Two New Zealanders will leave for Mongolia's Gobi Desert next week on an ambitious expedition to find the fabled acid-spitting and lightning-throwing Mongolian death worm.
The worm has never been documented but some Mongolians are convinced it exists. They call it Allghoi Khorkhoi, or "intestine worm" because it resembles a cow's intestine and is about 1.5m long.
They say it jumps out of the sand and kills people by spitting concentrated acid or shooting lightning from its rectum over long distances.
Auckland-based journalist David Farrier, who is organising the expedition, and Motueka-based cameraman Christie Douglas, leave on Tuesday to spend two weeks in the Gobi, trying to verify the worm's existence and making a documentary about it.
They will hire local Mongolians to help them; a guide, translator and cook.
Farrier, who works for TV3, told NZPA he had always been fascinated by cryptozoology, or the search for hidden creatures.
The expedition and documentary, which would cost him between $15,000 and $20,000, would take a serious look at the worm and what it was, Farrier said.
He said he was interested in the death worm because it was one of the most outrageous creatures that were rumoured to exist.
However, it was also one of the mythical creatures that had a better chance of being real.
Rumours could inflate the reputation of things such as the Loch Ness monster and Bigfoot, but sparsely populated Mongolia was not a place where rumours were going to propagate, Farrier said.
"If a Mongolian says they have seen a big worm-like creature out in the desert they haven't really got any reason to lie."
A number of experts have dismissed the worm's existence, putting it down as a rumour, but Farrier was not put off.
"I think it won't be a worm, obviously a worm can't survive in a desert. I'd say it would be some sort of snake that's not meant to be there. It's very out of place and a bit new."
Farrier said there been up to four unsuccessful expeditions searching for the death worm in the last 100 years, the last two in 2003 and 2005, which had used night vision goggles to look for the worm.
However, the New Zealand team planned to bring the worm to the surface with explosives, as it is said to be attracted to tremors.
Farrier put his chances of finding the worm at between 5 and 15 percent.
"They are high for a ridiculous creature like the death worm but the area I am going to is a very specific place in the southern Gobi where all the sightings have been."
He only plans to capture the worm on film.
"I have no intention of grabbing it, capturing it, stuffing it, or anything like that. I just want to prove its existence and if I can get it on film, that's all I need to do."