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Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Possible Pterosaurian Sightings, Continued

The continuing Message String as of Wednesday night:


I believe that my “sighting” does correspond with some descriptions of the Ropen. I know three missionaries (currently residing in Washington) that saw the Ropen in New Britain Island on numerous occasions and they are fairly close with what I saw. I have also spent hours talking with investigators like Garth Guessman and Paul Nation – it seems there is adequate reason to not exclude the pterosaur hypothesis.

You and I must think alike, because I have also thought about it being a large woodpecker. As a matter of fact I’ve seen a Pileated Woodpecker twice. If there were woodpeckers with a crest-like feature (as some have) and with an 8 foot wingspread, I would consider the possibility more seriously. Interestingly, the crest was the same color as the head and beak (and yes, there was enough light to see it properly. The crest, beak, and head almost seemed to be one piece – I don’t recall any outstanding marks or lines differentiating them (I know the illustration depicts some of that though). The crest and beak were about the same size.

[In reply to earlier post of mine not printed here]
Good point, I sometimes wonder if I saw what has been called the “Batsquatch” since I don’t live a terrible distance from the region where the legends originated.



Dear Phillip,
By now you should have seen the first posting of the message string on the blog. With your permission, I should like to continue the string.

As I mentioned before, it seems there is another large-bird Cryptid involved in Ropen sightings in New Guinea, a giant Hornbill from whence come some of the "horned head" sightings. It is known from another place under another name and recognised there as a different Cryptid. I have some good drawings of it and it does seem to sit up in a tree like the creature you saw did. But Ropens do not ordinarily seem to do that at all, all my information has them seen at the seaside or over the sea, and diving into the sea. Furthermore a wingspan of "only" 7-9 feet is in no way comparable to one of twenty feet or more-especially when the twenty-foot wingspan creature also has broader wings in proportion making the kite-shaped or rhomboid outline. The creature you saw seems to have had its wings folded neatly in "Bird" fashion and in fact that is what I noticed first about these drawings I consider to be a giant hornbill-the wings are folded up in the manner a conventional bird folds its wings. Needless to say, a Pterosaurian would NOT fold its wings the same way, the wings are structured quite differently.

I do not wish to sound insulting but it seems to me that if your contacts are seeing something like you are describing and then saying that they are "Ropens" then they must have some overly-zealous reason for describing them as such because the descriptions as I have heard them do not match at all, partly for these reasons as I am explaining them to you. If they do have better information to the contrary I should like to hear it. Otherwise I would suspect that they are being overly imaginitive in their assessment.

A Pterosaur would not roost in a tree in an upright position BTW and an actual Pterosaur would also have a furry coat. We have fossils that preserve the fur, and a Pterosaur's feet are not fashioned that way. A downed Pterosaur would walk like a bat because its feet are jointed on that way.

However it is quite possible that you saw some sort of large bird with an unusual crest, it does have several distinctly birdlike features. Which is why I suggested a giant woodpecker and made up the demonstration for you, just so you would see how close the resemblance was.

I am not inherantly against the possibility of Pterosaurian sightings, it is just that nearly all of the reports supposedly describing living Pterosaurians get several of the features wrong, such as the extent of the wing membrane, length of the tail in a large-sized Pterosaur (the ones with the longer tails are the smaller-sized Rhamphorhynchids), the lack of a furry coat, and getting the posture of the body wrong during perching. On the ground, the most of the weight would be taken on the forelimbs (wings) because that is where the largest mass of the body is and that is where the most of the muscular strength is (the breastbone/chest area)-the rear legs are quite puny in comparison. Besides, we HAVE Pterosaur tracks and they show the creatures to have been normally quadrupedal on the ground. The marks of the clawed wings are quite distinctive.

I am simply giving you the facts as they are best understood at this point. I DO think that you saw something very large and unidentifiable-but more likely an unusual bird rather than anything else. What surprises me is that it is even too small to be considered a kind of Thunderbird sighting-Thunderbirds are ordinarily at least twice the size again of what you are describing. But SOME Thunderbird descriptions say it has a crest in the back of the head, or a horn, or two horns
(? longer plumes at the back of the head?)

Best Wishes, Dale D.

Representation of a "Pteranodon" sighting off of Bali, from a German-language website

The problem is and has been all along that Ropen sightings do not correspond closely to the known anatomy of Pterosaurs and especially not Pteranodon. The wings of Pteranodon were much too long and thin in comparison. While Pteranodon wingspan was exactly comparable to the width of a manta ray, the breadth of the fins of a manta ray make for an entirely different shape, more of a diamond shape: and of course the manta has no signs of feet sticking out the back end. Nor do Ropen reports. The Ropen shape OTHER than the assumed head and neck is exactly a match for a manta ray. Including the long, thin tail which a Pteranodon (or any comparably large Pterosaur) would NOT have. And the two fins a manta has in the front of its mouth exactly match witness' drawings of the ropens head when they are seen from the right angle.

I reiterate the statement that the image of a Pteranodon with a long tail does not derive from Paleontology, it derives from TV cartoons in the 1960s. And NONE of the supposed "Pteranodon" sightings is actually describing anything remotely like the appearance or life postures of a Pteranodon. To beat the dead horse again, Pteranodons were likely to be quadrupeds on the ground because their top part greatly overbalances them. The head is much larger than the entire body is (Phillip's sighting includes a body that is already much larger than a Pteranodon's, both relatively and absolutely). And they were furry, not smooth and naked. Many sightings moreover specify actually "Bat" wings which is again wrong: bat's wings are supported by several fingers and the Pterosaurs' wings only by the one outer or "Little" finger.

I find this whole discussion really ironic because Papua New Guinea IS a place where there are depictions of creatures which look very like Pterodactyls in Native Art. I have no copies that I can post, unfortunately the SITU files contain all of my material which I submitted to the SITU before it closed down, from about 1990. But these creatures as represented are not Ropens, they are much smaller and more like Pterodactylus rather than Pteranodon. I had sent in this information to both Sanderson and Heuvelmans but neither one of them offered me any comment or evaluation of the artwork. I rather guess that critics would say the representations
I am refering to meant to depict frigate birds.

Best Wishes, Dale D.


  1. According to Wikipedia, the definition of "ropen" is "any featherless creature that flies in the Southwest Pacific, and has a tail-length more than 25% of its wingspan." Close examination of the testimonies of the three American eyewitnesses of the flying creatures on New Britain Island reveals that they did not see the ropen but something with a short tail.

  2. ..And therein you see my other argument that there is another, different creature involved in Ropen sightings (aside from mere "Spook Lights")
    In the Torres Strait region between New Guinea and Queensland, Australia, there is supposed to be a tremendouis flying bird the same size as the Ropen is said to be (allegedly a twenty-foot wingspan) this is the Cryptid Giant Hornbill the Kusa Kap. Karl Shuker mentions this in his book The Beasts That Hide From Men on page 168, from a statement made by an 18th century Naturalist. I have a very good drawing of one and it is clearly a hornbill, presumably at the size of a large eagle (that is, probably 150% the size of a rhinoceros hornbill, or 200% at most-making it at a 10 foot winspan) I am willing to say that wiotnesses might have estimated its size as twice too large: park rangers have stated that as a general rule of thumb in estimations made of unfamiliar species in other circumstances.

    I had always intended to make up another blog posting on this, but right now the main problem is that I do NOT have permission to publish the material in my possession.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.


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