Snakes on Plains – Part Deux

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 15th, 2006

Various readers from part one of this blog, Snakes on Plains, wanted to see some of the following images, spanning one hundred years of giant snakes.

Giant Snakes

In 1906, twenty years before explorer Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett vanished without a trace in the Amazon, he was sent by the Royal Geographic Society to make a thorough survey of the Rio Abuna and Acre Rivers. Thirty-nine at the time, Major Fawcett, as Ivan T. Sanderson once observed, was known for two sometimes contradictory character traits: he was a dreamer whose dreams led him to envision lost jungle cities of fantastic wealth and splendor; he was also a scrupulously matter-of-fact military man who reported exactly what he saw in detailed and down-to-earth observations. His adventures inspired the fiction of H. Rider Haggard and Arthur Conon Doyle (especially The Lost World). Fawcett’s memoirs, striking for their contrast of visionary dreams and earthy rankness, relate many strange adventure – including an encounter with a giant anaconda of the Amazon.

Giant Snakes

Click image for full-size version

Fawcett ran across the giant snake in 1907. He was drifting along the Rio Negro with his Indian crew, when he spotted the snake. Fawcett reported that a great triangular head appeared at the bow of the boat, and when he shot the creature in the spine the body of the snake thrashed the water all around the boat. With great difficulty Fawcett convinced his crew to approach closer to the bank where the great snake lay. The Indians feared that the injured reptile would attack the boat or that its mate, as often happened, would come to destroy the hunters.

Fawcett then stepped onto the shore and cautiously approached the snake. According to Fawcett, the snake measured 45 feet out of the water and 17 in it, for a total of 62 feet. (Thanks to pp for images.)

Giant Snakes

This is the giant snake photograph shown on Arthur C. Clarke’s documentary, Mysterious Universe. It allegedly was taken by Belgian helicopter pilot Remy Van Lierde during a patrol over a river in the Republic of Congo in 1959. The snake was estimated to 40-50 feet long, with a 3 feet wide head. It reportedly lifted itself 10 feet into the air towards the chopper. Van Lierde said it was a dark shade of brown and green with a white underbelly. (Thanks to lol, cw, and ba for photo assistance.)

Giant Snakes

Finally, from August 11, 2006, Seth Pickett (from left), Clayton Grahm and Joey Woodruff, three Hamilton County boaters, hold the 19-foot python they discovered on the banks of the White River near Strawtown, a community north of Noblesville, Indiana. — Tim Miller / Indianapolis Star (Credit: Chad Arment)

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.


16 Responses to “Snakes on Plains – Part Deux”

  1. crypto_randz responds:

    The Giant Snakes are out there, especially in the AMAZON, that place is the Lost World alot of mysteries over there

  2. greywolf responds:

    I always give snakes a wide space…

  3. Toirtis responds:

    Although it is possible that larger exist, green anacondas have never been reliably measured at greater then 25′, however, African rock pythons have been reliably measured at 25′, and reticulated pythons at just under 33′. I do believe that a larger species may exist in the Congo (most likely) or the Amazon, but I would doubt that it would exceed 40′ in length. Working around thousands of snakes over the past 3½ decades, I have found that it is rare for a person to estimate the length of a snake without overeastimating by at least 25%, and often as much as 75%, particularly with the big boids…..I suspect that this may explain reports of 40’+ snakes.

  4. jayman responds:

    The photo really has nothing in it to reference size, and in fact it has been claimed to be nothing but a small snake photographed at close range.

  5. loyalfromlondon responds:

    Toirtis,

    Maybe you can shed some light on aquatic snake growth. If anacondas continue to grow as they age, and they spend a great deal of time in the water, an enviroment where extreme weight/length wouldn’t be an issue, why would the max be 40ft?

    Not that 40ft isn’t huge. 😛

  6. Toirtis responds:

    Although the anacondas are supported physically by their aquatic habits, even at 22′-25′ they are somewhat limited in functionality due to their relatively massive bulk. I am not sure that an anaconda (or similar boa) at 40′ (which would likely weigh close to 1300 lbs) would be able to get around enough to successfully feed, mate, and remain in a sufficient habitat area.

  7. kamoeba responds:

    That B&W Congo photo doesn’t look legit to me…the snake is in relatively sharp focus but its surroundings are incredibly blurry. The story about how it reared up to attack the helicopter seems pretty farfetched as well.

  8. L Ron Hubbub responds:

    I agree with kamoeba I call shenanigans on the giant snake pic.

  9. kaboobi responds:

    Great dig Loren! That is exactly the picture that I (and loyalfromlondon) were talking about on the previous blog. still dont believe the dimensions listed, but you never know until you see it for yourself.

  10. shovethenos responds:

    I think the alleged snake in the black and white picture looks like it is in sharper focus due to the sun’s reflection on its scales. In my opinion it looks pretty authentic, although it is very difficult to estimate size from that picture.

  11. kamoeba responds:

    Regarding the Congo photo, if nothing else I can’t make heads or tails of what the landscape is even supposed to be. Is it flat land, a mountainside, a river, what? When I first saw this photo I thought the whiter areas on the landscape were a flowing river, but if that’s the case, the snake’s tail is floating as though it was inflatable. It looks to me like it could be a small snake slithering on the inside of a helicopter’s lower windshield to create a forced perspective, making the snake look huge. If you look at the color picture of the three young guys holding the immense snake you’ll notice it’s body gets two or three times thicker in the middle than it’s head. The snake in the Congo photo just doesn’t look right proportionally to be a “giant snake”. Also, if you look at the landscape, the center of the photo is quite blurry and it gets worse at the top, right and bottom edges. I maintain that the snake is too well focused to have been on the ground at the time of the photo. The accompanying story seems unlikely to me as well.

  12. traveler responds:

    Yup, I love big snakes. I think that they are as likely as not to be found in any of the largely unexplored jungle regions. Not to say that there is a large population of giants, but there should be some. I think that the giants are an unknown species, not just larger ones of the known.

  13. afigbee responds:

    If that illustration is based on a photograph, and it sort of looks like a tracing, somebody might be able to dig up that issue of Dario de Pernambuco.

  14. katbe responds:

    Reptiles are always fascinating. I am actually interested if anyone has got some extra info on ‘flying snakes’ that supposedly been attracting attention of some reporters in rural Russia. YES i am aware that it’s easy to experience “mysterious” creatures in countries and/or settings that are not generally known for being well traveled. Especially Russia has lately been prone to story telling especially when it comes to fantastic and ‘mysterious’… whether it’s angels seen by astronauts, aliens in ones basement or giant-flying-anything roaming the meadows. In any case … there seem to be some nifty large reptiles in the grassy Volga region (vague? you bet!) who are known to jump out at people and sometimes paralyze them. So who has heard anything so far?

  15. skeptik responds:

    Ah, anyone know of a better version of the van Lierde photograph? And who were the experts?

    Found this page about him.

    “He commanded Kamina Air Base in the Belgian Congo 1959-60” and died in 1990, apparently.

  16. Hillbilly Girl responds:

    I feel I must disagree with many of the comments about Congo snake. I saw this image many, many years ago … before Photoshop popularized ‘mysterious creatures.’ The pilot, Remy Van Lierde, was a World War II ace honored with two Distinguished Flying Cross awards for skill and bravery under fire. Long before he was a pilot, he was known as a reputable, trained observer. He was commander of Kamina Air Base in the Congo, where he took this image. He died in 1990 just before his 75th birthday; for more than 30 years, his version of events never wavered.

    While some may have many years experience with snakes, surely all will recognize that science is still discovering new and wonderful species. Eleven new species of plants and animals were recently discovered in Vietnam. Many other discoveries, like Vietnam’s ‘spindle horn’ had been dismissed ‘rumor’ or ‘native myth’ until a Western or European scientist was able to see for himself. Add to that, some snakes continue to grow throughout their lifetimes. In that case, it is possible this is a very old specimen.

    While a healthy dose of skepticism is a good thing, I believe one should nurture a sense of wonder about our amazing universe, which is still quite capable of surprise.

    Albert Einstein said: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”




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