Some creatures are too bizarre for even the most credulous and dedicated of cryptozoologists. The Row of Western New Guinea is one of those. Even Bernard Heuvelmans could not accept this particular testimony.
Its name is derived from the sound it makes – rooow, roow, rroow, row! – a hissing roar, or perhaps a roaring hiss. It is a hump-backed, massive reptilian creature forty feet long, with a snaky neck and tail. The small, beaked, turtle-like head is adorned with a bony frill and armed with a sharp beak. The front legs are shorter than the hind legs, allowing the row to rear up. The bulky body is a light brown-yellow, blending in with the reedy swamps it lives in, and is covered with uneven scales like armor plate. Along the back is a line of triangular plates. The long tail is tipped with a single twenty-pound keratinous spike. In cross-section the spike resembles a series of stacked cones; it is 18 inches long and six inches wide at the base. One side of the spike is worn down as it drags along the ground.
The row was encountered by Charles “Cannibal” Miller and his wife Leona during a whirlwind honeymoon in the New Guinean jungle. Considering that they lived with the Kirrirri, an as-yet-undiscovered tribe of cannibals, and were served roasted babies to insure fertility, seeing a living dinosaur was just another event for them.
It started when Leona noticed the Kirrirri using implements that resembled elephants’ tusks. These proved to be row horns, and Charles managed to make it understood that he wanted to see the creature it came from. The Kirrirri obliged, and the journey took a few days to get to the row’s habitat.
They found a row in a swampy, reedy delta between two arid plateaus. The sight of it was enough to paralyze Miller with fear, but not long enough to prevent him from filming. The row’s head rose from the reeds on the end of a long neck, and its tail lashed as it called out. It reared several times, glancing in the direction of the whirring camera, before slithering away and disappearing behind a stand of dwarf eucalyptus.
That was the first and last written account of the fabled row. Miller did not bring back or photograph any of the row’s tail-spikes. The film he took of the row was allegedly shown to select individuals, but there was no word of any saurian creature in it. Even the Kirrirri, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, do not exist. And, taken at face value, the row appears to combine features from sauropods, ceratopsians, and stegosaurs – all unrelated dinosaur lineages.
Heuvelmans, B.; Garnett, R. trans. (1958) On the Track of Unknown Animals. Rupert Hart-Davis, London.
Miller, C. (1939) Cannibal Caravan. Lee Furman Inc., New York.