From our location in New Hampshire, it took almost four hours to reach Burlington, Vermont, which is situated alongside Lake Champlain. The drive was incredible, with forest-covered mountains surrounding narrow valleys through which we drove. Never in my life have I seen such grandeur.
The day was Wednesday, August 6th. Unbeknownst to me, it was the beginning of "Champ Month."
About The Lake
The total area of Champlain is 490 square miles (it's the sixth largest freshwater lake in the U.S.); 322 in Vermont, 151 in New York, and 17 in Quebec. It reaches a maximum depth of 400ft (12m), is 108 miles long, and is 12 miles (19km) wide at its widest point. Although Loch Ness is deeper, reaching an approximate 754ft (230m), Champlain covers much more area (Ness only has an area of about 21.8 square miles). Interestingly, there are over 70 islands on the lake, and about one third of the area's residents actually use the lake as their source of drinking water. The Lake Champlain Basin is home to about 81 fish species, 318 birds, 57 mammals, 21 amphibians, and 20 reptiles . . . or, perhaps, 21 reptiles, if one includes Champ.
Arriving At Champlain
I had written several articles about Champlain. I had seen several pictures of Champlain. Yes, I knew more about Champlain than most, and yet when I finally came to the lake on that partly cloudy mid-afternoon, I was astounded. I knew it was a big lake, but it was only when I finally saw it that I could fully comprehend how enormously large it truly was. As I stood at the top of that hill in the city of Burlington overlooking the harbor, one of the first thoughts that came to my mind was, "Now I can see how Champ eludes detection."
Don't get me wrong. I don't believe there is simply one animal named Champ inhabiting this great mass of hydrosphere. If they exist, as I firmly believe they do, there are many. How many? I could act the expert, pretending to have a fairly accurate idea. Truth is, however, I have no clue. A rough, uneducated estimate would be between 20-100. Enough to likely overcome inbreeding complications, yet not too many so that they couldn't avoid detection.
In any case, I had come to arguably the most populated, busiest place on the lake. In essence, not your prime location for a Champ sighting. But it had been a four hour drive, mind you, and just getting here was an accomplishment. I was here for Champlain just as much as I was here for Champ.
The water was rough. The sky was partly cloudy, and the wind was strong. Because I knew that Champ sightings occur most often on warm, calm sunny days, I wasn't too optimistic. In any case, a ferry ride was a must, and I and the family member that accompanied me boarded at around three o'clock in the afternoon. The ferry would take us from the Vermont side of Champlain to New York's side, and back. The trip itself would last about an hour and a half, and it turned out to be a very enjoyable one.
Any Champ sighting? No, I'm afraid not. Had the captain himself ever seen anything strange? "I've seen deer swimming across the lake," he said. Indeed, that would make for a strange sight, especially if the deer had antlers. To my dismay, however, he made no mention of Champ, something which stands in contrast to the answer another captain gave not long ago to a friend of mine. When questioned whether he had seen Champ, he replied, "Yes, but I don't want to tell anybody!"
As the ride continued, the sky grew increasingly darker and cloudier. Before long, lightning could be seen, and as we "set sail" from New York back to Vermont, the dock from which we departed just ten minutes before was covered in cloudy darkness. It even began to sprinkle, but we thankfully beat the clouds as we made our way back to Burlington.
No, not the best day to see Champ, but at least it made for some great pictures.
The Best Evidence To Date (quotes taken from source #2 and #3)
Recent evidence has, not only Champ believers, but even scientists, confounded. It isn't a sighting. It isn't even a photograph. The evidence, believe it or not, is sound.
''It took us totally by surprise. For an instant we just stood there looking at each other with our mouths open.''
Such were the words of Elizabeth von Muggenthaler, leader of a team of scientists who were on the lake in June, 2003, doing research for the Discovery Channel, which had just finished shooting a TV documentary on Champ. Underwater microphones picked up a series of strangely high-pitched ticking and chirping noises, similar to that of a dolphin or Beluga whale, yet different. As stated on their website (www.animalvoice.com):
"The echolocation signal under analysis is similar to Beluga whale echolocation, yet different enough so that we can not make a positive identification. Methods such as cross-correlation, where one compares the properties of one sound to another, can usually tell us what type of creature it is, but not in this case. It is significantly different from both whale and dolphin, but it is echolocation."
Click here for more information.
According again to Muggenthaler:
''What we can say is that there is a creature in the lake that produces bio-sonar. We have no idea what it is.''
Says Dr. Joseph Gregory, a member of the team who is a professor of sound and vibration engineering at North Carolina State University:
"I feel that the effort was a technical success as we were able to conduct far reaching, low-noise sound measurements and, indeed, were able to detect signals the nature of which suggests the presence of some interesting, unexpected phenomena."
And so, as can be clearly seen, the evidence isn't hocus pocus. Did a hoax take place? Virtually impossible (see hoax). In truth, it is near concrete evidence, and provides the best proof to date that Champ is in fact a living, clicking, chirping, and perhaps breathing, animal.
It was a privilege to finally visit Lake Champlain, home of the legendary Champ. Its rich history, surpassing beauty, and enchanting mystery all combine to create a place that will forever be one of my favorites on earth. No, I didn't see Champ, and yet I feel that I did. I saw its home, and I peered into the inky depths that has for long ages enwrapped the animals like a protective blanket. Yes, I never actually did see Champ, but maybe, just maybe, while out on that ferryboat enjoying the brisk, Vermont air, Champ briefly peered above the water and saw me, and that possibility is indeed rewarding enough.
1. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Lake Champlain Facts, http://www.lcmm.org/site/harbor/resource_pages/timeline/lcfacts.htm.
2. Boston.com, New evidence on Champ is luring sea-monster fans to Vermont,
3. BurlingtonFreePress.com, Lake's first 'Champ-hearing' recorded, http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/Columnists/Sam/0718042653.htm.