Saturday, June 25, 2016


The Plesioturtle by Thomas Finley 
      When the first images from the Kelly Nash "Cadbourosaurus" video were released to the public a few years back there was a keen interest by aquatic cryptid fans and researchers in the clips and story that went with the video.

Nash series I - Caddy

NASH series I -  Triangular head breaks the surface
   Being that there is very little usable or un-hoarded video footage out there of any aquatic cryptids, the Nash footage attracted much attention. Researcher John Kirk was given a private showing of the entire event and seemed excited by the prospect of footage that he felt showed a group of unknown creatures being chased by a pack of killer whales.
   The first snippets of footage released publicly consisted of about 7 seconds of lower resolution footage of what appeared to be several low lying, surface swimming animals moving along as a group. In this first series of clips, no whales are visible.

Classic Caddy profile
   The limited footage did not resemble the proclaimed profile of the animals as described by many witnesses - that being a camel faced, loop producing serpent whose reported slender, snake like body would coil out of the water to the point of sometimes actually showing daylight thru the hoops.
     In both series of the now public Nash clips there are no long-necks or coils or "horsey" looking heads that visibly break the surface shown at any time.

   Most researchers disagree on what the animals possibly are, with nominations made of various ancient reptiles - now thought to be extinct, mis- identified elephant seals, long necked pinnipeds not in the fossil record and the thought to be extinct "Super Otter."
   Ogopogo has often been described to posses a "Horse-like head" too.
   Whatever Ogopogo is, it lives inland from Caddy, in the 100 mile long Lake Okanagan, which  was connected to the 
                                                         British Columbian sea 8,000 years ago.  

Supposed Caddy anatomy derived from picture of "Naden carcass."
   Before his untimely passing, Kelly Nash made it clear that these animals were not anything he's ever seen before, so whales and other commonly seen sea-life might be ruled out by the on the job knowledge of someone with an over 40 year fishing career in that area of British Columbia. 

The late Kelly Nash in center
                                 Series II Nash Caddy video

    As in the original clips, the animals can be seen to cluster with one another. Kelly's son, Kyle Nash remarked that you can see "a bunch of them swimming very close together," so he realized that this was not some giant singular hump connected beast. Instead there seems to be several of these wake producing animals cruising along at a good speed, and apparent square-ish shaped heads and eyes are visible in the cluster, most prominent on the lead animal.

CADDY cluster of humps and heads ?
   The animals are swimming from right to left at a decent clip and at one point son Kyle Nash is impressed by the speed of the group and is heard exclaiming "look at how fast they're swimming." Unfortunately, most of the frames from this new footage suffer from motion blur, but several in-focus images exist if examined frame by frame. 
What may be a series of undulating humps are seen- sometimes swimming in a row, and sometimes swimming side by side while clustering together to create at times a single almost unidentifiable writhing mass.

3 in a row - eye visible on center animal ?
     One of the ideas by various researchers over the years is that some of these more humped aquatic cryptid sightings are unknown giant single animals somehow equipped with fatty flexible lumps on their backs that roll up on their spines and give the appearance of the multi- humped monsters mentioned occasionally by witnesses. Another assumption is that the animals are snake like in nature and coil to create the humped presentation. 

A youngster ?
    Viewing the Nash footage, one can see these particular animals swim in a tightly formed group. It may be easier to see where all the different shaped humps in reports of aquatic cryptids might be coming from. In both series of the Nash clips it's hard to tell where one animal ends and the next begins. They are not always swimming in a predictable circus elephant row either, but swimming besides and over each other and keeping close to the lead animal in the pack as well. If an observer were not to take this suspected behavior into account then it would be easy to think that these protrusions were all from the same hump- connected uber- animal. In the 2nd batch of footage there are no whales visible again, which may suggest that there is even more unreleased footage yet to come.

CADDY as a giant, long necked, leatherback style turtle by Chris Smith

   An idea postulated by Prof. Roy Mackal while researching on Loch Ness 40 years ago was that some humps could also be the result of youngsters hitching a ride on the back of an adult animal. Such behavior would explain how it's possible that eyewitnesses have reported seeing a row of humps where one of the humps in the middle would suddenly disappear. As to the possible identity of what we are seeing in the Nash footage, fully aquatic turtles should be considered as a prospect. 

Nash series II still
   Cold water tolerant Leatherback turtle pods are sometimes seen to swim in a similar fashion to what is observed on the Nash footage. Turtles don't always need to have rigid, cumbersome shells. The Leatherback turtle has a very flexible carapace, as do the worldwide Trionychids or softshell turtles. 

Indian Soft Shell Turtle showing the shell flexibility
  If Caddy is a turtle, then why no reports of shells being noticed ?
Turtle's shells can sometimes take on the color and pattern of the skin of the animal thus giving the illusion that there is no shell at all, an idea that may have been suggested by one  aquatic cryptid researcher who once described Lake Champlain's "Champ," after witnessing it close up, as
" a Snapping Turtle without a shell." Such a  creature as a "shell-less turtle" has not existed zoologically since the order of the Placodonts, some quarter of a BILLION years ago. (250 million). Could it just be that the shell was not noticed ? 

Indictra - Softshelled Trionychid showing continuous shell / body integration of
shape and disruptive camouflage colors patterns.

Continuous membrane around the entire turtle make this Indian Trionychid
look like it's been tool dipped in plastic. That hidden neck can extend the length of the shell.
   On many occasions, Caddy has been described as "turtle-like." Could it be that there is in fact a shell, but that they are one of the species where the shell is not detected easily ?  

          Champlain mystery animal left & known species giant Hoan Kiem Turtle on right  

            left - Nash Cadborosaurus head.     Right - 18 inch wide LC Champ head above water
- same triangular snouts
  Hopefully there is more footage to be seen. The additional 8 seconds from the 2nd camera is important in that it could help identify the animals as not being waves or seals/ pinnepeds, whales or plesiosaurs, but perhaps something else.  The shape of the head in the Nash series seems not to be horse shaped, but looks to be a "turtle- like" creature of some kind looking into the camera with several swimming companions snuggled up against it. Could it also be that additional reports of coiling or long, overly thin necks are miss-identifications of the creature's long fins breaking the surface ?

A square head looks into the camera 
  There is usually an expectation by researchers to hear about the long neck, believing these creatures to perhaps be Plesiosaurs, yet many sightings on places like Ness, Champlain and Okanagan report a short necked animal.
   What kind of animal can have both a short or long neck ? Only a turtle.

      Nash series II - Head above water - eye visible - fins out to the sides
                             - is this a huge unknown aquatic turtle ?

Leatherback Turtle in similar pose with head held higher
   Another pro-turtle idea came from "Cadborosaurus, Survivor from ther Deep" author Ed Bousfield who speculated that the animals were reptilian in nature and were able to breathe underwater, an ability that can only be attributed knowingly to the order of Testudines, via the use of cloacal gills.  

Nash series II - swimming from right to left.
Is that a head and reptilian brow-ridge up front ?

   Joe Nickel and Ben Radford have pointed out in their book "Lake Monster Mysteries" the wide variety of conflicting lake monster reports from Lake Champlain alone. The endless variations of manes, back structures, humps and head neck configurations, although believed seen and reported, may not be what they really look like. They are not always described in a consistent manner.
   Could it be that the pandemonium of the animals swimming around and over each other at an Olympic speed be responsible for the humps and bumps ? Considering the apparent behavior on the video taped by the Nash videographers, it may be worth considering.

Monday, May 16, 2016

STUPENDEMYS, the world's largest TURTLE

 PLESIOTURTLE by Thomas Finley
   Imagine yourself a passenger on a time machine that suddenly deposits you in a foliage covered jungle swamp on the edge of a lake. A quick glance around and you are taken aback by the sheer number and variety of crocodilian residents floating about the reeds edge, eyes above water, lurking silently. Suddenly, an explosion of foam and water by the shoreline and a 40 foot monster called Purussaurus leaps onto land and takes down a 1000 pound herbivore. Elsewhere out on the lake, huge domed objects, the size of a mini-van, break the water's surface and cruise along, looking much like the famous Nessy hump shaped back you've heard about so many times. Up on shore, 15 foot tall creatures, standing bipedally are stripping the leaves off the trees.
If this sounds like a typical Jurassic day, you may be surprised to know that the scene described took place just 8 million years ago in Urumaco, South America, some 55 million years after the demise of the Dinosaurs.  

   Every so often, Paleontologists will hit the jackpot and make totally unexpected, monumental discoveries. Such was the case in the summer of 1972, when a Harvard paleontological expedition working in post Tertiary deposits of northern Venezuela dug up the remains of several huge fossil turtles. One of these turtles was bigger than any still living Chelonian and eventually proved to be the largest turtle ever recovered, even bigger than the previous champion giant, the Cenozoic oceanic Archelon.


Turtles probably constitute the most readily recognizable group of all vertebrates, with their trademark shell consisting of two parts, a dorsal carapace and a ventral plastron. Both sides are connected through a boney bridge, which completes the encasing of organs and even the shoulder girdle, a unique feature among living vertebrates. It's a feature one must go back to the Triassic Placodonts, almost a quarter billion (235,000,000) years ago to see it in any other animals.


As early as the 1930's, American oil companies like Texas Petroleum were scouting out Venezuela looking for new oil fields to tap, and in the process unearthed some interesting Miocene through Pliocene fossils. By the 1950's, Paleontologists from South America took up the fossil search in their own backyard. In 1972, Bryan Patterson from the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard led an American expedition to Urumaco, and their discoveries led to the first series of publications on specific aspects of the Urumaco fauna, including many new turtles and crocodilians, one of which would turn out to be the world's largest turtle.

   Of the several new turtle species, team expert Roger Wood determined that the biggest one recovered existed fairly recently, swimming in the Venezuelan lakes, rivers and swamps perhaps up to just a few million years ago. This giant, aptly named Stupendemys Geographicus was a Miocene/Pliocene, fresh water aquatic turtle of gigantic size. The shell alone was estimated to be nearly eleven feet long !

 The team uncovered an almost complete carapace, along with partial fragments. The shell was unearthed in an upside down position and detailed examination of the scute arrangement (shell pattern) led Wood to the conclusion that this was of the super-family Pelomedusidae, a type of Pleurodira. Pleurodiras are the sub-order of the order of turtles we know best here in North America, the Cryptodiras. Pleurodiras are also known as "side-necked turtles," because they retract their necks into their shells by folding it over onto itself, unlike the direct retraction method used by the Cryptodiras. Pleurodiras at one time were the dominant order, having worldwide distribution, but today are only found south of the equator.  They are the sub-order responsible for the snake neck turtles (Chelidae), which include what is commonly referred to as one of the world's weirdest animals, the Mata Mata Turtle. 

Different neck retraction of the 2 orders.
   This uniqueness of Pleurodiras can be attributed to the long term isolation of Australia and surrounding islands from the rest of the world, as well as South America and Africa, to a lesser degree. Thus the most recent evolutions of the Pleurodiras took a different route than their northern counterpart Cryptodira since being isolated by continental drift, some 30 to 60 million years ago. 

Pleuridirad Snake Neck Turtle with Mata Mata to the right
among Cryptodiras
   Despite physical similarities with it's extant relative, Podocnemis, the size of Supendemys was beyond immense, perhaps more than 100 times larger than the largest currently known South American Pleurodira. Along with the shell, some fragments of the plastron were recovered along with a massive, hulk-buster humerus bone that Wood speculated was most likely hinged into a huge modified leg/paddle, a feature found on the modern day Carretochelys, a small Indonesian fresh water turtle quickly approaching extinction at the hand of man.

Pig Nose Turtle (Carretochelys) lives in fresh water, has fins and swims fast !
   Wood described the shell of Stupendemys as "gigantic with a depressed carapace pocked with irregular nodular contours on external surfaces and a deep median notch at the front. The anterior border of the nuchal bone is thickened and upturned in a curved collar configuration that is unique among Chelonians. The carapace is low arched and flattish, in the manner typical of aquatic turtles."

Stupendemys Geographicus showing recessed nuchal at top of shell
   Stupendemys had features that resembled modern Pelomedusids but also had different features as well. Enough in fact for Wood to describe it as "aberrant." Other unusual anatomic differences from modern peliomedusids include the placement of the glenoid (arm) socket, which faces forward rather than laterally like the modern podocnemis exspansa. This hints at the strong possibility that the animal did have fins or paddles, swimming via a modified breast-stroke. 

Possible powerful huge finned Stupendemys
   Despite Wood making the supposition that the massive humerus could be realized in the form of a huge paddle or arm/fin combination, subsequent museum representations of Stupendemys do not usually follow his original vision of the animal and complete models sometimes portray a lumbering giant Terrapin with curiously atrophied limbs.

AMNH's  rather weak representation of Stupendemys
   And in further contrast to some of the cumbersome recreations, the original estimates of a heavily laden animal were later dispelled when Marcelo R. Sanchez-Villagra showed that the composition of the shell was not a solid bony type but a criss-crossed matix of fibrous tissues resulting in a lighter weight carapace, such as fiberboard in construction, retaining strength but losing much weight in the process. That weight saving could serve to add extra speed to it's swimming abilities as would the large paddle- fin.
   Huge fins on a large turtle give it carte blanche for international travel, something borne out by the sub-artic hopping leatherback turtles (dermochelys). The only other vertebrate that has a wider natural distribution are some species of whales.

   Given what Wood has written about the humerus, one should think that these creatures were powerful swimmers, confirming what we already know about big humerus bones in turtles. The oversized humerus of the Galapagos Tortoise for example, bears the weight of the animal (up to 300 pounds) and extra weight is not a problem. 
Zoologist Gazillionaire Walter Rothschild
   In the leatherback turtle the big humerus is manifested in a large front paddle of maximum surface area resulting in great speed when needed. Leatherback turtles can swim as fast as the world's fastest Olympic sprinters. Wood 's final summation was that "Stupendemys was a highly aquatic type of turtle, most probably a fresh water preferring example but possibly being able to live in salt water too. One or more pair of limbs were most likely modified into flippers and the head and neck may have retracted in a different manner than current side neck turtles." 

   Stupendemys existed at a time when proto-humans walked the earth, making them much more acceptable as a potentially surviving species, taking into account the order of Testudians' ability to have survived the Tertiary event that wiped out the dinosaurs, it should make them a top modern day candidate for large unidentified aquatic reptiles as described from Loch Ness, Lake Champlain and other large lakes. Add to that, turtle's present proven survivability, adaptability, diversity, potential extreme size and extreme range of distribution in the world.

Snake Necked Pleurodira
   There are gaps in the fossil record in the progression of Pleurodira, especially the snake necked turtles. If Stupendemys represents it's family with extreme gigantism, then what could represent and maybe still represents the possibly equally giant predecessors to the current day snake-necked turtles ?

Paleontologist Dr. Kenneth Carpenter proposes an adapted live birthing
 Plesioturtle as The Loch Ness Animal
   If there was a snake necked turtle with flippers that was also 100 times bigger than today's versions, then you may have a creature that looks much like a Plesiosaurus would be expected to look like. Considering the difficulty in obtaining even one fossil example of the Stupendemys, it is conceivable that there may be a recent Snake Necked Turtle equivalent waiting to be unearthed or even a currently living example waiting to be positively identified.

PLESIOTURTLE proposed for a KING KONG remake.
c/o  Mike Playfair
   On many occasions, lake monster and sea serpent witnesses have mentioned that the creature had "turtle-like" features. And in other instances the sighting has been accompanied by a foul odor, another trademark of the snake neck turtle, which is nick-named "stinkpot" in it's native Australia. Both of these features were observed with the infamous Pensacola "sea-serpent" attack, among others. 

The lone survivor of the Pensacola attack described a "turtle-like"
monster and drew this picture
   As confirmed by our current zoological knowledge about the living 300 species of Chelonians, anything that looks turtle-like should be a turtle. Also given the creature's abilities to withstand cold water, hibernate for months at a time, be omnivorous, swim deep and fast, have worldwide distribution, amazing breath holding ability, an internal gill system that produces oxygen while submerged, have camouflage abilities and the newly discovered ability to produce underwater high frequency complex communications - unclassified gigantic turtles should be considered a top candidate for the identity of many lake monsters and unknown sea creatures claimed around the world.

Publicly unseen still from forensic investigator's files seems to show huge unknown
turtle in Lake Champlain.

Face compared to aquatic turtle

Illustration showing position of animal in upper photo

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Are there BELUGA WHALES in Lake Champlain ?

The  PLESIOTURTLE   by Thomas Finley

With all the modern technology
hearing aids of the 21st Century
listening into the quiet
And lo - this is no longer a world of amber and silence.
This is a world full of voices and songs.
Ancient melodies modulating to a 200 million year old beat
And now that we have heard the songs and voices in the
amber what would they tell us
and are we going to listen ?

    by Dr. Jacqueline Giles 
   Australian Turtle expert

   For over 10 years, some Lake Champlain Champ investigators have recorded, with underwater hydrophones, unidentified animal audio that some claim resembles that of Beluga Whales. Could it be that Champ is actually a whale, or is it possible that not only are there ancient, long necked aquatic reptiles swimming around Champlain, but a species of cetacean could be occupying the lake as well ? After all, more than 30 fossil specimens of Belugas have been unearthed in the area around the 490 square mile lake, a reminder of a time not long ago when Champlain was still directly connected to the sea, with easy passage for all marine life until the end of the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago.
The Charlotte Whale
   Whale- like bioacoustics were first recorded by Fauna Communications investigators working for the Discovery Channel in 2003. Since then, Fauna boss Liz Von Muggenthaler has claimed to have recorded some 200 examples of 15 individual unknown animals of the same species that are in a fresh water lake producing high amplitude, high frequency signals resembling echolocation of cetaceans. 

Liz Von Muggenthaler
   So what in the world could be making the racket that has been professionally recorded in the past and is still being compared to Beluga Whales ?
What animal can make these sounds in a fresh water lake, and is the statement we've heard many times, "that only whales can produce aquatic echolocation" correct, or is there scientific data that disputes this conclusion ? 
Are there other possible candidates that are not being considered ?
Is everything in Champlain that quacks like a duck really a duck ? 

Pink River Dolphin
   As far as something like Beluga Whales living in Lake Champlain, one must come to terms with the notion that whales could exist in a landlocked freshwater lake populated by 100's of thousands of people and visited by 100's of thousands more each year, who despite sometimes seeing strange activity, have never actually noticed whales before. Taking into account how cetaceans behave in general, is it plausible that any whale could exist in a lake like Champlain and not be seen often ? 

Beluga Whales at Nova Scotia
   Whales are not exactly unnoticed mammals in the wild. They need to surface regularly for air, and when they do it's usually in boisterous fashion.
They refund your money at nearby Cape Cod if you don't see a whale on a whale watching cruise, and if Belugas, or something related were living in Champlain you could expect to hear folks shouting "thar she blows" on much of the lake. And of course historically, whales have never been hard for us to find.
   Not to say that whales have never ventured into rivers and tributaries connected to the ocean. There are accounts of wayward
appearances of whales in rivers around the world. When they do, it usually becomes a media event with the animals being quite visible to observers on the shore as they come up for air. On some occasions the journey ends tragically for the whale, as they are disoriented to the point of being unable to return to the ocean.

 Whale in the Sacramento River
   But getting in and out of Lake Champlain to the ocean is another story, and being air breathers, the whales would have to vacate the lake in winter. Usually by February, the locals are having fishing parties out on the ice, which can be thick enough to drive a truck on.

Champlain Ice Fishing Party
   The ocean to the Champlain connecting Richelieu Canal is pretty much out of the question for whale passage. Too many dams and shallow water rapids would thwart the effort of any large animal to pass and would also be quite noticeable to Canadian canal locals.

Shallow waters on the canal

   At the dams there are fish ladders in place to allow spawning fish passage, but they can't accommodate larger animals.

Chambly Chutes Eel ladder
   For a whale going up and down the 100 foot level change of the Richelieu Canal it would be a daunting and ultimately impossible procedure. One of the more imaginative ideas embraced by some whale believing researchers such as the late, great Professor Roy Mackal is that the whales might traverse the 30 mile distance through an unknown (to us), underground tunnel that connects the lake with the ocean going Saint Lawrence Seaway. Problems with this idea are that any tunnel large enough to allow a whale passage would produce a water flow rate that should have been located by hydrologists who have studied the lake. The 100 foot elevation of Champlain would create a one way draining from the lake to the ocean that Dr. Timothy Mihuc of the Lake Champlain Research Society remarked would be like "pulling the plug on a giant bathtub, draining the lake to the lower elevation."
He found the idea of tunnels as "highly improbable."

Roy Mackal's hypothetical long necked whale of Champlain 

   Also problematic is the idea of a whale holding it's breath and knowingly diving into an aquatic subterranean tunnel, and then swimming the 30 mile distance to the Champlain Valley. Although whales can temporarily stray under polar ices at times, such behavior as using underwater tunnels over long distances has never been seen in a cetacean before.  

                                                   A whale expert responds         

   In 2013, Dr. Lance Barrett Lennard, a research scientist from the  Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center and a qualified expert on whale acoustics took a look and listen to  the Fauna Lake Champlain Champ "echolocation" charts and pointed out signals that were not exactly what he has seen previously with whales. Dr. Lennard concluded that the patterns were not of whales and probably not mammal and ultimately unknown to him.

         So if it isn't whales, then what else could be making these whale-like signals ?
    In 2003, an Australian turtle researcher named Jacqueline Giles discovered  that the Australian Snake Neck Turtle (Chelodina Oblonga) could also produce what was thought to be high frequency echolocation in an  aquatic environment. After many recordings and 2 years of study her 240 page report was examined by the Acoustical Society of America and confirmed to be actual. The ASA scientists further confirmed that there was also a  complex language being expressed that showed signs of high intelligence and social order. The level of complexity, although not quite on par with whales, was surprising, and was something no one had ever thought possible by turtles before.

Large Roti Island Snake Neck 

   Physically, the similarity of these animals to reported lake monster sightings is striking. The idea that the family chelidae resemble aquatic long necked cryptids was first written about over 100 years ago by naturalist, writer JW Buel, who upon seeing one for the first time exclaimed, "what a marvelous, miniature sea serpent the snake neck turtle is !"
South American Tectafera
   When you consider the snake neck turtle, no other still living reptile so resembles a Plesiosaurus as this long necked order of pleurodira. The Plesiosaur of course being the animal most identified with Champ (and Nessy). Paleontologists usually scoff at the idea of animals that are said to be extinct still being alive and even the Coelacanth is under fire these days, with some DNA experts declaring them NOT to be the "living fossil" previously claimed. 
Indonesian Coelacanth

Turtles however, are still alive (extant, not extinct) and some fully aquatic species can get to be over a ton in weight. Could a species of unclassified, flippered, giant snake neck turtle be responsible for the sounds being recorded ? 
Some paleontologists, like Kenneth Carpenter, director of the USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum and author or co-author of a number of books on dinosaurs and Mesozoic life, say they might consider a still existing order of animal to be the mystery beasts.

Large Snake Neck Turtle demonstrating stealth breathing.
   An un-classified, giant snake neck turtle could be a possible candidate for the secret identity of a lake monster. Turtles can -  have a long or short neck as described by Champ witnesses, practice quiet stealth breathing, hold their breath for over a day, use supplemental breathing through gills in it's anus, tolerate the cold, hibernate over 6 months, have fins and swim fast and deep, get big, be omnivorous, bury themselves and be an order of animal that has never gone extinct for the last quarter BILLION years (250,000,000 years).
There are at least 5 species of aquatic loving turtles now living in Champlain, turtles being the only reptile known to live in the lake already. 

One ton Leatherback Turtle from the land of Loch Ness, Scotland.
    Perhaps most importantly, some turtles are now known to be able to produce complex underwater signals that may resemble cetacean echolocation. 
These are just some of the scientifically known abilities of the amazing Chelonians.
   So next time you hear the statement that "only whales can produce aquatic echolocation," remember that new evidence also includes an animal that looks exactly like what many of the reports of lake monsters seen around the world are said to look like.                                   That animal is the Snake Neck Turtle.

Birds of a feather ?