April 10, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

So… Ogopogo 

Or at least, here be something that feeds our collective appetite for big scary monsters. Belief sold separately

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Despite these pressing commercial commitments, it's still a shy, secretive animal, though less retiring than most, racking up multiple annual sightings. By all accounts (and there are plenty; Google will net you 132,000), it has inhabited this scenic, 135-kilometre-long lake in British Columbia's populous Okanagan Valley since long before white settlers lent a comic-book name to what has become a decidedly cartoon monster. At least Ogopogo rolls off the tongue somewhat more easily than N'ha-a-itk (or N'aahitka, or Naitaka), the lake demon of local First Nations.

The human species is neatly divided into those who are driven to believe and those who are driven to know, a dimorphism that presumably accrues some adaptive benefit. The same is true when it comes to Ogopogo, which boasts the expected legion of poo-pooers, but also more staunch advocates than you might imagine. (And, perhaps more importantly, plenty of wanna-believers.)

In the hands of the right skeptic, this story would be over now. But I'm not that guy. As Descartes (or maybe it was Walt Disney) noted: There's reason, and then there's reason . Even if there's no actual Ogopogo, I'm betting there's good reason why the idea won't go away.

So I'm kayaking across Ogopogo's swimming pool. My plan is to spend a night alone on tiny, empty Rattlesnake Island near Squally Point, where both legend and modern sightings place the monster's lair. I figure it's a good way to let the notion find footing; a starting point to understanding its appeal. But I've been paddling for two hours, the island seems no closer, and my neck is sore from constant craning (sorry, k.d.). It's so quiet I can hear the hum of every passing insect.

Then a fish jumps and scares the crap out of me.



Dave MacLean is principal of MacLean Group Marketing, a full-service agency in the Okanagan town of Kelowna. He was born and raised in Kelowna, and has lived here most of his life. His father, originally from Missouri, was living proof of its licence-plate slogan: The Show Me State. "I've got to see it to believe it," Dave's dad was fond of saying. He also liked to make fun of anyone claiming to have sighted Ogopogo. Dave was a two-year-old aboard a boat on Lake Okanagan when all that changed.

"It was 1963," Dave begins in the practised manner of someone reciting a favourite story. "We're near Rattlesnake Island in a little cabin cruiser; my father, my mother, myself and another couple. It's calm and we stop to drift while they make a drink-now remember, they haven't had one yet. Suddenly the boat starts to rock up and down like it's passing through a wake. Dad comes out of the cabin figuring to chew out some young guys in a passing boat. Instead, off the starboard he sees this: three-foot green hump, three feet of water, three-foot hump, three feet of water, three-foot hump. He realizes what it is and starts looking for a camera or binoculars. Just then a boat comes around the corner, and the instant the sound of the motor hits, the humps disappear."

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