Cryptid Profile: Shuswaggi - The Shuswap Lake Monster
It is a fact that within British Columbia, there are well over 20,000+ lakes. Those lakes combined stretch over 750,000 kilometers (466,000+ miles), and within more than half of those lakes, someone at one point has reported seeing something strange.
One of those lakes where something strange has been sighted is Shuswap Lake. Located within south-central British Columbia, Shuswap Lake stretches 55mi (89km) long, 3mi (5km) wide, and reaches a max depth of 528ft (161m). To put this into perspective, Shuswap Lake is 33mi longer and 2mi wider than Loch Ness, and everyone knows what’s reported to be swimming around in there. So it makes sense that something out of the ordinary would have no problem calling Shuswap Lake home.
While many note that the first “official” sighting of Shuswaggi (the name given to the creature of the lake) didn’t take place until 1984, there have been a few documented encounters with an unknown thing in the water that go all the way back to the early 1900’s. As with many other lake monster reports, the descriptions of Shuswaggi vary greatly, so while all may be considered evidence to prove that people have been seeing something odd in Shuswap Lake for quite sometime, not all should be considered the gods honest truth.
The first report of an encounter with Shuswaggi goes back to 1904. In this early report, it is stated that a Shuswap Indian not only had a close encounter with the creature, but also managed to kill it. Upon pulling the the dead beast from the water, the victorious man made quick work of skinning it in order to sell the hide. The creature was described as being nearly as large as a grizzly bear with hair covering its wet skin. One truly notable feature of the dead creature were its feet, which were reported as being 12in long and resembled those of a mole. Flat and almost plated with five finger like appendages adorned with long claws at the ends. What happened to the hide and carcass after the killing is unknown. This does though raise the question though that if one of these unknown creatures was killed in the early 1900’s but seen again throughout the years, is there a breeding population within the lake?
Fast forward 44yrs to 1948 and there would be two new sightings of an unknown creature in Shuswap Lake. The first sighting took place on July 12th by a Mr. Dew while out on the lake in his boat. The witness stated that while out on the water, a huge something swam towards his boat and then under it. This motion caused the water to churn and rise which almost flipped the vessel over. The man then witnessed the creatures body break the surface of the water on the other side of his boat before submerging back down beneath the surface of the water and out of sight.
Fifteen days later on July 27th, another man would witness something odd in the water, but this time the sighting would take place from on land. In the report, a farmer by the name of Mr. Sinclair had let his cattle out to graze on his property which butted up against Shuswap Lake. After some time, Sinclair began to round the cattle back up and drive them back closer toward the farm. While doing this though, something odd caught his eye. It appeared to the witness that one of his cattle had made its way into the lake. Confused and a little frustrated, as this would require Sinclair to assist in getting the large animal out of the water and back onto dry land, he approached the water. As he moved closer, the large black creature which he originally assumed was one of his cattle, begin to move farther out and started submerging. Stunned at what he had witnessed, Sinclair watched for a moment to see if whatever went under the surface would reappear, but it never did.
Jump ahead 22yrs to August 1970 and the next sighting is said to have taken place. During a family (last name unknown) birthday celebration, Shuswaggi is reported to have appeared. As the birthday party was coming to an end, the family packed up their car and started to head home. As the family made their way along the lakeside road, they noticed something odd moving through the water which was creating a good amount of disturbance. Originally thinking it was a log due its color and shape, the family was shocked to see the thing rise up out of the water and change direction before submerging. The father described the creature as looking snake like with grayish-green skin, no visible flippers, and possessing a body nearly 30ft long.
Finally, 14yrs later in June of 1984, we come to the most famous sighting of Shuswaggi. While out on their boat, Linda Griffiths and her children, as well as a family friend, witnessed something truly unknown. Roughly 200ft away from their boat, the water began to churn violently. Suddenly, a series of large humps broke the surface of the water and began undulation forward. Shocked at what was occurring, Linda grabbed a pair of binoculars and watched a large serpent-like creature with seven humps move in front of the boat. As the creature neared closer, it suddenly dove headfirst back under the water and out of view. The water went calm once again and Shuswaggi was not seen again. After the sighting, Linda described the beast as being around 25ft long with grayish-brown skin and no scales.
So what is Shuswaggi? Truth be told, nobody really knows. The descriptions vary from report to report and there are no videos or photos to help in determining what the animal could be. Many believers tend to lean towards the surviving plesiosaur theory, like that of the Loch Ness Monster, while others feel it could be some ancient Native American water spirit. Still others, like famous cryptozoologist Karl Shuker, feel that Shuswaggi may in fact be a surviving Zeuglodon. The Zeuglodon (also known as Basilosaurus) was a species of ancient whale that went extinct nearly 34 million years ago. The skeletons of these ancient aquatic mammals often measure between 50-60ft and have been found throughout North America. Interestingly enough, the appearance of the skeleton as well as artistic renderings of living Zeuglodons appear strikingly similar to eyewitness reports of many lake monsters.
Could this mean that when people lay their eyes on lake monsters, what they are really seeing is a rare surviving Zeuglodon? While mainstream science says no, those who are lucky enough to have seen something often say that anything is possible. Because for many, seeing is believing.
-The Pine Barrens Institute