|HUNTING REAL 'SEA' SERPENTS:
Is there a MONSTER in my lake?
For centuries people have
reported strange sightings in lakes. Dark shapes with seemingly long necks
that poke above the surface at unpredictable times. We have all heard of
'Nessie' the Lock Ness Monster. But, similar sightings have been made in
lakes around the world. Is it real? Or hoax?
Lacking 'hard evidence'
you might be justified in dismissing these sightings with a 'snicker'.
Enter the CRYPTOzoologists - a group of dedicated researchers and adventurers
who look for evidence of mysterious animals. One such group, Global Underwater
Search Team (GUST) is run by Jan-Ove Sundberg in Sweden. GUST has been
researching the strange reports of an unknown animal that inhabits the
depths of Lake Seljordsvatnet in Norway. This lake is 14 km. long, nearly
2 km. wide and about 150m deep.
Reports of strange sightings
on Lake Seljordsvatnet date back to the 1700's (long before the invention
of the jet-setting tourist industry). Eyewitnesses report a serpent-like
animal with a length of about 10 metres. Hundreds of sightings seem to
agree on this point. But the creature, if it really exists, is extremely
shy. There has never been direct evidence that it exists.
In August 1999, just a
few weeks ago, GUST again deployed a team on Lake Seljordsvatnet to search
for clues. They also conducted an expedition last year with mixed results.
For the first time, they deployed a sensitive hydrophone (underwater microphone)
to listen passively for any sounds in the vicinity of a place where many
reported sightings have occurred. Some team members were assigned to visual/photographic
searches of the lake surface. They even had an ultralight aircraft to investigate
any sightings from the air.
During past expeditions,
they have used a variety of searching apparatus including: Remotely Operated
Submarines, Sidescan Sonar, divers, surface search vessels, and ultralight
aircraft for aerial searches. All of which can be classified as 'active'
methods - all of which might frighten off the target of the search before
it comes within detection range.
PASSIVE SEARCHING WITH
HYDROPHONES YIELDS RESULTS:
It was the hydrophone that
provided the first clues at 10.39 PM on Friday, 20 August 1999 when unusual
sounds started to be heard and recorded. Sundberg, leader of the team,
said "the sounds came and went, as they were to do in the days to come,
and sometimes they seemed very close, sometimes further away. It was regular
because we recorded a certain amount each day, and irregular because we
never knew when the sounds would be there. At some point we heard one large
sound and a little later two faint ones, one after the other." Team member
and sound engineer Eele Jansma said: "you could count on hearing them at
least 5-8 times a day. When I heard the sound for the first time, I went
outside and studied our buoy (where the hydrophone was located) in the
field-binoculars ... but neither that time nor later I saw as much as a
ripple on the water by the buoy and therefore it could hardly be a sea-lion".
There had been speculation that the 'monster in the lake' might have been
nothing more than a seal-lion, but the absence of any surface breathing
tends to rule that possibility out.
Another interesting observation
was made by Sundberg: "Passing boats were a nuisance and when there was
a lot of propeller noise in the water, the sounds could not be heard. This
was both due to the strong propeller noise and, it seemed, because whatever
was making the sound was frighted away for at least an hour and a half
before we could hear and record it again." Which seems to rule out the
possibility that the sound was caused by some natural phenomenon - like
the sudden release of trapped gases from the bottom of the lake.
The sound recordings are
still being analyzed and compared to known sounds (natural and biological)
as we write this in at the end of October. We'll bring you more details
as they become available. Click
Here to Listen! The spectrogram of this sound is shown at the top of the page.