Sunday 16 August 2009

The Flathead Lake monster, sturgeon, eel or dinosaur?

Flathead Lake in Northwest Monatana, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi river. The lake is 27.3 miles long, 15.5 miles wide and has a maximum depth of 370.7 feet.. There have been stories of a monster living within it’s depths for many years starting with the first reported sighting in 1889.

Captain James C. Kerr of the lake steamer U.S. Grant 1889 , reported seeing a serpent in the lake in that year. According to Kerr, the creature, upon being spotted, suddenly turned toward the boat and began to swim at an incredible rate, as if with the intention of ramming the vessel. A passenger, who was armed with a rifle, took aim at the animal and fired. Kerr believed that the bullet missed its mark, but was sufficient enough to scare the beast into submerging. Fishermen of the lake reported something tearing up the nets in the 1920’s but not of what they may have seen. Then in July 10, 1949, a couple and four children from Polson saw a big fish near the Narrows. It appeared about 150 feet away from them with about a six feet length of its back showing. They watched it for about 30 seconds as it swam leaving a wake ten inches high as it gradually submerged. They thought it to be a sturgeon about ten to twelve feet long.

In May 28, 1955, the late C. Leslie Griffith claimed to have hooked a big sturgeon near Dayton and finally managed to gaff it several miles down lake, off Big Arm State Park, after an epic five tussle. The 7-1/2 ft., 181-lb white sturgeon can be seen in the Polson-Flathead Historical Museum. Could this have been the lake monster ? However sceptics claim that the sturgeon was most likely "artificially" introduced from a larger body of water.

The sightings continued.

In 1963, Ronald Nixon wrote that he saw a creature in the lake at least twenty-five feet long and said the monster produced a two foot wave.

Then in 1964, Joyce Nelson of Washington, said she and her family had an encounter with a creature in the lake.

"In the summer of 1964 our family was picnicking in the park in Polson. We were all swimming around when several of us felt something large brush by our legs. After much screaming and fuss we all got up on the dock. We were watching and a large creature similar to, but not quite a sturgeon was seen about 100 feet from us. It stayed in the area for a couple of minutes and disappeared. We heard a lady crossing the bridge had reported seeing a giant catfish looking thing shortly after our sighting. It was at least 15 to 20-feet long. Steel grey colored with a roundish shaped head."

So was another sturgeon loose in the lake ?

In 1993, depending on whose account you read, there were between nine and thirteen sightings of the creature. Here are two of the most famous ones. On July 13, off Woods Bay , a Seattle bank officer and a district sales person saw what they said was the creature’s eyes and sturgeon-like head, but said that the body seemed to be more like that of a large eel and at least 12 feet long. They took a few seconds of video footage . In the video, a dark shape emerging from the water's surface can be observed. On July 29, about 1:30 p.m., a vacationing Illinois policeman and his wife and three children all witnessed a plesiosaur type creature as it surfaced about 50 yards away from their boat in calm waters off the north side of Wild Horse Island. The big fish appeared amid an apparent school of bait-sized fish. It swam past their boat about a hundred yards away but was easy to follow visually because of the wake. The policeman described the object as shiny with a bowling ball-sized head, shiny humps and about15 to 20 feet long.

In August 1998. A seasoned trout fisherman who was reeling in a small fish up from around 120 feet deep and reported a large sturgeon like fish following the catch, before breaking off at the surface and disappearing back into the chilly depths of the lake.

Then more recently on July 28th 2005, this sighting was reported:

A Polson trial attorney and his wife are among the latest to have seen the Flathead Lake monster. "I'm glad I came forward," Jim Manley said earlier this week about the mysterious oddity splashing for several minutes in Big Arm Bay."I'm not a nut-case," Jim Manley said. "I have had 10 or so people come up to me in the last week and say they have also seen something strange in the lake over the years or know someone who did," he added. "I hope that by reporting what we saw people will come forward if they see it."

The couple said they were anchored in the bay, relaxing after having gone swimming.

The sun was to their backs and it was about 6:30 p.m. when both began hearing rhythmic splashing. "It was loud," Julia said. "After about three splashes we both opened our eyes and looked out on the water and then at each other to see whether we were seeing the same thing."

Jim said at first he thought he was seeing a single wave, but no boats had passed by, and the thing was moving. "It had a serpentine look," he added, "with several humps visible above the water. It moved slowly away from shore toward Wild Horse Island. "It wasn't a log, both agree, and it was moving against the current. The wind was a little breezy and the lake was mostly calm except for the splashing of the dark-colored "thing," Julia said. "It was something very large."

"Julia and I were talking about it while we watched. It stopped splashing but kept moving," Jim added. They watched for two to three minutes and judged it to be about 25 feet long, 75 to 100 yards away. A few feet separated each rounded hump rising and falling nearly two feet out of the water. "It wasn't an optical illusion," Jim said. "The part above surface looked about as long as our boat. What really struck us was how loud the splashing was. It was regular, like waves breaking on a beach. "The Manleys said they go boating once a week and have never seen anything in the water like that in the 25 years they have lived in the area. On the day they claim to have seen the "serpent," their boat's battery had gone dead and they were waiting for friends in another boat to come give them a jump. As that boat approached the Manleys from the east, coming toward where the serpentine object had just passed, Jim said the "monster" was still visible. "So I stood in our boat pointing to it, trying to get them to see it. They started looking over there and then the thing sunk into the water. They didn't see it," he said.


So is the lake inhabited by giant eels and sturgeons? It would seem the most likely answer to the different types of sightings. Certainly the sightings continue to roll in , so something is out there.

Some more stuff of interest:

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