Roger Moroney: Creature from the deep a stirring

By ROGER MORONEY - AT LARGE


The year of 2012 has begun and you'd have thought by now that after all this time, after all the years of exploration and searching, that pretty well every last species and variety of life on this planet would have been found and logged.

Not so.

The scientific army of biologists and botanists and naturalists have been fizzing a little lately in the wake of completely new forms of life being found at the bottoms of dark ocean, living near escaping bursts of sulphurous boiling water from vents deep into the earth.

And in the jungles of places like New Guinea and the Amazon Basin some previously unheard of reptiles and insects have popped up.

Which is terrific, because it leaves the door open to the possibility the yeti, the sasquatch and innumerable strange aquatic creatures could be "out there" somewhere.

The unbelievable is something I like to believe in.

I love a good mystery.

So do the people who live within cooee of a place called Turtle Lake in Saskatchewan, Canada.

By all accounts, and I understand these sightings were declared in states of complete sobriety, there is a large animal, or animals, living in the lake.

It looks like a species of turtle except there is one not so subtle difference.

Those who have spotted the creature have said it appears to be about 8m long.

Sightings go back hundreds of years - the Indian tribes of the area left crude drawings of the strange creature.

The last sighting was about a year ago.

About the same time there was a sighting of a long-necked greyish-brown creature in Lake Pohengamook, also in Canada. Locals call it the Ponik.

Of course there is the "monster" of Loch Ness but there is also said to be serpent-like creatures living in Lake Seljord in Norway.

Witnesses say they are not large creatures - only a metre long - but they resemble nothing else on earth.

Ditto for sightings of strangely strange creatures in lakes in South America, Alaska and Africa.

Oooh, I love it.

It would be all too easy to dismiss such things as nothing more than local tourism operators cashing in on legends to sell a few more dopey plastic dinosaur toys imported from China, but my "don't ruin it for us" response is to roll out two dates.

The years of 1938 and 1970.

In 1938 a fisherman off the coast of Africa hauled aboard his boat a very ugly, very inexplicable fish.

No one knew what it was ... until a bloke with some knowledge of marine biology spotted it and accordingly spluttered and stammered that the age of the dinosaur was not quite dead.

It was a coelacanth.

A missing link between dinosaur and fish that was thought to have become extinct 65 million years ago.

But there it was ... and they're still living off Kenya and Tanzania today.

In 1970 a rotting carcass about 8m long and weighing 3 tonnes washed ashore at a place called Mann Hill Beach in Massachusetts.

It bewildered those who went to see it.

Of course, the "authorities" did not want to concede it was what it actually looked like - a prehistoric plesiosaur, so dismissed it as a disintegrating basking shark.

Which is possible, of course, but I don't want to buy into that.

The oceans and lakes of this planet are large and deep. We don't know what is down there, and accordingly what is down there probably doesn't know what is up here. Mind you, they probably do which is why they're happy to stay where they are ... except for the times they do venture up (probably out of boredom or to see whatever else those crazy humans have wrecked lately).

Switching to dry land now, and as for the yeti - I read a remarkable book about a downed pilot on the run from Japanese forces in China who spent months journeying thousands of kilometres overland to the safety of Nepal, who watched in awe as a "giant sort of ape" wandered across the path he and two locals helping him were moving along. They even gave the creature a good two hours leeway before continuing.

They were frightened it was still in the area.

It was a mere two paragraphs in a 270-page book, but packed a stunning and wonderfully mysterious punch.

Back to the water again ... I visited Loch Ness in the late '70s for the second time in my life, and chatted with a ruddy-faced, chirpy old publican at a pub near the chilled waters.

"Oh och aye," he said. He had seen the monster "many a time" throughout his life.

"Really?" I asked, and he leaned forward nodding.

"She's oot the bark de'in the dishes."

Roger Moroney is an award-winning journalist for Hawke's Bay Today and observer of the slightly off-centre.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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