Tuesday, 20 November 2007

DAY SIX: “The most savage land I’ve ever been in”

We heard from the increasingly beleaguered expedition, or, as Nick Redfern has dubbed them ‘the Guyana five’ just before 10 this evening GMT. Richard gave such a graphic description of the problems with which they have had to deal, that when he culminated his account with the quote that we have taken for the headline of this bulletin, we couldn’t bring ourselves to reprimand him for having split an infinitive. After all – although I can feel my late father rolling in his grave as Corinna types this, there are worse things than massacring the Queen’s English.

They reached the swamps late yesterday, and they have spent most of today exploring them.

In Richard’s words they have been ‘going through hell’. “No shade, no trees – it’s a nightmare … the Gobi desert was a breeze compared to this”, said Richard, and he described how the intense heat was causing a series of spontaneous bush fires. One of the biggest for the expedition is that, whereas on other expeditions they have started work at 7.00 in the morning and carried on to dusk, because of extreme conditions they just cannot do this. Richard described how he spent a large part of the hottest part of the day standing knee deep in a muddy swamp, in the inadequate shade of a crumbling tree, in a vain attempt to keep cool.

Perhaps ‘armchair cryptozoologists’, who like nothing more than to sit back and criticise expeditions such as this, would like to try really roughing it for once in their pampered lives. We have received a lot of mail over the past few days, most of it favourable and supportive, but there have been people whingeing about how the team are merely on an expensive foreign ‘jolly’. Well, it was certainly expensive, they are certainly in foreign parts, but the descriptions of injuries, heat stroke, and other privations paint a far from jolly picture.

There have also been postings on one of the British Fortean message boards, suggesting that this expedition is fundamentally floored because it was paid for by a computer games manufacturer. This is, as Oll Lewis pointed out in a robust rebuttal, complete nonsense. These days nearly all scientific endeavours are sponsored by somebody; usually biochemical manufacturing companies, medical research facilities, but often more dubious portions of the military industrial complex. From where I am sitting, being sponsored by someone who is – as Berry Gordy once said – “part of the industry of human happiness”, is morally, at least, infinitely preferable. People whom I regard as being morally dubious have offered us sponsorship in the past; people who wanted to use our research to bolster up their own peculiar political/religious agenda. We refused to have anything to do with them, and will continue to refuse to do so. We are proud to be carrying out this difficult, and without blowing our own trumpets too much, intrepid investigation in conjunction with Capcom, and hope that our relationship with this company, who do nothing worse than provide entertainment for millions of customers, will continue in the future.

Both Richard and Paul (Mr. Biffo) have suffered from heat stroke today, and on top of having broken her thumb two days ago, Lisa has now compounded her injuries by losing a toe nail, which has – in Richard’s delightful West Midlands patois – “made her foot go all manky”.

They spent the day battling with extreme heat in a vain search for anacondas. Although they didn’t see any living snakes, they did find the tracks of a specimen that they estimated to be about 15 foot in length. This is one hell of a snake. For the record, the largest anaconda to be generally accepted by mainstream scientists was about 28 feet long, and the ones that the expedition is searching for evidence of, maybe between 40 and 50 feet in length, so the 15 footer that left tracks at Crane Pond, for our intrepid expedition to find is now’t but a wee bairn. After fruitless investigation of Crane Pond, earlier today they trekked across the savannah to another pond called Cashew Pond. On their way they saw and filmed a giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tirdactyla) – a gloriously bizarre edentate which can grow to a size of 8 feet (2.4 metres).

This expedition is particularly exciting for me because my great hero Gerald Durrell visited Guyana when it was still known as British Guiana in 1950, and recounted his adventures in a wonderful book called Three Singles to Adventure. I suppose, here, I should reassure any of the readers of this blog who are agog with anticipation of some degree of sexual impropriety, that the term ‘singles’ refers to one-way rail tickets rather than any indication of their marital status. Coincidentally, on another trip three years later, Durrell too encountered a giant anteater, and brought her – hand tame – back to Britain where she captivated the hearts of both the book buying public and visitors to Paignton Zoo for many years. As I am feeling generous, to celebrate the end of the first half of the expedition, I will give a prize of a year’s free membership of the CFZ to the first person who emails me on jon@cfz.org.uk telling me the anteater’s name.

But I digress.

The team are staying at Cashew Pond tonight. As you read this, Richard will be going through agonies of guilt, because – as the expedition is living off the land – their hunter earlier shot a young cayman and they are planning to have it for their tea. As Richard is a great lover of the crocodile family, this will be extremely difficult for him. As I have eaten both alligator and crocodile in my time, I can reassure you – and by proxy them – that it tastes like a slightly fish version of McDonald’s chicken nuggets, and will certainly not launch any of the team on to a full-time career as reptile gourmands.

Tomorrow they head back towards Letham Station, where, hopefully, they will be successful in chartering a helicopter to take them to Corona Falls, which is some 70 miles away, and is reputably the mother load as far as giant anacondas are concerned.
As Graham so rightly pointed out, this expedition really is experiencing “science in the raw”, and I am sure, like us, your thoughts and prayers are with them.


Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

Whew! I'd have to be pretty well starving to death to consume anything remotely resembling the flavour of Chicken McNuggets!

I don't have a gripe about the expedition sponsor at all. With any luck they'll bring out an X-Box version of the CFZ Guyana Expedition; and I'll be able to role-play as a virtual Richard Freeman, battling caymans and man-eating Didies from the comfort of my keyboard and monitor.

youcantryreachingme said...

Fantastic update. Thank you Jon for putting in the time.

No need to apologise for the wrong country in the title. All are well and safe and on the ground in the search - that's all that matters.

I wouldn't spend too much time responding to critics of the sponsor either. I would love to have Capcom put together some equipment for me in my searches for Eastern quolls, Tasmanian devils and thylacines! Perhaps they'll be known amongst the gaming quarter for their radical approach to species discovery ... the gaming industry is certainly big enough to promote a champion in that arena. I can see a spawn of cryptosearch games coming on now.

But I too digress.

Great stuff - looking forward to the next installment.

youcantryreachingme said...

oops - my reference to "the wrong country" was actually to a post on a forum - not the update on this website :(


Oll Lewis said...

"With any luck they'll bring out an X-Box version of the CFZ Guyana Expedition"

With Jon, graham, corinna and I as unlockable characters perhaps...

I heard that the next monster hunter game is coming out as an exclusive to the Wii, btw.

Dave Satan QC said...

It's nice to hear some mention of Sr. Biffo, because with all the talk of him having to 'bulk up', I was becoming convinced that he'd only been taken out there as some kind of emergency food source.

Neil A said...

Here's to the guys hoping they are safe and well trudging through, what I'm sure are some of the most inhospitable terrain and terrible heat.
Keep us informed of their safety Jon,
Best wishes