An Unsolved Mystery Of The Amazon
April 15, 2014

An Unsolved Mystery Of The Amazon

My typical Sunday afternoon involves sitting on the couch watching a NASCAR race. However, Sunday, April 6th was a little different. The race scheduled that day was in a rain delay, so I decided to flip through the channels to see what else was on while I was waiting for the race to start.

As I looked through the guide to see what other interesting program was on, I came across a rerun of Animal Planet’s River Monsters. Of course I had never seen it before, so I decided to check it out. During the show, I believe it was around 6:15 pm or so, an ad for the season premiere of the show at 9:00 pm came on.

It said that the host of the show, Jeremy Wade, was going to be investigating the Sobral Santos II, September 20, 1981, Amazon River disaster where around 300 people were supposedly pulled underwater after the boat capsized.

I guess Animal Planet was having day-long reruns of the show, so I continued to watch while flipping back and forth until I found out the race was actually postponed. Then, when the season premiere show began, I was captivated by what the show would entail.

The show was entitled “The Amazon Apocalypse,” which featured a riverboat that capsized in the Amazon where around 300 people were sucked under the water by an unknown entity. The next day, they were discovered with limbs missing and their bodies had been chewed on by whatever lurked below.

During Jeremy’s investigation, he deducted the known fish and animals that were not capable of the feast. The list that remained included piranhas, redtail catfish, sharks, crocodiles and a few other water creatures.  He then took each one and spoke to eyewitnesses to determine which ones could have pulled the people under and have a nighttime snack to boot.

He ruled out the piranha, as they are just too small to pull people under. Although sharks do come up the river sometimes, Wade disregarded them, as well as crocodiles, just for the large number that it would take to carry out the massacre.

One tiny, eel-like creature — the candiru — may have been to blame for the bodies being found mutilated. On the show, Wade stated that these small creatures will burrow themselves into a carcass that’s within the water and feed on the body inside out.

The day after the disaster, the New York Times posted that 10 bodies were found and the search for 300 missing people continued. Fifteen divers searched the sunken riverboat for drowned passengers. The boat was believed to be carrying 430 passengers, but with only 178 confirmed survivors.

Although Wade didn’t prove what creature actually caused the bloodshed, he did think the most likely candidate was the Amazon redtail catfish, which can reach six feet in length. “We will never know for sure. What we’re looking into is all the possibilities, what could have happened to all of the people,” he said.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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