Not Gone Forever

tasmanian tiger

Robert Harbison/The Christian Science Monitor

“There they are, a small streak of them.” Clive Ambrose was actually over five kilometers from the subjects of his research, looking at the group on a laptop in a small hut which served as a blind at the edge of the Southwest National Park in Tasmania.

“A group of Indian Tigers is called as streak, Clive. Is that what we’re calling a collection of Tasmanian Tigers?

Ambrose’s scientific colleague and occasional lover Cappi Lawrence was looking over his shoulder.

“Aren’t you amazed, Cappi? Definite proof that Tasmanian Tigers aren’t extinct, and that they are organized into social groups which include breeding pairs.”

“Oh Clive. We’ve been chasing reports of their survival for years. This is just the last step, video confirmation.”

“We’ll keep collecting data and then publish in a few months. Just think of it. The last Tasmanian Tiger was thought to have died in 1936. Now, after nearly 85 years, they’ve re-emerged.”

The streak had moved out of sight of the camera hidden within grid 32. Cappi plotted their apparent course and calculated they were just coming within range of the camera in grid 37. She switched inputs so the image would appear on Clive’s screen.

Not taking her eyes off the control panel, she mused, “That’s what’s been bothering me, Clive.”

“What’s that, Cappi?” Clive was focused on the laptop screen. He again checked to make sure the camera inputs were being recorded.

“Well, for the past century or so, species thought extinct for tens or hundreds of thousands of years, even millions of years, have been returning.”

“What do you mean?” Clive was still distracted by the streak. They’d stopped just a few meters from the camera and he was trying to get a closer look.

She turned toward him and noticed his back was to her; he was still focused on his laptop. “The Coelacanth, for instance, thought to have gone extinct 65 million years ago, was rediscovered in 1938. Now, with modern submersibles, we have found them thriving over 700 meters below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

“The Gracilidris, a sort of nocturnal ant thought to have gone extinct 20 million years ago, was discovered alive very recently in Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.

“The Monito del Monte, nicknamed the ‘mountain monkey,’ believed gone millions of years ago, was just found living in the Andes’ bamboo forests in Chile.

“Look, I could go on and on, but my point is that within the past fifty years, we’ve discovered dozens of species, previously thought extinct, have survived. Within the past decade, at least ten species thought to have gone extinct between 100,000 and 20 million years ago, have been found, some in large groups. Why, the rediscovery of the Tasmanian Tiger is almost insignificant compared to that.”

Clive finally turned from the laptop within the dimly lit enclosure to look at her. Cappi’s face was illuminated only by the laptop’s screen and the various lights on their control panels.

“So what are you getting at, Cappi?”

“Clive, how can species, some of them quite large, disappear for thousands or even millions of years, and then suddenly reappear?”

“Well, I suppose our observation methods have become that much keener.”

“Oh please, Clive. Many of these rediscoveries were made by amateurs or totally by accident. Why the first credible information we collected regarding the Tasmanian Tiger was from a news reporter, and he was on a camping trip at the time, not even doing any sort of investigation.”

“What then?” Clive briefly turned back to the laptop’s screen and saw the streak just walking out of the camera’s range. He motioned to Cappi who plotted their course, and activated the next camera most likely to capture their image.

“I don’t know, Clive. It’s like there’s a force in nature that has been…well, concealing these creatures for great lengths of time, and now has decided to reveal them to us again.”

“You sound like you believe in God, Cappi.”

“Don’t be absurd. I’m no religious person. But sheer observation and the improbability of so many extinct species just ‘coming back to life’ out of nowhere, is more than a little curious.”

“Expecting a T-Rex to visit us for dinner, his I mean?”

“Nothing so dramatic. But 65 million years does seem to be the limit based on a century of research. What else could be waiting out there to be found? Something as dangerous as your T-Rex?”

The question was supposedly rhetorical, since neither of them had an answer. They both returned to their work. When the night shift relieved them, Clive and Cappi would go back to the main base camp, have a bit of supper, drink a bottle of wine, maybe two, and then make love to exhaustion.

Just 160 kilometers directly south of Tasmania’s Bruny Island, something was disturbing the surface of the ocean. It was reminiscent of a Great White Shark but was over 30 meters long, nearly 100 feet. It weighed almost 60 metric tons.

It had recently happened upon a school of albacore, and approaching from beneath, consumed nearly all of them in one large clamp of its jaws, a maw, when fully opened, that was five meters in height and three-and-a-half meters wide, or 15 feet by 10 feet.

However, being a creature accustomed to consuming killer whales and similarly sized sea life, it still hungered, it still hunted.

Over the next several days, while Clive and Cappi continued to study the Tasmanian Tigers, locating five individual streaks within ten kilometers of one another, the large sea creature would cruise north up the western coast of Tasmania, and then turn east into the Bass Strait between northern Tasmania and Australia.

megalodon

Found at SharkSider.com

It would be there, near tiny Deal Island, that a fishing boat would see it, and human beings would witness the awesome and terrifying power of the Megalodon, thought extinct for over 2 million years, for the first time in mankind’s history.

The boat’s Captain would barely be able to send off a radio warning message in time before his vessel was sunk.

I came across an article the other week called Decades after extinction declaration, hunt for Tasmanian tiger resumes published by the Christian Science Monitor.

I started thinking of the various times I’ve read about how some long-extinct species was found to still exist. I did a brief search, and most of the species are fairly harmless to human beings, so I started thinking about species that might actually be dangerous if they re-emerged.

My brother is an avid scuba diver and collects Megalodon teeth. Since, like modern sharks, the Megalodon’s skeletal structure was made of cartilage instead of bone, it doesn’t fossilize, so all we have to prove their existence is their teeth.

That’s apparently enough for scientists to reconstruct what an actual adult Megalodon was like. Pretty terrifying. And you thought that Jaws (1975) was bad. We’re going to need a bigger boat.

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5 thoughts on “Not Gone Forever

  1. Now, if this story were allowed to flourish within the sci-fy genre, and grow to its natural size, I would expect to find either a natural phenomenon such as a wormhole, or a human experiment in time travel at work. If the former, I suppose it might have formed about a century ago, perhaps due to the passage of a miniature black hole through our planet; and due to some inherent instabilities it would shift to varying land or sea locations on the planet and to varying time periods, marginally stable at any one time just long enough to allow a few of some extinct species to be caught within it and transported to the near-present time.

    In fact, the wormhole or rift anomaly might have located itself at a single point in space along earth’s orbit, and only intersect with the planet once a year. Or, it could be a bit more complex that that, perhaps following some complex orbit relative to the galactic core that happens to coincide from time to time with the path followed by the Sun and its planets, making the intervals of intersection with earth harder to predict. Of course, if it caught only a single Megalodon, that creature would be unable to propagate the species, and it would die out fairly quickly (possibly from starvation or from the depredations of modern bacteria or viruses).

    Now if it were instead a human experiment, then the story would develop around some secret scientific group deliberately trying to resurrect these extinct species and integrate them into present-day ecospheres. The presence of Megalodon could then represent a mistake of some sort, unleashing a horror that wreaks havoc and moral vengeance upon the arrogant human scientists trying to play god. Or, there are other possibilities for story development.

    In any case, the story could then follow the progress of some organization to solve the problems engendered by such a phenomenon or experiment. It could follow the example of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where everybody gets killed, or it could follow some more optimistic path that actually resolves the problems, at some cost to somebody (just the throw in a moral dimension),

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    • I recall renting a British TV series (season one) dealing with a similar premise. Dinosaurs periodically began appearing in the UK (and just the UK) prompting one physicist to form a team of misfit SMEs to investigate. It was some sort of natural phenomena, but to his surprise, his ex-wife was manipulating it to change history. I can’t remember the name of the series now, but I do recall looking it up on Wikipedia. The series had a great start but quality began to degrade over time.

      However, except for the Megalodon, and my exaggeration that the Coelacanth is thriving in the Pacific Ocean, the information I provided about the other supposedly extinct species is true.

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  2. Oops! That was: “just [to] throw in …”. And the human experiment could exploit any desired technology, be it time travel, genetic engineering, or something else altogether.

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