Since time unremembered we have sought to penetrate out beyond what our maps show and trudge out over the horizon to explore and conquer the uncharted lands that lie beyond. It is an innate characteristic of the human spirit to wonder at what lies beyond what we know and to delve into the mysteries these wildernesses hold. For centuries explorers have gone out into the unknown and brought back information that has helped us to better understand our world and even our place within it. On occasion, these explorers have brought back some strange stories indeed. It seems only natural that the intrepid explorers who first step foot into new, unexplored realms that are strangers to civilization should come across things no one has ever seen before, and often this comes in the form of coming across creatures that seemingly should only inhabit the wilds of the imagination. One explorer who brought back myriad tales of strange beasts within his journals is an intrepid explorer of the South American jungles, who went out looking for a lost city and would come back with a whole list of weird creatures never seen before.
One of the most well-known explorers of the Amazon jungle is the famed explorer Percy Fawcett, who is most famous for his ambitious and ill-fated expedition in 1925 to find a lost city he was convinced existed in the forgotten, unexplored depths of the Amazon jungle, a journey during which he would vanish off the face of the earth to become one of the most baffling disappearances in history. I have written of Fawcett and his various expeditions, in particular that of his lost city, in much more depth here at Mysterious Universe before, but one of the more interesting and lesser discussed aspects of his adventures are all of the strange and mysterious creatures he allegedly encountered along the way in that maze of wilderness. Throughout his journeys, Fawcett kept rather detailed journals of his expeditions, and flipping through the normal, more mundane everyday trials and tribulations of the expedition, one can at times find some rather amazing, bizarre accounts involving myriad strange creatures that just seem to jump off the page. Indeed, Fawcett’s journals hold a veritable zoo of strange and bizarre beasts that have never really been identified or explained, and he once cryptically and eerily wrote of the Amazon as being:
A poisoned hell that could never be explored on foot, 60 foot anacondas capable of picking a man out of a canoe, savage ape men, an infested plain of deadly snakes, bats so big they looked like pterodactyls, ferocious black panthers, white Indian tribes, swarms of biting bees, fires in the distance.
Some of the strange creatures that are mentioned in his journals, and which are obviously something not officially known, are frustratingly mentioned only briefly or in passing, as if they are just a part of everyday life for them, another one of the menagerie of poisonous snakes and spiders, vampire bats, giant anacondas, electric eels, ferocious piranhas, jungle cats, and other dangerous animals that all conspired to make the expedition members miserable. One of these was something he called the “sauba ants” which could apparently reduce clothing and bedding to threads in a single night, mentioned in passing but obviously no normal ants that we presently know of. There are also casual mentions made of millipedes that "squirt cyanide" and a type of gigantic spider larger than a dinner plate he calls the Apazauca Spider, which he says has poison that could kill a grown man nearly instantaneously and liked to enter tents at night. Another creature described in only passing detail is what is described as a cat-like canid with a double nose, and he also makes mention of a shark called the manguruyú, which he writes is “a freshwater shark, huge but toothless, said to attack men and swallow them if it gets a chance.” These are all strange in that they give such short shrift to these oddities, maddeningly brief and lacking in detail, which was a bit odd for Fawcett, who normally went to great lengths to take meticulous and detailed notes during his expeditions. Fawcett made another brief mention in his many notes of something very strange, large, and seemingly very much like a dinosaur in the wilds of Bolivia, of which he wrote:
Some mysterious and enormous beast has frequently been disturbed in the swamps – possibly a primeval monster like those reported in other parts of the continent. Certainly tracks have been found belonging to no known animal – huge tracks, far greater than could have been made by any species we know.
What was it? It is hard to say because he never mentions it again, although he at several points talks about hearing from natives of enormous, mysterious tracks along the Acre River, near where the borders of Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil collide. Of the actual creature itself, no more is said of it, an afterthought in his otherwise sprawling details of the expedition. It is frustrating to say the least, and this is only just the beginning of tales of Fawcett’s encounters with mystery beasts in the remote rainforests of South America, but other reports get a bit more meat to them and are also at times quite a bit more spectacular. One of these is his expedition’s supposed encounters with a giant snake far larger than anything known, and also apparently more aggressive. Compared to the brief, matter-of-fact write-ups on the creatures already mentioned, Fawcett in this case goes into great detail about the team’s harrowing encounter with the serpent, writing:
We were drifting easily along in the sluggish current not far below the confluence of the Rio Negro when almost under the bow of the boat there appeared a triangular head and several feet of undulating body. It was a giant anaconda. I sprang for my rifle as the creature began to make its way up the bank, and hardly waiting to aim smashed a .44 soft-nosed bullet into its spine, ten feet below the wicked head. At once there was a flurry of foam, and several heavy thumps against the boat’s keel, shaking us as though we had run on a snag. With great difficulty I persuaded the Indian crew to turn in shore-wards. They were so frightened that the whites showed all round their popping eyes, and in the moment of firing I had heard their terrified voices begging me not to shoot lest the monster destroy the boat and kill everyone on board, for not only do these creatures attack boats when injured, but also there is great danger from their mates.
We stepped ashore and approached the reptile with caution. It was out of action, but shivers ran up and down the body like puffs of wind on a mountain tarn. As far as it was possible to measure, a length of 45 feet lay out of the water, and 17 feet in it, making a total length of 62 feet. Its body was not thick for such a colossal length-not more than 12 inches in diameter -but it had probably been long without food. I tried to cut a piece out of the skin, but the beast was by no means dead and the sudden upheavals rather scared us. A penetrating foetid odour emanated from the snake, probably its breath, which is believed to have a stupefying effect, first attracting and later paralysing its prey. Everything about this snake was repulsive. Such large specimens as this may not be common, but the trails in the swamps reach a width of six feet and support the statements of Indians and rubber pickers that the anaconda sometimes reaches an incredible size, altogether dwarfing the one shot by me. The Brazilian Boundary Commission told me of one killed in the Rio Paraguay exceeding 80 feet in length!
That is certainly a really big snake, far beyond the size of anything known. Again, this is an isolated report in his journal, leaving the reader to decide what ever became of it. Besides giant snakes, Fawcett also wrote quite a lot on his encounters with a tribe of hairy, man-like beasts that he calls the Maricoxi, and which are mostly described as being little more than beastly hairy ape-like savages. By far his most detailed entry on these creatures is also the most sensational, in which Fawcett provides a blow by blow description of his expedition’s frightening encounter with these beasts as follows:
I whistled, and an enormous creature, hairy as a dog, leapt to his feet in the nearest shelter, fitted an arrow to his bow in a flash, and came up dancing from one leg to the other till he was only four yards away. Emitting grunts that sounded like ‘Eugh! Eugh! Eugh!’ he remained there dancing, and suddenly the whole forest around us was alive with these hideous ape-men, all grunting ‘Eugh! Eugh! Eugh!’ and dancing from leg to leg in the same way as they strung arrows to their bows. It looked like a very delicate situation for us, and I wondered if it was the end. I made friendly overtures in Maxubi, but they paid no attention. It was as though human speech were beyond their powers of comprehension.
The creature in front of me ceased his dance, stood for a moment perfectly still, and then drew his bowstring back till it was level with his ear, at the same time raising the barbed point of the six-foot arrow to the height of my chest. I looked straight into the pig-like eyes half hidden under the overhanging brows, and knew that he was not going to loose that arrow yet. As deliberately as he had raised it, he now lowered the bow, and commenced once more the slow dance, and the ‘Eugh! Eugh! Eugh! A second time he raised the arrow at me and drew the bow back, and again I knew he would not shoot. It was just as the Maxubis told me it would be. Again he lowered the bow and continued his dance. Then for the third time he halted and began to bring up the arrow’s point. I knew he meant business this time, and drew out a Mauser pistol I had on my hip. It was a big, clumsy thing, of a caliber unsuitable to forest use, but I had brought it because by clipping the wooden holster to the pistol-butt it became a carbine, and was lighter to carry than a true rifle. It used .38 black powder shells, which made a din out of all proportion to their size. I never raised it; I just pulled the trigger and banged it off into the ground at the ape-man’s feet.
The effect was instantaneous. A look of complete amazement came into the hideous face, and the little eyes opened wide. He dropped his bow and arrow and sprang away as quickly as a cat to vanish behind a tree. Then the arrows began to fly. We shot off a few rounds into the branches, hoping the noise would scare the savages into a more receptive frame of mind, but they seemed in no way disposed to accept us, and before anyone was hurt we gave it up as hopeless and retreated down the trail till the camp was out of sight. We were not followed, but the clamor in the village continued for a long time as we struck off northwards, and we fancied we still heard the ‘Eugh! Eugh! Eugh!’ of the enraged braves.
What were these creatures? Considering they are only ever mentioned in Fawcett’s report in passing and there are no further details we will probably never know. Although it might be tempting to chalk some of these reports up to instances of Fawcett being a little imaginative and sprucing his journal up a bit, the thing is he was not really known for that at all. Fawcett was a respected explorer and naturalist, a consummate professional who kept very good and accurate journals for what he saw or witnessed, with no real hint that he was prone to just sudden flights of fancy or making things up, and these tales are also interspersed between totally normal accounts of mundane things and observations, so why would he do this in the first place? It seems to be unlikely he would have just made these stories up, and he was knowledgeable enough about the region and its wildlife that he likely would not have been making misidentifications that he spun into tall tales. In the end we are left to just wonder what was going on here, and they are all just more cryptic accounts brought back by explorers penetrating out into realms beyond our understanding.