Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Hobbit and the Sasquatch

There is new evidence suggesting that modern humans have shared this planet with another species of hominid in our not too distant past. The hominid in question is the now famous “hobbit” of Indonesia.

The “hobbit”, dubbed Homo floresiensis, has been the subject of much controversy since it was discovered. Its remains have been dated at 17,000 to 95,000 years old. This means, whatever it was, it did live alongside modern humans. Its small stature, only three feet tall, made many wonder if the local legends of the Flores little people called the ebu gogo were true. Other cultures have legends of small, hairy, hominids as well. The Nittaewo of Sri Lanka, the Orang Pendek of Sumatra, and the Agogwe of Africa are just a few examples of legendary little “people” said to inhabit the more remote spots on this earth. The discovery of Homo floresiensis makes these tales more plausible.

It has now been concluded by scientists that Homo floresiensis is indeed a new species of hominid separate and different from modern humans. It is not, as has been argued by some, merely a small human that suffered from some form of microcephaly. After an analysis of the “hobbit” skull, Karen Baab, Ph.D., a researcher in the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook University, and colleagues released a statement on January 20th saying due to the size, shape and asymmetry of the cranium of Homo floresiensis, the conclusion was reached that the fossil, found in Indonesia in 2003 and known as the “Hobbit,” is not human. You can access an article on the Cryptomundo website here for more details.

So what does this mean for bigfoot researchers? Henry Gee, the editor or Nature, sums it up well. He wrote: “The discovery that Homo floresiensis survived until so very recently, in geological terms, makes it more likely that stories of other mythical, human-like creatures such as Yetis are founded on grains of truth….Now, cryptozoology, the study of such fabulous creatures, can come in from the cold.”

The remains of Homo floresiensis were not discovered until 2003. Obviously they were living breathing beings. If it took that long to find their remains who is to say a similar find may not occur at some point proving the existence, at least in the recent past, of the sasquatch? Do any “hobbits” exist today? Maybe. Sightings have continued well into modern times (see post on the Agogwe below for a few examples). These sightings mirror sasquatch and yeti reports in that they are of creatures that were thought to be only myth. Now we know better. It makes sightings of the Orang Pendek, for example, more plausible. If a similar find of large hominid fossils ever are found and determined to be of a species separate from modern humans it should, likewise, give sasquatch reports more plausibility in the eyes of modern science. Maybe then, finally, the bigfoot mystery will get the attention it deserves.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Agogwe of Africa

Here is a link to an interesting article on the Heckler Spray website regarding the Agogwe of Africa. The Agogwe is said to be a bigfoot-like creature only much smaller. It is most commonly compared to the Orang-Pendek of Southeast Asia.

The article is not very professionally written but the sighting reports cited are very interesting. It just goes to show that reports of hairy, upright, bipedal animals continue to come in from all over the world. Are all these people liars, crazy, or having hallucinations?

Food for thought...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

MonsterQuest Yeti Expedition

Loren Coleman, of Cryptomundo, is reporting that The History Channel and producers for the show "MonsterQuest" will soon announce plans for a two week expedition to search for the yeti. The team will be using helicopters to drop members deep into the heart of the Himalayas. This will save days of hiking and allow the team to spend their entire two weeks actively researching. If this report is accurate, this may well be the best funded and most documented expedition in the area since Tom Slick searched fifty years ago.

For more details on this expedition you can click here.

Field Report (NE Texas / SW Arkansas)

I, and some friends, spent this past weekend in Northeast Texas and Southwest Arkansas. It was VERY cold all weekend with lows getting down to the mid 20s at night and highs in the low 40s during the day. There really isn’t much to report. Other than some deer and a couple of coyotes nothing of interest was observed.

We camped near Caddo Lake and spent our days in that vicinity. We spent Saturday night near Boggy Creek in Fouke, Arkansas. This area, as most of you know, is famous for a series of events that took place there in the 1960s. These events were the basis for the film “The Legend of Boggy Creek”. Sightings continue in the area to this day.

I’ve attached a couple of pictures of the Caddo Lake area to the right. It is really a beautiful place. What is it about Spanish moss that makes everything so mysterious and creepy looking? I don’t have pictures of the Boggy Creek area as I was only there at night.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Camera Trapping

To the left is a great picture of a mother ocelot and her kitten taken by a camera trap in the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in South Texas. Here is a link to the article describing how this photo was obtained. Ocelots are one of the rarest species in North America. They are extremely shy and elusive. It is thought that there are only 100 or so left in the U.S.

What does this have to do with the sasquatch? Camera trapping has become one of the main methods amateur researchers are utilizing to try and capture a photo and/or video footage of a sasquatch. The cameras are set out in remote locations and can be left for months before the batteries have to be refreshed. There are a wide variety of cameras out there ranging in price from around $45.00 to as much as you care to pay. Upper end models can go from $400.00 to $700.00 each. Most of the people who are out trying to document these animals are "weekend warriors" who are unable to be in the field for long stretches of time. The cameras act as the ears and eyes of the researcher 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The cameras are not deterred by hot summers, cold winters, mosquitoes, snakes, or darkness as humans can be. It is hoped that one of these cameras will capture the image that will prove the existence of the sasquatch once and for all. It is a reasonable hope, as the practice of camera trapping has proven very effective in capturing images of other rare/elusive animals. The list of animals "trapped" includes the Sumatran rhino, the snow leopard of the Himalayas, the ocelots shown above, and many others.

One of the drawbacks to the use of camera traps has been that many of the "weekend warriors" previously mentioned take their camera traps out in the field with them for a few days then load them up and take them home when they leave. This is understandable, to a degree, as the cameras are pricey. However, it severely hampers the chances of capturing the photo we all long to see. The cameras simply must be in the field continuously for as long as it takes. In that vein, the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy (TBRC) has undertaken an ambitious camera trapping effort called Operation Forest Vigil. You can read about the project here in greater detail. I can personally attest to the fact that these cameras are in some of the most inhospitable and remote regions of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. I think these cameras give us as good a chance as any of capturing a photo or footage of a sasquatch.

As the photos of these ocelots prove, camera trapping is an effective and viable way to capture images of rare and elusive species. It is also a great way to be “in the field” even if you can’t be in the field. Camera trapping, in my opinion, should take its place alongside other methods of research in the quest to document this species.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Becoming a Fossil

Many in the mainstream scientific community have pointed to the fact that there is no evidence of a North American great ape in the fossil record as proof that the sasquatch could not be a real animal. Below is a snippet from an article written by Olivia Judson of "The New York Times" regarding how difficult it is to "become a fossil".

It's hard to become a fossil, to leave a tangible record of your presence on
the Earth millions of years after you died. Most of us swiftly get recycled
into other beings. After all, the competition for corpses is fierce. Species
of bacteria
, worms, ants, flies, beetles and even some butterflies have a
taste for rotting flesh. And that's without mentioning larger scavengers,
like vultures, hyenas and mongooses.

The disappearance of a body can be rapid. To give one of my favorite
examples, in the tropical forests of the Congo, an adult male gorilla - all
150 kg (330 lbs.) of him - will be reduced to a pile of bones and hair
within 10 days of his death. Within three weeks, there will be nothing left
but a few small bones. And this is without the help of creatures like
hyenas, which pulverize and eat the bones of all but the largest animals.
(That's why hyena scat is white: it's the remains of powdered bone.)

But evading Nature's undertakers is only the first step in becoming a
fossil. If you want to be preserved for millions of years, you also have to
choose the right place to die. If you're lucky, you'll have a quick burial
in, say, the silts and sediments of a river bed, or under volcanic ash.

For many environments can never yield fossils. Die on top of a mountain, for
example, and your fossil hopes are slim. The reason is that mountains don't
bury, they erode. (You might get frozen in ice, in which case you may last
as long as the ice does, which may be several thousand years; but it won't
be several million. Ice is for those with modest ambitions for immortality. )
Likewise, if soil is too acidic, bones dissolve. That's why forest animals
leave few fossils: forest soil tends to be acidic.

Even if you manage to die in the right place, you'll have a better chance of
surviving in death if you have the sort of body that can leave hard remains.
In the fossilization stakes, animals with shells - like oysters - have an
advantage over those without (jellyfish, say).

All this means that the fossil record of the Earth is inherently skewed. For
instance, river deltas are great places to get buried and preserved. So
animals that lived in or near them are much more likely to make it into the
fossil record than most other creatures; as a result, we have river-delta
fossils in much greater numbers than most other types. But during life,
those animals were by no means the most numerous. As one friend put it, it's
like making an inventory of current North American wildlife based on what
you find at the mouth of the Mississippi.

In light of this, the fossil record we do have becomes the more amazing.
Yes, it has limitations. Yes, there are many organisms that we can never
know about, for we will never know they existed. They breathed, and changed
the atmosphere; they preyed on other beings; their carcasses became food,
and altered the composition of the soil; but they left no physical trace, no
clues to what they looked like, to the lives they led, the mates they
seduced, the songs they sang.

Yet it is not surprising that the fossil record is incomplete - how could it
be otherwise?

You can access the article in its entirety here. Please note a free registration is required in order to view the article.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Good Ol' Teddy

I mentioned in my last post that I have been the target of much ridicule as a result of my sighting and interest in the bigfoot phenomenon. Whenever I begin to get discouraged as a result of this sort of treatment I go back and read a quote made by President Theodore Roosevelt many years ago. I keep the quote on the wall in my office. It never fails to energize me and put the negativity of the arm chair quarterbacks in the rear view mirror. Maybe it will do the same for some of you.

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy course; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, January 2, 2009

Coming Clean

I’ve been asked many times why I “believe” in the existence of bigfoot. Prior to May of 2005 I would have said that I wasn’t completely convinced that such a creature actually existed but was open minded regarding the subject. I would have pointed to the ancient Native American legends and lore, the abundance of newspaper accounts from the 1800s and early 1900s, and the discovery of dermal ridges on some plaster casts made from alleged sasquatch foot prints as pretty convincing evidence that something really was “out there”.

On May 14, 2005 things changed for me. I had begun to do some research of my own by this time. A co-worker of mine shared my interest in the subject and usually accompanied me on my outings. I had been spending the bulk of my time in the Sam Houston National Forest as it had a history of sightings. The night of May 14 my friend and I were camping in this area. We decided to turn in right at nightfall and get up about 2:00 a.m. to drive the forest service roads in hopes of a sighting. Well we did see something. At approximately 3:15 a.m. we crested a small hill and saw an upright figure standing in the road about 30 yards in front of us. My friend was driving and brought the vehicle to a stop. We watched for 2-3 seconds before the figure turned, stepped over a bar ditch, and walked into the forest. The figure was a dark reddish brown and stood upright. I estimated at the time it was about six feet tall. It walked away on two legs. At no time was the figure ever down on all fours. It moved smoothly and quickly as it made its way back into the forest. You can read the official TBRC report on the incident here.

After the figure walked away we continued to drive the road and others in the general area. We did not see any sign of it again. We did not get out of the car at any point to try to follow it. I will admit to having no desire to do so. We were both pretty rattled by the experience. We did return to the spot at day break to look for any physical evidence but found nothing.

So, there you have it. I am now out of the “crypto closet”. I have seen what I believe was a living breathing sasquatch. I know what I saw was not a bear, cougar, horse, cow, vagrant, etc. The only other possibility, in my mind anyway, is that it was a hoaxer in some kind of ape suit. The possibility of this, however, seems even more outlandish than it being a real sasquatch. We were on a very remote forest road, nobody knew where we were, and it was after 3:00 a.m. Remember, also, that this happened in Texas. Anybody traipsing around in a monkey suit in this area would be taking his life in his hands as there are quite a few folks who carry guns in their vehicle. I also found out later that a sighting just a mile or so away was reported only a month or so prior to my encounter.

I’ve told practically nobody about this incident. If I had been alone I never would have told anyone at all. I have been chided, laughed at, made fun of, and derided by the few who know of my experience (outside of the TBRC). I have developed a lot of sympathy and admiration for those who report sightings as there is often a high price to pay on a personal level.

So there it is. Really, other than the fact that it is bigfoot related, the whole incident is less than spectacular. Just an animal in the road. My life and way of thinking has forever changed because of it, however.

I would be glad to answer any serious questions regarding my experience. Just leave me a note in the comments section.