Thursday 31 July 2014

Edgar Beecher Bronson and The Dingonek

The Dingonek , tall tale or unknown creature?

The Dingonek is said to be a  walrus-like creature found in the parts of Africa, Kenya in particular. John Alfred Jordan, an explorer claimed to have shot at this unidentified creature in the River Maggori in Kenya in 1907( some reports say 1909). Jordan claimed this scale-covered creature was  18 feet(6 metres) long and had reptilian claws, a spotted back, a long tail, and a big head out of which grew large, curved, walrus-like tusks. Locals  of the area also describe it as having a scorpion-like tail and that it would kill any hippos, crocodiles, or  fishermen that happened to wander into its territory.
There is what is said to be a first hand account from Edgar Beecher Bronson in his 1910 book. :

Nights about the camp fires with Jordan were never dull. Some incident of the day or turn of the talk always served to start him on some stirring tale of weird bush happenings. That night he was particularly interesting, notwithstanding a heavy electrical storm was on and we were tightly shut in my tent, with no light but the dull flicker of our pipes. "Wonder how long it will be before the last of all the strange animal and reptilian types native to Africa have been taken and classified?" he mused. "What do you mean?" I asked. "Are there many types left which have been seen but remain untaken?" "God only knows how many," he replied. "Why, it is only four years ago I killed my bongo and got the first perfect bongo skin ever taken. Before that Deputy Commissioner Isaac had gotten a piece of a bongo hide from the Wanderobo and had sent it to the British Museum, but mine was the first whole skin ever seen by a white man, and not so very many have been shot since."My word, but they are beauties!—bright red as an impala, white of jaw, with nine white stripes over sides, back, and quarters, short of leg but heavier of body than a roan, with horns curved and shaped like a bush buck's but tipped white as ivory. Mine was a corker, nine feet, six inches from nose to tail tip, with twenty-nine and onehalf-inch horns. And it's hard to get, the beggars are; never see them outside the heaviest forest or afoot except at nights or at dawn or in the dusk. Indeed, I only got mine after putting out a lot of Wanderobo for days and days to beat up the forest."What did I do with him? Nothing, just nothing. Helpful Government did it all for me. A new species unincluded in the game license, when I got to the Eldama, Ravine Boma, Collector Foaker seized skin and head, under instructions from Provincial Commissioner Hobley, and they were sold at public auction at Mombasa for £50, a little later reselling at £250."Odd ones! Why, there's the Okapi, sort of a cross between a giraffe and a—I don't know what—perhaps a 'what is i"Then there's that infernal horror of a reptilian 'bounder' that comes up the Maggori River out of the lake the Lumbwa have christened Dingonek. And it's real prize money that beauty would fetch, five or ten thousand quid at least, and you bet I've got my Wanderobo and Lumbwa always on the lookout for one when the Maggori is in flood. "Ever see one? Did I? Rather! Mataia, the boy there, and Mosoni were with me. It was only about a year ago. Mataia vows he has seen two since; can't tell whether he really saw them or dreamed he did—like as not the latter, for I know Dingonek were trying to crawl into my blankets for weeks after we saw that 'bounder.'"How was it? Well, we were on the march approaching the Maggori, and I had stayed back with the porters and sheep and had sent the Lumbwa ahead to look for a drift we could cross—river was up and booming and chances poor. Presently I heard the bush smashing and up raced my Lumbwa, wide-eyed and gray as their black skins could get, with the yarn that they had seen a frightful strange beast on the river bank, which at sight of them had plunged into the water—as they described it, some sort of cross between a sea serpent, a leopard, and a whale. Thinking they had gone crazy or were pulling my leg, I told them I'd believe them if they could show me, but not before. After a long shauri [palaver] among themselves, back they finally ventured, returning in half an hour to say that IT lay full length exposed on the water in midstream. "Down to the Maggori I hurried, and there their 'bounder' lay, right-oh! "Holy saints, but he was a sight—fourteen or fifteen feet long, head big as that of a lioness but shaped and marked like a leopard, two long white fangs sticking down straight out of his upper jaw, back broad as a hippo, scaled like an armadillo, but colored and marked like a leopard, and a broad fin tail, with slow, lazy swishes of which he was easily holding himself level in the swift current, headed up stream.t.' Hyde Baker killed two in the Congo country less than three years ago, and one or two Germans have taken them; that 's all. Gad! but he was a hideous old haunter of a nightmare, was that beast-fish, that made you want an aeroplane to feel safe of him; for while he lay up stream of me, I had been brought down to the river bank precisely where he had taken water, and there all about me in the soft mud and loam were the imprints of feet wide of diameter as a hippo's but clawed like a reptile's, feet you knew could carry him ashore and claws you could be bally well sure no man could ever get loose from once they had nipped him. "Blast that blighter's fangs, but they looked long enough to go clean through a man. "He had not seen or heard me, and how long I stood and watched him I don't know. Anyway, when I began to fear he would shift or turn and see me, I gave him a .303 hard-nose behind his leopard ear—and then hell split for fair! "Straight up out of the water he sprang, straight as if standing on his blooming tail—must have jumped off it, I fancy. "Me? Well, I never quit sprinting until I was atop of the bank and deep in the bush—fancier burst of speed than any wounded bull elephant ever got out of me, my word for that! "That was one time when my presence of mind didn't succeed in getting away with me from the starting post, and when, finally, it overtook me, and I bunched nerve enough to stop and listen, the bush ahead of me was still smashing with flying Lumbwa, but all was silent astern. "His legs? What were they like? Blest if I know! The same second that he stood up on his tail, I got too busy with my own legs to study his. "Gory wonder, was that fellow; a .303, where placed, should have killed anything, for he was less than ten yards from me when I shot, but though we watched waters and shores over a range of several miles for two days, no sight did we get of him or his tracks. "Ask Mataia, Mosoni, or the lad there what they saw." I did so, through my own interpreter, Salem, and got from each a voluble description of beast and incident differing in no essential details from Jordan's description. Moreover, were it necessary, which I do not myself regard it, the strongest corroboration is obtainable of the existence in Victoria Nyanza of a reptile or serpent of huge size, untaken and unclassed. While in Uganda with ex-Collector James Martin in November last, he told me it was a well-known fact that at intervals in the past, usually long intervals, a great water serpent or reptile was seen on or near the north shore of the lake, which was worshipped by the natives, who believed its coming a harbinger of heavy crops and large increase of their flocks and herds. Again, in December, while dining with the Senior Deputy Commissioner, C. W. Hobley, C. M. G., at his residence in Nairobi, the very night before starting on this safari, in speaking of the origin of the sleeping sickness Mr. Hobley told me that the Baganda, Wasoga, and Kavirondo of the north shore of the lake had from time immemorial sacrificed burnt offerings of cattle and sheep to a lake reptile of great size and terrible appearance they called Luquata, which occasionally appeared along or near the shore; that since the last coming of Luquata was just shortly before the first outbreak of the sleeping sickness, the natives firmly believe that the muzungu have killed Luquata with the purpose and as the means of making them victims of the dread plague. Of the existence in the lake of such an unclassed reptile, Mr. Hobley considered there was no question” 

 Edgar Beecher Bronson did exist and did go to Africa(see link to obituary below) but how much of the book is tall tales I cannot comment. It was well known that often books were written to titillate the readership with tales of daring do. However ,(I cannot confirm this),at the Brackfontein Ridge in South Africa is said to be a cave painting of an unknown creature that fits the description of the dingonek, including walrus-like tusks. So a story born of a myth, a misidentification of  a known creature or an unknown creature of terrifying aspect? We may never know. 

ADVENTURE PACKED THE LIFE OF EDGAR BEECHER BRONSON; Daredevil Hunter and Writer Who Died Last Week Had Thrilling Experiences in Many Lands. February 11, 1917, Sunday:
 Bronson, Edgar Beecher. 1910. In Closed Territory. Chicago: A. C. McClurg.

Sunday 20 July 2014

monsters and treasure in Loch Arkaig?

In Lochaber, Scotland, Loch Arkaig lies 140 feet above sea level, and is 12 miles long with a depth of 300 feet. Loch Arkaig is situated on the map of Scotland between Loch Ness and Loch Morar .It is said to be the home of the Loch Arkaig Monster. The only description of the creature says that it has a long neck and a a wide body . So a cousin of nessie perhaps?
There have been suggestions that the nessie type creatures migrate between the lochs using the Caledonian Canal. This a man made 62 mile canal which connects the Scottish east coast at Inverness with the west coast near Fort William. However any large creatures would have been seen and there appears to be no reports of sightings.
.The first reported sighting of the Loch Arkaig creature was in 1857:
Excerpt from the Diary of Lord Malmesbury October 3, 1857:
October 3rd. This morning my stalker and his boy gave me an account of a mysterious creature, which they say exists in Loch Arkaig, and which they call the lake-horse. It is the same animal of which one has occasionally read accounts in the newspapers of having been seen in Highland lochs, and on the existence of which in Loch Assynt the late Lord Ellesmere wrote an interesting article, but the story has always been looked upon as fabulous. I am now, however, persuaded of its truth.
My stalker, John Stuart, at Achnacarry, has seen it twice, and both times at sunrise in summer on a bright sunny day, when there was no ripple on the water. The creature was basking on the surface. He saw only the head and hind quarters, proving its back was hollow, which is not the shape of any fish or seal.
Its head resembled that of a horse. It was also seen once by his three little children, who were walking together along the beach. It was then motionless, about 30 yards from the shore, and apparently asleep, and at first they took it for a rock, but when they got near it, it moved its head, and they were so frightened that they ran home, arriving in a state of greatest terror. There was no mistaking their manner when they related this story, and they offered to make an affidavit before the magistrate.
The only more recent sighting I could find is reported in Tim Dinsdale’s book “The Leviathans” on page 240.
( you can find this online to read at google books). Tim wrote that he met two men who had been commandos in WW2 based in the Loch Arkaig area. They said they had been out on the loch in an inflatable boat when an upheaval in the water almost swamped them. They said it must have been a very large fish or the monster.
It would be thought that there would have been more sightings over the years like at Loch Ness . There have been sightings at nearby Loch Lochy of a creature so maybe it moved home? There is also another story attached to Loch Arkaig of Jacobite gold. The monster story could have been put about to keep treasure hunters away.
The story of treasure /gold at Loch Arkaig

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Four-winged dinosaur is 'biggest ever'

Four-winged dinosaur is 'biggest ever'
By James Morgan Science reporter, BBC News
A new four-winged dinosaur has been discovered, with exceptionally long feathers on its tail and "hindwings".Changyuraptor yangi was a gliding predator which lived in the Cretaceous period in what is now Liaoning, China.Its remarkable tail feathers - measuring up to 30cm - are the longest in any non-avian dinosaur.The tail would have acted as a pitch control structure reducing descent speed... which could be critical to a safe landing or precise attack on prey.This unusual plumage helped the creature to slow down during flight and land safely, say scientists writing in Nature Communications. C. yangi is a new species of microraptorine, a group related to early avians.These ancient creatures offer clues to the origin of flight - and the transition from feathered dinosaurs to birds.

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Fossil of 'largest flying bird' relative of the Thunderbird?

Fossil of 'largest flying bird' identified
Rebecca Morelle By Rebecca Morelle Science Correspondent, BBC News
The fossilised remains of the largest flying bird ever found have been identified by scientists.This creature would have looked like a seagull on steroids - its wingspan was between 6.1 and 7.4m (20-24ft).The find is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.The 25m-year-old fossil was unearthed 30 years ago in South Carolina, but it has taken until now to identify that this is a new species.Daniel Ksepka, curator of science at the Bruce Museum in Connecticut, said: "This fossil is remarkable both for the size, which we could only speculate on before the discovery, and for the preservation.
Huge birds like this were once common, but they vanished about three million years ago.Scientists do not yet understand why these giants of the skies died out.

Perhaps the stories of the Thunderbird come from the finding of giant fossils like this or maybe they didn’t die out and a an evolved form is flying around out there somewhere....a Thunderbird.

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Ancient Freshwater Sharks

Ancient Arctic Sharks Lived In Brackish Water 50 Million Years Ago
Most sharks today are strictly saltwater fish, however, a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Chicago reveals that this was not the case 50 million years ago. Sharks in the Arctic Ocean during this time lived in brackish water, with approximately the same amount of freshwater found in modern day Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana.
The study, led by University of Chicago postdoctoral researcher Sora Kim, suggests that the Eocene Arctic sand tiger shark thrived in the brackish water of the western Arctic Ocean. In contrast with the Eocene Arctic sand tiger shark (part of the lamniform group of sharks that includes today’s great white, thresher and mako sharks), the modern sand shark in the Atlantic Ocean requires three times the salinity and is very intolerant of low salt levels.

Food for  thought.What if some lake creature sightings were evolved ancient freshwater sharks?