reject the possibility of its existence. One of the things that frustrates me about modern science is the built-in disdain many researchers hold for fields like cryptozoology. Regardless of our opinions, we must continue to evaluate any and all scientific claims with an open mind…even if its about the legendary Sasquatch. After all, that’s what science is all about.” ~ David Meyer

Bigfoot Lives…!

Bigfoot lives…at least in our imagination. A recent study conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion suggests that 29% of Americans tend to believe in Bigfoot. 61% don’t believe in the legendary creature while the remaining 10% are undecided.

Does Bigfoot Exist?

As many of you know, we’re pretty skeptical about Bigfoot here at Guerrilla Explorer. If undiscovered megafauna still exist on Earth, the most likely place to find them is in the ocean. After all, in the past twenty years, scholars have discovered eight large previously-unknown marine animals

“Because large marine animals continue to be discovered – various new whale and shark species have been named in recent years – the idea that such species might await discovery is, at the very least, plausible.” ~ Dr. Darren Naish, Paleontologist

Thus, from where I stand, the most believable cryptids are so-called sea monsters such as the Daedalus Sea Serpent and the Valhalla Sea Serpent. In contrast, it seems highly unlikely that undiscovered air or land-based megafauna like the Thunderbird or Bigfoot are anything more than long-running figments of our imagination. I have slightly more faith in the Yeti, although not much. The Yeti supposedly lives in the frigid, treacherous Himalayas. Few people live in that area and the conditions make expeditions difficult.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

But while I’m extremely skeptical of Bigfoot, I certainly don’t reject the possibility of its existence. One of the things that frustrates me about modern science is the built-in disdain many researchers hold for fields like cryptozoology. Regardless of our opinions, we must continue to evaluate any and all scientific claims with an open mind…even if its about the legendary Sasquatch. After all, that’s what science is all about.

What I object to in particular is the knee-jerk reaction that any interest in cryptozoology makes you a crank or a naïve believer in the impossible. Not only are some targets of cryptozoology entirely ‘believable’ (example: new marine sharks and cetaceans), the assumption that people interested in cryptozoology necessarily ‘believe’ in the existence of the supposed targets of cryptozoology is erroneous. Clearly, you can investigate mystery animal reports because you’re interested in what they might tell you about the evolution and transmission of folklore, the reliability and abilities of eyewitnesses, and so on. Furthermore, I always thought that the scientific evaluation of claims of any kind was meant to be a good thing. Basically, there’s definitely science to do here, whether you advocate the possible existence of the respective supposed animal species or not.” ~ Darren Naish, Paleontologist

“Extinct” Insect: Back from the Dead!

In 1920, the last of the “tree lobster” insects seemingly vanished into the dustbin of history. However, unbeknownst to modern science, a small colony of these hand-sized insects managed to survive…on an 1,844 foot tall rock pyramid…in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!

Ball’s Pyramid: The Home of the Last Tree Lobsters?

This isolated rock pyramid is known as Ball’s Pyramid. It is 1,844 feet high and resides in the Pacific Ocean. The nearest populated island is Lord Howe’s Island, which is about 12 miles away. The fact that a couple of hardy Tree Lobster insects managed to reach such an isolated place is incredible.

Anyway, scientists recovered a few of the insects and started to breed them. And just like that, the population exploded from 24 to more than 12,000. Here’s more on the Tree Lobster insects at Ball’s Pyramid from The Daily Mail:

A narrow and forbidding rock that stands higher than the Empire State Building, it does not look like the most welcoming place to set up home.

But that did not stop an insect which was thought to be extinct for 80 years from building its last known colony on the 1,844ft high Ball’s Pyramid.

Scientists have discovered 24 of the creatures living 500ft above the South Pacific Ocean around the single plant that had survived on the rock.

(See The Daily Mail for more on Ball’s Pyramid and the Tree Lobster insects)

Teddy Roosevelt vs. Bigfoot?

In 1893, Teddy Roosevelt published The Wilderness Hunter. In that tome, he told a strange story about an encounter with an “unknown beast creature” that walked on two legs. Did Teddy Roosevelt do battle with the mysterious Bigfoot?

Did Teddy Roosevelt Battle Bigfoot?

First, thanks to Sean McLachlan over at Civil War Horror for providing the idea for this piece. Second, sadly, the answer is no. Teddy Roosevelt never battled Bigfoot. But his account (reproduced below) is intriguing all the same. Many of you know we’re pretty skeptical about Bigfoot here at Guerrilla Explorer. If megafauna cryptids exist, they’re far more likely to be in the ocean than on land.

Still, Teddy’s story is one of the earliest accounts of a Bigfoot-like creature recorded by a non-Native American. It was told to Teddy Roosevelt by a mountain hunter named Bauman decades before the famous discovery of large footprints at Bluff Creek, which for all intensive purposes launched Bigfoot into the public eye. According to Bauman, he and a companion were trapping game when they ran into the strange creature. Things got progressively worse until…well, let’s let Teddy Roosevelt tell you in his own words.

Frontiersmen are not, as a rule, apt to be very superstitious. They lead lives too hard and practical, and they have too little imagination in things spiritual and supernatural. I have heard but few ghost stories while living on the frontier, and these few were of a perfectly commonplace and conventional type.

But I once listened to a goblin story which rather impressed me. It was told by a grizzled, weather-beaten old mountain hunter, named Bauman, who was bom and had passed all his life on the frontier. He must have believed what he said, for he could hardly repress a shudder at certain points of the tale; but he was of German ancestry, and in childhood had doubtless been saturated with all kinds of ghost and goblin lore, so that many fearsome superstitions were latent in his mind; besides, he knew well the stories told by the Indian medicine men in their winter camps, of the snow-walkers, and the spectres, and the formless evil beings that haunt the forest depths, and dog and waylay the lonely wanderer who after nightfall passes through the regions where they lurk; and it may be that when overcome by the horror of the fate that befell his friend, and when oppressed by the awful dread of the unknown, he grew to attribute, both at the time and still more in remembrance, weird and elfin traits to what was merely some abnormally wicked and cunning wild beast; but whether this was so or not, no man can say.

When the event occurred Bauman was still a young man, and was trapping with a partner among the mountains dividing the forks of the Salmon from the head of Wisdom River. Not having had much luck, he and his partner determined to go up into a particularly wild and lonely pass through which ran a small stream said to contain many beaver. The pass had an evil reputation because the year before a solitary hunter who had wandered into it was there slain, seemingly by a wild beast, the half-eaten remains being afterwards found by some mining prospectors who had passed his camp only the night before.

The memory of this event, however, weighed very lightly with the two trappers, who were as adventurous and hardy as others of their kind. They took their two lean mountain ponies to the foot of the pass, where they left them in an open beaver meadow, the rocky timber-clad ground being from thence onwards impracticable for horses. They then struck out on foot through the vast, gloomy forest, and in about four hours reached a little open glade where they concluded to camp, as signs of game were plenty.

There was still an hour or two of daylight left, and after building a brush lean-to and throwing down and opening their packs, they started up stream. The country was very dense and hard to travel through, as there was much down timber, although here and there the sombre woodland was broken by small glades of mountain grass.

At dusk they again reached camp. The glade in which it was pitched was not many yards wide, the tall, close-set pines and firs rising round it like a wall. On one side was a little stream, beyond which rose the steep mountain-slopes, covered with the unbroken growth of the evergreen forest.

They were surprised to find that during their short absence something, apparently a bear, had visited camp, and had rummaged about among their things, scattering the contents of their packs, and in sheer wantonness destroying their lean-to. The footprints of the beast were quite plain, but at first they paid no particular heed to them, busying themselves with rebuilding the lean-to, laying out their beds and stores, and lighting the fire.

While Bauman was making ready supper, it being already dark, his companion began to examine the tracks more closely, and soon took a brand from the fire to follow them up, where the intruder had walked along a game trail after leaving the camp. When the brand flickered out, he returned and took another, repeating his inspection of the footprints very closely. Coming back to the fire, he stood by it a minute or two, peering out into the darkness, and suddenly remarked: “Bauman, that bear has been walking on two legs.” Bauman laughed at this, but his partner insisted that he was right, and upon again examining the tracks with a torch, they certainly did seem to be made by but two paws, or feet. However, it was too dark to make sure. After discussing whether the footprints could possibly be those of a human being, and coming to the conclusion that they could not be, the two men rolled up in their blankets, and went to sleep under the lean-to.

At midnight Bauman was awakened by some noise, and sat up in his blankets. As he did so his nostrils were struck by a strong, wild-beast odor, and he caught the loom of a great body in the darkness at the mouth of the lean-to. Grasping his rifle, he fired at the vague, threatening shadow, but must have missed, for immediately afterwards he heard the smashing of the underwood as the thing, whatever it was, rushed off into the impenetrable blackness of the forest and the night.

After this the two men slept but little, sitting up by the rekindled fire, but they heard nothing more. In the morning they started out to look at the few traps they had set the previous evening and to put out new ones. By an unspoken agreement they kept together all day, and returned to camp towards evening.

On nearing it they saw, to their astonishment, that the lean-to had been again torn down. The visitor of the preceding day had returned, and in wanton malice had tossed about their camp kit and bedding, and destroyed the shanty. The ground was marked up by its tracks, and on leaving the camp it had gone along the soft earth by the brook, where the footprints were as plain as if on snow, and, after a careful scrutiny of the trail, it certainly did seem as if, whatever the thing was, it had walked off on but two legs.

The men, thoroughly uneasy, gathered a great heap of dead logs, and kept up a roaring fire throughout the night, one or the other sitting on guard most of the time. About midnight the thing came down through the forest opposite, across the brook, and stayed there on the hillside for nearly an hour. They could hear the branches crackle as it moved about, and several times it uttered a harsh, grating, long-drawn moan, a peculiarly sinister sound. Yet it did not venture near the fire.

In the morning the two trappers, after discussing the strange events of the last thirty-six hours, decided that they would shoulder their packs and leave the valley that afternoon. They were the more ready to do this because in spite of seeing a good deal of game sign they had caught very little fur. However, it was necessary first to go along the line of their traps and gather them, and this they started out to do.

All the morning they kept together, picking up trap after trap, each one empty. On first leaving camp they had the disagreeable sensation of being followed. In the dense spruce thickets they occasionally heard a branch snap after they had passed ; and now and then there were slight rustling noises among the small pines to one side of them.

At noon they were back within a couple of miles of camp. In the high, bright sunlight their fears seemed absurd to the two armed men, accustomed as they were, through long years of lonely wandering in the wilderness, to face every kind of danger from man, brute, or element. There were still three beaver traps to collect from a little pond in a wide ravine near by. Bauman volunteered to gather these and bring them in, while his companion went ahead to camp and made ready the packs.

On reaching the pond Bauman found three beaver in the traps, one of which had been pulled loose and carried into a beaver house. He took several hours in securing and preparing the beaver, and when he started homewards he marked with some uneasiness how low the sun was getting. As he hurried towards camp, under the tall trees, the silence and desolation of the forest weighed on him. His feet made no sound on the pine-needles, and the slanting sun-rays, striking through among the straight trunks, made a gray twilight in which objects at a distance glimmered indistinctly. There was nothing to break the ghostly stillness which, when there is no breeze, always broods over these sombre primeval forests.

At last he came to the edge of the little glade where the camp lay, and shouted as he approached it, but got no answer. The camp-fire had gone out, though the thin blue smoke was still curling upwards. Near it lay the packs, wrapped and arranged. At first Bauman could see nobody; nor did he receive an answer to his call. Stepping forward he again shouted, and as he did so his eye fell on the body of his friend, stretched beside the trunk of a great fallen spruce. Rushing towards it the horrified trapper found that the body was still warm, but that the neck was broken, while there were four great fang-marks in the throat.

The footprints of the unknown beast-creature, printed deep in the soft soil, told the whole story.

The unfortunate man, having finished his packing, had sat down on the spruce log with his face to the fire, and his back to the dense woods, to wait for his companion. While thus waiting, his monstrous assailant, which must have been lurking nearby in the woods, waiting for a chance to catch one of the adventurers unprepared, came silently up from behind, walking with long, noiseless steps, and seemingly still on two legs. Evidently un- heard, it reached the man, and broke his neck by wrenching his head back with its fore paws, while it buried its teeth in his throat. It had not eaten the body, but apparently had romped and gambolled round it in uncouth, ferocious glee, occasionally rolling over and over it; and had then fled back into the soundless depths of the woods.

Bauman, utterly unnerved, and believing that the creature with which he had to deal was something either half human or half devil, some great goblin-beast, abandoned everything but his rifle and struck off at speed down the pass, not halting until he reached the beaver meadows where the hobbled ponies were still grazing. Mounting, he rode onwards through the night, until far beyond the reach of pursuit.

Do Woolly Mammoths still Exist?

The last woolly mammoth died off around 1700 BC on Russia’s Wrangel Island. Or did it?

The Mysterious Woolly Mammoth Video?

Check out this footage of a supposed woolly mammoth. It was supposedly captured last summer by a Russian engineer. According to The Sun, this person was in Siberia at the time, surveying for a new road. Some people believe it shows a woolly mammoth struggling to cross a river. The article even claims hair samples from the beast match up with those obtained from woolly mammoth carcasses.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

I’ve spoken at length about my views on cryptozoology. In my mind, the most believable cryptids are so-called sea monsters such as the Daedalus Sea Serpent and the Valhalla Sea Serpent. On the other hand, I’m highly suspicious of claims about undiscovered, land-based megafauna. Unfortunately, this video does nothing to change my mind. It’s blurry and short. The “tusks” don’t appear to attach to the creature’s skull and seem to flop around with the current. Suspiciously, the video cuts off before the creature’s legs and lower body become visible.

Assuming it’s not an out-and-out hoax, I think it looks most like a large bear carrying a fish. Here’s more on this mysterious “woolly mammoth” from The Sun:

A beast lurches through icy waters in a sighting a paranormal investigator thinks could prove woolly mammoths are not extinct after all. The animal – thought to have mostly died out roughly 4,000 years ago – was apparently filmed wading through a river in the freezing wilds of Siberia.

…Its hair matches samples recovered from mammoth remains regularly dug up from the permafrost in frozen Russia…

(See Woolly Mammoth Spotted in Siberia for the rest)

Does Bigfoot Exist?

Does Bigfoot exist? The jury is still out on that question although recent evidence hasn’t proven particularly promising. However, even if Bigfoot doesn’t exist, that doesn’t mean that giant apes never co-existed with humans (or at least with hominids). The Gigantopithecus, for example, went extinct about 300,000 years ago.

Gigantopithecus: An Ancient Bigfoot?

According to the few fossils that have been found, Gigantopithecus was the largest ape of all time, standing close to ten feet tall and weighting over 1,200 pounds. Here’s more on the Gigantopithecus and a theory on why it went extinct from the Smithsonian:

Bigfoot. Sasquatch. Yeti. The Abominable Snowman. Whatever you want to call it, such a giant, mythical ape is not real—at least, not anymore. But more than a million years ago, an ape as big as a polar bear lived in South Asia, until going extinct 300,000 years ago.

Scientists first learned of Gigantopithecus in 1935, when Ralph von Koenigswald, a German paleoanthropologist, walked into a pharmacy in Hong Kong and found an unusually large primate molar for sale. Since then, researchers have collected hundreds of Gigantopithecus teeth and several jaws in China, Vietnam and India. Based on these fossils, it appears Gigantopithecus was closely related to modern orangutans and Sivapithecus, an ape that lived in Asia about 12 to 8 million years ago. With only dentition to go on, it’s hard to piece together what this animal was like. But based on comparisons with gorillas and other modern apes, researchers estimate Gigantopithecus stood more than 10 feet tall and weighed 1,200 pounds (at most, gorillas only weigh 400 pounds). Given their size, they probably lived on the ground, walking on their fists like modern orangutans

(See the rest on the Gigantopithecus at the Smithsonian)

Jimmy Stewart & the Raiders of the Yeti Hand?

In 1957, rumors began to spread that a monastery in Pangboche, Nepal possessed a Yeti hand. Now, after more than fifty years, a finger from this hand has finally been subjected to DNA analysis. Does it belong to a Yeti?

The Lost Yeti Hand?

The history of the Pangboche Hand makes for a fascinating read. In 1957, an oil tycoon and adventurer named Tom Slick heard rumors that a monastery in Pangboche, Nepal possessed a Yeti hand, which it used as a ritual artifact. He and his team were eager to examine it. One of his associates, a man named Peter Byrne, managed to infiltrate the monastery and stole some bones from the hand, replacing them with human bones. Byrnes smuggled the bones into India at which point actor Jimmy Stewart (yes, that Jimmy Stewart) smuggled the bones into London.

The Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, is a cryptozoological creature. It’s often described as an ape and supposedly lives in the Himalayas. It’s one of the most sought after cryptids in the world, rivaling Bigfoot and the Lochness Monster in popularity. In fact, a widely publicized expedition is now underway, hoping to discover evidence of this elusive animal.

Part of the finger was retained by George Agogino, an anthropologist who served as a consultant on Slick’s various expeditions. These supposed Yeti bones were later analyzed by the TV program Unsolved Mysteries, which decided they were “near human.” Unfortunately, they disappeared shortly afterward, making future tests impossible.

But the main portion of the finger was given to Professor Osman Hill for examination. Professor Hill first declared it to be from a hominid and later, a Neanderthal. But after that, the finger vanished.

Until now.

The Lost Yeti Hand…Rediscovered?

Recently, the finger was rediscovered in the archives of the Hunterian Museum, at the Royal College of Surgeons. It was subsequently verified by an elderly Peter Byrne as the original finger. Reporter Matthew Hill requested a DNA test, the results of which were revealed on December 28, 2011. And now, we know for certain that the identity of the hand’s owner was a…

Human. That’s right. The finger, revered by Pangboche monks, stolen by Byrne, and smuggled by Jimmy Stewart, was nothing more than a human finger.

“We had to stitch it together. We had several fragments that we put into one big sequence and then we matched that against the database and we found human DNA. So it wasn’t too surprising but it was obviously slightly disappointing that you hadn’t discovered something brand new. Human was what we were expecting and human is what we got.” ~ Dr. Rob Ogden, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Of course, this discovery won’t end the hunt for the fabled Yeti. Still, it represents a blow to the hopes of cryptozoologists everywhere. But don’t count the Abominable Snowman out just yet. There are numerous examples of mythological creatures being discovered in modern times such as the Kipunji Rungwecebus kipunji and the Burmese snub-nosed monkey Rhinopithecus strykeri. Maybe, just maybe, one of these days we’ll be able to add the Yeti to that list as well.