There's something strange and mysterious in Turtle Lake.
The fish aren't talkin'. And judging by the descriptions from
the people who've seen it, it's anywhere from three to nine metres
in length (10 to 30 feet), with or without a dorsal fin, smooth
or scaly, with a head resembling either a dog, a seahorse or a pig.
It's no new phenomenon to Turtle Lake, located 120 kms (74 miles)
northwest of North Battleford. It's been there for as long as anyone
can remember -- well before the lakeside bar might have provided
an explanation. Indian legend holds that people who ventured into
its territory were never seen again.
No one's blamed it for any recent disappearances. Again, the fish
aren't talkin. But each year, on average, one boater returns to
shore with a wide-eyed tale about a goose-bumpy encounter with something
from the deep. Something with mass. Something big.
It's not a large tourist attraction like "Nessy", of Loch Ness,
Scotland, or "Ogopogo", of Lake Okanagan in British Columbia.
Yes, there is the odd ball cap and restaurant place mat signaling
the unusual occurrences to unwary visitors. But it's a low-key thing;
local color rather than feature attraction at the small, resort
Saskatchewan people are a down-to-earth lot uncomfortable about
hyping something they believe has to have a simple, rational explanation.
Many think it's nothing more than a giant sturgeon who, by choice
or circumstance, abandoned his normal river habitat for Turtle Lake.
But there's a problem with that one. Although sturgeon can live
to be 65 years old and grow to four metres (12 feet) in length,
they live and feed on the bottom. It's not likely they'd choose
to loll about on the surface of a deep lake. Not impossible, but
A former school teacher from the region has another theory.
Millions of years ago, Saskatchewan was covered by a sea. In that
body of water lived a variety of aquatic dinosaurs, including one
called plesiosaur. Perhaps, says Ben Blatz, a few plesiosaurs adapted
and survived in the depths of Turtle Lake. And one of their descendants
is responsible for frightening the tan off the occasional boater.
A few years ago I talked to a man who saw it while fishing with
his daughter and grandson.
Gordon Watt, who farms about 200 kms south of Turtle Lake, was
casting from his boat when he spotted something in the water about
12 metres (13 yards) off the bow.
"Its head came up, its back came up and it sort of rolled over
-- we never saw the tail," he said. "Its head looked like a seahorse."
Members of the fishing party were "thunderstruck" and "amazed",
said Watt. Yet, once their astonishment subsided, they cranked up
the boat motor, zipped over to the area where the thing slipped
under and tried to snag it.
Could have been quite a ride.
Watt said maybe it was a sturgeon, "but I'm not convinced."
What creature lurks in Turtle Lake?
In spite of their noted reserve, Saskatchewan folks will tell
you it's The Turtle Lake Monster.
For the time being, that's the best answer we've got.
And the fish aren't talkin'.
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