Friday, July 31, 2009
Sound Reasoning And The Lake Champlain Monster
Ever read an article that leaves a bit of confusion lingering in your mind?
I’m trying to get a handle on how bioacoustics researcher, Elizabeth von Muggenthaler, regards the existence of a lurking monster in Lake Champlain.
For those who aren’t familiar with this region, up here in the North Country Lake Champlain divides New York State from Vermont. I’ve live on the NY side in Plattsburgh; it’s just a ten-minute to the lake from my door. On the east side is Burlington, Vermont. Burlington is home to an alternative weekly, Seven Days, that recently profiled von Muggenthaler in an article entitled “Making Sound Waves” in its July 15-22, 2009 edition. (Online version here.)
Six years ago von Muggenthaler was hired by the Discovery Channel to do some bioacoustical research in Lake Champlain. She made recordings of an unknown critter or critters echolocating. She has ruled out sources such as beaver, otter, and other animals including man. The recordings are a puzzler.
But when it comes to the existence of a cryptid in the water that has appeared on occasion, creating sensational reports, Muggenthaler comes across as a skeptic in the article. Here’s one excerpt:
Let’s get something straight: Von Muggenthaler isn’t interested in “Champ,” the beast of Lake Champlain lore. She has no tolerance for the legends that have swirled over the years of a water-dwelling reptile/whale/dinosaur. She’s a serious scientist — a bioacoustician who studies animal communication and cognition — and serious scientists don’t trade in monsters or other figments of fanciful imaginations.
Later it’s stated she isn’t interested in a “monster quest.” But in the article she talks about the areas where her recordings were made, places thriving with salmon, the same spots where Champ had been spotted. (After all, a big lake monster has to eat.) Von Muggenthaler thinks that whatever was echolocating was hunting food.
Then there’s this statement:
While locals indulge the legend of the monster, [von Muggenthaler] points out few scientists and skeptics consider that there could be a less camera-ready undiscovered animal or completely new species living in the lake.
That sounds like something that hardly ever surfaces, an animal that stays hidden deep in the lake, implying that reports of Champ are cases of misidentification or even lies.
But go to a Website operated by von Muggenthaler and her partners, Fauna Communications Research Institute, and on the page devoted to the Lake Champlain research, you’ll find this item:
About the recent article in the Burlington Free Press
2 years ago we found echolocation in a fresh water lake. A very novel discovery. The research trip and all about the bi-sonar or echolocation we found is described below. Pete Bodette's video demonstrated much of what we found by listening, namely the size of it and the activity of the fish in the area. Because of Pete Bodette's video we felt it was vital for people to stop considering this a "monster", a "myth" or an intoxicated illusion of those that visit the lake. This creature is unique, possible severely endangered, and needs to be studied scientifically. Those that witness something strange on the lake, please don't be worried anymore about people thinking you are crazy, e-mail us.
The statement was unsigned, so I don’t know if it was by von Muggenthaler or one of her partners. But unlike what I’ve cited in the Seven Days article, this seems to be a very pro-Champ view, especially when considering an unknown creature that pops up to the surface and is spotted by the locals.
So how skeptical is von Muggnethaler about Champ? Is what she detected something akin to Champ?
Like I said, a bit of confusion.
I did email von Muggenthaler and maybe she will have the time to respond and clear up this matter.
Posted by Ray Palm (Ray X) at 12:49 AM