That’s what newly-found Gigantosaurus has, and now the scientists are going to search for a live one in Africa’s swamps
Suppose a gigantosaurus — with a length of a hundred feet and a height of twenty feet at the shoulders — should come walking along the main street of the town! Wouldn’t it cause a little excitement?
Each of his feet could easily cover a street car and smash it and its passengers to a state beyond recognition. He could easily look over the top of an eight-story building without straining his neck in the least. He could easily in his playfulness push over a two or three-story house or building without any effort at all. And if he took it into his head to roll over on his back while the crowds were gazing in awe at him, there would be something more than a hundred people who would never know what had happened to them.
It isn’t probable that a gigantosaurus will come to town, but it is within the realms of possibility. The gigantosauri, like the fools, are not all dead yet, it seems. If the word of Charles Brooks, an explorer and scientist, and of Carl Hagenback, the animal dealer, is to be believed, there are gigantosauri still loose in the dark, damp, sultry heart of Africa. If they are not gigantosauri, they are animals equally as great and fierce, and almost any day now one of them may be shot, lassoed or trapped and brought to America to push over a building or two.
Discovered in Africa
The finding of the bones in East Africa of the biggest gigantosaurus yet known to scientists gives further weight to the statements of Brooks and Hagenback that there are prehistoric monsters still in existence in Africa’s swamps. It was a German expedition which found the remains, and after spending two years putting them together, the expedition announces it has assembled the most gigantic gigantosaurus yet known to man.
Charles Brooks, explorer, scientist and hunter, says that some of the impenetrable swamps of northern Rhodesia, along the southern border of the Sahara desert, may contain almost anything. The natives, he says, have told him that there are creatures in that region so big that they make elephants look like small cats.
There is also Carl Hagenback to hear testimony. The famous animal trainer and merchant astounded the scientific world by asserting in his book, “Beasts and Men,” that the natives of Africa had described to him “a huge monster, half beast, half dragon,” which inhabited these swamps.
It would be very strange, indeed, if some such brute should be discovered alive today and thus lend corroboration to the medieval stories and legends of dragons. Did the people of the ancient world ever see any of these monsters? All of them, at any rate, have fables about them. China from time immemorial has used the fabled dragon as its symbol. The ancient Greek heroes slew dragons. The hoary sagas of the Norsemen tell of dragons. Even the legends of the Christian saints are full of stories of these awful monsters. The myth of St George and the dragon is perpetuated to this very day on the gold coin of England.
Is it not possible that the awful gigantic creatures, the bones of which are being dug up every now and then, are the dragons of old, and that the prehistoric people who lived among them and fled in terror from them handed down their experiences by word of mouth experiences which later grew into fantastic tales of the dragon?
The Chinese, the Greeks, the Jews, the Norsemen, the Gauls, Britons, Romans and Persians of the Dark Ages knew nothing of the bones of extinct monsters lying buried under the earth. Then whence came their conception of the dragon? It is entirely possible that these beasts and reptiles of millions of years ago survived to a later day than the geologists are willing to admit, and that men actually fought and slew them.
If such was the case, the memory or the tradition of such fearsome combats would linger In the mouths of men and be transmitted from father to son la story and song, generation after generation. How else account tor the almost universal belief In dragons that prevailed to comparatively recent days?
It would not be so very strange if the hot swamps of Africa sheltered some descendants of these primeval monsters. These swamps are regions which resemble the prehistoric habitation of these monsters which needed heat and water for their existence. These regions still resemble the worldwide forests of millions of years ago. They are almost impenetrable even to the natives, by reason of the heat, the moisture and the mephitic vapors which rise from the marshes. White men have never ventured to explore them. They are too dangerous because of reptiles, insects and disease. They are regions entirely suitable for the dragons of millions of years ago.
“Dragon” is a very flexible word. It can mean many different sorts of animals. But the general idea of a dragon is a beast with a head like a rhinoceros, a hippopotamus, or a crocodile, with a body of great size, a tall like a crocodile and claws like those of a lion or an eagle. Sometimes it has wings like a bat.
In a broad way, these legendary descriptions coincide with those the geologists give us of the bearers of the huge skeletons that we stare at in our museums — the bones of the dinosaurus, brontosaurus, diplodocus, plesiosaurus, pterodactyl, megalosaurus, ichthyosaurus and all the other giant animals whose names are as terrible as they themselves must have been.
“Having seen the picture of the eight foot diplodocus, now in the Paris Museum of Natural History, it brings back to my mind many stories I heard from natives and pygmies while hunting on the border of the great Sahara desert, regarding monsters which are still in existence,” he says.
“The animals were described as being so large that I ridiculed the idea and, put it down as a stretch of the imagination. The natives were very anxious to be our guides, but I could not at the time bring myself to believe in or trust these creatures.
“Since seeing Carl Hagenback’s report of what he had heard from the same source, I am convinced that the monsters described are still in existence. My information points to the creatures being inhabitants of the surroundings of the lakes in the interior of the desert. That the Rhodesian swamps exist there is ample proof.
“The animals described to me are, first, one like an elephant, but of enormous size, the elephant appearing like a small cat by the side of the other. The second corresponds in every detail to the pictures one sees in the bushmen’s caves throughout Africa of the unicorn. The third is what we conceive a dragon to be like. These monsters and many more monsters which are supposed to be extinct may still be discovered either in the marshes or in the desert.”
Carl Hagenback quotes native runners as telling him of a creature in the swamps of Rhodesia that was “a huge monster, half elephant and half dragon, which was a terror to all men by reason of its great size and swiftness.” Another writer has also heard of these monsters. He submitted to the natives sketches of geological monsters and, correcting these as the natives suggested, at last he evolved a drawing which the natives agreed resembled the terrors of the swamps.
It had the head and tall of a crocodile, the horns of a rhinoceros, the neck of a python and the body of a hippopotamus. It propelled itself with its flappers.
A water-dwelling creature
It is interesting to compare this description with that of the supposedly extinct brontosaurus or diplodocus as given by Dr W D Matthew, of the department of paleontology in the American Museum of Natural History.
“It has,” be says, “a long, flexible neck like that of the ostrich, a thick, short, slab-sided body, and straight massive post-like limbs, suggesting the elephant, and a remarkably small head for the size of the beast.”
As for the specimen found and put together with the Berlin authorities, the like of which may still be found in the African swamps, Dr Matthew gives a description of the creature and a suggestion of its life in the Scientific American.
“The Berlin authorities believe that the animal was amphibious,” says Dr Matthew. “I have already advocated the view that these so-called amphibious dinosaurs were really entirely aquatic, necessarily so because of their gigantic size, which would make it a physical impossibility for them to emerge entirely on dry land. As long as these animals were in the water, their weight would be largely buoyed up, and they would attain, like the living whales and various extinct sea-monsters, a size that is impracticable for a terrestrial animal.
“Thus, too, they would be out of reach of the great carnivorous dinosaurs of the land, against whose attacks they had apparently no such means of self defense as the land dinosaurs possessed. It is, of course, obvious that they were adapted for wading on the bottom, not for swimming, although no doubt they could swim as well.
“According to this theory, the gigantosaurus acquired his huge forequarters and long neck in adaptation to living in deeper waters than his relatives. Here he could wade about in the shallower waters, feeding upon the luxuriant tropical vegetation that fringed the protected shores and retreating to deeper waters when attacked by the fierce carnivorous dinosaurs of the land. After death the carcass would usually be more or less dismembered and pulled apart by fishes or aquatic carnivores before it drifted into a quiet spot and was buried in the slowly accumulating mud.
“The subsequent geologic ages, which piled successive deposits of sand and clay above him and finally brought his remains again to the surface after millions of years of burial and slow petrifaction, have witnessed vast changes in the world of life. The various dinosaurs, terrestrial and aquatic, which were his contemporaries, and the great variety of land and water life of his time became extinct, only to be succeeded by another long period of evolution of new kinds of dinosaurs of even more extraordinary types, although none attained the gigantic size of the sauropoda.
“Then these, in turn, disappeared, and the way was left clear for the evolution of the mammals or higher vertebrates into the various types of living quadrupeds, and toward the end of this long period, in some region yet unexplored, the progenitors of man evolved from the monkey ancestry into the culminating type of evolution.”
Illustrations: Gigantosaurus drawings by Vincent Lynch, and appeared with the above-referenced article published in Scientific American in 1914