Friday, February 15, 2013

Champ- the Lake Champlain Monster

I had noticed something odd about Lake Champlain.  Unlike the Great Sacandaga, a manmade lake that we had sailed on for many years, I noticed that all the waterfowl got off the water at night and headed for shore.   On the Sacanadaga, it was the opposite.  All the waterfowl went out onto the lake at night to escape predators.  Why did all the seagulls, ducks, and geese that spent all day sitting on Westport's floating breakwater suddenly fly off at sunset and head for distant shores and islands?

Several years ago, my first wife and I were sitting on our mooring at Westport on Lake Champlain.  It was dusk.  Almost dark.  We could only see a couple of dozen feet from the boat in the quickly fading light.  It was windless and flat calm, and the lights on the shore made for some pretty reflections.  A perfect night for a glass or two of wine, and to enjoy the serenity.

A mother Merganser with one duckling came paddling by.  Very unusual for Lake Champlain.  They swam by the boat, no doubt looking for handouts, which we didn't give them.  They then swam off into the gloom.

Suddenly, a wake went streaking by the boat.  It looked like a torpedo, and moved about as fast, at least ten knots.  It was going in the direction of the Mergansers.  It was soon out of sight in the darkness.  Then there was a loud SPLASH!   Silence.  Then the peep peep peep of the baby Merganser looking for his mother.  Then another loud SPLASH!  Silence.

Like several other lakes, including the famous Loch Ness, Lake Champlain is said to be home to a "sea monster", a large rarely seen creature from prehistoric times that somehow has survived the ages.  Many scientists think that if such an animal does exist, that it is a plesiosaur.

From my research (googling on the internet), I learned that plesiosaurs hunted at dawn and dusk, or when there was a full moon.  They ate fish and waterfowl.  They thrived in deep freshwater lakes.   Just north of Westport on Lake Champlain, you can sail right up to the cliffs where the depth is over 400 feet.  Like the coelacanth, a prehistoric fish thought to be long extinct until one was caught in a net off Madagascar in 1938, could plesiosaurs have survived all these years without being seen?  Could we have seen the wake of a plesiosaur?  Or was it only a large fish, like a northern pike or a sturgeon?

Several weeks later, we had a guest on board, an old friend of my wife's.  It was the middle of the night, and both Janet and I were suddenly awakened by a loud noise.  It was an underwater call.  It sounded something like recordings of humpback whales that I had heard, but much higher pitched.  We were both groggy, but awake, and we looked at each other in amazement.  What is that?

I've always been skeptical of things like UFOs, bigfoot, Nessie, ghosts, and so on.  I'm not a believer, but then again not a disbeliever.  There must be something behind these sightings.  In the case of Champ, the Lake Champlain monster, there were sightings recorded by native Americans, and even by Samuel de Champlain, the "discoverer" of Lake Champlain and it's namesake.

I've seen Japanese fishing boats dragging sonar up and down Lake Champlain, searching in vain for a sign of "Champ".  Maybe they need to stop trying so hard.  Maybe they just need to sit on a mooring and wait.


  1. That was fun to read having spent so much time on Champlain, Dave.

    There are far worse things to believe in than Champ. He's harmless(never bit anybody), and fun for locals and tourists alike.

    I always wondered if there was a connection between the largest number of Champ sightings having taken place in Port Henry, and the fact Port Henry has the most bars per capita on the lake.

  2. I hope Champ is a Liopleurodon. I like Liopleurodons.