Guessman, Nation, Woetzel, and Whitcomb

Four American explorers have made a combined contribution of inestimable worth, in regard to modern pterosaurs: Garth Guessman, Paul Nation, David Woetzel, and Jonathan Whitcomb. It seems that to have just one of them taken away from the history of this research would been extremely detrimental. Each has contributed unique and essential elements.

Paul Nation has gone on four expedition in Papua New Guinea; Garth Guessman has gone on two; David Woetzel and Jonathan Whitcomb, one each. But Woetzel and Whitcomb have written extensively, giving us countless web pages and two scientific papers in the Creation Research Society Quarterly.

Other explorers could be mentioned: Jacob Kepas, James Blume, and others. Kepas and Blume, in particular, have helped enormously, with interpreting on expeditions in Papua New Guinea and doing their own searching for modern pterosaurs. Both of them have had their own sightings, with Kepas getting two good views of giant flying creatures.

That being said, Guessman, Nation, Woetzel, and Whitcomb have contributed much in bringing this subject to the attention of Americans.

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More on Two Pterosaurs in Georgia

I wrote in a previous post about the two pterosaur sightings in Georgia: Pterosaurs in Georgia and South Carolina. Since this is again coming up in various blog posts, it seems appropriate to mention what the eyewitness has said about her sightings, including her choice of the word “dragon”:

Georgia sightings, quoted from Live Pterosaurs in America, 2nd ed.

“The world is now totally different. I feel blessed that God has allowed me to see this creature that should not be here, and yet is, this strange dragon-like thing that lives somewhere in the woods in this redneck little town.”

To review what these sightings entailed, the lady saw two different flying creatures, two weeks apart, late in the summer of 2008. They were obviously of the same species but different sizes. The tail was long, with a “heart” shape at tail-end. Even the smaller one was larger than any ordinary bird. The wing flapping especially caught her attention, for it was different than anything she had ever seen in the flapping of bird wings: “The wings ‘pumped’ in a ‘scooping’ manner, as the motion rippled along the body and through the tail.” I’ve noticed similar remarks from eyewitnesses: unique and graceful flight.

Jonathan Whitcomb, author of Live Pterosaurs in America, calls this flying creature “American Hammerhead Ropen.”

I found it interesting that the eyewitness used the word “dragon.” Long ago, a long-tailed featherless flying creature would be labeled “dragon,” although we would think “pterosaur” in more recent generations, at least in the more-developed countries.

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New Pterosaur Sightings

I really have more to say about the Marfa Lights in Texas, about their relationship to sightings of modern pterosaurs. But that can wait somewhat, for new sighting reports keep coming up, sightings of flying creatures that appear to be modern pterosaurs.

North Carolina Pterosaur

I was driving home . . . when I . . . saw something HUGE above me in the sky.  It looked like a pale greenish white and smooth-skinned. It didn’t appear to have any feathers, and it had the tail with the diamond shape on the end.  I couldn’t believe my eyes, and I knew no one else really would.  It was probably about the same in the sky, 100 ft away.  I just looked up the Rhamphorhynchus and it was definitely similar to what I saw.

Pterodactyl in Spain

What some Spanish eyewitnesses call “bird,” at least one called “pterodactyl.” The KSN News Service referred to the sightings in “Giant Flying Creature in Spain,” but I have additional information about the sightings.

According to witnesses, the animal was dark (mainly black or grey) with a wingspan of between 3 and 15 meters, making loud crowing sounds in three different tones, and whose membranous wings were reminiscent of a prehistoric pterodactyl. In other cases, however, it was classified as a “mutant pigeon” or a black crow, naturally.

I suspect the reference to “mutant pigeon” may have come from the lack of feathers, for that lack is an important factor in the anatomy of a “pterodactyl.”

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Scientific Skepticism and Marfa Lights

I know I’ve already written about car headlights and Marfa Lights. In fact, I’ve lost count of how many times I have written about Marfa Lights, in particular about the possibility that they may be the bioluminescence of flying predators, even nocturnal creatures that hunt bats. But I keep reading materials that reflect unclear thinking habits or careless research on this subject, and the most recent article that has bothered me is titled, “Marfa Lights: A Real American Mystery.”

The web site is called “Skeptoid,” so it seems that scientific skepticism is in order. But this article or blog post by Brian Dunning fails to live up to a reasonable expectation in this. When he mentioned accounts of “the lights” appearing before the existence of automobiles, he says:

“Throughout history there have been hundreds and hundreds of reported “ghost lights” that probably never existed outside of the observers’ whiskey-soaked imaginations.”

What a far cry from scientific skepticism! How convenient, when “hundreds” of witnesses experience something contradicting ones idea, to say it came from drinking whiskey!

To be fair to Mr. Dunning, we need to remember that some of these sighting reports are quite strange: flying lights that seem to fly in ways related to each other. These flights are too complex–I believe “complex” is the word used by James Bunnell–to be easily explained as an ordinary phenomenon. But the strange reactions some person might have to consuming alcohol does not mean that all strange experiences should be dismissed with “whiskey.” We can admit that not-yet-explained things may exist.

I think it timely to suggest some online resources, on Marfa Lights, that are more worthy of consideration, regardless of how strange they might at first appear:

Marfa Lights and Lost Time

I will not offer any deep explanation for why these witnesses lost track of three hours. Could it have been difference in time zone or over sleeping after a mostly sleepless night observing Marfa Lights? I will suggest noting the colors of the flying lights they observed: green, orange, red, yellow, and blue.

Suddenly, off in the field, we could see a red light. It was far away and we thought, “Well, maybe…” The red light disappeared… and then there were two orange lights. These orange lights wandered around, bobbed up and down, and got closer and closer to each other until they joined, flared briefly, and became a yellow light that slowly disappeared.

These flying lights were nowhere near any highway, and appeared in such varied colors as to rule out the possibility that they were car headlights.

Marfa Lights in 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 of Texas

Briefly mentioned is the sighting experience of a Mr. Greene, early in 2010. More details are given in Whitcomb’s book Live Pterosaurs in America, second edition.

I took special interest in one of the lights that Mr. Greene described to me. It flew around for over two hours, until the sun was about to come up. At least once, it dived down, at a speed apparently consistant with what I would expect of a B.F.C. that is hunting bats, diving after one bat.

Book Review related to Marfa Lights

Retired NASA engineer James Bunnell has spent 8 years studying these lights, and concludes that while many can be explained in terms of well understood causes, others are much more puzzling. He has managed to obtain films and/or spectrographical analysis of some of these lights, which seem to rule out some of the more obvious explanations.

Old Records of Marfa Lights

This relates to the Dunning article “Marfa Lights: A Real American Mystery.”

‘Well, apparently, the Marfa Lights have not been around all that long, after all.’ How did Dunning come to that conclusion? His brief post gives no hint that he has done years of research looking for old records of Marfa Lights; that I seriously doubt. Even if he had searched for years, how could he be sure that he had not missed some nineteenth-century journal that described those mysterious lights?

Marfa Lights and Min Mins

Come with me to Victoria, Australia, along Salisbury Road in Mt. Macedon. Notice, as we enter an open window, that Mr. Fred Silcock is sleeping in the easy chair by the fireplace. Now search for a thin brown book on the bookshelf. That’s the one; the spine says “The Min Min Light  F.F. Silcock”. Notice the drawing of a glowing barn owl on the cover.

Actually this blog post is more about Marfa Lights than glowing barn owls.

Marfa Light, How Bright!

Note that other observations of CE-III mystery lights (a designation Bunnell gives to certain lights around Marfa: lights that travel and exhibit combustion-like attributes) sometimes involve light “splitting.”

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More About Marfa Lights

I realize that I have previously said a good deal about pterosaurs in Texas, but the Marfa Lights mystery keeps coming back. Prior to last month’s press release, “Unmasking a Flying Predator in Texas,” few Americans would have even thought about the possibility that those mysterious lights were from living entities of this world. Some persons conjectured UFO intelligence, but that seems unlikely, because of the frequent returns of the lights to the same rather barren countryside.

I know that James Bunnell of Texas and Edson Hendricks of California have done extensive studies of the more mysterious Marfa Lights. Both men seem to be well educated in science, with years of experience in their respective fields. Yet it has been pointed out that neither one is a biologist, and the conjectures and hypotheses of bioluminescence in Marfa Lights calls for a biologist.

I have written previously about Evelyn Cheesman, the British biologist. For a short time, she worked on learning as much as she could about the mysterious lights that flew near the top of a ridge that was in view from her base camp deep in the mainland of New Guinea. I think it possibly important to note that the natives would not talk about those lights, so Cheesman was left with no local information about them. If I understand correctly, in many native settlements in Papua New Guinea the traditions about glowing nocturnal flying creatures include traditions about bad luck and danger from those creatures. Cheesman may have been with a tribe that was so fearful that they did not want to talk about the flying lights that villagers to the south (Tawa Village area) were later willing to talk about with the American explorer Paul Nation. Be that as it may, Chessman became convinced that the flying lights she observed could not have been from any “human agency.”

In addition:

There’s a new web site titled “Marfa Ghost Lights.” To quote one paragraph:

The flying Marfa Lights of southwest Texas have been compared with the ropen of Papua New Guinea. There the lights have been coorelated with appearances of large and giant long-tailed flying creatures, featherless and resembling Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs.

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Living Pterosaurs? Not by Glen Kuban

To start, I recommend the following web page reply to Glen Kuban’s criticism of research into living pterosaurs:

Are All Pterosaurs Extinct?

But Whitcomb’s web page does not go nearly far enough in emphasizing the testimonies of Brian Hennessy and Duane Hodgkinson. Glen Kuban’s web page ignores those two witnesses entirely. Hennessy and Hodgkinson witnessed “prehistoric” looking flying creatures in daylight, at fairly close range, with locations being Bougainville Island and the Finschhafen area, respectively, both in New Guinea, which is now the nation of Papua New Guinea.

Kuban shows images of two “flying foxes” in flight, suggesting “that at least some” sightings of pterosaurs are misidentified fruit bats. That choice of Kuban’s, to show those two images, may be related to the absence of any mentioning of the names “Hennessy” and “Hodgkinson.” Both men described a long tail and a head crest, and Hodgkinson’s estimate for tail length was “at least” ten to fifteen feet. Since he said “at least,” let’s take this to mean it is unlikely to have been less than ten feet. Critics might argue that the surprise of his encounter would have made him exaggerate, so let’s say the actual tail length might have been as little as eight feet, although I believe it was much longer. Eight feet is longer than the entire wingspan of the largest fruit bats, and those two images shown on Kuban’s web page make it obvious that those bats have practically no tail, at least not visible.

I found another reason that Kuban may have been hesitant to mention Hodgkinson’s report. In Whitcomb’s scientific paper, in a peer-reviewed journal, Hodgkinson reports that the creature was running for some distance before becoming airborne. If I recall, the length of the legs-plus-feet was several feet, and the stomach of the creature was several feet above the ground while it was running. No fruit bat would ever make any impression even remotely like that, even if it could run along the ground before becoming airborne. That is ludicrous.

If Glen Kuban were to write a paper for a peer-reviewed journal, a paper dealing with sightings that include Hennessy’s and Hodgkinson’s, I would be most happy to critique it. But why does Kuban go on and on, with paragraph after paragraph after paragraph, about irrelevancies? I hold up these two witnesses, Hennessy and Hodgkinson, for their reports annihilate any possibility of fruit bat misidentification.

In addition:

In light of suggestions on the blog post “Handing Out Criticism,” I should mention that Mr. Kuban may have made positive contributions in paleontology, regardless of his faulty reasoning on modern research and field work regarding reports of modern pterosaurs. But paleontologists in general do not seem to make reasonable armchair cryptozoologists.

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Marfa Light, How Bright!

The intelligence exhibited by Marfa Lights is what I mean by “how bright,” and this seems to me to be a good time for examples. We’ll examine some sightings of Marfa Lights in light of the possibility that they are guided by intelligence, in particular that they are from the bioluminescence of flying predators that are highly intelligent, according to Whitcomb.

We begin with a report by James Bunnell, a highly-respected scientist who has devoted years of work and thought to these mystery lights of Marfa, Texas. I quote from his book Hunting Marfa Lights (published in 2009), pages 91-92:

May 8, 2003 . . . Temperature was around 60 degrees F. . . . at 10:22 PM the ML returned; I will call this ML (D). ML (D) began moving west . . . the final location was west of the railroad tracks . . . the distance [it flew] measured eleven miles . . . This ML event is also unique because of the explosive-like expansion that resulted in the light going out and then resuming at a much lower altitude.

Note that Bunnell assumes that the “resuming” flying light was the same thing that had been flying at a much higher altitude just a little earlier. It’s an easy assumption to make, for the flight direction may have been identical and the timing for that flying object to have turned off its glow and then soon afterwards to have turned back on its glow, while still flying, seems perfectly relevant. But I propose something else.

Note that other observations of CE-III mystery lights (a designation Bunnell gives to certain lights around Marfa: lights that travel and exhibit combustion-like attributes) sometimes involve light “splitting.” Whitcomb’s Marfa Light hypothesis includes the proposition that this is a sort of optical illusion for distant human observers: There were two objects, one glowing but not the other; the non-glowing one turns on its bioluminescence just before the two flying creatures separate.

Now take Whitcomb’s idea one step further. ML (D), observed by Bunnell on May 8, 2003, and photographed by more than one camera, could have involved two flying predators, with only one of them glowing at a time. How I arrived at this possibility requires additional explanation.

The distance from start point to end point was, according to Bunnell’s triangulation calculations, eleven miles, and the time of travel was eighteen minutes. That makes the average speed about 37 mph, assuming a straight flight, which it seems to have been. That speed is critical to the reasoning that follows.

Some birds can fly 37 miles per hour, but most do not fly that fast, at least not for long. Barn owls are not known for flying straight for many miles, even if one of them could keep up a pace of 37 mph. But the ropen of Papua New Guinea is said to fly “faster than birds but slower than airplanes.”

Now, assuming Marfa Lights are flying creatures somewhat similar to ropens, what would cause a large bioluminescent flying creature to fly eleven miles straight at 37 miles per hour? Only one possibility comes to my mind: A frightened intruding male is being chased by a dominant male who is protecting his females.

Now remember Bunnell’s observation that the second light-appearance flew at a “much lower altitude.” How does that correlate with my ropen-chasing-ropen hypothesis? (Actually I don’t know if these flying creatures are closely related to the ropen or not, but I believe they are flying predators.) We now look at this in stages.

First, if one flying animal is chasing off another smaller one of the same species, and the locomotion is flight, which animal would be willing to take more chances? Of course: the one in danger, the smaller one being chased. That smaller one (even if the size difference is minimal) could very well fly just above the ground. The dominant male need not take any chances flying into something like a tree at night; he would have flown higher. This is somewhat similar to some plane dogfights in which, in desperation, the fighter plane pilot being tailed dives down near the ground to try to throw off his pursuer (I have some knowledge of this).

Second, when would a high-speed, long-distance chase be more likely to take place for flying predators? Not in the dead of winter, when everyone is too stressed and too low on energy (with fewer opportunities for catching food). May 8th, at 10:22 PM, when the temperature is 60 degrees F., seems like a good time for this chase to take place. Both the pursuer and the pursued had a few weeks of opportunities to eat better than they had in the winter.

Third, when would be the most logical time for a pursued bioluminescent flyer to turn on his glow? This may be more speculative, but I’ll make a suggestion. I suspect there are two possibilities: The pursuer ran out of the a needed-secretion or he turned off his glow to surprise the one pursued. Whatever it was, I suspect the larger one dived down onto the smaller one that had been below him. That caused the pursued one to turn on its glow, for it was no longer possible to hide in the dark, not with that big male almost clawing on his backside.

I said that I would give “examples,” but I’ve run out of time, having given only one, so this sighting of May 8, 2003, with my interpretation, will have to do for now. This sighting seems to me to be much easier to explain with my hypothesis than with something involving earth lights or other non-living energies.

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Pterosaurs in Africa

Cryptids in Africa include pterosaurs or apparent pterosaurs. Before a skeptic summarily dismisses any reports of “pterodactyls” in Africa, however, that skeptic should think about an important detail in history: Europeans, only a few generations ago, disbelieved reports of large hairy men or giant apes in central Africa; eventually Europeans disovered for themselves that gorillas were more than myth.

I suggest examining the following web page about a sighting of a pterosaur in Sudan, a report originally given to the cryptozoologist Jonathan Whitcomb:

. . . early one night in 1988, the boy noticed something on the roof of a nearby hut. Lit up by the patio light, perched on the edge of the roof, the creature appeared to be four-to-five feet tall, olive brown, and leathery (no feathers). A “long bone looking thing” stuck out the back of its head, and its long tail somehow resembled that of a lion.

. . . the creature stretched its wings and hopped toward another roof, passing a few feet over the boy’s head. . . . The eyewitness was sure about the head crest and the long tail.

I also recommend the following web page on “‘Flying Snakes’ and Pterosaurs in Namibia:” (See the first comment)

. . . The flying snake,or whatever it was frightened Michael Esterhuise, a farm hand, severely and left a trace on the ground and a burning smell. It was investigated by Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer of coelacanth fame. It shot into the air again and made a sound like “wind blowing through a pipe” according to Lawrence Green in “These Wonders to Behold” (1959) p.187.

The name commonly used, for flying creatures like pterosaurs in Africa, is “kongamato.”

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Marfa Lights up in the Houston Chronicle

The Houston Chronicle is the largest daily newspaper in the state of Texas, the ninth largest in the United States, according to Wikipedia. Large newspapers, the traditional backbone of major media, rarely publish ideas that contradict basic assumptions of the society in which they exist. It was no surprise when the Houston Chronicle’s December 19, 2010, print edition played to the audience with the article “What’s going on in Marfa?” published online on December 16. The subject was Marfa Lights. It played to the assumption that no “dinosaur” could live in Marfa, Texas.

The article was elicited by a press release by Jonathan Whitcomb, part of a national promotion for his new book, the second edition of Live Pterosaurs in America. The Houston Chronicle gave no details about that press release, giving no quotations from it. It mentioned two scientists, James Bunnell and Karl Stephan, both of whom seem to have dismissed the possibility of modern pterosaurs. Neither Bunnel nor Stephan is a biologist.

Whitcomb’s idea of bioluminescent flying predators, perhaps even living pterosaurs, as an explanation for some of the mystery lights of Marfa, was dismissed, but there’s more: His qualifications for making that suggestion were questioned, to put it mildly.

While Whitcomb has been effective in broadcasting his views, he acknowledges that he has no scientific training, has never been to Marfa and has not seen the creatures whose patterns and habits he attempts to describe. He did make a trip to Papua New Guinea to investigate flying predators there but saw none.

The writer of the Houston Chronicle article, Claudia Feldman, seems to have overlooked an important part of science: the theoretical scientist. Like a detective who questions eyewitnesses and pieces together ideas based on what eyewitnesses have said, the theoretical scientist does not necessarily need to be an eyewitness, especially when eyewitnesses are plentiful or especially trustworthy. One name that comes to mind is Albert Einstein. He had limited, if any, training in physics; he had never been to an area where there was a total solar eclipse; he never saw the physics experiments that caused him to work at his theories. But he trusted the data from the experiments of those scientists who worked hands-on with scientific equipment.

That is not to say that Whitcomb is an Einstein. I only suggest that the writer of that article in the Houston Chronicle misses an important point, and she could have dismissed Einstein as unqualified, if she had lived and had written newspaper articles in Europe about a century ago.

I suggest that Claudia Feldman, the staff writer for the Houston Chronicle, would have done better to have written about what Whitcomb has done, not what he has not done. But then an article too friendly to the possibility of modern pterosaurs might not have been accepted for publication by her superiors.

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Science and Marfa Lights

A number of scientists have tried to know and understand Marfa Lights: observing, testing photographing, and theorizing. Interesting ideas have emerged; none but one, however, seems to come close to adequately explaining the apparent intellegence associated with those flying lights, the mystery lights of Marfa, Texas: a modern pterosaur.

James Bunnell, a retired aerospace engineer, has side-stepped the apparent intellegence associated with some sightings. But he has photographed a number of the “ML” (mystery lights) and analyzed the results.

Edson Hendricks, a Californian who has visited Texas and is a Marfa Light investigator, has also side-stepped the apparent intellegence associated with some sightings. But he has analyzed some of the data.

Jonathan Whitcomb, another scientist from California, has concentrated on the apparent intelligence, analyzing information from those sightings that might relate to the ropen lights of Papua New Guinea. And the results of that analysis might appear more like science fiction than science: nocturnal bioluminescent flying predators that might be related to ropens, even if that means a living pterosaur interpretation. Nevertheless, when extinction dogma is set aside, there is nothing unscientific about the hypothesis that Marfa Lights are caused by the bioluminescence of flying predators.

Some critics have disparaged the work of Jonathan Whitcomb, assuming that because he supports the work of his YEC creationist associates he is too biased to be taken seriously. By the same reasoning, one could reject Calculus because of the Biblical studies of Sir Isaac Newton. Religious intolerance, like that of Whitcomb’s critics, cannot refute the testimonies of eyewitnesses. Let it be observed that those eyewitnesses are the ones giving evidence, through their testimonies of modern pterosaurs, and those witnesses come from various religious and non-religious backgrounds, refuting the assumption of the critics, the presumption that reports of modern pterosaurs are the result of inappropriate insertion of religion into scientific work. Science will continue to progress, in spite of those shallow-minded critics.

In addition:

See also “Marfa Lights up in the Houston Chronicle

See also “Marfa Light, How Bright!”

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