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More on the Lake Nahuel Huapi Monster Photos

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on May 10th, 2006

Loren’s post last month here on Cryptomundo featuring the photos of Nahuelito was a popular one, drawing many comments. Wanting to provide the loyal readers of Cryptomundo with as much information as possible regarding these photos, Scott Corrales supplied Cryptomundo with the translation of the entire article from El Cordillerano Edicion Digital from April 17, 2006.

A man reported to the newsroom of El Cordillerano and left the photos. He surprised everyone who saw them. Then began the analyses by all those who looked at them; some were frightened, others displayed their disbelief. But there can be no doubt that a significant commotion occurs in Bariloche when "Nahuelito" is discussed.

The images, taken from a short distance on the lake, show what appears to be an animal similar to a snake, with a semi-submerged body. The photos were taken with an analog camera and the unknown person left three of them behind. The man who brought the photos left so quickly and mysteriously that it didn’t give us time to ask him where he’d taken them from.

Nahuelito is an unknown aquatic creature which, according to popular belief, lives in Argentina’s Lake Nahuel Huapi.

Much like Nessie, his Scottish counterpart, his name stems from the body of water he supposedly inhabits and his existence was never confirmed in spite of the systematic research conducted. The legend is well-known throughout the country and it has become a classic reference in books and articles on cryptozoology.

The source of the legend goes back to native accounts prior to the Conquest. The first explorers gleaned stories from the natives regarding occasional encounters with massive lake monsters. The first recorded sighting dates back to 1910, although George Garret, the eyewitness, went public with the story much later.

In 1910, Garret worked for a company located near Nahuel Huapi. One day that year, after sailing the lake and getting ready to make landfall, he saw a creature some 400 meters away whose visible parts measured between 5 and 7 meters long, and stood out some two meters over the water.

Upon discussing his experience with the locals, Garret learned of similar accounts put forth by the natives. But the event was made public in 1922, when he told his story to the Toronto Globe. It was at that time that the first expedition to find Nahuelito was being outfitted, and the controversy had reached it maximum point, appearing in the international press.

Since 1897, Dr. Clemente Onelli, director of the Buenos Aires Zoo, had been receiving sporadic reports about a strange creature living in the Patagonian lakes. In 1922 he received the eyewitness account of Martin Sheffield, an American gold prospector, concerning the discovery of large animal prints on the shores of Nahuel Huapi, in whose center Sheffield claimed to have seen a tremendous unknown creature.

Convinced by Sheffield’s report, Onelli decided to organize a search, which was led by the Zoo’s superintendent, Jose Chiagi. Among the expedition members were renowned hunters armed with elephant guns, and dynamite with which to blast the lake.

The matter of permission was soon resolved and the expedition set out, but it returned to Buenos Aires without yielding positive results. The story had international repercussions and was even discussed in such publications as Scientific American.

Bariloche’s growth as a tourist destination, on the shores of Nahuel Huapi, caused an increase in occasional sightings, but no conclusive proof was ever obtained.

A number of theories have been proposed to explain the myth, but none stand up to serious scrutiny.

Native legends can hardly be quoted as argument, since the natives had legends concerning water monsters in nearly all of Patagonia’s lakes and rivers. Nahuelito’s direct ancestor appears to be the local myth of the "cuero", a headless, legless monster that reputedly lived in the lake.

The most popular theory involves the prehistoric monster. Nahuelito would be a survivor from the Age of Reptiles, probably a plesiosaur. Others support the theory that it could be an ichthyosaur, based on the abundance of animal fossils of this sort found in the region. However, the Patagonian lakes were formed in a geological age that came after the extinction of dinosaurs, which would refute this hypothesis.

It has also been suggested that Nahuelito could be a Mylodon, a long-extinct terrestrial mammal, which did not have any aquatic habits despite matching some of the descriptions given.

A more recent (and outrageous) theory suggests that Nahuelito is a mutation of some local creature resulting from the nuclear experiments conducted in the 1950s by German scientists (or more recently by the Bariloche Atomic Center).

Perhaps the latest theory to reach the public is the one that ascribes the manifestations to a small submarine of unknown origin, which many interpret as a modern cultural adaptation of the lake monster myth. But this last theory has never been proven.

It is remarkable though that the majority, though not all, of sighting describe Nahuelito similarly: a length of approximately 10-15 meters, two humps, leathery skin and sometimes, a swan-shaped neck. This characterization agrees with the descriptions made by the Mapuche Indians 200 years ago. This suggests that science has hitherto been unable to explain certain observations — not that the observations are untrue because science has failed to explain them.

(Translation (c) 2006. Scott Corrales, Institute of Hispanic Ufology (IHU). Special thanks to Ricardo Lopez Rende)

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster.


15 Responses to “More on the Lake Nahuel Huapi Monster Photos”

  1. feldspar helmet responds:

    The similarities in the description between Nahuelito, Nessie and Ogopogo, the monster of Lake Okanagan, are amazing. The theories offered to explain them are also very much the same. It seems possible that these elusive creatures might have worldwide distribution. Are we witnessing the last few pockets of a species reduced to “just surviving”? If so then we have to hope we find one, or even better a community of them, to study before they really become extinct.

  2. stompy responds:

    eels

  3. shovethenos responds:

    Eels that raise long, thin “swan-like” necks out of the water? Their physiology doesn’t generally support that. Then you have the land sightings at some sites….

  4. Benjamin Radford responds:

    feldspar helmet Says:

    “The similarities in the description between Nahuelito, Nessie and Ogopogo, the monster of Lake Okanagan, are amazing.”

    I had a good laugh at this! Maybe a little more research is in order. Which similar sighting descriptions, exactly, is feldpsar helmet so amazed with?

    Ogopogo, for example, has been described by Roy Mackal as “The skin is described as dark green to green-black or brown to black and dark brown… [or] gray to blue-black or even a golden brown. Most often the skin is smooth with no scales, although the body must possess a few plates, scales, or similar structures observed by close-up viewers…. Most of the back is smooth, although a portion is saw-toothed, ragged-edged, or serrated. Sparse hair or hair-bristle structures are reported around the head, and in a few cases a mane or comblike structure has been observed at the back of the neck.”

    The head is said to look like a snake, a sheep, a deer, a log, a bulldog, a cow, a horse, an alligator, etc.

    Are these the descriptions that “amazingly” match Nahuelito and Nessie?

  5. feldspar helmet responds:

    Actually the photos presented in the Crypto article could easily find themselves used as evidence for Ogopogo. They are very similar to photos taken in Okanagan Lake. As far as the description given in the previous posting as to what Ogopogo looks like it is so variable, and in some places self defeating (dark green, brown, black, golden brown skin colouration also head shaped like snake cow deer alligator.) I can’t imagine a single colour that could be confused for all those colours or a single head that looks like all of those shapes. We can probably assume that, given imperfect viewing conditions, people simply see, or think they see, different features or colourations. If all, or even most, of the lake monsters reported around the world are plesiasaurs, or a more modern but undiscovered animal, then doesn’t it make more sense that the descriptions should have more similarities than differences?

  6. Benjamin Radford responds:

    “If all, or even most, of the lake monsters reported around the world are plesiasaurs, or a more modern but undiscovered animal, then doesn’t it make more sense that the descriptions should have more similarities than differences?”

    This is based on nothing but pure conjecture. Of course if it is the same animal then sightings would look more alike than different. I find it curious that it seems that when it suits you to emphasize the similarities you do so, but you can’t just dismiss any sightings and descriptions that don’t fit your hypothesis. That is not logically or scientifically sound.

  7. CryptoInformant responds:

    I happen to agree with B.R. on this one. I find it HIGHLY improbable that so much as half the lake and sea monsters are plesiosaurs. I am STILL not sure what Nahuelito may be, but Ogopogo and Nessie represent totally different animals to me, Champ too. Suggesting that they may be one and the same, while still no more conjecture than my point of view, seems the result of a lack of research.

  8. john5 responds:

    The shape of Nahuelito’s lower head and upper neck is interesting. Does the animal feed similar to a pelican or baleen whale in using an expandable throat pouch to catch and hold large (amounts of) prey?

    I understand Ogopogo to be a serpent-like animal according to eyewitnesses, including the native folks. Some film footage of this critter also indicates a large eel-type figure.

    Samuel de Champlain, the 1st European to record a large lake serpent in a river running from the St. Lawrence River to what is now called Lake Champlain.

    The ancient Six Nations people also had many encounters with the giant serpents of the Great Lakes. Maybe these animals are a phenomena of the fresh water lakes of North and South America as Nessie appears to be a different large freshwater animal.

  9. feldspar helmet responds:

    I just applied Occam’s Razor. If there are sightings of unknown long-necked creatures in fresh-water locations at various places around the world then it is simpler to posit that they are all the result of encounters with the same species than to complicate things by noticing the differences between individual descriptions instead of the similarities. Of course they could all be completely different species but doesn’t it seem more likely that they are at least related? If this is the case then we should at least compare descriptions looking for the similarities as well as the differences.

  10. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Stompy’s “eels” comment (2) drew a laugh from me :)

    For those who missed the original post, it shows two of the photos, but our translation (thank you Scott!) mentions three.

    So first things first – is it possible to show photo number three?

    Back to the eels theory (shovethenos, 3) during the Champ discussion I posted a link to a video showing an eel-catfish (not an eel, but both are fish) lifting it’s body up out of the water and onto “land” to catch food. Unfortunately the video seems to have been taken down, but the eel-catfish article is still there.

    At present though, I make no comment as to what I think Nahuelito is. Scott’s translation was enlightening though – giving a bit of background on both the photos and the Nahuelito legend.

  11. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Just a little more about this catfish, taken from a BBC News article:

    “C. apus has a specially adapted spine which gives it extra flexibility, allowing it to tilt its head. The fish uses the rest of its long body to maintain stability while it is out of the water. “

    and

    “”[T. rosea] had a neck that appears to be quite mobile, and strong fins. If you ask me if it could feed terrestrially in a similar way to catfish or mudskippers – I would say it probably could,” said Mr Van Wassenbergh.”

    And wouldn’t you know it – just today I was reading an ABC Science article about freshwater eels which occur in Australia (and nearby).

    You’ll read there that these guys can climb over land and up dam walls. I even have a video I took myself about 2 years ago of an eel coming up a dry creek bed and then entering into a waterhole.

    What really fascinated me though, was learning that our freshwater eels can live 40 to 50 years. They are born thousands of kilometers away in the ocean, then migrate to a single freshwater waterway to spend their entire lives before heading out to sea again to breed. They have three life-stages and gender is probably environmentally determined; not genetically. They grow to 2 meters and 20 kgs.

    Back to our cryptid at hand. I guess a giant eel can’t be discounted – especially in nahuelito’s case where it is described as “similar to a snake”.

  12. shovethenos responds:

    Re: Eels

    Still not convinced – eel physiology enables flexibility from side to side, and not much up and down. (even with the exotic species) And certainly not “swanlike”. And as far as land travel is concerned they are pretty much limited to slithering from waterway to waterway – not loping or trundling across roads as indicated by some of the sightings.

    Re: What some of these cryptids are.

    My hack opinions, without having read any books on this since childhood and just surfing the net, are as follows:

    Lake Champlain: I think Champ is the most defined cryptid of the bunch – I am pretty sure that if there are cryptids in Champlain they are relatives of tanystropheus. The sightings pretty much support this, including the land sightings. The ABC video and stills pretty much support this. The footage from ’03 seems to support this. The Mansi photo seems to support this. And most strikingly, the indian stone carvings in Battleboro, VT not far from Lake Champlain seem to support this.

    (Scroll down, the stone carvings are at the bottom left of the linked page.)

    Tanystropheus anatomy, in my opinion, is just too improbable and wacky for indian artists to “guess” at. In my opinion, they pretty much had to see a living one or a dead body to come up with the carving.

    Here’s a drawing of a tanystropheus derived from the fossil record.

    Loch Ness: I think Nessie, if real, is also a relative of tanystropheus. This would reconcile all the sightings that claim it looks like a pleisiosaur with those that have it travelling for fairly long distances on land. (tanystropheus had legs, not flippers) Although I do admit there is less evidence for tanystropheus at Loch Ness.

    Okanogon: A lot of the Ogopogo sightings point to a mammal, and a large one at that. Although there are some pleisiosaur-like sightings as well. Who knows – maybe there are two kinds of cryptids residing there. Maybe Okanogon is one of those pockets of habitat that acts like a “lost world” – sometimes several new species are found together.

    Great Lakes: Back Bay Bessie and the other Great Lakes cryptids seem to be large, aquatic, constricting snakes, but who knows. Could be and/or tanystropheus and/or some kind of cryptid mammal as well. That’s if anything is actually there, of course.

    Don’t know anything about Nahuelito.

  13. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Great insights, shovethenos; the tanystropheus illustration is excellent. I’d never heard of this guy.

    However, I can’t get a real feel for what the carving really looks like… the image is a bit too small and I don’t understand why it’s split into the light and dark portions. Is the white portion “completing the picture”, or “reproducing it to illustrate a point”. Do you know anywhere else online that shows another photo of the carving?

    Chris.

  14. shovethenos responds:

    I haven’t been able to find any additional information about the carvings on-line. It appears the white inset is a detail of the outline, possibly from another carving, I don’t know. Maybe someone who’s researched the topic can chime in.

    Typo – that should be “bottom right” when referring to the carving link in the above post.

  15. loumattchris responds:

    I noticed that this serpant thing looks oddly familiar to sea serpents mayb this is more of a unkown more populated spiecas?



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