Monday, February 21, 2011

Monster is Frigate Bird? Really Absurd!

In July of 2007, I wrote a short Living-Pterosaur Newsletter article about a Youtube video of a Frigate bird that was suggested as an image of a ropen of Papua New Guinea. I believed and still believe that this mistaken identification of a Frigate bird for a ropen is detrimental to serious living-pterosaur investigations. I have tried to make this point known: Those birds have very little resemblance to the ropen.

More recently, I noticed a post on Ghost Theory (August 13, 2010) that confirmed my concern, for the writer brings up both Wikipedia's "ropen" information and that Youtube video, and most of the commenters on that Ghost Theory post seemed to think that recognition of the Frigate bird on that video disproves, or discredits the idea, that a pterosaur-like ropen exists.

I'll examine one of those comments (by "PNG Wantok") after referencing another post:

Frigate Birds and Freak-Like Nerds
On the Ghost Theory blog, in the post “Caught on Video: Dinosaur or Common Bird?” Youtube videos of an obvious Frigate bird are displayed as if new evidence. It is neither new nor detrimental to objective evaluation of serious investigations of reports of living pterosaurs.
As to the comment by "PNG Wantok," I'll first explain his pen name: In Papua New Guinea (PNG) one of the three national languages is Tok Pisin; in that language, a common word is "wantok," which means something like "those who speak my language."

He says, "Knowing the hunting prowess of the Papuan people, if there was any animal out there they could shoot or trap, they would have by now and there would be plenty of bones available as evidence." But there are major problems with his reasoning that there is no such creature as a ropen.

Starting with "bones available as evidence," how are new species discovered deep in the interior of the island of New Guinea? (Keep in mind, this is one of the largest islands in the world, and one of the least explored areas in the world.) If I understand correctly, scientists do not first examine bones given them by natives and then search for the creatures, finding living ones; at least that has not been the pattern in recent years when new species of frogs and other small animals are discovered.

But a critical problem lies in the assumption that an animal like the ropen must be something the natives "could shoot or trap." Years of cryptozoological expeditions in Papua New Guinea have revealed much about this nocturnal creature and about the natives who talk about it: This creature is not hunted but feared, and some accounts involve humans being killed and carried away, not necessarily in that order.

And how would bones of ropens ever get into the hands of Western scientists if those creatures were both reclusive and uncommon? Even if natives in some remote village could get their hands on the bones, how would those bones come to the notice of Westerners? Many of those villagers have little or no contact with the outside world, and even if they did, how would they know which bones would be of special interest to outsiders?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Marfa Lights and James Bunnell

It seems odd to me that Wikipedia makes almost no mention of the name "James Bunnell" under the heading of "Marfa Lights." What scientist has done more research and conducted more searching for Marfa Lights than he has, with at least two nonfiction books on the subject? What other investigator of ghost lights in southwest Texas has been granted permission to set up remote automatic cameras on the private property of ranchers?

Bunnell's recent book, Hunting Marfa Lights, deserves attention here, with a quotation from Amazon:
Hunting Marfa Lights reports the results of an eight-year investigation (2001-2009) into mysterious lights seen near Marfa, a small West Texas town. This is, to date, the only long-term, extensive study of these phenomena. Reports of unusual lights east of Marfa extend back to the 1800s. Based on data collected, the author finds that while most of the observed lights in this area can be explained, about 3 percent are truly mysterious and of unknown origin. In addition to frequent on-site observations and photography, the author installed three automated monitoring stations equipped with a total of nine cameras, to collect nightly video records. Included in this 311-page book are 34 firsthand accounts from eyewitnesses and more than 120 illustrations and photographs. Of particular interest are compelling stories told by people, including the author, who have encountered these mysterious lights and have been astonished and amazed by the experience.
Although Mr. Bunnell may not yet have accepted the possibility that CE-III mystery lights near Marfa, Texas, are from bioluminescent flying predators, his enormous contributions, documented in his recent book, have made a wonderful contribution. That said, much has been written, online, about the pterosaur possibility:

Bats and Bioluminescent Predators
. . . when one of the bioluminescent predators has been glowing for awhile, not far above the ground, it will be joined by another of its kind, which will then turn on its own glow. After insects have been attracted to that area, the two creatures will separate, which appears to distant human observers to be one light splitting into two. The predators will fly away from each other for some distance, then turn back and fly together. During the separation, bats may begin feeding on the concentration of insects before being caught from two sides by the larger predators.
Are Marfa Lights Headlights?
To the best of my knowledge, no scientist who has studied or researched or observed any lights around Marfa, Texas, (including James Bunnell, Edson Hendricks, and Norman Huntington) objects to the idea that some spectators at the Marfa Lights Viewing Platform sometimes observe car headlights and have assumed that they had seen "Marfa Lights." . . . But that is not the point. Other lights that occasionally fly around this part of southwest Texas appear quite different; they are not mirages of car headlights.
Marfa Lights of Texas
The cryptozoological possibility seems weird, but there are similarities with the ropen lights of Papua New Guinea, and there the lights are said to be nocturnal flying creatures described like giant Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs: ropens.
"Marfa Lights Solved" - Is it a Giant Bird?
Did those students of the University of Texas at Dallas really solve a controversial mystery? I think not. Ask the right question in the beginning, for it can lead us into enlightenment; asking the wrong question (even if answered correctly) can lead us into ignorance. This appears to be a critical error that doomed those students to failure, for they seemed to have formulated a question like, “Can car headlights near Marfa, Texas, appear mysterious?”
Marfa Light Madness?
Leaning heavily on sarcasm does more than guarantee a writer's work will be forgotten. It puts the writer's opinion in doubt, for reasoning should come first. The person who wrote the above critism may have had something worthwhile in mind, before writing; but the comment itself throws the possibility of deep thinking into doubt.
The overall evidences, from the truly mysterious (and somewhat rare) Marfa Lights (not the night-mirages of car headlights, which are common) suggest intelligent nocturnal predators, bioluminescent, and possibly related to the ropen or indava of Papua New Guinea.