A cell-phone video of a “creature” that appears to be swimming in Lake Champlain near Oakledge Park in Burlington last weekend is sparking renewed discussion about “Champ,” the lake’s legendary monster.
The nearly 2-minute video, taken at sunrise Sunday by Burlington resident Eric Olsen, 37, shows an object moving across the mouth of the small cove and beach area at the park.
At several points during the video, the object appears to raise its “head” a foot or more above the water’s surface. At other times a portion of what appears to be a torso, several feet in length, also can been seen.
“I was just filming the water when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move, and I turned toward it and tried to zoom in on it,” said Olsen, a Web site developer and musician.
“You can see that it is moving both horizontally, across the water, and vertically, going under the surface and coming back up,” he said. “It struck me as something that was long, that it didn’t have much girth.”
Olsen put what he captured with his phone on YouTube, an Internet video-sharing site. Unsure about what he had photographed and reluctant to call it a “Champ” sighting, Olsen titled the footage “Strange Sighting on Lake Champlain.”
The number of viewings of the video since it went on YouTube on Sunday had reached 3,060 by Tuesday evening.
Loren Coleman a cryptozoologist based in Portland, Maine, said what Olsen filmed with his phone is the best photographic evidence to date of what residents on both sides of Lake Champlain prefer to call “Champ.”
“We need to figure out what is going on here,” Coleman said. “The film needs to have a formal forensic analysis performed ... to break it down frame by frame. It needs to be looked at very seriously.” Cryptozoology is the study of purportedly nonexistent or mythical creatures.
Before Sunday, the best known “Champ” photograph was taken in 1977 by Sandra Mansi of Bristol while she was having a picnic on the lake with her family. The photo was verified as legitimate and later appeared in Time magazine and The New York Times.
Mansi, now 66, viewed Olsen’s video Tuesday and said there were similarities — and differences — between what she saw in 1977 and what is depicted in Olsen’s footage.
“I see the shape of the head, how big it is,” she said, comparing her photo and the video. “The only thing I have a hard time with is the neck. It doesn’t look long enough for me. ... Whatever he saw has a link to what I saw. Tell him, ‘Welcome to the club.’”
Scott Mardis of Winooski, another cryptozoologist who has spent time researching the “Champ” legend, said Olsen’s video seemed legitimate and was “very impressive.”
“It does not look like it was Photoshopped,” Mardis said. “The object in the video has the same general texture as the rest of the photograph. It does not look like it was computer-generated. It looks like a ‘Champ.’”
Mardis and Coleman said the object’s movements and size ruled out the chance it was a beaver, moose or some other more common mammal. Instead, both speculated it might be some unknown species of seal with an unusually long neck.
“There’s lots of things that it could be,” Coleman said. “It’s just as interesting to me if all it is is an out-of-place harbor seal.”
Ellen Marsden, a biology professor at the University of Vermont, said she thinks the object is not a seal but possibly a young moose in distress.
“Fish or aquatic species rarely move that slowly in the water,” Marsden said. “It did not look like a creature that was comfortable in water. It was swimming as if something was seriously wrong.” She also said seals don’t swim with their backs out of the water.
Olsen said he never saw the object emerge from the lake. He said he stopped filming after two minutes because the phone’s memory capacity was limited and he was afraid of losing what he had filmed. He said he stayed at the park for another half hour before leaving.
There have been several alleged sightings of “Champ” on Lake Champlain over the years, but few were accompanied by any photographic substantiation.
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