Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Presume? How you like I presume to throw you in the river?

I was reading Generation Minus One this morning and discovered that Rob had posted an item about how I once went round to his groovy pad to play the new Zelda game, and in doing so discovered the joy of throwing pixelated pigs in to rivers. What he didn't go on to say was that I repeated that process about 16 times in a row, and chuckled heartily every single time I did so (Gee Note: Oink. Oink. Oink. Splash. Ahahahaha... Oink. Oink. Oink. Splash. Ahahahaha). Sigh. I swear I'm like a child sometimes.

Thing is I was watching an old episode of Destination Truth last night (Gee Note: Or "The Monster Hunter" as it's inexplicably called in this country. Why I have no idea. What bothers me is that someone obviously thought that nobody in this country would watch the programme unless they changed the name. "The public don't want the truth. They want monsters!". What's even sillier is that they don't really hunt monsters in the show. Instead they travel to different parts of the world looking for possible evidence of cryptozoological specimens. It would be like acquiring the rights to broadcast "Friends" and instead calling it "Deathzone 3000". Actually thinking about it that would be kind of cool. I mean I'd definitely watch David Schwimmer and Jennifer Anniston armed with chainsaws fighting to the bitter end. It doesn’t matter who loses, the rest of the world would be winners either way). During the show the crew, lead by Josh Gates, travelled to the Amazon to look for giant snakes.

Now big snakes are big business at the moment. At the beginning of the year fossilized remains of a snake the size of a school bus were discovered in Columbia. Slithering in at 43 feet long and weighing an estimated 2,500 lbs this thing is a certified monster. No really, if you've ever seen the movie Anaconda (Gee Note: You know the one where Eric Stoltz spends the entire film lying down while having his forehead stroked by Jennifer Lopez. He's gotta have, like, the best agent in Hollywood) then picture in your mind that freakin' big snake that tears a path through Jon Voigt and friends. Got it? OK well the Columbia beast makes that Anaconda snake look like an earthworm. In fact in honour of it's enormous size the snake has been named “Titanoboa”. You know I wonder how many frat boys have already appropriated that name as a euphemism for a certain part of their anatomy? I'm guessing way too many.

And then last week this photo starting doing the rounds appearing in, of all things, The Daily Torygraph Telegraph among others. Amazingly some people even took it seriously.

Now who really looks at that and thinks “Wow, that's so not fake!”? I mean forget the fact that it comes from “an unknown source” (Gee Note: A dead give away for a hoax if ever their was one. I mean if you took a photo of something as incredible as a 100ft long snake, wouldn't you want people to know who you were? I sure as hell would. Heck I'd get t-shirts printed with my name on it. And then wear them on every talk show in town. “Yeah that's right, I'm Gareth Davies” I'd say. “Lover, fighter, photographer of big snakes. Remember that name ladies. And anyone who just wants to throw money at me because of how great I am. Gareth Davies. Me. The snake guy”). What's more important is that it looks like a strawberry lace with some wavy lines around it. Like a picture a child would draw. How do we do splashes little Jimmy? That's right. We make little wavy lines.

So the photo of big Amazon snake is faker than a very fake thing (Gee Note: I've put that in their so that I can come back to it after I've finished writing this post and think of something better. If you're reading this then I either forgot about it, or eventually gave up and opened a bottle of wine instead). Which is a shame as there may very well be a great big serpent kicking it in them there jungles. Just ask Percy Fawcett.

In 1906 the British explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett made his first trip to South America to map a jungle area on the border of Bolivia and Brazil. Apparently the Royal Geographic Society felt that the natives could not be trusted to map it themselves without bias, and so Fawcett was sent on his merry way.

Fawcett was, by all accounts, one hell of a guy. Born in Devon in 1867 he joined the Royal Artillery at the age of nineteen. Despite being thoroughly bored of army life he worked his way up to the rank of Colonel before moving on to a stint in North Africa working for The Secret Service. After that had finished Fawcett was looking for a new vocation and decided to try his hand at surveying. The Royal Geographic Society, impressed with his resume, contacted him in regards to giving them a helping hand in trying to quell tensions in South America by defining the disputed borders between countries. Feeling this could lead to the excitement he craved Fawcett jumped at the chance.

During his stints in Brazil Fawcett wrote many reports on the local wildlife. While the area had been documented relatively extensively by that point, a lot of the animals found there were still considered wondrous and exotic. And Fawcett pretty much made it his business to note down everything he saw. For example, during one night sleeping out in open in the jungle the Colonel tells a tale of how he climbs in to his sleeping bag only to find a "hairy and revolting" apazauca spider sharing it with him. The spider, whose bite is venomous, latched itself on to his hand and a spooked Fawcett spent a good while trying to shake it off, in the process inventing the dance known as "the hand jive". Probably.

Fawcett's notes are full of stuff like this over the years. Companions lost fingers to piranhas. Vampire bats and mosquitoes would feed off them as they slept. Wild bulls would charge at them as the travelled. A Texan named Ross was bitten by a poisonous snake only to discover that the fangs had failed to penetrate the tobacco pouch that had been nestling in his pocket (Gee Note: Tobacco saving somebody's life. Ah the irony). In fact Fawcett's friend Arthur Conan Doyle used many of his reports as the basis for "The Lost World", arguably Doyle's greatest work.

The most interesting of Fawcett's encounters with the wild probably occurred in his very first trip to South America however. According to his diaries, he and his homies were sailing down the Rio Negro when out of nowhere a great big snake appeared in front of them. Of course being a lover of nature and friend to the animals Fawcett, er, grabbed his rifle and shot the poor thing, mortally wounding the creature. The reason? Well this snake wasn't just big, it was the Shirley Crabtree of snakes (Gee Note: For all you overseas readers, Shirley Crabtree AKA Big Daddy was a wrestler here in the UK who at one point was arguably the most famous man in Britain. Alas he had to retire from the ring when, one tragic evening, his opponent suffered a heart attack and died whilst wrestling. In fact the unfortunate soul's ticker gave way the very moment that Crabtree delivered his signature move, The Daddy Splash. No really, for all intents and purposes it appeared to the world that some dude had actually been killed by Daddy Splash. It would be sad if it wasn't so funny). Fawcett didn't have anything to measure the creature with but estimated it at a good 62ft in length. And considering the guy was a surveyor he probably made a decent fist of it.

However when reports arrived back in Blighty of Fawcett's discovery, the scientific community threw up it's arms. Indeed, I imagine there were plenty of exclamations of “I say!” and the dropping of monocles along the way. Believing him to be either mistaken, or simply making it up, Fawcett's name became a bit of a joke amongst zoological folk, with much nattering along the lines of “that's what happens when you send an amateur to the jungle”.

But then the same thing happened when Fawcett reported coming into contact with a pack of dogs with two noses in Bolivia at some point in 1913 (Gee Note: Which sounds like someone screwing up a joke doesn't it? “My Bolivian dog's got two noses!” “How does he smell?” “Er...”). Again the scientists scoffed. Oh that crazy Fawcett with his tall tales they said.

Except that's exactly what Colonel John Blashford-Snell discovered in, wait for it, Bolivia in 2005. And then again in 2007 when he found the original dog's offspring. Seriously. Dogs. Two noses. In fact here's a pic.

So if Fawcett was right about the dogs, how about the snakes? Well talk of huge serpents crashing through the trees of the Amazon has been going on for years. Indeed Fawcett wasn't the only person to claim to have spied a massive belly crawler. In fact reports regularly trickle in of snakes ranging from 35ft to 100ft in length from the deepest darkest corners of the rainforest.

Which is what I assume brought Josh Gates there. Of course outside of the usual night vision jiggery pokery with something that might be a snake's eye or might be a shiny penny off in the distance, and a completely hilarious “hero” shot of Gates standing at the front of a travelling speedboat as music swells in the background, the Destination Truth team found, er, nothing. Wait that's not really true. They did find a 15ft boa constrictor that for reasons only known to himself Gates felt the need to wrestle to the ground. Seriously he just leapt on the bloody thing like Jessica Simpson on a cheeseburger. And really if that's what you have to do to search for proof of larger than life snakes then you can count me out of it.

Honestly I'm happy where I am, throwing video game pigs in to a river.


Naveed said...

So you're telling you me you'd much rather throw video game pigs in a river then run around the world, searching for monsters, and throwing heroic poses? Can't blame you. Committing senseless acts of violence towards video game animals is rather kicking chickens in Fable or setting lose the dinosaurs in Zoo Tycoon...ok perhaps that's committing senseless acts of violence with animals towards a crowd of people...

Jason said...


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