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Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ameghino and the "Jemmich"

 
Ameghino on Jemmich
Ameghino on the Jemmich. Copyright © 2007 by Austin Whittall. From [1]


Florentino Amehgino was the first scientist to mention as a fact, that there were surviving megafunal mylodons alive in Patagonia in the late 1890s. In a letter, he wrote [1]:

In the last days of the month of July of 1898, while me brother waited at Santa Cruz Port for the steamer that would bring him back to La Plata after an absence of two years, a Tehuelche Indian came up to him to show him a piece of the Neomylodon in question, telling him that it was a piece of Jemmich hide, that he had found close to the Senguel River [now known as Senguer]. The Indian gave thie hide medicinal properties and did not want to let it go at any price and only with great difficulty did he let him get some tiny dermal boness [from it]
[...]
Jemmich the name that the Tehuelche Indians give this animal that they know well but whose story has always been taken as a fable (legend). For some time now, my brother hears them talk about Jemmich as a fierce animal, with large claws, defenses and a prehensile tail, strong enough to capture horses and tear them apart with claws, defenses and tail at the same time.
About two years ago, an Indian named Hopen, with whom my brother had acquaintance told him that close to the River Senguel, going from Chubut to Santa Cruz, he came across a Jemmich that he had to confront and which he managed to kill. This Indian wanted to take my brother to the place where the corpse was, but he, incredulous, did not believe him.
From the information that all the Tehuelche Indians give, the Jemmich (or Neomylodon lives in sheltered areas by the shores of the lakes Colihue [sic : Colhue], Fontana, General Paz, Gio, Buenos Aires and the rivers Senguel, Aysen, Huemules, etc.
It is of nocturnal habits and rarely goes out during the day and it moves about the ground with the same ease that it swims in the water. Its skull is short with large fangs, rudimentary external ears, short legs, plantigrade feet with four toes on the front [paws] and three on the rear [ones], linked by a natatory membrane and endowed with nails or excessively long claws (which seems at odds with the presence of natatory membranes). The tail is thick, long, flattened, hairy and very prehensile. Its size, according to the Indians, is comparable to that of a large puma, but with a slightly longer body and with shorter legs. Its hair is thick and hard, of a white-reddish color or yellowish, uniform on all the body.
All the Indians agree that it is an excessively fierece. They do not have any fear towards the puma, but they tremble at only hearing the name of the Jemmich.
[1]


This letter was written many years after his original paper on the (what he then named Iemisch, and which I have already posted about Iemisch the Patagonian water tiger, and it adds some interesting information on this mythical cryptid.

Bibliography.

[1] Florentino Ameghino, Obras completas y correspondencia científica, edición oficial, t. xx, 1935, pp. 102-103, carta 711.


Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2010 International Year of Biodiversity Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall © 

More on the Cuero at Lake Lacar

 
More on the Lake Lacar creature. In my post Another Creature at Lake Lacar, I mentioned that I was trying to obtain more information on Mr. Barney Dickinson's sightings. I have been very fortunate indeed and have been able to get in touch with Mr. Dickinson's daughter Janet. Mrs. Janet Dickinson has been very kind and replied to my e-mail in depth. Below I copy some of the main parts of her reply (thank you very much Mrs. Dickinson for your cooperation.

Dear Mr. Whittall [...] I attach extracts of a letter written by my father, Barney Dickinson, to Maurice Burton D.Sc., printed in his book “The Elusive Monster”, published by Rupert Hart-Davis in 1961, which is an analysis on the so-called myth of the Loch Ness Monster.

Page 94 – I also recieved a letter from Mr. Barney Dickinson, which read:

‘I live in the north-western region of the Southern Andes, in the Argentine National Park of Lanín, named after the highest mountain here, an extinct volcano some 12.450 ft. high. My house is situated at the eastern end of, and about 800 ft. above, a long, fjord-like lake called Lake Lacar. The lake is large, surrounded by high mountains and over 100 fathoms deep.’

Mr. Dickinson told of his habit of frequently scanning the waters of the lake with binoculars, and of often seeing:

‘strange water formations... that I cannot account for, though I have been looking at the waters of the lake for fourteen years now. This is especially the case when the lake is calm; so calm, in fact, that the surrounding mountains are reflected with extraordinary clarity. There is relatively little traffic on Lake Lacar, and on such days any boat, or any of the aquatic birds – as well as rising fish – leave unmistakable disturbances on the glassy surface. The extremely few aquatic animals of any size – it is said that a species of otter still survives here, though I have not yet seen one – can be ruled out, I think... Nevertheless, from time to time, there appear queer-looking turbulences...

For hundreds of years the Auracanian Indians who inhabit the area have believed in a strange monster which they call the cuero, from its resemblance to a cowhide, their most familiar object for comparison.

More interesting is the belief prevalent among the gaucho-type non-indian herd riders that a cuero lived in Lake Lacar. I myself have met several serious-minded men of this first-rate type who claim to have seen the cuero ...They affirm that it is like a large hide which seems to float in a hump-backed manner on the water, though only just visible above the surface...always at eventide.

The Auracanian braves also speak of it as an animal, which they call el bien peinado (the smooth-headed one) and they tell of strange tracks found on the shore of the lake, and on one occasion of ... scattered pieces of skin, fur and feathers; apparently the remains of animals and birds which had been eaten by some unknown beast... there are other more imaginative versions of this legend in which el bien peinado is half-man, half-serpent.

NB: Dr. Maurice Burton claims in his book ‘The Elusive Monster’ that these strange apparitions seen in the lakes of Scotland and elsewhere are possibly due to rotting vegetable matter that comes to the surface, but there remains room for doubt...J.D.


I once again thank Janet Dickinson for sharing this information with me.

Regarding the Bien Peinado myth, yes, I had heard about it, and posted about this Culebrón or snake-man at Lake Nonthue (which is connected to Lake Lacar's western tip by a narrow and short channel). I agree with Janet, the bien peinado and the cuero are quite different beings.

Also, the rotting vegetation is a reasonable explanation but -once again in agreement with Mrs. Dickinson - there is certainly room for doubt.



Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2010 International Year of Biodiversity Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall © 

Friday, June 25, 2010

More lake creatures at Lake Carrera (Buenos Aires)

 
Regarding Lake Buenos Aires (as it is known in Argentina) or Lake General Carrera (its Chilean name), I have come across some sightings besides the one already mentioned in my post on Lake Carrera creature.

One, by Walter Wellmann who says that is father, who navigated the lake most of his life daily, said that "he had never seen anything [...] except a kind of serpent that appeared on the surface and then was lost from sight".[1]

He too had an experience many years later: "at the Las Llaves sector, something about 5 to 6 meters [long] [15 to 18 ft.] that moved along the surface and was black; it looked like an overturned boat, with the hull upwards. Perhaps the same lake monster. If one tells others about this, they don't believe you".[1]

At a small lake close to Puerto Ibañez, by the lake, known as laguna Sepúlveda, is said to be home to a creature. According to Marisol Obrador, "there was a monster [..] very large and ugly".[1]

Panoramio photograph and map of Sepúlveda lagoon.

Bibliography.

[1] Irles, L. El Faro del Fin del Mundo. El monstruo del Lago General Carrera. 24.08.2009. Comments.


Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2010 International Year of Biodiversity Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall © 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chelep, the hairy Patagonian dwarf

 
orangutan - Chelep
Orangutan, from an old engraving.


Some more information on the intriguing subject of Patagonian dwarves. In previous posts, I have written about the different kinds of dwarves that have been reported in Patagonia. Today we will look into the Chelep, a dwarf that was likened to an orangutan.

Chelep, monkey like dwarf.

Chelep is an interesting creature and shares several features with the Fuegian Yosi and the Chiloé Island Trauco. Both of which are dwarfish, hairy, carry sticks or clubs, and very monkey-like.

Chelep may also be the origin of the myth regarding the “first men” or Tachwull .

The source on Chelep is a diary written by a Santiago Dunne, a Chilean government official in 1845, at Punta Arenas. He jotted down reports from a man named Centurión, who was not a native, but lived among them.

Below I will quote extensively from this diary (I have translated it from Spanish to English respecting the style of Dunne):

“that between the Negro and the Santa Cruz Rivers, along the inland road which is where the Indians travel, there are two places where there are many stone homes painted with various colors, and which are inhabited by a race that as described by the Patagons [Aonikenk] have a lot of resemblance to the orangutans: these sites are [not] along the same road but [towards] the Andes. Small size, hairy body and a club or baculus always in their hand. The cover with a short guanaco fur in the same way those [natives] of Tierra del Fuego do.
The Patagons call them Chelep. Most of these groups of Indians have visited those places and have been in the same homes, but have never been able to take one of their inhabitants despite that they have seen them and ran very close to them and even been hit by stones thrown by them; which has led them to take them for witches and they do not go to their caves because they must not be other than [illegible] in great numbers.
It should be noted that the Patagons [Aonikenk] only when they go to the Negro River, which does not happen frequently, is when the chelep see them arriving, because they have always done so during daytime, run away and get lost in forests [*] abandoning their lodges in which can be found bones and guanaco hides and that sometimes those that have slept close to such homes, have been robbed and some of their horses killed”
. [1]


[*] though the Spanish word “montes” can also mean “mountains”.

More on the Chelep. A close encounter.

Centurión, Dunne’s informant had not been to the Chelep’s country, but his wife had, and she told Dunne the following:

She was at those homes only accompanied by her elder sister, because all the others that were going with her [to the Negro River] had gone out to the fields, far away […] while alone with her sister, the dog that they had with them began to bark and then they saw coming towards them a woman carrying a child and her club; this frightened them and her companion hid among a pile of hides that were there, but that she could not do the same, she pretended to be dead;
The new arrival saw her and with the tip of her club moved her but the child she carried in her arms cried every time she touche her and that at last she left her without harming her and only to the dog, which had bothered her, clubbed it.
[2]


What kind of creature is the Chelep? a Homo erectus?

Dunne wrote that the natives frightened their children with these stories, but he believed that they may have some truth behind them, and that the Chelep were probably some "lost" tribe of the Tehuelche group.

However, their pre-human appearance, their monkey-like features may indicate some kind of non-human homind (i.e. a homo erectus or, if tiny and dwarfish, even a variety of Flores Island "hobbit") in southern South America. The cross cultural similarities (the creature appears under different names among all the Patagonian natives from Tierra del Fuego to Central Chile) also support this idea.

See this Map for a clear idea of where the different varieties of Patagonian dwarves lived.

Bibliography

[1] Martinic Mateo, (2005). De la Trapananda al Aysen: una mirada reflexiva sobre el acontecer de la Región de Aysen desde la prehistoria hasta nuestros días . Pehuén. pp. 29.

[2] Martinic Mateo, (2000). Informaciones Etnográficas extraidas del diario inedito de Santiago Dunne, Secretario de la Gobernación de Magallanes (1845). Anales del Instituto de la Patagonia: Serie Ciencias humanas, Vol. 28., Instituto de la Patagonia. Pp. 49 -50


Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2010 International Year of Biodiversity Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall © 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Another creature at Lake Lacar

 
lacar arrayanes monster
Arrayanes Hotel, and Lake Lacar. From [4]


More strange creatures at Lake Lacar. I have already posted on this lake, and included it as my Lake of the Week, mentioned its Lake Lacar creature. Today I read some interesting information on other sightings dating back to the late 1950's .

Arrayan Hotel

Reneé Dickinson [1] built a beautiful hotel "Hostería Arrayan", in 1939, which overlooked Lake Lacar very close to the town of San Martín de los Andes in the Argentine province of Neuqueén.

She died a few years later of cancer (1943) and her brother Barney (1913-1981) and his wife took over the lodge. He was a RAF veteran and ran the place for many years. [1] [2]

The hotel, which is still open though it does not belong any longer to the Dickinson family, is set about 250 meters (800 ft.) above the lake, close to its eastern tip (see map above), and commands a beautiful view of the lake (photograph above).

Barney Dickingson's sightings

After reading some articles on Nessie (the Loch Ness creature), in 1959 Barney Dickinson wrote a letter to the Illustrated London news and told about his sightings.[3]

He also wrote in 1961 [4] to Mr. Burton about his experiences.

He used to sit on the hotel's balcony, in the evenings, watching the scenery and the lake, which on very calm days was:

so calm, in fact, that the surrounding mountains are reflected with extraordinary clarity. There is relatively little traffic on Lago Lacar, and on such days, any boat, or any of the aquatic birds - as well as rising fish - leave unmistakable distrubances on the glassy surface.

The extremely few aquatic animals of any size - it is said that a species of otter still survives here, though I have not yet seen one — can be ruled out, I think . . . Nevertheless, from time to time, there appear queer-looking turbulences
[4]


He then goes on to mention the "Cuero" myth.

I am trying to get the original articles, to be able to read them completely. When I do, I will post them here.

Bibliography

[1] The South American Handbook. (1969) Vol 60, Trade & Travel Publications. Ltd. pp.156
[2] Hosteria Arrayan website.
[3] Peter Costello. (1974). In search of lake monsters. Garnstone Press.
[4] Maurice Burton. (1961). The elusive monster: an analysis of the evidence form Loch Ness. Hart-Davis, pp. 94+


Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2010 International Year of Biodiversity Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall © 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Water Bulls in northern Neuquen

 
Another post on Water Bulls, this time in northern Neuquen Province.

They are taken from local stories told to Argentine folklorist Berta Vidal de Battini in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and published in 1984, both are very similar to others that I have included in previous posts on "lake bulls" (see my Everything you ever wanted to know about...Lake Bulls or Water Bulls).

Bull at Tres Chorros.

At Tres Chorros, Ñorquin, in the Argentine province of Neuquen, the locals reported in 1952, a "Water bull".
The story is told by Berta Vidal de Battini, [1], as follows:

They say that in the lagoon close to this place, lives a black bull. Many neighbors have seen it in the middle of the lake and walking in the fields that surround it.
Sometimes it gets together with other animals [...] They say that in several lakes in the region there are bulls that take care of them. Also other animals like horses, cows and pigs come out [of the lakes].
Many people have seen them but they can never be lassoed.
[1]


Bull at Los Miches.

At Los Miches (37°14'S,70°52'W), in Neuquen, another story compiled in 1949 mentions the "Bull with the golden horns at Guanaco Lagoon":

'I have 'eard that in that lagoon there are bad things sir. [my uncle] told me as we passed by the lagoon that in it lived a bull, muddy, hairless, terribly fierece and almost without the shape of an animal.
That when a cow went in to the lake to drink water, it always came out pregnant by this bull and that when the cow was to give birth, it always died.
He said that he had seen it once, when the bull went into the lake and that it got lost in the water'.
[1]


Comments.

These two lakes are in the area just by the foot of the Andes and very close to another lake with strange creatures (Lake Caviahue). Both are on the Atlantic side of the continental divide and in an area with a stron influence of the Mapuche culture.
Tres Chorros flows into the Truquico River and from there into the Neuquen River.

They are also relatively close to the northern basin of the Colorado River, home to a strange aquatic creature.

The interesting creature is the "Los Miches" being, a bald dirty monster that does not even resemble a bull. Which may indicate that the animal is not a bull (perhaps some variety of tapir -hence the lack of hair?). Muddy seems to imply a creature that likes to roll about in the mud (notice the "pigs" mentioned at Los Guanacos; pigs are barrel shaped stout creatures, just like tapirs.). This may indicate some tapir - lake monster connection, as I have suggested in previous posts (Patagonian Tapir).

Map of both locations: Tres Chorros and Los Miches.

Bibliography.

[1] Berta Vidal de Battini (1984). Cuentos y Leyendas Populares de la Argentina. Buenos Aires: Ed. Culturales Argentinas Vol VII. pp. 1366 and 1367.


Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2010 International Year of Biodiversity Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall © 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lake Tar monsters

 
This weekend I read an interesting article [1] on an aquatic monster at Lake Tar, which I had not heard about before and which may throw some light on an incident reported by Clemente Onelli during his 1922 Plesiosaur expedition. Lets take a look at this "sighting":

Lake Tar

This lake (49° 15' S; 72° 0' W) is located on the Patagonian steppe, in the Argentine province of Santa Cruz. It drains west into Lake San Martin and from there into the Pacific Ocean. It is set at 218 m above sea level (714 ft. ) and it has a surface area of 53 km2 (20 sq.mi.). Its name, in the native Tehuelche language, means "dirty" due to the murky color of its waters. [2]

The article, from which I will quote extensively as I have not been able to find the original publication.

Argentine historian Manuel Llarás Samitier wrote this story in the now defunct magazine "Argentina Austral" about 50 years ago [*]:

A mysterious halo floated over the region of Lake Tar since before the days of the colonization of the wide mountainous region formed by the Santa Cruz lakes. It is known that the natives entered the neighborhood reluctantly and they did not hide this feeling. They said that they did not like to hunt in the fields close to those lakes because in their waters monstrous animals lived [...] the blurred versions mentioned a very large animal and the local Indians compared it to a big bellied horse that had a long neck without a mane that used to come out [of the lake] to graze on the grassy shores on the nights on which the moon shined" [1]


Llarás Samitier wrote about a very strange incident which happened in 1913, which, is coincidential with an alleged sighting mentioned by Clement Onelli during the plesiosaur expedition of 1922. As usual, it seems that Onelli, mixed up the names and forgot the place. Though he got the date right.

The incident is the following (Llar&aacut;as Samitier's story is in italics and taken from [1]):

The foreman of a sheep ranch close to lake tar asked two of his men, who were from the Argentine province of Corrientes (a sub-tropical province in northeastern Argentina, along the Paraná and Uruguay Rivers) to go with a local native Indian guide to search for some lost animals.
They followed the tracks and finally arrived at Lake Tar. As it was a cold and windy afternoon, and the weather was getting worse, they camped behind some shrubs about 100 m (300 ft.) from the lake's shore.
Before dawn, a strange noise woke them up:
despite the whistling of the wind they clearly heard as if one or several animals were splashing in the mud by the [lake's] shore. The moon was shining in the sky so they did not take long to see two gigantic shadows that passed in front of them, and they observed that as they walked, they entertained themselves by biting at the grass, lifting and turning their long necks [...] some times the monsters would lift their heads simultaneously, as if to capture some strange noise, and then they would keep on grazing calmly."


One of the men, named Florencio Almada wanted to get closer to see the better, but his companions did not let him do so. The native said that they were the famous giant horses of Lake Tar.

Almada was not satisfied, and at dawn, when the noises had quieted down, he went to look at the tracks by the shore, and found, well printed in the mud, the foot steps of animals that he later described as similar to those of gigantic yacarés.

Yacaré (Caiman yacare); is a species of caiman -crocodile- native to South America, and which is also found in Corrientes, the place where Almada was born and bred.

He had hunted them in the past and he now wanted to hunt the "monsters" with the help of his companions, they did not do so.

Back at the ranch, Almada became obsessed with the beasts and the other ranch hands did not believe his story. This was worsened by the silence of his two companions, who did not want to talk about the sighting. As the situation worsened, the foreman gave him permission to go back to the lake to hunt his monsters. He left for the lake:

with a pair of lassos, boleadoras [a local weapon], knife and revolver [...] before leaving he threatened his colleagues : if he could not bring the monster back alive, he would have the pleasure of inviting those who had mocked him, to eat the grilled ribs of a giant crocodile


After a couple of days, the foreman became worried when Almada did not return, so he went out to search for him with the Indian and another man:

When the arrived, they found nothing [...] night fell without any news. Before dawn they lit a bonfire to show their position to the missing man. Nothing. With the first lights of sunrise they saw some caranchos [carrion eating birds] flying over the lake's shore. When they got closer they saw Almada's horse floating in the water. The animal seemed to have been dragged more than 100 m [300 ft.] in the mud. On its saddle they found a piece of lasso. But of Almada, not even a miserable "Moon" brand Alpargata [cheap kind of shoe]. They also found the revolver with the six used bullets, evidence that he had shot before using the lasso. [1]


It does not surprise me to notice that the animals are not carnivores, but herbivores, something that I have mentioned before (when addressing the sustainability -i.e. survival- issue): the lake monsters are grass eaters. By the way, Tar was a place where the natives camped, as it had good pasture for their horses [3].

Futhermore, a similar event was reported in 1957 at Lake Viedma which is 42 km (27 mi.) south of Lake Tar. Viedma flows east towards the Atlantic Ocean and is separated from Tar by the continental divide which rises to about 750 m (2.460 ft.) above sea level.


[*] Comments:

I have not been able to find the full article, but Google books has allowed me to identify the original source: Argentina Austral, v. 38, n.os 429-434 - 1967. As the following image shows:

tar lake monsters

Source: Online, Google Books.

I believe that the article by Samitier is "Realidad y leyenda del mylodon" and it is on page 68 of the above mentioned magazine. Should anyone come across it, please let me know. Thank you.

Bibliography.
[1] Mendoza, Roberto. 2009. Buscando al Plesiosaurio hecho en la Patagonia. Nucleo. Producción y Desarrollo Sustentable. Año 1, N° 6. June 2009. pp. 37+
[2] Gaea. (1946). Geografía de la República Argentina. Vol. 7, No. 2. By Sociedad Argentina de Estudios Geográficos Gaea. Coni. Ed. pp. 588.
[3] Moreno, F., (2007). Exploración de la Patagonia Sur II: el lago Argentino y los Andes meridionales. 1877. B. Aires: Continente.


Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2010 International Year of Biodiversity Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall © 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Another Paleo-Lake (Puelo)

 
paleo lake Puelo
Paleo Lake ca. 1000 BP. By Barzi, A. [1]


When I posted on Vanishing Rivers I mentioned a great Paleo-lake that had formed at the end of the last Ice Age in northern Patagonia. In other posts, I had mentioned also mentioned deglaciation and the formation of the current Patagonian eco regions.

Today I came across a very interesting map by Mr. Alejandro Brazi, at his website which deals with the geography of the small village of El Hoyo and its surrounding areas.[1] It shows how the area that is now occupied by lakes Puelo, Epuyén and the valleys of the rivers Epuyén and Azul, were flooded during the end of the last Ice Age producing a very large paleo-lake.

The lake drained just as it does in the present, to the west, into the Pacific Ocean through a narrow pass in the Andean mountains.

The interesting part of this is that the Patagonian Plesiosaur was said to have been sighted in the Puelo-Epuyén rivers basin in the early 1920s. (see my map showing the current lakes and compare it with the one shown above.

Did the receding waters capture some megafaunal beast and restrict it, keeping it captive in the now smaller lakes?
Dit it originally swim up the Puelo River from the South Pacific Ocean, during the days when Puelo and Epuyén lakes were merged in the giant paleo-lake?

By the way, there have been reports of "monsters" in the Puelo River.

We will never know (neither can we know if there is -or was- a cryptid lake creature here or if it was really sighted in 1922.)

Bibliography.

Barzi, A. Descripcion de El Hoyo. Geografia Fisica


Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2010 International Year of Biodiversity Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall © 
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