The logical part of our minds tells us that there just couldn’t be an unknown plesiosaur living in the waters of Loch Ness, Scotland, and yet, the infamous Nessie has been capturing our imaginations for centuries. It will surely continue to do so for generations to come. In fact, the government of Scotland has laws in place to protect the creature, in the event that it is found!
Travelers come from all around the world to visit the loch and bask in its legend. Everybody’s heard those stories, but you may not be familiar with the Ogopogo—Canada’s answer to the mysterious sea creature.
What Is The Ogopogo?
Okanagan Lake is located in British Columbia, Canada. Like Loch Ness, Okanagan is a vast and murky body of water—the biggest in the valley. At 5 km wide and up to 230 meters deep, this popular lake could be hiding just about anything. According to some, it’s home to an incredible creature known as the Ogopogo.
It’s been described in much the same way as the Loch Ness Monster: a huge, snake-like sea creature that occasionally appears above the waterline in a series of characteristic ‘humps.’ It makes for a sensational story and an excellent way to drive tourism in the region, but there could be more to it than that. Impossible as it may seem, some very plausible sightings have been made in recent years.
The fascination surrounding the Loch Ness Monster really took off in the 1930s, with the infamous Surgeon’s Photograph. Though this was ultimately discovered to be a hoax, Nessiemania set in and continues largely unabated to this day. Nevertheless, modern-day smartphones and other equipment bring us far higher quality images than ever before. Fuzzy, blurry images of the what-if certainly don’t cut it anymore, but sightings are still being reported. One chronicler of Nessie sightings has stated that he receives ten reports a year claiming to have seen the creature.
The Legend Gains Steam
When a local Canadian tourist board offered a one million dollar reward for a proven sighting of the Ogopogo in the 1980s, they were clearly asking for trouble…and a heap of attention that endures to this day. Now, Ogopogo is a popular culture fixture in the area with sculptures, merchandise, and everything in-between, dedicated to its existence. It’s even the mascot of the region’s hockey team!
Both Loch Ness’s Nessie and Okanagan Lake’s Ogopogo are local fixtures—stars of countless movies, ill-fated ‘hunts,’ and more. But, what’s the truth of the stories? Can the encounters with these unlikely creatures be explained? Well, yes, they can. Over the decades, all manners of theories have sprung up, from simple sensationalism to perfectly rational possibilities such as giant eels being mistaken for something much more unlikely.
Could The Ogopogo Or Loch Ness Monster Exist?
In 2006, Neil Clark of Glasgow University suggested that swimming circus elephants could have been responsible for some Nessie sightings! This isn’t as absurd as it may sound, though, as circuses were commonplace in the area at the time that Nessie fever took off. The animals were known to cool themselves in the loch.
Meanwhile, in the Okanagan Lake, unusual waves have often been reported—waves that make patterns suggestive of a great, snake-like animal under the water. Interestingly, there are other explanations for ‘Ogopogo waves’ in calm weather. Differences between the density of the water and the surface of the lake can cause the surface to sink, which may make such characteristic wave patterns, while wind from several directions at once can cause the water to settle in odd ways—a common occurrence in the area around the W.R. Bennet Bridge.
With regards to the Ogopogo in particular, there’s one final curious factor to point out. While it may not be a physical animal, perhaps it was never meant as such. Pat Raphael, of the Westbank First Nation, describes the true roots of the creature as that of a spirit guide and valley protector. It was later settlers who took the concept of the n ̓x̌ax̌aitkʷ (the sacred spirit of the lake in the syilx language of nsyilxcən) and interpreted it as a legendary creature that physically lived in the lake.
From much less sensational aquatic life to misinterpretation, from hoaxes to unusual wave patterns, there are as many logical explanations for Ogopogo and Nessie sightings are there are sightings themselves. The many impracticalities of these being ancient creatures are clear to everyone. Nevertheless, sightings continue to persist. In June 2019, a local man captured footage of what he deemed irrefutable evidence of the Ogopogo, though it was poo-pooed by some as no more conclusive than the many that have gone before it.
Perhaps one day we’ll see true proof of these legendary animals in the flesh? It can’t quite be ruled out, which is exactly why their stories are still so fascinating.
By Chris Littlechild, contributor for Ripleys.com
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