Flying Dinosaurs in Papua New Guinea
From 1994 through 2009, about nine Americans have intermittently (and usually two or three at a time) visited remote islands of Papua New Guinea, searching for flying creatures: a living pterosaur. On Umboi Island, it’s called “ropen,” but it’s also known as “duwas,” and “seklo-bali.” Most of the evidence they have gathered is native eyewitness testimony. Why have they ventured on such strange quests? It seems to be religious in nature: to prove evolution wrong or at least to demonstrate that the “molecules-to-man” philosophy is not the only explanation. But textbooks declare that the last pterosaur died 65-millions years ago. Surely this has been proven, hasn’t it? In reality, extinctions are practically impossible to prove.
Could living pterosaurs still fly through the skies? An investigation in the realm of cryptozoology.
What is evidence? Human experience is always a part of evidence, cryptozoological or not.
Small island, south of Umboi Island in Papua New Guinea
Before dismissing ropen expeditions as unscientific religious exercises, consider the following. Until 1938, the fish called Coelacanth was thought to have become extinct 65-million years ago. Does that number sound familiar? After this supposedly ancient fish was discovered alive by a Westerner, the truth came out: Natives had long known about this living fish. If a scientist had been searching for the living Coelacanths before 1938, the first evidence to be discovered would have been native eyewitness testimonies; it would have been cryptozoological.
Please consider the following testimonies of one American and three natives, then believe what you will.
1971, Bougainville sighting
1944, Finschhafen sighting
Before examing the testimonies of these four ropen witnesses, let's distinguish between four kinds of evidence gathering: preliminary legal investigations, court trial preparations, preliminary scientific invest-
igations, and scientific presentation preparations.
When a detective first investigates a crime, any clue could lead to more evidence. Whether or not a particular clue is admissible in court is irrelevant, for this is preliminary work.
When the district attorney is preparing for a trial, admissible evidence is organized. Many of the detective’s clues, such as rumors, are not even considered for use in the trial.
Four kinds of evidence gathering
In a similar way, a scientist may use subjective reasoning when preparing to write a scientific paper, but objective evidence is expected in the article itself.
Cryptozoological investigations, like ropen hunting in Papua New Guinea, seem to resemble the evidence gathering of detectives or the early work of a scientific investigation. Critics seem to have overlooked this, for they insist on physical evidence such as a living or dead ropen, or a photograph of one. According to Jonathan Whitcomb, (the author of "Searching for Ropens" and "Live Pterosaurs in America"), however, the purpose is to promote a major expedition, so that ropens (or "flying dinosaurs") may be videotaped. The “light expeditions” have been the cryptozoological preliminary investigations.
Evidence of Live Pterosaurs (called by some people "flying dinosaurs")
One critic of the ropen cryptozoological investigations has mentioned native superstitions. Another has insinuated that an American eyewitness may have been hallucinating. These criticisms, however, seem more speculative than the investigations are. Judge those two criticisms after considering the following.
For many years, the World War II veteran Duane Hodgkinson has maintained that he saw a giant “pterodactyl” in 1944, in what was then called “New Guinea.” He estimated the wingspan for this pterosaur-like creature as about that of a “Piper
Tri-Pacer airplane” (twenty-nine feet).
In 2004, a native was interviewed on a remote island. Jonah Jim was shown many silhouette sketches of birds, bats, and pterosaurs. He chose the Sordes Pilosus (a long-tailed pterosaur) as the nearest to the creature he had seen in 2001. (By the way, his sighting was sixty-six miles north of the veteran’s sighting.) The native estimated the wingspan at six
to seven meters (about twenty feet). (Natives do not use the term "flying dinosaurs.")
But an individual pterosaur would not have a wingspan of twenty-nine feet in 1944 and twenty-one feet in 2001: obviously not the same creature, even if both sightings were valid evidence of real creatures. What’s the point?
Jonah Jim estimated tail-length: up to three meters (tail about half as long as wing-span); Duane Hodgkinson estimated tail-length of his creature:
“at least ten to fifteen feet.” Both eyewitnesses estimated a tail length of about half the wingspan,
but these are estimates, not measurements. It could be a coincidence, right? There’s more.
Another native, Jonathan Ragu, lives not many miles north of Jonah Jim. He was shown the same thirty-four silhouettes; guess which one he chose for the creature he had seen. What is it about this Sordes Pilosus? It gets hairier.
Over the years of ropen investigations in this part of Papua New Guinea, some of the natives mention that the creature is hairy. Well, it just so happens that the “Pilosus” of Sordes Pilosus is Latin for “hairy.” Yes, the fossils of this pterosaur show something like hair.
But there’s more. Another native was interviewed. Although “Dickson” had no clear view of a ropen, he remembered a tradition about it. When the inter-
viewers asked about the tail, Dickson told them that it is stiff; that is, it does not bend. Then he modified his answer: The tail does bend near where it connects to the body of the creature. How does this relate to the idea of flying dinosaurs still living? Fossil evidence indicates the tails of Rhamphorhynchoids could not move except at the base of the tail.
Does it still seem reasonable that the American veteran was hallucinating and that natives are just superstitious? Even if one of those non-pterosaur explanations were reasonable, the combination of hallucinations and superstitions is unreasonable.
Could these reports come from an elaborate hoax? But why would the American investigators have spent much of their own money to travel to Papua New Guinea, then return home with only eyewitness testimonies? No, this is no hoax.
The ropen surely deserves attention, demanding the next stage of evidence gathering, beyond that of cryptozoology: photography and videotaping these "flying dinosaurs."
Eyewitness accounts of apparent living pterosaurs are not confined to Papua New Guinea. Read the extraordinary non-fiction book "Live Pterosaurs in America," the only document where you can read of many about sightings across the United States: North, South, East, and West. This cryptozoology book is now in its second edition.
"Flying Dinosaurs" Not Limited To Long Tails
Jonah Jim supervised a sketch (bottom, by Garth Guessman) of the creature he saw in 2001; it flew over his family gathering one night (Umboi Island). This confirms his silhouette choice (top) of the Sordes Pilosus: a long-tailed pterosaur.
The pterosaur silhouette was chosen over many silhouettes of bats and birds. This is evidence that the ropen may be a pterosaur, and it strengthens the other eyewitness evidences for the same conclusion.
Although, in his original interview report, tail-length-
to-wingspan ratio at first seemed to contradict the dimensions of the above sketch, Whitcomb’s book (Searching for Ropens) explains what went wrong in the interpretation of the native’s verbal estimate: Jonah Jim’s first answer about the length of the creature correlates well with the sketch; his second answer about “total length” involved a misunderstanding. (See pages 119-121 of the second edition of the book.)
Using Cryptozoology in Evidence Gathering
Ropen, or Indava, Bioluminescence (Flying Dinosaur or not)
“Flying dinosaurs” (or pterosaurs) living in Papua New Guinea are not limited to Rhamphorhynchoids: A news release explains how three
Americans reported some strange flying creatures in Central New Britain Island. These have no tails, apparently, and fly in the daylight,
unlike the nocturnal ropen of nearby Umboi Island (called by natives "Siassi Island").
"flying creature" or "flying dinosaur")
Consider how philosophies influence how people react to the living-pterosaur investigations and the eyewitness testimonies of apparent live pterosaurs. There are many opinions about evolution, creation,
and live pterosaurs; let's listen to each other.
Although pterosaurs are not considered by scientists to be dinosaurs, both general kinds of creatures are thought of as being strange and “primitive.” But perhaps one day they will no longer be considered strange or primitive.
Philosophies and a Live Pterosaur
Paul Nation, of Texas, one of the pioneers of ropen expeditions, went deep into the interior of the mainland of Papua New Guinea, late in 2006. There he videotaped two “indava” lights that investigators believe are from the same (or a similar) species as the ropen of Umboi Island. Later, in the U.S., a missile defense physicist analyzed the fourteen seconds of video, finding no common-place explanation that seems to fit: The lights are not from auto headlights, meteors, airplanes, camp fires, a hoax, or camera artifacts.
Glowing Flying Creatures
Other Objectiveness.com Sites, Flying Dinosaurs or Otherwise
Ogopogo, Loch Ness "Nessie," Mokele-Mbembe, and the ropen
Bioluminescence reported for barn owls: Tyto Alba