Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 8th, 2010
Scott Marlowe playing Teddy Roosevelt on a recent episode of “MonsterQuest.”
I wonder what TR would have been hunting today? The Mongolian Death Worm? The last Thylacine? Sasquatch in the Canadian Rockies?
Intriguingly, I attended Theodore Roosevelt Junior High School in Decatur, Illinois, and while searching for like-minded individuals, I joined the Junior Audubon Club. I was such a cryptoanimal nerd, even way back then. What can I say? I won’t have wanted it any other way!
New York Times
March 31, 1922
ROOSEVELT WANTED TO HUNT MONSTER
Ex-President Thought of Patagonia Expedition When He Went to South America.
KEEN OVER TALE OF FIND
John Barrett Gave Him in 1903 an Explorer’s Account of Strange Amphibian.
WASHINGTON, March 30. – Theodore Roosevelt believed that there might be some huge surviving amphibian in the jungle of the Southern Andes, such as has recently been reported in cable dispatches from South America, and when he went on his expedition which discovered the River of Doubt he had some idea of looking for it.
John Barrett, late Director of the Pan American Union and Minister to Argentina during President Roosevelt’s administrations, has just disclosed that part of Colonel Roosevelt’s expeditionary plans, which hitherto are said to have been untold.
“On reading the first cabled report,” said Mr. Barrett, “that Martin Sheffield, an American of whom I have personal knowledge, had reported that he had seen what appeared to be a plesiosaurian monster, or huge amphibian, swimming in the waters of a Southern Andean jungle lake, I recalled that nearly twenty years ago, in November, 1903, when I was Minister to Argentina, a clear-headed typical American prospector and explorer, whose name I have forgotten, came to the legation. In a convincing way, he proceeded to relate to me a story almost identical with that now reported as told recently by Sheffield, to the effect that he had seen swimming in a lake a huge lizard-like monster with a curved neck.
Impressed by Prospector’s Story.
“His expert discussion of the mineral and timber resources of the Andean plateaus and timber resources of the Andean plateaus and plains convinced me of his sincerity and responsibility. He urged me to help him raise money in Argentina or the United States, preferably the latter, to outfit and conduct an expedition to locate and capture this extraordinary animal, and begged me to write to President Roosevelt about it and mention his name because he had been associated in some way with Roosevelt in the Cuban campaign.
“Although I gave him no promises, he said he would call again. Shortly afterward I wrote President Roosevelt a personal and unofficial letter referring to this incident. In about a month and a half, there came in the legation pouch a personal letter from the President written in his own handwriting, expressing real interest in the story of this American, whom he said he well remembered and asking me to get without fail in touch with him at once and ask him to write all about what he had seen.
“The man meanwhile sent word that he was off again on a mineral and timber prospecting tour in Southern Argentina and Chile, but giving no address and no names of those he might represent.
Said Fresh Tail [sic] Was Found
“In April, five months later, just before I went to Panama as first American Minister, I received a letter from the prospector written from some far away place in Chubut, or so-called Patagonia. He was almost enthusiastic in his story of how he had again found a fresh trail of a strange animal leading to the waters of a lake, although he had not actually seen again the beast as in his first experience.
“This letter I at once forwarded to President Roosevelt and I am wondering if it is still in his archives which may have been preserved. Since then I have never received any further word from or about this American prospector. Possibly he may be alive and read this and give the world some further information.
“When I returned to the United States the first salutation President Roosevelt gave me as I entered his office in the White House was: ‘Well, Old Pan-American, where is your Argentine amphibian, and what has happened to—-’ calling the man’s name. It is my impression that Representative [Joseph] Cannon and several other Congressmen were in the room at the time and they may recall this salutation because everybody seemed amused by it.
“After the departure of the others the President for half an hour discussed, as an enthusiastic naturalist and scientist, the possibility of there being some huge surviving amphibian descended from the ancient plesiosaurians, and actually took stock, so to speak, in the story of the American prospector, whom he said he well remembered. I mentioned the incident to Secretary [William] Loeb as I left the President’s office and he may possibly recall my conversation.
Roosevelt Thought of Quest.
“Years later, when Colonel Roosevelt made his famous trip to South America, he told me confidentially just before sailing that, although he had never heard anything further from this American prospector, I should not be surprised if, after his arrival in Argentina, he decided to make a special trip of exploration to Southern Argentina and Chile in the hope of ascertaining whether there was any truth in these stories of this monster amphibian, which strongly appealed to him. He wanted nothing said about it, lest there should be ridicule if he did not succeed.
“Shortly before he left Buenos Aires for his notable and possibly fatal trip up the Parana and Paraguay Rivers into the heart of Brazil, he sent me word through a mutual Argentine friend that he had finally decided on the Brazilian instead of the Argentine expedition.
“After his return to America and when he was recovering from the poison and fever contracted in the wild, hot, tropical jungle of Brazil, I met him for a long walk, when he said: ‘Well, while I am game and glad that I discovered this unknown river in Brazil, I would probably be far better off physically if I had gone to the cooler region of Southern Argentina and Chile, and I might have found that mysterious amphibian, which would have aroused far more human interest throughout the world than an unmapped river.’
“When later [January 6, 1919] he passed away suddenly, undoubtedly as a result of the poison contracted in his Brazilian jungle travels, I could not help thinking that if he had gone after the unknown beast of Argentina, instead of the unknown river of Brazil, history might have been changed.”
Deep appreciation to Jerome Clark for passing along this story.