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Iemisch, Austin Whittall

Concept of the iemisch as an otter-like animal by Austin Whittall.

Other names: Chimchimen, Erefil ú, Guarifil u, Hymché, Iemisch listai, Jemechim, Jemisch, Ñerrefil u, Nervel u, Ngúrüvil u, Ñiribil u, Nirribil u, Nürüfil u, water tiger, Yem’chen, Yemische, Zorro-víbora[1]
Country reported: Argentina, Chile

The iemisch (Tehuelche: "water tiger"[1]) is a cryptid reported from Patagonia. It is described as an aggressive aquatic animal.[2][3][1]

Description

The iemisch is described as being roughly puma-sized, with short, coarse, brown hair, a circle of light hair around the eyes extending to the earhole, and large canines. It has three ebbed toes on the forefeet and four webbed toes on the hind feet, and a long, otter-like tail. André Tournouer wrote that the animal he saw had no external ears. The Ameghino brothers described it as being nocturnal and mainly water-dwelling, and feared for dragging animals such as horses, and even human beings, into rivers to be killed.[1][2]

Sightings

Undated

A Tehuelche Indian named Hompen told Carlos Ameghino that:[2]

"while going by Senguer [the Senguer River] in Santa Cruz, [he] met a Iemisch on the road, that closed his way, and fought with it, killing it by hitting it with his bolas. According to them, it is amphibious and walks on land with the same ease as it swims in the water. It is now confined to the central Patagonia, in caves and protected areas along the shores of Colhue, Fontana [and] Buenos Aires lakes, and Senguer, Aysen and Huemules rivers, etc., but that according to tradition, they used to extend in other times to the north up to the Negro river, and on the south, according to what old Indians can remember it lived in all the lakes of the oriental foothills of the Andes up to the very Strait of Magellan."

Writing later regarding another sighting made by European settlers, Florentino Ameghino said that:[2]

"Steinkanpen was accompanied by two cow hands by the name Montesinos who live in Chubut and two sons, one aged 18, the other 16. The five of them saw the monster. Mr. Zubizarreta was accompanied by several soldiers. I have spoken to others who have shot at Jemish from a distance of 3 meters".

circa 1840's

From Carlos Ameghino:[2]

"About half a century ago, an Iemisch that was coming down the Santa Cruz River from the Andean lakes, landed on the northern shore of the river close to Pavón Island; the terrified Indians ran inland, and since then as a remembrance of this unexpected apparition, this abandoned place still today bears the name of "Iemisch-Aiken" (place or location of the Iemisch)."

1870

British explorer George Chaworth Musters, who explored Patagonia in 1870, heard stories of a "water tiger" from the Mapuche. He also saw two South American ostrich carcasses floating in shallow water in the Senguer River, where the Hompen sighting also occurred. After discounting pumas, jaguars, and maned wolves, he recalled the yaguarú, an animal described in the 18th Century by Thomas Falkner.[4][2]

1900

French naturalist André Tournouer saw a similar creature during a 1900 expedition to Patagonia. He saw a round-headed, earless animal about the size of a puma emerge in the middle of a stream, and shot at it to no effect. He later discovered some feline-like tracks. Tournouer's native guide called the animal "Hymché".[5]

2013 or 2014

In 2014, a man contacted Austin Whittall describing an alleged iemisch sighting he had made around the Puerto Natales area. He wrote that he and his wife:[6]

"were travelling back into Natales in the early hours of the morning on route 9 , when an animal crossed in front of us and I braked to avoid hitting it (it was a close call as I had to reverse to check I had been quick enough) when I had done so we both saw that it was something we had not seen in the area before, (my wife was born and raised in Natales) after searching the internet for Patagonian wild life and having no luck with a match , I stumbled upon your site today and the illustration is incredibly close to what we saw ,the other strange thing about this encounter is that the animal showed absolutely no signs of fear given the fact that we had almost hit it with our 4wd, it just continued on its way as if oblivious to our presence , the animal we saw seemed to be heavier than the illustration ,It almost appeared pregnant? as it had a waddle to its gait, just thought we would let you know about this encounter and would be interested to hear your comments on this.
"s for the size ,it was about the size of a small dog and was quite close to the ground , as mentioned before the impression you have of the lemisch in your gallery is almost identical to what we encountered on route 9 , and the fact that this was not a fleeting encounter leaves us a bit puzzled as to what it may have been , perhaps the lemisch is still around in Chilean Patagonia?"

Theories

Florentino Ameghino suggested that the iemisch was a relict Mylodon or some other ground sloth, and connected it with his own Patagonian ground sloth. This claim has not been taken seriously, as ground sloths (excepting Thalassocnus and Ahytherium) were neither aquatic nor predatory.[3][1] Esteban Erize suggested that it may be an aquatic reptile with the head of a fox, and George Eberhart suggested an unknown species of giant otter or confused or exaggerated accounts of regular otters.[1] Palaeontologist George Gaylord Simpson wrote that stories of the iemisch, "if not invented to amuse the stupid white men, were simply myths with no foundation in reality".[7] Santiago Roth associated it with an extinct jaguar, the remains of which were found in the Cueva del Milodon, which he named Iesmisch lista in honour of Ramón Lista, who had allegedly seen the ground sloth which Ameghino connected with stories of the iemisch.[1]

Francisco Moreno suggested it may be a giant rodent similar to a capybara or the extinct Megamys, and Austin Whittall notes that the hutia, a closely related rodent, does somewhat resemble an otter, and a larger version could be dangerous if its young were threatened.[6] Whittall also wrote that an out-of-place spectacled bear could explain the 1900 Tournouer sighting.[8] Both Bernard Heuvelmans and Roy P. Mackal believed the iemisch may have been a new species of giant otter; Mackal wrote that "its range is restricted and may still be shrinking".[9]

For the 2014 sighting, Austin Whittall suggested identities of an otter, an American mink, a water rat, and a cupia.[6]

Similar cryptids

  • Water tigers, semi-aquatic sabre-toothed cat like cryptids reported from much of South America.

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Eberhart, George (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Whittall, Austin (2012) Monsters of Patagonia
  3. 3.0 3.1 Heuvelmans, Bernard (1955) On the Track of Unknown Animals
  4. Musters, George Chaworth (1871) At Home with the Patagonians
  5. Tournouer, André (1901) Sur le Néomylodon et l’animal mystérieux déla Patagonie
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Iemisch sighting in Puerto Natales | Patagonian Monsters
  7. Simpson, George Gaylord (1934) Attending Marvels: A Patagonian Journal
  8. Bears in Patagonia | Patagonian Monsters
  9. Cohen, Daniel (1982) Encyclopedia of Monsters