Arthur C. Clarke's chronicles of the strange and mysterious by John Fairley

By John Fairley

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The production of aluminium requires something thought to have been quite unknown in ancient China: electricity. The discovery of the belt therefore raised a question which fascinated archaeologists, metallurgists and chemists both inside China and far beyond its boundaries: did the Chinese beat European scientists to the isolation of aluminium by a cool 1,500 years? While it would be going too far to say that archaeologists have become used to pondering such problems - their working lives are usually devoted to the painstaking accumulation of more prosaic evidence of the daily lives of ancient peoples - a few objects like the Nanjing belt have presented them with an irresistible and potentially unsettling challenge.

When mokele-mbembe tried to return, it was trapped by the barricade and killed with spears. According to Pascal, the pygmies cut the animal up and ate it. Everyone who ate the flesh died. Powell and Mackal gathered together at Epena a number of people who had seen mokele-mbembe in recent times. One, Madongo Nicholas, described the creature - 30 ft (9 m) long or more - rising out of the water on the Minjoubou River just ahead of his boat. It had a long neck about as thick as a man's leg, the head slightly larger in diameter, and a long, pinkish-coloured back.

5-m)-wide trail left by some animal for about 100 yards as it had apparently dragged itself through the undergrowth from a pool across to the main stream of the Likouala Aux Herbes River. Another witness had seen a strange creature only half a mile or so upstream from Epena, where Powell and Mackal had convened their meeting. He identified it from a copy of Animals of Yesterday, which Powell was carrying, as a brontosaurus. All those present agreed that mokele-mbembe lives in deep and narrow parts of the rivers, has the distinctive chicken's comb on its head - and, above all, is a dangerous animal to have seen!

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