Today, I thought I would do something a bit different. Something a bit lighter than the conspiratorial things I often write about. A few days ago I was asked, if money and time were unlimited, what top three expeditions would I like to go on? It's a good question. I guess, to a degree, it changes from time to time. I go on a lot of expeditions and road-trips, but definitely at the top of my "to do" list would be a quest to try and answer an amazing and controversial question: does Megalania still exist? You may wonder: what, exactly is (or was) Megalania? Well, I'll tell you. The answer is: a giant-sized lizard that, thousands of years ago, roamed Australia. Is it feasible that the subtropical rain-forests of Australia are still home to gigantic, marauding lizards of twenty to thirty feet in length? Could such Jurassic Park-like beasts really remain hidden, undetected, and free to rampage around in near-unstoppable fashion? Just maybe, incredibly, the answer is “yes.”
As for the creature itself, it’s not something created out of the minds of the fantasy-driven and the deluded. Thousands of years ago, Australia really was home to such immense beasts. Do they still live, despite the fact that they have been declared completely and utterly extinct? The creature in question went by the name of Megalania prisca, a huge, vicious monitor lizard that roamed Australia at least as late as 40,000 years ago. It got its name thanks to one Richard Owen, a paleontologist of the 1800s. As for Megalania prisca, it very appropriately translates to “ancient giant butcher,” and/or “ancient great roamer.”
Over the years, there have been a number of reports suggesting that, against all of the odds, Megalania (or something very much like it) just might still be hiding in those aforementioned subtropical rain-forests. Granted, there aren't many reports, but even a few is enough to have me jetting off to Australia. One day, I hope, I'll get the chance to go on an expedition that will lay the matter to the rest, once and for all!
Moving on, there's the matter of Loch Morar, Scotland. I've been to Loch Ness on a number of occasions. So far, I have yet to see one of the Nessies. Not at all too far from Loch Ness is the aforementioned Loch Morar. Just like Loch Ness, it is also reputed to be the lair of strange creatures. Outside of the "monster-hunting" community, not many people have heard of the monsters of Loch Morar. They are known as the Morags. One of the earliest reports came from a man named James McDonald, who claimed a sighting of a humped creature snaking through the waters, late one cold, dark night, in January 1887. An astonishing sighting occurred in 1948, when a man named Alexander MacDonnell sighted a huge animal on the bank of one particular stretch of shore. In a few moments it headed into the water and vanished.
Without doubt the most amazing – and, for the witnesses, nerve-wracking – encounters with a Morag occurred on the night of August 16, 1969. That was when William Simpson and Duncan McDonnell were traveling on the waters, near the west end of the loch. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a large animal – possibly thirty feet in length – loomed into view and actually slammed into their boat. When Simpson tried to blast the creature with his shotgun, it sank beneath the waves – as a result of the ear-splitting sound of the gun, both men concluded, rather than as a result of Simpson having actually shot the monster. Whether surviving pockets of creatures assumed to be long extinct, giant eels, or something definitively supernatural, the Morags will one day be the subject of an in-depth expedition that I'll be excited to go on.
As for expedition number three, there's a terrifying beast that has a particular penchant for ripping out the tongues of cattle. The Mapinguari is a violent thing that haunts the Mato Grosso, a huge Brazilian state, the name of which translates into English as “thick bushes,” and which is dominated by plains, plateaus, and rainforest – the ideal locations in which such beasts just might hide and thrive. Randy Merrill, who has studied the history of the Mapinguari, says that, according to local native legends, the Mapinguari is “…a prehistoric cryptid that reportedly lived (and is still reported to live) in the Amazon rain forests of South America, particularly in Brazil and Patagonia. It was consistently described as …having red hair, long arms, powerful claws that could tear apart palm trees…a sloping back, a crocodile-like hide that arrows and bullets could not penetrate, a second mouth on its belly and backwards feet (said to make a bottle-shaped footprint).” The mapinguaris may not be unknown man-beasts, but surviving pockets of massive creatures that are supposed to have become extinct thousands of years ago: giant sloths, possibly Mylodons, which could reach heights of around nine feet and that weighed in at a hefty 500 pounds.
So, that's my top three creatures to seek out (until or unless I change my mind...).