Evelyn Cheesman, Unwitting Eyewitness

The British biologist Lucy Evelyn Cheesman, according to Wikipedia, “was the first woman to be hired as a curator at Regent’s Park Zoo, in London.” She explored some tropical rain forests in New Guinea (now the country of Papua New Guinea) in the 1930’s, and unwittingly, long after her death, became connected to investigations of sightings of apparent living pterosaurs.

She probably never saw anything resembling a pterosaur, flying over any tropical rain forest; but she saw strange lights flying around in a strange manner. She observed, pondered, and made more observations, never coming to any conclusion about the source of the lights.

Decades later, in the 1990’s and early twenty-first century, a few cryptozoologists explored several areas of Papua New Guinea, searching not for little salamanders and insects but for giant living pterosaurs. Explorers have included the Americans Paul Nation, Garth Guessman, David Woetzel, and me (Jonathan Whitcomb).

How are the lights seen by Cheesman related to ropen lights and indava lights? Just a couple of mountain ranges or so south of where the British biologist observed strange flying lights—that is where Paul Nation, late in 2006, videotaped two indava lights. Many miles to the northeast of Cheesman’s viewing area, on Umboi Island, the ropen lights are seen flying regularly, sometimes from a mountain down to a reef (the creature is reported to catch fish at night). Interesting to tell, the nearby indava lights resemble Cheesman’s lights a bit less than the ropen lights do, at least regarding length-of-glow: about five seconds of glow at a time (indavas can glow longer).

James Blume, missionary in Papua New Guinea

James Blume, missionary in Papua New GuineaJim Blume, a plane pilot, has been a missionary in Papua New Guinea for decades. He has been more than that, however, to researchers and living-pterosaur cryptozoologists: He has been a pioneer with interviewing natives who know about the giant flying creature of the night, known by names like “ropen,” “duwas,” “seklo-bali,” and “indava.”

Blume helped interpret for several Americans during at least two expedition late in the twentieth century. At least twice, this missionary-pilot has flown explorers into remote areas where native eyewitnesses were interviewed, including the 2006 expedition (with Paul Nation and Jacob Kepas) deep in the interior of the mainland of Papua New Guinea.

He was one of two interpreters who interviewed Gideon Koro (Umboi Island, 1994) soon after the boy’s terrifying encounter with a large ropen. In 2003, I reviewed the video footage of that interview and was impressed with the credibility of the young eyewitness. That interview helped set my determination to go to Umboi Island myself, which I did in 2004; I interviewed Gideon Koro (and two of his friends who were with him during the sighting) and obtained more information about the ropen.

James Blume was an early pioneer in the ropen investigations, and his influence on living-pterosaur research has been great. Thank you, Jim, for your wonderful help with pterosaur expeditions.

Nocturnal Pterosaurs

When Susan Wooten’s sighting in South Carolina began receiving more attention, one critic proclaimed that a large modern pterosaur would be impossible so near the Atlantic coast of the United States, for thousands of beach-goers would have seen it. That critics seems to assume that any large pterosaur living in South Carolina would have shown up at the beach in daylight, causing news headlines; since he did not see any relevant news report, then no large pterosaur could live there.

How rarely critics consider the whole picture! The overall reports of living pterosaurs around the world suggest these creatures are mostly nocturnal. It’s not just the rarity of daylight sightings. Specific flight behavior at night suggests they are nocturnal.

Then why should they ever appear in daylight? Consider two dramatic daylight sightings in Papua New Guinea, where the nocturnal ropen is believed to fly with a bioluminescent glow at night. Both cases involve a large or giant “prehistoric” creature, with no sign of feathers, flying at low altitude. Both may have been Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs, awakened from sleep in daylight and frightened into flying away from potential danger.

In 1971, in daylight, on Bougainville Island, Brian Hennessy saw something he will never forget. In his own words, “. . . our truck had stopped on our downward journey from the top of the range to the coast way below. . . . I can’t remember why our vehicle had stopped. Maybe we had to wait for another vehicle to pass us. . . . I saw a very unusual creature. Firstly, it was very big . . . a longish narrow tail . . .”

I asked Mr. Hennessy, “Was anything coming out the back of the head . . . a crest,  appendage, horn, or comb?” He replied, “It was like a horn.”

The two vehicles may have startled the creature from sleep. Many years earlier and many miles to the west was another sighting.

In 1944, in daylight, west of Finnschafen (mainland New Guinea), Duane Hodgkinson saw something he will never forget. At the edge of a clearing, he and his army buddy were gazing at some large ants, bigger than any ants in Ohio. Some animal, at first unseen, came running through the grass. Something then flew up from the far side of the clearing, apparently startled by the running animal. Hodgkinson soon realized that it was not a bird, for it was too big and it had a long appendage coming out the back of the head. He then concluded that it was a “pterodactyl.” At about the time it flew away, a wild pig came running past.

I am convinced that both Hennessy and Hodgkinson saw Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs (on Umboi Island, the animal is called “ropen“). The 1944 sighting seems to have involved a large ropen awakened from sleep by a wild pig.

But the ropen is rarely seen in daylight, by Umboi natives. It is said to catch its food at night, on reefs that surround the island. Its described behavior resembles that of the kor, which islanders to the north say catches fish at night. Deep in the mainland of Papua New Guinea a large flying creature is said to fly at night: the indava. These three native names may refer to the same type of animal, for all accounts include a glow that flies at night. Of course intrinsic bioluminescence would not make it impossible for a creature to come out in daylight; it only makes a daylight appearance rare.

See also Pterosaur in South Carolina and also Hennessy Pterosaur

Consider reading more about nocturnal pterosaurs: Cliff Paiva report