Who is Ogopogo? Canada might have its own Loch Ness Monster!

Caption: A Canadian Stamp. Credit: exemplore.com

Hey, have you heard of the Canadian Loch Ness monster? Oh yes! It’s not Nessie, but Ogopogo and is found in the Canadian town of Kelowna in the Okanagan Lake. 

Another monster? Really? Yup. Ogopogo is said to be many-humped, and sport a green and black snake-like and a horse-like head!  

If you say so. How long has it been around then? Well, according to the Okanagan/Syilx tribe, the Indian tribe native to that area, for about 12,000 years, ever since they were around. Its name is not Ogopogo, but n ̓x̌ax̌aitkʷ (n-ha-ha-it-koo), “the sacred spirit of the lake.” which protects their ancient lands surrounding the water. Rattlesnake Island across the water is where the spirit supposedly lives.  

I’m confused. Is it a spirit or a real creature? Ah! It exists in two forms, spiritual and physical. The Syilx also describe it as dark with “a head of a horse and the antlers of a deer’. They would feed it with tobacco and sage and sometimes some salmon. When they arrived they believed that this ritual was an animal sacrifice that would ensure safe passage across the water. That’s when, and how, myths of a terrifying monster grew. They named it Ogopogo after an old English folk song.

Has anyone actually seen it? Well, like Nessie, there are many claims at sightings. In the 1980s there was a $1m reward for proof of the creature and Greenpeace called it an endangered species, stating that Ogopogo should only be captured on film, and not in the flesh. 

An earth science professor says the sighting could just be the way water moves, “when a denser layer of water slides beneath a more buoyant layer.” He called the phenomenon an “Ogopogo wave”.

Aw, that steals some of the romance of Ogopogo…he sounded mysterious and cool! Don’t worry. The town has a statue of Ogopogo on the waterfront, he is the mascot for a local hockey team, and the Okanagan Heritage Museum even created an entire gallery in 2019 dedicated to the creature. And last but not least, there are tons of souvenir shops with Ogopogo memorabilia, so if you are ever in the area, you could get your own mini one!

Written by: Pereena Lamba. Pereena is a freelance writer, editor and creative consultant. She is also co-author of Totally Mumbai.

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