Ropen Expedition by Woetzel and Guessman

A few weeks after my expedition on Umboi Island, David Woetzel and Garth Guessman arrived in Papua New Guinea. It’s now been ten years since our two expeditions in 2004, but what we learned from interviewing natives—that still needs more publicity, for few Americans have heard about our discoveries in cryptozoology. Consider the following quotations from Searching for Ropens and Finding God (fourth edition):

Page 93

Guessman and Woetzel left California October 17, arriving in the city of Lae on October 19, Papua New Guinea time, where they met missionary Jim Blume and his wife . . . According to Blume, in a wide area of Papua New Guinea, many nationals give similar descriptions: bat-like wings, long body, tail with a flange, pelican-like bill, and a “comb” (more rounded than horn-like) on the back of the head.

Garth Guessman and David WoetzelGuessman and Woetzel arrive at an airport in Papua New Guinea


Page 94

Interviews by Blume suggest that the bioluminescence may relate to secretions that seem to drip from the creatures as they fly, like “sparklers” falling to the ground. The secretions are said to burn human skin, even with serious burns. . . .

Rather than take a ship, as I had, those three [David Woetzel, Garth Guessman, and Jacob Kepas] flew to Umboi Island in a small plane, searching the landscape as they passed over the center of the island. Because the pilot had no interest in zigzagging, they flew directly to the northern coast which they followed to the air strip at Lab Lab.

Here the three ropen investigators met Peter Ake, magistrate of Mararamu Village, and the four men took a banana boat along the northeast coast. Kepas interprets between English and Tok Pisin, but Peter also interprets between English and the local dialect of Kovai.

Page 95

Stopping to refuel at Kampalap, they learned that villagers occasionally see the ropen as it leaves a cave, most recently three weeks earlier. . . . The creature flies to a promontory north of the village, landing and waiting on a tree top before flying out to the reef. . . . Guessman, Kepas, Peter, and Woetzel continued on the banana boat northwest, leaving it near Aupwel, where they were greeted by many local villagers. An older man, Patrik Sual . . . told the investigators that he sees the ropen once a month, only from a distance; it flies from mountain to mountain.

Page 97

The three men not only came close to ropen habitat, they became close to the villagers, becoming officially adopted into three families. They were honored as they received new names: Guessman was named Bok Sigil (Bok is a brown eagle, Sigil means “cliffs”); Woetzel, Ropen Lailai (Lailai is the tallest peak of Mount Sual); and Kepas, Ropen Barik (one of the major mountains of Umboi).

Woetzel and Guessman met many natives on Umboi IslandDavid Woetzel (left) and Garth Guessman (bottom)


Crater lake "Bono" at Mount Sual, Umboi Island

Bono, the crater lake of Mount Sual on Umboi Island


Page 97, continued

On October 23rd, Guessman, Woetzel, and Kepas hiked up Mount Sual with five men and four boys; they descended into the caldera, setting up camp fifty meters from the shore of Lake Bono. Their lookout post, near the bushes six meters from the shore, gave a panoramic view of the lake, but after a grueling climb the first night of observations tested their resolve to stay awake. . . . On the third night, rain stopped observations. Previous ropen sightings suggest these peaks, including Mount Sual, harbor one of the creature’s resting spots. Unfortunately these three nights at Lake Bono gave little rest for man, none for the ropen. Disappointed, the men returned to Arot on the fourth day, sliding down the muddy trail in the rain. Two days later their luck would improve.

Thank you to Garth Guessman and to David Woetzel for allowing us to learn of their expedition through their photos and the records of their interviews, only a small portion of which can be included in this post.



The two Expeditions of 2004

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!

Bioluminescent Ropen

Let’s compare the words of four witnesses: three natives on Umboi Island and one British biologist on the mainland of New Guinea. Each describes flying lights: on two sides of Umboi and on the mainland to the west of Umboi.



“Marfa Lights Hunting”

I hope the scientist James Bunnell, author of Hunting Marfa Lights, takes no offense; I could not resist the play on words “Marfa Lights Hunting.” Mr. Bunnell’s nonfiction book on his years of investigating those strange phenomena in southwest Texas—that book, which I highly recommend, deserves notice here:

Results of an Eight-Year Investigation

This is, to date, the only long-term, extensive study of these phenomena. Reports of unusual lights east of Marfa extend back to the 1800s. . . . the author finds that while most of the observed lights in this area can be explained, about 3 percent are truly mysterious and of unknown origin. In addition to frequent on-site observations and photography, the author installed three automated monitoring stations equipped with a total of nine cameras, to collect nightly video records.

Be aware that Mr. Bunnell’s book says almost nothing about the possibility of bioluminescent flying predators except a brief mention of research into barn owls, and he rejects that idea, the suggestion that birds are behind the flying lights. I agree with Bunnell in the specific Tyto alba sense but disagree with him on the general concept of flying predators.

Communicating with Bunnell

I communicated with Mr. Bunnell early in 2010, by emails, telling him about my ideas about nocturnal bioluminescent flying predators that intelligently hunt bats in southwest Texas. He appreciated my hypothesis but said, “Your concept, interesting as it may be, does not fit my collected observations.”

The following are problems that Mr. Bunnell found in my hypothesis that a group of bioluminescent flying predators are hunting bats:

  1. “ML-IIs are also common and sometimes transition into the ML-IIIs”
  2. “I have observed ML-IIs stay in one spot, pulsing on and off for as much as seven hours”
  3. One ML-II grew to an enormous size. It lit up clouds “to an extent similar to the amount of cloud illumination caused by the city of Alpine when viewed from the same distance with overhead clouds at a similar height” (June 3, 2005). Bunnell estimated the size at probably more than one hundred meters in diameter.

Answering the Objections

The first “problem” appears to me to be irrelevant to the overall concept of flying predators, for the only difference between ML-II and ML-III is that the first stays in one place and the second travels. Sometimes an animal stays in one place and sometimes it travels. There’s no real problem with the biological interpretation in general, only, perhaps, in regard to one form of bat-hunting.

The second problem is also irrelevant to the key concept, for an animal may stay in one place for as long as seven hours. One example is sufficient here: a juvenile ropen may wait in one place for many hours, while its parents are hunting for food. That juvenile may turn on its glow periodically so that the parents can find it.

The third problem is interesting but appears to be based on only instance. Nevertheless, it can be answered. A large group of the flying predators may, on rare occasions, engage in courting that involves competition. Many of the adults may gather to prove who has the brightest glow, who is more fit to breed. This may cause an appearance, at a distance, of a very large glowing structure, even perhaps over one hundred meters in diameter. What may be occurring, if a human could get closer to observe better, is that there are many bioluminescent flying creatures displaying their best and brightest potential, and they have gathered in a group, albeit separated enough that they cover a wide area of land, even over a hundred meters in diameter.


James Bunnell has made great contributions to our knowledge of many details about the most mysterious of what are called “Marfa Lights.” He found several problems with my concept of flying predators hunting bats through a particular hunting technique. But those problems involve that particular technique; they do not distract from the overall concept that a group of bioluminescent flying creatures sometimes search for prey near Marfa, Texas.

Mr. Bunnell admits problems in the (non-living) conjectures or hypotheses that he describes in his book Hunting Marfa Lights. I suggest that bioluminescent predators explain what he has observed in those strange flying lights, and that this explanation is much better than anything that other investigators have been able to come up with.



Near Marfa, Texas




"Searching for Ropens and Finding God" was pubished by the author, Jonathan Whitcomb, in April of 2014

Searching for Ropens and Finding God – nonfiction paperback

From the Introduction in the book:

. . . this is not mainly about religion, not in the usual sense. It’s less likely to take you to church than into the lives of ordinary persons who have encountered extraordinary flying creatures, and into the lives of Christians who have risked their health, even their lives, in searching for living pterosaurs. Our disbelief in the General Theory of Evolution has freed us to search far and near, and for years, with a firm belief that God’s purposes will prevail.


Marfa Lights

According to the late-2010 press release “Unmasking a Flying Predator in Texas,” a group of “bioluminescent  flying predators may be hunting at night and catching a few unlucky Big Brown Bats.”

Marfa Lights Controversy

“Are there mysterious lights around Marfa, Texas, which cannot be explained away as commonplace, like night-mirages of car headlights?” The answer? A resounding “Yes!”

Interview of Jonathan Whitcomb

We did not get into any details about the Marfa Lights of Texas, but we did discuss the bioluminescent-pterosaur concept, and Susan Wooten mentioned her experiences watching the Bingham Lights of South Carolina.


Pterosaurs in Pennsylvania

In North America, now including Pennsylvania, an apparent modern pterosaur that glows at night—that is often associated with the ropen of Papua New Guinea, although we need many more sighting reports and better sighting observations. I don’t blame the eyewitnesses; I respect them for reporting their sightings to me. But my associates and I hope for more of those close sightings that allow for many detailed features to be observed.

Bioluminescent Flying Creature in Pennsylvania

. . . I received an email from a lady who was a passenger in a car one night; both driver and passenger saw a glowing creature as the strange thing flew by. Afterwards she did some research . . . “I have found that a pterosaur is identical to what we saw.” . . . The sighting was in Pennsylvania, and I believe it involved bioluminescence. . . . the flying creature ”was not too terribly high off the ground” and that it was ”quite large and seemed to be lit or glowing. . . . It was one of the strangest things I have ever seen.” She is one of the few eyewitnesses who have reported both a form of an apparent living pterosaur and a glow coming from the creature . . .

Pterosaur Observed in Pennsylvania

. . . in southwest Greensburg, Pennsylvaniva, a karate teacher and two of his students were talking outside. Above some small trees . . . they saw something that at first could have been mistaken for a large bird. . . . [The karate teacher said:] it caught my eye. Being that far up the “birds” body still appeared to be much larger than my 100 pound dog . . . The wingspan appeared to be at least six feet and although it was a bit away from us you could clearly make out a long “horn” or “cone” type protrusion coming out of the back of its skull . . . [The head] was at the end of an elongated neck.

We could here it splashing around, and Carrie ran around the building to see it. There are always ducks in that water as well as rats and other things. When she came back . . . she said it had taken off, Carrie said it was in the water splashing and eating or grabbing something in its mouth. [mid-2006, at 8 p.m.]

Pterosaur Press Room

“Hoaxes are disproved,” declares Jonathan Whitcomb, author of the nonfiction book, Live Pterosaurs in America. After compiling data from reports collected from early-2004 to mid-2009, from eyewitnesses across the United States, he found three kinds of evidence disproving any hoax- explanation.

Bioluminescent pterosaurs

What an affront to modern science! Fire-breathing dragons of ancient myth are actually modern pterosaurs? But consider detailed descriptions from eyewitnesses, for recent reports do not mention fire-breathing but simply glowing. Since nothing in pterosaur fossils can easily enlighten us about bioluminescence, let’s look at modern eyewitness reports.

Bioluminescent fireflies, those are hardly new, just tiny insects, so how do they relate to reports of giant Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs of Papua New Guinea? Fireflies remind us of the wonderful potential characteristics that living organisms can display, including the capability of glowing. If insects can glow, why not larger organisms?

Late in 2006, in a remote mountainous area of the mainland of Papua New Guinea, Paul Nation (American explorer and cryptozoologist) videotaped two lights that were sitting on the top of a nearby ridge. After Paul had returned to the United States, I interviewed him and had a digital copy of his video sent to the physicist Cliff Paiva, who analyzed it and made a report. The lights were not made by meteors, nor by an airplane, nor by car headlights, nor by camp fires, nor by flashlights, nor by camera artifacts. They were truly mysterious lights. Unfortunately, the video was recorded by a standard video camera, so the brightness of the lights obscurred what had created them. Nevertheless, it was physical evidence that supported the many reports of flying lights in Papua New Guinea, and some eyewitnesses of the flying lights have been close enough to distinguish what created them: large flying creatures.

See also “Marfa Lights and Ropen Lights” and a report about a “Scientific Paper on Live Pterosaurs