The Patagonia region of Argentina is a popular vacation destination. There are mountains, lakes, resorts and lake monsters. Nahuel Huapi Lake, a 342 mile lake located at the foot of the Patagonian Mountains in the Nahuel Huapi National Park. On the shores of the lake is a one of South America’s most popular resorts The Bariloche. Here is where many of the 100,000 plus yearly visitors claim to have encountered Nahuelito, named for the lake it is said to reside in,
Sighting of an unknown creature in Nahuel Huapi have been reported since 1897 but the first notable account was in 1922 when an American gold prospector named Martin Sheffield made a report to Dr Clementi Onelli the Director of the Buenos Aires Zoo. Sheffield stated that he had come across huge tracks and crushed bushes and undergrowth leading to the lake shore. He also state that in the middle of the lake he saw “an animal with a huge neck like a swan, and the movements made me suppose the beast to have a body like that of a crocodile”. There have been numerous reports since then. All claiming the creature to have a long neck, serpent like head and large clumsy body with many flippers and dark humps.
With the Sheffield sighting added to the sporadic reports he had received over the years Dr Onelli decided to mount an expedition led by Jose Chiagi, superintendent of the Buenos Aires Zoo. The proposed expedition ran into several problems. Namely, the conservationist attitude of many Argentinians towards Nahuelito. Dr Albarrin, president of the Society for the Protection of Animals petitioned the prime minister to refuse permits for the expedition on the grounds that since the expedition was carrying dynamite for mining the lake and elephant guns it would be in violation of the laws permitting the hunting of rare animals. The permits were issued but due to delays and public outrage the expedition was not long lived or successful.
The most well known Nahuelito sighting occurred in 1910 but was not reported until the height of the expedition controversy in 1922. George Garrett was managing a shipping company on Nahuel Huapi when his incident was supposed to have happened. He told the Toronto Globe that they were sailing up and inlet called “Pass Coytrue” which is about 5 miles long , a mile wide and of unknown depth. He stated that he looked up toward the center of the inlet and saw an object which appeared to be 15 or 20 feet in diameter and perhaps 6 feet above the water about a quarter of a mile from his ship. After a few minutes it disappeared under the water. Garrett also stated that upon mentioning this experience to his neighbors he was told that the Patagonian Indians often spoke of immense water animals they had seen from time to time.
Sightings of Nahuelito continue today. In 1994 two young ladies vacationg at the resort claimed to have seen the creature surface for several minutes then submerge. They claim that 45 minutes later the creature surfaced again and began heading towards where one of the young ladies was sitting on a rock outcropping. The young ladies ran away in terror.
In April 2006 a man walked into television station El Cordillerano Edicion and handed the receptionist an envelope. In the envelope were three photos and a note claiming they were pictures taken at Nahuel Haupi Lake on April 15, 2006. The note also stated that he was not giving his identity because he did not want and future headaches over it. The photographs showed a serpent like creature swimming through the water. Skeptics quickly dismissed the photographs. The items pointed out to debunk the photos include the apparently static positions of the creatures head,neck and mouth and the lack of any discernible wake.
Although the photographs have failed to provide proof of Nahuelito did increase the interest in the creature and what it could be if it does in fact exist. There are several theories floating around. The most popular is that it is a surviving plesiosaur or descended from another prehistoric creature , the Zuelodon. Supporters of the Zuelodon ( which was a snake like whale) site the fact that a lot of the sightings report that a spout or spray of water precedes the creature surfacing. Less popular theories include a mystery submarine patrolling the lake and a nuclear experiment gone wrong.
I have yet to make up my mind on this one. New species of animals and animals we believe to be extinct are found all the time and reports of Nahuelito have been around for over a century. Attached are the two photographs that were given to the television station. As always, you be the judge.