The Lake Champlain Monster, usually known as Champ, is a legendary creature believed by some to live in Lake Champlain near Burlington, Vermont. Like the Scottish lake monster of Loch Ness, Champ is considered by believers to be a lost relative of aquatic dinosaurs. A 1970s photo taken by an amateur photographer shows a large creature in the lake, but whether the photograph is real, distorted or a hoax remains a subject of great debate.
An alleged early story of the Lake Champlain Monster is credited to Samuel De Champlain, founder of Quebec and the man the lake is named for. In 1609, De Champlain is supposed to have reported seeing a large monster in the lake while fighting Iroquois on the banks of Lake Champlain. No true record of this sighting exists, and many experts believe the tale to be a hoax.
In 1883, a local sheriff claimed to have seen the monster, and his public announcement led to a flurry of other eyewitnesses to Champ’s mysterious appearances. According the sheriff’s claim, the monster was at least 20 ft (6 m) in length. Fervor grew for proof of the Lake Champlain Monster, and legendary showman P.T. Barnum offered a $50,000 US Dollar (USD) reward for the carcass of the animal.
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What many Champ-proponents believe to be definitive proof of the monster’s existence came in the form of a photograph taken in the late 1970s by a woman named Sandra Mansi. The Mansi photograph shows a startling image of what appears to be a long-necked, dinosaur-like creature approximately 150 ft (45 m) away from the shore of Lake Champlain. Ms. Mansi witnessed the creature with her husband and two children, and claimed it kept its head out of the water for about four to seven minutes before diving under the water. Experts are divided on what the photo truly shows, with some suggesting the creature in the photo is size-distorted, and others suggesting it is merely a floating tree stump or large bird.
Believers in the Lake Champlain Monster think that it is related to the prehistoric plesiosaur, an aquatic reptile with a long, snake-like neck. The plesiosaur is believed to have become extinct as a result of the K-T extinction, when many dinosaurs and other early animals died out due to an immense environmental change. The Lake Champlain Monster, in order to be a plesiosaur, would either need to be a single 10,000 year old animal, or the result of a small, consistently breeding group. The first hypothesis is considered unlikely as no creature is known to live that long, the second is often dismissed because an active breeding population would likely be sighted more often.
Recent information in 2003 and 2005 has incited renewed interest in the Lake Champlain Monster. An audio recording was taken in 2003 by a film crew working for the Discovery Channel. The recording seems to contain echolocation, a technique used by dolphins and some whales to find food and locate obstacle. The recording, while similar to a beluga or killer whale, is believed to be from no species known to live in the lake.
In 2005, a video taken by two fishermen seems to show some animal just below the surface of the waters of the lake. Although the video is no longer available for public viewing, stills seem to show an animal that appears fish, dolphin, or eel-like, but believers claim is the elusive Lake Champlain Monster. Experts are unable to conclude what the video shows, and even the fishermen themselves are not sure what it was they filmed.
Studying Champ legends is a favorite pursuit of cryptozoologists, people who study unclassified and possibly unreal animals. As with the Loch Ness Monster, fully convincing people that Champ does not exist will probably never be possible. Marine biology experts claim that the lake could not sustain a breeding population of plesiosaurs, even if they had survived the K-T extinction. As of yet, scientists have been unable to produce an agreed-upon explanation for the echolocation, the Mansi photograph or the 2005 video.