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Josh Biography
The Giants of Patagonia

Many explorers throughout the centuries, including the great Ferdinand Magellan, visited the region in South America now known as Patagonia and reported sighting giants. From these accounts we get the name "Patagonia"--Land of the Big Feet. But what exactly did these explorers see? Now, some experts suggest that the giant, upright-walking ground sloth, once widespread throughout Patagonia, could have been the source of these stories. Josh Bernstein accompanies paleontologists, naturalists, and crypto-zoologists on a search to determine whether the ground sloth could have lived into the era of human habitation. He treks across the glaciers of Patagonia, descends deep in the mountain caves, accompanies a band of gauchos on horseback, and joins a modern-day paleontology dig to try to discover evidence that the ground sloth still exists today.

Josh's Journal

The Giants of Patagonia

Journal 11Yeti, Bigfoot, and Sasquatch: "I imagine that ever since stories were first told around a campfire, people liked to talk about giants. Even today, our world has icons of hugeness, from the Biblical Goliath to the lumberjack Paul Bunyan to even the Jolly Green Giant. But what makes the giant stories of Patagonia a bit different is that the people there seem to think they have real physical proof to support these legends and tales. So it's off to Patagonia I go in search of, well, we'll see."

Patagonia: "For many people in America, Patagonia is a clothing company. Well, that's true. Actually, I'm a big supporter of the company Patagonia, their environmental message and their clothing—for example, the pants I wear on shows in hot climates are made by Patagonia, as is the green 'down sweater' I'm wearing on this episode. But for the giants, I'm going to the REAL Patagonia, the southern region of Argentina and Chile where people drink Mate in small gourds with silver straws called bombillas. I've been a fan of Mate (pronounced MAH-tay) for years, ever since some of my instructors at BOSS brought it back from Argentina with them. They also brought back stories of how amazing the country was—a land of rugged beauty with a grandeur very much like the American West. So I'm REALLY excited to go."

Uh Oh. No Plane: "Houston, we have a problem—a country-wide airline strike is threatening to leave me stranded indefinitely at the airport here in Buenos Aires. Not wanting to make a film about that (go rent 'The Terminal'), we've come up with the only real solution—CHARTER A JET. Lest you think that Digging for the Truth or The History Channel is in the habit of doing this for its shows or its hosts (ha!), this solution is being endorsed only out of dire necessity. No plane = no travel = no show. So DFT is chartering a leer jet almost as old as I am and,

let me tell you, we plan to make good use of it, flying back and forth between Chile and Argentina on the trail of these alleged giants. If you care to send a note of 'thanks' to the people at JWM Productions, they've really stepped up and forked over some cash to make this show happen. (Oh, and yes, I do plan to have at least ONE rock star moment on the plane and drink some champagne. But off camera)."

The Land of Big Feet: "I'm now at the Museum of Anthropology with Dr. Jose Antonio Perez Gollan (everyone calls him 'Pepe'). And you know what I've just learned? That 'Patagonia' means 'Land of Big Feet.' Huh. Go figure! So this entire region was named after giants, or at least their big feet. Even the maps reflect this, saying 'Regio Gigantum' and 'Les Patagons.' I think that's impressive. Add to this the stories and sightings from credible explorers like Ferdinand Magellan, Antonio Pigafetta, and Sir Francis Drake, and you've got yourself some pretty interesting data to consider. Could there have really been giants here just a few centuries ago? Could they still be alive today?"

The Tehuelche: "According to Dr. Mario Castro, the giants of Patagonia were the people called the Tehuelche, a robust, tall people with heavy brows, large vertebrae, and strong jaws. He suggests that they would have looked like giants to the smaller, frailer Europeans. Europeans were typically 5'6” tall. The Tehuelche were 6'--some even 6'6” tall. Would that be enough of a difference to qualify as a giant? Hard to say. But drape them in a furry cloak made from animal hide and that MIGHT look more giant-esque. This seems to be the theory that British Commodore John Byron proposed in 1773, when HE went to Patagonia to settle the matter. But there's one problem, even the natives themselves have stories of giants, and their stories of 'huge, hairy creatures with tails' precede the legends of the Europeans by many, many centuries. So perhaps there were other giants roaming these lands...? Real ones? Mario suggests I talk directly to the people who may have learned these tales from the Tehuelche—Patagonia's Gauchos."

Men With Stone Balls: "The gauchos of Patagonia are legendary for their horsemanship and their hunting—they freely roamed Patagonia's Pampas as nomads on horseback. In particular, they're known for their mastery of the boleadora—three rocks wrapped in leather and connected by three braids of leather. Normally, they're thrown at the feet of a moving animal, but Sergio, Adolfo and I decide to be more humane and go for a human victim—in this case Paisa, who has wrapped his legs in carpet for protection. Not sure what he'll do if he gets hit ABOVE the knees, but he seems to trust Sergio's skill."

Boleadoras: "Funny, but I always thought you swung boleadoras by holding the center of the leather, where all the bolas meet. But Sergio says you just hold one bola and let the rest fly around you. Okay. Throwing them takes a little practice (as you see in the show) but I'm able to hit a bush on the third or fourth try. Of course, with a moving target, it would be that much harder, but I suppose one gets used to it. And I guess one gets used to running toward your game very quickly to kill it before it gets out of the tangle of leather and stone."

Shrieking Giants: "Based on what Adolfo's telling me, the native legends of giants seem to be very different from the accounts of Magellan and Drake. In fact, these things don't sound human at all—9 feet tall... Hairy...with tails... and some sort of arrow- and bullet-proof skin. On top of that, they create some sort of shrieking sound that apparently scared the bejeezus out of the natives. The word is that there are footprints of these giants near Bahia Blanca, so off I go."

Big Thing Walking: "In 1968, on a very windy section of beach, a layer of siltstone was revealed beneath the sand. And in that siltstone they found some very exciting and very huge footprints. GIANT footprints. I'm here with Dr. Silvia Aramayo to see them while her students fill them with some sort of blue foam to create casts. Apparently, they're in jeopardy of being destroyed, and they're working very hard to preserve the data they contain. Silvia says that these footprints were made 12,000 years ago by a 20-foot tall, 11,000-pound giant sloth called a Megatherium. Wow. To learn more about that, though, I need to go a special museum in Buenos Aires."

Megatherium & Mylodons: "The La Plata Natural Sciences Museum was founded in 1887 and reminds me a lot of the Museum of Natural History in New York. There are rooms full of skeletons and skulls, from dinosaurs to humans to prehistoric mammals—which is why I'm here. They have a Megatherium, which Susana Bargo is happy to show me. Yes, it's huge—as its feet would suggest. But perhaps too huge to match the gaucho's description. These are more than twice the '9 feet' Adolfo told me about. However, its smaller cousin the Mylodon was between 7 and 9 feet tall—also a giant. While they don't have a skeleton on display here in the museum, they do have a piece of real Mylodon skin. Apparently, it has bones in it (very weird) called 'dermal ossicles.' Perhaps these might deflect arrows and bullets? Not sure. But this hairy, large creature meets many of the criteria of the gauchos—except one. Susana says that Mylodons, like Megatherium, died out over 10,000 years ago. This hide, found in 1895, only LOOKED fresh. Hmm. Perhaps a few of them somehow managed to survive, a la Jurassic Park? Susana doesn't think so, but I've been given a lead on someone who does."

Charlie Jacoby: "I have to say that having done so many shows with primarily archaeologists as my guides, it's a refreshing change of pace to meet Charlie, a journalist and self-proclaimed Mylodon 'nutter.' He's just so...NON-scientific. Not to say he's any less rigorous with his pursuit, but Charlie seems to embrace the 'possibility' of things a more pure scientist might not—like maybe a Mylodon or two are still alive. It would certainly explain the sightings and the legends of recent centuries. And so, Charlie brings me up to speed on his research and the trail of the Mylodon, visiting a cave where they once lived, shooting an arrow at a simulated Mylodon skin, and exploring their dung. Fascinating all around. But could they have survived past 10,000 years ago? For that, Charlie uses key data to create a 3-layer map which pinpoints what may be a 'Lost World' where Mylodons still roam--yes, also like Jurassic Park. Only in this case, he wants to take me to it. Or at least, close to it."

A Lost World: "The Perito Moreno glacier is only one of over 365 glaciers in this region, but they say it's the most spectacular. With a face of ice that is over 200 feet tall and 2 miles wide, it's easy to see why. But Charlie has brought me here, not because of the glacier, but because of what the glacier protects—a Lost World. Surrounded by glaciers and open water, the mountains now in front of us seem to offer the perfect potential home for a Mylodon—the right climate, the right plants, and the right minerals. And no humans can get there. Could some of them still be alive today, despite the changes and challenges of the past 10,000 years? Well, it's not something I can test in person—there's no way to fly over that piece of land, and hiking to it would be an expedition beyond the abilities of DFT. But, as Charlie has pointed out several times, there's always the possibility of their survival, and that has to be satisfying enough. For now."

created by diggingforthetruth.net 2007
Journal taken from The History Channel DFT site. Photos taken from The History Channel DFT site and video.
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