Friday, 8 May 2009

Alaskan Lake Monster

Lake Iliamna is the largest lake in Alaska and the second largest freshwater lake within the U.S.A. Proportions are , 80 miles (129 km) long and 25 miles(40 km) wide with an area of 1,000 sq mi (2,600 sq km). The Iliamna Volcano, 10,016 ft (3,053 m) high, lies northeast of the lake and is still active.The lake was named by Tanaina Indians, whose mythology held that it was inhabited by a giant blackfish capable of biting holes in canoes. Lake Iliamna is still an isolated body of water, its shores largely unpopulated. The largest village, Kakhonak, counts only 200 permanent residents. The lake cannot be reached overland. Summer visitors must come by boat or fly in to a single airstrip.

Reports of a monster in Lake Iliamna go back to the Aleut and other indigenous tribes. The Aleuts did not hunt the lake's creatures as they believed them to be dangerous. Some early white settlers and visitors reportedly saw the things, too, but the stories only took off in the 1940s, when pilots began spotting monsters from the air. The flyers' descriptions generally matched the native tales. The lake's creatures were usually described as long, almost slender animals, like fish or whales, up to 30 feet in length.

In 1988, bush pilot and fishing guide "Babe" Alsworth recounted his 1942 sighting in an interview with Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman. Alsworth saw several animals, each well over 10 feet long, in a shallow part of the lake. He said they had fishlike tails and elongated bodies. He described the color as "dull aluminum." Larry Rost, a survey pilot for the U.S. government, said he saw a similar creature while crossing the lake at low altitude in 1945. Rost thought the animal was over 20 feet long.

There have been at least three attempts to find or catch Iliamna's mystery inhabitants. In the 1950s, sportsman Gil Paust and Bill Hammersly,( who had been in the plane with Alsworth in 1942 )and two others, tried fishing for the creatures. According to Paust, something grabbed the moose meat used as bait and snapped the steel cable it was hooked to. In 1959, oilman and Cryptozoology enthusiast Tom Slick hired Alsworth to conduct an aerial search of the lake, but nothing was sighted. An expedition in 1966 also produced no results .In 1979, the Anchorage Daily News offered $100,000 for tangible evidence of the Iliamna creatures. The reward brought out plenty of hunters but no results.
According to a 1988 article in Alaska magazine( see below) a noteworthy (but unnamed) witness was a state wildlife biologist. Other flying witnesses mentioned in media accounts include a geologist who flew over the lake with two companions in 1960, reportedly spotting four 10-foot fish, and air taxi pilot Tim LaPorte in 1977. In LaPorte's case, he was near Pedro Bay, at the northeast end of the lake and he and his two passengers, one a visiting Michigan fish and game official, saw an animal lying still, its back just breaking the surface. As the plane came closer, the creature made a "big arching splash" and dove straight down. LaPorte remembers watching a large vertical tail moving as the animal sounded. LaPorte described the object as either dark gray or dark brown.
Modern sightings have occurred mostly near the villages of Iliamna and Pedro Bay. It was off the latter town in 1988 that several witnesses, three in a boat and others on shore, reported one of the creatures. In this case, it was described as black. One witness thought she could see a fin on the back, with a white stripe along it.

Iliamna Lake is home to a known freshwater seal colony, but that cannot account for all the sightings. It sounds more like large fish such as sturgeon or some form of Whale.

From the January 1988 issue of ALASKA magazine, page 17:

The Lake Iliamna monster once again has reared its legendary head. On July 27, several, reportedly sober, eyewitnesses say they saw a 10-foot, black "fish" leaping and splashing in the lake, about five miles northwest of Pedro Bay village. Verna Kolyaha was fishing from a skiff with her mother and sister when they saw the creature. Kolyaha approached to within 100 feet of the creature, which she said was shaped like a whale, with a white strip along the fin on its back. "It made an almost complete circle around us," Kolyaha told the Bristol Baytimes. Back at the village, Rainbow Bay resort owner Jerry Pippen and pilot Jerry Blandford were airborne within 30 minutes of the sighting, but saw nothing but a large ripple in the lake. The next day, however, Pippen reported seeing "a really huge seal. This seal was squirting water six to eight feet in the air." Pippen said the animal was cream colored, with lighter markings. Sightings of a huge creature that lives in the depths of Alaska's largest lake are so persistent that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game keeps an open file labeled, "Lake Iliamna Monster."

In 1963, a department biologist was flying his small plane over the lake and for 10 minutes watched a creature that appeared to be about 25 to 30 feet long swimming below the surface. It never came up for air. The biologist estimated the beast's length by comparing it to the airplane's shadow on the water. A number of times in recent years, sportfishermen near the villages of Iliamna and Pedro Bay have reported a big, peculiar, snake-like form moving along at the water's surface. Explanations for the creatures that have been observed range from a lost whale that strayed in from the ocean to a huge sturgeon to a species of freshwater seal. The Native people say the creature is a monster that doesn't like people and upsets boats that stray too far from shore, but there's no scientific evidence to prove any theory."

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