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The largest body of water in the United States other than the Great Lakes, portions of Lake Champlain are in Vermont, New York, and the Canadian province of Quebec. It is a long lake, about 110 miles long and 13 miles wide, with a maximum depth of 400 feet.

In this lake is said to be Champ, the Lake Champlain Monster, a serpentine sea monster much like the more famous Loch Ness Monster. Deserved or not, Champ has a long history.

While exploring the region in 1609, Samuel de Champlain described a water creature about 20 feet long, as thick as a barrel, and a head like a horse. He also noted that the Abenaki tribes had known of the creature, referring to it as a "chaousarou." However, many cryptozoologists today believe that what Champlain had seen was a sturgeon.

Nothing more was heard of the lake monster until the 1800s, but then the area was sparsely settled until just before the War of 1812. The only Europeans or European-Americans in the Champlain Valley during this period were soldiers and some Jesuits, but they left no reports of such a monster.

By 1810, reports resumed, as thousand of settlers came looking for inexpensive land. In 1819, a group of settlers reported seeing the creature's head above the surface of the waters of Bulwagga Bay. That same year, a ship captain reported seeing a black monster, about 187 feet long, with a head like a sea horse. Between 1870 and 1900, there were at least twenty sightings of the cryptid. In 1873 there were several sightings. The showman, P.T. Barnum, offered $50,000 for the carcass of the sea serpent, but no one collected the reward, although he repeated it in 1887, although reduced to $20,000. In 1887, the New York Times reported that a group of people who were having a picnic near Burlington, Vermont sighting the sea creature.

Although there were a couple of reports of juvenile specimens of Champ being captured, there is no credible evidence of them ever being displayed. In one report, the creature was examined by scientists at the University of Vermont, who indicated that it was unlike any living reptile in its catalog. However, there is no record of it having ever been examined by anyone at the university, so it would seem that either it was a cover-up or a fraud.

In 1915, a group of people saw the creature as it appeared to have been stranded in shallow water at the entrance of Bulwagga Bay, eventually freeing itself and swimming to the Vermont side of the lake. Another spate of sightings came in the 1930s and 1940s, which slowed until the 1970s, when Joseph Zarzynski organized an investigation group that encouraged people to report sightings of Champ, after which sighting reports have continued.

In the summer of 1977, Sandra Mansi was picnicking with her fiance and children in a field north of St. Albans, Vermont when a long-necked creature surfaced a little over a hundred feet offshore. She snapped a photo of it that was published in the New York Times on June 30, 1981, with the delay attributed to her fear of ridicule.

In 1979, sonar detected the presence of what was said to be consistent with a large single organism, although others suggest that a tightly formed school of fish could have resulted in the same result. However, in 1982, Raymond Sargent saw Champ on the surface, and his sighting was followed by a sonar reading after the lake creature submerged.

Several videos of the creature were captured in the 1990s and 2000s, but there is no evidence that any of them have been scientifically evaluated.

Some have suggested that Champ might be a Zeuglodon, a primitive whale believed to have been extinct for 20 million years, or a Tanystropheus, a long-necked reptile of the Middle Triassic period, while mainstream scientists believe that some of the sightings may have been of a sturgeon.

Skeptics insist that reported Champ sightings are either hoaxes or mistaken observations of various objects, from logs to large sturgeons. Stray harbor seals have also been suggested, as their occasional presence in Lake Champlain has been documented from time to time.

Real or not, Champ is protected by law in New York and Vermont. The Port Henry board of trustees passed a resolution in 1980 declaring the local waters off-limits to anyone who would in any way harm, harass, or destroy the Lake Champlain Sea Monster and, in 1981, the Vermont state legislature passed a similar resolution, which was followed two weeks later by a Champ-protection resolution by the New York state legislature.

Founded by Dennis Hall in 1991, Champ Quest was created to collect data, search for, record sightings, and protect the animals living in Lake Champlain that are collectively known as Champ.

Real or not, online resources focused on the Lake Champlain lake monster, recently known as Champ, are appropriate topics for this category.



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