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Show Notes for Episode 3 - The Grootslang

Oct 7, 2018

This week we discussed the Grootslang (or Grote Slang, Dutch / Afrikaans for "Big Snake"), a very large, possibly chimeric cryptid from South Africa. Here are the show notes, with links, pictures, etc.

Art found at:


(Some of the) Links/Books used for Grootslang research:
Eberhart, George M. Mysterious Creatures: a Guide to Cryptozoology. ABC-CLIO, 2002, pp. 217-218.
Rose, Carol. Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: an Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth. W.W, Norton, 2001, p. 156.
Stuff on the "Wondergat":
Coordinates: 28°25'12.2"S 16°53'14.5"E
Some screenshots from Google Earth:
From what we can see, there's a plaque outside of the "Wonder Cave".
This picture and some additional ones can be found at,  and you can also google "south africa wondergat richtersveld"  
There is a 2 part YouTube video of an expedition exploring the cave/cave system. The first video is mostly setup and the second video they actually get to sinkhole and descend, so you can at least see what it looks like. There's a ledge a bit down, and then the hole angles down further into the massive cave system that eventually leads to the ocean.
Here are the excerpts we read in the episode, and links to where we found the books online:
"Where Men Still Dream" by Lawrence G. Green (journalist), 1945
 "There is a legend that the "Wonder Hole" or "Bottomless Pit" is the source of the diamonds. You need a Hottentot guide to reach this mysterious hole in the ground in a far corner of the little-known Richtersveld; and natives are reluctant to guide expeditions to the spot. They believe the deep, black cavern is the home of the "Grootslang," the Great Snake of the Orange River.
The cavern, they say, is connected with the sea forty miles away. If you lean over the edge of the pit and listen carefully, there comes at intervals a deep boom like surf on a distant shore. I know one tough prospector who took a winch and cable to the spot and explored a little of the "Wonder Hole". He is, I believe, the only man to attempt this feat. It was dark and extremely hot when his feet touched a ledge far down. The ragged circle of daylight seemed small. Bats flew in his face, and he dropped his electric
torch. Before they hauled him to the surface he observed tunnels leading out of the shaft. There was a smell of sulphur in the air. He never descended again.

     The "Great Snake" of the Orange River is something more than a legend. Cornell described it in his books. Scores of other men living near the river have sent letters to the newspapers declaring they had seen the monster. Native stories that the snake has enormous diamonds in the eye-sockets, and that a strange and evil influence is felt by all who behold it, may be politely dismissed. White eyewitnesses state that the snake is forty feet long, leaving a track on the muddy river banks about three feet wide. This spoor was followed by one party of prospectors for many miles before it disappeared into the river. The truth probably is that exceptionally large pythons have been seen in the river from time to time, and their sizes exaggerated. Pythons up to twenty-five feet in length have been shot; their powers of swallowing a buck whole are well known. But in the native mind there remains only one Great Snake, greatly feared."
"The Glamour of Prospecting: Wanderings of a South African Prospector in search of copper, gold, emeralds, and diamonds" by Lt. Fred C. Cornell, 1920 (search for "slang"; there are several mentions of the grootslang in the book)
"It was dark when we floundered out of it, and we steered straight for a wide thicket of willows, made a big fire, and were only too glad to turn in. It seemed an excellent camp, with wood, water, and shelter from the cold wind, but it was plain that the "boys" were uneasy, and they crouched close to our fire instead of building one apart as they usually did. After some food Ezaak suggested that we might perhaps trek on a little farther, and this, coming after a most arduous day, was decidedly strange. We asked him why, and after beating around the bush for a bit he told me that in the middle of the river, and exactly opposite where we were camped, was a big rock in which the huge snake (the "Groot Slang", in which every Richtersfeldt Hottentot firmly believes) had his home, and that it was not safe for us or for our horses.

     We had long heard of this snake; many reputable Hottentots and a few white men claim to have seen it, many more have seen its huge spoor in the sand or mud - a foot and a half wide. It is believed to take cattle from the banks, and the natives fear it mightily. There are no crocodiles in the Orange, and besides, there are never any traces of feet with the spoor, but it is a remarkable fact that the Hottentot name for this huge python - or whatever it may be - is "Ki-man" which is very like the Eastern name for an alligator.

     Anyhow, we were far too tired to care for snakes, and of course stayed where we were, the only thing to annoy us being the huge long-legged tarantulas that kept running with incredible swiftness into the fire, where they sizzled, squirmed, and smelt unpleasantly.

     In the morning we found that the river here was a long, wide, still, and apparently very deep stretch of water, and that a big rock rose from the centre, as the guides had said. It appeared to be of granite, and was riven in half by a big cleft. The steep mud banks of the river should have shown a trace of anything coming up from the water, but we found no spoor. So we made up some dynamite cartridges with fuse and detonator, and flung them out as far as we could, and stood by with the "arsenal" handy in case the "Groot Slang" was at home and objected. The dynamite made a big upheaval, but no snake materialised; only a few small springers and barbel flapped round in the muddy water.

     Then I saw something moving in the crack in the rock, and let drive with my rifle. I was in a hurry, and I heard my bullet hit the landscape somewhere in German territory; but Ransson had seen that movement too, and was emptying his magazine into the crack without undue loss of time. When we'd finished a very flustered and indignant old wild-duck squatted out of that crack and went away unhurt and quacking most derisively. No luck again with our "big game" shooting."
We won't include a picture of the Cape Cobra that was mentioned just in case anyone's afraid of snakes, but here are a few links if you'd like to learn more about this exceptionally venomous reptile: 
Book mentioned in this episode - "The man-eaters of Tsavo and other East African adventures" by John Henry Patterson. Link to full book here:
If you have any personal stories about creatures, monsters, or cryptids (even if you don't know what it was), please email us at so we can eventually do a listener episode! Visit us at for more in depth notes, links, and pictures. 

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