Among the cryptozoologist crowd, there are those who theorize not every dinosaur surrendered to that dastardly comet. One beloved anachronistic holdover from the original free-range Jurassic Park is a certain plesiosaur that frequents the Loch Ness region (or so they say). But just because Nessie is the most famous maybe-dino out there doesn’t mean she’s the only one. In the African jungles, a creature quite fearsome haunts the areas near rivers and streams, terrifying natives and overturning boats.
Meet the Kongamato. In case you hadn’t guessed from the picture below, this beast is purportedly an old-school pterosaur. Its territory falls mainly in Angola, Zambia, and the Congo, though these sorts of creatures rarely obey the border patrols. Thus, families of Kongamatos probably vacation in neighboring countries during the summer. The literal translation of ‘kongamato’ approximates to ‘overwhelmer (or breaker or overturner) of boats’. Basically, if you own a seafaring device, this cryptid will do its best to destroy your mode of transportation.
Most of the Kongamato sightings were documented during the mid-twentieth century. After providing African natives with images of pterosaurs, explorer Frank Melland claimed that they identified the dinosaur as being one and the same as the jerk that demolished their boats. Melland described his process in his 1923 book, pterosaur. With a title like that, you can be darned sure he didn’t try to lead the people into giving him fodder for his upcoming publication. In 1956, the Kongamato got even more press when an engineer named J.P.F. Brown claimed to see a couple of the creatures soar over him. I love that every account gives his profession, as though sousing out structural imperfections in building design would make him an expert on dinosaur identification. At any rate, he said the creatures’ wings looked around three feet across, downplaying the previous estimates of four to seven feet. Based on available evidence, it becomes obvious Brown saw another gargantuan flying dinosaur instead of our beloved Kongamato. I mean, one meter-wide wings? Even an inner tube could survive that paltry nuisance.
So what’s the official explanation behind this beast? Those skeptics who deem the Kongamato worthy of comment—which means very few Negative Nancies, seeing that the flying creature doesn’t hang with the cool cryptids—argue the big bird is simply a misattributed animal. These so-called legitimate scientists claim it’s actually a bat or a stingray. Because we’ve all had one of those days where we can’t tell the difference between a wayward dinosaur and a run-of-the-mill zoo animal. I’m actually having one today—I was sure I saw a T-Rex on my way to the coffee shop, but my husband told me, “Nope, just a blue jay.”
In any event, if you’re ever floating down a river in Africa, keep your paddle handy. You might need to fend off a giant prehistoric beast, one ferociously bent on obliterating your raft.