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History Mysteries: The Legendary Yacumama, Mysterious Monster of the AmazonTerrence Aym Salem-News.com
The Yacumama real are real. They may even be a previously undiscovered species.
(CHICAGO) - The world is filled with secrets. Many of them it does not give up easily. Empires have risen and empires have fallen in the midst of mysteries-riddles that remained unsolved through the centuries.
One such mystery has haunted the darker, steamier regions of the fabled land of the Amazon. The Amazon, that dark, forbidding river sluggishly twisting its way through Brazil and eight other South American countries. It is a river second in size only to the mighty Nile and it's so wide that no bridge passes over it.
As far back as the Aztecs, legends have been spoken about the monster snakes. The Aztecs of central Mexico made it one of their most powerful gods: Quetzalcoatl.
In the centuries that followed the indigenous peoples of the Amazon often spoke of the Yacumama—the snake of the water. European and American herpetologists shrugged off the talk as myths or as references to the great aquatic boa, the anaconda.
According to the indigenous peoples other giant snakes inhabit the Amazon's shadowy realm too: the Sachamama and the Minhocão, a snake that some Amazon natives believe can alter the land as they pass through.
Despite the herpetologists' belief, the natives were not speaking of big anaconda by different names. They spoke of true monsters-leviathans so huge that the anaconda would be small in comparison. The snakes the natives sometimes spoke of in fear and awe-over village campfires and the safety of their homes—measured 120, sometimes 160 feet long. The heads of these mammoth creatures were said to reach 6 feet wide. They could shoot down prey with explosive jets of water, topple trees in their passage and change the course of minor tributaries.
During the year 1906 the world-famous explorer Major Percy H. Fawcett claimed of encountering a gigantic anaconda while traveling up the Amazon River. He shot the creature and observed it as it lay dying.
He recalled: "We stepped ashore and approached the reptile with caution. It was out of action, but shivers ran up and down the body like puffs of wind on a mountain tarn. As far as it was possible to measure, a length of 45 feet lay out of the water, and 17 feet in it, making a total length of 62 feet ... such large specimens as this may not be common, but the trails in the swamps reach a width of six feet and support the statements of Indians and rubber pickers that the anaconda sometimes reaches an incredible size, altogether dwarfing the one shot by me. The Brazilian Boundary Commission told me of one killed in the Rio Paraguay exceeding 80 feet in length!"
Yet the professional academicians and peer-reviewed herpetologists were far from convinced. Monstrous snakes just seemed so patently outlandish.
So the controversy festered for another century until two brothers, Mike and Greg Warner, mounted a an expedition into the Amazon jungles hunting for evidence of the monster snakes. The expedition was inconclusive, although they recorded mammoth snake trails and took testimonies from natives who claimed to have seen the Yacumama.
Mike Warner talked to hundreds of natives and workers who had encounters with the Yacumama. He researched thousands more. He notes that both native tribes of certain African regions and natives near the Amazon River in South America describe a huge snake that "carries its water with it.”
Although the first expedition failed to find the elusive Yacumama, the brothers were undeterred. After raising new funds two they mounted another expedition to the Amazon.
It seems that they found it. In fact, their findings are so credible that the National Geographic Society expressed serious interest in the brothers' research and findings.
What they found tallied with previous eyewitness reports.
Over the years, many sightings of Yacumama have included descriptions of the snake as sprouting horns on its head. This peculiar feature, mentioned in so many reports coming from independent observers up and down the Amazon, has led Warner to his hypothesis that the Yacumama could be a prehistoric version of the modern day caecilian. Most of the 50 or so species of caecilian that are cataloged do have a groove running along either side of the head that contains retractable tentacles. To untrained observers, they may appear as horns.
According to Mike Warner, "The exact species of this creature is unknown but we believe that the physical characteristics and behavior are that of a snake [or amphibian] with behavior similar to a caecilian." [An amphibian creature similar to a snake.]
Most of the witnesses who have sighted a Yacumama did not spend too much time studying the creature-they usually happened upon it by chance and then turned tail and ran for their lives.
Warner's research led him to discover that the Yacumama seeks its prey near regions where two rivers merge into one, called a "confluence." He determined that those areas provide the mammoth predators a constant supply of food.
He hypothesizes that such a capability may have one or more of the following purposes:
All of the sightings of these monster snakes have similar descriptions. Warner believes that the snakes that natives call the Sachamama (mother of the earth) are the same snakes as the Yacumama. They have grown so large that they've become virtually immobile and therefore no longer forage in the water for prey. He extrapolates upon this hypothesis: "At this point it may release pheromones to attract snakes of the same species and thus feed on them. This process may even restrict the population of this species in a given area."
During the second expedition, Warner was successful in finding and photographing areas where the Yacumama lives, the lagoons it forms near rivers, its trenches (some almost 6 feet across) and photographing some of the monster snakes. These photographs are the ones that excited researchers at the National Geographic Society.
Are the Yacumama real?
Yes, they are real. They may even be a previously undiscovered species. They are also, without a doubt, some of the most dangerous and terrifying predators in the animal kingdom.
In the links below you will find the first documented photograph of one of the world's largest snakes. Known by the names of Yacumama, Sachamama and the Black Boa by the indigenous Peruvian cultures of the Amazon. The snake in the photograph is estimated to be more than 130 feet long with a head wider than 6 feet across.
Terrence Aym's version of this article on helium.com
Terrence Aym is a Salem-News.com Contributor based in Chicago, who is well known nationally for his stirring reports on the top ranked site, helium.com. Born in Minnesota, Terrence Aym grew up in the Chicagoland suburbs. Having traveled to 40 of the 50 states and lived in 7 of them, Aym is no stranger to travel. He's also spent time in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and Western Africa. An executive for many years with Wall Street broker-dealer firms, Aym has also had a life-long interest in science, technology, the arts, philosophy and history. If it's still possible to be a 'Renaissance man' in the 21st Century, Aym is working hard to be one.
Aym has several book projects in the works. Media sites that have recently featured Aym, and/or discussed his articles, include ABC News, TIME Magazine, Business Insider, Crunchgear.com, Discover, Dvice, Benzinga and more recently, his work has been showing up in South Africa and Russia.
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