The Land That Maple White Found
by Arn McConnell (Wold Atlas vol.1, no.1)
"The megatherium, the icthiosaurus. They paced the earth with seven-league steps and hid the sky with cloud-vast wings. Where are they now? Fossils in museums, and so few and far between at that, that a tooth or knuckle-bone is valued beyond the lives of a thousand soldiers."
--George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman
Where are they now, those leviathan creatures man calls dinosaurs?
They haunt our collective dreams. Very few can honestly claim that they've never been intrigued by dinosaurs. Who can possibly forget the awesome battle between Kong and the allosaurus on Skull Island? Who hasn't marvelled at the dinosaur sequence in Disney's classic, Fantasia? Mankind, since first he looked at the world around him, has been fascinated by our cumbersome predecessors. To some, they are repulsive, hideous monsters that lurk in the recesses of their nightmares. To others, they are glorious examples of Nature's grandeur.
Where are they now, those dinosaurs?
Imagine science as a mile-long line of men composing one huge jury. Imagine, also, their unanimous verdict on the fate of the dinosaurs. As if of one mind, one body, they shake their heads sadly and whisper concurrently, "Gone."
And that is that, of course. The dinosaurs are...gone.
Are they? You know, I can't believe they are. Let's examine our evidence.
Our first investigative effort has to be this question: "Why, if this is true, are the dinosaurs extinct?" The history of paleontology is pockmarked with controversy over this very point. However, today, the general belief is that their lack of intelligence and cold-blooded metabolisms weren't capable of coping with a changing environment. This has been almost universally accepted, until now. Adrian Desmond, in his book, The Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs (Dial Press), argues now that the prehistoric monsters of old were really both hot-blooded and far more intelligent than they've been given credit for. He cites for examples the struthiomimus and the tyrannosaurus, neither of which could possible have done what they're said to have done, and then goes on to demonstrate how they could have, if they were warm-blooded and intelligent.
Desmond's explanation for the dinosaurs' supposed extinction is that the earth underwent a rapid cooling in the latter Cretaceous era, and the gigantic reptiles had no place to nest or hibernate during the cold. However, he too disregards one possibility that I adhere to; perhaps a migration en masse to the southern climes.?
Obviously, the majority of dinosaurs were unsuccessful, but we have the word of several respectable men that dinosaurs are still alive in South America.
Or rather, were until recently. Nowadays, it's difficult to say. At any rate, let us examine the texts that relate to these straggling survivors of our prehistory.
The very first man to come upon this mysterious lost sliver from the past was Maple White in 1900 or 1901. Maple White was a poet/artist from Detroit who happened almost accidentally upon a plateau teeming with various prehistoric life. He managed to escape the summit, but died of a strange fever a year later. His miraculous discovery would have gone unnoticed, if Professor George Edward Challenger hadn't come upon the scene.
Nonetheless, Challenger didn't visit the plateau himself until two years later, in 1903. (The details of his expedition to what he dubbed Maple White Land can be found in The Lost World, by Edward D. Malone, under the name of his agent, A. Conan Doyle.) Challenger managed to bring back a live pterodactyl as proof of Maple White Land's existence, but it escaped and the shocked scientists who had witnessed the unveiling of the pterodactyl put it down as a clever clockwork mechanism. Apparently, the beast made way for its homeland, but was wreaking havoc along the way. Finally, Challenger's cousin Sherlock Holmes killed the pterodactyl with a bullet from his Adams .450 on the deck of the Dutch steamer Friesland. (Baring-Gould erroneously places this event in late 1894.)
The next expedition to Maple White Land, according to Philip Jose Farmer's retelling of J. H. Rosny's L'etonnante Aventure de Hareton Ironcastle (published as Ironcastle, DAW books), was manned by those two intrepid explorers, Hareton Ironcastle and Dr. James Clarke Wildman, Sr. As far as I can tell, this heavily-equipped journey took place some time between the years 1910-1915. According to the text, though, Maple White Land was destroyed by a tremendous volcanic eruption, which seems unlikely after examining all the facts. I feel it is more likely that there was an eruption that obliterated the Ironcastle-Wildman expedition, but it was over with quickly and did little harm to the plateau itself. Ironcastle and Wildman, of course, were quite busy running for their lives at this time, and it is quite possible they really thought the summit was gone.
In 1933, a book came out detailing how Alan Kane and Theodore Dolliver travelled back in time to the prehistoric era inhabited by dinosaurs and cavemen. If it weren't for the fact that I'm convinced there's a line in the Wold Newton Family with the surname Kane, the book probably would escape my notice. It's entitled A Thousand Years a Minute, written by Carl H. Claudy. Although the first two-and-a-half chapters are undoubtedly fictional, as is the last, the rest almost certainly took place in Maple White Land. If it really were an account of time travel, paleontologists by now should have found several hundred cavemen skulls punctured by bullets in Virginia. Obviously, they have not. What really leads me to believe that it is Maple White Land that Claudy is describing is the following passage: "In the sudden light he saw--an enormous toad, with blackened teeth in a mouth a foot wide in which a yellow tongue slobbered. Its huge eyes blinked at the light; then with a reptilian hiss and a repetition of the weird cry, with enormous leaps it disappeared into the blackness...."
How incredibly similar this is to Challenger's altercation with a creature that issued forth a horrifying series of screams, and whose face was a "...horrible mask like a giant toad's...(with) warty, leprous skin and ...a loose mouth all beslobbered with fresh blood." Challenger's creature also hissed like a loud engine letting of steam.
It was four years later, in 1935, that Dr. Wildman's son, Doc Savage, encountered (sort of) Maple White Land. Although he never reached the summit itself, as far as we know, his life and those of his five aides were changed by it. Doc was involved in fighting the Inca in Gray at the time, and Ham Brooks, one of the Amazing Five, found and trained what was described as "a monkey." In actuality , it was tailless, very intelligent, larger than a chimp but smaller than a gorilla. Obviously, it was an ape, and Farmer himself suggests that it was a Maple White Land refugee. But Chemistry (as he was later to be named), was more than a Maple White Land ape. Bernard Heuvelmans, in his excellent On the Track of Unknown Animals, devotes a large amount of space to a creature he calls Ameranthropoides loysi. The "ape" was one of two that were encountered by Francois de Loys in 1917 on the Colombo-Venezuelan border. Loys and his men were attacked by the two primates, and managed to kill the female. She was later photographed, but the body was lost due to the inane stupidity of Loys' cook, who tore the body apart and used the skull for a salt container. The photograph is a good one, though, and if one compares the creature to the humanized rendition given by von Koenigswald to his pithecanthropus (now known as Homo erectus), there is a striking resemblance. Therefore, one can say with good justification that the A. loysi was an example of Homo erectus, or a variation thereof. It also seems likely that Chemistry was an A. Loysi. I was surprised that Farmer, who is familiar with On the Track of Unknown Animals, didn't point out this probability. But then, perhaps he has his reasons.
In Heuvelmans' book there is also a chapter propounding the existence of megatheriums, or giant ground sloths, in South America. It seems only natural that these lumbering creatures came from Maple White Land.
Without a doubt in my mind, I can tell you that dinosaurs very definitely existed in South America, at least up until recently. Whether or not you choose to believe me is up to you. But whatever your opinion be, I rather hope they're still up there.
The past may be gone, but it needn't be dead.
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All rights reserved. The text of this article is copyright 2000 by the author, Arn McConnell. No copying or reproduction of this article or any portion thereof in any form whatsoever is permitted without prior written permission and consent of the author.