Freshwater Monster of Lake Champlain in Vermont, New York, and Québec.
Scientific name: Champtanystropheus, proposed by Dennis Hall. Etymology: After the lake. Variant names: Champy, Chaousarou, Sammy, Tatoskok (Abenaki/Algonquian)
Physical description: Reports from the nineteenth century to the 1960s generally describe an enormous serpent. Fiery eyes. Possibly hooded. Glistening scales. Fishlike tail. Spouts water.
Reports from the 1960s onward are more like those of the classic Loch Ness-like freshwater Longneck. Length, 15-50 feet. Dark brown or black color. Rough skin. Height out of the water, 3-8 feet. Horse- or snakelike head with two horns or ears. Visible teeth. Long, upright neck, 12 inches thick and 4-5 feet long. Maned. One to ten humps reported, with two or three most frequently observed.
Behavior (post-1960 observations): Most frequently seen in the summer between 7:00 and 8:00 pm. in clear weather with a calm surface. Elusive. Moves by vertical undulations. Leaves a well-defined wake. Aggressive and noisy, though the noise from motors seems to frighten it. Probably feeds on fishes.
Distribution: Sightings have been scattered throughout the length of Lake Champlain. Clusters of sightings seem to occur at Rouses Point, Plattsburgh, and Bulwagga Bay near Port Henry in New York, as well as off Burlington in Vermont.
Significant sightings: The earliest sighting may be a dubious report from July 1819 of a 187-foot monster witnessed by Captain Crum from his scow in Bulwagga Bay, New York.
In early July 1873, a crew laying track for the New York & Canada Railroad along the shore near Dresden, New York, saw a serpent with an enormous head approaching them from across the lake. The men started to retreat but saw the animal turn and swim rapidly away. It seemed to be covered with bright, silvery scales, and it spurted water about 20 feet into the air. Its tail resembled that of a fish. A few days afterward, others saw the animal and farmers complained of missing livestock. On August 9, a party of monster hunters organized by the Whitehall Times allegedly trapped the serpent in Axehelve Bay and shot it from the decks of a steamboat they had commandeered, the Molyneaux. On September 7, railway workers eager for the $50,000 reward that P. T. Barnum had recently offered thought they had found the missing carcass, but it turned out to be a log.
On July 30, 1883, Sheriff Nathan H. Mooney saw a huge serpent 25-35 feet long with a flat, triangular head in Cumberland Bay, New York. It stood out about 5 feet above the
water. Sightings continued throughout the summer.
In 1945, Charles Langlois and his wife, of Rutland, Vermont, got close to the animal in a rowboat.
Orville Wells watched a 20-foot animal with a long neck and two humps in Treadwell Bay, New York, in 1976.
On July 5, 1977, Sandra Mansi and her family were picnicking by the lake when they saw the head and neck of a "dinosaur" some 100-160 feet offshore near St. Albans, Vermont. She managed to take a color Instamatic photograph of the animal before leaving hurriedly in the car. The photo has held up under scrutiny and apparently shows a gray-black object at least 15-20 feet long at the waterline. It has a long neck, a small head, and a hump. B. Roy Frieden of the University of Arizona's Optical Sciences Center in 1981 determined that the photo was not a montage and appeared to show a separate set of surface waves coming from the object that are independent from the waves from the rest of the lake. A 1982 analysis of wave patterns in the photo by oceanographer Paul H. LeBlond gave an estimate ranging from 16 to 56 feet for the waterline length of the object.
Jim Kennard and Joseph Zarzynski picked up a target using towed side-scan sonar on June 3, 1979, in Whallon Bay, New York. The object was moving at a depth of 175 feet. However, a school of fishes was not ruled out.
On July 28, 1984, Michael Shea, Bette Morris, and about sixty other people watched Champ for ten to fifteen minutes from the vessel The Spirit ofEthan Allen off Appletree Point, Burlington, Vermont. It was approximately 30 feet long and had three to five humps.
On August 10, 1988, Martin Klein, Joseph Zarzynski, and others aboard an air-sea rescue vessel between Westport, New York, and Basin Harbor, Vermont, saw an animate object thrashing on the surface of the lake.
On July 6, 2000, Dennis Jay Hall obtained about forty-five minutes of digital video of two long-necked animals in shallow water just south of the mouth of Otter Creek, Vermont. He has several videos of single animals taken on several other occasions, one as recently as October 6, 2000, in Button Bay, Vermont. Possible explanations:
(1) Newspaper hoaxes, especially in the nineteenth century.
(2) Wave effects created by passing watercraft.
(3) Floating logs.
(4) The Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) is still found in Lake Champlain. This fish can grow to 7-9 feet in length, though most are a bit smaller. The lake supported a small commercial fishery that harvested 50-200 sturgeons annually in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The annual harvest declined rapidly in the late 1940s, and the fishery finally closed in 1967. In 1998, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife began a project to assess and ultimately restore a viable lake sturgeon population in Lake Champlain.
(5) A stray Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), known to colonize small lakes and rivers in northern Canada, may account for some early sightings. In February 1810, a 4-foot seal was found crawling on the ice of Lake Champlain south of Burlington. Two other specimens were found in 1846 and 1876.
(6) An evolved plesiosaur has been theorized by J. Richard Greenwell and Karl Shuker. Long-necked plesiosaurs such as Elasmosaurus had a large body, short tail, four limbs modified into paddles, a long neck with a small head, and a maximum known length of 46 feet. Their primary food was probably fishes. Plesiosaur fossils are found continuously from the Middle Triassic (238 million years ago) to the end of the Cretaceous (65 million years ago), though there was a smaller extinction at the end of the Jurassic (144 million years ago) that resulted in a reduction in diversity. Fossils have been found in abundance in marine sediments in England and Kansas, but all continents including Antarctica have yielded some remains. They were exclusively marine; consequently, a variety that could subsist in a freshwater environment would have had to undergo significant modifications.
(7) A surviving archaic basilosaurid whale has been suggested by Roy Mackal and Gary Mangiacopra. These predecessors of modern cetaceans lived in the Late Eocene, about 42 million years ago, and had serpentine bodies that grew up to 80 feet long.
(8) Tanystropheus longobardicus, a diapsid reptile from the Middle Triassic, 230 million years ago, has been suggested by Dennis Jay Hall, although it has a much longer neck and smaller body than Champ appears to have. Young specimens have relatively short necks, which apparently grew quickly as the animal reached adulthood. Its long neck was more than twice the length of its body and tail, and it apparently attained a total length of 10 feet. Found in marine sediments in Central Europe, Tanystropheus may have been a coastal swimmer that fed on fishes. In the 1970s, Hall discovered a 12-inch reptile with a forked tongue in a marshy area bordering Lake Champlain. It was sent to the University of Vermont, where it was subsequently lost. He later ran across a drawing of Tanystropheus and thought it was very similar. A smaller relative from the Late Triassic, Tanytrachelos, has been found in Virginia. Sources: Leon Dean, "Champlain Ace in the Hole," Vermont Life 13 (Summer 1959): 19; "Monster Time Again," Vermont Life 16 (Spring 1962): 49; Marjorie L. Porter, "The Champlain Monster," Vermont Life 24 (Summer 1970): 47-50; Gary S. Mangiacopra, "Lake Champlain: America's Loch Ness," Of Sea and Shore 9, no. 1 (Spring 1978): 21-26, and no. 2 (Summer 1978): 89-92; New York Times, Science Times section, June 30, 1981; "People," Time 118 (July 13, 1981): 64; Joseph W. Zarzynski, "'Champ': A Personal Update," Pursuit, no. 54 (1981): 51-53, 58; Paul H. LeBlond, "An Estimate of the Dimensions of the Lake Champlain Monster from the Length of Adjacent Wind Waves in the Mansi Photograph," Cryptozoology 1 (1982): 54-61; Michel Meurger and Claude Gagnon, Lake Monster Traditions: A Cross-Cultural Analysis (London: Fortean Tomes, 1988), pp. 39-40; Joseph W. Zarzynski, Champ: Beyond the Legend (Wilton, Vt.: M-Z Information, 1988); Yasushi Kojo, "Some Ecological Notes on Reported Large, Unknown Animals in Lake Champlain," Cryptozoology 10 (1991): 42-54; Jerome Clark, Encyclopedia ofStrange and Unexplained Physical Phenomena (Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1993), pp. 45-50; USA Today, September 8, 1993; Joseph A. Citro, Green Mountain Ghosts, Ghouls and Unsolved Mysteries (Montpelier: Vermont Life, 1994), pp. 103-125; Loren Coleman, "Lake Monsters' Fate Sealed?" Fortean Times, no. 88 (July 1996): 40; Dennis Jay Hall, Champ Quest 2000 the Ultimate Search: Field Guide and Almanac for Lake Champlain (Jericho, Vt.: Essence of Vermont, 2000); Dennis Jay Hall, Champ Quest: The Ultimate Search, http://www. champquest.com.
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