For those of you who have not seen a camel spider before, here is a picture sent to me by a friend at the CPA of a couple of these august arachnids (click on the picture for the full effect). There are all sorts of myths about these spiders here in Iraq (that they aggressively chase people, etc.), but I can assure you that they do exist, and that they seem to like to congregate in the outhouses at night. We have not had any as large as the ones in this picture at FOB Bernstein, but we do get some "babies" which are about the size of small tarantulas. The base is a former Iraqi air force installation, and the bunkers that quarter the troops look like pyramids with the squared off tops. Last night, I was reclining against the base of one of the bunkers grabbing a smoke with Specialist Dickens, when he exclaimed that something big just moved. I stood up, and a few inches from where I was sitting was one of these nice-sized "baby" camel spiders. Dickens quickly transformed it into a Rorschach spot on the side of the bunker. For the naturalists out there, I have also seen one scorpion at Bernstein. It was small and black, which I have been told makes it among the more dangerous varieties. I also saw a large number of bats in Baghdad, swooping in and out of the tall lights to capture insects drawn to the glow.
UPDATE: I received this picture from a friend at CPA who specifically claimed that it was not a forgery, but based upon the posts, there is reason to believe that it may have been modified. I will be a bigger man than the Boston Globe (which to my knowledge still has not apologized for running a story showing pictures held by protesters which were supposed to depict soldiers raping Iraqis, but were in reality pictures taken from porn sites) and retract any endorsement of the picture barring verification of its origins and validity. As for the content of my post, the information at the Urban Legend web site, which lists the leg span of camel spiders at approximately 5 inches, is consistent with my experience and my report above that the spiders I have personally seen are roughly the size of small tarantulas.