Thursday, January 26, 2023

NASA's Day of Remembrance


The Explorers


The souls departing Earthbound life

Rise to heaven’s plane

Soldier, sailor, priest, or king

The destiny's the same

But in an even higher realm

With stars always in view

Meet those lost in exploration

Remembering how they flew


Komarov toasts Gus Grissom

And Resnik hugs with Clark

Ramon and Chalwa share a tale

As they look beyond the dark

Adams shares his glory days

With Husband and McNair

And still they watch

And urge us on

To rise above the air.


Don’t cling to mother Earth, they’d say

God has given us the stars

There’s a reason we aspire

To cross the celestial bar

We gave our lives

(we don’t regret)

To push back the frontier

Remember us by challenging

And rising past your fears


Patseyev, Onizuka

Anderson and Brown

Salute each new endeavour

That lifts us from the ground

To every new thrust into space

They raise their glasses high

And remind us we were always meant

To reach beyond the sky.

- Matt Bille, space historian, 2014

Monday, January 09, 2023

Really cool plush Dunk


I just found a second type of plush Dunk toy, and Wow.  

This cuddly Dunk from “Soft time TOY Collectors" is not only much larger than the one I knew about, the Paleozoic Pals toy, but has surprising detail. The armor shield is cut and sewn so the edges come free of the body to hint at how the real animal is articulated.  There are textured pectoral and pelvic fins and even an anal fin. The designer used the lower-lobe interpretation of the tail, stringing two fins along its underside and one on top. The colors are beautiful, maybe even realistic. The interior of the mouth goes back a couple of inches. 

Although the fins have that odd, scalloped look you see on the Schleich vinyl model, the fish overall looks as realistic as a couple of the cheaper vinyls I have. I found this one on eBay: I don’t see them for sale anywhere else. I really love this Dunk Your kids will, too.

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Big Birds: Not a Legend After All?

 I never gave much thought to the appearance in cryptozoology of "giant bird" or "thunderbird" stories, because it's so hard to accurately estimate the size and distance of a flying bird and because huge nests (if they make nests) should be easily spotted.  Photos and films have turned out to be hoaxes, forced perspective, or too distant to identify.  Many of the "big bird" tales describe something more like a leathery pterosaur.  These have to be hoaxes or mistakes, though, because the descriptions match outdated ideas of pterosaurs and not what the real animals looked like.  

But a fellow who saw me on MonsterQuest called me yesterday, and his story deserves attention. 

NOTE: Slight update/edit to this post made on January 9.

Basil Coffman is retired from his latest job, in which he flew for 22 years for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. He has been a pilot for forty-plus years, with a long list of helicopter and fixed-wing ratings, and he stopped logging his hours years ago, sometime after hitting 20,000.   He has done everything for wildlife agencies, including flying caged condors to release points, tracking collared eagles in the air, and much more. He knows birds. 

On February 1, 2001, he was 45-50 miles north of Safford, Arizona, flying back from checking on some bighorn sheep. Over modestly mountainous terrain, he was about 1,500 feet above ground level (AGL), which puts his altitude at 5,000-5,500 feet. Behind him in his Piper Super Cub was a wildlife biologist from the same agency, also with enormous experience in birds. I'm not naming him yet because he's out of reach on a hunting/fishing trip and I couldn't talk to him yet. He has previously told Basil it's ok to tell the story. (They once emailed cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, but they had a lapsed address.) I hope to expand this piece and add his companion's view. But safe to say this is as good a team of witnesses as you could ask for. Readers of this blog and my books know I'm very cautious on cryptozoological claims, but this one has my full attention.    

The men were shocked when a bird on a nearly head-on course glided underneath them. It resembled a golden eagle, but a lighter brown, with a yellow eagle-like beak. The bird passed within 10 feet (maybe 5) of the landing gear.   

Golden Eagle (

Now the astonishing part: they think the wingspan was about that of their Super Cub, which was 23 feet.  That was Basil's estimate: his companion thought it a bit bigger. 

Basil immediately "stood that Super Cub on its wing" and tried for another look. They couldn't find it. Basil, with all his experience, remains thoroughly puzzled how they missed whatever maneuver the bird made, but the 7-10 seconds they had it in view is as vivid now as it was then. When I asked him about regular, if big, eagles, or condors, he was adamant in ruling them out. He'd never seen any bird like this, before or since, not had other pilots he cautiously mentioned it to. The witnesses did not file a formal report: they thought the agency would decide they were drinking on the job or were unreliable.  But the now-retired Basil said he decided this needed to be on the record somewhere. 

I've always worked with pilots, and I know some who could make fishermen blush with tall tales. But my opinion of Basil after phone interviews is that he comes across as entirely sincere. 
There are Southwest big-bird reports in cryptozoological literature, but none of them are like this at all.  An exceptionally huge golden eagle banded in Wyoming, the biggest I can find online, was 17 pounds with a wingspan over 7 and a half feet, so this was three times as big.  
Basil did note that it was odd the bird didn't shy away from the plane until they'd almost collided (he says golden eagles hate airplanes) and it was almost spooky how it eluded them, but insists on what he saw.  

Not only is this far beyond the size of a golden eagle, but no known living bird has a 20-foot wingspan, or even close (one long-extinct condor from Argentina did, but the description is all wrong).  That's just one of the reasons, as I mentioned earlier, I used to dismiss these sightings.  But how, assuming Basil is telling the truth as he remembers it, could he make an error of 10 or 15 feet when he was literally right on top of it?  There's not an easy solution I like.
I don't know what Basil saw. But I want to know.  

Reviews of 400 books on cryptozoology, zoology, and related sciences.  

Thursday, January 05, 2023

Book Review: The Bigfoot Influencers

The Bigfoot Influencers: Compelling and Candid Conversations with Researchers, Scientists, and Investigators

Whitewolf Entertainment (Hangar 1), 304pp.

Tim Halloran's The Bigfoot Influencers is well worth reading. While I research cryptozoology, I've never been deep in the Bigfoot subculture and so have missed a lot (probably to my overall benefit, given the sniping and strangeness, although clearly I've missed great storytelling.) it appears certain). There is a lot in this collection of interviews with Bigfoot hunters I didn't know about.  The QR codes with extra content are a nice touch. The half-star I took off in my Amazon review is for the lack of skeptics: certainly a few merit the "influencer" label. (I hate the term "influencer," but that ship has sunk.) 

It's interesting to read all these people's responses to particular questions, including the most impressive non-personal sighting they know of and what funny or embarrassing memories of the hunt they have.
Some consistent themes emerge. A few think Bigfoot could be an ape, but most agree on a human-related primate. All agree only a body or a part of one would convince science, and no one says that's unreasonable, although there are a few "science won't listen" gripes. Almost all have the same view of why we haven't found it: they're rare, they're smart, they're elusive, and we just haven't gotten lucky enough. (No one, thankfully, goes for "they bury their dead.") Most who mention the PG film endorse it. A few endorse some evidence by known hoaxers, which is very dangerous ground.
The personal sightings vary from what you might call generic to Kathy Strain's very detailed account, which is one of those presenting a stark choice: she saw Bigfoot, or she's lying.
One thing that comes through is the sincere hopes of many researchers. These people want to find an unknown species. I 99 per cent doubt they will, but I hope they do.