Wednesday, September 24, 2008

MONSTERQUEST: Lake Monsters of the North

History Channel - Original Air Date: 9/17/08

Legends say there are monsters lurking in the northern lakes of North America, but is there any truth to these tales?  MonsterQuest goes to Lake Crescent to look for a gigantic eel-like creature.  This is the first scientific investigation of Lake Crescent.  Native legends of water serpents persist; could they be giant eels?  Biologists on the show admit they still know little about eels -- eels have never been seen spawning.  A fisherman in Lake Ontario claims to have once tackled a gigantic eel which pulled him out of his boat.  Conger Eels, at 12 feet long and two hundred pounds, are ocean eels, not freshwater eels.  Still, there are pictures of giant freshwater eels, 6-7 feet long.  Crescent Lake is near the mouth of the St. Laurence Seaway.  Could there be giant eels there?  Joe Nickell believes that the monster is a local, self-perpetuating legend, brought on by optical illusion.  Additionally, a sketch artist will draw from eyewitness reports, to see if there are consistencies.  And Dr. Richard Haedrich will use submersible equipment to look in the lake itself.  As the sketch artist works, the scientist discovers that a river into the lake gives easy access to the sea.  Sonar shows caves and overhangs which should be a good shelters for large eels.  Baited traps should lure out local predators.

Nickell examines photographs that seem like giant eels, but turn out to be otters frolicking together.  The other scientists bring a real arsenal of equipment, including an ROV rated to 1000 feet.  On the silty bottom, they see some strange "tracks" and what might be a carcass.  They send in divers to investigate, bud don't turn up a corpse.  Like Loch Ness, visibility is very limited, and the entire lake is described as a hiding place.  Is "Cressie" hiding out here?  All they find is lots of logs (from the timber industry) and debris.  Nickell theorizes that gas-filled logs could be responsible for some sightings.  He demonstrates by putting a mothball into carbonated water: the ball gathers bubbles, rises to the top, rolls a bit, and then sinks again.  A rotting log would do the same, giving the illusion of life.  Nickell sets up a floating log experiment to test people's perception of size -- a 14' log looks 18-30' long to the test subjects.  Some guesses are close enough, though, to suggest some witness estimates may be accurate.  In the meantime, something has dragged the 40# trap 200' from its original position.  (Boaters?)  But the bait remains undisturbed.  And a mysterious creature leaving a wake turns out to be a beaver.  But the forensic artist believes that the witnesses are seeing something real and perhaps even alive.  Reluctantly, the MQ crew wraps their investigation -- with one of them wishing they had more time.  (As I've often noted to be my main complaint with these shows.)

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