March 18, 2001
Our team consisting of six (including myself) were almost into the area of study when we were "detained" by some locals. Needless to say this was a tense time, and though only one member of the four people we hired to help us trek through the jungle could communicate with them, we made out alright. It was a rainforest tribe, and we learned that they had only had contact with one other outsider with white skin (we are Caucasian) in their lives. We were informed that it was a sign of rudeness to not stay a few days, which set us back drastically on our schedule. What else could we do? Unfortunately we were talked out of a few rolls of film and some instant thermo packs (what they would do with the film I had no idea) and our Polaroid camera. (The film was for a 35mm). They were amused at our Polaroid camera and liked to take photos of their group, which, while it pleased them and saved us, we were down to our 35mm cameras and a video unit.
On the interesting side of things, while we were there we were treated to many fantastic stories of a giant of the forest, treated as a Spirit of the forest by these people. They spoke of a huge fur-covered creature, with long claws, reddish fur, and immense size and strength. They were willing to talk about it, but believed it was bad luck to hunt or track the creature. They called him the guardian of the forest. They did inform us of the direction and time of year which the creature was seen, and it went along with what our earlier data had suggested, that we were near the feeding grounds of what we believed to be the Giant Sloth.
March 19, 2001
It would be a two day hike to the next valley where we would begin, and we were now four days behind. We went for half a day to the area we wanted to set up our first monitoring station, which included a motion sensing digital camera, and a solar powerpack. (We had twenty of these units, and enough mobile wireless modem units for four of them, which were left with the most remote camera sites) We planned to set up all twenty along what we believed to be the trails which the Giant Sloth was using, and the sixteen without wireless capability would be checked periodically by the remainder of our team for the duration of the expedition, which was 18 months in total. The units themselves are simple, and though they sell for thousands of dollars as complete sets, you can find instructions on how to assemble them for under $100 U.S. each on the internet. It's not that difficult, but they are highly effective.
March 20, 2001
We decided to split up to save time, since we lost four days, and the going through the jungle is much harder than I thought. The denseness of it overwhelms you when you get here, and the growth rate is fantastic. You can double back on a trail you cut two days ago, and you find that is grown up again with vegetation. It is truly amazing. The diversity of plants and insects is awe-inspiring as well. The insects don't make sleeping at night any easier either, I might add. I once had a professor of Entemology who insisted you could take a butterfly net to the area of Central America and pass it over some brush, and of every ten insects you caught, 7 would be new species. I thought this was exaggeration until now.
March 21, 2001
Just finished setting up the second station, and Jason got the satellite phone to finally start working. We are answering email questions from people while time allows. There were amazing sounds from all kinds of animals through the night. Today we will hike to the region where the creature was last seen as little as two months ago by a local tribe, and relayed to a traveling missionary. It is supposed to be rich in natural salt formations which draw the mammals of the area, so hopefully it will draw the one we are looking for.
March 22, 2001
Today we stumbled across perhaps the best find we could hope for aside from the actual animal itself. We found two sets of tracks and a dung pile, neither of which matches up with the known fauna of the area. Samples were taken with the hopes of finding some cells from the wall of the intestine for DNA analysis. I will start to return in a few days with the samples for analysis while the team stays here on the trail. Judging from the water content, and the print age, we are roughly two and a half days behind the creature.