Whatever happened to the trip to the Congo to look for Mokele-mbembe?

Whatever happened to those kids off to the Congo to look for living dinosaurs and giant spiders?

Well, it crossed my mind today and I wondered why I hadn’t heard anything about Stephen McCullah’s successfully funded Kickstarter project. They were scheduled to leave in late June for Africa.

If you recall, there was a bit of a kerfuffle from the serious/skeptic viewpoint. There were no scientists involved. And it sure seemed ill-conceived and overly ambitious.

Indeed it was. It seemed to have collapsed within a few days.

What happened?

One of the participants, Joe Marrero, posted this update back in July:

Two days before Stephen and Sam left for the Congo, I had begun to suspect that the expedition had financial problems when I was told that a specific purchase was not within the budget. Within two days of the team entering the Congo, I was forced to withdraw from the expedition when I was told that there “wasn’t enough funds for three months.” This was shocking and I was disappointed that I had placed my reputation on the line, only to have someone I trusted disappoint me with their poor financial planning.

Joe doesn’t say anything more about it. But an anonymous tip was revealed on David Meyer’s site: THE DINOSAUR EXPEDITION GOES…EXTINCT?

Yesterday [July 18, 2012], we received an anonymous tip that the Newmac Expedition had returned from the Congo. Supposedly, the group was forced to curtail its 3-month trip. The exact reason remains unclear but we were told that Expedition member Stephen McCullah posted a message on his personal Facebook page about a lack of research permits. We’ve also heard that the Expedition suffered gear losses via theft.

This information has yet to be confirmed. But if true, it explains Marrero’s decision to withdraw from the Expedition. Adding fuel to the fire are the changes made to the Newmac Expedition’s social media platform. Its website has been abandoned. The last Facebook update came on June 21. The last Twitter update, announcing the departure of Joe Marrero, came on July 10. And the last update on Kickstarter (which we are unable to access) came on July 13.

David proceeds to wonder what happens to the Kickstarter funding. Does the ~$29,000 need to be paid back?

I searched and can’t find any more about this story after this point in mid-July. Here is a piece from the Sun Sentinel. But I assume they made it back OK but didn’t really get off the ground.

Mokele mbembe depiction

  6 comments for “Whatever happened to the trip to the Congo to look for Mokele-mbembe?

  1. Ben Radford
    October 13, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    Thanks for this update. Lack of follow-up is a major failure with stories like this: plan or finding makes huge news, fizzle-out or failure to replicate is never heard about. Good job!

  2. snoma
    October 13, 2012 at 5:41 PM

    From what I can understand from the Kickstarter website, project creators are obligated to pay back funding if a project doesn’t happen, for whatever reason.

    From their Terms of Use:

    Kickstarter does not offer refunds. A Project Creator is not required to grant a Backer’s request for a refund unless the Project Creator is unable or unwilling to fulfill the reward.

    Project Creators are required to fulfill all rewards of their successful fundraising campaigns or refund any Backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill.

    Project Creators may cancel or refund a Backer’s pledge at any time and for any reason, and if they do so, are not required to fulfill the reward.

    Kickstarter is under no obligation to become involved in disputes between any Users, or between Users and any third party arising in connection with the use of the Service. This includes, but is not limited to, delivery of goods and services, and any other terms, conditions, warranties, or representations associated with campaigns on the Site. Kickstarter does not oversee the performance or punctuality of projects.

    From the FAQ:

    Is a creator legally obligated to fulfill the promises of their project?

    Yes. Kickstarter’s Terms of Use require creators to fulfill all rewards of their project or refund any backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill. We crafted these terms to create a legal requirement for creators to follow through on their projects, and to give backers a recourse if they don’t. We hope that backers will consider using this provision only in cases where they feel that a creator has not made a good faith effort to complete the project and fulfill.

    So hopefully the people who backed this project with almost $30K will get their money back.

  3. October 13, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    Surprise, surprise.

    It’s not like they were actually going to come back with substantial evidence of a “living dinosaur” anyway.

  4. October 14, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    I’m still waiting for the return expedition to PNG by the guy ( I think his name was Whitcomb ) who claimed back about five years ago that his expedition had gotten within a few hundred yards of the ropen nesting ground. Of course he had zero evidence of having actually done so but the fundies were falling all over him back aroun ’05.

  5. red skipler
    November 2, 2012 at 8:03 AM

    I feel bad that the expedition did not go though.
    I am a firm believer that there still are unknown cryptozoology dinosaurs, out there yet to be discover.

  6. November 2, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    You can believe anything you want but there is no evidence worth a whit for the existence of living dinosaurs (birds excluded). It’s folly to support a mission to find a dinosaur. 66 million years is a LONG time to leave NO trace and we’d collectively get no where as a society if we based our actions only on belief instead of tested conclusions and reliable knowledge.

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