Did you know Theodore Roosevelt came this close to hunting a South American plesiosaur? “This” close being not at all close, but possibly vaguely interested in doing so, had the thing, you know, existed. Maybe. Or it might be a hoax promulgated by an unethical promoter, 19 years later in 1922.
In any event, it makes a great story. Austin Whittall’s blog Patagonian Monsters finds the late-breaking news from 1922 in a New York Times piece on the matter. It seems:
Former US President Teddy Roosevelt was approached by the American gold prospector Martin Sheffield in 1903, who suggested that he organize an expedition to hunt a mysterious huge lizard-like monster with a curved neck.
Whitall quotes the March 31, 1922 item from the Times:
ROOSEVELT WANTED TO HUNT MONSTER; Ex-President Thought of Patagonia Expedition When He Went to South America. KEEN OVER TALE … John Barrett Gave Him in 1903 an Explorer’s Account of Strange Amphibian.
The newspaper heard about it from Mr. John Barrett, late Director of the Pan American Union and Minister to Argentina during President Roosevelt’s administrations during the famous 1922 plesiosaur expedition (sent to hunt a plesiosaur close to Lake Epuyén).
According to Barret, Sheffield “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…” Apparently Sheffield had fought in Cuba during the 1898 Spanish-American war, and has somehow met Roosevelt there.
I know what you’re thinking: “plesiosaur expeditions?” Yes, indeedee doo diddley dee. Or…maybe. The Patagonian Monsters post says an Argentine surveyor named Clemente Onelli organized a 1922 expedition to search for a plesiosaur in the tributaries of Lake Epuyen. This was the occasion for the NYT to publish the piece about Roosevelt maybe possibly having wanted to hunt a plesiosaur, after his Cuba buddy saw it back in ’03.
Patagonian Monsters has a bit more of the story on earlier posts — including letters to Onelli about the monster seen in the lake in question as well as a pretty interesting post about Whittall’s own research, and about the enduring confusion regarding the names of bodies of water in the area, which makes this all about as confusing as a Bigfoot hunt.
I discover upon some not-that-exhaustive research that Clemente Onelli is a municipality in Argentina, as well as a person. Coincidence? Or could a “person” have been turned into a municipality by nature spirits and/or visitors from Beyond, intent on keeping their buddy Nessie del Sud in the shadows? Hey, decide for yourself. Patagonian Monsters links to the NYT teaser, and you can even check out the PDF of the whole story in their free archive.
Whether or not there was or is a plesiosaur in South America, Roosevelt was never involved (he became an ex-ex-President in 1919), and in any event he did not hunt a plesiosaur, and if he had it likely would not have said “O HAI.”
But mucho cryptomojo mofos out there think there are lake monsters living in remote South American lakes. Is it such a big leap to think that Theodore Roosevelt, kidnapped from his deathbed by aliens and restored to full youthful vibrancy, stalks said plesiosaurs in scuba gear, firing a state-of-the-art spear gun? Could he, even now, be holed up in Buenos Aires with a harem of ladyboys, grilling up dinosaur steaks for JFK, Elvis and Professor Challenger?
Who can really say?