Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ogopogo a No Show No Go?

In the same vein as the drowned earthworms my daughters always find after a torrential rainstorm, another slimy carcass has surfaced belly-up. Not in the puddles of my backyard, but along the glacial waters of the great northern forests of British Columbia, Canada. Reportedly, the carcass of an Ogopogo has been found, yet there seems to be no published media of the discovery, as of yet. Perhaps no camera was available. Perhaps there were technical difficulties. Or, perhaps the reported 1.2 meter length (just shy of four feet) of the creature wasn't impressive enough, not warranting immediate documentation. (Historically, the animal is believed to stretch between 20 and 40 feet.)

Ogopogo is one of Canada's entries in the field of crypto-zoology, right up there with the burly and well-documented Bigfoot. As the stories go, the slithering, serpentine beast is a resident of Lake Okanagan, a finger-stretched body of water near the town of Kelowna, B.C. Though there has been photographic evidence over the past eighty-or-so years of 'something' or rather, many 'somethings,' cruising the waters of Okanagan, none of the images have matched the clarity and definition of the surgeons photos from Loch Ness in Scotland. With this in mind, Ogopogo has often been viewed as a pure stunt, a 'copy-cat' attraction used to capture tourist-dollars.

Many skeptics believe the photographic evidence, if not fabricated, points to boat wakes or surface-lolling lake sturgeon, whose long, torpedo-shaped bodies and dorsal ridges could easily be mistaken, at a distance, for a plesiosaur such as Elasmosaurus or Liopleurodon. Due mostly to a drop in caviar consumption in North America, indigenous sturgeon populations have exploded over the past decade, and this could very well be the case. The pre-historic fish are highly prized by anglers as a spirited catch, requiring skill and knowledge in order to land the 'big ones.' You just can't toss out a bobber and night crawler to hook these lunkers.

The July 8th, 2009 edition of the Calgary Herald was the first media outlet to report on the Okanagan discovery. The article's information is drawn mostly from an expert on Ogopogo, Arlene Gaal, who has written several books on the creature. According to her, she was contacted by kayaker and Kelowna resident Dan Poppoff, who found the carcass while enjoying his favorite pastime on the lake. Poppoff promptly collected the specimen, took it home, and placed it in his box freezer for further investigation. He provided Gaal with an un-released photograph of the carcass, which reportedly presents a 'spinal cord and vertebrae.' For some reason, Gaal believes this evidence distances a lake sturgeon as the deceased. Now, I've never pretended to be an ichthyologist, so I'm not exactly clear why these elements are so telling. However, I am a fisherman, and I've seen plenty of spines and vertebrae on fish. Whatever the reason, Gaal feels the remains from Okanagan warrant DNA testing,

"This is something very important to the scientific community," Gaal told the Herald. "What we're looking at is an unidentified species and this might open the door to this mystery." I'm all for opening doors, but does anyone recall another recent, freezer-stuffed 'carcass?' The Bigfoot in Georgia may have been a fraud, but at least the perpetrators were classy enough to provide a photograph.

Man, I'd love to have one of those next Halloween.