Location: Vermont and New York Map
120 miles long
12 miles wide
500 miles of shoreline
Lake Champlain is a long narrow body of water between Vermont and New York states of USA. The lake covers an area of 1,269 sq km (490 sq mi) with a maximal depth of 122 metres (400 feet). First European explorer to visit this area was French man Samuel de Champlain in 1609. With a growth of British presence in the region lake became an important highway for trade in the region. Its unique position and shape made it perfect for transport of goods and even armies.
Champlain Area Trails (CATS) is a network for hiking, walking, skiing, snowshoeing, birding, tracking, and picnicking in and around the Champlain Valley in New York State's Adirondack Park. CATS trails encompass a rich tapestry of preserved wildlife habitats, pastoral farmland, historic villages, scenic woodlands, and a diverse aquatic system of streams, rivers, wetlands, ponds including the Boquet River and Lake Champlain.
Most famous resident of Lake Champlain is an alleged water serpent known locally simply as Champ. The Iroquois and the Abenaki called this serpent "Tatoskok." Besides obvious similarities to Loch Ness Monster (aka Nessie) in Scotland the lake has many similar features as Loch Ness. It has a similar shape and similar biosphere that in theory could support a small population of ancient plesiosaur that could survive change of climate.
The first European traveler to describe his own encounter with a legendary animal was Samuel de Champlain for whom the lake is named. He described it as large aquatic animal that measured 5 feet (1.5 m). He was covered by silver grey scale that could withstand hit of the dagger. In addition the animal had a long neck that is as thick as human's thigh. Unfortunately the description is a dubious one since no first hand documents were discovered to support the account.
The first proven reference to the mystical New England creature comes in 1641 in An Account of Two Voyages to New England witten by John Josselyn in 1639.
"They told me [in 1639] of a sea serpent or snake, that lay quoiled up like a cable upon a rock at Cape Ann; a boat passing by with English[men] on board, and two Indians, they would have shot the serpent, but the Indians dissuaded them, saying that if he were not killed outright, they would all be in danger of their lives"
In August of 1817 a sea serpent was spotted off the shore in Gloucester Harbor. He stayed for almost a month in this location. Champ was first spotted on August 6th by two women who took a leisure walk along a tranquil lake. They saw a 60 foot long creature at the entrance to the harbor. On August 14th local resident Matthew Gaffney attempted to shoot the animal, but he either missed him or a thick scale saved the creature. In the next several days Champ was seen by Solomon Allen III, Amos Story with his wife and Lydia and Samuel Wonson. On August 18th the cryptid was seen at the Pavilion Beach by several people. These were all credible sources and couldn't be disproved. Subsequently first scientific attempt to explain these sightings was undertaken by New England Linnaen Society.
Many people flocked to Gloucester Harbor to see the creature. Colonel Thomas Handasyd Perkins was among these people. He was a rich businessman who later served as a congressman. He described this even. All the town was on the alert and almost every individual both great and small had been gratified with a sight of him". He further describes the creature that measured at least 40 feet long with a dark brown scales protecting his whole body. Champ quickly moved through the water with a vertical flexure of the spine. It is an interesting detail since only marine mammals swim with the an upstroke. Fish, reptiles and other creatures move their bodies horizontally as they swim.
New England Linnaen Society attempted to explain the creature as merely a deformed snake. They even dissected a specimen that was brought to them by one of the fishermen. The snake was only few feet long, but its back was covered in strange humps. Few people believed that this was the same monster they saw for almost a month in the Lake Champlain. Their doubts were further shaken then the next year a creature returned and was seen again by hundreds of onlookers in different locations along a lake. Another reference about the the creature came on July 24, 1819 in a Plattsburgh Republican. In a article under title "Cape Ann Serpent on Lake Champlain" it gave an account of Captain Crum who saw an enormous monster.
Champ become really famous after Sheriff Nathan H. Mooney described his encounter with an animal in 1883. He claimed he saw an aquatic animal 50 yards from a lake's shore. Law man approximated the length of the creature to 25- 30 feet in length with "round white spots inside its mouth". A craze for a mysterious cryptid took Eastern USA by storm. Many people flocked to the lake's shores with hopes to see a creature. Famous American show man P.T. Barnum even offered $50,000 for a corpse of an animal.
The sightings of the Lake Champlain monster continued through out a 20th and 21st centuries. Photographs and videos surface almost every year. Interestingly evidence for this secretive creature added by means of echolocation. The recording of a strange voice was made in 2003 by the scientists from the Fauna Communications Research Institute. They described the voice as similar to that of a whale or a dolphin. However it sounded different from any mammal they encountered. The mystery continues.
Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
4472 Basin Harbor Rd, Vergennes
Tel. (802) 475- 2022
Open: late May- mid- Oct: 10am- 5pm