In July 1883, Sheriff Nathan H. Mooney looked off to the northwest part of New York's Lake Champlain and saw a gigantic water serpent about 50 yards away. The creature, which rose about five feet out of the water, was 25 or 30 feet in length and was close enough for the eyewitness to clearly see that there were round white spots inside it's mouth. The dozens of sightings that comprised the monster flap that followed Mooney's sighting would predate the public Loch Ness controversy by 50 years.
Lake Champlain--which traverses New York, Vermont and Quebec--has been called "America's Loch Ness." Lake Champlain's monster is nicknamed "Champ," and has been sighted over 240 times. The 109-mile-long Lake Champlain is also similar to Loch Ness in that both are deep, freshwater lakes that were created some 10,000 years ago. While not as deep as Loch Ness, Lake Champlain's maximum depth of 400 feet is still quite impressive as a potential monster hiding place. Also, both bodies of water support enough fish to feed a small group of lake monsters.
Joseph W. Zarzynski, founder of Lake Champlain Phenomena Investigation, writes that "the evidence of 'Champ's' existence is scanty when compared to the wealth of eyewitness testimony, photographic and sonar evidence from Loch Ness, but he still feels that there is enough "impressive data" on Champ to support belief in its existence. Zarzynski, a Wilton, New York social studies teacher who has been researching Champ for over sixteen years, believes that Champ exists.
Around one-third of the sightings are of a creature with a "long sinuous neck" and a body with one or more humps, 15 to 25 feet long, and dark in color. The rest of the eyewitness sightings are of a creature with one or more humps, but with no visible head. The theories as to what type of animal Champ may be are identical to those suggested for the Loch Ness Monster, although Joseph Zarzynski favors the plesiosaur as the leading candidate.
There are some photographs and motion picture footage of Champ, but most of it--like that acquired at Loch Ness--is tantalizing but inconclusive. Perhaps the most significant photograph was taken on July 5, 1977 by Sandra Mansi of Connecticut. Mansi took a photo of what she thought was a "dinosaur" whose neck and head were some six feet out of the water. The Mansi photograph has been examined by scientists, who concluded that it was not retouched or tampered with. This photograph garnered much attention from the media, appearing in the New York Times and Time magazine in June and July, 1981.
Joseph W. Zarzynski and Jim Kennard of Rochester Engineering Laboratories have used high-tech sonar to search for Champ, and on June 3, 1979, they took readings indicating the presence of a 10 to 15 foot long moving object in the waters beneath them.
If Champ is ever found, it may well be due to the pioneering efforts of Joseph W. Zarzynski. Beginning over ten years ago with surface surveillance, he has evolved to using sonar and more recently underwater photography utilizing remotely operated vehicles such as those used to film the Titanic and find treasure in shipwrecks. Recently, Mr. Zarzynski has turned his attention to searching for a Champ carcass through scuba and sonar searches. He believes that such a carcass would prove the monster to be a real animal, without having to endanger a living Champ.