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Sun Oct 23 11:37:18 SAST 2016

Was it mammoth, was it giant ground sloth? The Explorer's Club ate turtle: research

Times LIVE | 04 February, 2016 10:25
A mammoth display.
Image by:

How would a woolly mammoth taste? In 1951 the Explorers Club claimed to have the answer - and that they had eaten some from a frozen specimen that had been found in Alaska.

The meat was said to have been found by the eminent polar explorers Father Bernard Rosecrans Hubbard, and Captain George Francis Kosco of the US Navy.

(A) Arctic explorer Father Bernard Rosecrans Hubbard, Society of Jesuits, University of Santa Clara. (B) Polar explorer Captain George Francis Kosco, United States Navy. (C) Circumnavigator, impresario, and ECAD Committee Chairman Commander Wendell Phillips Dodge. (D) Curator-Director of the Bruce Museum, Paul Griswold Howes. A, C, and D courtesy of The Explorers Club Research Collections. B courtesy of William G. Kosco.


According to PloS One, a sample of the meat eaten at the meal was preserved and sent to The Yale Peabody Museum by ECAD Committee Chairman Commander Wendell Phillips Dodge, though it was labelled as South American giant ground sloth, leading researchers to try and figure out what the Club actually ate.

If it was sloth, it would have extended their range by over 600%, and change how science views their evolution.

So the researchers did a DNA analysis and found - it was actually green sea turtle.

"We acknowledge it is possible that members of the Club actually consumed Megatherium or mammoth meat but that Dodge sent Howes a sample from the wrong dish; however, this seems unlikely," the researchers said.

Neither Kosco nor Hubbard actually described making the find - and while Arnold Hauerslev Haverlee (famous for having cooked polar bear and fried termites to honorary guests Tenzing Norgay and Werner non Braun in 1954) claimed he had cooked the mammoth, there is no evidence that he was the chef at that 1951 meal.

Particularly considering that he didn't share a recipe for it in his biography or the Explorer's cookbook.

"Our archival research suggests that the prehistoric meat served at the 1951 ECAD was a jocular publicity stunt that mistakenly wound its way into fact," the researchers conclude.


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