Credibility of Pterosaur Sightings

Sightings in the last two weeks or so, of apparent pterosaurs—that’s not the subject, for it requires some time to get a sense of credibility for a particular report. The critical question is this: “Does at least one report of a pterosaur sighting come from an encounter with a modern living pterosaur?” (It matters hardly at all whether or not all reports are of actual living pterosaurs.) Judging accurately the credibility of a sighting report can take time.

2012 Lakewood, California, Sighting

Many times I have spoken with the eyewitness of the “dragon-pterodactyl” that she had encountered in her backyard in June of 2012, just a few miles from Long Beach, California. I have also spoken many times with other members of the household. Many of our communications have been face-to-face. I am convinced that no hoax was involved in this sighting report.

I have also found it difficult to imagine any misidentified bird. The lady insists there were no feather. In addition, she described a long tail and a structure at the tail end that strongly suggests a Rhamphorhynchoid tail flange (or vane). The eyewitness did not see the flying creature only for a moment; she had plenty of time to take in its features. She also saw it from different perspectives:

  • It sat on a cable just above her head
  • It flew away
  • It flew into a tree

Bird Misidentification

Do worldwide reports of pterosaur sightings come from misidentified birds? To really respond to that possibility, we need to examine each report in relation to one or more species of birds that just might have been misidentified. Grossly oversimplified insinuations about sightings in general and birds in general are worthless or worse.

Critic of a Pterosaur Sighting

The other day, a skeptic replied to the Youtube video of the 1944 “pterodactyl” sighting in New Guinea. He proposed that the encounter (west of Finschhafen, New Guinea) was just a misidentification of a bird:

“So this guy saw a large bird and in hindsight thinks it was a long extinct flying reptile?

“Seriously, anyone with two minutes and a computer can see that a Great-billed Heron in flight exactly matches the guys sketch. All the way down to the crest of the head and the fact that they grow quite large and are found in PNG.”

First, Hodgkinson did not see a bird; it was his first impression, in the first moments of his sighting, that a bird was taking off into the air, but he soon realized it was much too big. Second, it was not “hindsight” that relates to his idea that it was a “pterodactyl,” for that word came to him while he was standing there in that clearing in 1944. Third, he did say anything like “long extinct flying reptile.” Fourth, he did not draw any sketch, although he did choose, from among various sketches, the one that was closest to what he had seen (I had mailed to him a questionnaire).

The Great-billed Heron (Ardea sumatrana) has practically no head crest at all, nothing like what was chosen by Hodgkinson in his responses to the detailed questionnaire. Why does this skeptic use the phrase “exactly matches” with what is practically the opposite? Compare the following photos with a screen shot from the Youtube video in question (“Ropen-Pterodactyl American Eyewitness”):

Photo by GregTheBusker - Great-billed Heron

A Great-billed Heron (where is the pterosaur-like head crest?)

photo of a Great-billed Heron, by Jerry Oldenettel

Does the head of this Great-billed Heron look like that of a pterodactyl with a head crest? How imaginative is that skeptic!

Great-billed Herson - Ardea sumatrana - standing in water, probably in or near Singapore

Another Great-billed Heron that lacks a pterosaur head crest

Now from the Youtube video (“ropen-pterodactyl American eyewitness”):

Duane Hodgkinson chose #4 among possible head crest lengths (the longest) for the pterodactyl or ropen he observed

Hodgkinson chose #4 in his survey response for head crest length

The World War II veteran chose the longest length (for the head crest) from among four choices I gave to him in the survey form he returned to me. So why did the skeptic refer to the head crest as if it were an exact match for the head crest of the Great-billed Heron?

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religious/scientific nonfiction paperback: "Searching for Ropens and Finding God" by American author Jonathan D. Whitcomb

Searching for Ropens and Finding God – Walking by faith and working with people of other faiths in a quest for the discovery of modern pterosaurs

From page 205 of this nonfiction book:

“I was having a yard sale, so I was in the driveway at 5 a.m. I saw this huge bird with bat wings, at least a 20 ft wing span, flying towards me. I just turned and ran screaming into the house. The shadow it threw covered the driveway . . . my husband didn’t believe me. . . .”

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Memory Details in Pterosaur Sightings

Traumatic events, those that we immediately realize are important—those create memories that are much more acute, much more precise, and much less prone to decay over time.

Pterosaur Sightings not From Hoaxes

Wingspan estimates from 8-13 feet accounted for 30% (17) of those 57 reports, far too many if any significant number of hoaxers were involved with faking long-tailed pterosaur sightings, for 8-13 feet of wingspan is too big for Rhamphorhynchoid-type pterosaurs.

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Destination Truth Ropen Episode

I wonder what the natives think of that Western idea, what those eyewitnesses in Papua New Guinea think about the universal-pterosaur-extinction assumption. It’s not part of their culture but ours. Many of those natives humbly acknowledge the advancements in Western technology, miracle machines that they would not have imagined possible. But our culture carries mental weaknesses as great as any superstition in any third-world country. Why insist that all species of a particular type must be extinct?

I’m thinking about a particular native who was interviewed by Josh Gates, during the Destination Truth expedition of 2007: Fabian. In spite of Fabian’s assurance, however, the expedition team was probably skeptical, at least to some extent, for those visitors to Papua New Guinea were, after all, Americans. They may have thought, “How could a large long-tailed pterosaur be still alive, without the knowledge of any of our scientists?”

Destination Truth was not a religious exercise or spiritual quest. It was a true-like adventure television show (or still is one, as the fifth season began in July of 2012.) Josh and his team members were probably each raised from childhood under the dominating influence of universal extinction indoctrination, regarding dinosaurs and pterosaurs. That explains why those team members were so shocked when their night video cameras picked up something inexplicable, a flying light that should not exist . . . something like what had been described to them by native eyewitnesses.

Eyewitness Fabian told Josh that the glow they were looking at in a recording is what comes from the stomach of the flying creature

Fabian (right) firmly believes in the glowing flying creature—he has watched it

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This native was also shown a sketch of the ropen and verified the long tail.

Native eyewitness Fabian verified that the flying creature had a long tail

Fabian was sure that the flying creature has a long tail

A typical episode of Destination Truth lasts for about 45 minutes, focusing on searching for a cryptid, some unclassified creature within the realm of cryptozoology. The third episode of the first season features a search for a “pterodactyl-like” creature called “ropen” in Papua New Guinea and another cryptid in Chile: the chupacabra.

Pterosaur on Destination Truth

Josh seems to have been unaware that Pastor Kepas had a recent daylight sighting deep in the mainland of Papua New Guinea, during Paul Nation’s 2006 expedition.

Pterosaur Reports Continue Coming

. . . three pterodactyl about 100 feet away. The creatures flew up into the air and off away. They noted the long pointed beak, apparent lack of feathers . . .

Destination Truth – Ropen Episode

While Paul Nation was nearly the end of his expedition deep in the mainland of Papua New Guinea, late in 2006, I was interviewed by members of the Destination Truth television production team, in their new office in Hollywood.

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“Dinosaur Found Alive”

Few newspaper professionals are willing to stand up for an idea that many readers would find unbelievable: modern living pterosaurs. But Terence Aym has done just that, with an article in the Salem-News (August 12, 2010): “Dinosaurs Found Alive.” I am grateful for his support of these investigations in cryptozoology.

But I found a number of problems in his article, serious inaccuracies.

Regarding Jim Blume and David Woetzel, Mr. Aym said, “both men have personally witnessed the soaring creatures—and Woetzel even shot some video footage of one.” Actually neither Blume nor Woetzel saw any form or features of anything that directly suggested a living pterosaur, and Woetzel never videotaped a ropen, not even the glowing object that he saw flying towards Lake Pung on Umboi Island.

I am grateful that Mr. Aym put a link to my web page on David Woetzel’s 2004 sighting of a ropen light. But I don’t know how he misunderstood the reference to video. Mr. Aym wrote that Woetzel “recorded images with his video camera.” But my web page (that he uses as a reference for his declaration) says, “My sighting was so quick that it was impossible to get a video . . .” That’s a quotation, the words that David Woetzel used to explain why he was UNABLE to get a video.

I appreciate Mr. Aym’s enthusiasm, but he seems to have gotten carried away with his desires for our success.

Refering to those who explored in Papua New Guinea, searching for the ropen and interviewing eyewitnesses (I am one of those cryptozoologists, although I am not mentioned in the article), Mr. Aym wrote, “they have seen them firsthand.” Well, most of the American explorers have seen what we call a “ropen light,” that is true, but what American or Australian has seen the form and features of a ropen? At least up until recently, not those who were searching for ropens.

In general, it’s those Americans or Australians who were just fortunate enough to witness one of them because they happened to be at the right place at the right time. Searching for ropens for two or three weeks has not yet rewarded us with the clear sightings, those encounters that make it obvious that the ropen is a pterosaur.

If you want to witness a clear sighting of a living pterosaur, spend most of your time outdoors, watching for them, for the rest of your life, near where you live. That will make it more likely you’ll see a ropen than if you travel to Papua New Guinea to search for them for two or three weeks.

Of course there is a quicker way to encounter living pterosaurs. Consider eyewitness reports, with an open mind, for of the billions of humans on this planet, a tiny portion of them have both witnessed an obvious pterosaur and reported it to a cryptozoologist, and that portion of our species makes a significant number of reports.

C-14 Dating of Dinosaurs

The discovery that bones from an Acrocanthosaurus and a Triceratops, not to mention several other types, were alive and part of living dinosaurs only tens of thousands of years ago—that astonishing discovery was met with immediate . . . censorship.

Manta Ray or Live Pterosaur?

The misidentification of a Manta ray oceanic fish does not adequately explain any significant pterosaur sighting . . . The skeptic implies that Mr. Kuhn was mistaken about almost everything, but that he was correct about the general shape of the wings. How unscientific!

Terrence Aym’s 2010 Newspaper Article

I am grateful that some news professionals have written and published some details of living-pterosaur investigations. Whether in a prodigious newspaper like the Houston Chronicle or a small weekly community paper like the Antwerp Bee-Argus . . .

“Ropen Myth” Article by Brian Switek

A Smithsonian blog post (Oct 16, 2010) by Brian Switek dismisses both the ropen of Papua New Guinea and any hope for any living dinosaur or pterosaur. He does so with the phrase “ropen myth,” ignoring all major evidences that favor a living animal.

New Cryptozoology Book: Pterosaurs in Australia

My latest book, Live Pterosaurs in Australia and in Papua New Guinea, is now published on Amazon as a Kindle ebook:

cover of e-book on pterosaurs in southwest Pacific - still living creatures

No paper version is available–save those trees.

A Few Details:

About 20,000 words: a medium-length book, smaller than the largest Kindle Singles ebooks

Published September, 2012

Author and publisher: Jonathan David Whitcomb

Images: one (cover image on first page)

Table of Contents (internal linking):

Preface
Dedication
Introduction
How can Pterosaurs be Alive?
The Finschhafen Pterodactyl
The Bougainville Creature
The Lake Pung Encounter
Another Expedition on Umboi Island
The Perth Creature
Other Sightings in Australia
Expedition of 2006
Other Sightings in Papua New Guinea
Conclusion
Index

To quote part of the Introduction:

What is a Pterosaur?

We must begin with the basics: What is a pterosaur? It’s not really a type of dinosaur, although it’s associated with them. The flying creature is called “pterodactyl” by many non-scientists; some Americans call those featherless fliers “dinosaur birds” or “prehistoric birds.”

Most pterosaur fossils fit into one of two types: long-tailed Rhamphorhynchoid or shorter-tailed Pterodactyloid. Those two types differ in other ways, not just tail length, but that’s a subject for a book on pterosaur fossils.

In modern eyewitness reports, long-tailed pterosaurs outnumber short-tails, at least four-to-one. Standard models of extinction make this ratio appear strange, for the long-tailed variety were thought to have dwindled before the short-tailed pterosaurs became dominant, at least that’s the theory. Nevertheless, the ratio is significant in modern sightings, appearing consistent regardless of the culture or beliefs or education of the eyewitness.

Introduction, page-1, of e-book "Live Pterosaurs in Australia . . ."

Book Featured on Live Pterosaur Blog

I can’t remember why our vehicle had stopped. Maybe we had to wait for another vehicle to pass us. I don’t know. But I can still hear that slow flapping sound in the stillness of an early tropical morn, on the road from Panguna down to Loloho on Bougainville Island in 1971.

For those who order on Amazon-UK, purchase this ebook through Amazon here: UK Kindle

For those who purchase Kindle books on the French-language Amazon site, this book (in English) is here: FR-Amazon

Nonfiction cryptozoology books (paper versions) specializing in modern pterosaurs include Live Pterosaurs in America and Searching for Ropens.

Pterosaur on Destination Truth

Within months of Paul Nation’s successful late-2006 ropen expedition in Papua New Guinea, an American television production company embarked on their own expedition to search for the giant flying creature of the night.

Gates interviews native Baptist minister Jacob Kepas, an eyewitness of the ropen

The Baptist minister Jacob Kepas, a native of Papua New Guinea in the Wau area, answered Josh Gates questions about his sighting and about his beliefs about the ropen.

Nobody expected the Destination Truth team to conduct an in-depth research of reports of the ropen, at least not in the sense that they could then write a scientific paper in a journal of science. But the limited research appeared to lead to an oversight: Josh seems to have been unaware that Pastor Kepas had a recent daylight sighting deep in the mainland of Papua New Guinea, during Paul Nation’s 2006 expedition. Gates asked him questions about an old sighting at night, for that was probably all that the American knew about Kepas’s sighting experience.

Papua New Guinea native Fabian tells American about the "big bird"

Gates asked a native eyewitness about the flying creature that glows at night. Fabian appeared to have significant experience observing that creature, for he described what part of the creature’s body could glow.

Ropen Search by Destination Truth

Early in 2007, several members of their team left Los Angeles for a long flight to the southwest Pacific, eventually arriving in the city of Lae, Papua New Guinea. There they took a small boat south to the peninsula Salamaua. They were following rumors that ropens live in caves in that area.

New Site: Ropen

Countless eyewitnesses, in many countries across the planet, have pondered what it was they had seen.

Live Pterosaurs in Television Shows

Richard Syrett interviewed me, Jonathan Whitcomb, in Long Beach, on May 5, 2012, for a Canadian television talk show. The previous day, Syrett interviewed my associate, cryptozoologist Garth Guessman. We found his questions reasonable and his approach refreshingly open.

Richard Syrett interviewed Jonathan Whitcomb for Canadian television show

I was informed by Syrett and his producer that the Canadian television show would be only thirty minutes long, including commercials. Realizing several cryptozoologists had been interviewed, I concluded that only a little of my own interview would be broadcast.

I briefly described my interview with Gideon Koro, the young man who, as a teenager with six of his friends, had been terrified at the giant ropen (an apparent pterosaurthat flew over Lake Pung, Umboi Island, around 1994.

Gideon described, in 2004, the giant ropen that had flown over Lake Pung

About the huge ropen, Gideon told the American cryptozoologist Jonathan Whitcomb, “It came down” (it flew over the crater lake on Umboi Island).

There was no time to get into the philosophical aspects of creation-versus-evolution. I did mention my belief in the historical Flood of Genesis in the Bible. Most of my questions and answers related to cryptozoology: the living-pterosaur interpretation of sightings.

The openess of the 2012 interviews were in stark contrast to the closed position of the Canadian television show “MonsterQuest,” which was broadcast in its “Demon Flyer” episode a few years ago.

Clear Thinking and “Pterodactyls on Television”

Jonathan Whitcomb was interviewed by the Canadian talk show host Richard Syrett. Some of the interview will be on television in Canada. . . . This Australian [Brian Hennessy] has made it clear that the creature that he saw flying over Bougainville Island in 1971 is very much unlike any known bird or bat.

Interview for Television

Whitcomb mentioned [pterosaur] sightings by Gideon Koro, Evelyn Cheesman, and Duane Hodgkinson. The answers to Syrett’s questions, however, were brief, for the final television show will be only 30 minutes long.

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Live Pterosaurs in America - third edition - by Jonathan Whitcomb

From an Amazon book review for an earlier edition of this nonfiction cryptozoology book about modern pterosaurs: Live Pterosaurs in America:

“This is an updated review of the book and I am changing my rating to 5 stars. This book has been on my shelf for almost a year now. I pick it up every now and then and a part of me becomes more impressed by the book every time. Yes, the skeptics will laugh at it, but I am a skeptic too. . . . it is apparent that these pterosaur stories will not go away.

“. . . Whitcomb painstakingly reviews every account for credibility and reason. This man is not a crank. He tries to weed out would be hoaxes and miss-identification. This is not a guy looking to create evidence to confirm his own beliefs. On top of this, I have great respect for a guy who follows his dreams so passionately. He has traveled to Papua New Guinea to search for the creature there . . .”

The Two Expeditions of 2004

I led the first of the two pterosaur expeditions on Umboi Island in 2004, but I would like to comment first on the second expedition: the Woetzel-Guessman exploration of that tropical island in Papua New Guinea.

Just a few days after my return to the United States, David Woetzel (of New Hampshire) and Garth Guessman (of Southern California) set out for Papua New Guinea. They met with the Baptist missionary Jim Blume and his wife Mary, in the city of Lae, and prepared for the flight to Umboi Island. (At that time, the air strip near Bunsil Station was still open for plane landings; I don’t know about now.)

Woetzel and Guessman and their interpreter Jacob Kepas flew to the southern coast of Umboi, where they soon took a banana boat around the eastern coast. The first part of their exploring was on the northern side of the island, but for now I will cover just one of their discoveries: the clam-eating of the ropen.

Earlier, before leaving the mainland, in the city of Lae, Guessman interviewed Jacob Kepas, who had his own sighting, when he was a boy, of a ropen-like flying creature. In his village, near the city of Wau, on the mainland of Papua New Guinea, this kind of nocturnal flying creature is called “seklobali” (or “seklo-bali“). The name means something like “he who carries his bed.” Kepas did not, at the time of the interview, have any idea why the flying creature had that name, but the three explorers would find an explanation at the end of their expedition on Umboi.

In the scientific paper written by David Woetzel (“The Fiery Flying Serpent” – Creation Research Society Quarterly, Volume 42, March-2006), he described how the seklobali probably got its name:

The last leg of our journey took us through the villages of the western coast and down to the government station of Bunsel. While at Bunsel we met some folks that explained to us their traditional belief that the Ropen feasts on a particular kind of large mollusk. We had heard reports from other villages about these clams (some of which are reported to litter mount Bel). But the villagers were able to show us some of the shells, as big as 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter! This intriguing piece of evidence suddenly recalled to our minds the odd Mali name for Ropen—creature that carries its bed. Indeed a low-flying pterosaur carrying a large mollusk up into its mountain lair would seem to be “carrying its bed!”

Whitcomb Expedition

In my scientific paper “Reports of Living Pterosaurs in the Southwest Pacific” (Creation Research Society Quarterly, Volume 45, Winter-2009), I wrote about several eyewitness reports, including one that I received through a face-to-face interview with an eyewitness on Umboi Island:

According to Gideon Koro, who speaks some English, a few minutes after they had arrived at the lake, “it came down.” I tried to ask about wingspan but at that point had to rely on an interpreter (using the Kovai language), and only later did I realize that he probably thought that I meant the length of one wing. In either case, his answer is astonishing: “seven meetuh” (seven meters).

How astonishing that his estimate was around twenty-three feet! Even if that were the wingspan (not one wing), it repudiates the flying-fox conjecture of some skeptics. Even if it were wingspan and an exaggeration or miscalculation made it a wingspan of eleven feet, no fruit bat has a wingspan that big. In addition, Gideon Koro described the mouth: “like a crocodile.”

Image from the 2004 Woetzel-Guessman expedition:

Jacob Kepas being interviewed by Garth Guessman and Mary Blume

Jacob (or “Jakob”) Kepas was interviewed by Guessman, in 2004, in Lae, Papua New Guinea, with help from Mrs. Blume. Kepas described his encounter with the glowing “seklo-bali,” that may be related to the ropen of Umboi Is.

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cryptozoology book about reports of living pterosaurs in the United States

Third edition of the book Live Pterosaurs in America, on Amazon.com—-best-selling book of its kind (non-fiction cryptozoology book on living pterosaurs)