Some of the hyper-educated sign their names with “doctor” or “esquire” but no title is as much fun as Pat Spain’s.
Spain refers to himself, quite accurately, as a “microbiologist, wildlife scientist and beast hunter.”
Yes, it’s as exciting as it sounds. Part adventurer, part explorer and all scientist, Spain stakes out legendary creatures in National Geographic Channel‘s Beast Hunter, airing Fridays beginning March 4.
He searches for the “man ape” of Sumatra; a one-eyed, smelly monster with claws, in Brazil; a swamp monster in the Congo; a sea serpent in British Columbia and a Mongolian death worm.
“The goal of the show isn’t so much the search for the creature, but for the evidence,” he says. “Capturing a live one is the gold standard, to have a specimen in a museum that can be compared to all other known species so you can define a new species. Without the body there have been new species named, based on incredibly good video and photographic proof that was not altered in any way.”
Spain’s unadulterated enthusiasm as a lifelong naturalist combined with his scientist’s natural skepticism make the five-part series fun and credible. The pilot does a good job of setting the series’ pace and reasoning: He endures great heights — trekking 6,000 feet above sea level — and tremendous depths, shaking from hypothermia in a narrow canoe going across the water in a dormant volcano.
He seeks eyewitnesses who have been terrified by the beasts. They’re believable because they don’t want to discuss their experience, meaning there’s not a reality show hopeful among them. Their accounts, from different vantage points, and from people who do not know one another, are strangely similar.
“I really hope it makes them take a second look,” Spain says of viewers. “And helps them see the world is so mysterious and things we haven’t found and how exciting that is. I think we have lost that sense of wonder.”
Despite working as a scientist for a biotech company, Spain retains a passion for exploration. He reasons that had someone described the megamouth shark before the deep-water breed was discovered in 1976, it would have sounded like a sea monster.
For now, all he can do is collect the stories and try tracking evidence, hoping it results in a previously undocumented beast.
“I hope to show how unusual the world is,” Spain says.