Champ - mystery of the lake

A "Champ" Encounter Puts Sea Creature in the Spotlight, 400 Years After First Reported Sighting

U-Haul News Staff

It was the summer of 1977 and Sandra Mansi of Connecticut was enjoying a sunny day on the shore of Vermont's Lake Champlain with her fiancée, Anthony, and her two children. Suddenly, and without warning, she saw what she later called a "dinosaur" breach from the water's surface about 150 feet offshore. Sandra quickly grabbed her Kodak Instamatic and fired off a snapshot. In that moment, a 400-year-old legend was re-born. Sandra unwittingly put the phenomenon of "Champ" -- Mystery of Lake Champlain, back in to the media spotlight.

Artist's Rendition of ChampThere have been recorded sightings of the elusive creature since the early 1600s, the first by the lake's namesake, French explorer Samuel De Champlain. In fact, Indian tribes that preceded the European explorers people have been talking about the possible existence of a sea creature living in the deep, murky waters of Champlain. But as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. The photo gave the myth a sense of credibility. When the Mansis finally went public with the photo, Time magazine, the New York Times and other reputable publications reprinted the photo and reported on eyewitness sightings of the elusive "monster." A legend was re-born!

The creature is reported to have been seen hundreds of times. Many have compared the legend of Champ to that of the Loch Ness monster, or Nessie. The 120-mile-long Lake Champlain in that it is a deep, freshwater lake. Both were created some 10,000 years ago. Also, both bodies of water support enough fish to support a small group of lake monsters.

Champ has been most commonly characterized as a plesiosaur, a prehistoric reptile which was thought to have been extinct for 60 to 70 million years. Some experts believe more than one plesiosaur-like creature inhabits Lake Champlain today. The plesiosaurs lived in the sea from the Triassic period (about 213 million years ago) until the Cretaceous period (about 65 million years ago). This is the time when all dinosaurs became extinct.

A plesiosaur is believed to be a prehistoric type of marine reptile, not a dinosaur, with a long snakelike head and four large flippers instead of legs. With their very strong teeth and jaws, their primary diet was/is fish and other swimming animals. It is not known if Champ is male or female, however most people believe that there are more than one creature living in Lake Champlain.

The Mansi photograph renewed interest in Champ, but is the photo real, or doctored, as some skeptics claim? Some photograph experts have examined the photo and deemed it to be real. But even if the photo is real, perhaps the object seen in the photo is merely a wet log bobbing up and down in the water. But even if the photo were proven to not be a photo of Champ, how about the hundreds of reported sightings through the years from other eyewitnesses? They can't all either be making it up or seeing something besides Champ? Or, can they?

It would seem that the underlying question is simple: Does Champ exist? But that question may never be answered. The more pertinent question may be this: Do YOU believe that Champ exists?

Many legends about Champ are open to debate, but one fact is indisputable. The legend of Champ is alive and well. Thousands of tourists arrive each year in the hopes of photographing, videotaping or just seeing with the naked eye this elusive -- and perhaps made-up -- creature.