In his 1620, Novum Organum, Blueprint for the New Experimental Science, Sir Francis Bacon advised prospective natural philosophers — biologists, as we might call them now — that “a compilation, or particular natural history, must be made of all monsters and prodigious births of nature; of everything, in short, which is new, rare, and unusual in nature. This should be done with a rigorous selection, so as to be worthy of credit.”
On the title page, Bacon shows the reader a galleon (ship) passing between the mythical Pillars of Hercules that stand on either side of the Strait of Gibraltar — the great egress from all that was well-known. Passage through the Pillars represented leaving behind all that was recorded and into the vast uncharted expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. Bacon chooses this image as a metaphor for the work to follow: a breaking through from the familiar to scientific revelations, yet unimagined.
Across the bottom of the page is an inscription taken from the Book of Daniel 12:4, “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” This is to say, many will take the journey and our knowledge will be increased.
This week CNN.com reported a story that demonstrates Bacon’s admonishments are alive and well in North America. According to their website, Idaho State University anthropologist Jeffrey Meldrum is attempting to raise $300,000 in private research funds so he can construct and deploy a blimp to search for Bigfoot.
As CNN.com reports, “Meldrum, author of Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science, got the idea for the blimp-based search from William Barnes, a Utah man who claims to have encountered Bigfoot in 1997 in Northern California. Barnes pitched the idea to Meldrum and the two are now collaborating on what they’ve called the Falcon Project — a remote-controlled airship they hope will take flight next spring, sweeping remote wilderness areas for proof of Bigfoot’s existence.”
Yes, rushing to judgment is pretty easy here, except for two words: Fouke Monster. Anybody alive during the 1970s in Arkansas probably has some recollection of the Fouke Monster. So named for the Miller County community, Fouke, the legendary cryptid, was the subject of quasi-documentary horror films, newspaper and other media reports. The creature was initially “sighted” in the Jonesville/Boggy Creek area, but later reports were much further north. The Fouke Monster was accused of attacking a local family as well as being blamed for several livestock deaths.
Of course big ape-like wandering monsters are hardly an American exclusive. According to a recent report in the UK paper, the Guardian: “A team of scientists say they are ‘95%’ sure that Russia’s wintry expanse is home to the mythical yeti, otherwise known as the abominable snowman. More than a dozen scientists and yeti enthusiasts flew in from Canada, Estonia, Sweden and the U.S. to exchange findings with their Russian counterparts at a day-long conference in the town of Tashtagol, some 2,000 miles east of Moscow in the Kemerovo region. Locals there have reported an increase in sightings of a creature in recent years.”
Glossing over the unavoidable “sasquatch in the room” of this report, it makes one wonder exactly what constitutes a “yeti enthusiast.” Perhaps these are cousins to the fan base of Animal Planet’s popular show, Finding Bigfoot? Yenning for Yeti? One hopes the Russian expeditionary throng knows to pack plenty of beef jerky.