In Search of the Congo Dinosaur

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I want to let you in on a great documentary series done by my mate Wayne Hall. It’s called In Search of the Congo dinosaur.

Yes, there are creationist overtones which some may not agree with, but the essence of Mokele-mbembe research is captured in this series. This is a real passion of mine and I reckon that all the deprivations that me (my) mates and I have undergone has been worth it.

Hearing the creature for myself in 2012 was mind blowing. That can be seen in episode 4 of the series.

You can watch it all unfold below on youtube:

Mokele Mbembe – A New Hunt Is On!

As some friends know I am part of a group that seeks Mokele-mbembe in Cameroon and the Republic of Congo. These are dangerous places. Last month Congolese troops crossed the border at Lobeke where we know the head ecoguard and kidnapped two soldiers and two ecoguards. They were held for ransom, but the threat of unleashing 600 Rapid Response Field Force troops, induced the Congolese to release the Cameroonians. Wenoperate in this area and our work is fraught with danger.

My colleague and fellow Scot Bill Gibbons has made a fundraiser video showing what we have to contend with and what we have discovered in our travels in search of Mokele-mbembe in Africa. It is a perilous business and you can see what I have to contend with when I am there. In 2012, I was sitting on the banks of the Dja river 100 kilometres from the last outpost. We had seen two herds of aggressive elephants, a 16 foot crocodile and heard the angry cries of a troop of mean chimpanzees. I thought to myself that I must be nuts being out there in the middle of nowhere seeking something so elusive. I still think I am nuts for not being able to resist the allure of an animal I have heard, but not seen and wanting to go back for more even though it might kill me.

I can be seen briefly at the front of a dugout as we navigate the Dja.

New findings concerning Mokele-mbembe have prompted us to launch a major expedition set for late 2014. Watch out for our crowd funding event with some great concessions, coming soon. Thanks for watching!

Our friend and fellow explorer Michel Ballot is risking life and limb to go back to Cameroon in July. Michel was rendered serioysly ill in 2012 with a horrendous case of salmonella and we had to take him to hospital. He barely survived, but is back to good health. There may be another expedition later this year, but I have other cryptozoological events to go to so I will not participate. There’s always next year for putting my life at risk again.

This is Michel. He holds the record at 15 expeditions. Next is Bill Gibbons with 7.

And without our guides Noel and Blaise, wevwould be up the proverbial creek without a paddle. These guys would die for you if they had to. Truly, two great men.

Objective and Subjective Analysis in Cryptozoology

Well the New Year is starting with a bang.There is the new t.v. show Bigfoot Bounty coming up. More stories about Bigfoot bodies, and of course Finding Bigfoot continues to have a successful commercial run. I am really looking forward to 2014. I hope it will bring new discoveries of animals previously unidentified to science.

When considering evidence though, what should we look for?

I am not a scientist. I do have a degree in History, a Postgrad in law, and many years experience as a field researcher.So this is my opinion of what to look for.

Let’s start with OBJECTIVE analysis. Here are three key determinants

1. The burden of proof is on the person asserting the claim.

2. In order for the claim to have validity it will need to be tested by credible scientists,and their results will need to be reproduced by their peers.

3.Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

Determinants in SUBJECTIVE analysis is much more difficult however.Even if you have witnessed an event yourself.

Let me give you a personal example. Many years ago, I and a few of my friends witnessed an old man being assaulted by a thug. When we cam to his assistance, the thug ran off, coward that he was.

We all went to Court to testify. His defence Barrister tried to undermine our accounts by pointing out differences in our stories. Did that mean we were not telling the truth? Of course not, what it meant was we were interpreting the events as we saw them.

Bringing it back to Bigfoot. Many people who I respect, believe that the Government may cover up accounts of Bigfoot. I do not. Does that make me right and them wrong? Of course not. Nobody can claim to be an expert in this field. We are dealing with at present an unidentified species. We are all fallible, we all make mistakes. We are all learning.

Another significant consideration is to be aware of cultural and educational nuances different to your own.

For example, when at Lake Tele in the Congo I was introduced to the Elders of the Bantu tribe. I was interested in meeting them as I hoped to glean information from them about the legendary Congo Dinosaur, the Mokele-Membe. One of the first things my translator said to me was that they were afraid of the “lightning”. The inference being it was coming from me! I then began to doubt what I could learn from them, and was ready to dismiss what they had to say and move on. That was a mistake on my part. I came to understand that they had never seen a flash on a camera and that was what they were talking about.

The point of this is that our assumptions about subjective evidence can change, and that subjective evidence has intrinsic value even if it does not meet the high scientific watermark.

Lastly, a win for one of us is a win for all of us in my opinion. So I wish you all the best of luck.

Here is to a great 2014!

Of Monsters and Mysteries; Roy Mackal Chased the Unknown

Roy Mackal was part of a unique and sometimes ridiculed fraternity of explorers whose members are never happier than when they are sinking waist-deep into the unguent mud of the jungle or navigating the skirling fog of Loch Ness.

They call themselves cryptozoologists, and they hunt for animals that are undiscovered, uncatalogued — and unproven. Mackal sought the reputed sea beastie of the Scottish loch, and the Mokele-mbembe, a rumored living dinosaur of the Congo.

“Mokele-mbembe, Bigfoot, the Yeti, Loch Ness, mystery cats, skunk apes — that’s in Florida, it’s an apelike creature; a hairy hominid,” said Loren Coleman, ticking off a list of fantastical creatures that intrigue cryptozoologists.

Coleman, founder of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine, this month announced the death of Mackal, 88, a retired associate professor of biochemistry at the University of Chicago.

Some cryptozoologists said the slow spread of news of Mackal’s September death is as mysterious as the species he sought. In the 1980s, his profile was high. He was featured in People magazine, The New York Times and the Discovery Channel’s “Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World.” Clarke is the author of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

But the cause of death, at a South Side nursing home, was straightforward, said his son, Paul Mackal. “His heart just gave out.”

Even by the standards of the U. of C., where stratospheric achievement and eccentricity may go hand in hand, Mackal was not your everyday academic.

He liked to wear bush jackets, and he traveled in the jungle with “10 Pygmy porters,” as People magazine put it. He was married four times. Some think he may have been one of the inspirations for the “Indiana Jones” films, Coleman said. From 1965 into the 1970s, he was a director of Scotland’s Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau, which used sonar tracking to try to find Nessie. He believed he once spotted the loch lurker, as well as the splashings and thrashings of Africa’s Mokele-mbembe.

He savored each supposed encounter with his quarry. The one in Scotland occurred as he scanned the 23-mile-long, 750-foot-deep lake. “It was 6 p.m., and the loch was flat and calm,” he said in a 1985 Sun-Times interview. “Suddenly, the water near my boat started to boil and churn, and the back of an animal surfaced, rising 8 feet out of the water. The skin was slick and black and very smooth. I saw something like a flipper protruding from the skin. Then, with a huge splash, it was gone.”

“To this day, when someone asks me, ‘Do you believe there is a monster in Loch Ness?’ my stomach does a somersault,” he told People magazine in 1981. “I know what I saw.”

The thrill of the hunt recurred in the African jungle as he sought a fearsome creature rumored for hundreds of years, the Mokele-mbembe. Its name translates into “one who stops the flow of rivers.” Based on descriptions from indigeneous people of a long-necked, long-tailed creature, Mackal believed “we are dealing with a small sauropod dinosaur.”

As he and his band rounded a riverbend in their dugout canoes, “The huge form of an animal dived from a rock shelf into the water,” he said in the Sun-Times interview. “The splash produced a foot-high wave that rocked the boats, and the natives were screaming, ‘Mokele-mbembe’ over and over again. We had to coax the Pygmies for 15 minutes and offer a vast raise in their pay before we could get them to move forward.”

“This region of the Congo hasn’t changed for 60 million years,” he said. “No glaciers, no earthquakes, no continental drift. . . . What you’re looking for is a myth, a tradition, a tale whispered . . . in the dead of night. But why, why must it be a myth? If there were any dinosaurs left on Earth, this is where they’d be.”

But after two voyages to seek the Congolese relic, “all we got were footprints,” he told The Scientist Magazine in 1993.

He wrote the books “A Living Dinosaur? In Search of Mokele-Mbembe,” “The Monsters of Loch Ness” and “Searching for Hidden Animals.”

“Instead of plowing his book royalties into pool payments, however, Mackal used them to seed expeditions, such as his 1988 trek to Namibia in search of ‘flying snakes,’ or pterasaurs,” said The Scientist.

“It was nothing but anecdotes,” Mackal told the magazine. “Still, there’s an excitement to cryptozoology if you love animals, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Growing up, the Milwaukee native was bewitched by romantic books about adventure and lost worlds, including Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” His son said he read and re-read “She” by “King Solomon’s Mines” author H. Rider Haggard, about Ayesha, the 2,000-year-old queen of the hidden African city of Kor. “She” is the source for the now commonly used phrase “She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed.”

Mackal served in the U.S. Navy and the Marines during World War II. After enrolling at the University of Chicago, he received a bachelor’s degree in 1949 and a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1953. Mackal performed research on viruses, and he filed patents involving biochemical and viral pathogens, and on a breakthrough to help recover weather balloons, Coleman said.

It was 1965 when he was first beguiled by Loch Ness. After a trip to the Scottish Highlands’ inland sea, he began moving away from the workaday world of the university’s biochemistry and biology departments.

“It was a big shock to everybody,” his son said, “because he was rather conservative, and he went to Loch Ness and to Africa to look for a monster.”

Other monster-hunters welcomed Mackal, for he carried the patina of the University of Chicago. They point out their odysseys are not as far-fetched as some believe, because many heretofore unknown animals were only documented in the 20th century — the Komodo dragon, the mountain gorilla and the coelacanth, a “living fossil” fish.But his adventures were not without professional cost.

“Mackal has been laughed at by colleagues, has received antagonistic mail, and has been scorned in newspapers,” according to The Scientist Magazine.

“There were some administrators in the university who were embarrassed at his Loch Ness interest or his search for Mokele-mbembe,” Coleman said. “He would talk to me about how they gave him a lateral promotion.”

In the 1970s, the university named him its energy and safety coordinator.

A former colleague recalled Mackal’s quests. “I watched with amusement as Roy went about his search for the Loch Ness monster. He was serious about the whole thing, spent a lot of time and money hanging around Loch Ness with cameras,” Robert Haselkorn, the F.L. Pritzker Professor Emeritus of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, said in an email. “Again he was ahead of his time, might have done better with equipment from the Woods Hole Oceanographic people that could dive and had good lights. I always enjoyed talking with Roy because he took himself so seriously, was patient with all the people who scoffed at his efforts. But in no way was he a model for Indiana Jones. North Dakota Jones, maybe.”

Even as he raised eyebrows, colleagues found Mackal charming and pleasant.

“He never used an elevator when I was with him, a fitness effort,” said Herbert Friedmann, an associate professor of biochemistry. “In 1987 he was already talking about free radicals, longevity and antioxidants. Always at the forefront of new ideas.”

The 1985 Sean Young-Patrick McGoohan film “Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend,” about the discovery of a brontosaurus family in Africa, was thought to be inspired by some of his work, according to Friedmann and Coleman.

Mackal never stopped believing. Just two years ago he told the BBC that not only was he convinced of the existence of Mokele-mbembe — he thought there were multiples. “But I think that Mokele-mbembe still exist, and there isn’t just one; they are reproducing,” he said. “At 86 years old, I would dearly love to be alive if and when the animals are discovered.”

Believers in lost worlds are missing him. As one writer put it on the “lochnessmystery” blog, “I live in a world with no Lou Reed, no Ray Harryhausen, no Peter O’Toole, and now no Roy Mackal; my mind reels.”

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