Saturday, 4 May 2013

Meet the Cryptozoologist: Neil Frost

How did you first get involved in researching strange and mysterious creatures?
I became acutely interested in studying the dooligahl on Sunday 21st February, 1993 at 11:15 PM after one stood up and ran past me in the bush across from our house.

What were some of the early influences in your life?
An early influence was scouting, as a cub, scout and senior scout. Our troop leader was a very dedicated and knowledgeable man who, having survived Changi POW camp, was determined to pass on his wealth of experience and bush skills. It was during a seven day camp in the remote upper Grose Valley of the Blue Mountains in 1966 that our troop shared a very strange experience over several nights that was with hindsight, most probably a large male dooligahl.

From an early age I wanted to be either an astronomer or archaeologist. Grinding my own telescope mirrors later helped me to design and build game cameras. Archaeology was not offered at university at that time, so I studied anthropology instead. Three lengthy trips to Papua New Guinea between  1975 and 1980 provided some field experience that could be applied to a study of these hominoids.

Have you personally seen one of these creatures?
Many times, together with family and community members. When activity was greatest, we would typically have up to three encounters per night, every night.

What creatures particularly interest you?
Dooligahls, Quinkin and Junjudee because they are three separate hominoid species and they are Australian.

What cryptids are most likely to exist in your opinion?
One thing that I can be certain of is that anything is possible although, some cryptids are more probable than others.

What’s your favourite?

Have you developed any theories around where the more unusual animals - i.e. yowies/bigfoot - have come from?
Even though our Australian hominoids appear to be simplistically similar in form and function to other dextrous bipeds from other parts of the world, particularly North America, this does not mean that they are biologically related. However, the contrary appears to be the common assumption. Consequently, basic theories tend to suggest biological links with pongids like Bigfoot, despite the unlikelihood and lack of evidence supporting a viable migratory route.

Theories based on hominin migration to Australia are less troublesome because technology and culture can overcome boundaries otherwise faced by apes. However, if assuming that earlier species of Homo were capable of the journey, the problem here is their incompatibility with the observed evidence. For example, their reflective red eyes and superior night vision abilities are not hominid or, pongid characteristics.

Alternatively, rather than immigrants, it might be more plausible to think of our hominoids as being indigenous. In other words, several species of marsupial hominoids. This theory scares most people but, it solves many issues, including the need to invent convoluted methods of migration. It is also much more compatible with the evidence, including some of the more bizarre behaviours, like foot thumping, which reportedly occurs in 46 of the 50 extant Australian macropodoid species. Similarly, the elongated legs and feet of some, together with their efficient, high speed locomotion, is typically macropodoid.

Since Australia has been moving North in isolation, from a relatively cold and dark environment for the past 40 million years, there has been a considerable amount of biological experimentation. Everyone is familiar with the platypus: an egg laying, fur covered mammal. Some experimentation, like Thylacoleo carnifex, was convergent. This isolationist period is between five to eight times the length of our own hominid evolution. I can't see a problem with this.

Have you written any books/articles?
I have written two boring computer textbooks but, thankfully, I am working on a lengthy case study of our previously resident dooligahl.

How many mystery animal reports would you receive a year?
This varies widely. Sometimes I receive no reports for weeks and then I get several in one day. On average, somewhere between 1 or 2 a week or say, about 75 a year.

What’s the closest you’ve personally come to finding something?
The most productive time was during the initial period after becoming aware of Fatfoot's existence. It was naive and so it was relatively easy to study it. The only problem was that I was naive too. Consequently, we both learnt from each other with things became more difficult for us both, as we tested and determined each others skills and abilities.

In terms of physical proof, it had to be the orange hair samples that we found on the top strand of a barbed wire fence in the swamp. Most probably, yowie pubic hairs. The unfortunate thing was trusting the samples to someone who did microscopic hair analysis and was also a skeptic. The samples were thrown away.

What’s the farthest you’ve traveled to go ‘in search of’ mystery animals?
Sometimes several hundred meters! Typically these days within the local area.

What’s next for you - any trips planned? Books or articles to write? Talks to give?
The book, another documentary film and probably a few more talks.

Could you share some of your favourite cryptozoology book titles with us?
I mainly read science articles and books but "The Yowie: In Search of Australia's Bigfoot" is probably my favourite crypto book.

What advice would you give anyone getting into the field of cryptozoology?
Cryptozoology is a very difficult field of study. No professional scientist will touch it for fear of ridicule, especially if they want to advance, as conservatism and compliance are usually required. Consequently, it is left to "amateurs" with no established reputation to uphold, to do the research. However, it is always rewarding to learn something that very few know.

It is essential to form a local network of people who share your interest and are reliable. Sharing information and sources are crucial. Be scientific and critical but, always open minded.

Avoid skeptics. These are arrogant and very sad individuals who take pleasure from putting people down. They are valueless and a waste of effort.

If your area of specialisation is yowie research, remember that you will not be discovering anything that generations of Australian Koori have already known.

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