Monday, February 25, 2013

Cryptid Expeditions

My friend and fellow cryptozoologist, Nick Redfern, just wrote an article listing the top three cryptids that he’d like to search for.

Nick wrote the post in response to a question I’ve been asked myself on a number of occasions: “What strange creature, which you haven’t yet searched for, would you like to chase down?”  It’s a great question and since cryptozoology is a vast field, there are plenty of strange creatures to chose from.  Nick puts forth some interesting, personal choices and in the spirit of his post, I thought I’d join in the fun by listing three that spring to my mind when asked this question.

First for me is the Thylacine.  Also known as the Tasmanian Tiger, the Thylacine existed in abundance in Tasmania in the early days of Australia’s settlement.  The animal has a canid like appearance with tiger stripes on it’s upper portion.  Farmers constantly blamed this carnivorous marsupial for the loss of livestock and the result was a bounty for Thylacine pelts.  By the time anyone had the good sense to step in and try to prevent the complete extinction of the species, there were only a handful of the creatures left.  The last Thylacine killed in the wild was shot in 1930.  By 1936, official protection was put in place for the species but sadly, the last animal in captivity died two months later.
The Thylacine may not have vanished completely though.  Over the years, there have been numerous reports from people who believe they have seen a Thylacine in the wild.  Even as recently as January 2013, possible video has surfaced that may prove the animal still exists.  The wilds of Tasmania are home to many unusual and dangerous animals.  Perhaps the Thylacine still roams, trying to keep its distance from humans.  I for one, would love to find out.

Second is the Mongolion Death Worm.  Although I’ve traveled in Asia, I’ve never been to Mongolia or the Gobi Desert where this animal is reputed to dwell.  The death worm is supposed to reach lengths of two to five feet and have a bright red color.  It earned it’s name due to it’s reported ability to emit an electrical discharge that can kill a human from a distance.
deathworm
Additionally, it can spew forth acid that will corrode anything it touches.  Mongolian natives have long told tales of the death worm but it wasn’t brought to the attention of westerners until 1926 when Professor Roy Chapman Andrews mentioned it in his book, “On the Trail of Ancient Man”.

While the death worm is certainly part of Mongolian tribal belief, many people are skeptical that it truly exists.  Westerners have taken a tongue in cheek approach to the stories.  The popular film series “Tremors” was loosely based on the death worm and featured giant worm like creatures that could sense a human’s vibration on the desert floor.

A few expeditions have been launched to search for the creature, but no solid evidence has ever been found.  Still, wandering the Gobi desert looking for a giant death worm is sure to be a great outing.

Last but not least, I’ll agree with Nick on one of his listing.  The Megalania prisca.  Many of you will not have heard of this creature.  It’s a large, carnivorous lizard that can grow up to twenty feet in length.  Sometimes called the ‘giant ripper lizard’ the Megalania seems to have vanished around 40,000 years ago.  The Megalania has toxin secreting glands and is the largest venomous vertebrate known to have existed, and it may still be out there.  Reports from the sub-tropical area of Australia have surfaced through the years that indicate that this creature may still survive in modern times.  Imagine, a giant, flesh eating lizard twenty feet in length charging out of the tropics.  If it’s really there, it would be quite a challenge to launch a quest for it.  So Nick, when you’re ready, I’ve got a bag packed, though searching for the death worm may be a lot safer!

Nick Redfern’s post can be found here:
http://www.mania.com/lair-beasts-monstrous-expeditions_article_136908.html

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Ghost Ship Carroll A. Deering

There's an area off the coast of North Carolina's outer banks that is both mysterious and deadly.  It's an area of treacherous waters where the cold Labrador current meets the warm waters of the gulf stream.  Strong offshore winds help create a perfect spot for low and high pressure weather systems to collide.  These dangerous waters earned the nickname 'graveyard of the Atlantic' due to the high number of shipwrecks and the countless human lives lost in the region.  Since the 1500s, sailors have been wary of the area, yet still it claims ships and lives.

It's here that one of the greatest maritime mysteries of the ages was born. 
The Carroll A. Deering was a five-masted schooner built in Bath, Maine by the G.G. Deering Company.  Although it was a cargo ship, the Deering had features unheard of for the period including a bathroom with plumbing and cabins with electricity.  The ship was built to move cargo from South America to ports on the east coast of the United States.

The ship was captained by William Merritt along with first mate, S.E. Merritt, his son.  Complications were almost immediate.  In August 1920, after leaving port in Norfolk, Virginia, Captain Merritt became seriously ill.  The ship had to make an unscheduled stop at the port of Lewes, Delaware so he could be attended to.  Merritt's illness was so severe that he could not continue the voyage.  His son decided to stay in Lewes to help care for his father leaving the ship without a Captain or first mate.  The company scrambled to find replacements and hired Captain W.B. Wormell to guide the ship along with a man named Charles McLellan as first mate.

Under Wormell, the ship made it to Rio de Janeiro late in 1920.  It departed Rio on December 2, 1920 on route back to company headquarters in Maine.  Captain Wormell decided to stop in Barbados to pick up additional supplies and give the crew some time to relax.

Wormell met with an old friend and fellow Captain named Goodwin.  During the visit, Wormell told Goodwin that the only crew member he could trust was the engineer, Herbert Bates.  Wormell's first mate, McLellan, clearly didn't like his Captain and was overheard in town complaining about the man.  He even threatened to kill the Captain before the voyage was over.  McLellan got so out of hand that he was arrested and charged for being drunk and disorderly.  Despite his expressed hatred of Wormell, the Captain bailed the first mate out anyway so they could continue the trip.  The ship finally left Barbados on January 9, 1921.

Nothing was heard from the Carroll A. Deering until January 28, 1921 when it was sighted off of Cape Lookout Lightship.  The Lightship's keeper, Captain Jacobson reported that a thin, red headed man with a foreign accent was shouting from the deck of the vessel.  The man was not dressed as an officer which Jacobson found strange.  The thin man called out that the ship had lost its anchors and to please get a message to the Deering company.  Jacobson also reported that the crew of the Deering was clustered on the quarterdeck.  A most unusual behavior.
The ship drifted away but its bad luck continued.  The Lightship keeper was not able to contact the Deering headquarters because his radio was broken.  He attempted to contact a passing steamer by blowing the Lightship's whistle but the steamer ignored the call.  This too was unusual because maritime law required a response.  Adding to the mystery of the steamer, Jacobson could not see a name anywhere on the ship.

On January 31, 1921, the Carroll A. Deering was found on a sandbar on Diamond Shoals near Cape Hatteras.  Diamond Shoals is known as one of the most treacherous bodies of water in the world.  It lies just off the barrier islands of the North Carolina coast.  The Deering's sails were set, all lifeboats were gone and the crew was nowhere to be found.  Due to rough seas, rescue crews couldn't board the ship until February 4th.  What they found only added to the mystery.  The ship's navigational instruments were gone as well as the personal possessions of the crew members.  The galley was set as if the crew was about to sit down for a meal.  In the Captain's quarters, three different pairs of boots were discovered.  The spare bed in the Captain's room had clearly been slept in.  The ship's logs were another mystery as they were obviously written by Captain Wormell but only until January 23 when the handwriting changed.  The only living being on the vessel was a six toed cat.

Since it was impossible to rescue the ship from the sandbar, it was abandoned.  By March of 1921, the ship was determined to be a hazard and was dynamited.  Before its destruction, timber was salvaged that was later used in a number of houses in nearby Buxton.

There were dozens of theories that attempted to explain what had happened to the ship.  Did the crew mutiny?  Were they the victims of pirates? 
An official investigation was launched to try to solve the mystery of the Carroll A. Deering.  Numerous theories were presented.  The ship's crew had mutinied, they were victims of pirates, hurricanes, communists.  They had decided to become rum runners, or perhaps the cursed ship had fallen prey to some supernatural force.  The investigation was closed in 1922 without resolution.  No official explanation was ever given to explain the strange disappearance of the ship's crew.

Some theories have even proposed that the ship fell victim to the strange forces of the Bermuda Triangle.  Although the Deering did sail through the dreaded triangle, the ship and it's crew were spotted well after they had exited it, so there is little evidence to support a connection.

Over the years, ghostly ships have been reported off the shores of the outer banks.  Phantom images of another time that fade away or vanish into the mist.  Are these simply illusions, residual forms or something else?  Perhaps the spirits of lost ships and sailors still roam the seas of the Atlantic, looking for resolution.  The answer to the mystery of the Carroll A. Deering remains unsolved and it's unlikely that the graveyard of the Atlantic will ever give up all of its secrets.

North Carolina has a museum devoted to the Graveyard of the Atlantic.  You can visit their website below:
http://www.graveyardoftheatlantic.com/index.htm

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Zombies!

Something a bit different this week.  My friends Tim and Norene over at LiveSciFi Tv wanted to do a special show on Zombies and called on me to join in. 

While some of the show is just for fun, i.e. what weapon would YOU chose to defend yourself against Zombies, there's quite a bit of serious discussion.
The public is fascinated with Zombies but what's the real history behind these shuffling undead beings?
We cover the modern version of Zombies (people on the drug 'bath salts) and I offer some history on the development of the Zombie mythos from its connection to Haitian Voudou to present day. 

Listen below:

http://livescifi.tv/2013/02/zombie-apocalpyse-a-guide-to-the-end/

Monday, February 11, 2013