Eyewitness Accounts... Page 9
Eyewitness Accounts... Page 9

Do Dinosaurs Still Exist?

Champ: Two Stories Plus: Champ Sounds

Champ Quest was organized in 1992. Our mission is to collect data, search for, record sightings and protect the animals living in Lake Champlain known as Champ.

This site is not built from the viewpoint - What if Champ exists-I have seen these animals on many different occasions, a couple of my sightings involved more than one animal and several more involved baby Champs. There is a healthy population of these animals living in Lake Champlain.

The most frequently asked question: What is Champ? I have described what I have seen as a Lizard like long necked animal with four legs and feet, a forked tongue, omits a hissing noise, loves the shallow waters but seen on land, eats small fish, and is about twelve inches at birth and twenty feet or more full grown. Oh, and very ugly. The babies are kinda cute. But, what is it or I should say what are they?

Photo: Source: Unesco-welterbe

Constant research and field work has led me off the beaten path that most Cryptozoologist have chose to follow. The most popular theory is that they are members of the Plesiosaurus family.

These great ocean going reptiles of the Mesozoic Era were huge-up to forty six feet long, of which half was neck. There were many species of Plesiosaur, one, Elasmosaurus, depicted what I and many other people had seen in Lake Champlain.

It remained on the top of my list, until one day while browsing in Barnes & Noble on Dorset Street, I found a picture of a reptile called Tanystropheus. I Knew I had found the perfect match in both behavior and looks to the animals I have observed living and thriving in our lake.

Over the years I have interviewed many people that have seen Champ. One excited eye-witness described his sighting with absolute clarity "I saw Champ, there really is one, I saw two."

That is when I am forced to ask the age old question. Have you been drinking? Actually some of the most descriptive interviews have been with the people that started to drink after their sighting. Champ is not alone, and we can not call them all Champ.

What do we call the babies? I refuse to call them little Champies, so I named the one that has been frequently seen in Button Bay, Tany.

During the summer of 1994 Tany and some of his or her friends made a big splash in Button Bay, and Park Ranger Linde Emerson was watching as the scene emerged. It was the wake that made Linde Emerson stop and stare out at Lake Champlain's Button Bay. This was not the wake a boat makes. It was slower, smoother, unlike any Emerson had seen.

The park ranger was even more surprised by what he saw next. First one brownish bump. Then another. Then a head connected to the bumpy, undulating spine of what Emerson is convinced is Champ.

"When that sucker popped up, by God, it was amazing," said Emerson, who has worked as a park ranger for 12 years, the last five at Button Bay State Park.

The creature, which he estimates was 20-25 feet long, revealed itself for about 30 seconds and then slipped quietly back under the waters of Button Bay, a warm shallow basin of Lake Champlain where bass, perch and other fish feed.

"He was just swimming," Emerson said, "The way I see it, he was going after a school of fish."

In recent times, hundreds of people- boaters, picnickers, swimmers- claim they have seen one of these animals. Some took pictures of what they saw and others wrote books without seeing . But no one has ever caught a live Champ. Or have they?

In 1954 a 14" long reptile was captured in Shelburne bay. There is an early account of one being captured and tied up to a public dock in Burlington,Vt. It was described as being "a baby."

In 1976 a lizard like animal was caught by a Vergennes man. It was twelve inches long, held itself up on four sturdy legs, omitted a hissing sound and had a forked tongue.

I was lucky that the man who caught the baby was my father, William H. Hall and that I was there. I have much more to say about this catch, and you will be able to read about it in "The Ultimate Search."

Champ animals do exist in Lake Champlain. There is a lot of evidence, but most scientist don't think the animals exist. "I've never seen any credible evidence that there is a Champ creature," said George Labar, a professor at U.V.M. Labar has studied Lake Champlain for almost as long as I have observed and studied the animals known as Champ, 20 or more years.

Photos don't prove the existence of Champ either, said Labar. They can be doctored, and even if they are not doctored, that doesn't mean its Champ. "What it appears to be isn't necessarily what it is," said Labar.

In any case, there are many Champ believers. A so-called baby Champ is continually sighted at Button Bay State Park, said Laura Hollowell, park naturalist.

"People are seeing something. It's not just hysteria."

One thing that you can be sure to see while searching for Champ is the natural beauty of Lake Champlain. This alone will keep you coming back for more, and combine the natural beauty with that of the beauty of a true mystery such as Champ, and it might look like the picture I took of Button Bay from the sight of the 1962 Girl Scout Roundup.

Champtanystopheus is the name I have given to the species of animals known as Champ. I am confident that I am on the right track in my search and will not have to eat my words, otherwise I would have left it CHAMP.

Tanystropheus (there are many spellings of this word and I will try to use them all) is a member of the Protorosaurs family (they live in Charlotte) which in turn are members of the Archosauromorph family ( I believe they moved to New York) and they all pre-date the Archosaurs (yes there are still a few up in Forrestdale) better known as Dinosaurs.

The Protorosaurs were a lizard type reptile (absolutely no relation to the Charlotte Protorosaurs) that lived in the deserts of Europe toward the end of the Permian Period. Its long legs were tucked under its body, allowing it to chase after fast moving prey-mainly insects. Its neck was made up of seven large and greatly elongated vertebrae.

The long necks of the Protorosaurs reached an extreme in this member of the group. The Tanystropheus neck was longer than its body and tail combined. Yet only seven vertebrae made up the neck, each bone was greatly elongated.

Tany and the Elasmosaurus look similar but there are major differences. The Elasmosaurus had flippers. Tany has feet. The Elasmosaurus is 46 feet long. Tany is 25 tops. T

he most important difference is that the Elasmosaurus was an egg-layer and would have laid her eggs much like the modern day turtles (in open sight of humans). The Champtany gives live-birth. Unusual for a reptile, but she was not alone, other reptiles including the very ancient Ichthyosaurs , were live-bearers as are some modern day reptiles.

In my book "The Ultimate Search" I cover the birthing habits of the Tanystropheus in depth. Identifying and protecting the habitat in which the offspring of Champtanystropheus live is very important to their survival. That habitat is threatened as you read.

On April 27 of 1998, while inspecting our favorite marsh, Mary Ellen (my wife) caught a frog, it was deformed. Champtanystropheus is a strange looking animal, mutations will not help when it comes to interviewing eyewitnesses.

Most living things creatures of habit. Do you not see the same faces everyday as you drive to work? They become familiar and comforting. When you do not see them you become concerned or alarmed. I watched a family of geese grow up in Button Bay.

They swam past me every night during the course of one summer. One night, as a test of a theory I had, I hid on them. Their response was just as expected, they avoided the spot I normally sat and swam out into the lake instead, obviously alarmed. By returning to the same spot every night I had become an old friend. Champtanystropheus responds no differently (they need friends too).

The moral of the story, pick a spot to search from and stick with it. You do not have to sit motionless, act normal, it's the consistency that counts. Who knows maybe you can become an old friend of Champtanystropheus, and if a true friend they might let you take their picture.

Best of luck and if you see one of these reptiles DO NOT POKE IT WITH A STICK

Contact Dennis Hall Sightings@ champquest.com


New evidence on Champ is Luring Sea-Monster Fans to Vermont

By Diane E. Foulds, Globe Correspondent,


BURLINGTON, Vt. -- On a chilly morning in June, a team of scientists using underwater microphones picked up a series of strangely high-pitched ticking and chirping noises, similar to what a dolphin or Beluga whale would make. Trouble is, they were miles from the ocean, on Lake Champlain.

''It took us totally by surprise,'' said Elizabeth von Muggenthaler, who led the research team. ''For an instant we just stood there looking at each other with our mouths open.''

Von Muggenthaler was on the lake doing research for the Discovery Channel, which had just finished shooting a TV documentary on ''Champ,'' the legendary Lake Champlain monster.

Although the recordings are still under analysis, they offer the most compelling evidence to date that the creature might actually be real. For ECHO, a Vermont aquarium and science center that opened its doors this spring on the Burlington waterfront, the timing was eerie: August is ''Champ'' month.

In addition to its ongoing ''Champ'' display, it has offered a feast of monster-related activities all month. Educator Jean Hunt has been giving a talk on cryptozoology, the science of hidden and mystery animals, each Thursday at 6 p.m.

There are special children's activities and two 20-minute lectures daily, at 11:30 and again at 3, on the facts and fiction behind the phenomenon, with believers sitting on one side of the auditorium, skeptics on the other.

Vermont author Joseph Citro, who researched ''Champ'' sightings for his 2001 novel ''Lake Monsters,'' is among the growing contingent that suspects there might indeed be a lurking presence beneath the waves.

''The Indians knew it was there before [French explorer Samuel de] Champlain 'discovered' the lake, but they lived in harmony with it, even made offerings to it when they crossed the waters,'' he said.

''Probably the biggest 'Champ hunt' took place in the mid 1800s, when P.T. Barnum took an interest in the beast and put a $50,000 bounty on its head, dead or alive. Hunters came out in swarms, but luckily the money remains uncollected.''

Just to be safe, laws protecting the creature from harassment are on the books in Vermont and New Hampshire, and sightings continue.

Mike Shea, a former airline pilot who owns the excursion boat ''The Spirit of Ethan Allen,'' says he spotted Champ in 1984 with at least 80 passengers. He described a dark object about 25 feet long and three feet wide that paralleled the boat, its ''three or four humps'' causing a wake, until a speedboat headed straight for it.

''Then it turned 90 degrees to the left and dove, and the wake stopped,'' he said, ''and that's what convinced me I saw something. As an airline pilot, I'm trained to be observant, and I know what I saw.''

Von Muggenthaler, whose North Carolina-based institute, Fauna Communications Research, puts updates of its findings at www.animalvoice.com (click on ''Lake Champlain Research''), cautions that the results of the analysis may not solve the mystery.

''`What we can say is that there is a creature in the lake that produces bio-sonar,'' she said. ''We have no idea what it is.''

Diane E. Foulds is a freelance writer who lives in Burlington, Vt.


© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

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