Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Positive News of the Week



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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Weird News of the Week



Blazing Siberian UFO Sighting

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Positive News of the Week



Welcome To Santa School

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Aztec UFO Incident: Scott Ramsey Meets Stanton Friedman



"The authors have done a superlative job documenting the crash and recovery of an alien spacecraft in Aztec, New Mexico, in March 1948. Their three decades of investigation, supported by countless interviews and more than 55,000 pieces of documentation, leaves no doubt that a disc was recovered by the U.S. Government. This is a compelling book that should be read by anyone interested in the UFO phenomenon, and in what our government knows about the alien visitation of our planet!"
--Peter B. Davenport, director, National UFO Reporting Center

Who could have imagined that the high desert flying saucer crash near Aztec, New Mexico in 1948 would be the focus of such history-altering events impacting the perceptions of so many lives throughout the world?   

Documents are examined from the CIA, FBI, Air Force and the U.S. Army whose purpose was to smother the Aztec story with cover ups, misinformation and destructive allegations that will hold you spellbound. The Aztec UFO Incident delivers the truth of Aztec, and readers will understand  a powerful story about this flying saucer landing.


Here we take a glimpse at Chapter 3 from this new release

Because nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman is a highly respected researcher and author in the UFO field, I (Scott) vividly remember my first personal encounter with Friedman. This is my account of that meeting:

My first meeting with Stan Friedman was in early 2000 when I was helping the Aztec Library develop its Aztec UFO Symposium. The symposium was organized to raise awareness for and to assist in raising funds to build a desperately needed new library building for Aztec. The library building now stands as a symbol for the success of the symposium and the corresponding help from the New Mexico Legislature.

I talked with Stan on the phone and invited him to be one of our speakers for the 2000 fundraiser. At that time, the Aztec UFO Symposium had a reputation of bringing in provocative and important speakers to the symposium, and it prided itself in hosting world-renowned guest speakers who were authorities in the UFO field. The event was always held in March, near the anniversary of the alleged Aztec UFO crash. Stan told me he was more than happy to attend, even though the only inducement we could offer at that time was a plane ticket from Canada, a hotel room, and three meals a day.

Because Stan was speaking that week at the University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque, I agreed to fly in from Charlotte, North Carolina, and meet him at the airport so that we could then drive the 148 miles to Aztec. It was exciting for me have Stan alone in the rental vehicle for about three hours. I had always been a fan of his, as I remember watching him on local television in Pittsburgh when I was a kid. Stan was a frequent guest on either The Marie Torre Show or on local TV news any time the subject of UFOs was discussed.

As I loaded Stan into my rental car that Friday at the University of New Mexico, we discussed his lectures the previous two days at UNM and the fact that they were so well attended that he had to schedule lectures on both Wednesday and again on Thursday just to keep the fire marshal at bay. As we negotiated the scenic drive from Albuquerque to Aztec, Stan asked me why a guy from North Carolina was helping a small-town library raise funds. I explained that I was researching whether the old story about a UFO crash at Aztec would turn out to have as much substance as had been discovered with the Roswell Incident. Stan was quick to remind me that most people had written off the Aztec crash story many years before, but he said he was open to any new evidence.

We talked for the entire three-hour drive, and I laid out the evidence I had found in my research up to that point. I don’t think he was overly impressed with what I had found, but he encouraged me to keep on digging. He was interested in the fact that we had found some potential witnesses, as first-person sources were the one thing the Aztec story always lacked.

Since that time, Stan returned to Aztec many times as a speaker, and he was always there for us when we needed to bounce ideas off him. His visit to Aztec in 2000, and our subsequent relationship, was the beginning of an important phase of our research.

Stan and I talked to the press during the Aztec UFO Symposium of 2003 and, during an interview with Farmington Daily Times reporter Debra Mayeux, Stan mentioned that both he and I were always looking for new witnesses for the Roswell and Aztec cases. Debra’s boss liked her resulting story so much that he filed it on the Associated Press wire. The story ran in media all over North America.

At that point, I felt that maybe Stan was starting to look at the Aztec Incident with new eyes. He had just heard the research we reported during the three days at the Symposium, and I could see the gears in his head turning. Shortly after the 2003 Aztec Symposium, Stan was on a national radio show and mentioned my Aztec research. Virgil Riggs, who was living at the time in Evanston, Wyoming, happened to be listening to the show that night. Virgil had grown up in Aztec, had attended the local school, and had witnessed the 1950 Flying Saucer Armada that appeared over Farmington and Las Vegas, New Mexico, and was a front-page UFO story in 1950. (We have more on the UFO Armada in this book, as we are among many serious researchers who feel that it was one of the most important and best-documented UFO sightings in New Mexico.) Virgil contacted Stan and said that he was pleased to hear that someone was researching the old Aztec story, as he had always maintained an interest in the event.

On the morning of July 9, 2003, I (Scott) received an e-mail from Stan saying that he had a possible lead to the Aztec Incident. A day or two after receiving the e-mail from Stan, I responded in kind to Virgil and asked if we could talk by phone. Virgil said he was more than willing, and the first phone conversation lasted for hours. Aside from our mutual interest in the Aztec Incident, we had many other shared interests. We talked about the town of Aztec and agreed it was located in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. Because he was a private pilot, Virgil agreed that he would fly in to Aztec and discuss with us what he had learned while in the Air Force and stationed at RAF Welford, Newbury, Berkshire, England. He was assigned to the U.S. munitions depot on the base in 1964.

Virgil Riggs doing annual maintenance on his Cessna

The Virgil Riggs Story: Aztec UFO Crash of 1948

As a kid growing up in Aztec, NM, in the late 1940s to the late 1950s, I had heard many folks talk about the UFO crash north of Aztec. Kids at school would occasionally discuss when and where it had occurred.

For the old-time Aztec folks, I attended Mrs. Martin’s 2nd grade class in the old four-room, red brick, two-story schoolhouse. There were big enclosed fire escape slides from the second floor. It was located on the site where the “new” high school was constructed in the mid-1950s.

I had heard my dad and other roughnecks in the oil “patch” discuss the crash and the “little guys inside!” I don’t think my dad seriously believed the event occurred, as he was not witness to the happenings. But the subject of the crash was the topic of many conversations at The Gas Cap Café, The Aztec Café, Bill’s Place Bar, and The Hiway Lounge, all of these places [I went to] with my dad. While we were looked down upon as “oilfield trash,” the so-called “good” people of Aztec had no problem cashing my dad’s oilfield paychecks.

I went into the U.S. Air Force in March of 1960 and was stationed at Bolling AFB, Washington, DC, and later at Kunsan AB, Korea. After the isolated tour of duty in Korea, I was allowed my choice of duty assignments and opted for a conservative overseas assignment; I asked for Japan, England, France, or anyplace in Europe. In 1964, I was assigned to the U.S. munitions base at RAF Welford, Newbury, Berkshire, England.

Duty in England was good. I bought a little English car, a Morris Minor. My sister in Farmington, NM, mailed me a NM State University window sticker, which I put in the window of the little car.

I was at work at the base motor pool one day when a fellow from the vehicle maintenance shop walked across the street and asked me if I was from New Mexico, as he had seen the sticker on my car. We introduced ourselves. His family name was Donald Bass, with the nickname of “Sam” (like the old gun slinger). We compared past duty stations and realized that we had both been stationed in Korea about the same time! I was in Kunsan AB, and Sam had been at Osan AB in 1963/1964, before we were both reassigned to RAF Welford in England.

I told Sam Bass that I was from the Four Corners area of New Mexico. He asked me if I ever lived in Aztec. I told Sam that yes, I indeed lived in Aztec and knew the area and town fairly well. Sam said that he had been in Aztec briefly in 1948. I assumed that he had been in the oilfield. Sam suggested that we meet at the Airman’s Club after dinner and talk; I agreed.

Our conversation was pretty much about Aztec. I asked Sam why he was so interested in Aztec, NM.

Sam asked me what all I knew about the UFO crash at Aztec in 1948.

I told him that I had heard about it for most of my life, but had no direct knowledge about it. Sam then asked me if I thought we were alone in the universe. I replied that I thought there had to be intelligent life out there somewhere. Sam told me that he knew for a fact there was life from elsewhere, as he had seen some actual “little bodies” and that he had been involved with the UFO crash retrieval at Aztec, NM, in March of 1948! He had been stationed at Roswell, NM (Walker) and was flown with a group of USAF personnel to Durango, Colorado by C-47 (DC-3) aircraft, then driven on down to the crash site.

Sam told me that he had seen the bodies at the Aztec crash site, as they were loaded onto a truck. He did not tell me if the bodies were in body bags, caskets, or preserved in any way, but he thought they were placed in the cargo truck for protection from the elements and out of sight. He thought the bodies were eventually moved to Ohio by road transportation and that the craft was moved by road transportation to the new secure airport at Los Alamos, NM. Sam also related that a light spring snowstorm had occurred while the detachment was at the crash site before the craft was disassembled and removed. Sam was amazed that the snow and ice accumulated on the military vehicles, but there was no accumulation on the craft’s surface.

I asked Sam about the food and quarters for the troops while at Aztec. Sam said they were on the crash site 24/7 and never left. They were provided food rations and sleeping bags. Sleep in shifts was in, under, or in the cargo bed of the military vehicles.

No tents or cots or hot chow was available. Latrine facilities were in the brush. Sam’s main duty was to provide perimeter security of the crash site, to keep people away. Sam was at the very bottom in the chain of command and was a very young trooper at the time.

We carried on this conversation for the next three years, [during] which Sam’s story never changed, enhanced, or embellished. Sam warned me not to talk about the event at Aztec, as talking about the UFO crash had caused his U.S. Air Force career to suffer badly. He was the only A/2C (E-3) with nearly 20 years of services that I had ever met. I was 22 years old, and Sam was in his late 30s. Sam always looked over his shoulder and always ended our conversation that perhaps he had “talked too much already.”

Sam and I both were advanced to A/1C (E-4) about the same time at RAF Welford. Sam and I both got married about the same time in 1965. We both moved into the married quarters on the base at RAF Welford, into trailer houses next to each other for nearly three years. Sam is a good friend and I certainly hope that he can be located. I hope that he survived Vietnam.

I went back to the U.S. for separation from the U.S. Air Force and entry into the U.S. Navy Seabees, in July of 1968. Repeated tours of Vietnam followed. Sam Bass went directly to an air base in Vietnam, I think about the same time. Have not seen or heard about Sam since. I am now about 71 years of age; Sam will be about 91 years of age or more.

I heard Stanton Friedman on a radio program one evening in 2003 talking about Scott Ramsey and his research into the 1948 UFO crash at Aztec, NM. Mr. Friedman asked for anyone with any knowledge of the event to email him. I sent an email and it was forwarded to Scott Ramsey.
As a child at school, I also remember going outside at recess and looking at some of the mass UFO formations in the area about 1950. This later became known as the Farmington Armada.

Virgil J. Riggs
August 24, 2015

USAF duty orders.
Analyzing the Donald Bass Story

Virgil and I (Scott) met many times in our search for Donald Bass, also known to his fellow servicemen at the Welford base as Sam Bass.

Countless hours have been spent trying to find Bass. Frank Warren and I (Scott) have spent so much time on Donald Bass that we think we know every Donald Bass in the United States of America. We know from the impeccable record-keeping of both Virgil Riggs and the Air Force that Donald Bass did exist. We found photos of him in the RAF Welford Year Book on their web site. We have the original orders and duty rosters from Virgil Riggs that show Bass’s name and AF number, but sadly, we can’t find the elusive man who claimed he was at the actual recovery or retrieval of the Aztec saucer.

What is interesting about Bass’s account are the similar details about Aztec that we discovered elsewhere in our research, such as the recovery team being flown into Durango, and then being driven down to the crash site. This was the same means of transportation that the mysterious Dr. Gee took on his way to the Aztec site. The second part of Bass’s story that struck me is again the talk of “little bodies” that were seen at the site.

One of the valid questions often asked is whether people are confusing the Aztec crash with the Roswell Incident. That question was addressed in the early stages of our research. They are facts that both stories are about New Mexico, that the time frame is only eight months apart, and that both stories talk about recovered flying saucers and the subsequent recovery of small human-like bodies. But, after we spent years digging into the story, we came to the inescapable conclusion that Aztec was a completely separate New Mexico incident. The facts presented in this book show that the Aztec case stands on its own bona fides.

Virgil was a regular at the Aztec UFO Symposium, and flying in to his hometown gave him a chance to come back to see old friends and family members. He is still a private pilot, retired engineer, and a great outdoorsman. He loves his big game hunts and hiking the mesas in New Mexico. On one particular occasion we met him in August 2008 He wanted to visit the crash site and hike around, as we (Scott and Virgil) were both in Aztec for only a few more days.

After walking around and studying the crash site for a few hours, we came back to town for a quick lunch at the Hiway Grill, a landmark for great food and cold beer in the Four Corners area. We spent hours rehashing the Aztec story, Sam Bass, and what the town of Aztec was like in the post–WWII days. At the time of this meeting, the Hiway Grill also included pictures all over the walls showing the area from the early days into the 1960s. A picture of Virgil’s father was on the wall greeting customers as they entered the restaurant. There was another photo showing his father working an oilrig. The current Hiway Grill is a modification of the original Hiway Lounge, originally located across the road.

We talked about his long career in the military as well. Virgil logged approximately 28 years in various services. This includes four years at college and several years in the reserves. His credibility has never been questioned, and his story has remained solid as concrete to this day.

Searching for Donald Bass

We combed through every possible lead we could think of to find Donald Bass. In the summer of 2003, when Suzanne and I (Scott) married, we moved all her belongings from Farmington to Mooresville, North Carolina. We were no sooner unpacked when we were off to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, to visit the Air Force Archives in order to research RAF Welford, and to bring home as many records as we could carry. After four long days of research, only a handful of declassified records were made available to us.

The United States no longer has a relationship with the old NATO base, and the base has been decommissioned. The records are all at Maxwell, and so there must be secrets still hiding in those files.

The search for Donald Bass was a very long one. I can’t say we have given up, but we have tried everything to find Bass, living or dead. Virgil attended the RAF Welford reunion in Nashville in October 2008. At the reunion, some of the veterans remembered Donald, or “Sam,” as they knew him, but no one had heard from him after he was shipped off to Vietnam. We include a photo of Donald in this book for those who want to see the mystery man who claimed to have been witness to the most amazing UFO recovery since Roswell.

BBQ at RAF Welford, 1968. Standing (l–r): Donald “Sam” Bass, Jim Delaney, Butch Martin, Skip Coates, David Siegal, Doug Howell. Seated (l–r): Sgt. Lambert, Darwin “Jack” Jackson.

We have had critics claim that if there were a Donald Bass, he would have shown up on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Donald Bass does not show up on the Vietnam Memorial Wall or Web sites. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial site freely admits that the 58,300 names of the fallen are not complete and that names are added each year. Regional memorial walls rely upon volunteers to contribute names of those who died in the war or as a result of wounds sustained in the conflict.

Did Donald “Sam” Bass in fact talk too much? Why was he still at the rank of A/1C (E3) after so many years in the Air Force? Why are he and his records so difficult to find after all these years?
I located a Bass family with many offspring in South Carolina and spoke with a person who claimed to have been his brother in January 2006. The brother told me all the siblings had taken on the nickname of the famous outlaw Sam Bass. The brother said that Donald, “Sam,” had been stationed in the Southwest—Texas, he remembered—then he went on to Walker (AFB), then to Korea, and to England before finally shipping off to Vietnam.


Sadly, Virgil’s worst fears may have been realized for Donald Bass in Southeast Asia; the sibling told me his brother had been killed by a hit-and-run driver one night while returning to his base in Vietnam.

Scott Ramsey is the foremost researcher into the Aztec Incident, having worked on the story since 1987, discovering archives and pursuing interviews throughout the U.S. Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1957, his entire career as been in the electrical industry. Specializing in magnetic fields and electrical wire, he has worked for Fortune 500 companies, and currently is vice president of sales and marketing for Express Wire Services in Charlotte, N.C.  He is married to Suzanne Ramsey, whom he met in the Four Corners area while doing research. The Ramseys reside on their farm, practicing permaculture and sustainable farming. 

Suzanne (Ninos) Ramsey discovered the Aztec Incident after her mother read Frank Scully's 1950 book Behind the Flying Saucers—the first book about a landed saucer. The Ninos family lived in the Four Corners area, and Suzanne owned a small business there, pursuing media writing and hosting a radio show. She met and married Scott Ramsey after he appeared on her show to discuss his research. Suzanne has traveled extensively, interviewing and pursuing research at university and USAF archives. She is CEO of Carolina Country Provisions, whose main product is Uncle Scott's All Natural Root Beer. The Ramseys live in Mooresville, N.C., where their Aztec research continues.

Frank Thayer, PhD, came to the Aztec Incident project in 2009, when Scott Ramsey shared witness information of the recovery at Hart Canyon. Thayer is a New Mexico native with extensive journalistic and journalism education experience. Now a professor emeritus at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, he has professional experience as a writer, editor, photographer, and educator both in New Mexico and in Canada where he also lived and taught for 11 years. He is a published book author and is co-author of the Ramseys’ successful 2012 The Aztec Incident: Recovery at Hart Canyon.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Weird News of the Week



Office Saves Miniature Donkey

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Tallest American Chestnut Tree

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Positive News of the Week



Chicken Sweaters

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Weird News of the Week




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Creature of the Month: Living Dragons by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart

Th’old Dragon under ground
In straiter limits bound,
Not half so far casts his usurped sway,
And wrath to see his Kingdom fail,
Swindges the scaly Horrour of his foulded tail.
—John Milton, On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity
                            
The Dragon is the primordial and archetypal monster of Western mythology. Dragons rule each of the four Elements: there are wingless cave Dragons, flying Dragons, sea Dragons and fire-breathing Dragons. Males are called “drakes,” and females, “queens.” All have been depicted in occidental legend as ancient, ferocious, and terrifying reptiles, symbolic of the raw, untamable, even hostile power of Nature. Dragons are intelligent, crafty, cruel, and greedy. They have a passion for collecting vast hoards of treasure: gold, jewels, arms, and fabulous relics. These they pile together and sleep upon, guarding them jealously, as with Smaug in The Hobbit.

Fix. 1. Smaug by the Brothers Hildebrandt

Dragons know the speech of all living creatures (including humans), and a drop of Dragon’s blood tasted by the Teutonic hero Siegfried enabled him to understand the language of birds and animals. Possessing strong individual personalities, Dragons have distinctive and magickal names that give power to those who learn them. Such names as Fafnir, Vermithrax, Draco, Kalessin, and Smaug have been given to Dragons in stories. But Velociraptor, Tyrannosaurus rex, Carnotaurus, Deinonychus, and Spinosaurus are other Dragon names in Greek.
Winged Dragons are of two basic types: the four-legged variety, with additional wings like those of bats, or fins supported on extended ribs; and the two-legged Wyvern, whose bat-like wings are formed from its forelimbs. These bear such a striking resemblance to prehistoric pterodactyls that they invite speculation as to the survival of such creatures into historic times. There have been some excellent flying Dragons in movies. Dragonslayer (1981) depicted a Wyvern, and Dragonheart (1996) featured the four-legged variety. Smaug the terrible in The Hobbit has been depicted both ways in illustrations and movies.

Fig. 2. Vermithrax Pejorative from the movie Dragonslayer


Fossilized Dragons

      Although Dragons are considered to be the quintessential creatures of myth and fantasy, they should not be thought of as purely imaginary. In fact, the legends of Dragons have many firm bases in actual animals, both living and extinct (or at least, commonly presumed so).
      Certainly the first true Dragons were the prehistoric monsters that English paleontologist Richard Owen decided in 1842 to call Dinosaurs (meaning “terrible reptiles”). He could just as well have chosen the term Dragons, as this is what they had been called for millennia—and what they are called today by Chinese paleontologists. Ranging in size from no bigger than a chicken to more than 100 feet long and upward of 100 tons (Argentosaurus), they held undisputed reign over the entire Earth for 150 million years, until nearly their entire Order (Archosauria—“ruling reptiles”) was exterminated 65 million years ago in a great cataclysm. Their immense fossilized bones have provided indisputable confirmation, throughout the brief span of human existence, that real Dragons once walked the Earth.

Fig. 3. Allosaurus skeleton in rock

      Perhaps the most intriguing example of this is a 6th century BCE Corinthian vase in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which portrays a monster with what is very obviously a dinosaur skull as a head.1 Similarly, other monsters of legend, such as Gryphons and Cyclopes, have been identified as being based upon fossilized remains of actual prehistoric beasts—such as Protoceratops and mammoths.

Fig. 4. Dino/dragon on 6th century BCE Corinthian vase

But such powerful spirits and intelligences that had existed for so long are not simply exterminated overnight. Just as the long-gone Elves and Little People live on as spirit-beings of Faerie, so the souls of Dragons continue their ancient lineage in the Dragonlands of the Dreaming, holding sway, in our collective memories, over the entire span of mammalian existence.2

Historic Dino-Dragons

Fig 5. Mokêle-M’Bêmbe

      And perhaps some dinodragons still survive even today. From the time of the earliest European explorations of “darkest Africa,” rumors and reports of living dinosaurs have continually trickled out from the vast equatorial swamps of the Congo River basin. Referred to in fearful tones by various local names, monsters such as Mokêle-M’Bêmbe, Chipekwe, Emela-Ntouka, and Muhuru are variously described as having thick crocodilian tails, long necks, horns, back plates, and/or fierce teeth and claws. All of these are familiar descriptions of dinosaurs, and natives shown pictures of those ancient beasts readily identify them as their own local monsters.

Fig. 6. Sta or Mafadet from Egypt

      Additional evidence comes from some of the earliest depictions of Dragons in ancient civilizations—such as the Sta or Mafadet of Egypt, and the famed Sirrush,  or “Dragon of Ishtar,” depicted on the Ishtar Gate of ancient Babylon and dating from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar the Great (605–562 bce). Also called Mushrush or Mušhuššu, this may very well have been the same “living dragon” featured in the Book of Daniel, who purportedly killed it (Daniel, 14:23–27). Was this, perhaps, a Mokêle-M’Bêmbe, brought to Babylon as a tribute from an African ruler?

Fig. 7. Sirrush from the Ishtar Gate of Babylon

      Although dinosaurs and their fossilized remains certainly provide a solid basis for the existence of true Dragons in the ancient past (and possibly even in some lost world in the swamps of Africa), fossilized dino bones cannot account for the many historical reports of Dragons in European history—such as the Dragon of Wantley, the Lambton Wurm, or the Dragon slain by St. George. I believe that many of these represent true encounters with monstrous invertebrate beasts (essentially, giant aquatic slugs) that today we generically call Lake-Monsters. At least this explanation would fit those accounts in which the Dragon is called a Worm or Orm. For a more detailed discussion of such creatures—and my theory on their zoological identification—see my previous “Creature of the Month” article on “Lake Monsters.”


Fig. 8. Typical lake Monster by OZ

Living Dragon Lizards

      Although modern representations of Dragons invariably embellish them with great, bat-like wings, this is not how they were depicted throughout most of human history. From ancient times through the Middle Ages, Dragons were most commonly described as either gigantic lizards or enormous serpents—often with little distinction between the two. Indeed, as many of the preceding entries amply attest, virtually any large reptilian creature—aquatic, terrestrial, or amphibious—was automatically considered to be a Dragon by definition.
      Certainly the first and most striking example of a living Dragon encountered by European explorers was Egypt’s gigantic Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), which often attains lengths of more than 20 feet. Even bigger is the estuarine or saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), the largest of all living reptiles. Normally confined to Indonesia, they are known to reach an astounding 30 feet in length, and prehistoric crocs were even bigger! Some of the classic representations of Dragons are clearly crocodiles.

Fig. 9. Australian saltwater crocodile

      Then there is the famous Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis), a giant monitor lizard, also of Indonesia. It attains a length of 6–10 feet and weighs up to 365 pounds, and has a long, yellow, forked tongue that it flickers in and out like a flame. A much larger prehistoric version of this huge reptile was Megalania (Varanus prisca), which measured 15–20 feet long and weighed 1,000–1,300 pounds. This is certainly a true living Dragon by anyone’s criteria!

Fig. 10. Megalania (Varanus priscus) by i pierwsi mieszkancy

Although Megalania is believed to have been extinct for 40,000 years (since the arrival of humans in Sunderland/Indonesia), sightings of living specimens are occasionally reported from Australia and New Guinea. In 1979, one was spotted by scientist Frank Gordon, who mistook it for a log before it moved off. Aborigines have legends of a giant lizard called Mungoongalli, which is certainly the same animal. Recently, part of a Megalania hipbone only 100–200 years old was discovered in a subfossil state.

Real Flying Dragons


Fig. 11. Pterosaurs

            Certainly, there have been mighty leather-winged Dragons in the paleontological record. The first vertebrates to evolve true flight, Pterosaurs (“winged reptiles”) ruled the Mesozoic skies from 228–65 million years ago. They ranged from the size of a sparrow (Anurognathus) to giants with wingspans of up to 40 feet (Quetzalcoatlus northropi and Hatzegopteryx thambema). In the terminology of medieval Dragonlore, these would be called Wyverns, a term for quadrupedal Dragons whose front limbs, like those of bats, supported their wing membranes.

Fig. 12. Wyvern

      But what then of the hexapod Dragon of popular fantasy—with four legs and two bat-like wings? There have been no hexapod vertebrates in all of Earth’s evolutionary history, so surely such a creature must be impossible, right? Well, don’t bet on it.
      The Genus Draco (“dragon”) contains two dozen species of pretty little flying agamid lizards, such as Draco volens. Only 7–9 inches long, they are found in the rainforests and rubber plantations of Madagascar, India, Southeast Asia, and throughout Indonesia. They have been recorded gliding up to 164 feet from tree to tree on membranous wings supported by extended movable ribs.

Fig. 13. Draco volens

      In the 12th century, the first Europeans began traveling over the ancient Silk Road through Afghanistan to India. They returned with spices, travelers’ tales, and small wonders. Among these were the mummified bodies of what traders claimed to be baby Dragons. And surely they could not be doubted as such—for they had fin-like wings growing from their sides. It didn’t take much imagination for artists and compilers of bestiaries to envision what the vastly enlarged adults of these “infant” Dragons must have looked like. And thus was born the image and conception of the winged Dragon so beloved by us to this very day. Take a closer look at many of the early depictions of winged Dragons, however, and you will see their true origins in these actual lizards which bear their name.

Fig. 14. Medieval fin-winged dragon by Edward Topsell (1607)

Triassic Flying Dragons

      In 1960, three teenage boys in New Jersey discovered the fossil of a 7-inch-long flying lizard with ribbed wings with a 10-inch wingspan, in 200-million-year-old deposits of the late Triassic. It was appropriately named Icarosaurus, after Icarus of Greek myth, who flew too close to the sun on feathered wings held together with wax.

Fig. 15. Icarosaurus siefkeri

A similar Triassic rib-winged lizard, Kuehneosaurus, was about 2 feet long, with a 2-foot wingspan. And a Chinese version, Xianglong zhaoi, dates from the lower Cretaceous, 125 million years ago. Yet another was Koeruroraurabusu. Like Draco, these ancient antecedents could spread their wings for gliding flight, or fold them alongside their bodies. 3

Fig. 16. Kuehneosaurus

Fig. 17. Xianglong zhaoi

Fig. 18. Koeruroraurabusu

      But the most fascinating discovery in the annals of dragonlore was a 250-million-year-old Upper Permian fossil found in a German copper mine in 1910. Its morphology was reinterpreted in 1997 when a complete skeleton was purchased by the Karlsruhe Museum from amateur fossil hunters.4 The 12-inch-long lizard with a flaring head crest, Coelurosauravus, is the oldest known flying vertebrate, with wings unlike those of any other animal. Rather than being supported by internal skeletal elements such as limbs or ribs, its fanlike wing membranes were supported by independent bony rods extending outward and back from each side of the creature’s chest and behind its forelegs—much like the wings of a flying fish. Think of it—millions of years before fishes, birds, pterosaurs, or bats took to the air, the first vertebrate flyers were four-legged reptiles with finlike wings!

Fig. 19. Coelurosauravus jaekeli

      And in June of 2007, an even more remarkable Triassic flying reptile was discovered in a quarry on the Virginia-North Carolina border. Named Mechistotrachelos aperos (“soaring and long-necked”), the 10-inch-long lizard had fanlike functional wings like those of Coelurosauravus, and also a long neck just as Dragons are usually shown to possess.5 That just has to be the coolest lizard ever!

Fig. 20. Mechistotrachelos aperos

      We can only imagine an alternative paleontology where the great Triassic extinction event never happened, and creatures such as Icarosaurus, Kuehneosaurus, Xianglong, Koeruroraurabusu, Coelurosauravus and Mechistotrachelos continued to evolve over another 250 million years, giving rise to larger and larger forms. Surely their descendants would be the very image of our cherished conception of flying Dragons. Indeed, this was precisely the premise behind Discovery Channel’s delightful 2005 “mockumentary:” Dragon’s World: A Fantasy Made Real.

Fig. 21. Dragonheart movie DVD cover

Monster Movies: Dragons

As the most popular of all fabulous creatures, Dragons have been featured in far more movies than any other mythical monsters. Here is a listing of some of them, in chronological order:

Western Dragons:
The Sword and the Dragon (Russian, 1956)
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (Ray Harryhausen, 1958)
Sleeping Beauty (Disney animated, 1959)
Goliath and the Dragon (1960)
The Magic Sword (1962)
Jason and the Argonauts (Ray Harryhausen, 1963)
The Hobbit (animated, 1977)
Pete’s Dragon (Disney animated, 1977)
Dragonslayer (1981): Wyvern
Clash of the Titans (1981): Hydra
The Flight of Dragons (animated, 1982)
Q—The Winged Serpent (1981): Amphitere
Lair of the White Worm (1988): Orm
Dragonworld (1994)
Willow (1988): Orm
Jack the Giant Killer (1994)
The Pagemaster (animated 1995)
Dragonheart (1996)
Hercules (Disney animated, 1997): Hydra
Mulan (Disney animated, 1998)
Quest for Camelot (animated, 1998)
Dragon World II: The Legend Continues (1999)
Jason and the Argonauts (TV, 2000)
Dragonheart II: A New Beginning (2000)
Dungeons & Dragons (2000)
Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
Shrek (Disney animated, 2001)
Reign of Fire (2002)
Shrek II (Disney animated, 2004)
George and the Dragon (TV, 2004)
Earthsea (TV, 2004)
Dragon Storm (TV, 2004)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Hercules (TV, 2005): Hydra
Dungeons & Dragons II: Wrath of the Dragongod (2005)
Dragon’s World: A Fantasy Made Real (TV, 2005)
The Cave (2005): Subterranean Wyverns
King of the Lost World (2005)
Final Fantasy: Advent Children (2005)
Eragon (2007)
Enchanted (2007)
Beowulf (2007)
Dragon Wars (South Korean, 2007)
Fire & Ice: The Dragon Chronicles (2008)
How to Train Your Dragon (animated, 2010)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II (2011)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
How to Train Your Dragon II (animated, 2014)
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (2014)
Dragonheart 3: The Sorcerer's Curse (2015)

Eastern Dragons:
Godzilla (dozens of films from 1954 on)
The Neverending Story (1984)
Mulan (Disney animated 1998)
Dragonheart II: A New Beginning (2000)
Saiyuki (50-episode anime series, 2000–2001)
Spirited Away (Miyazaki anime, 2001)
Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa (anime, 2005)

References:
1.      Mayor, Adrienne, The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times, Princeton University Press, 2011
2.      Sagan, Carl, The Dragons of Eden, Random House, 1977
3.      White, T. H., The Book of Beasts, J.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1954; Dover Publications, 1984
4.      Wilford, John Noble, “Before Birds, a Weird way to Fly,” New York Times, March 11, 1997
5.      Perkins, S., “Winged Dragon,” Science News, June 23, 2007

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Positive News of the Week



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