Shaky Video 'Catches' Ogopogo

From The Conspiracy Journal #121 8/24/01

Video shot by Okanagan marina worker is the strongest entry in $2-million contest

Don Basaraba often gets distracted while pumping gasoline and renting Jet Skis at Peachland's marina these days, because everybody wants to see his video of the legendary monster.

Crowds of tourists and locals in the small town in British Columbia gather around the 20-year-old as he flips open the five-inch color screen on his digital video camera and plays the tape once again.

When the five-minute sequence begins, Mr. Basaraba is at the wheel of a power boat on Okanagan Lake. It's around 11 a.m. on July 9, and he's helping a few buddies drag a broken Jet Ski back to the marina.

They're nearing the dock when one of his friends spots a serpentine shape about 800 metres behind them in the deep lake. Mr. Basaraba stops the boat, turns on his camera, and zooms in on the slender, writhing, seven-metre-long creature.

"My buddy is saying, 'That's no fish, that's no fish,' " Mr. Basaraba said. "And it definitely wasn't a wave. The top was black and there was white underneath. It was shiny, like it had scales or something. It just wiggled like a snake."

Stories have been told for centuries about a mysterious creature, nicknamed Ogopogo, inhabiting the depths of the 100-kilometre long lake in B.C.'s Interior. Many people who squinted at Mr. Basaraba's shaky footage aren't convinced it's final proof that the legends are true. But it is considered one of the strongest entries as a year-long contest to find evidence of Ogopogo finishes at the end of this month.

"There's certainly something there," said John Singleton, executive director of the Kelowna Visitor and Convention Bureau. His association took out a $2-million insurance policy from Lloyds of London last year and guaranteed the money to anyone who could provide "indisputable evidence" that Ogopogo exists.

The bureau has received three submissions so far. In addition to Mr. Basaraba's tape, there's a snapshot taken by an area resident in 1994 and sonar readings recorded by a Japanese television production company that scoured the lake with a submersible device for three days this spring.

The British insurance company has yet to appoint a panel of judges, Mr. Singleton said, but he's doubtful any of the entries would convince them.

"It's a pretty stringent contest with two million bucks on the line," Mr. Singleton said. He noted that the 1994 photographs probably won't be considered because the rules only allow evidence found this year.

"But what's interesting is how the video looks a lot like the photographs," he said.

Mr. Singleton frankly describes the contest as a publicity stunt. Promotional materials and the insurance premium cost only $30,000, he said, and the contest has drawn the attention of at least 30 broadcasters in six countries. Cartoon drawings of Ogopogo appear on noodle boxes, watches and the jerseys of area sports teams.

"We wanted to bring notoriety to our region," Mr. Singleton said. "We've had a lot of fun with it."

But many residents take the legend seriously. Arlene Gaal, of Kelowna, has written three books about Ogopogo and hopes to have her own submission of film and photos ready before the Sept. 1 contest deadline. She said the number of Ogopogo snapshots and film clips taken over the years suggests there's something unusual in the lake.

"The evidence leans towards a Jurassic Park-type animal," Ms. Gaal said. "I want to see this creature considered an endangered species. We have to protect its habitat from pollution."

A Indian band protested against the contest when it was announced last summer, saying it shows disrespect for a figure in their mythology.

For his part, Mr. Basaraba isn't overly excited about his discovery. He went wakeboarding on the lake just hours after recording the video. "We were a bit sketchy about going out on the lake again," Mr. Basaraba said. "But the thing wasn't really that big."

Source: The Globe and Mail

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