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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


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Homo erectus in America?

 

In a previous post on Patagonian ogres and hairy giants, I suggested that this variety of Patagonian Bigfoot, might be a surviving Homo erectus, a direct ancestor of modern man (we are Homo sapiens).

Today I will look into this interesting subject. Interesting because, official orthodox archaeology does not believe that H. erectus ever reached America, and does not place modern man here earlier than some 20,000 years ago.

However, there is some controversial evidence (dismissed by mainstream archaeologists) that suggests an earlier peopling of America, roughly a quarter of a million years ago.

Recent survival of Homo erectus.

Homo erectus is an extinct species of humans that lived between 1,8 million years ago and at least 200,000 years ago (and probably even later than this last date). That is, during the Pleistocene Epoch. These hominids were intelligent creatures and manufactured stone tools, which we classify as belonging to the Acheulian culture. They were the first men to master fire. They were also explorers and were the first humans to break out of Africa, our birthplace and spread across the Old World.

Their remains have been found in Europe, Asia (as well as Africa). The oldest fossils are found in Africa, where they continued evolving into modern men. The African strain is different in comparison to the other H. erectus populations of the Old World and have been classed in a separate species named Homo ergaster. There is some debate whether H. ergaster or H. erectus is our direct ancestor.

Their use of a novel stone tool technology and fire, made them successful in spreading around the Old World and occupying different environments.

This may have been due to their larger brain size in comparison to our other older and more primitive ancestors. Their cranial capacities ranged from between 700 cm3 to 1,250 cm3, averaging 900 cm3. Their skulls had a thick cranial bone and large browridges over their eyes. Their braincase was long and low, with a receeding forehead.

They were not small like their ancestors, an adult H. erectus could weigh over 45 kg (100 lb) and measure 1,67 m (5 ft. 6 in).

Fossils of H. erectus found at Ngandong, Java, have been dated to as recently as 53,000 to 27,000 years ago. These dates were obtained by Carl Swisher of the Berkeley Geochronology Center and colleagues. [1]. This is interesting because, it indicates an overlapping with modern man who arrived in that area roughly some 40 to 50 thousand years ago. So, if they managed to get to America, they could have also overlapped with modern man during some 20 to 30,000 years (which, would mean that they may have survived until a relatively recent date, or even still be alive somewhere out there).

In America?

During the late 1960s, at a site close to Mexico City, Mexico, named Valsequillo Reservoir, in the State of Puebla, some geologists of the United States Geology Survey (USGS) dated possible hominid remains as being 250,000 years old!. The team was led by archaeologist Cynthia Irving-Williams, and the results were published in a reputable scientific journal in 1969 [5] but were quickly dismissed by mainstream archaeologists as being ridiculously old (nearly ten times the accepted dates for human presence in America - the Clovis First theory). [2]

Click to see Photographs of the excavations and the artifacts.

These remains are part of a:

"rapidly growing dating evidence from fission- track, U-series, diatoms extinct by the end of the Last Interglacial Stage (Sangamonian), etc. for (pre-Wisconsinan) humans in America (>80,000 yr BP), which has been ignored or denied by members of the American archaeological establishment " . [3]

So, they may be modern human (i.e. Homo sapiens) remains that predate the orthodox time-frame of some 20,000 years for human arrival to America.

Other ancient remains of stone tools have been found at Calico [4] in California, US at around the same time. They have been dismissed by mainstream archaeology as natural (not human) artifacts.

Conclusions

As far as I am concerned, the case remains open and undefined. The evidence is interesting and definitively points to an early peopling of America.

H. erectus had the brains and the physical aptitude to trek from China (his known northernmost habitat) to America through Beringia, just like modern man would do later. He could also have rowed along the coastal waters of Asia, Beringia and America all the way down to Southern Chile.

Lack of interest and funding (specially in South America, where research is restricted due to lack of governmental or private support) to look into these non-conventional ideas may delay the final proof, but it will surely be unearthed in the near future.

Impact on cryptozoology. Leaving aside Bigfoot for my North American colleagues, as it is not a Patagonian "monster", the presence of H. erectus could account for many native Patagonian myths regarding "ogres" or "man slaying" primitive men, it can also explain the "wild-men" legends and some "hairy" or "ape-like" creatures reported in Patagonia.

Continues tomorrow in Part 2, Homo erectus in America?

Sources.
[1] Mark Rose, (1997). Homo Erectus Survival. Archaeology. Vol. 50 Number 2, March/April 1997
[2] Christopher Hardaker and Charles Naeser, (2007). The First American: The Suppressed Story of the People Who Discovered the New World. Career Press.
[3] Sam L. Vanlandingham. Extraordinary Examples of Deception in Peer Reviewing: Concoction of the Dorenberg Skull Hoax and Related Misconduct. Online.
[4] Chris Hardaker, (2010). The Abomination of Calico. Pleistocene coalition news, Vol 2. No. 5 pp. 10. Oct. 2010.
[5] Barney J. Szaboa, Harold E. Maldea and Cynthia Irwin-William, (1969). Dilemma posed by uranium-series dates on archaeologically significant bones from Valsequillo, Puebla, Mexico. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Vol. No. 4, July 1969, Pages 237-244


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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Matuasto - the monstrous midget lizard

 
Matuasto (top left) from Tehuelche Rock Art. From [1]

The image above portrays a Matuasto (upper left) and a regular lizard (bottom right), it was drawn at the basaltic plateau by Lake Buenos Aires in northwestern Santa Cruz province, Argentina.[1]

The natives depicted their staple food (which they hunted on foot until the late 1600s, and then on horseback) such as guanaco (a South American camelid similar to llamas an vicuñas), and the South American rhea (an ostrich-like flightless bird). They also represented human steps and hand marks, and geometric shapes. But, why would they draw lizards? And not only one, but two varieties? What was so special about the Matuasto?

Midget monster, the Matuasto lizard

I had mentioned this lizard in a previous post (The Horse-Eating frog - Chile), but did not provide much information. Today we will go a bit deeper:

Matuastos (Diplolaemus darwinii) are found in Chile and Argentina, where it ranges from Patagonia in the south, through Cuyo (Mendoza, San Luis and San Juan provinces), Catamarca, Santiago del Estero and Tucumán provinces.

The word is of Quechua origin, a language not spoken in Patagonia but in Peru, Bolivia, and to a lesser extent, the norhtern reaches of Argentina. It was the language of the ancient Inca empire. Its meaning is "homeless" or "whose cave is not known". Which is quite reasonable, since lizards run around the ground, from here to there.

The interesting point is that it is widely feared. For instance, outside of Patagonia, in San Luis, it is regarded as poisonous and capable of giving a terrible bite; once it closes its jaws, it cannot be removed. It holds fast to its unfortunate prey.

Just for the record, it is NOT poisonous.

In San Juan and Mendoza (also outside of Patagonia) there is a myth about a woman Pericana who morphs into a giant matuasto and devours children.[6]
The main features of this small "monster" is its short tail and stout body, a big squat head and very powerful jaws.

What is even more surprising is that such a small animal (it grows to about 5 to 9 cm long - 2 to 5.6 in.) can stir such great fears!

Patagonian Matuastos

It was a widespread myth, and found in Patagonia, because, the creature was mentioned by British explorer George Musters who in 1870, after traveling from Punta Arenas to Carmen de Patagones with a band of Tehuelche, wrote:

Another animal supposed to be possessed of magical powers is a flat toad-like lizard, which is believed to lame horses by mysterious agency, and is killed whenever met with. [3]

The Tehuelche natives of eastern and southern Patagonia named it "k'amter", so this is what they must have told Musters that it was called.

Fernández, [4] records that the Mapuche natives took them for creatures possessed by "evil spirits" (snakes fell into the same category). The Mapuche word for it was "kirke", which simply meant: "lizard".

The Mapuche people at Neuquen province, describe it as a lizard with a stunted tail that is "aggressive and poisonous, that can jump, and once it has bitten it will not let go". [7]

The bringer of fire

The creature is also mentioned in a Tehuelche myth, as the one who invented the use of fire. The native group of Quilchamal, Tehuelche who speak Mapuche language (there was a process of Araucanization in northern Patagonia by which the Mapuche culture and language was adopted by the Tehuelche, even though they belonged to two distinct ethnic groups). This tribe lives in the province of Chubut, in Argentina.

One of the natives, Alberto Quilchamal recorded the legend, in which the Patagonian hare (mara) steals the flames from a matuasto (which Alberto calls kirke), he describes the lizard as "harmful and poisonous: 'they live from poison, the poison they have does not let them die'.", that is, they were immortal. Furthermore, to be able to kill them, they should be burnt (like European witches) or they will not die. [5]

The matuasto is therefore immortal, the inventor of fire, a poisonous, jumping strong jawed monster. Possessed by evil spirits and evil itself. The question is: Why? Why endow such a tiny lizard with such a repertoire of evil powers?

Perhaps not so tiny

I have seen the rock art at Cueva de las Manos (where I took the photograph shown in the horse-eating frogs post mentioned above), and these paintings were big. And by big I mean about 40 cm (3.3 ft long) and about the same width (look at the adult human hands stamped beside the images to get a sense of size). Those would be really big lizards. And also look at their clawed paws. Nasty indeed.

Could there have been some giant matuasto living in Patagonia in Paleo-Indian times?

For the time being I have not found any evidence or myths to support this notion, but who knows, maybe I will find something.

Sources

[1] Eduardo E. Berberián and María Ester Albeck, (2001), Historia argentina prehispánica. Ed. Brujas. vol. 1. pp. 856, Fig. 6, image 14. After Gradin (1993).
[2] Juan Wenceslao Gez and María Estela Gez de Gómez, (1939), Geografía de la provincia de San Luis. Ed. Peuser. vol. 2, pp. 96.
[3] Musters George Chaworth, (1969). At home with the Patagonians: a year's wanderings over untrodden ground from the Straits of Magellan to the Rio Negro. (1869).Greenwood Press, pp. 182.
[4] César A. Fernández, (1999). Cuentan los mapuches. Ed. Nuevo Siglo. pp. 14a
[5] Ana Fernandez Garay and Graciela Hernandez, (1999). Origen y uso del fuego
mito recogido entre los tehuelches araucanizados de la patagonia argentina
, Amerindia, N°24, 1999.
[6] Marcos de Estrada, (1985), Leyendas y supersticiones sanjuaninas: contribución al estudio del folklore en la Provincia de San Juan. BPR , pp. 119.
[7] Gregorio Alvarez, (1981). El Tronco de Oro. Siringa Libros, pp. 295


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

The Hooded Grebe - Maca Tobiano

 
Some people suggest that there are no cryptids or mysterious animals out there because they say that they should have been discovered a long time ago. After all, Europeans have been roaming around Patagonia and its coast since 1520. Aren't 490 years enough time to discover a strange species?

Well, as we all know, species unknown to science crop up quite often (though not as fast as those that are known and become extinct through our actions -or rather our lack of actions!).

Among these "recently discovered" species is one endemic to Patagonia, that is, found only in Patagonia, and more specifically, in certain small habitats within Patagonia.

I am talking about the Macá Tobiano or Hoded Grebe (Podiceps gallardoi), a tiny aquatic bird found only in the windswept lakes of Southern Patagonia's basaltic highlands.[1][2]

It was discovered and described barely 36 years ago, in 1974, by Mauricio Rumboll (a well known naturalist and ornithologist, son of Hilda and Bill Rumboll who, in 1976 reported sighting Nahuelito the Nahuel Huapi lake creature. at Bariloche, Patagonia - isn't it a small world?).

This bird, so recently discovered is at risk of becoming extinct. Its numbers are dropping quickly (its population has fallen by nearly a 73% over the last 21 years) and no one knows why. Birdlife International has ranked it as Endangered, [3] and also on the IUCN red list as Endangered. [4] A real tragedy!

It seems that human action may be causing this dramatic drop in its population (garbage may be increasing the population of predator gulls that attack the Macá and its young). Furthermore, the introduction of exotic fish (trout and salmon) into the lakes that the Macá uses to mate and build its floating nests seems to have had a negative impact on them. Though the exact reason is not yet understood.

I love fishing in Patagonian lakes, but, I do realize that these rainbow, brown, brook and lake trout (plus the Pacific salmon on the Pacific watershed and some sea-run brown trout on the Atlantic basin) are a serious problem (see my posts on this issue and their negative impact for other species such as the naked minnow).

Sources

[1] Imberti, S. & Casañas, H.. 2009. Hooded Grebe (Podiceps gallardoi), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: http://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/portal/species/overview?p_p_spp=91111.
[2] SIB. Sistema de Información de Biodiversidad Podiceps gallardoi
[3] Birdlife. Hooded Grebe.
[4] The IUCN Red list of thratened species. Podiceps gallardoi



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

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Myth of Nahuelito: An article

 
article on Nahuelito
Article published 25.Nov.2010 in The Argentina Independent.
Copyright © 2010 by Austin Whittall

Yesterday, November 25, 2010, a very interesting article by Mr. Sam Mustafa was published in the online newspaper The Argentina Independent, it deals with the mysterious lake creature "Nahuelito".

I appear quoted in the article, and my book (soon to be printed) is also mentioned. I am very honored that Mr. Mustafa took the time and effort to interview me and also, to publish my comments and thoughts on this matter.

By the way, Mr. Mustafa visited Bariloche (the town on the Nahuel Huapi Lake, home to Nahuelito) to get a first hand impression of the place and to interview possible eyewitnesses. His article, which can be read following the link below is very interesting:

Click to read the full article The Myth of Nahuelito: A Monstrous Symbol of Argentina | The Argentina Independent.

This is my blog's post on Nahuelito.

Thank you Sam! It has been a delightful experience.


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

Friday, November 12, 2010

Strange (dinosaur?) in Tierra del Fuego

 
strange Fuegian creatures
Some strange Fuegian creatures. Copyright © 2010 by Austin Whittall

The image above is just a detail of an ancient map, Tabula Magellanica qua Tierrae del Fuego drawn in 1671 by John Ogilby and Jan Janssonius. The Strait of Magellan can be seen just above the two central blue colored arrows. The Pacific Ocean is on the lower left side, by the green arrow.

The map shows several animals and some natives too, on the island, named Magellanica.

Normal people and animals

The map shows some Rhea or ñandu being hunted by the local natives (though there are no "South American ostriches" on the island - see my post about the intriguing ohi for more on this matter). The "ostriches" are marked with blue colored arrows and are roughly to scale.

Then there are two penguins (green arrow), also drawn to scale.

Weird creatures

But then, there are two bulky bodied animals with long swan-necks and also long tails (marked with the red arrows), which have a bird-like (or reptilian) look.

They are quite similar to an image that I posted some time ago in my post Patagonian living dinosaurs.

I wonder what they are. They are big, about the size of an adult person. Too big to be any of the known Patagonian birds.




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

Monsters of the Patagonia. The Book

 
Zagier & Urruty Publications
 
Yesterday was a very important day for me, because, I signed the contract with my editor! My book will be published. I am delighted, because I have toiled (joyfully) for nearly three years writing it. The whole experience has been greatly rewarding because, on one hand I have learned much more than I ever expected to about Patagonian natives, their beliefs, their culture, the woes of the European explorers and the hardships of its first settlers.

It has also given me an deep insight into the native and Creole myths and legends involving mysterious lake and forest beings. My research has softened the jagged edges of my initial skepticism and twenty-first century rationality and opened the door to many questions:

Could there still be some unknown creatures out there, living in the forests?
Even if there are none, did they die out recently?
What is the most logical explanation for these cryptid 'sightings' and 'encounters' with strange entities?
Were the natives' myths based on real living flesh and blood creatures?
Is our knowledge limited because of lack of research in the field?

Anyway, it is a never ending quest so even though the book has now begun the journey that will set it in print (and who knows, maybe even in some electronic or digital book system), I will still be investigating my favorite subject, Patagonia and its mysteries.

The publishing process

Signing the contract and delivering the manuscript is, of course,the first step. Now the 'fun' begins, The book has to go through the editing stages (design, layout and typesetting), then will come the complete proofreading. So I guess it will be a busy end of the year.

The Publisher

My publisher is Zagier & Urruty Publications (see them on Facebook).

They, as publishers, specialize in Patagonia, with a special emphasis on Tierra del Fuego and also on Antarctica. Which is quite nice, since my book fits neatly into their niche field of interest.

Besides publishing original work on Patagonia, Zagier & Urruty also have reprinted many interesting chronicles and journals of nineteenth century explorers, missionaries and adventurers as well as maps which you will recognize by their "whale tail" WORLD'S END logo.

In coming blogs I will keep you posted on how the editing / publishing / printing process is going and when you can expect to see the book available on your bookshop's shelves!

Thank you all for reading my blog.

Austin

 
Patagonian Monsters Book
The Book: Coming soon. Copyright © 2010 by Austin Whittall


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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Horse Eating Frog - Chile

 
giant frog
Beelzebufo ampigna Giant Prehistoric Frog .From: [1], by Stony Brook University.

A team of paleontologists found the remains of a giant fossil frog that lived some 70 Million years ago in Madagascar, off the eastern coast of Southern Africa during the Age of the dinosaurs, the Beelzebufo ampigna.

This giant frog measured about 41 cm long and weighed 4.5 kg (16 in and 10 lbs). It had a thick skin and sharp teeth.

The team that found it, led by David Krause of Stony Brook University named it "the frog from hell" hence its name, Beelzebufo (devil = Beelzebub and toad (in Latin) = bufo).

It was probably the largest frog that ever existed and was more than twice the size of its closest relative, the South American Ceratophrys aurita and nearly five times larger than the biggest extant frog on Madagascar, the Mantidactylus guttulatus.

The interesting thing is the "South American Link", it seems that Beelzebufo is quite similar to the South American Ceratophryinae, and, on the other hand quite unlike the local Madagascar frogs. If it was similar to its American relatives, it would be a predator gobbling up everything that it came across (small mammals, other frogs and even small newborn dinos).

These Ceratophryinae ,or "horned frogs", are a subfamily of the leptodactylid frogs. And they are only found in South America.

Also in South America, another interesting frog can be found; it lives in Chile and is known as the "helmeted water toad" or "giant Chilean toad", (Calyptocephalella gayi, formerly Caudiverbera caudiverbera).

It is found in the temperate and cold areas from Central Chile to northern Chilean Patagonia, from Coqimbo to Los Lagos, it is a big frog and can reach up to 32 cm (11.9 in.) from snout to vent [4] and weigh 3 kg (6.6 lbs.) . As it is the only extant member of its genus, it is sad news that it is endangered by exotic frogs and fungal infections. [3]

Frogs and lake monsters

So, why frogs? Well, I read a comment at a post on lake monsters in Southern Chile that offers an interesting explanation on the possible animal behind the sightings, below I quote the relevant text :[5]

I looked into some stories and diaries of old Chilean families. And it is so, that in one, whose surname I will not disclose, that tells how a hose was devoured by an immense toad. I knew that the caudiverbera frog has a very strange gene that expresses itself once every ten thousand millions to produce a frog of one meter [3.3 ft.] [long] It is a recessive gene. I knew then that another recessive gene produced yet an even bigger frog when it is phenotypically expressed. I believe that this solved the case of the vilú the immense killer toad of the great irrigation channels and lagoons. [5]

The idea is intriguing, the helmeted frog does live in the cold waters of the Patagonian Lakes all the way Reloncavi area. So they are in the right location. The "recessive gene" is something that should be investigated. I have not yet found any papers about this mysterious gene or its "phenotypic expression". However, the Madagascar remains prove that frogs can grow to a big size, alas, as far as the fossils found to date show, not big enough to eat a horse in one mouthful.

Nevertheless, the diary entry (if true and not just some yarn made up by someone)with the horse eating frog is indeed interesting. It is a pity that the date and site of this incident are not given.

Myths and frogs

What did the natives have to say about frogs? Did they believe in giant toads?

We have the Arumco is a myth about a giant Mapuche frog, whose name derives from "arun" = "big frog" and " = water. [6]

The name and supernatural nature of Arumco were recorded by Naturalist Juan Ignacio Molina, who mentioned it in his book (1788) on Chile's natural history: " aquatic frogs, the Arunco [...] that the Araucano [Mapuche] call Genco which means father of the water because they believe that they contribute to keeping and to the health of the waters. [2]

Then there is the Mapuche's "piwichen" myth, a flying feathered snake, which, in some versions, according to Vicuña Cifuentes, is a snake that mutates into a gigantic frog covered with fine hair which then sprouts wings (more info on this hairy frog). The winged frog was depicted by Renaissance artist Hieronymus Bosch in his "The Temptation of St. Anthony", which shows that the range of the human mind, when it comes to weird creatures, is quite limited.

And last but not least is the Matuasto, depicted below in a photograph that I took at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cueva de Las Manos, Santa Cruz province, Argentina:

Matuasto cueva de las manos
Paleoindian Rock art: Matuasto at Cueva de Las Manos. Copyright © 2007 by Austin Whittall

These creatures are said to be tailless lizards (whatever that may be) or a variety of short tailed lizard. In my opinion, they look quite frog-like and may depict some variety of monster-toad. They were drawn in red paint on the walls of Cueva de las Manos ledge some 8 to 10 thousand years ago by the Tehuelche Indian's ancestors.

It was a persistent myth, because, the creature was mentioned by British explorer George Musters who in 1870, after traveling from Punta Arenas to Carmen de Patagones with a band of Tehuelche, wrote:

Another animal supposed to be possessed of magical powers is a flat toad-like lizard, which is believed to lame horses by mysterious agency, and is killed whenever met with. [7]

The word Matuasto is imported, exotic, of Quechua origin (from the Bolivian and Peruvian Andes Region), [8] so it can not be a local myth, perhaps it was introduced from Chile by the Mapuche (who acquired it from the Inca invaders ca. 1430) who in turn passed it on to the Tehuelche. Fear of Matuastos prevails in the area that came into contact with the Incas, such as Northern Argentina.

This site (SIB.gov.ar) has some details and an image of a matuasto.

Sources

[1] Ned Stafford . Giant frog found in Madagascar. 'Frog from hell' fossil hints at later split of continents. Nature. Online. 18.02.2008. doi:10.1038/news.2008.607
[2] Molina, Juan Ignacio, (1788). Compendio de la historia geografica, natural y civil del Reyno de Chile. Madrid: Sancha, pp. 238
[3] Veloso, A. & Formas, R., ( 2004). Caudiverbera caudiverbera. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
[4] Naish, Darren (2007). It's the Helmeted water toad! 27.10.07.
[5] Andrés El monstruo del lago generla Carrera, Comments. 23.10.10
[6] José María Alfonso Félix Gallardo, (1994). Anfibios y reptiles: relatos y leyendas, etimología, usos y abusos. Librería Agropecuaria, pp. 33.
[7] Musters George Chaworth, (1969). At home with the Patagonians: a year's wanderings over untrodden ground from the Straits of Magellan to the Rio Negro. (1869).Greenwood Press, pp. 182.
[8] Fernando Hugo Casullo, (1963). Voces indígenas en el idioma español. Cia. Argentina de Editores, pp. 34


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

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lake Villarrica Monster

 
Llake Villarrica or, as the Mapuche called it "Mallolafquen" (from the words "mallo = white clay and "lafquen" = lake, is located in the Chilean province of Cautín, in Chile's northern Patagonia (39°15'S, 72°06'W). It is the source of the Toltén River (where giant water snakes have been sighted). As we will see below, it is also home to one (or more) strange creatures.

The lake

The lake's main axis is about 22 km long (14 mi.) in an east-west orientation, and its north-south axis is 11 km (7 mi.) wide. At its eastern tip is the city of Pucón, and on its occidental side is the town of Villarrica.

Villarrica was first settled by the Spaniards in the mid 1500s until the Mapuche razed the town in the early sixteenth century. The town gives its name to the lake and to nearby volcano Villarica (2.840 m - 9,311 ft.), just south of the lake.

Its surface area is 176 km2 (68 sq.mi.) and its mean depth is 120 m (393 ft. - 721 ft.) at the foot of the Andes.

The monster

There is an online video at Youtube that shows what is described as the "monster at Lake Villarrica", and which I have embedded below: [1]


Video of Villarrica Lake monster. [1]

The images show something with a cylindrical shape, much longer than its diameter, similar to a tree trunk.

I would like to point out that the lake is getting more and more contaminated from several sources (raw urban sewage, fertilizers washed in from the surrounding fields, etc.), these have packed the lake full of nutrients that have promoted an algal bloom (that is, an "eutrophication" process in the lake. This has not only damaged the water quality (polluted and now more turbid) but also promoted a runaway growth of algae.[2]

Could the so called monster be a bunch of floating weeds pushed by the waves and the wind? is it a mass of algae rotting on the surface? is it just a tree trunk? or could it be some kind of unknown herbivore aquatic mammal flourishing on the abundant aquatic vegetation?

A real mystery.

Sources.

[1] Mounstro del Lago Villarrica [sic] por Aguscanal.
[2]Administrador. (2010). ALERTA: deterioro de la calidad de las aguas del Lago Villarrica. 26.08.2010.



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

Tolten River creature

 
lake of the week

During the last week of January 2003, there were some strange sightings along the Toltén River in Chile. Today we will post about them, and also make Toltén our "Lake (actually River) of the Week".

The river

Toltén is a river, 230 km (143 mi.) long that flows into the Pacific Ocean in a east-west direction, cutting across Chile in the province of Cautín, IXth Region, Araucania.

At one time it marked the border between the Mapuche (north) and Huilliche (south) people of Precolumbian Chile.

Its sources are at the western tip of Lake Villarica, at 230 m (754 ft.) above sea level.

The sightings

A family that was having a picnic by the side of the river in the Municipality (i.e. County or “comuna”) of Toltén, which is the last stretch of the river before it flows into the sea when:

from the waters a huge serpent emerged –apparently an anaconda- that stared at them from head to toes with the eyes of a murderer and a long fang[1]

This happened on January 26, and as told by one of the family members, Seferino Curihuanca (or Curihuinca), they were at “Toltén Chico” (according to [1]) or by the cemetery of “Toltén Viejo” (according to [2]), (39°11'S, 73°12'W), when they saw:

small waves in the river […] which was not normal and, surprising us, a serpent-like head popped out about forty centimeters [16 in.] out of the water […] it was about three meters long [9.8 ft.] and extremely thick like thirty centimeters diameter [1 ft.] [1]

They threw stones at it and forced it to get out of the river but lost its tracks on the shore after it slithered into the bushes.[1]

Seferino says that he had heard rumors that somebody living in the town of Villarrica (upstream along the Toltén) illegally introduced two anacondas from abroad and both of them escaped. Of course the owner did not tell the police to avoid being fined for his actions.

Mrs. Yolanda Curihuinca (same surname as Seferino, perhaps his wife?) later phoned the Police and described the creature as: “A monster with a big head, whose eyes were prominent, its skin was dark brown and measured 6 meters [19.6 ft.].” [3]

Notice that in Yolanda's version, the snake is twice as long as in Seferino's version.

After the incident, the local police and firemen looked for the snake but did not find any traces of it. The police also admitted that they had heard about the rumor regarding escaped anacondas, but nobody has formally informed them of any incidents.[1]

Though they searched the area, they did not use boats so it was not a very thorough search [2] yet the police said that the whole incident “was a collective psicosis […] more ficticious than real [2].

More sightings

After the Curihuinca sighting, fifteen other witnesses came forward saying that they had seen it too: [2]

  • At Frutillar, 2 km from Toltén they saw a giant creature on the river shore that later hid among the rushes close to the cemetery of Toltén Viejo
  • At Tenencia, a neighbor told the Police about a snake and that several anglers who were fishing on the river bank ran away because they were afraid it would catch them

During the months of February and March 2003, more "snakes" were seen in the area, but further south, (132 km - 82mi.) from Toltén, on an independent river basin, at Lake Ranco.

Sources.

[1] La Cuarta. Santiago. Chile. 28.01.2003. Anaconda de tres metros dejó helada a familia que paseaba en el río Toltén.
[2] Escobar, P. Diario Austral. Valdivia. Chile. 15.06.2004. El día que Toltén enloqueció
[3] Hallazgos de la criptozoologia


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