February 20, 2017
Posted by in Creatures and Monsters | 7.02pm | 806 views
The name Ogopogo is perhaps the most unlikely designation for a mysterious creature that continues to divide opinion on whether it actually exists. Ogopogo is the popular name for a lake monster or a huge water snake in Canadian Native American folklore, said to reside in the Okanagan Lake in British Columbia.
Known as Naitaka, from the Indian Salish word n’ha-a-itk or lake demon in the First Nations’ mythology, it is either a real 12-15 meter water snake or a mythical water spirit or guardian, depending on whom you talk to. To its believers, Ogopogo does truly exist, a remnant from pre-historic times, surviving the ages by being land locked in the Okanagan Lake. To the skeptics, the water dragon is a metaphor, a mythic symbol of the water revered by the native Indian tribes.
Although 19th Century legends among the First Nations’ tribes claim that Ogopogo was regularly sighted in the past, only the sightings in recent times could be examined in greater detail to determine their veracity. In the case of the Canadian water serpent, some of the many reported incidents are as follows:
- In 1872 Mrs. Susan Allison, a B.C. pioneer and author claimed to have seen the lake monster.
- In 1926 some thirty cars with their occupants claimed to have seen the monster at an Okanagan Mission Beach. Testimonies from the eyewitnesses seem to confirm that they all described the same object sighted from the beach.
- In 1947 several boaters said they had all seen Ogopogo. One of the witnesses, a Mr. Kray, described it as having “a long sinuous body, 30 feet in length, consisting of about five undulations, apparently separated from each other by about a two-foot space, in which that part of the undulations would have been underwater. There appeared to be a forked tail, of which only one-half came above the water. From time to time the whole thing submerged and came up again.”
- In 1959 Mr. and Mrs. R. H. Miller and Mr. and Mrs. Pat Marten claimed to have sighted a “tremendous creature with a snake-like head and a blunt nose swimming some 250 feet behind their motor boat“. They claimed to have obserbed the unknown animal for over three minutes, after which it dove back into the lake.
- In 1964 a photo taken by a Parameter family member was said to depict Ogopogo.
- Sometime in the 1960s Geoffrey Tozer, the son-in-law of British Columbia Premier W.A.C. Bennett (B.C. Premier from 1953 to 1972), also said he had sighted the creature.
- In 1968 a man called Art Folden shot a film clip which he claimed to show the monster making its way across the water. The video showed a large object moving across the lake, causing ripples of water all around it. An analysis of the video revealed that it was a solid object, though it was unable to verify whether it was indeed a living creature or not. In 2005, a National Geographic team analyzed the footage again and came to the conclusion that the object had indeed been an animal. The blow to the Ogopogo theory, however, came with the complementary verdict that the animal had been nowhere near the alleged size of a lake monster and was probably a water fowl or a beaver.
- In 1976 another photo emerged, taken by Ed Fletcher of North Vancouver.
- In October 1978 Bill Steciuk was crossing the bridge from the west side of Okanagan Lake towards Kelowna when he spotted a movement in the lake and immediately stopped his car. The other vehicles behind him also stopped and about 20 other onlookers also got out of their cars and watched. They claimed to have seen what appeared to be a head with three black humps behind it, about 60 metres in length. They then stayed to watch the creature ‘swimming’ for nearly a minute.
- In 1978, 1979, 1981 author Arlene Gaal took various photos purported to be Ogopogo.
- In 1981 a photo was taken by a Wachlin family member with the following testimony, “It was right around Regata time, July 24, 1981, around 1:00pm. We were in a rented ski boat and were running on the west side of the lake in the vicinity of Peachland, just a bit northwest of the tip of Rattle Snake Island. A waterskier had just passed us going fast in the opposite direction to us when suddenly a creature surfaced directly in front of us facing a northeasterly direction. We saw no head, just a body, my thoughts being that the head might be laying flat just below the surface. At first I thought it was the wake of the other boat, but then realized that the boat’s wake was going the other direction. As we came closer, the creature broke into a fast-paced undulating motion. I pointed our boat directly at it but as we neared it, the creature dove, causing a large frothy whirlpool. I turned the boat around and could see the creature two or three feet below in the water. It moved at great speed at least half-way across the lake before it dove deeper and out of sight. The creature was at least 50 feet long and seemed to be either very dark green or black.“
- In 1984 a photo by a Svensson family member emerged.
- In 1989 Ernie Giroux and his wife claimed to have spotted a “bizarre animal” emerging from the lake. “It was about 15 feet long and swam real gracefully and fast,” Giroux said. The Girouxs claimed the animal had a round head “like a football” and at one point several feet of the creature’s neck and body were above the water.
- Between 1987 and 1990 a man called John Kirk claimed to have had frequent sightings.
- In 2000 a Penticton businessman and his wife claimed to have seen the head and neck of a large creature swimming through the water for several minutes while boating off Rattlesnake Island near Peachland.
- In 2000 a newspaper carried a report saying ,”At midnight Monday, six adults including four security guards, spotted a strange looking creature at the end of Bernard Avenue. The 4-metre (12 foot) long creature with four flippers, 2 at each end, thrust forward like a caterpillar.”
- In 2000 a marathon swimmer, Daryl Ellis, reported being accompanied for a short distance during his swim by two large creatures as he passed Rattlesnake Island. He described them as one being 6 – 9 meters (20 – 30 feet) long and the second being smaller. They allegedly followed him for quite awhile and then disappeared. He also claimed that when he swam near Okanagan Lake floating bridge in Kelowna, a creature with large eyes the size of grapefruits came within 9 meters of him.
- In 2000 a church minister and his wife, while hiking in Kalamoir Park on the west side of Okanagan Lake near Kelowna, said they had spotted a strange creature swimming on the surface of the lake and took its picture.
- In 2000 several people from Prince George, British Columbia, were walking in Bertram Creek Park south of Kelowna when they suddenly saw ripples in the lake approximately 300 feet out. Then they saw what appeared to be a huge log moving parallel to the shore against the waves. They estimated it was 40 feet long and watched for about 45 seconds before it disappeared.
- A footage emerged in 2011 shot using a mobile phone camera, showing two dark objects moving across the water. However, the drawback was that the resolution of the film was poor and shaky. Benjamin Radford, who had been part of the 2005 National Geographic team, told Discovery News that “…a closer look at the 30-second video reveals that, instead of one long object, there are actually two shorter ones, and they seem to be floating next to each other at slightly different angles. There are no humps, nor head, nor form; only two long, darkish, more or less straight forms that appear to be a few dozen feet long. In short, they look a lot like floating logs, which would not be surprising since Lake Okanagan has tens of thousands of logs harvested by the timber industry floating just under the lake’s surface.“
- In 2014, Michael Zaiser, a 41-year-old Canadian expatriate living in Seattle, released what he claimed to be a 18-year-old photo showing Ogopogo. “The photos were all captured in a single sighting in the winter of 1996, in which four film photographs were taken. The boat images are from 2001 when I returned to the sighting location for documentation and analysis evidence as I was moving to the USA as part of a new job. The 2001 images were taken via the same exact camera, lens, and sighting location.”
Zaiser, however, said that no one else was present when he took the blurry photo. “Identifiable data to me upon image examination, is that it clearly has a long neck, obvious head, two eyes, some flippers, and a large appendage or tail and is feeding on a fish which to me represents a plesiosaur.”
Despite the various sightings and eyewitness accounts, there remains no irrefutable evidence on the existence of Ogopogo. What we know is that in myths around the world, the water serpent figure is overwhelmingly commonplace.
The Chinese dragon, resembling the Ogopogo in appearance, is thought to be a divine creature inhabiting both the seas and can fly in the air. In Chinese mythology, the oceans had dragon kings as their guardians.
The Hindustan valley ancient civilizations also believed in the existence of the Naga people or the serpent people. Javanese folklore to this day still refers to Nyai Roro Kidul, the Queen of the South Seas, who rules Java from her palace beneath the Indian Ocean. According to Dutch scholar Jordaan E Roy, Nyai Roro Kidul started out as a nagini deity and is indeed often depicted in the company of gigantic serpents or in a chariot pulled by sea serpents.
It is difficult to determine whether Ogopogo will ever be proved to exist or not. For the time being, the lake serpent lives on in the imagination of many people who claim to have seen it. Like its cousins elsewhere, such as the Loch Ness monster, the Ogopogo remains elusive but inexorcisable from the minds of those who have come into contact with it.
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