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

Monday, February 28, 2011

Analysis of Tehuelche - Phoenician - Celtic (?) intertwined snakes

Strange snakes of alleged Celtic or Phoenician origin found engraved on Patagonian rockss. Native or Semitic - Celtic art?
See Index on all my posts on Phoenicians in America.

intertwined giant snakes Patagonia rock art
Alleged Tehuelche engraved stone with several intertwined snakes. Source: Internet

Above, is an image of an engraved stone, found in Chubut, Patagonia, which is attributed either to Phoenicians navigators who somehow reached the region or to Celtic mariners who somehow strayed and landed in Patagoina, or, an imitation crafted by local Tehuelche natives, who based their art on originals that the new arrivals (either Celts or Phoenicians) showed them.

Far fetched? Yes indeed. But, the stones exist, and they are either fakes, made in recent times (we will look into this option in a future post), or authentic stone carvings, crafted by some “ancient” people who lived in Chubut, Argentina.

Writhing Celtic snakes

The “Celtic” link is due to the fact that “Celts” represented intertwined snakes in their art. And, this is indeed so, as can be seen in the following examples.

The oldest is from Sutton Hoo, a village in East Anglia, England. Where an Anglo-Saxon king was buried around 625 AD. His burial included several gold jewels, among which is his buckle, shown below:

Buckle with intertwined snakes, Sutton Hoo
"Celtic" Buckle with intertwined snakes. Sutton Hoo, England. ca 625 AD. Souce: Internet

Another example is the beautiful cover of the Lindau Gospels (St. Galle Abbey, Switzerland. Circa 875 AD), which depicts snake or lizard-like creatures, intertwined, interlaced; which is shown below:

interlaced snakes Lindau Gospel
Lindau Gospel, ca. 875 AD. Intertwined snakes. Source: Internet

Both are beautiful examples of Germanic snakes (in my opinion they are not Celtic).

The "real" Celt examples found on the Internet are usually Irish crosses or symbols related to them. These are interesting images with intricate designs fashioned from knotted ribbons, but I have not been able to find one ribbon that resembles a snake. The Celts and their druid priests worshiped the snake (as a kind of phallic symbol), and they drew on their banners a snake intertwined around a wooden staff.[2] And this, in an island withoug snakes! (the myth surely came from the Celtic homeland in Europe or beyond).

However, none of these images resembles the writhing Patagonian snakes shown in the image that begins this post.

We will have to look at the Phoenician snakes to see if they can offer some clues.

Phoenician snakes (with a touch of Greece and Egypt)

In the ancient Middle East, in Babylon, two intertwined snakes were the symbolic representation of healing, wisdom, and fertility. From its place of origin in Mesopotamia, it migrated west, reaching the Mediterranean, where it was adopted by the Phoenicians. It is depicted in the image below, of the Phoenician Deified Serpent, or Serpent of Fire. [1]:

Phoenician snake god
Phoenician serpent of fire. From [1]

In turn, besides adopting the Phoenician alphabet, The Greeks also took this god from the Phoenician pantheon, as their own god Asclepius or Asklepios.

He was symbolized by a wooden staff with a serpent wrapped around it. And that symbol originated from a Phoenician god, that had an ophidian origin:

"the word apah or epah, (frequently written apa or epa or epe in the Talmud) signifies a viper, a basilisk, a serpent. This word may have been often conjoined with that of Escul". [3]

Then there is also the symbol of the Caduceus which is a wand with two (not one –as was the case of Asclepius), belonging to Hermes, another Greek God. Which is no other than the Roman god Mercury, the god of trade and commerce. [4]

The serpent god is a very ancient myth, and the Phoenician one also has links to its Egyptian counterpart, Thoth:

The Egyptian god Seth, whose name, in Egyptian (and in Hebrew) means, “pillar”, that is, erect, tall, high is a phallic god. Interestingly, the Egyptian Book of the Dead also calls Seth, “Tet” , which is one of the names of the Egyptian god “Thoth”. Furthermore, Tet was the Phoenician god “Taaut, which is the one who originated the ophidian Esculapius.[5]

This "Taaut", according to Eusebius [*] also invented the alphabet!:

Taautus was the first who thought of the invention of letters, and began the writing of records: and he laid the foundation, as it were, of his history, by beginning with him, whom the Egyptians called Thoyth, and the Alexandrians Thoth, translated by the Greeks into Hermes. [7]

[*] The Bishop, Eusebius of Caesarea, (c. AD 263–339), quoted extensively from a previous historian, Philo of Byblos (c. AD 64-141), using material from Philo's Phoenician History.

So, as we can see, Thoth, Tet, Taaut and Esculapius are all the same god.

Regarding this “Egyptian” connection, intertwined snakes also appear in predynastic times in Ancient Egypt. [6] as can be seen in the following images dated to about 3.200 BC:

Predynastic Egyptian intertwined snakes ca. 3200 BC. From [6]

These snakes look more like the Patagonian one, being undulated and rounded, however they are not knotted into a circular mat, instead, they are "parallel" to each other.

Anyway, there is a link between Phoenicia and snakes, so if (a big if) the Patagonian engraved stones are authentic and not the work of some forger, then, they could have a Phoenician origin.


[1] From Phoenician Coin. Maurice’s Indian Antiquities, Vol. VI, p. 368. London, 1796.
[2] James Bonwick, (1894). Irish Druids And Old Irish Religions. Forgotten Books. pp 144.
[3] Sir. William Drummond, (1826). Origines: Or, Remarks on the Origin of Several Empires, States and Cities. Baldwin and Co. Vol. 3. Phoenicia, Arabia. pp. 223.
[4] Keith Blayney , (2002). The Caduceus vs the Staff of Asclepius (Asklepian).
[5] Staniland Wake, (1870). Influence of the phallic idea in the religions of Antiquity. Chapter: The Hebrew Identified With Ethnic Religions.
[6] Archae Solenhofen , (2003). The tomb of Sabu and the tri-lobed "schist" bowl. August 25, 2003.
[7] Canaanite Resources. Eusebius of Caesarea: Book 1 - Chapter X. From Eusebius of Caesarea: Praeparatio Evangelica From Book 1. Chapters 9 and 10.

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Genuine Tehuelche "inscribed or engraved" stones

What real Tehuelche native engraved stones look like
See Index on all my posts on Phoenicians in America.
tehuelche engraved rock
Tehuelche stone engraving. By Outes (1917). From [1].

When looking at the "inscribed" stones of Patagonia, you should compare them with the "engraved stones" (in Spanish "placas grabadas") that are of an unquestionable native American orign (Tehuelche or Mapuche).

The image shown above depicts an example of a real Tehuelche "engraved stone". As you can see, they are flat surfaced stones that have been etched, by scraping with some sharp element. The drawings are crude and lack the artistic style of the allegedly "Middle Eastern inscribed stones" of supposed Phoenician origin.


[1] Outes, Felix, (1917). La Materialización del Cherruve Araucano. Anales de la Sociedad Cientfica Argentina, Buenos Aires Vol. 83, Jan-Feb, 1917. pp. 81.

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Aristotle on America: the "island" of the Carthaginians

A mysterious island in the Atlantic, is it America?
See Index on all my posts on Phoenicians in America.
Aristotle on America and Carthage
Aristotle, his text on the mysterious island of the Carthaginians in the Atlantic: America. From [1].

Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC, in the book that is attributed to him, "De mirabilibus auscultationibus", wrote the following:

In the sea outside the Pillars of Hercules [beyond Gibraltar, that is, in the Atlantic Ocean] they say that an island was discovered by the Carthaginians, desolate, having wood of every kind, and navigable rivers, [this can only be America as no other island in the Atlantic has navigable rivers] and admirable for its fruits besides, but distant several days' voyage from them. But when the Carthaginians often came to this island because of its fertility, and some even dwelt there [a Colony], the magistrates of the Carthaginians gave notice that they would punish with death those who should sail to it, and destroyed all the inhabitants. lest they should spread the report about it, or a large number might gather together to the island in their time, get possession of the authority, and destroy the prosperity of the Carthaginians. [1]

This is very similar to Diodorus' version. And referrs to a Carthaginian colony in America.

I would like to point out however that the work is certainly not by Aristotle, and may even include additions dating to the second century AD. Nevertheless a very curious and useful compendium of ancient myths.


Aristotle, De mirabilibus auscultationibus. Dowdall, Laurence. (1909) Oxford : Clarendon Press

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Phoenicians: Aramaic inscriptions in Chubut

On the strange inscriptions found in Chubut.
See Index on all my posts on Phoenicians in America.
Article on Aramaic inscriptions found in Chubut, PATAGONIA
Article on stones found in Chubut, Patagonia, with Aramaic inscriptions. Aug. 1987.l

Argentine investigator Enrique Garcí Barthe and photographer Julián Knopp found several stones that they attributed to ancient migrants from the Middle East, with "Aramaic" inscriptions.

These were uncovered "from a depth of several meters during excavations done to lay a natural gas pipeline".[1] They were found in the Argentine province of Chubut.

Barthe also said that the Boer immigrants (many had come to Chubut province during the Boer War in South Africa against Britain) who returned back to South Africa in the early 1900s once the war was over, took "hundreds of these stones back with them as a souvenir of the Mapuche [natives]" [1]

The finding was confirmed by father Román Dumrauf, Director of the Don Bosco Catholic Foundation. The stones were found in the province of Chubut, and many come from Gan Gan. He said that several investigators had visited the Museo Regional Salesiano at Rawson and speculated on the origin of the stones. Some said that they were made by the Inca, others by the natives of Easter Island. All agreed that they were not made by the local Patagonian natives.


[1] Victoria Azurduy, (1987). Descubren Nexo entre Patagonia y Oriente Ambito Financiero, Buenos Aires, 04 Aug. 1987. pp. 23
[2] El Chubut, Salesiano confirma existencia de piedras talladas. 05, August, 1987. pp. 10.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Phoenicians in America: an index

After six posts on the subject of the Phoenicians in America, I am beginning to lose track of the posts, (they are all called the same "Phoenicians in Patagonia X". So to tidy things up and make it easy to find what we are looking for, this post will be the index and will appear as the link in the left sidebar menu.

Every time I post on Phoenicians, it will appear here in this index:

The inscriptions in Patagonia.

Phoenicians in America

Cryptozoology and the "Phoenicians" in Patagonia

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Phoenicians in Patagonia - Part 6

Ancient historians and geographers (Strabo and Diodorus) mention Phoenician colonies across the Atlantic: America perhaps?
See Index on all my posts on Phoenicians in America.
The notion that the Phoenicians reached America is not at all new. In 1652, a distinguished German historian, George Horn also known as Hornius (in those days they preferred to Latinize their surnames to dignify them) published a book in Hague “De originibus americanis libris IV”, where he expounds that America had been peopled by successive waves of immigrants among which he placed the Phoenicians.

This notion was quite accepted at that time, and we see it again in several books, such as the one published in 1785, which said that not only the Phoenicians but also the Carthaginians or even navigators from their Spanish colonies could have reached America: [1]

A 1785 book suggesting Phoenician migration to America. From: [1]

In today’s post we will look into some ancient sources that may prove that the
Phoenicians actually sailed to America.

I have already mentioned two voyages of exploration, one around Africa, and the other along its Atlantic seaboard. For those interested in more information, these two links are excellent:

Hannos voyage. And Necco's voyage.

Strabo and colonies beyond the Atlantic Ocean

Strabo (63 BC – 24 AD), a Greek historian and geographer wrote about the Phoenicians navigation skills in the Atlantic Ocean, stating that after the Trojan War (approx. 1200 BC), they sailed beyond Gibraltar and established colonies in those regions and in the central parts of the Libyan sea-board. So, if Libya is Africa, then where were the other colonies established along the Atlantic? Below is Strabo’s text : [2]

Strabo Phoenicians in America
Strabo's text on Phoenicians crossing the Atlantic towards America. From: [2]

Diodorus and the island across the Atlantic

But, much more interesting is a story jotted down by Diodorus of Siclily (historian), who in 56 BC wrote about a strange island in the Atlantic Ocean, which resembles a continent (America). First he mentions the islands within the Mediterranean, and then others beyond Gibraltar (Pillars of Hercules). As the text is very interesting, so I will quote it extensively even though you may find it boring: [3] (in bold I will include some comments)

We shall give an account of those which are in the ocean. [The islands in the Atlantic] For there lies out in the deep off Libya an island of considerable size, and situated as it is in the ocean it is distant from Libya a voyage of a number of days to the west.

[west of Africa: this excludes the British Isles or Western Europe, which could have been mistaken for an island.]

Its land is fruitful, much of it being mountainous and not a little being a level plain of surpassing beauty. Through it flow navigable rivers [None of the islands in the Atlantic Ocean have navigable rivers. He is evidently talking about a continent: America]. which are used for irrigation, and the island contains many parks planted with trees of every variety and gardens in great multitudes which are traversed by streams of sweet water; on it also are private villas of costly construction, and throughout the gardens banqueting houses have been constructed in a setting of flowers, and in them the inhabitants pass their time during the summer season, since the land supplies in abundance everything which contributes to enjoyment and luxury.

[The costly villas are either Mesoamerican (Mayan, Aztec) buildings or, as we will see further down, the buildings of expat Phoenicians. They aren’t the straw huts of Brazilian natives or the leather tepees of Patagonian Indians].

The mountainous part of the island is covered with dense thickets of great extent and with fruit-trees of every variety, and, inviting men to life among the mountains, it has cozy glens and springs in great number. In a word, this island is well supplied with springs of sweet water which not only makes the use of it enjoyable for those who pass their life there but also contribute to the health and vigour of their bodies. There is also excellent hunting of every manner of beast and wild animal, and the inhabitants, being well supplied with this game at their feasts, lack of nothing which pertains to luxury and extravagance; for in fact the sea which washes the shore of the island contains a multitude of fish, since the character of the ocean is such that it abounds throughout its extent with fish of every variety.

And, speaking generally, the climate of this island is so altogether mild that it produces in abundance the fruits of the trees and the other seasonal fruits for the larger part of the year, so that it would appear that the island, because of its exceptional felicity, were a dwelling-place of a race of gods and not of men.

[Sounds like the “very best” Hy-Brazil Island mentioned in my previous post].

In ancient times this island remained undiscovered because of its distance from the entire inhabited world, but it was discovered at a later period for the following reason. The Phoenicians, who from ancient times on made voyages continually for purposes of trade, planted many colonies throughout Libya and not a few as well in the western parts of Europe. And since their ventures turned out according to their expectations, they amassed great wealth and essayed to voyage beyond the Pillars of Heracles into the sea which men call the ocean. […]

The Phoenicians, then, while exploring the coast outside the Pillars for the reasons we have stated and while sailing along the shore of Libya, were driven by strong winds a great distance out into the ocean. And after being storm-tossed for many days they were carried ashore on the island we mentioned above, and when they had observed its felicity and nature they caused it to be known to all men.

[So, a storm pushed them across the Atlantic. Just like it did to Cabral in 1500s, when he discovered Brazil –see previous post.].

Consequently the Tyrrhenians, at the time when they were masters of the sea, purposed to dispatch a colony to it, but the Carthaginians prevented their doing so, partly out of concern lest many inhabitants of Carthage should remove there because of the excellence of the island, and partly in order to have ready in it a place in which to seek refuge against an incalculable turn of fortune, in case some total disaster should overtake Carthage. For it was their thought that, since they were masters of the sea, they would thus be able to move, households and all, to an island which was unknown to their Conquerors. [1]

This last paragraph, is very interesting, as we have skipped from the ancient Phoenicians to their colony, Carthage and to the Tyrrhenians, which is the name that Diodorus applies to the Etruscans.

The Etruscans lived in Italy, north of Rome, in Etruria – Tuscany, and gradually declined until around 500 BC, when they became part of the growing Roman “empire”.
It seems that the Carthaginians had other schemes regarding the “island”, perhaps they wanted to keep it all for themselves. Or, as Diodorus mentions, they decided to keep it as an ace up their sleeves as a escape route from the growing Roman influence (which, actually let to the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage and to the ultimate destruction of Carthage).

Did they manage to flee to America before their final destruction?

Finding them

If we were to seriously look for a Phoenician settlement we would have to take into account their typical colonizing pattern: they chose a coastal island, close to the shore, or a headland by the mouth of a river with a protected harbor. These were easy to defend and unassailable from the land by eventually hostile locals. This is what they did at Tyre in their homeland (until Alexander the Greate joined the island to the mainland with a causeway and then stormed it at will), Mogador in Morocco, Gades (modern Cadiz) in Spain.

Perhaps some island along the coast of Brazil may have been used as a base by the Phoenicians.

In Patagonia it is an easier matter, the lack of freshwater would have led them to settle near the mouth of one of the Patagonian rivers: Colorado, Negro, Chubut, Deseado, Santa Cruz, Coig or Gallegos. Let’s look into this in a future post on the Phoenicians in Patagonia.

Survival of a Phoenician Colony in America

What impact would a boatload of Phoenicians or a small commercial establishment peopled by a few hundreds of Phoenicians have on the native Americans? Would they leave a permanent mark? Would their lore be absorbed by the onlooking locals and blended with their own?

Regarding the first question, there is the pessimist point of view:

"... with primitive means of migration, there seems small chance of the arrival of wayfarers in any considerable numbers on the American shores, and the evidence of such arrivals must be far to seek and difficult of evaluation. A primitive boat's crew reaching the western continent as voluntary voyagers or as wayfarers brought unwillingly by the winds and currents, even if hospitably received by the resident population, would leave no physical trace of their presence that would last beyond a few generations, and the culture they happened to represent might not find even a temporary foothold..."[4]

Not very supportive of our Phoenicians in America theory!

But, genetic data may give us some evidence, as well as archaeological remains. But this, will be the subject of another post.


[1] Joan Francesc de Masdéu, (1785). Historia critica de España y de la cultura española: obra compuesta y publicada en italiano. Publ. don Antonio de Sancha pp.118
[2] Strabo. The Geography of Strabo. Eds. Jones, Horace Leonard, Sterrett, J. R. Sitlington (John Robert Sitlington), London Heinemann , vol 1. pp. 177 (1:3-2)
[3] Diodorus of Sicily. Bibliotheca historica , Harvard University Press (Loeb), Cambridge 1968. Book V, 18. 2-19 pp. 145+
[4] American anthropology, 1888-1920: papers from the American anthropologist The problems of the unity or plurality and the probable place of origin of the American aborigines: A symposium. Vol. 14, 1912 1- 59. Univ. of Nebraska press.(2002) pp. 189

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Phoenicians in Patagonia - Part 5

Phoenician navigation skills, red dyes and gold: Brazil and Ophir.
See Index on all my posts on Phoenicians in America.
The Phoenicians had to be able to reach America otherwise we can't go ahead with our analysis. So today we will look into their navigation abilities to see if they were capable of crossing an ocean.

Phoenician sailors

Despite the belief that the Phoenicians hugged the shores and sailed close to them, Aubert [1] mentions that they sailed the high seas, in long voyages, that lasted several days. This type of voyage involved sailing by night, which in turn meant that they had to be able to get their bearings by astronomical means.

Opposing currents, dangerous shores or just to cut distances and shorten trips meant that they did not only use coastal navigation between their settlements, they also went out into the open sea.

However, bad weather (winter) did not allow this kind of sailing, which was restricted to good weather during the spring-summer-early autumn period.
Their basic vessel was the Merchant ship, a "wide and spacious [ship]", called

phoenician merchant vessel
Phoenician merchant vessel. Polish Stamp.

They had high bow and stern and though moved mainly by wind in their heavy square sail, they had up to twenty oarsmen for maneuvering. They could carry between 100 and 500 tons of merchandise. (Note that the caravels that Columbus sailed on to discovered America, the Pinta, Niña and Santa María displaced 60, 50 and 100 tons respectively). However the early sixteenth century Portuguese used 400 ton vessels in their trade with the Far East.

So, these ships were at least the same size or bigger than the Iberian boats used during the period of exploration and discovery that began in the early 1400s.
They advanced at about 5 knots (9 km/hour) and could cover 160 km (100 miles) a day.

Their main obstacles were the sea currents and head winds. The Phoenicians navigated during the season when the winds favored them and also, along coasts with currents that went in their same direction.

Crossing the Atlantic

There is a North Equatorial current flowing in a westward direction at about 0.7 knot/hour , from the Cape Verde Islands by Africa. To the south of the equator is the South Equatorial current, flowing from the African Gulf of Guinea towards Brazil, where it splits in two. The southern branch runs along the coast of Brazil all the way to Argentina. The northern branch reaches the Caribbean.

These would drag a ship from Africa towards America. The return trip could be done on the the weak eastward North Equatorial counter-current, which flows between those mentioned above.

Actually, Brazil was discovered in 1500 by Pedro Alvarez de Cabral, who trying to avoid the calms of the Gulf of Guinea, went further to the west en route to India and was driven by trade winds and currents towards the west, becoming the first European to set foot on South America, in Brazil.

It is likely that the Phoenicians, who sailed along the Western coasts of Africa for several hundred years, also found themselves under the same circumstances. It is probable that they also went out into sea, because like the Portuguese, they also knew that hugging the coast was not a good policy when faced with winds that blew towards the shore. These could dash the vessels against the rocks and destroy ship, cargo and crew.

But likely and probable don't mean that it did happen. Can we find proof in some other sources?

Yes, we can.

Brazil, what is in a name?

There are several theories surrounding the origin of the word "Brazil", I will mention them below:

  • The Celtic one. Before Cabral reached Brazil, Ancient maps depicted an island in the Atlantic ocean called Brazile (see Angelino Dulert's map of 1325). It was also spelled Breasail, Brasil and Hy-Brazil. The word is said to derive from the Gaelic words Breas and Ail, which mean "Great" and "Wonderful"; these were the "Very Best" Islands.[3]
  • Red: The dye. The Portuguese word "braza" (in Spanish Brasa) is an ember, a live burning coal. And it was used to refer to a strong red colored dye obtained from a variety of tree that grows in Brazil. [4]
  • Red: Molten Iron and Phoenicians. A variation of the above. This version says that the burning coal is related to molten red-hot iron, a metal which is abundant in Brazil, which the Phoenicians called BRZL in their language (which lacked vowels).
  • The Phoenicians again.. This one links Hy-Brazil to the Phoenicians. It states that the island "Figures in the Phoenician legends of 3,000 years ago, with the name Braaz". And that it was a land of plenty and peace. [5]

Red Phoenicians and Red Brazil

The interesting part of these theories is the red dye because, as I mentioned in my previous post, was the origin of the Greek name for them, "Phoinix" which meant "red".

The Phoenician's main trade product for the Phoenicians was a purple dye obtained by crushing mollusks (sea snails). It was expensive and scarce. But purple is not red.

It is likely that they also made and sold red dye.[6]

If so, the "Brazil tree" and its glowing ember-red colored wood could have been a raw material for red dyes just like it was for the Portuguese one thousand years later in the 1500s AD.

The Bible also gives us some information about Phoenicians and a strange kind of tree, the "almug":

King Solomon had a fleet built which sailed from the port of Ezion-geber to Ophir, manned with Phoenician seamen. They came back with large quantities of gold, gems and almug wood[7]. The exact location of Ezion-geber (Red Sea? Eilat? or Mediterranean Sea?) and Ophir are unknown. [8]

This "almug wood", also known as "algum", is a tree which is " a wood commonly called brasil in Arabic albaccam of a deep red colour used in dyeing ". [9]

phoenician algum salomon and brazil
Text that links the Biblical Almug of King Solomon to the Brazil dye wood.. From [9]

So it seems that the red "brazil - algum" wood dye comes from Ophir.

The gold of Ophir

Solomon also brought gold from Ophir. We know that Phoenicians traded in gold, and we even have an account by Herodotus on how the Carthaginians traded in gold:

"There is a country in Libya [Africa] , and a nation, beyond the Pillars of Hercules [Gibraltar - that is, on the Atlantic Ocean] which the Carthaginians are wont to visit, where they no sooner arrive than forthwith unlade their wares, and having disposed them in an orderly fashion along the beach, there leave them, and returning aboard their ships, raise a great smoke. The natives, when they see the sample, come down to the shore, and laying out to view so much gold as they think the wares are worth, withdraw to a distance....[2]

But, as we said, they were secretive about their trade routes and sources. Was this gold trading place really in Africa? Or, on the other side of the Atlantic in Brazil?

One of the states that make up the Brazilian Federation, is Minas Gerais (Portuguese for "General Mines"), which as you can imagine was named after its great wealth of gold and diamonds.

Gold was discovered by the Portuguese in Minas Gerais state (General Mines) in the late 1600s when explorers from Sao Paulo went inland and found alluvial gold in its streams. As can be imagined, this led to a gold rush, and vast quantities of gold were extracted and transported to Europe, generating plenty of wealth for the Portuguese empire.

Minas Gerais is just inland a few hundred kilometers from the Atlantic seaboard, north of Sao Paulo and West of Rio de Janeiro, bordering with both of them.
Could the Phoenicians have sourced their gold from here?

And, did they manage to sail beyond the coasts of Africa?

We will see that in our next post.


[1] Aubert, María Eugenia, (2001) The Phoenicians and the West: politics, colonies and trade. Cambridge Univ. Press. pp. 167+
[2] Rawlinson, George, (1889). History of Phoenicia. Kessinger Publishing, reprint, 2004 pp. 139
[3] Marina Leslie, (1998). Renaissance utopias and the problem of history. Cornell University Press. pp. 36.
[4] Richard Stephen Charnock, (1859). Local etymology: a derivative dictionary of geographical names. Houlston and Wright, pp. 42.
[5] Geraldo Cantarino, (2004). Uma ilha chamada Brasil: o paraiso irlandes no passado brasileiro. Mauad pp 91.
[6] Roelof van den Broek and Inez Wolf Seeger, (1971). The myth of the phoenix. Brill Archive. pp. 65
[7] Bible, I Kings 9:26-28 , 10:11-12.
[8] John Haralson Hayes, (1986). A history of ancient Israel and Judah. Westiminster John Knox Press. pp. 213
[9] Sir William Smith, (1863). A dictionary of the Bible: comprising its antiquities, biography, geography and natural history. Little, Brown and Co. Vol. 3. vi.

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Phoenicians in Patagonia - Part 4

A brief summary on the Phoenicians.
See Index on all my posts on Phoenicians in America.
Since I will be posting on the possible influence of Phoenicians on Patagonian natives, and speculate that they introduced their myths and beliefs in the region, I guess that the best way to do this is in an orderly manner. Today we will just talk about the Phoenicians.

Summary, Phoenicians, the people and the place

Phoenicians lived in what is now Lebanon. They called themselves Canaanites, from Cna'ani in Biblical Hebrew means merchant. They were organized as a series of state-cities Biblos, Beritos, Sidon and Tyre, which acted independently.

They had lived there from time immemorial, but the arrival of the Philistines (People of the Sea) as well as the Arameans around 1,200 BC occupied most of their former territory, forcing them to live on a narrow strip along the coast, and this led them to exploit the resource that was at hand, the sea, which they sailed along in large boats built with sturdy Lebanon cedar wood.

They thrived until the Greeks, under Alexander the Great occupied the region in 334 BC.

Trade, commerce, colonies

They set forth and peacefully established colonies along the Mediterranean (Spain, Italy, Sardinia, Lybia, Morocco, Malta) and their most notable settlement: Carthage, which overtook its homeland taking control of the western colonies until it was destroyed by Rome in 146 BC after three long wars (Punic wars).

They even settled along the Atlantic coast in Morocco, far from their homeland. And this is important since it may help explain how they reached America.

They produced and traded in a highly appreciated purple dye that they obtained from mussels, they must have also traded in other dyes, because the name that we know them by, derived from the Greek word "Phoinix" meaning "red". This is also interesting, and we will get back to it in our next posts.

They also built excellent ships, and are credited with advancing the design of sea worthy vessels by inventing caulking and the rudder. Their ships plied the seas from the Indian ocean, to the Black Sea and the Atlantic. They transported goods and sold them to all known Mediterranean civilizations. Tin from Britain, amber from Scandinavia, copper from Cyprus, as well as wheat, olive oil, gems, precious metals, hides and wine.

Trade required clear notes and thus, they came up with a great discovery: the alphabet. Which was later adopted by the Greeks (who added vowels to it because the Phoenician alphabet only had consonants) and then by the Romans. They wrote, like modern Israelis, from right to left (by the way, paleo-Hebrew letters were virtually identical to the Phoenician ones, and related to them, though of a different origin

The Greeks also adopted many Phoenician gods as their own.

The best navigators

As they depended on trade, their sailing routes were state secret and they avoided disclosing any information on them.

They surely helped King Solomon bring his gold from they mythical Ophir ca. 930 BC. Their gold trade may also give us a clue pointing towards Brazil.

Greek historian Herodotus wrote that in 616 BC, Egyptian pharaoh Necho II sent out an expedition manned and led by Phoenicians to circumnavigate Africa. It took them three years to go from the Red Sea, round the Cape of Good Hope and Gibraltar, to enter the Mediterranean and land triumphantly again in Egypt at the Delta of the Nile.

Around 500 BC, Carthaginian navigator Hanno, sailed from Carthage to settle and trade with North west Africa, and he sailed south from Gibraltar reaching, we believe, Cameroon on the Gulf of Guinea, from where he turned back.

Their excellent navigation skills can explain how they reached America and perhaps even Patagonia.

More of that in our next post:Part 5: Phoenicians, sailors, Brazil and Ophir.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Phoenicians in Patagonia - Part 3

More "Phoenician" style rock art in Patagonia.
See Index on all my posts on Phoenicians in America.
Ancient Berber alphabet. The "Yaz" symbol is highlighted. Source: Internet

Tehuelche sculptures
More "Tehuelche" sulptures. Source: Internet

Some more images referring to our new subject: Phoenicians in Patagonia.

The top one shows the "yaz" symbol mentioned in my previous posts which is carved into some allegedly Tehuelche rock art, and is actually a North African Berber (and of ancient Phoenician origin) symbol.

The bottom one shows several of these carvings and complements those posted in my first post on this subject. Puerto Visser is located on the sea shore, just north of Comodoro Rivadavia, Chubut. I have not been able to locate "Chullucurá" yet.

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Phoenicians in Patagonia - Part 2

An unusual sculpture which resembles the Lady of Elche, found in Patagonia. A link to Phoenicians?
See Index on all my posts on Phoenicians in America.
Bernardo Graiver includes the following image in his book, [1][2] under the caption: " American version of the Lady of Elche (Comodoro Rivadavia Archaeological Museum)", a photograph of a sculpture that was supposedly found at that Museum and, according to some online sources, is now lost. The sculpture is shown below:

Dama de Comodoro, phoenician carving, Patagonia
Woman's face, Tehuelche or Phoenician sculpture. Patagonia. "Dama de Comodoro Rivadavia". From: [2]

The Phoenician connection

The original "Lady of Elche" which inspired Graiver in naming the Patagonian sculpture, (see image below) is a beautiful stone bust, dated to the fifth century BC. It was found in Spain (where it is known as "La Dama de Elche") in 1897, close to Valencia. It blends the art of several Iberian cultures with other Mediterranean ones such as the Greeks, the Phoenicians and the Tartesian.

Note that it is not Phoenician, but Iberian, and has the influence of several Mediterranean Cultures.

John Moffitt [5] suggested that it is a modern forgery, whoever a study of its pigments clearly prove that it is genuine . [3]

Lady of Elche
Lady of Elche, Ancient Iberian art 500 B.C.Source: Internet

Based on this statue and its similarities to the Iberian one, Graiver, [2] puts forward the theory that the Patagonian coast "was visited by the Phoenicians, who were searching for tin to make bronze with copper", and he says that the statue was discovered by Dr. Antonio Garcés, who founded the Comodoro Rivadavia Museum, though, he does not say where or when or under what circumstances.

He probably assumes that it was left behind in Patagonia by some Phoenician expedition. Which, I guess he identifies as the ancient mariners because of the Phoenician engravings found on other stones in Patagonia.

Though the navigators could also have come from Carthage or even from Gades or Tarsis in southern Spain. (More on this in future posts). I prefer to say Mediterranean instead of Phoenician.

A link with Phoenician via Carthage

It is interesting to notice the similarity between the Lady of Elche, and the woman depicted in the following photograph, [4] she is a young Berber woman, of Tunisia, circa 1900. The interesting part is the symbol on her forehead.

 berber woman tunisia
Jeune femme Berbère de Tunisie, avec des tatouages et des bijoux traditionnelles (début des années 1900)
Young Berber woman of Tunisia, with tattoo and traditional jewellery (in 1900s)
. From: [4]

It is a symbol which we already mentioned in our first post on this subject, because it appears on several of these Tehuelche carved stones. It is a symbol that originated in North Africa.

This anthropomorphic symbol is actually a letter, known as "YAZ", which sounds like our letter "Z". It is shown below:

berber yaz letter

It belongs to the Tifinagh alphabet, which is "Lybico-berber". It has been used by Berber speaking people that live in North Africa, and also by the now extinct inhabitants of the Canary Islands, between 300 B.C. and 300 AD.
There is only one dated inscription, and it has been dated to 139 BC. The use of these symbols disappeared when the Arabs, spreading the Islam, invaded Northern Africa after 632 AD.

However, the Tuareg women still use them until now, as tattoos!, just like you can see in the photograph.

The Phoenician link to this symbol

The name, Tifinagh, is plural of tafineq which means “letter”, and is a berberization of the latin word for punica [6], which actually in Latin means “Phoenician”:

Punic "pertaining to Carthage," 1530s, from L. Punicus, earlier Poenicus "Carthaginian," originally "Phoenician" (adj.), Carthage having been founded as a Phoenician colony, from Poenus (n.), from Gk. Phoinix "Phoenician" […]. [8]

The Romans waged three wars against Carthage between 264 and 146 B.C., and they successively got them out of Sicily, Sardinia and Spain. Then they destroyed Carthage's homeland in Tuinisia.

This Phoenician origin is supported by other scholarly sources: “the script was presumably borrowed from the Phoenicians, though of the actual characters employed only some five out of twenty-three are obviously derived from the Phoenician alphabet”. [7]

The question now, is how did these evidently Mediterranean symbols reach Patagonia.


[1] Graiver, Bernardo (1980), Argentina Bíblica y biblónica: histora de la humanidad en la Argentina. Editorial Albatros. fig.86, pp. 123
[2] Op. Cit. pp. 115 and 216.
[3] M. P. Luxán, J. L. Prada and F. Dorrego, (2006).Dama de Elche: Pigments, surface coating and stone of the sculpture. Materials and Structures. Volume 38, Number 3, 419-424, 18.01.2006.
[4] Online: Wikipedia.
[5] John Francis Moffitt, (1995). Art forgery: the case of the Lady of Elche. University Press of Florida.
[6] George L. Campbell, Handbook of scripts and alphabets. pp. 14
[7] Clark Desmond, Fage, J.; Oliver, Roland; Gray, Richard; Flint, John; Sanderson, A.; Crowder, Michael. The Cambridge History of Africa. Vol 2. pp. 185
[8] Online Etymology Dictionary

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Phoenicians, Tehuelches, Patagonia and cryptozoology - Part 1

Phoenician symbols engraved on Patagonian rocks. Native or Semitic art?
See Index on all my posts on Phoenicians in America.

intertwined giant snakes Patagonia rock art
Fig. 1. Alleged Tehuelche engraved stone with several intertwined snakes. Source: Internet

tehuelche snake and symbols. Engraved rock
Fig. 2. Tehuelche, snake and symbols. Engraved stone. Source: Internet

cross moon on ancient patagonian sculpture
Fig. 3. Ancient Patagonian sculpture. Cross, moon and symbols. Source: Internet

Phoenician and Berber symbols in Patagonia
Fig. 4. Ancient Patagonian sculpture. Phoenician symbols or letters and a Berber symbol. Source: Internet

symbols and letters on tehuelche rock art
Fig. 5. Berber symbol and letters on ancient Tehuelche engraved rock. Source: Internet

engraved tehuelche stone
Fig. 6. Native face, sun and moon on Tehuelche engraved rock. Source: Internet

tehuelche stone with horse engraved
Fig. 7. Tehuelche engraved stone, with an arrow head and, a horse?. Source: Internet

horse guanaco and symbols on tehuelche stone
Fig. 8. Boulders engraved by Tehuelches. Above: a strange horse like? creature and symbols. Below: Guanaco, snake, symbols. From [1]

(See my post on this "horse-like cryptid").

Dama de Comodoro, phoenician carving, Patagonia
Fig. 9. Woman's face, Tehuelche or Phoenician sculpture. Patagonia. "Dama de Comodoro Rivadavia". Source: Internet

And this image, which I already posted before when I mentioned the Phoenician-Patagonian connection for the first time:

Fig. 10. Tehuelche Rock Art with Semitic symbols and weird snake. From [2]

If the title of today's post surprised you, well, that was my intention. I had already mentioned in a previous post that I would delve in this weird subject: Phoenicians or Hebrews in Pre-Hispanic Patagonia.

I posted those images of objects which, are all (except one, the "Dama de Comodoro") actually exhibited at the Museo Salesiano, at Rawson, in the Province of Chubut, Patagonia, Argentina. The "Dama de Comodoro" was at a museum in the town of Comodoro Rivadavia, Chubut, and, which apparently has disappered.

Tehuelche engraved rocks and sculptures

I came across those images while looking for Tehuelche sculptures. I have already posted in January 2010, on a Cryptid, strange animal - Tehuelchense art, which I photographed and saw at the Museo Perito Moreno at Bariloche, in Rio Negro, Patagonia, Argentina.

Now, the engraved rocks shown above, don't look at all like anything else produced by the Tehuelche natives. They did "engrave" flat stones, and these are known as "Placas Grabadas", in Spanish (engraved stone plate). But these were just scratches etched on a flat stone, crude drawings. They weren't bas-reliefs like those shown above: see an example and an image of a genuine Tehuelche engraved stone.

They don't resemble either other kinds of Tehuelche stone sculptures, such as the stone snake reported by Deodat [3] in 1942, in Santa Cruz province, Patagonia.

These are more complex and neater. They are actually executed as bas-relief sculptures. A Bas-relief is a sculpture in which figures are carved in a flat surface so that they project only a little from the background.

This, at least in Patagonia is an unknown technique.

After seeing the photographs I thought that they may be fakes, so I got in touch with the Museum at Rawson, and they confirmed that the pieces are real, and event though the Museum is now closed, that these stones are in good shape and stored.

I also found them in Father Molina's book [1]. I had also seen them in another book (dated 1951)[2], so these all facts reassured me of their existence.

The question is, are they genuine or are they forgeries?

If genuine, were they carved by the Tehuelche natives? or by someone else?

We have some clues...

The symbols :Semitic, Phoenician, Punic, Berber or something else?

There are symbols, resembling Semitic letters, that is, Hebrew or Phoenician letters, on the stones. This is highly unusual.

What is more, there is a symbol, which appears in some sculptures (Figs. 1, 4, 5 and 8 bottom), which is shown below:

berber yaz letter

This symbol is actually a letter belonging to an ancient writing system, the Tifinagh alphabet. It is a "Lybico-berber" character that has been used by Berber speaking people of North Africa and also, the Canary Islands for several hundreds of years between, the third century B.C., and up to around the third century A.D. The arrival of the Muslim Arabs after 600 AD led to its demise.

What is a Berber symbol doing in a native Patagonian sculpted stone?

Carthage, was a Phoenician colony in Tunisia, North Africa, which was later razed by Rome after the Punic wars. The Tifinagh alphabet incorporated several Punic - Phoenician letters. This is a tenuous but clear link between Phoenicia and Patagonia.

From the cryptozoological point of view, the large snakes (Figs. 1, 2, 8 -bottom-, and 10) are interesting (I have posted extensively on Patagonian gigantic snakes), and so are the two animals (Figs. 7 and 8 -above) which resemble horses, as I have also posted on the possible survival of Native Pre-Hispanic horses in Patagonia. I posted on the animal in Fig. 8, a dog or horse-like cryptid.

Yet, from a historical point of view, the idea of Phoenicians having reached Patagonia long before the Spaniards did in the 1500s, is an extremely exciting one.
Furthermore, the Phoenicians or, to put it correctly, "Ancient Mediterranean sailors" who brought Phoenician letters with them to Patagonia, may have also brought their myths and beliefs with them, and shared them with the local natives.

If this happened, could they have been the origin of some of the Patagonian mythical monsters?. For instance, the horned creatures, so cow-like, or, should I say bull-likethat we find in Patagonian native lore, (see my posts on Native Pre-Hispanic cattle in Patagonia and Patagonian devils or cattle?), could have originated in the bull myths of ancient Crete and Greece (Crete-Mycenaean culture), such as the Minotaur of the Minoan labyritnt.

As you can see, this is a long story with many open options. So, I will keep on posting on it over the next few days (weeks?), till, as I did with the "Homo erectus in America" hypothesis, I bore you to tears!.


[1] Molina, M., (1976). Patagónica: Prehistoria, tradiciones y mitologías. Roma: Ed. LAS. pp.121
[2] Antonio Garcés,(1951). Libro del Cincuentenario de Comodoro Rivadavia, 1901-1951. Aspectos de la Arqueología Patagónica. Chap. 29.
[3] Deodat, Leoncio, S. M., (1942) Un bastón mágico herpetiforme descubierto en Patagonia austral. Relaciones de la Sociedad Argentina de Antropología, III, pp. 99-118.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Good news

Some good news: Japan halts whale hunt after chase by protesters. Japan has decided to suspended its annual Antarctic whale hunt campaign, after protesters from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have been chasing their fleet's mother ship.

The Japanese whale killer fleet has four ships with 180 whale killing people on board and their target was to kill up to 945 whales in Antarctic waters this season.

Further reading BBC News, online

So, this year there will be about 180 fewer monsters in the sea close to Patagonia. The key now is to work to reduce the amount of monsters in the Far Eastern homeland island, monsters who are willing to eat whale burgers, sushi and similar goodies.

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Monday, February 7, 2011

horned burrowers in Patagonia? Darwin misquoted

horned gopher
Horned Gophers by R. Bruce Horsefall. Epigaulus hatcheri. From [1]

In my endless search for Patagonian cryptids, I stumbled across a book which looks into native American myths related to fossils. The book mentions Patagonia and a strange burrowing rodent:

In 1833 the Natives of Patagonia, Argentina, told Charles Darwin that mastodon fossils had belonged to an immense burrowing rodent.[2]

Rodent with horns?

I was quite excited because, I have already posted about horned beings in Patagonia and also about the possible existence of giant rodents in Patagonia. A horned rodent would be very interesting.

What if the Patagon natives were right? That it wasn't a Mastodon, but some until now unknown giant burrowing rodent with horns (the tusks may have been horns).

The author of the text quoted above, links a Navajo myth about a burrowing monster with a strange horned gopher, the Epigaulus hatcheri a horned gopher about 1 foot tall, [2] image shown above. It is has been extinct since the Pliocene and lived in Nebraska. [1]

So, I was quite surprised, more so since I have read Darwin's Beagle book several times and did not recall any encounter with Patagonian Indians and mastodon or giant rodent bones in Patagonia. So I decided to go to the sources, to find out more about this mysterious being.

Darwin's actual text was the following:

... but these were sufficient to show that the remains belonged to a species of Mastodon. The men who took me in the canoe, said they had long known of them, and had often wondered how they had got there: the necessity of a theory being felt, they came to the conclusion, that, like the bizcacha (sic), the mastodon formerly was a burrowing animal![3]

Darwin's Bizcacha, actually a Vizcacha (with "V", not "B") is a rabbit-like rodent found in several South American habitats, and the one that the locals knew was the Lagostomus maximus, which lives in the Pampas, and also by the Parana River.

Well, the facts are the following:
  • The Mastodon was found "on the banks of the Parana" [3], so they are not Patagonian (Patagonia is at least 500 miles (800 km) from the Parana River.
  • Not Patagonian natives, but men who lived by the Parana River: either Creoles or Guaraní natives from that area. But definitively not Tehuelches from the Patagonia

Conclusions: false alarm

So, no horned gophers here, just a bunch of Argentine Creoles trying to explain how bones the size of a Mastodon could have got underground. They thought up a very simple and straightforward explanation: they were burrowing animals and died in their burrows.

This does not mean that they were burrowers. It was that the locals could not conceive that the scenery could have changed so much and that the animals had died and were buried by the accumulating sediments piled up on them by the wind or floods.

Conclusion. Always check the original source, because misquoted texts can be confusing and lead you to the wrong conclusions.

It is a pity that there are no horned gophers in Patagonia. They are bizarre creatures, and the stuff that myths are made from.


[1] Extinct Animals. Online.
[2] Adrienne Mayor, (2005). Fossil legends of the first Americans. Princeton University press. pp. 124
[3] Darwin, Charles,(1839). Narrative of the surveying voyages of his majesty's ships Adventure and Beagle... Circumnavigation of the Globe. London: Henry Colburn. Vol. 3. pp. 147.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Phoenicians and Hebrews in Pre-Columbian Patagonia

Tehuelche Rock Art with Semitic symbols and weird snake. From [1]

Researching on Homo erectus and possible entry routes into America from the Old World, I suggested (Out of Africa and into America - H. erectus), transatlantic route in crude rafts. Further reading on rock art and Tehuelche sculptures (looking for H. erectus depictions), led me to some strange stone artifacts found in Patagonia that represent snakes and, symbols. This is very odd, because, the Tehuelche like all native South Americans, did not write (no letters or numbers. No symbols). Mesoamerica is another case and the Mayas could read and write in special symbols.

The snakes interested me, because, there are fossils of giant snakes in Patagonia, that come from precisely the same place that these engraved stones did: Chubut province, Argentina. (Read more on Giant Patagonian snakes).

These Patagonian symbols (see them in the image above, on top of the snake), according to some researchers who studied them, are Semitic, and were engraved by some Hebrew navigators who somehow reached Patagonia.

I was about to dismiss the whole stuff as a fraud when I came across an older publication which mentions these stones. So I filed the information and just left it there. Wondering if it could have any relationship with Patagonian myths and beliefs regarding "monsters".

Then I came across more data regarding Phoenicians in Brazil (yes, they were purportedly taken by the same currents and trade winds that would have pushed H. erectus across from Africa). Phoenicians were good sailors and, in fact sailed around Africa from the Red Sea to the Delta of the Nile. Later expeditions from Carthage (originally a Phoenician Colony) reached Cameroon and maybe even further south. They could have, in theory reached America.

So, once again people from the Western Mediterranean are linked to Southern South America. Could they have influenced the locals? Did any of their myths permeate local culture? Are their genes mixed with the native American's?

I know that none of this has any relationship with cryptozoology (or if it does, it is very tenuous), but I am still intrigued by the strange snakes depicted in the carved stones and who were the people who carved them. The image above shows one of these snakes.

So, I will be writing about this in my next posts. You may find it quite amusing, as I will go beyond the usual "copy paste" found in most blogs and forums, and get to the documents. Some of which are in Spanish or Portuguese, so the English reader will appreciate my translations.

To be continued...


[1] Antonio Garcés,(1951). Libro del Cincuentenario de Comodoro Rivadavia, 1901-1951. Aspectos de la Arqueología Patagónica. Chap. 29.

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Lake Nahuel Huapi back to its normal blue color

On January 4, I commented in a post that Lake Nahuel Huapi had changed its color, from its usual deep navy blue color to a pale turquoise hue. Everybody was wondering what was the cause. Some had suggested that it was due to an earthquake in Chile that had shaken up sediment from the lake bed.

Well, the riddle has been solved: the cause seems to have been an inflow of "sedimentsthat the lake received from the upper basins of the rivers and streams that flow into that sector due to last week's intense rainfall"[1].


[1] Diario Digital Bariloche. (2011). Segun las investigaciones, la hipotesis del sismo es la menos probable. 05.01.2011

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