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Island in the Clouds: Is Mount Roraima Really A ‘Lost World’ Where Dinosaurs May Still Exist?

Island in the Clouds: Is Mount Roraima Really A ‘Lost World’ Where Dinosaurs May Still Exist?

Deep within in the rainforests of Venezuela, a series of plateaus arise more than 9000 feet (2743 meters) off the ground. From above, they look like islands in the sky. These are the tepuis (a Pemón Indian word for mountain), the most famous of which is called Mount Roraima. The tepuis are so unique in their geography that thousands of plant species exist nowhere else on the planet except on these plateaus. The mystical mountains fascinated explorers and writers for centuries, most notably Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who described an ascent of Mount Roraima in his 1912 novel The Lost World . In Doyle’s novel, a group explorers found that dinosaurs and other extinct creatures were still alive and well on the remote plateaus. Some people today still believe this to be a real possibility.

An illustration from Doyle’s ‘Lost World’ in which explorers encounter dinosaurs atop Mount Roraima.

An illustration from Doyle’s ‘Lost World’ in which explorers encounter dinosaurs atop Mount Roraima. ( public domain )

The Real Lost World

Once impenetrable to all but the Pemón indigenous people, Mount Roraima really was a lost world. The mountain plateaus were already established when South America was linked with Africa to form the supercontinent Gondwana, meaning they were first formed perhaps 400 to 250 million years ago. During this time, molten rock forced its way up through cracks in the sandstone landmass. At the same time, wind and water swept across Gondwana to erode the raised highlands into mountain ranges. The region would come to look much like it does now around 20 million years ago.

Because the tepuis have been isolated for so long atop their high, lonely plateaus, the flora and fauna of the tepuis provide an organic illustration of the processes of evolution. It is guessed that “at least half of the estimated 10,000 plant species here are unique to tepuis and surrounding lowlands. New species are still being discovered.” (George, 1989). Although all of the tepuis have been climbed, only a few have been extensively explored. Could this mean that supposedly extinct species, even dinosaurs, may still exist atop these remote plateaus?

Mount Roraima.

Mount Roraima. ( Feel the Planet )

Could the Legends be Real?

The Roraima plateaus are so remote and so unique that it is not difficult to imagine Sir Arthur Conan Doyle creating a world alive with prehistoric plants and dinosaurs in his novel The Lost World . Doyle was fascinated with the accounts of British botanist Everard Im Thurn, who climbed to the top of Mount Roraima in December 1884.

Ascending Mount Roraima in 1989 for the National Geographic Society, German explorer Uwe George said, “None of us who followed Im Thurn to Roraima have found primordial creatures or their fossil remains there, but the terrain is so difficult that only a fraction of the tepui’s 44 square miles has so far been explored” (George, 1989). Since his writing, more of Mount Roraima has been investigated and, unsurprisingly, no traces of dinosaurs have been found.

It is not hard to imagine dinosaurs walking atop these remote and ancient lands, but no evidence has been found to suggest this could be the case.

It is not hard to imagine dinosaurs walking atop these remote and ancient lands, but no evidence has been found to suggest this could be the case. ( Drwallpaper)

Sacred Ground

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the natives of Venezuela viewed the tepuis as having special mythical significance. According to the Pemón Indians, Mount Roraima is “the stump of a mighty tree that once held all the fruits and tuberous vegetables in the world,” however it was “felled by one of their ancestors, the tree crashed to the ground, unleashing a terrible flood” (Naeem, 2011). They believed that if a person ascended to the top of the tepuis, he or she would not come back alive.

A ‘Crystal Mountain Covered with Diamonds and Waterfalls’

Climbing the tepuis is exceedingly difficult and is made all the more so by the frequent rains that make the rocky footpaths slippery and muddy. The first European explorer to write about the tepuis was Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595. He wrote of a crystal mountain covered with diamonds and waterfalls:

“There falleth ouer it a mightie riuer which toucheth no parte of the side of the mountaine but…falleth to the grounde with a terrible noyse and clamor, as if 1000 great belles were knockt one against another…but what it hath I knowe not, neyther durst he or any of his men ascende to the toppe of the saide mountaine, those people adioyning being his enemies (as they were) and the way to it so impassible.” (Raleigh quoted in George, 1989).

There is a good chance that Sir Raleigh was describing Angel Falls, so named for the mid-20th century American Jimmie Angel who was the first person to fly over the area. Angel Falls were recently featured in Disney’s Up, where the falls are referred to as Paradise Falls.

A scene from Disney movie ‘Up’ showing ‘Paradise Falls’, which were based on Angel Falls at Mount Roraima.

A scene from Disney movie ‘Up’ showing ‘Paradise Falls’, which were based on Angel Falls at Mount Roraima.

While today’s travelers may not stumble upon dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures, they will be able to see black frogs and tarantulas that exist nowhere else on the planet. It is believed there are many other species unique to Roraima that are yet to be discovered.

Top image: Mount Roraima, Venezuela. Source: Outdoors

By Kerry Sullivan

Sources:

All That Is Interesting. "The Mind-Blowing Mount Roraima."  All That Is Interesting . All That Is Interesting, 30 June 2016. Web. http://all-that-is-interesting.com/mount-roraima.

George, Uwe. "Venezuela's Islands in Time."  National Geographic  May 1989: 526-61. Print.

Naeem, Rashid. "Facts About Mount Roraima."  StrangeFacts. Interesting Strange Facts, 19 Apr. 2011. Web. http://hot-facts.blogspot.com/2011/04/facts-about-mount-roraima-strangefacts.html.

Comments

Roberto Peron's picture

May not be any dinosaurs there but the place is fascinating and beautiful.  

I worked 10 years in Guyana and I've been to both the Venezuelan and Guyanese sides 3 times. Altough the place is somewhat "magical", or should I say "awe inspiring", the whole of it has been totally trashed by stupid tourists and adventurer wannabes. I picked up big garbage bags full of cans, water bottles, disposable picnic utensils, plastic bags, glass bottles etc... every time I went and brought it back. Made me bloody cringe. And sorry to say, NO dinosaurs, but it sure is a bucket list item well worth the couple grands to charter the flights... Better go from the Guyana side, much safer

While there may be small lizards which are ancient species which live amongst the scrub brush, rocks and small pools, it is unlikely there is anything which could rise to the “terrible lizard” name. Whoever writes the headlines for these articles needs to stop with the hyperbole and be a little more realistic, read the article and call the place what it is, a relatively unexplored part of the world with unknown plant and animal species. The dinosaur thing is a a bit over the top and attaches ridicule to what is beautiful, and to agree with Chris D., awe inspiring part of the world.

HMF

AintGottaClue's picture

Here we are in 2017, with satellites mapping literally every square meter of earth, and yet it is amazing how many areas are still unexplored! Even in the U. S. there are many areas which likely have never seen a human footprint, particularly West of the Mississippi.

The mountainous areas of S.America have been little explored, and the Amazon basin is another area that has seen little exploration. Parts of Africa, Canada, Siberia, even India, have also been little explored. We have yet a lot to learn about this old earth!

Even the "conventional historians" are beginning to admit that History is not exactly as has been portrayed in all the school/college texts, and there are many unexplained events that defy conventional theories. (The sudden rise of the Sumerian civilization, for one example.) And the comparatively new science of "genetic analysis" is throwing conventional evolutionary theories into serious question....the Rh Negative blood factor controversy, for example. The evidence that conventional explanations and theories are going to fall by the wayside has now built to the point it cannot be ignored. I believe we are entering a period in which many "conventional explanations and theories" are going to end up being just plain thrown out the window, and the entire history of human development is going to have to be rewritten from scratch.

History is nowhere near as well known as we think it is.

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