|Cryptozoology, BioForteana, Zoological Oddities, Unusual Natural History|
Hunting a Live "Prehistoric Monster"
One of the most remarkable scientific discoveries ever made has just been reported by an expedition of British scientists.
In the wilds of New Guinea, the great unexplored island just north of Australia, these scientists have run across a marvelous race of pigmies whose average height is about four feet three inches, and a monster mammal, considerably larger than an elephant, which they have named the gazeka, and which has seemingly wrought great havoc amongst the pigmies.
Just what species the gazeka belongs to has not yet been determined, but in the description given by the explorers. Dr. W. D Matthew, of the American Museum of Natural History, sees a strong resemblance to a prehistoric monster known as the diprodont, fossil remains of which have been found at different times throughout Australia.
The expedition was sent out by a committee appointed by the British Ornithologist's union to explore the great Snow mountains in Dutch New Guinea, and consists of several famous scientists, headed by Walter Goodfellow, the naturalist.
The expedition landed at the mouth of the Mimika river, on the south coast of Dutch New Guinea, in the early part of the year, and at once pushed into the interior. While ascending the Snow mountains, at an elevation of about 2,000 feet, the explorers came upon the tribe of pigmies, which are said to belong to that division of the human race known as the Negritos.
The importance of this discovery to anthropologists can hardly be overestimated, because it has always been a subject of controversy among the scientists as to whether Negritos existed in the Papuan islands
The New Guinea savages, or Papuans, as they are called, are comparatively well known, but they are a very different kind of men to the pigmies just discovered. The typical Papuan is much taller than the average European, often attaining a height of seven feet, and is strongly built. The color of the skin varies from deep chocolate to nearly black. The nose is large and prominent, and a nose bar of shell, bone or wood is usually thrust through it. Both men and women go about entirely naked. Their houses are generally built on piles, and as in Borneo, are often communal and of very large size, many families occupying one building, which may be as much as 700 feet long. Then there are remarkable houses built in trees and known as "dobbos." but these are used only to escape their enemies. Cannibalism prevails among the Papuans, although it is by no means universal.
The Negritos, on the other hand, which heretofore have been thought to occupy only the Andaman islands, in the Bay of Bengal, the northern portion of the Malay peninsula and the Philippine islands, are characteristically short, no adult standing over four feet six inches, while the women rarely exceed four feet. The average height is about four feet three inches.
The main features of this peculiar human type, apart from their diminutiveness, are the extraordinarily dark color of their skin, which approaches the color of a newly black-leaded stove, the extremely broad nose, the breadth of which is about equal to the height, and the frizzy hair, which grows in isolated peppercorn tufts all over the scalp. Their arms are unusually long, like those of the man ape, and their mental qualities are sadly undeveloped, not one of them being able to express a higher numerical idea than three.
How these little people have been able to protect themselves against the many dangerous animals that infest the section, particularly the gigantic gazeka, which has just been discovered, is still a mystery, although they have shown remarkable ingenuity in the invention of weapons. One, for instance, is a variety of "spring gun" which might prove effective against almost any living enemy. It is made by setting a flattened bamboo spear attached to a bent sapling which is fastened to a trigger in such a way that it is released by the passerby stumbling against an invisible string stretched across the track. The spears are poisoned, either with the famous "upas" or some other similar vegetable poison, and a wound from one of them means almost instant death.
Whether such primitive defensive methods avail them against the huge gazeka is not known, but the chances are that they find safety in retreat.
According to the official reports, the gazeka is of gigantic size and fearsome aspect. It is black and white striped, has the nose of a tapir and "a face like the devil." Among the English inhabitants of the island, the animal is known as Monckton's gazeka, in honor of Mr. C. A. W. Monckton, a former explorer In New Guinea, who first reported its presence in the mountains.
Mr. Monckton, during his ascent of Mount Albert Edward, in the west of British New Guinea, discovered the huge footprints and other indications of the very recent presence of some tremendous monster that had evidently been prowling on the grassy plains surrounding the lakes on the summit at an elevation of about 12,500 feet. He followed the trail all day, and came upon the monster at dusk, just as it was devastating a settlement of the pigmies. The little natives were screaming and running for their lives, although they turned every now and again to aim their poisoned arrows at the brute.
Monckton let fire as soon as he was able to get in a proper position, and the huge gazeka at once turned upon him. As it reared upon its hind legs and pawed the air it looked to the hunter as big as a house, standing fully 25 feet high. Two of Monckton's bullets seemed to take effect, as a stream of blood flowed freely from the animal's shoulder, but before Monckton was able to reload the animal turned and fled. By that time it was too dark to follow him, and Monckton never had another opportunity to renew his pursuit.
None of the inhabitants was brave enough to repeat Monckton's attempt to capture the brute and until the British expedition reached New Guinea he has prowled around with impunity, occasionally descending upon the rudimentary huts of the pigmies and destroying those who failed to fly in time.
The British explorers were of Monckton's experience, and in fact, it is believed that one of the principal objects of the expedition was to secure a specimen of the strange monster. It has long been known that there were many mammals in New Guinea still to be discovered, but just what they expected to find the scientists themselves could not tell.
New Guinea lies to the east of what is known as Wallace's line, an imaginary line defined by A. R. Wallace, on one side of which only placenta animals are found, while on the other only marsupials exist. No tapirs or rhinoceroses exist to the east of Wallace's line, which includes Australia and New Guinea, but about the period when the mastodon and the mammoth flourished in America a huge marsupial known as the diprodont is known to have existed in Australia. Fossil remains recently discovered leave no doubt as to its gigantic size, and although there is, of course, no means of ascertaining its appearance in life, as it has been extinct for several thousands of years, the gazeka appears to bear a marked resemblance in form to this ancient monster.
That a few diprodonts could have survived to this day despite the extinction of the main part of the type, is not considered unlikely by the scientists, who point out that nature does not usually blot out a whole class of animals suddenly, but that, on the contrary, it is sometimes thousands of years before the last individual member of the type succumbs to the conditions which destroyed his fellows.
The British explorers are enduring many hardships in their scientific expedition. In New Guinea the temperature is never less than 114 degrees in the shade, and water is not always accessible.
But if these ardent explorers really capture a living diprodont they will consider their labors well rewarded.
Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Gazette, August 31, 1910.