Posted by: John Kirk on October 2nd, 2006
It’s not often that one has the opportunity to be in two lake monster venues in a very short period of time, and it is even less often when one is there just shortly after there has been a sighting. This summer I had the incredible fortune of following up on two sightings at lakes in England and Scotland.
It has been a longstanding wish of my mine to visit the Lake District in Cumbria, northern England as it is one of the most scenically beautiful locales in all of Britain. A long time ago my ancestors came from this area and I wanted to get in touch with some of my roots. It was also the home of many famous people including poet William Wordsworth, writer Beatrix Potter, philosopher John Ruskin and artist John Constable.
I have often wondered why Lake Windermere has never boasted a cryptid sighting even though it is England’s largest lake. There are a large number of lakes in Scotland from whence sightings have been obtained of unknown creatures that yet remain uncatalogued by science, but there is a real dearth of them in England.
In August an English newspaper published in the Lake District carried this amazing story:
From the Westmorland (Eng.) Gazette: 18 Aug. 2006
Lake ‘monster’ sighting
A HOLIDAYMAKER has spoken of his horror at seeing a Loch Ness-type monster’
emerge from the depths of Windermere, report Paul Duncan and Peter Otway.
University lecturer Steve Burnip and his wife, Eileen, were shocked at seeing the serpent-like creature surface from the waters as they stood at a well-known viewpoint.
"I was absolutely flabbergasted, I just stood there and couldn’t believe what I was looking at," said Mr Burnip, who has been holidaying in the area for 13 years with his family.
He claimed the creature was about 15-20ft long with a little head and two small humps following in its wake. "It was like a giant eel."
Mr Burnip, who is 51 and from Hebden Bridge, was looking out from Watbarrow
point that looks across the lake to Waterhead.
Ian Winfield, a fish ecologist for the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at Lancaster University, believes Mr Burnip could have seen a catfish, as they have been introduced to a lot of lakes for angling.
"The Wels catfish comes from mainland Europe and can grow to about 500cm and weigh up to 306kg and there have been numerous records of catfish washing up dead in Cumbrian lakes," said Mr Whitfield.
When I got wind of this story, I must admit I was absolutely thrilled to bits at the possibility that there was a cryptid yet to be found in English waters. I happened to have booked a stay in the town of Windermere itself from August 22 to 24 and was going to spend a fair chunk of time visiting the lake and nearby Coniston Water where Sir Donald Campbell died while attempting to break the world water speed record aboard Bluebird in 1967 so I had the opportunity of checking Lake Winderemere out.
People often say that if there is a cryptid in a lake why haven’t more people seen the creature and more often as well. If the body of water is anything like Lake Windermere, I can fully understand why this creature would be so rarely seen. Unlike North American lakes, access to the shore around Lake Windermere is extremely difficult. True, there are a number of piers from which you can board tour boats of the lake, but most of the shoreline – particularly at the southern end – is inaccessible.
The witness, Mr. Burnip, was very fortunate that he was in a location that afforded a good view of the lake. Watbarrow Point is the home a famous local castle so it is not surprising Mr. Burnip and his family were in this area. As the report indicates you can see Waterhead very well from this spot so the witness description of his sightlines is accurate.
Although it is certainly possible there are Wels catfish in Lake Windermere, what Mr. Burnip saw and described is nothing like a catfish. He is adamant that he saw head and two humps and this is certainly not an aspect that one could possibly expect a catfish to exhibit. Richard Freeman and the gang from the Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) in Devon, also checked out the lake, as I did, after Mr. Burnip’s sighting and they hypothesized what Mr. Burnip saw might have been a large sterile eel. Now, that is a hypothesis I could live with. It is possible that Mr. Burnip saw an eel swimming on its side (this does happen and I have seen footage of it myself) which would account for the creature. It would have to be a very large eel to be 15 – 20 feet long, but it is a possibility with some merit to it.
Neither the CFZ crew or our British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club (BCSCC) field work team saw anything out of the ordinary at Lake Windermere, but I am fairly excited about the prospect of revisiting the lake to ascertain whether this unknown creature is a cryptid or an extraordinarily large and unusual eel.
Next time, I follow up on a spectacular sighting at cold and windswept Loch Ness.