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Saturday, June 19, 2010

LINDSAY SELBY: The Cowichan River creature

Cowichan is situated beside the Cowichan River and is the second largest lake on Vancouver Island, measuring 34 km long and in places over 500 feet ( 166 metres)deep.

The people of Cowichan have a history of stories of a giant serpent-like creature that lives in the deepest parts of the lake. It is said to be over 50 feet( 16 metres) in length, with a very large head, furious eyes and an enormous mouth and teeth. The creature named Stin-Qua is said to be capable of swallowing whole canoes and their contents.. The first story I came across is from the Kaatza Station Museum and is by Nitinat Charlie:

There was an Indian encampment near where the March’s now live. In the camp was a very old woman who cautioned the young women to beware of the Stin-qua. Next morning three young men and three women set out in a canoe for Bald Mountain across the Lake. The men were left on the mountain to hunt deer and the women were to return for them later. The women were returning to the camp when one of the maidens stoop up in the canoe and, waiving her paddle said that she was not afraid of the Stin-qua. Almost immediately it began to get dark, the wind roared and the Stin-qua rushed through the water and swallowed the canoe and all the women. The Stin-qua disappears from the lake by an underground passage down the West Coast.

At the time it was thought to be just a legend but then reports started to appear.

The following report appeared in the Cowichan Leader newspaper on Thursday, June 12,1930: ( extracts from the report)

Is there a giant water serpent in Cowichan Lake similar to the reputed Okanogan Lake Ogopogo? There are of course, many doubters, but the mass of evidence from reliable sources has grown to such an extent that there would appear little question about there being one or more large serpents in the waters of the lake. Some time ago The Leader gathered information from various people who had seen this unusual fish and without exceptions the witnesses are most emphatic that this thing actually exists. They are anxious, also to come across it again and photograph or capture it so as to have proof of the “fish story” A new interest has been aroused in this strange reptile by the report from Mr. C. E. Cauldwell (Cougar Charlie) that last week he saw the serpent.Mr. Cauldwell and Mr. Fred Fillinger, planer foreman of the Industrial Mill, Youbou, were together at the time on the shore at the head of the lake. The serpent was distinctly seen swimming Interested in the fishing, nothing more unusual was noticed until Mr. Jarvis, looking around saw about eight feet of tapering neck and a serpent like heard standing straight out of the water.He called to Dr. Hill to look at the “apparition” and at the same time reached for his gun. Difficulty in locating his ammunition was responsible for the fact that he did not obtain a more tangible souvenir. The serpent kept it’s neck up for about four or five seconds then moved it’s head back and forth and disappeared with a serpentine motion of the body which could be seen for several seconds. The tail did not come into view although it was two or three seconds before all the body had wriggled out of sight. The main portion of the body appeared to be about a foot thick.. It appeared to them to be of a whitish color. Mr. Norman G. Thomas, proprietor of theRiverside Inn, Lake Cowichan and Mrs. Thomas report having distinctly seen the ogopogo early in October between 8:30 and 8:45 am. It was a beautiful morning and they were taking a run up the lake in their speedboat when they sighted what appeared to be two logs. Steering to go between them they bypassed around the end of one long and were within the 60 feet of “the other log” when it suddenly bowed up the middle and disappeared with great commotion.Mr. Thomas states that, on another occasion when four tourists were also on board, a long neck about 10 or 12 feet above the water was sighted. He stopped the boat and in order to get a better view and what he saw looked like a large snake about 30 to 35 feet long.
On yet a third occasion Mr. Thomas obtained a glimpse of the ogopogo while taking a party up the lake.. Mr. Thomas says that Mr. Victor Rundquist is another former lake resident who has seen the serpent. He also relates the story of an old lake resident who tells of sighting the reptile while coming down the lake in a rowboat near shore. This man saw what he took to be a telephone pole lying in the water and thinking that it would come in handy at his cabin he went over towards it, intending to hitch on a towline. When within a few feet of it “ the pole” flopped tail and disappeared. This man, although he had seen the serpent the years previously did not tell anyone about it until he recounted the incident to Mr. Thomas following the latter’s first report of having sighted it. He thought that people would be too much tempted to believe that poor liqueur was responsible.Mr. Thomas and Mr. Cauldwell compared notes at the weekend and the latter’s observance corroborates the formers estimate that the length of the serpent is about 30 to 35 feet. Whether an authentic picture or the indisputable remains will ever be obtained is left for the future to disclose.

Sawmill workers at Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island reported seeing a large lake creature during the 1960s and a local fisherman, also in the 1960s,said he hooked something that pulled him and his boat around the lake for an hour.

So a large eel or water snake? There seems to have been no recent sightings I could find but an interesting tale nevertheless and the descriptions match many others in other lakes around the world. What sort of creature can stand up in water like that, like a telegraph pole? I suspect it is something undiscovered because I don’t think eels can do that though some snakes rear up such as cobras. If anyone has any theories please post a comment.

1 comment:

Dale Drinnon said...

Cowichan is interesting because it does include the distinctive "Periscope" sightings 6 feet high and over, which become increasingly rare the further you go inland into Canada.

At the same time, there is also no doubt that it is there only intermittently, moving up and down the river to and from the sea. Ivan Sanderson indicates that the Longnecked type of creature is seen pursuing salmon runs up rivers in Canada when they are in season.