Over the last few months we've been keeping a weather eye on the Newmac expedition. This planned three month trip to the jungles of darkest Africa has been initiated by Steven McCullah, an American with a background in biology and chemistry who has been involved in humanitarian and research projects and jungle expeditions in South America.
He and two friends are currently financing and planning the trip which aims to: make contact with the Mbenga pygmies of the Lake Tele region of the Northern Republic of Congo document new species retrieve and procure DNA and physical samples in the field for further study. So far so good, but here's where things get weird: The expedition intends to document new species and find evidence of the Mokele-mbembe. Based on the first hand accounts of eye-witnesses, the Mokele-mbembe is described as having a long neck, snake-like head, three-toed claws, and being as large as an elephant. In fact, Mokele-mbembe in the Pygmy language is roughly translated as one who stops the flow of rivers. Currently, there is no creature known to science that fits this description.
Although calling the creature a sauropod may be premature, we believe it is a new species of large monitor lizardakin to the Komodo dragon of Africa. Some journalists who have written about this have published under the headline Jurrasic Lark? but here's an aspect to the trip which we find even more interesting . . . Steven was using kickstarter.com to raise crowd funding for the project, their page shows that over $29,000 has been pledged by 750 backers, the project has been auctioning off the opportunity to bring back pygmy artefacts and name new animal species for their contributors. However Steven's twitter account hasn't shown any further activity since 11 may when the funding goals were apparently reached. Using a crowd-funding platform in this way to get financial backers for an expedition is genius and we would like to see much more of our members getting to go off on their adventures this way.
The aim of discovering the Mokele-mbembe has been a massive media draw and the project has received lots of PR this way which has contributed significantly to the funding campaign. But was that the real aim of the expedition? Or was it thrown into the PR blend to make their project stand out? An article published by a member of EC earlier this year suggested this very tactic, did Steven read it here first? Whatever the motivation or tactics behind this trip one thing is not in doubt - Steven McCollah has been very clever in getting this project off the ground, it only remains to be seen where it will go. We wish the Newmac expedition the best of luck, this sounds like a great adventure which could yield real scientific value and who knows, maybe even discover a relic dinosaur.
Latest update: Frday 13th July - We have found the expedition twitter account - it appears that they are in country, already and facing the usual trials and tribulations which accompany a venture of this kind.
You can follow them at https://twitter.com/NewmacCongo Stay safe team Newmac we look forward to reading all about it on your return.