Argentina: More on the Lake Nahuel Huapi Monster
The images, taken from a short distance on the lake, show what appears to be an animal similar to a snake, with a semi-submerged body. The photos were taken with an analog camera and the unknown person left three of them behind. The man who brought the photos left so quickly and mysteriously that it didn't give us time to ask him where he'd taken them from.
Nahuelito is an unknown aquatic creature which, according to popular belief, lives in Argentina's Lake Nahuel Huapi.
Much like Nessie, his Scottish counterpart, his name stems from the body of water he supposedly inhabits and his existence was never confirmed in spite of the systematic research conducted. The legend is well-known throughout the country and it has become a classic reference in books and articles on cryptozoology.
The source of the legend goes back to native accounts prior to the Conquest. The first explorers gleaned stories from the natives regarding occasional encounters with massive lake monsters. The first recorded sighting dates back to 1910, although George Garret, the eyewitness, went public with the story much later.
In 1910, Garret worked for a company located near Nahuel Huapi. One day that year, after sailing the lake and getting ready to make landfall, he saw a creature some 400 meters away whose visible parts measured between 5 and 7 meters long, and stood out some two meters over the water.
Upon discussing his experience with the locals, Garret learned of similar accounts put forth by the natives. But the event was made public in 1922, when he told his story to the Toronto Globe. It was at that time that the first expedition to find Nahuelito was being outfitted, and the controversy had reached it maximum point, appearing in the international press.
Since 1897, Dr. Clemente Onelli, director of the Buenos Aires Zoo, had been receiving sporadic reports about a strange creature living in the Patagonian lakes. In 1922 he received the eyewitness account of Martin Sheffield, an American gold prospector, concerning the discovery of large animal prints on the shores of Nahuel Huapi, in whose center Sheffield claimed to have seen a tremendous unknown creature.
Convinced by Sheffield's report, Onelli decided to organize a search, which was led by the Zoo's superintendent, Jose Chiagi. Among the expedition members were renowned hunters armed with elephant guns, and dynamite with which to blast the lake.
The matter of permission was soon resolved and the expedition set out, but it returned to Buenos Aires without yielding positive results. The story had international repercussions and was even discussed in such publications as Scientific American.
Bariloche's growth as a tourist destination, on the shores of Nahuel Huapi, caused an increase in occasional sightings, but no conclusive proof was ever obtained.
A number of theories have been proposed to explain the myth, but none stand up to serious scrutiny.
Native legends can hardly be quoted as argument, since the natives had legends concerning water monsters in nearly all of Patagonia's lakes and rivers. Nahuelito's direct ancestor appears to be the local myth of the "cuero", a headless, legless monster that reputedly lived in the lake.
The most popular theory involves the prehistoric monster. Nahuelito would be a survivor from the Age of Reptiles, probably a plesiosaur. Others support the theory that it could be an ichthyosaur, based on the abundance of animal fossils of this sort found in the region. However, the Patagonian lakes were formed in a geological age that came after the extinction of dinosaurs, which would refute this hypothesis.
It has also been suggested that Nahuelito could be a Mylodon, a long-extinct terrestrial mammal, which did not have any aquatic habits despite matching some of the descriptions given.
A more recent (and outrageous) theory suggests that Nahuelito is a mutation of some local creature resulting from the nuclear experiments conducted in the 1950s by German scientists (or more recently by the Bariloche Atomic Center).
Perhaps the latest theory to reach the public is the one that ascribes the manifestations to a small submarine of unknown origin, which many interpret as a modern cultural adaptation of the lake monster myth. But this last theory has never been proven.
It is remarkable though that the majority, though not all, of sighting describe Nahuelito similarly: a length of approximately 10-15 meters, two humps, leathery skin and sometimes, a swan-shaped neck. This characterization agrees with the descriptions made by the Mapuche Indians 200 years ago. This suggests that science has hitherto been unable to explain certain observations -- not that the observations are untrue because science has failed to explain them.
(Translation (c) 2006. Scott Corrales, Institute of Hispanic Ufology (IHU). Special thanks to Ricardo Lopez Rende)