Lake Iliamna Monster


Lake Iliamna is a large, remote lake located in southwestern Alaska that is thought, by some, to be the home of a massive mystery fish known in cryptozoological circles as the Lake Iliamna Monster. The lake itself is one of the largest in the United States with an estimated surface area of more than 640,000 acres and a maximum depth of over one thousand feet.  Lake Iliamna boasts a rich diversity of aquatic life from both salt and fresh waters thanks to it’s connection to Bristol Bay by the Kvichak River. Because of this natural waterway all manners of sea life have been known to make their way into the lake, including harbor seals, beluga whales, and more recently discovered, Pacific sleeper sharks. Due to the variety of non-natural life known to frequent the lake, narrowing down the exact identity of the Lake Iliamna Monster has proven to be difficult, as eye witness reports tend to vary as different known animals are misidentified as the mystery beast.

It does not seem that the Lake Iliamna Monster posses the characteristics of other, more famous, lake monsters sighted across the world though. For example, the Lake Iliamna Monster does not seem to have a hump, or humps that emerge from the water as it swims. It also does not appear to have a long neck or flippers, features often reported during sightings of lake monsters like the Loch Ness Monster and the Lake Champlain Monster. What few reported sightings we do have of the Lake Iliamna Monster often come from pilots and passengers of small planes, one of the only reliable methods of transportation used to visit the region.. Eyewitness descriptions of the creature from this vantage point often include a slender, white to grey, torpedo like body, that never seems to break the surface of the water as it moves along. One of the most well documented of these sightings occurred in 1942 when pilot Babe Alsworth and fisherman Bill Hammersley were on a direct flight over the lake. According to Alsworth, the two men where flying to the village of Iliamna when they noticed several unusual specks near an unnamed island in the middle of the lake. As the plane moved closer to the mysterious objects Alsworth and his passenger realized that the specs they were actually giant fish, and as they passed the creatures he brought the plane around for a second pass.

Both men were able to get a better look at the monster fish during their second pass, and would later describe them as being a dull aluminium color with broad and blunt heads the same width as their bodies. They noted that the fish were much longer than the plane’s pontoons and that their vertical tales waved side to side in the current, stating at one point that they looked more like mini submarines than fish. Two men circled the area and observed the creatures until, in a sudden surge of water, they disappeared into the darkness of the lake. Alsworth and Hammersley discussed what they had seen as they continued their flight, concluding that they could not have been whales due to the left to right movement of their tail fins and the fact that they never once witnessed the creatures surface for air. A similar sighting took place in 1945 when US Coast and Geodetic Survey Pilot Larry Rost observed what he described as a giant fish, roughly 20 feet in length, being the color of dull aluminium.

In a January 1959 issue of Sports Afield, an article titled Alaska’s Monster Mystery Fish, written by Gil Paust, outlined more than 30 years of sightings of the creature known as the Lake Iliamna Monster. It also chronicled the authors own exploits in  trying to capture the elusive beast. Mr. Paust, along with three companions, Slim Beck, John Walatka and Bill Hemmersley,  reportedly set out to capture the Lake Iliamna Monster using a Bushmaster seaplane as a platform, a sixteenth inch stainless steel aircraft cable as a line, a hook made from a foot long quarter inch thick iron rod and a fifty five gallon oil drum as a bobber. After baiting the hook with a chunk of moose flank and letting it sink to the depths of the lake, something took the bait, pulling the line taught and rocking the sea plane violently. Unfortunately for the 4 men, what ever they hooked into was so large, and possessed such great strength, that it was able to snap the stainless steel aircraft cable and escape.

Tom Slick, an oil tycoon and cryptozoology enthusiast, funded a series of expeditions in search of the Lake Iliamna Monster in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, in addition he offered a one thousand dollar reward to anyone who could capture the beast. Mr. Slick also hired Babe Alsworth to fly him over the lake on a number of occasions, he even went as far as to hire a helicopter to hover stationary over the spot where Mr. Alsworth and Mr. Hemmerslay originally encountered the creatures in 1947. Unfortunately, despite logging more than 100 flights over Lake Iliamna and spending a huge sum of money hunting the creatures, Tom Slick tragically perished in a plane crash on October 6th 1962, without ever witnessing the monster for himself.

Though nothing came of these expeditions in search of the Iliamna Lake Monster sightings continued in the years that followed. In 1977 veteran pilot Tim LaPorte spotted the creature while flying at an altitude of roughly 100 feet near Pedro Bay on the northeast end of the lake. Laporte and his two passengers, one a Michigan fish and game official, claimed to have witnessed an aquatic beast some 14 feet in length as their plane passed over head, startling the creature and causing it to quickly dive out of sight. In 1988 the Lake Iliamna Monster was sighted again, this time near Pedro Bay and by several witness, three in a boat and others on shore, all of who reported witnessing a large black creature swimming in the lake.

The most recognized theory behind Lake Iliamna Monster sightings is the simple misidentification of a known animal, the most plausible culprit in this theory is the Sturgeon. These prehistoric looking fish are covered in armor like scales and spend the majority of their lives savaging along the sear floor or lake bottom. The largest species of sturgeon, the White Sturgeon, can grow in excess of 20 feet in length under the right conditions, and while the White Sturgeon is not known to reside in Lake Iliamna they have reportedly been caught in nearby Bristol Bay. The White Sturgeon would also match many of the eye witness accounts of the Lake Iliamna Monster, including it’s dull aluminum coloring and it’s ability to stay submerged without needing to surface for air.
The 2012 discovery of a Pacific Sleeper Shark in King Cove Alaska, less than 500 miles from Lake Iliamna, adds a new wrinkle to the mystery, giving credence to sightings which describe the monster as being black with a small dorsal fin that protrudes from the water. With a max length of over 25 feet, the Pacific Sleeper Shark would seem to match many of the habits and eye witness sightings of the Lake Iliamna Monster. Spending the majority of it’s time savaging food from the sea floor, sightings of the shark, like the reported monster, would be very rare.

There is really no shortage of potential, scientifically accepted, creatures which could be responsible for sightings of the Lake Iliamna Monster over the years, but that has not stopped some researchers from speculating that the creature could be something far more unconventional. For example, there are some who believe that the creatures may actually be a surviving population of Zeulodon. A snake like species of whale thought to have died out millions of years ago, the Zeulodon would have no problem surviving in the plentiful waters of Lake Iliamna, however, the majority of sightings would seem to rule out the Zeulodon as the true identity of the Lake Iliamna Monster due to it’s more fish like characteristics.

In the end, all we are left with are theories and speculation, and until someone with the dedication and deep pockets to coordinate proper scientific expeditions into the depths of Lake Iliamna surfaces, we may never know the true identity, or identities, of the Lake Iliamna Monster.

Written by Sean – PACC Admin

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