Posted by: John Kirk on May 25th, 2006
There is this notion among cryptozoology enthusiasts around the world that lacustrean (lake) cryptids around the world are all the same in terms of their appearance and morphology. I could not disagree more with this notion. I have spent the better part of the last 19 years investigating this particular area of cryptozoology and going over eyewitness sightings with a fine tooth comb. I have come to the conclusion that people are either wrong about what they are seeing or there are an awful lot of different freshwater cryptids, as many as say the nine categories of sea serpents devised by my late friend Bernard Heuvelmans.
In my book In the Domain of the Lake Monsters (Key Porter Books, 1998), I detailed the huge morphological differences between two freshwater cryptids: Ogopogo of Okanagan Lake, British Columbia and the cryptid of Loch Ness in Scotland. There are many differences I noticed between the two, too many to detail here but some of the obvious differences are that Nessie allegedly has flippers and Ogopogo has legs and feet, Nessie has mottled elephantine-like skin and Ogopogo has killer whale like skin, Nessie has a long neck and Ogopogo has a shorter neck.
Now those are the differences between Ogopogo and the Ness cryptid. But what about the alleged similarities between Ogopogo and Nahuelito in Argentina that have been raised in the columns of Cryptomundo lately? I know a fair thing or two about Nahuelito of Lago Nahuel Huapi (Lake of the Tiger’s Eye in the Mapuche Indian dialect) as I have researched it extensively and interviewed actual eyewitnesses to appearances by the creature. These are people who have all seen the creature in the last decade or so, not in some bygone day when it was chic to think that plesiosaurs lived in lakes high up in the Andes mountains or in Patagonia.
I communicated with Cristian Muller, a conservationist, from Bariloche on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi, about his sighting. Far from being the medium necked, multi-humped and serpentine creature Ogopogo is alleged to be, Nahuelito was like a blob or a cloak (the Spanish name for some cryptids in other Argentinian lakes is El Manto or the Cloaked One). There was no head visible and it just looked like a dark mass on the water that was moving in a bit of a hurry.
Jessica Campbell and Paula Jacarbe also have seen Nahuelito and they too described it as being an amorphous mass that swam towards them. They could hear it making a hissing sound, but there was no sign of a tiny head on a slender neck or multiple humps. This was one big blob that was able to propel itself through the water. No resemblance to Ogopogo here either.
Sometimes there are such huge discrepancies about eyewitness descriptions of the appearance of certain freshwater cryptids that the only conclusion is that there must be two of them in the same lake or one of them is a big fish. You see, in Flathead Lake in Montana and Lake Storsjon in Sweden, sighting reports clearly indicate that more than one type of unknown creature is living in the lake. At Flathead Lake, the Ogopogo kind of creature has been sighted along with the biggest brown trout-type fish witnesses have ever seen. I have reports from a fair number of Flathead Lake witnesses who have described and/or sketched Ogopogo-like animals yet I have also heard experienced fishermen say what they saw was clearly a brown trout-type beast.
In Lake Storsjon there is a fish-like cryptid and one that seems to be quite mammalian in appearance. No resemblance to Ogopogo here either.
In British Columbia, there are 39 lakes in which an Ogopogo-type animal was seen at one time or another. After further questioning some witnesses admit the animal they saw wasn’t so Ogopogo-like after all, but could easily have been a sturgeon, of which there are many in this province. Skaha Lake, which is separated from Okanagan Lake by the city of Vernon, has an Ogopogo-like creature, not surprising really as the two lakes are connected by a river channel. I spoke to a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation technician last summer who watched a very large multi-humped creature keep pace with his car as he drove along the shore of Skaha Lake, yet I also have a report from a witness who saw the Skaha creature from the heights above the lake and it looked like a giant turtle to him, but without its shell.
I recently had the good fortune to read Lake Monster Mysteries by Ben Radford and Joe Nickell. Joe and Ben are skeptical about lake monsters, but on the same hand are also very reasonable men about the possibility of their existence. In their volume, Joe and Ben discuss the likelihood or unlikelihood of lacustrean cryptids existing. In one section on Ogopogo, they describe just how diversely that single cryptid has been described by people who have seen it. As Ben and Joe point out Ogopogo is supposed to have a head like a sheep, goat, snake, giraffe, alligator, dinosaur and cow. Which is it? This creature can’t possibly resemble all the above. Similarly they comment on the rainbowed hue of Ogopogo’s multicoloured skin. Sometimes you wonder whether witnesses are describing Ogopogo or the biblical Joseph’s Coat of Many Colours.
I find it hard to conceive that as many as three different types of lake cryptids could exist. One is hard enough to prove, let alone three. Sasquatches are pretty much of a sameness when you read sighting reports and a lot of eyewitness drawings are very alike. Not so with lake cryptids. I wish they were all like the serpentine, multi-humped with the skinny neck and small head, but as Nahuelito and the monsters of Flathead Lake and Lake Storsjon have shown, there are seemingly a small variety of quite different beasties.
So what do we do? Keep looking I say. We need to do a lot more work on the freshwater cryptid enigma and spend more time on choppy water, rain or shine, windy or calm in a bid to finally resolve the matter of the unsolved lacustrean cryptid. I’ll be out there this summer as usual doing my part as well as searching for that sea-going beastie of British Columbia coastal waters, Cadborosaurus, who some think is the ancestor of Ogopogo. Don’t get me started on that, that’s a story for another time.