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The Artrellia - Dragons of Papua New Guinea

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Dragons ubiquitous in human mythology. Our species has long been obsessed with the idea of monstrous lizards. Many have tried speculating about this phenomenon. There are those who believe that the reason for the myths are that we once encountered large reptiles.

Take the island of Komodo, for example. Real life monsters stalk the island, posing a threat to anything they encounter. The Komodo Dragon, being the largest living lizard, only grows to roughly 3 meters (9.8 feet) in length. Big, but not the same as a mythological monster.

On the Island of Papua New Guinea, tales are told of something much bigger. This is the legend of the Artrellia.

Truly Remote - Here be Monsters

Modern biologists see the dense jungles of Papua New Guinea as the third most biodiverse place after the Amazon, and Congo. The jungles are near-impenetrable. From the dense mangrove-swamps on the coast to the true rainforest further inland.

Once, the island was attached to Australia via a land-bridge. That explains the presence of marsupials, cassowaries, and crocodiles. It could also potentially explain the alleged existence of the Artrellia.

Local legends tell of a creature that looks similar to a monitor lizard, but grows to 12m (39 feet) in length. The beast is said to swallow its prey whole, after roasting it with a gout of flame. That's right, it's supposedly a real dragon.

Artrellias are highly territorial creatures. They will attack anything that strays into their path. Strangely enough, they are also known to be arboreal, spending large amounts of time in trees.


The Artrellia
I did that

Separating the tale of the Artrellia from pure myth, is the scientists who witnessed the beast. The first expedition to come across tales of the dragon was the Archbold Expedition 1933-1934.

Richard Archbold was an American Zoologist who led an expedition into south-eastern New Guinea. During their journey into the heart of the forest, they encountered several local tribes. It was from these tribes that they learned about the Artrellia, although they never encountered one.

During WWII, Allied soldiers were stationed on the island following the defeat of the occupying Japanese forces. American, British, and Australian troops reported seeing massive lizards in the rainforest. The lizards were around 20 feet in length, and moved with surprising alacrity.

David Marsh, the last district commissioner of Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea's biggest city), came forward in the 1960s to report his own sightings of the Dragon of New Guinea.

Spurred on by Marsh's reports, a group from the Kairuku-Hiri District brought the skin and jaws of a huge lizard to the Agricultural Administration. They claimed that they were the remains of a dragon.

Robert Grant and David George were exploring the Strachan Island District in 1961, when they encountered a huge lizard. According to their description, the dragon had gray skin, a long neck, and stood roughly 4 feet (1.2 m) tall. Its total length was around 26 feet (7.9 m).

In the 80s, Col. Blashford-Snell led an expedition in search of the Artrellia. He diverted his team for two months after hearing local legends of the dragon. They encountered a 6-foot (1.8 m) lizard, which they quickly killed.

Blashford-Snell believed that they had solved the mystery of the Artrellia. The lizard that they killed, was in fact a juvenile crocodile monitor. Growing to a reported maximum length of 13 feet, they believed that this was the legendary dragon. Case closed.

That is until one of the scientists had an encounter with a true monster. Ian Redmond took a moment to rest in a ditch, when he heard footsteps approaching. He had become complacent in the jungle after months spent within it. Redmond assumed that the footsteps were simply his comrades walking along the top of the ditch.

Something about the sound triggered a deep survival instinct. Redmond whirled around to see the head and shoulders of a truly huge lizard sticking out of the foliage. It was gray, and had a head similar in size to that of a horse. Worse still, it was looking straight at him.

Redmond tried to remain calm. He slowly reached for his camera, but the movement spooked the dragon. After it fled into the jungle, Redmond gathered his colleagues. They searched the area, but were unable to find any evidence of the dragon.

Sightings continue to this day. No solid evidence had been shown for the existence of the Artrellia.

Theoretical Existence

Cryptozoology has the distinct honor among pseudosciences where it can never become true science. Should a cryptid be discovered, it moves into the realm of zoology.

One must always judge a Cryptid animal according to the likelihood of its existence. If the animal is reported to have magical powers, or exist in an as-yet-undiscovered state of being, it can easily be dismissed.

The key lies in the fossil record. Coelacanths were believed to be extinct, but scientists had fossilized examples of them. This meant that the existence of a coelacanth was possible, on Earth.

Papua New Guinea's biological ties to Australia could help us explain the Artrellia. The continent was dominated up until 50,000 years ago by a lizard matching the description of the Artrellia.

Megalania could have grown to a size of 23 feet. It was a giant terrestrial monitor lizard, the biggest of its kind to ever exist. The beast would have stood roughly 4 feet tall, and would likely have been an opportunistic feeder. Meaning that it will eat anything it can find.

The Megalania fits the description of the Artrellia perfectly, save for the fire-breathing. Such embellishments aren't uncommon in the description of predators. Humans tend to add a few details concerning the things that scare them. It could also be due to western cultural influences.



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