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Eric Shackle Writes: Ogopogo - Canada's Loch Ness Monster

Eric Shackle tells of what is said to be the world's friendliest inland sea monster which allegedly lives in a 30-mile long lake in British Columbia.

Five members of the Okanagan Masters Swim Club risked an encounter with Canada's fearsome inland sea monster, Ogopogo a few days ago.

They braved 13 degree temperatures and white-capped waves in a qualifying swim for crossing the English Channel as a relay team next summer.

Sightings of Ogopogo date as far back as the early 1800s. In 1860. John McDougall lost his team of horses when they were pulled under as he was swimming them across the lake in a canoe....never to be seen again.

But fear not. He (or possibly she) is said to be the world's friendliest inland sea monster, living for centuries in an underwater cave in a 30-mile-long lake which is 1,000 feet deep in places.

Hundreds of locals and visitors claim to have seen Ogopogo in Okanagan Lake in British Columbia, some 250 miles east of Vancouver.

The first I knew of him (or her) was 12 years ago, when my friend Mick Read, who lives in Peachland, British Columbia, in the mountains above Okanagan Lake, told me in an email:

"A couple of years ago me and dog were sniffing around the Lake bank and I noticed something coming towards the bank. A bunch of small humps. I observed for a while and wrote them off as a few beavers following in line.

"Tell anyone they would think I am up the bloody wall. So I kept mum for a time. A friend the ex-Fire Chief now runs the museum, seeing I often pull his leg reckoned it was Ogo. Of course he was born here."

Fact or fantasy? Your guess is as good as mine.

John McDougall was a firm believer in the existence of this monster, for he had the experience of losing his team of horses when he was swimming it across the lake "to assist Mr. Allison with the haying."

"These were the horses he used in hunting, and when crossing the lake he always carried along a chicken or tiny pig, which he dropped in the water as he neared the middle.

"Unfortunately he had forgotten his 'peace-offering' on this occasion. The horses were being towed on a long rope. Suddenly they were drawn down by some great force from below.

"The canoe would have gone too, had not Johnny quickly cut the rope with his sheath knife, and hurriedly rowed away from the scene. Not a vestige of his team was ever seen again."'

Twelve years ago, the Rotary Club of Penticton, Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce and Okanagan Unviersity College offered to pay two million Canadian dollars to anyone finding alive and definitively verifying Ogopogo's existence between August 1, 2000 and September 1, 2001.

There were a few submissions, but the judges were not satisfied that they provided adequate proof, and no award was made.

One website says that the local North American indigenous people knew Ogopogo as N'Ha-a-itk, meaning "Lake Demon."

According to legend, he was formerly a man possessed by a demon, who had slain a neighbour known as Old Kan-He-K (in whose honour Lake Okanagan was named). The gods turned him into a giant sea serpent, to remain at the crime scene for ever.

Ogopogo has been spotted several times in recent years, the latest being on May 27, 2012, according to these reports posted by SunnyOkanagan.com:

"June 4 2004. Debbie reported seeing Ogopogo to CKOV radio. She was watching the lake with her three children at 7:30 PM on the north west end of the lake. First the ducks and loons took off.

"Then she heard a thump thump thump thump in rapid succession making the water spray up, spitting and splashing, much louder than a beaver slap.

"She saw three smooth shiny humps mostly submerged. The creature swam about 3 feet and submerged leaving the water perfectly calm. She was so scared she ran into the house and thought 'Who should I call? No one will believe me.'

"Just two weeks previous also at 7:30 PM she saw a neck and dinosaur head moving through the water past about three houses. The skin was hairless and the colour was a deep grey black like she had never seen before.

"She estimated the body to be 15 feet long swimming like a snake, very mellow and quiet. The head had a bump on the top - dolphins have a bump they use for sonar. It was the weirdest color and the head the weirdest shape."
"August 9, 2004. John Casorso reported seeing and video taping Ogopogo.. He and his family were in a house boat by Trader's Cove at the old ferry docks early in the morning when he heard a thump thump thumping (same reported thumping as by Debbie) and thrashing beneath the house boat and the house boat tilted 20 and rocked. The lake was perfectly calm and there were no motor boats.

"He saw the object 30 feet away, got his video recorder and video taped a large dark object like a black wave, submerging and surfacing... a hundred yards away - he videotaped it for 15 minutes. At times there appeared to be two parallel objects.

"When he got home he played it back and the object resolved clearly depicting a large object with humps, stretching out at times like a reptile, perhaps the best video yet of Ogopogo."

Thousands of miles to the east, in Lake Simcoe, an hour's drive north from Toronto, Ontario, another strange marine monster is said to dwell.

An article on the website of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club says:

"[It] has been given the nickname Igopogo - an obvious parody of the name bestowed upon the aquatic marvel of Okanagan Lake, British Columbia.

"As Igopogo has been frequently sighted in Kempenfelt Bay on the northwestern side of this roughly circular lake, it is also known as Kempenfelt Kelly.

"Those who have had the good fortune of obtaining a sighting of the reticent and elusive beast have described it as having a stove-pipe neck with a head resembling that of a dog and with a face to match.

"The largest specimen sighted was a mere 12 feet long - a small enough creature when compared with the lurking hulks said to dwell at Loch Ness and Okanagan Lake."

The Ogo-Pogo, the Funny Foxtrot (1924)

This English music-hall song from 1924, The Ogo-Pogo: The Funny Fox-Trot, is thought to have inspired the name of Canada's Ogopogo. It was played by the Savoy Havana Band; composed by Mark Strong, words by Cumberland Clark:

One fine day in Hindustan, I met a funny little man. With googly eyes and lantern jaws, a new silk hat and some old plus-fours. When I said to that quaint old chap "Why do you carry that big steel trap, that butterfly net and that rusty gun?" He replied "Listen here my son:
I'm looking for the ogo-pogo
That funny little ogo-pogo.
His mother was an earwig, his father was a whale,
And I want to put a little salt on his tail.
I want to find the ogo-pogo
While he's playing on his old banjo.
For the Lord Mayor of London,
The Lord Mayor of London,
Wants to put him in the Lord Mayor's show.
Upon his banjo night and day,
The ogo-pogo likes to play.
He charms the snakes and chimpanzees,
The big baboons and the bumblebees.
Lions and tigers begin to roar
"Play that melody just once more.
Do I hear the sound of an old banjo?
Pardon me I shall have to go, for
I'm looking for the ogo-pogo,
That funny little ogo-pogo.
His mother was an earwig, his father was a whale,
And I want to put a little salt on his tail,
For the Lord Mayor of London
Wants to put him in the Lord Mayor's show.

Okopogo video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_IkLB74Uw0

Loch Ness Monster Swim:
http://www.monsterswim.co.uk/

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