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From the files of the River Journal's Surrealist Research Bureau

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South American Bigfoot?

One of the lingering mysteries the early explorers of the Americas left us is the identity and whereabouts of the so-called “Bigfeet of South America,” a tribe of 8- to 9-foot hairy men reported by all of those explorers of the dawn off the southern tip of South America.

Magellan, in 1579, wintered in the strait that now bears his name and, after two months without seeing anyone, one day saw a naked, hairy man of “giant stature” dancing wildly on the shore. Offering the giant some beads as a gift, Magellan examined him up close and described the man’s “pet,” an apparent llama, previously unknown to Europe, quite accurately.

The next report, from Sir Thomas Cavendish in 1586 from the same locale, states that a tribe of giant wild men, whose footprints he measured at 18 inches, killed two of his men.

Explorer Charles Debresses’ Historie des Navigations aux Terres Australes, though not published ‘til 1756, reported, “the coast of Port Desire is inhabited by hairy giants 8 feet tall. I myself have measured their footprints as being 24 inches long. We saw a captured wild man, still a boy of 12 or so, who was already 7 feet tall. These are hairy people who go about naked.”

The famous Captain Cook also reported on a tribe of hairy giants along the Straits of Magellan. He captured one, who later escaped by throwing himself overboard, and stated that he, Capt. Cook, though over 6 feet tall, and large by European standards, came only to the beast’s armpit.

Finally, in 1767, Capt. John Byron, in his Voyage around the World in HMS Dolphin, reported giving the tribe of giants gifts of beads and ribbons and that “the method he made use of to facilitate the distribution of them was, by signs and examples, making them sit on the ground that he might put the strings of beads around their necks; and such was their extraordinary size that in this situation they were as high as the commodore when standing.” The title page of his “Voyage” shows one of his sailors giving a piece of hardtack to a 9-foot hairy woman.

After that, nothing; the hairy giants of the Straits of Magellan simply disappeared from history.

Historians today, if they ponder the matter at all, are inclined to dismiss it all as travelers’ tales, lies, and misidentification of a couple of the taller members of a tribe seen from afar. Me, I’m not so sure. I think maybe they died out, perhaps from cholera or smallpox, Old World diseases for which they had no immunity. Perhaps, too, they’re still around; maybe they moved further back into the jungles.

Col. Percy Fawcett, in 1914, while exploring the Amazon, came upon a tribe of giant, hairy wild men who attacked Fawcett’s party with clubs, only retreating when Fawcett’s men fired their weapons in the ground at the creature’s feet. Fawcett reported the strange tribe communicated only by grunts and whistles.

De Loys, in the 1920s, came upon another group of “hairy, ape-like” beings who flung excrement at his party. De Loys and his party shot one of the primates but the body itself was lost in a river rapid, though not before being photographed, a picture that still inspires argument and controversy today. (Google “De Loy’s Ape” and a few websites should pop up you can check out for yourself by clicking here.

So, what happened to the Bigfeet of Magellan’s Strait? Archeology in that part of the world is still in its infancy. One of the early explorers (who’s name escapes me) reported digging up an early grave site and finding human-like bones 10 feet long. I think we’re in for some surprises from that neck of the woods before too much longer.

“I catch myself nurturing the keen regret that I probably will not live long enough to explain to you that which I don’t claim to understand myself. Crickets and toads will follow several steps behind my funeral ceremony; in hushed tones they’ll converse in their picturesque language.” (Lautreamont)

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Jody Forest Jody Forest When he's not hidden behind the palatial gates of his Dover estate, Casa de Bozo, Jody is out using outdated and corny pickup lines on various gullible women.

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