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What is that Creature in the Lake?

He lives in an underwater cave in the deep water off Squally Point, where Okanagan Lake takes its sharp turn south to its outlet at Penticton. A shy creature, he offers only glimpses of himself, breaking the surface for a few moments, then disappearing into the depths..... He is...... "Ogopogo".

No skeletal remains identifying him have been uncovered. No carcass offering conclusive proof has washed ashore. Indeed, all the physical evidence supporting his existence is ambiguous, at best. This consists of photographs, film footage, and video images which merely tantalize.

If you want to believe in him, your imagination tells you that the dark ripples in the picture must be him. if you are by nature skeptical, they are only a series of freak waves, a log, or perhaps worse, a hoax.

And yet, the reality of him is well documented in the verbal reports of those who say they have seen him. The interior Salish aboriginal peoples knew him as Nihaiaiitk - the lake demon - and they appear to have depicted his snake-like image in several petroglyphs etched in the rocks of the Powers Creek area. Their livelihood depended in significant part on their harvesting the bounty of the lake, but they had a healthy respect for the creature who lived there. They would carry small animals to feed to him whenever they ventured forth onto the water in their canoes, and they avoided that portion of the lake that was thought to be his home.

Many of the Europeans who have come to the Okanagan Valley to live, or to visit, have also learned of his presence. What makes many of these incidents compelling is that they are of the "multiple witness" variety, with several people seeing the creature in the same place at the same time. On September 16, 1926, for example, some thirty carloads of people all watched Ogopogo in the water off an Okanagan Mission beach. Later, on July 2, 1947, a number of boaters saw him simultaneously.

Other reputable individuals have also claimed they have seen the creature. They include a priest, a sea captain, a surgeon and police officers. Some of the witnesses have described:
"Something that looked like a huge tree trunk or log floating on the lake, (but) going against the current and not with it." "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 gone underwater. There appeared to be a fork tail, of which only one-half came above the water. From Time to time the whole thing submerged and came up again."
Others have seen a blunt-nosed head, shaped like that of a horse or a goat, with a dark blue, or black, body, and flippers or fins. Many observers have remarked at the creature's speed in the water, but there have been several sightings in calm water where he appears to be feeding on fish or aquatic plants.

Can all these people be mistaken? Is there a rational explanation of this phenomenon? Apparently, there is. What the scientific community has offered is that Ogopogo may in fact be a form of aquatic fish-eating animal known as basilosaurus cetoides - a primitive whale. Indeed there may be more than one creature, perhaps several, which would imply that there may be males as well as females.

So keep your camera handy, and your eyes on the lake - you may be the lucky one who solves this fascinating mystery!

by Robert Groves