#OddPuzzlePieces no. 4

Hi all, and welcome to another #OddPuzzlePieces post. I’ve been busy these last couple of weeks working on all kinds of stuff. My YouTube channel for one. I’ve put a few videos up recently and have gotten back a desire to try and make it work. Right now it does. It’s not big, but it’s fulfilling, and that is becoming more important.

Odd Puzzle Pieces.

In this series I look at things that tend to be based firmly in fact. This post however could be seen as slightly different.

Do you know what a “cryptid” is? According to a Google search a cryptid is:

“An animal whose existence or survival is unsubstantiated, such as the yeti.”

Simple enough. We all know about cryptids then. Who hasn’t heard of the Loch Ness Monster, or Bigfoot? The Kraken or mermaids? These are all well known fabulous beasts that seem to stubbornly refuse to exist, despite the efforts of cryptozoologists all around the world.

What’s a cryptozoologist? It sounds kind of scientific, but cryptozoology is at best a pseudoscience. A lot of fun, to be sure, but just not rigorous and codified as true science is. A cryptozoologist is someone who hunts fabulous beasts. Their methods tend to be, shall we say, unscientific. They take confirmation bias to the next level.

If this is the case, why am I writing about such quackery? Because as Aristotle once uttered: it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. For much of human history these creatures and thousands more were real. They inhabited the world beyond the edges of known maps for thousands of years, as well as imaginations and stories. In fact, the human fascination with exploring the unknown and seeking out fabulous beasts provided some momentum for the birth of modern science.

Fact 1: Tales of strange hominids or ape-like creatures even exist in countries where no such real counterparts exist. The Yowie is a humanoid creature which inhabits Australian bushland and waterways. Believed to be quite tall and hairy (reminiscent of Bigfoot? ) tales of the Yowie are found all over Australia. However,  Australia has no native non human primate species, living or extinct.

A statue of a Yowie in Kilcoy, Queensland. Image: Wikipedia

Fact 2: The Ozenkadnook Tiger was a mysterious striped animal photographed in 1964 by a motorist after a chance sighting in Victorian bushland. This creature has essentially been designated a hoax, but it carries with it a certain mystique. Perhaps it’s appearance is a factor:

This leads on to

Fact 3: Australia has a rather woeful track record when it comes to mammalian species extinctions. Creatures like the Ozenkadnook tiger just won’t go away, because perhaps our guilt over the untimely disappearance of so many species weighs on us. This could be why “sightings” of extinct creatures are a regular occurrence here. The thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger is regularly spotted throughout mainland Australia and on the island of Tasmania.

“Benjamin”, the last Thylacine, died in Hobart Zoo in 1933

At a glance the two “tigers” are superficially similar, with a vaguely dog like appearance and tiger like stripes. Where they differ markedly is that the thylacine is still being “spotted” to this day.

Draw your own opinions. 

Fact 3: Move over Nessie! Australia has it’s own water monsters. The bunyip is a mythical creature believed by Australia’s original inhabitants to frequent water holes, rivers and creeks. 

 

One interpretation of the bunyip’s appearance, produced in 1935 Image: Wikipedia

Fact 4: The bunyip was even on display in the Australian Museum in 1847,  when several fragmentary remains; including a bizarre skull were presented to a curious public. The skull was refuted as evidence for the bunyip by various experts, who declared the skull to be that of a deformed foetal calf.

Fact 5: Science itself owes a debt to the mysterious! That’s all I’ll say about that!

As long as people wonder what’s out there, patrolling the empty spaces of the world, I think there’s hope for us all. As long as we still have imaginations we’re still able to choose the right path for ourselves. Whether these creatures are real or not; or whether they’re extinct or not, we should never stop looking for them. It’s when we stop looking for the mysteries and stop caring about exploration that progress is dead. 

Darren Naish over on Twitter was very helpful, particularly with information on cryptids and the motley folks who pursue them. His input on the Ozenkadnook tiger was invaluable. Darren is an author and zoologist who doesn’t seem to stop moving for one second! Check out his work!

Darren’s Patreon page:

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