Saturday, February 19, 2005

Mongolian death worm

Ever since I was little, I loved watching documentaries about strange creatures. Bigfoot, Nessie, Yetis, I was fascinated. I was doing some research for a short story a while back, and I came across the strangest yet: the Mongolian death worm!.

The Mongolian death worm, or Allghoi Khorkhoi as the locals call it, was first described by Roy Chapman Andrews in his 1926 work On the Trail of Ancient Man. The Mongolians spoke of a worm as thick as a man’s arm, about two feet long, the colour of a cow’s intestine (blood red, if by any chance you didn’t know). It lives underground in the sand of the Gobi Desert, surfacing briefly in June and July, the hottest months of the year, and it can kill a man from several feet away by spitting a corrosive acid or delivering an electric shock. It is so feared that the simple mention of it is considered bad luck. Chapman Andrews was a future director of the American Museum of Natural History and a celebrated fossil hunter; he was a serious scientist, but thought the beast’s existence a possibility when he heard the natives’ tales.

The best account of the phenomenon is this Fortean Times article which describes Adam Davies’ recent expedition with another explorer to find the creature. They did find a wooden carving of a death worm (which looks suspiciously like a carving of a turd to me), and had a run in with a rather nasty spider, but sadly no death worm. Even if you don’t believe in cryptozoology it’s a fascinating look at an expedition to one of the most undiscovered, remote places in the world.

Adam, who funds his trips by working as a civil servant, has been on such expeditions before, and made the news a few years ago. This article makes a mention of his next project, which was to investigate the death worm, and describes the creature as a “7ft snake which is reputed among natives to cut a person dead with one look”. Methinks a BBC researcher has been looking at some of the more sensational internet sites!

It’s easy to be sceptical about such phenomena, but consider this. The Gobi Desert is one of the harshest environments known to man. Until 1990 it was in a communist country, largely cut off from the outside world. It has few natural resources to exploit, and was never a target for western colonialists in the previous centuries, nor did it have much to offer explorers such as plant hunters who were so numerous a couple of centuries ago.

Indonesia, by contrast, has been occupied, or at least fought over, by the Dutch, French, Portuguese, British and Japanese. It has provided timber, spices and other goods, and was regularly visited by international shipping from about 1600. however, it wasn’t until 1912 that these were formally identified. If a 10 foot long lizard, on an island which isn’t terribly remote, can be undiscovered by all except a small community until less than 100 years ago, isn’t it possible that a snake, or worm, that only comes to the surface of a remote desert for 2 months a year, might still be waiting for that photo opportunity with David Attenborough?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best regards from NY! Scrabble 2 letter words Saab toledo oh italian soccer player Christmas clipart domain kid Zocor 3d mol build teamwork in soccer 1 rated double opt in email list Celebrex deaths soccer formations tactics

6:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looking for information and found it at this great site... Flat panels stand virgin mobile merchant account

9:35 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very cool design! Useful information. Go on! » »

10:11 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home