The world’s most credible sea serpent, in longevity, sightings and documentation, is Canada’s Ogopogo, in Lake Okanagan, British Columbia.
In native folklore, Ogopogo had been seen since the nineteenth century, and was known as N’ha-a-itk, which means “Sacred Spirit of the Lake.” Natives, and later settlers, made sacrifices of small animals to pacify this sea serpent. Even in the 1920s ferries built for the Lake were commissioned to be armed with “monster-repelling devices.”
There have been many multiple sightings, more than any other sea serpent (including “Nessie). The most common description is a 40-50 foot beast, with the head of horse/snake/sheep/alligator, perhaps with horns, smooth skin with some scales, dark green/black skin, saw-toothed back.
Today, Ogopogo is a regional mascot and hero, a cuddly bringer of cheer and love!
What is “Ogopogo-Land”?
Ogopogo-Land is the home territory of the world's 2nd-most-famous and world’s most credible sea serpent, today called “Ogopogo.” The home territory includes Lake Okanagan, and all the land surrounding Lake Okanagan, including the towns and cities.
Lake Okanagan in British Columbia is large and deep, being 135 km long (mostly North to South) and between 3 to 5 km wide, with a total area of 348 sq. km. It is not unusual to be 100 m. deep only 10 m. offshore, because the lake was carved out of of repeated glaciations. Ogopogo (Rattlesnake) Island has second deepest spot on the lake, approaching 750 feet, with significant silt below that.
Communities bordering Okanagan Lake include, from North to South: Vernon, Lake Country, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Naramata, and Penticton.
From native tradition, it is now recognized that Squally Point, near the 4 to 5 acre Ogopogo Island, or Rattlesnake Island, as many call it, is the home of this famous sea serpent. Specifically, Ogopogo is believed to live in a tunnel below Ogopogo Island or off Squally Point, where the lake is very deep, and the winds blow fiercely. The island is directly across from Peachland, and considered by residents to be part of the community.
Indian Legends from which Ogopogo arose.
There are dozens of reputed lake monsters/serpents around the world, but what makes Ogopogo especially interesting is its previous incarnation in native Canadian Indian legends of a sea serpent called N'ha-a-itk, that would demand a live sacrifice from travellers for safe passage across Lake Okanagan. Hundreds of years ago, whenever Indians would venture into the lake, they brought chickens or other small animals to kill and drop into the water to assure a safe journey.
As with most native legends, there is a lesson within.
According to natives in Westbank First Nations (WFN):
“N’ha-a-ita is a metaphor for sustainability and a good topic to express our connection to the
land. N’ha-a-itk lives in the water but can also move to the land and air. The meaning of N’ha-a-itk is Sacred Spirit of the Lake, not lake demon or monster. If N’ha-a-itk disappears due to pollution and misuse of the water, so do the plants, medicines, trees and foods that sustain us. For this reason, WFN (in West Kelowna) embraces N’ha-a-itk, as is obvious on our logo, as an important figure in our history and connection to the land.”
According to staff at WFN Museum, when the fur traders, around the year 1820 made contact with the natives in Ogopogo-Land, their leader mistakenly asked the question “What are you?” instead of what they meant: “Who are you?” The native he asked, answered “a Messenger”, which in their language sounded like “Okanagan”, and thus the area was named for all time.
It seems appropriate that a Town Crier promote the Okanagan area (including Ogopogo-Land), since we are messengers, and that is what Okanagan means in Salish.
The Evolution of N’ha-a-itk to Naitaka – the Zoological Era
The first reported sighting of Ogopogo by a Caucasian was in 1872. Many more sightings followed, some by groups, some by reputable professionals. Caucasian interest focused on the physical being of the sea serpent – thus, the zoological era. For this period, I’ll use a translation of N’ha-a-itk, which is “ Naitaka.” Naitaka has been described as being between 6 to 20 metres (20 to 70 feet) in length, black to tan in colour with a characteristic snake-like body, with some eyewitnesses describing appendages, others not. There have been sightings both in and out of the water. Even with all of these sightings over the years, much of the hard evidence such as photos, videos, film footage, etc. has been less than conclusive, yet the credibility of eye witnesses suggests that Lake Okanagan could indeed be home to an entire species of unknown aquatic animals!
Evolution to Ogopogo
In 1924, songwriter Cumberland Clark wrote a very popular music hall song called “The Ogopogo: The Funny Fox-Trot” (Shuker 1995). The song (which whimsically claimed that Ogopogo’s parentage was the result of an illicit union between an earwig and a whale) established the name of the creature. Shortly thereafter, Ogopogo sightings increased dramatically.
Ogopogo thus became a regional mascot and hero, a cuddly bringer of cheer and love. That is the Ogopogo of today.
The Town Crier of Ogopogo-Land is a great marketing tool to promote the Okanagan
as the home of the world’s most credible sea serpent!
Tourists and business may increase dramatically!