Turbulence? A serpent-like creature? Just what lurks in Canadian lake?

December 02, 1992|By New York Times News Service

KELOWNA, British Columbia -- Even though underwate probes by Japanese television turned up no convincing proof that a long-necked reptilian creature inhabits a lake nestled here in the mountains of south-central British Columbia, Arlene Gaal remains a believer.

"I know something exists," Mrs. Gaal, a local newspaper reporter, said at her home. "There have been hundreds of sightings, too many to be explained away . . . ."

Her dining room table was littered with photos and videos showing intriguing ripples and mysterious objects that could be either the fabled creature the locals call Ogopogo, or something like cavorting otters.

A guide for the Nippon TV crew, which was in British Columbia in 1990 and returned in 1991, Mrs. Gaal said they had had at least three close encounters with Ogopogo, one that she herself witnessed: a strange turbulence in the waters of Lake Okanagan and then "something that looked like a huge serpent moving slowly, turning in large circles."

Don Defty, the driver of one of the cars for the Japanese, who now works as a scriptwriter and used to be vice president of the local film association, confirmed Mrs. Gaal's account.

"We were on our way to Peachland and Rattlesnake Island, where Ogopogo is supposed to make his home," Mr. Defty recalled. "We were on a bluff. You could see 30 to 40 feet away, under the water. It was large and looked like it had something like flippers."

The film and photos later showed only a disturbance in the blue-gray waters. Another encounter by the Japanese consisted an unidentified object on sonar.

Nippon TV, which poured tens of thousands of dollars into the local economy, employing divers and chartering sonar-equipped boats, a submersible and a helicopter, later produced a show of the mysteries of the lake, and said the money was well spent.

"I am very, very happy," the crew director, Hidetsuga Honda, said at the time -- July 25, 1990 -- in an interview with Canadian Press. "But I'm not satisfied yet. I want to touch Ogopogo. I am very greedy and aggressive, so I will go diving tonight."

He did, but the expedition yielded only a long, dark vigil and the sighting of a few walleyed pike.

Still, interest never dies, and has just been revived by publicity surrounding a paper that two marine researchers will present to the prestigious joint annual meeting of the American and Canadian Societies of Zoology in Vancouver Dec. 27-29.

The paper says "evidence strongly supports" recognition of a "very large marine cryptid" in coastal British Columbia as a "distinct vertebrate species" probably related not only to Ogopogo but to other "well-known aquatic cryptids of deep northern lakes such as the Loch Ness."

The creature -- popularly known as Cadborosaurus or Caddy after Cadboro Bay off Victoria where it has often been reported sighted -- has been part of the mythology of the province for years.

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