Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010


The latest Russian Lake Monster story has taken the cryptozoological world by storm, and today both Richard Freeman and Dale Drinnon provide their own unique takes on the events...

This article appeared in the Daily Mail in the UK, the other day, and can be found here

Russian fishermen demand an investigation into killer Nesski's 19 lake deaths in three years

Russian fishermen are demanding a probe into a creature resembling the Loch Ness monster in a remote Siberian lake. Locals say that 'Nesski' has devoured anglers who have been pulled into the murky waters of Lake Chany from their boats. Those claiming to have glimpsed the creature say it resembles the classic long-necked image of Scotland's fabled monster. It has also been called 'snake-like', while other accounts suggest a large fin and huge tail.

In this photo illustration, a witness points to where one of the men went missing, alongside a close-up of the creature that has been dubbed 'Nesski' The latest mysterious death of a 59-year-old man last week has fuelled demands for a proper probe into what lurks beneath the surface of Chany, one of Russia's largest freshwater lakes. 'I was with my friend... some 300 yards from the shore,' said 60-year-old Vladimir Golishev. ''He hooked something huge on his bait, and he stood up in the boat to reel it in.
'But it pulled with such force that he overturned the boat. I was in shock - I had never seen anything like it in my life.
'I pulled off my clothes and swam for the shore, not daring hope I would make it.'

He said his friend was pulled under the surface, a description in common with earlier incidents. 'He didn't make it - and they have found no remains.' Three years ago 32-year-old Mikhail Doronin - a special services soldier - was lost. 'The lake was calm, but suddenly the boat was rocking, and it capsized,' said his 80-year-old grandmother Nina, who has lived beside the lake all her life. 'Something of an awesome scale lives in the lake, but I have never seen it,' said her husband, Vladimir, 81. Official figures say 19 people have drowned in the lake in the past three years and in most cases their remains were never found. Locals say the true figures are higher. Some bodies that have been washed up had been eaten by a creature with large teeth, they claim.
'It is time to find out the truth,' said Golishev.

Unlike deep Loch Ness, Lake Chany is no than 23 feet in depth. Frozen in winter, it is warm and popular with swimmers in summer. It is known to contain large carp.

The lake is 57 miles in length by 55 miles in width. A relic of the Ice Age, accounts of monsters in its waters were first made public in Soviet times.--Lake Chany is about 200 miles east of Omsk and is in the Ob River system basin. However I thought it might help to add a quick map of the Central Asian Water Monsters to demonstrate the common threads among them (locations of some lakes are only roughly indicated owing to the scale)

Here is a quick rundown on these creatures from standard internet sources (Wikipedia, etc: ultimately drawn from sources such as Peter Costello and Bord and Bord)

Canavar (Lake Van in Turkey): Also known as Vanna or the Lake Van monster, this creature has created quite the controversey of late since the Lake Van footage was taken. This shows an object, presumed to be the monster, swimming at great speeds through the lake. Then there is a close up of the beast's presumed head which could be legitimate, although there is something odd about the way the creature moves. A legend of a beast in the lake goes as far back as all written history of the region goes, and there is a depiction of the beast in an engraving in an ancient church on one of the lake's four islands. The canavar is said to bear triangular spikes on it's back. These could be the scutes along a sturgeon's spine.

Vorota beast (Lake Vorota in Siberia): One of several isolated lakes on the Sordongnokh tablelands which are said to contain monsters. The closest villiage is 120 kilometers away from the lake, and even so very few, if any, people ever visit the lake, because they are afraid of the beast within. It was seen by a geologic expedition to the tableland, and sicne then a few expeditions have been sent to look for of, two out the three having seen the creature. It is described as being about ten meters long, with a head two meters wide with widely seperated eyes. It was grey in colour and had a dorsal fin about one meter high, being shaped like the fin of a shark or porpoise. It was said to move "in a jumping manner", in the fashion of a porpoise. Other sightings saw the same creature, sometimes describing "humps" on the surface. The humps as usual merely indicate the waves in the wake on the surface.

Lake Labinkir carnivore (Lake Labinkir in Siberia): Another Siberian creature, the Lake Labinkir beast is feared because of it's dangerously agressive disposition and carnivorous habits. The first reliable reports date back to the 60's, as that is when people started to settle more aound the lake. Witnesses saw the beast swimming beneath the lake ice, and said it was lizard-like. It should be mentioned that Lake Labinkir is freezing cold, and is covered in ice for much of the year. People have also observed the creatures rising out of the lake to catch birds in mid flight, and one hunter who sent his dog to retrieve a goose that had fallen in to the lake after being shot lost both the goose and his dog to the beast! This all sounds very similar to Ogopogo, and the "Long Neck" reports due to the long fishlike creature occasionally leaping into the air.

Kokkol (Various lakes of Turkestan, Central Asia): Named after Lake Kokkol, where one such beast was seen by an archaeologist and his son, the Kokkol creatures are large serpents said to dwell in various lakes in the Tien Shan mountain range area. The beasts are said to be immense serpents, perhaps 20 meters long, inhabiting the cold lakes. The head is described as being similar to a beluga sturgeon's head in size and shape, but the estimated body length is doubled of what it should be.

The Lake Kanas giant fish are also in the area where China abuts Russia and Mongolia. These are often written of as if they are gigantic landlocked salmon (Hucho) but it seems that this is based on a mosprint for the genus of giant Sturgeon, Huso.

It would seem that the "Nesski" is another fish of the same type: Huso sturgeon can be very large, and capable of running into small boats and upsetting them. There are other reports elsewhere alleging that they will eat swimming men and dogs, and so that part is not surprising. NONE of these Water-monsters are really long-necked, and the "Nesski" photgraph very likely simply shows the sharklike tailfin of a big sturgeon going away.

Once again to recap in case some readers have missed it, Huso sturgeon are of a different body shape than ste smaller Acipenser sturgeon, shaped more like a whale with a much blunter snout. Their scutes are relatively smaller and spread out instead of overlapping. There is a good chance that the white sturgeon of the far Western parts of North America are Huso sturgeons, but any sturgeons at Loch Ness would NOT be. The ones that are seen as "Water monsters" in Central Asia and Siberia might well be of the "Known" species: but if a similar creature is being sighted in Central Canada and the Great Lakes region, it is presumably an unknown species: Huso is supposed to be unknown there.


Neil A said...

The photo looks like a wing of a sea bird to me, something like a gull.

Dale Drinnon said...

Hi, Neil, My first thought was a PECTORAL fin and thus a sort of a "Wing". But the lower part looks to me as if it is on the waterline and more is submerged, and upon comparing the shapes, the curve on it looks more like the tail fin of the sturgeon. Furthermore it is too thick front to back to be a wing of anything like a seagull.

Richard Freeman said...

I've never heard od a sturgen attacking humans or dogs. They are bottom feeders that eat mainly small creatures such as worms.
Locals at Lake Chamy say body parts have washed up withnbite marks indicating large teeth.
Huge sturgeons cam make convincing lake monsters in many cases but in this one it just dosn't seem to fit.

Dale Drinnon said...

Au Contraire Again!
Sturgeons are also noted leapers and are known to take prey at the surface. Some very large sturgeon are indeed rumored to have swallowed dogs and even swimming humans before, in Western Canada. Huso sturgeon are active fish predators. While some of the smaller sturgeons are toothless, that of course is not universally true for all sturgeons at all times.
Several of the reports which I have call the creature sighted a "Shark" and witnesses are convinced that it had shark teeth, but it was obviously a sturgeon otherwise;If the photograph shows the tailfin of the fish going away, then it definitely has a sharklike (Sturgeonlike) tailfin. And the supposed toothmarks on corpses could have had other causes including postmortem damage. Until we are able to actually examine the bodies in question, it is best to withhold judgement on the matter.

Dale Drinnon said...

Incidentally, while I came upon the conclusion that the white sturgeons were members of the genus Huso independantly, another researcher has an exellent paper on the subject and here is the link:

And one of the determinative features that marks Huso is the active fish predation: the paper notes that the lesser sturgeons could be degenerate bethnic feeders throughout life because they never attain the adult predatory stage characteristic of Huso. And the distribution of Huso is presumed to have been Holarctic at one point (it is discontinuous now)

The key feature is that the monster is said to overturn small boats and drown the fishermen inside, and Huso definitely has been reported to do that. Whether or not the "Man-eating" part of the reports is actually true is based on presumption only, the "Monster" may not actually deserve the reputation that it has gained. And whether or not it even has teeth, or what kind they might be, is also only alleged and yet to be determine

Aaron T said...

"He hooked something huge on his bait, and he stood up in the boat to reel it in.
But it pulled with such force that he overturned the boat."

Dale, it was the fisherman that overturned the boat, not the thing he hooked. A sober angler would not stand up in a small craft.

Richard Freeman said...

Dale, were did you get the info on man / dog eating sturgeons?
Are you sure its not huge wells catfish doing this and sturgeons taking the blame?