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'It was like the head of a dragon'
Continuing reports of mysterious creature swimming in North America's deepest lake
Nathan VanderKlippe
CanWest News Service

YELLOWKNIFE, N.W.T. - Somewhere in the murky depths of the continent's deepest lake, a monster lurks.

Jim Lynn is sure of it.

This week, the Roman Catholic priest was looking out from his home on the shores of Great Slave Lake near Yellowknife when he saw an object trailing a small boat across the water.

"I got the goggles because it was moving fast and I was kind of curious as to what it was," said Lynn, 66. "It was high, six to eight feet above the water and moving at an incredulous speed.

"It was like the head of a dragon -- just coming out of the water at just a ferocious speed, just moving like crazy."

Lynn watched as the creature, which looked green, hurtle behind an island, then disappear. He quickly called the Yellowknifer, a local newspaper, to place a advertisement asking the person on the lake that day to call him.

"I would think they would have felt the waves (from the creature)," he said.

Step aside, Nessie and Ogopogo, there's a new mystery leviathan on the block. And according to Chris Woodall, it's called Ol'Slavey.

Woodall, a Yellowknifer columnist, wrote earlier this summer that Great Slave Lake, with a maximum depth of 614 metres, hides some weird and wonderful creature.

To his surprise, his phone soon started ringing with calls from people who claimed to have seen just such a thing. He gave the

creature the name Ol'Slavey, after one of the aboriginal languages in the Northwest Territories.

It's a fitting name, since the Dene have many stories about an unknown creature in the waters.

When Antoine Michel was growing up in the traditional community of Lutsel K'e, about 200 kilometres east of Yellowknife, he was taught that a creature lived in the waters off Utsingi Point, about 80 kilometres southwest of the community. To appease the nameless creature, people boating by the point pass in silence and pay respect to the lake with tobacco offerings.

"We usually stop the motor and go around the point, paddle quietly," he said.

Years later, he saw the creature himself, on a calm moonlit night as he and his wife returned by boat from a caribou hunt.

"We seen a rock there. I thought it was a rock first time, there was seagulls around it," he said. "I just turned away from it, I didn't want to hit it, (then) it just went down. I felt the waves, and then I just took off. I didn't take a look back."

Boaters have seen strange creatures suddenly surfacing in the water in front of them. Lutsel K'e is near some of the deepest pockets in Great Slave Lake, a natural habitat for a beast of the depths.

Naysayers will say it's just a big fish, but northern divers who actually swim those waters say differently.

A decade ago, Arctic Divers was on a deep-water body retrieval near Lutsel K'e when one of its divers saw a terrifying beast.

"It looked much like an alligator, but with a head like a pike," said Wayne Gzowski, the company's district manager.

"I really do believe that there's unknown marine life in a lot of these areas," he said, in places that have never before been explored by humans.

According to aboriginal legend, the great Mackenzie River was created by a giant beaver. Rene Fumoleau, a retired Oblate priest and respected northern historian, remembers a Gwich'in elder telling him that a dragon now lives in the waters of Canada's biggest river.

"There are some places where the water never freezes in winter, and that is because there is that monster somewhere at the bottom of the river that stirs the waters," he said.

The Mackenzie flows out of Great Slave Lake; perhaps Ol'Slavey moves between haunts. Whatever the case, Archie Catholique, the chief of Lutsel K'e, is a believer.

"The elders were saying that this thing here doesn't bother anybody -- it's not there to hurt anybody," he said.

But, he added, "people see it."

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A quick compendium of reported water monsters includes:

- Nessie: Scotland's fabled Loch Ness Monster was first reported in AD 565 and has been regularly seen to this day.

- Ogopogo: Native legends from British Columbia's Okanagan Valley speak of a monster known as N'ha-a-itk who had to be appeased before men ventured on to the lake. In 1942, the monster came to be known as Ogopogo and is said to have a snake-like body, including several humps.

- Other reported sightings of water monsters have come from numerous Scottish lochs, Norwegian fiords, Wisconsin and Rocky Mountain House, where in 1946 a local farmer claimed to have seen a huge, scaly-skinned monster with fiery eyes, long teeth and a horn thrust its head out of the water and swallow whole a calf which was feeding near the Clearwater River.

Source: Journal News Services

Ran with fact box "From The Deep", which has been appended to this story.

© The Edmonton Journal 2004

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