The Ropen

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Long Beach, Calif.: July 21, 2006 — The investigation of reports of a pterosaur-like creature in Papua New Guinea has produced some promising findings. According to standard models of science, all pterosaurs became extinct by about 65-million years ago. But due to research of Jonathan Whitcomb, a forensic videographer who interviewed native islanders in 2004, the cryptid the natives call ropen of Umboi Island is at least similar to a long-tailed pterosaur.

The description of the Ropen garnered from witnesses included features such as:

  • Wing spans of up to 25 feet (8-10 feet being more common).
  • A smooth black to brown hide.
  • No feathers.
  • Three fingers on each wing similar to those of a human.
  • Long hair like ‘grass’ only on the head.
  • A long snake-like tail

The creatures’ diet consists of clams and fish, but curiously this creature has a taste for rotting flesh and is know to disrupt funerals and dig up freshly buried corpses to satiate its appetite. Its cousin the Duah  is even larger and is described by Papuans as having a bony crest on its head, a feature that any pterosaur enthusiast will tell you is a dead giveaway that we are talking about a Pteranodon-like animal here. The Duan displays a type of natural phosphorescence as it is frequently seen with its underbelly aglow at night. Bill Gibbons has spoken to an American minister of religion with an interest in cryptozoology, who witnessed the glowing phenomenon for himself as a Duah soared down from a mountain and flew over the observation boat in which the minister was keeping watch for the winged monstrosity.

Whitcomb maintains that earlier researchers who explored the island intermittently from 1994 through 2002 were not overly imaginative in believing the creature to be a pterosaur. According to Whitcomb’s new book, Searching for Ropens, there are many similarities between American, Australian, and native eyewitness accounts. Ropens appear featherless with long tails, and reports indicate they eat fish.

Whitcomb, from Long Beach, California, disputes an old idea that they are misidentifications of Flying Fox fruit bats. Two natives described a Ropen holding itself upright on a tree trunk (fruit bats hang upside down from branches), and his book also describes an apparently bioluminescent glow that may help the nocturnal creatures catch fish.

The puzzle for the previous investigators is that they’re unlike Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur fossils in some ways: A few Ropens are too large and have dorsal ridges along the back. In addition, some eyewitnesses report a head crest on the Ropen while few long-tailed pterosaur fossils have such appendages.

Although Whitcomb admits having no photograph to disprove textbook declarations that all pterosaurs are extinct, he disputes the idea that the Ropen is an unknown bat. His book, Searching for Ropens, examines an investigation by the explorers Garth Guessman, a Southern California firefighter; and David Woetzel, a New Hampshire businessman. Their 2004 expedition, a few weeks after Whitcomb’s, uncovered a native tradition about the Ropen’s tail: It moves only near the tail’s base. This, says Guessman, relates to Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur anatomy.

Before his expedition to Papua New Guinea, Whitcomb questioned Duane Hodgkinson, a flight instructor in Livingston, Montana, who maintains he saw a large “pterodactyl” in 1944, near Finschhafen. The World War II veteran’s description resembles that given by a couple who saw a creature flying over Perth, Australia, in 1997.

Whitcomb also noted in Searching for Ropens similarities to native accounts recorded by earlier explorers on Umboi Island between 1994 and 2002. Whitcomb found no indication of any hallucination or hoax with the two Australians and the American veteran. He also noted that the native eyewitnesses he interviewed mentioned no supernatural elements and that their descriptions resemble those given by the Westerners.

Around Manus Island, the wingspan is three to four feet, according to Jim Blume, a missionary in Wau, on the mainland. Blume’s investigations indicate that wingspans may reach ten to fifteen feet in other areas. Whitcomb’s book mentions a few Ropens that are even larger, including the ones seen by Hodgkinson and the Australian couple.

The book acknowledges differences between the Ropen and Rhamphorhynchoid fossils but it emphasizes that the “diamond” on the Ropen’s tail may relate to the fossil tails.

Whitcomb, a 57-year-old independent videographer who records evidence for attorney firms, completed his book after one year of compiling and analyzing eyewitness testimonies. He encourages a major expedition to videotape a Ropen before the end of 2007.