Saturday, June 11, 2011
I saw two episodes (looking for Cadborosaurus and the Amazon beast called mapinguari) of the new National Geographic cryptozoology series "Beast Hunter." Not bad - certainly better than most programming on the subject. Biologist Pat Spain seems to be under contract to utter the word "scientific" at least 400 times an episode, but he's open-minded and as thorough as the one-hour format allows. (Spain is related to Charles Fort, the famed collector of oddities). He thinks there is a real unknown animal in the Cadborosaurus saga, perhaps something that normally inhabits the deeps and surfaces only occasionally. He meets a scientist at Woods Hole who cites, approvingly Charles Paxton's statistical work estimating some 10-50 large undiscovered animals remain in the ocean. Spain looks at the conventional explanations and is careful to note how eyewitness error, fear, and myth can influence what is reported. Spain also says the bizarre, serpentlike oarfish can grow to 50 feet, and I wonder where he is getting that - 25 seems to be about the longest documented.