Monday, 25 May 2009

Y'all know me. Know how I earn a livin'.

I'm thinking of applying for the next series of The Apprentice (Gee Note: The UK version obviously. I mean don't get me wrong I like the American version just as much, what with that Donald Trump and whatever it is that died and found it's final resting place on top of his head. It's just I'm not sure that when filling out a "Reason for applying for an American Visa" form the answer "I want to be on a reality television show" is grounds for a successful application. Otherwise I'd have already tried to be America's Next Top Model or something. No really, I can see it now. Me flicking my hair back, playfully stroking my beard, while lights flash in the background. "Gareth," Tyra Banks will say, "You own the camera. You OWN it!". "I know dahling," I'll reply "I was born with it. The good looks I mean. The beard I had to grow later").

I don't know, I think I'd be in with a shout of winning it as well. Because despite my lack of experience in "business", it seems to me that the only quality you need to be able to win The Apprentice is to be slightly less useless than everyone else. And that's really not that difficult. Judging by this year's contestants you could have turned up wearing a clown suit and called yourself "Bonzo the Magnificent" and you would have still walked it.

Speaking of being completely useless, the excellent weblog that is Naveed's Realm recently coined the term "couch researcher", i.e. someone who researches from the comfort of their own home via books, television and the interwebz. Which is exactly what I do. I mean I wish it wasn't so of course, and that I was actually able to travel to the deepest, darkest recesses of the Congo where I'd hang out with pygmies and hunt dinosaurs all day. But there's a couple of practical issues with all that. Firstly it would mean living in a jungle, which as anyone who's been camping with me will know is sure to result in my death after about, oooh, 30 minutes (Gee Note: "Hey guys I found this rope on the jungle floor and thought it might come in useful. Look, it's quite thick and has these fang like hooks on the end and it's hissing at me. Guys? Where have you gone? Guys?"). Secondly one would have to build a relationship with said pygmies so they don't spear you on sight. And, honestly, I wouldn't trust myself to be able to do that. I can barely stay on the good side of the postman, let alone an indigenous tribe.

So instead I'm limited to the resources in my home. And normally it's not so bad. In fact considering my daily ritual consists of putting on a record (Gee Note: Today's choice is the Blind Boys of Alabama. We just loves us some of that ol' timey music), making myself a cup of coffee, and cranking up my laptop in order to play a couple of quick rounds of solitaire do a wee bit of research, the whole thing is quite a relaxing experience.

Unless of course your chosen research subject happens to be the Altamaha-Ha. Because if it is then, trust me, it becomes frustrating beyond belief.

Allow me to explain. Last week it struck me that it's been a while since I've posted something about a good old fashioned monster. I mean sure strange psychics and murderous robots are fun and all, but really when all is said done nothing beats a crazy yarn about a bezerk beast tearing up the waters of the Amazon or the jungles of Africa. And so I decided to put my cryptozoology hat on (Gee Note: I don't really have a cryptozoology hat. I do however have a hat I wear when I want to pretend that I'm a pirate) and find a suitable topic to blog about.

As you may or may not have noticed I tend to stay away from "the big four" of Bigfoot, Nessie, Chupacabra, and the Jersey Devil when posting about cryptozoology. Mostly because there's such a wealth of information, speculation and opinion on those cryptids that it would take a man with a much greater attention span than myself to wade through it all. But it's also partly due to my concern that, you know, I'm not sure I could bring all that much to the table other than a couple of lame jokes and a weak hypothesis about one of them being a misidentified horse or something.

So therefore I tend to concentrate my efforts on lesser known mystery creatures. And having stumbled upon the story of a great big lizard fish splashing it's way through the state of Georgia last week, I thought it was pretty much tailor made for this blog. It's at that point though that I hit a snag.

Now I must confess that I know next to nothing about Georgia itself other than Coca-Cola, Laurence Fishburne, Bill Hicks, and the adorable Rainy all come from there. That and the state song is "Georgia on My Mind", having been officially named as such in 1979 (Gee Note: Sadly I couldn't find out what the state song for Georgia was prior to 1979. If it was the jingle from those Christmas Coke ads though that would be mint). But thanks to the internet I am now well aware that the state covers approximately 59,425 square miles, has a population of somewhere near the 10 million mark, and was also the setting for Gone With The Wind. The most interesting thing about Georgia as far as this blog is concerned however is that it is home to the Altamaha River.

The Altamaha River is the seventh largest river to run entirely in one state in the US. It measures in at somewhere near 137 miles in length and is apparently the third largest contributor of fresh water to the Atlantic Ocean from North America's point of view (Gee Note: Wooooo! Go Altamaha. USA! USA! USA!). All of that isn't really important however. What is important is that Altamaha is the alleged home of this critter, The Altamaha-Ha.

Now at this point in the proceedings I usually type something along the lines of "Meet Bill Crazyperson. Mr. Crazyperson was travelling down the Altamaha River in a boat made out of an old kitchen sink and some sausages when, oh gosh, this great big monster reared it's head and scared the bejesus out of him". But herein lies the problem with being a couch researcher. Every piece of information you acquire is third hand, and as such most of the stories that involve this strange beast are incredibly vague. Here's what we do know. The Altamaha-ha is (Gee Note: Really fun to say out loud) allegedly between 10 ft and 40 ft long, has eel like features, flippers, a porpoise like tail, and swims much like a snake would with two or three humps breaking the surface of the water. It has apparently been around since the 1700’s where Native Americans would spy it splashing about willy-nilly. Then at some point during the 1960’s it was spotted by some fishermen, before a rash of sightings leading up to present day.

The thing is for such a often spotted creature there really is very little to report on apparently. In fact the majority of webpages that mention the Altamaha-ha simply regurgitate what you read above. Big eel thing. Three humps. Native Americans. Loads of sightings. Details are annoyingly rare though, to the point where I started crying out for something, anything, that would add a sense of believability to the tale. Instead I came across a lot of vague talk of “boatmen in the 20’s” and “Tama Indians would call them Dragons” with out any dates, descriptions, or even the name of anyone who had claimed to have seen the animal. Which means one of two things. Either Altamaha-ha is an urban legend, promoted by word of mouth via tourism officials, irresponsible parents, and crackpots. Or Georgia is home to some very shy people.

So I was about to chuck it all in and find something else to blog about when finally, finally I stumbled across the following.

Meet Bill Crazyperson Donny Manning. Manning and his brother were fishing one night in July 1969 on their father’s houseboat when Donny’s line got hooked on something. Like a scene from Jaws Donny took out a shotgun, said something cool, and blew that sumbitch up. Well ok not really, but the line did start unreeling at a rapid rate, to the point where Manning thought he had caught a sturgeon. Which isn’t an unreasonable assumption to make. Sturgeons are bloody huge. No really, check it out.

See as far as I’m concerned that’s not a fish, that’s something King Kong would wrestle on Skull Island.

Anyway it turns out that Manning was wrong, because under the lighting of the houseboat the beastie came to the surface. What Manning saw was a gray monster about 20ft in length filled with pointed fangs and a snout like a “a duck billed platypus” as well as the above mentioned horizontal tail fin. Manning tried to reel it in but the creature got spooked and made a hasty retreat, snapping the 40-pound test line in the process. And I’m sure that if I had any idea what exactly a 40-pound test line was I’d be impressed. Or shocked. Or a quivering wreck. Luckily I’m completely ignorant to the ways of fishing so I can type that sentence in relative peace and harmony. (Gee Note: By the way I’d tried getting a screen capture of the shrieking eels from The Princess Bride to go with this paragraph. And by “tried” I mean “blatantly looked for one to steal on Google images”. But alas I couldn’t find one. So, uh, could you do me a favour and just pretend there’s one here? Thanks).

And that wasn’t the only time something strange was seen in Altamaha River. In the summer of 1980 two chaps by the names of Andy Greene and Barry Prescott saw a large leviathan thrashing around on the banks of the river, having apparently stranded itself. The two men watched for about ten minutes (Gee Note: Like watching a large animal squirming in mud, eh? Perverts) before the beast freed itself and drifted back out to the water. They described “a massive eel” around 30 ft long with a horizontal tail fin. Which sounds a lot like the same thing Donny Manning nearly took home for a snack. Or what nearly took Donny Manning home for a snack. One of the two.

So there we go, more than enough for a post on the Altamaha-ha. And I guess the moral of this story is that you should never give up.

That and stay the hell out of the waters of the Altamaha River. Haven’t you heard? There’s a monster in there, man.


Naveed said...

First off, I love the new look Gee.

Secondly, I to have a hat to wear when I want to be a pirate, if my Facebook isn't a dead give away on that lol.

Thirdly, I was beginning to think that perhaps this beastie you were talking about could possibly be related to manatees. However, being more eel like in description towards the end, it could very well be a large unknown eel.

Autumnforest said...

Awesome! Where I grew up near the Chesapeake, we had "Chessie." You might want to research her some time when you have your pirate hat on. :-)

Rainy said...

Hey! Funky Far Out! You mentioned me! I wish the pic showed the rest of that thing. I want to see the underside. Bummer. There's probably one up the mountain in the river beside where I live. I shall try to find it! Me and my friend Chon! 2 looking is better than 1!