Special Expedition Report: The Serpent’s Tale

by Kurt W. Burchfiel

Legend has it that for the past two hundred and fifty years people have observed a large unknown aquatic animal frolicking in Lake Seljordsvatnet, a mid-sized lake located in the Telemark Province of Norway. While descriptions of the creature vary it is generally described as serpentine or eel-like, ten to fifteen meters long, dark-colored, with a horse-like head that it carries above the water while swimming on the surface. The scant photographic evidence available shows only indistinct surface disturbances, some of which could be interpreted as humps.

In April of this year I learned from John Kirk of the British Columbia Scientific cryptozoology Club of an expedition being organized to search for this alleged animal, locally referred to as the “serpent.” Keen to put my interest in cryptozoology to practice in the field I contacted the expedition’s organizer, Jan-Ove Sundberg. Sundberg maintained several lake monster related websites including one devoted exclusively to his organization, the Global Underwater Search Team or GUST, and its planned expedition to Norway.

While I detected more than a slight degree of eccentricity in Sundberg during the course of my e-mail communications with him, on the whole he didn’t sound unreasonable. His website seemed to indicate that he was at least familiar with some possible non-cryptozoological explanations for lake monsters, like the misinterpretation of known phenomenon or the misidentification of known animals. He had succeeded in convincing some Scandinavian companies to loan him a wealth of high-tech goodies; a side-scan sonar, both a towed and a fixed echo sounder, a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV), a KonMap computer-assisted navigation system, night vision gear, underwater scooters for the divers, and access to top-of-the-line photographic analysis equipment. He claimed to have procured both a sizable research boat and a Zodiac semi-rigid inflatable. He had obtained financial backing from the town council of Seljord, the only village on the lake, that among other things provided free room and board for all team members. Most impressively, he informed me that the Discovery Channel would be producing a one-hour documentary on the search and a film crew would accompany us for the duration.

With some reservations, mostly concerning the near complete lack of concrete non-anecdotal evidence in support of the “serpent,” I signed-on. While I recognized that a genuinely scientific search was probably too much to hope for, it appeared as though the effort would at least be conducted in an informed and educated manner. It was heartening to learn that a noted British marine biologist, Dr. Jason Gibb, would be joining the team as would recognized Irish fortean researcher, Dave Walsh.

I did not go to Norway with the expectation of finding a lake monster, although I do generally accept the possibility that such things might exist. To my mind the relative success of the search did not depend on a positive finding. A negative finding could be just as valuable. Seljordsvatnet is fairly representative of a good number of the some two hundred lakes world-wide that claim to host a resident beastie. I felt that knowledge gained there, especially regarding possible non-cryptozoological explanations for lake anomalies, could prove useful to lake monster research generally.

The events that transpired over the course of the first few days of the “expedition,” and I shall use that term loosely from now on, led me to significantly alter my perhaps overly optimistic assessment of Jan Sundberg and his efforts. Before getting into the details of my misadventure, let me state without reservation that there was no evidence obtained during the search that could be construed by a reasonable person to be supportive of the existence of a large unknown animal or animals in Lake Seljordsvatnet. It was not, however, a complete waste of time. While the search may not have produced a monster, it did produce a valuable case study on how not to conduct a research expedition. It may also provide an allegory that speaks for some of the problems that plague cryptozoology generally.

Almost immediately upon my arrival at the lake an obvious and pervasive lack of organization and planning set off alarm bells, particularly in regards to equipment. The much-lauded research catamaran turned out to be a scratch-built houseboat that the Beverly Hillbillies would have found comforting. Even worse, it was festooned with cartoon-like computer generated pictures of the “serpent”. Some of the promised technical gear was conspicuously absent, including the night vision equipment, the Zodiac semi-rigid inflatable, and the underwater scooters. What was on site, while impressive, was also obviously quite complicated and did not seem to lend itself particularly well to “monster” hunting. Company representatives were around for a day to assist in the set-up and to give cursory briefings on operation, but it was clear that analyzing any data that the instruments might collect would be extremely problematic for people lacking any prior experience.

During the first full day of searching with the gear my concerns were confirmed. The Bennex side-scan sonar proved itself to be practically useless, both because of the difficulties inherent in using side-scan sonar in a narrow lake and the fact that it was being towed too high above the bottom. This was done because the contours of the lake bed could be extremely irregular and it was feared that the sonar “fish” might slam into the bottom. While this tactic protected the gear, it made it virtually worthless as a bottom search tool. Suspended in mid-water all it could really provide were fuzzy reflections of the sides of the lake. Unfortunately, many of these reflections could superficially resemble serpent-like squiggles.

The echo sounders were even more problematic. There were two; a Simrad EQ55 dual frequency unit with a fixed transducer and a Simrad EY500 scientific unit with a towed transducer. While the manner in which these instruments displayed data was visually impressive, the images that they produced could be wildly misinterpreted if the operator didn’t understand the basic science behind them.

Both units are essentially high-end fish finders. As a fish comes within their range it shows up as a color image on either or both display screens depending on where it is relative to the boat. The color and size of the image indicate the strength of the contact. The operator has to keep in mind, however, that the majority of what the instruments are measuring is the air volume within the target’s air bladders or lungs. Only a fraction of the returned signal is caused by the actual “meat” of the animal. I am told that the air bladders of fish can vary greatly in size and proportion. Big fish can have proportionally small bladders, little fish big ones. So a large fish can look quite small on the display screen while a small fish can look overly impressive. Also, densely grouped schools of fish can appear as a single target. The scientific unit displays information in a slightly more revealing manner, but the general rule of thumb is that neither unit can be used to reliably determine target size. An experienced operator familiar with both the equipment and the physiology of fish might be able to make a better educated guess, but even they would be unable to make an exact determination of size. These instruments are primarily used by the commercial fishing industry to locate large schools of fish. They are not designed to locate and identify individual animals.

The difficulties with the equipment were compounded by the lack of any real search plan. While the lake was divided into five general search areas, there was no method to the way in which these areas were covered. The boat’s driver more or less made things up as he went along. Hours spent searching haphazardly for a moving target with largely ineffective instruments quickly made the eight hour shifts on the lake something to be dreaded.

Before the actual searching began, Jason Gibb and myself had dived within the range of the side-scan sonar to give team members some idea of what a large swimming target might look like. During actual search operations none of the “contacts” obtained with the side-scan were as impressive as those initial test traces of scuba divers suspended in mid-water. On the first watch of the search we did have a relatively strong contact that was picked up by both echo sounders. During daylight hours most of the fish seemed to congregate at around thirty meters depth. They appeared as a fairly steady stream of small to medium sized blue and green blobs on the display screens, blue and green representing the lower end of the density scale. The contact on the first day stood out because of its size relative to the other contacts (about 1.5 centimeters on the screen) and red color (red being relatively high on the density scale). To my mind it was probably a largish fish, but still worth sending-off to Simrad for a more detailed analysis.

Jan Sundberg unfortunately did not share this reserved attitude. On the right margin of both echo sounder displays is a depth scale broken down into ten meter increments. Jan measured the 1.5 centimeter long contact against this depth scale and saw that it corresponded to approximately fifteen meters. That evening members of the press were informed that we had made contact with a fifteen meter object, a completely nonsensical interpretation of the data.

While the other members of the team learned not to become overly enthused about subsequent contacts made with the echo sounders (none of which were as impressive as the first one), Jan never really seemed to grasp the concept. In fact it is fair to say that his level of technical proficiency with the equipment was markedly below that of any other member of the team. I am not entirely sure whether this was the result of an actual lack of understanding, a proclivity towards mindless optimism, or something worse. I do recall one night when the film crew was on the board trying to capture the essence of working out on the lake at night. Ordinarily, Jan neither drove the boat nor monitored the instruments. He preferred to remain forward with his camera. On this particular night, however, I recall him being filmed seated in the captain’s chair, playing for the camera by simultaneously driving the boat while attempting to manipulate the echo sounder. He seemed hopelessly unaware that while he was steering the boat in circles because he had no understanding of the computer-assisted navigation system, he was trying desperately to rotate a joy stick control on the echo sounder console that could only be moved up and down or left and right. I never saw him attempt either task again.

From the onset of the expedition my concerns about the lack of organization were compounded with my misgivings about Jan Sundberg himself. Perhaps predictably, Jan the person comes across very differently from Jan the e-mail message. It was difficult to define his motivations.

In one respect there was Jan the self-promoter and showman, paradoxically obsessed with providing the press with any evidence he could to buttress his image as a legitimate monster hunter while at the same time frightened by the thought of what they might find to say about him. This side of Jan came into focus on our first full day in Seljord during a press conference at the village’s cultural center. As Jan came to the podium to deliver a prepared statement he was visibly shaken and frightened, much more so than I would have expected from someone who had already given numerous TV and radio interviews. The audience consisted of a reasonably-sized group of Scandinavian print media representatives as well as our film crew who were present to document the event. As he began to speak Jan stammered and mumbled to the point of being nearly incomprehensible. Suddenly, the documentary’s director interrupted and asked if he could begin again. Something was not correct with the shot. This generated several outbursts from the reporters who observed that they were there to cover a press conference and not a film shoot. Unceremoniously most of them got up and walked out. Despite this rather unpleasant turn of events Jan appeared visibly relieved. Rather than having to face a confrontation with what seemed to be a pretty cynical group of reporters, he was able to get away with meeting just a few of the more congenial ones later on down at the boat for a quick tour and photo opportunity.

Rumors soon began to circulate within the group as to why Jan had seemed such a wreck face to face with the media. I do not mention them here to vilify Jan Sundberg and I offer no proof of their veracity. I relate them only to illustrate some of the tensions that were already building within the group by the end of the first day. One story held that Jan had a history of publicly championing some pretty far-out theories regarding UFOs and that some of the reporters were aware of this. Some newspaper articles on the search even referred to him as a “UFO expert.” He had allegedly been involved in searching for crashed saucers, had claimed to have experienced some sort of UFO encounter on Loch Ness in the 1970s, had conducted UFO-related research in the Seljord area, and had suggested to someone that UFOs may have been responsible for depositing the serpent in Lake Seljordsvatnet.. Another suggested that he had run afoul of the authorities back in Sweden and was the target of some sort of criminal investigation. One held that after having successfully evaded paying income taxes for some time the Swedish version of the IRS had finally caught up with him. Paying up the back taxes and the fines had left him completely broke. Still another offered that Jan was being paid $25,000 dollars by the Discovery Channel to organize and lead the expedition. This one came from a particularly convincing source. Regardless of the accuracy of these stories, the group’s general impression seemed to be that the prospect of having to field questions from the media about his past and present motivations made Jan extremely anxious. It also seemed to some as though Jan Sundberg had more of a stake in finding evidence of a “serpent” than he was letting on.

Another side of Jan Sundberg that needed to be dealt with was Jan the believer. At times he was positively evangelical in his belief in the existence of the “serpent”, which he claimed to have seen himself. Any deviation from his unquestioning pro-serpent dogma was automatically viewed as subversive. As an example, upon our arrival at the lake Jan advised us that he had some “big” news. A local diver had told him that a year prior he had found mysterious three-toed footprints all over the lake bottom at a specific location.

Jason Gibb, the marine biologist, and myself volunteered to dive the location to search for the tracks. While we were given access to a special compound that could be used underwater to make a cast of the prints, we were conspicuously not given access to the diver who had allegedly discovered the tracks. As the diver was apparently on vacation at some inaccessible location all information was passed on to us second-hand through Jan. We knew the witness had access to a telephone because Jan had called him the day before. Why we couldn’t speak with him either directly over the phone or through an interpreter was never explained. This measure of control that Jan exerted over the group’s access to important information proved to be the rule rather than the exception. At no time were team members given access to any of the reputed eyewitnesses, even though the film crew had had the opportunity to interview some of them prior to our arrival. The only exposure that any of us got to the available anecdotal evidence came from the brief second-hand summaries on the GUST web site, which incidentally claimed one-hundred testimonies but only delivered twenty. While these notably lacked any useful details they provided our only clues as to what the animal reportedly looked like or how it behaved.

Generally speaking, the idea of the animal leaving tracks on the bottom struck me as weird. I wanted to speak with the diver personally for more details. Even more important than the details of the tracks themselves, however, was discerning their exact location. Only the witness could provide this vital information in sufficient detail. When I brought this up to Jan he betrayed a complete lack of understanding regarding the difficulties of looking for things underwater, as well as a rather tortured reasoning process. He felt that his understanding of where the tracks were was sufficient. There was no need to go to the trouble of letting us talk to the witness directly. This diver said he saw the tracks of some unknown animal on the lake bottom and because we weren’t there and didn’t see what he saw we couldn’t possibly refute him. The lake bottom was firm clay and the visibility was excellent so we shouldn’t have any problem finding them.

The next day Jason and I dove the location but only after a last minute attempt by Jan to cancel the dive. He preferred to search with the ROV. When Jason advised that the propellers on the ROV could stir up the bottom and destroy the tracks Jan was momentarily baffled. My suggestion that the operation would be a lot easier if the promised underwater scooters had actually shown up earned me the first of many dirty looks. I got the disturbing impression that what really worried Jan was that two of the most skeptical members of the team (including the only one with a scientific background) were about to engage in an activity that was beyond his immediate control. Based upon his reasoning that eyewitnesses had to be believed because they were the only ones who had seen the events that they were reporting, he would presumably have to live with our interpretation of whatever we might find, or perhaps more importantly might not find, on the lake bottom.

The dive was easily the worst that I have ever experienced, like descending through an ink bottle. Below fifteen meters we entered a world of total blackness. So much for the wonderful visibility. While water clarity is one factor affecting visibility, light penetration is another. In complete darkness and without any sort of reference point you inevitably lose your orientation. Only when I touched bottom did I regain a firm sense of up and down. The bottom itself was comprised of nearly two feet of loose gelatinous mud and I quickly realized that its consistency would preclude the retention of even the slightest traces of a footprint. When I tried to make a hand print, the turbulence caused by merely lifting my hand was sufficient to erase any impression. Looking at the ridges and contours of the bottom I surmised that a person could see just about anything there that they wanted to. A regular pattern of three-toed footprints seemed like a reach, but a nervous diver’s mind can wander in peculiar directions at the bottom of a dark and lonely monster lake.

After thoroughly surveying the area we did come across something interesting, a dinner-plate sized crater-like depression that looked as though it had been caused by some small explosion. About a meter away from the crater we found a small piece of rotten wood. It was covered in orange colored bacteria and was so decayed that it fell apart at the touch. It obviously had something to do with the crater although I couldn’t guess what. On the surface a quick lesson by Jason on the suggested rotting tree trunk identity for lake monsters brought me up to speed.

In a 1985 article for the New Scientist, Robert Craig provides a sound explanation as to how a tree trunk could be mistaken for a monster. [Robert Craig, The New Scientist, 5 August 1985]. In a nutshell, a pine tree sinks to the bottom of a deep lake. The Pinus Sylvestris, or Scots Pine, is much in evidence around Seljordsvatnet as it is on the shores of three other very deep lakes reputed to contain monsters; Lochs Ness, Morar, and Tay. Scuba diving along Seljordsvatnet’s shores I observed dozens of submerged pines which had slid off the surrounding hills. In spots it was like wandering through an underwater forest. Perched atop cliffs and outcroppings, the sometimes huge trees seemed only to be pausing for a rest on their inevitable trip to the bottom. Being a very resilient and sturdy tree full of resins and oils, the pine is able to remain intact on the lake bottom for a long time. Gradually it becomes covered by a layer of silt. Over time the enormous water pressure at the bottom squeezes the tree trunk. Resin is forced out, forming an encapsulating water-proof skin. As a result of the decaying process, gases are formed inside the trunk and as these gases expand more tar and resin is forced out both through the stumps of branches and the ends of the trunk. These materials form blisters on the exterior of the trunk. These are filled with minute gas bubbles and in effect become buoyancy tanks over time. Inevitably the positive buoyancy created by these blisters causes the log to rise towards the surface. Perhaps as it lifts off the bottom it leaves a crater-shaped depression in the silt. In the last sixty meters or so the log is nearly bursting at the seams due to the decrease in the surrounding water pressure, so when it eventually briefly breaks the surface the released gasses generate a foaming of the water and an audible hiss. It then sinks quietly below the surface. Sounds a lot like many accounts of lake monster sightings to me. The water foams, suddenly out pops a dark colored object looking like a telephone pole, then just as quickly as it appeared, the object sinks straight down back beneath the waves.

Independently of Jan, who was hardly enthusiastic about the theory, we attempted to duplicate this process in Lake Seljordsvatnet. A local carpenter was commissioned to provide a large tree trunk and to adapt it for an artificial sinking. A complex process was devised to get the trunk to the bottom and then to fill it with enough air to cause it to rise to the surface. After a great many technical difficulties, a trial run was performed with somewhat less than spectacular results due to our inability to get the trunk all the way to the bottom. In fairness, our spur of the moment approach to the problem was in large part to blame. The trunk was ash, not pine. Our means of getting the log to the bottom involved setting up a system of weights and lines at fifteen meters depth in complete darkness. The day after our first attempt we couldn’t even find the weights on the bottom. We were clearly trying to push beyond our immediate capabilities. In spite of these difficulties, however, after several attempts the arrangement worked out reasonably well and the test succeeded on film. Its inclusion in the Discovery Channel documentary should further validate the tree trunk as lake monster hypothesis.

Now let’s return to the many faces of Jan Sundberg. Most ominously, there seemed to be Jan the man with a hidden agenda who seemed to be more concerned with selling evidence than with collecting and analyzing it. Upon arrival in Norway every member of the group was made to sign a contract which stated, “All documentation without exception must be surrendered to GUST for analysis and sale” (my italics). It further provided that, “All photographic evidence from the expedition; still photography, camcorder video, and underwater video will, in the case of a sale to media or others (my italics), be shared equally between the team of twelve.” While provisions such as these would not sound unreasonable in terms of some sort of business enterprise, the heavy accent on selling evidence seemed out of place within the context of a legitimate research expedition. My concern was with getting any evidence analyzed by competent experts and making it available for scientific scrutiny, not with selling it to the highest bidder. Tellingly, in one of my first e-mail conversations with Jan I asked what his plan was for quickly conveying any compelling evidence we might collect to the scientific community for proper analysis. Beyond having made arrangements for getting photographic evidence enhanced, his response made it clear to me that he in fact had no plan for obtaining scientific interpretation. In hindsight it seems as though it was Jan’s intention from the start that the only people who would be given genuine access to any evidence would be those who were willing to pay for it.

The matter of peddling evidence came to a head at the start of the second week when Jan took some photos of a wave. I was on the boat at the time so I am familiar with the details. For some time prior to taking the photos Jan had been sitting at the front of the boat talking to Jason Gibb. In discussing the incident with Jason later on I learned that at several points during their conversation Jan had excitedly pointed out several surface disturbances. Jason’s assessment that they were just waves or boat wakes had met with no resistance. After several days on the lake it was clear to most that surface disturbances could be deceiving. Boat wakes can last a surprisingly long time. In a narrow lake they can actually bounce off the shoreline and eventually return to the middle. When the two halves of the wake intersect they can give the impression of a dark mass rolling just beneath the surface. This phenomenon caught my eye more than once. Even routine wave action can be deceiving. As the wind blows down on to the lake’s surface from the surrounding hills it can create some long waves that at first seem to have no obvious cause. Strange waves, boat wakes, tricks of light, and the knowledge that you are on an alleged monster lake can all combine to momentarily fool even the skeptical observer. You could pretty much see whatever you wanted to see.

After talking with Jan, Jason came into the cabin to see how I was making out with the instruments. Within a minute Jan was pounding excitedly on the window. He insisted that he had just managed to snap nine or ten photos of a large object moving just beneath the surface and trailing a wake. Jason and I saw the “wake” in question. There was absolutely nothing unusual about it and nothing to suggest that it had been caused by something moving below the surface. It was just another wave in a lake full of waves. Arne Thomassen, the boat’s owner, saw nothing unusual either. When Jason stated the obvious, namely that Jan had only photographed a wave, Jan’s retort was, “Fine, #@$! you then if you don’t believe me!”

Later that day Jan formally suggested to the group that we should consider selling the photos. He had already been in contact with the Daily Express in England and a sixty-thousand Kroner deal was suggested. Response from even the more reserved members of the group was swift and severe. How could we consider selling something that we hadn’t seen yet? How could we get the photos analyzed and interpreted properly if we rushed off to sell them? Why should we even be talking about selling evidence, if in fact the photos really constituted evidence? What paper would possibly agree to buy photos sight unseen? Why had Jan gone ahead and approached the media without first speaking with the rest of the team? All of this seemed to catch Jan off guard. His goals were clearly not shared by the rest of the group. He resolved that he would deliver the film to Kodak in Oslo personally and that we could discuss the matter again after seeing the developed pictures. Before leaving, Jan unsuccessfully tried to hit up the film producer and several team members for money to cover the expenses of going to Oslo.

Upon returning from Oslo Jan presented his pictures to the group. As predicted, they showed nothing more than an unimpressive wave. He insisted that Kodak’s “experts” had determined that the wave might have been caused by an object moving just beneath the surface, although no such object was discernible and there was no way to be certain. When Jason Gibb questioned just how expert the Kodak people were in analyzing and interpreting photos of water-related phenomenon Jan responded that they had analyzed “thousands of photos just like this”. When Jason suggested that there was a difference between developing photos and interpreting them, Jan reiterated that Kodak were the experts when it came to photos and that they knew what they were talking about.

But there was more to discuss. During Jan’s absence another team member had taken twenty minutes of video at long range of what appeared to be three v-shaped wakes moving around the lake. Although the cameraman himself (my roommate Ulf Burman) suggested that the wakes were produced by ducks, Jan launched into a push to sell both his photos and the video. This time he took a slightly different approach. The group was informed that money for gasoline had run out and that Arne Thomassen had been paying for it out of his own pocket for several days. The town council had already paid out more than twice the amount of money that they had initially agreed to and were unwilling to help. Arne had to be compensated. We could either each contribute or we could sell the photos and the video to raise the necessary cash. According to Jan it didn’t matter if the pictures showed nothing but a wave. We would make no firm commitment as to their authenticity. The paper that bought them could make whatever claims it wanted to. We would simply remain non-committal. The collective horror of the group was obvious. This was tantamount to blackmail. Either sell the ridiculous photos or fork over the money yourselves. Jan called for an immediate vote. Only one other member of the team agreed to try and sell the photos and the video. In the face of this rebuke Jan informed the group that he would copyright the photos, sell them himself, and pocket the money. I reminded him that the contract we had all signed made any evidence collected the property of the team and that the group’s decision not to sell the photos did not mean that ownership of them simply defaulted to Jan Sundberg. His response to me was, “Well then I guess we’ll have to change the contract.”

This was the beginning of the end for me. While it had been clear for some time that Jan’s interest in the expedition went well beyond the purely academic, I could not allow myself to be associated with a charlatan and a profiteer. It was time to bow out. The next day I announced to the group that to my mind the search had devolved into some sort of convoluted money-making scheme. Perhaps this is precisely what Jan Sundberg had in mind all along. Even though I doubted that the photos could be sold, Jan’s decision to defy the group and attempt to sell them against our wishes placed everyone’s reputation in jeopardy. I was simply not willing to sacrifice my integrity in order to raise money to pay for gasoline that Jan, as the team leader, should have adequately budgeted for in the first place. To claim to the world that this was a legitimate well-organized search was a lie. As to legitimacy, legitimate researchers don’t sell their findings to tabloids. As to the level of organization, I had been to better organized pillow fights. It was clear that Jan had assembled a group of sincere, intelligent, and genuinely interested people for use as props in a drama staged to make himself a quick buck in the guise of a “monster hunter.” I announced my resignation effective immediately and left. My friend Dave Walsh followed suit.(Dave Walsh’s account of the expedition can be found at: http://www.nua.ie/blather/archives2/issue2no16.html

Sadly, my experiences with Jan Sundberg and GUST98 seem to provide an encapsulated view of the problems that confront cryptozoology generally. Like the search at Lake Seljordsvatnet, the cryptozoological world seems to be divided into three camps. First, there are the legitimate and well-intentioned researchers. While some may be quicker to believe in extraordinary claims than others, their overly enthusiastic approach rarely results in intentional deceit or falsification. Then there are the charlatans, pseudo experts, crackpots, and profiteers for whom concepts like the scientific method are utterly meaningless. For these wretched few, the notion that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof can be replaced with the belief that extraordinary claims require extraordinary lying and the intentional misrepresentation of data to obfuscate their inherent lack of credulity and substance. Unfortunately these people are responsible for a good portion of the inaccurate information that is readily available to the general public. Finally there are the professional scientists, the zoologists, marine biologists, and anthropologists. While some of these people bravely risk ridicule from their colleagues to publicly comment on cryptozoological phenomenon, most steer clear to avoid association with the aforementioned unscrupulous types. This is unfortunate because many of these people are probably intrigued by cryptozoology and they alone possess the technical expertise and grounding in hard science that the discipline oftentimes lacks.

Again, while I do accept the possibility of lake monsters generally I saw nothing at Lake Seljordsvatnet that even remotely suggested the presence of an unknown animal. While there is some anecdotal evidence of interest, it is heavily intertwined with local myth and folklore. Some of the local claims are echoed at reputed monster lakes worldwide: the lake has some subterranean link to the sea (there is no proof of this); the monster lives in underwater caves (we dove to investigate several of these reported caves but the only two found were hopelessly small, closet-sized affairs); the fish in the lake are abnormally large (again, there is no proof of this); the lake never gives up its dead (it does); scuba divers are afraid to dive the lake (I wasn’t). The perpetuation and acceptance of these myths is not deterred by the lack of any proof in support of them. This certainly doesn’t make the existence of lake monsters seem like more of a possibility.

If lake monsters do exist in some tangible form then they have apparently developed a highly effective means of avoiding human detection. Maybe they are nocturnal. If air breathers, they might have the ability to take in air at the surface through snorkel-like appendages. Perhaps they are highly sensitive to the presence of humans and time their surfacing to avoid contact. Their best defense against discovery, however, may be that it is people like Jan Sundberg who tend to go looking for them. If this state of affairs continues then concrete proof of their existence is sure to remain elusive.

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