Setting aside Marfa Lights, for the moment, let’s consider where this all started: reports of living pterosaurs in the southwest Pacific, especially in Papua New Guinea. For those unfamiliar with that beginning of the investigations, glowing “dinosaurs” flying over southwest Texas can threaten some persons’ sense of security in their feelings about reality. We need to take this revolutionary idea (of pterosaurs living in the United States) in perspective; we need to know about reports from Papua New Guinea, and what is accurate and what is not.

I have researched the subject of living pterosaurs for seven and a half years, not just reading what others have written: I spent two weeks on Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea, in 2004, interviewing eyewitnesses of the ropen. But even before my expedition I interviewed eyewitnesses of pterosaurs or apparent pterosaurs. Other cryptozoologists came before me and after me, interviewing (in Papua New Guinea) natives who had seen large flying creatures or the lights attributed to them.

Some of what is repeated on web pages and in blogs is outdated, mistakes from earlier researchers. Let’s start with that.

Let’s consider an old mistake. To the best of my knowledge, there is no word “duah,” in any language in Papua New Guinea that refers to any flying creature. “Duah” probably comes from a misunderstanding by an English speaking researcher: “Duwas” is a word for a flying creature; it is not the plural of “duah,” and in fact “duah,” in Tok Pisin means “door.” (irrelevant to any flying creature) There is no such thing as a flying creature, real or unreal, called by natives, “duah.”

There is no scientific or well-documented classification system for large flying cryptids in the southwest Pacific, at least not enough for some of the things making the rounds online (like the “duah” is smaller than the ropen). Even the most knowledgable of living-pterosaur investigators is mostly ignorant of details regarding which types live in which areas. The idea that “duah” is a small species and “ropen” is a large species is ridiculous. I have also seen the reverse idea about size, but that idea is also ridiculous. Part of the problem comes from language diversity.

Americans sometimes forget about language complexities in some countries. In Papua New Guinea, different isolated human settlements have different languages. Words for large flying creatures vary considerably in this country. On Umboi Island, at least where I interviewed natives, the word is “ropen.” In other nearby areas (perhaps including part of Umboi), the word is “duwas.” On smaller islands to the southeast the word is “wawanar.” To the north, the word is “kor.” Near the city of Wau, on the mainland, the word is “seklo-bali.” A few mountain ranges to the west of that, the word is “indava.”

Another old mistake still repeated relates to misidentification. There is no bat in the southwest Pacific that has a tail that could be estimated to be “at least ten to fifteen feet” long. There is no bat, with a wingspan of over ten feet, that glows brightly. There is no bat (having a mouth “like a crocodile”) that can terrify a group of natives while that bat flies over a lake in the brightness of mid-day. Bat misidentification is ridiculous when we consider the important eyewitness evidences.

Here is a more-recent mistake: “This phenomenon—called the ‘Ropen light’—was observed at length and videotaped by researcher David Woetzel.” This appears to be a complex error, but let’s look at the simple side first. David Woetzel and Garth Guessman explored parts of Umboi Island in 2004, a fews weeks after my expedition. Woetzel witnessed the ropen light as it flew behind a mountain near Lake Pung; he had no time to grab his camera, so nothing was photographed or videotaped. Two years later, Paul Nation explored a different part of Papua New Guinea and videotaped what I proclaim is important historic footage of two indava lights. Somebody may have confused those two expeditions; that is the simple explanation. The more complex possibility is that somebody may have learned about a more recent expedition by Woetzel, one that was in a country other than Papua New Guinea (a secret location); there may have been video recorded there, but it is too secret for me to be informed about that, at least as of early January, 2011. Some people assume Woetzel had returned to Papua New Guinea; he did not.

I recently came across a blog post that included, “. . . the general consensus amongst orthodox zoologists that the creatures don’t exist . . .” I have no knowledge of anything like any “general consensus” of zoologists (regarding the possibility of extant pterosaurs), for the subject does not yet seem to have become debated much among them. A few paleontologists have carelessly dismissed living-pterosaur investigations, but those have been only a few. I suspect that many, if not most, zoology professors have not even heard or read about recent living-pterosaur investigations, and those who know about them have mostly given them little attention, surely not enough attention for them to come to any “consensus.”

With all that said, investigating reports of living pterosaurs is still a branch of cryptozoology, not a branch of science.

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There may be a connection between the indava lights on the mainland of Papua New Guinea and the Marfa Lights of Texas. Both kinds of flying lights are often seen in a group; both kinds confound common-place explanations; both kinds have been connected to living-pterosaur concepts; both kinds have been videotaped with camcorders or video recorders that have been insufficient to show details of form for the objects that create the lights. What we need are the expensive cameras that can pick up those details, for common video cameras are incapable of showing things close to a bright light source at night (similar to the problem the human eye has in discerning the features of a car that has its headlights shining into our eyes).

Paul Nation’s two expeditions deep into the interior of the mainland of Papua New Guinea, in late 2006 and in 2007—those have given new knowledge of the indava, although he was not able to personally see any detailed features of the creatures he observed at night; he saw only the lights produced by those creatures. But his associate, Jacob Kepas, did see one of the creatures and in daylight: The large indava was sleeping high up on a cliff, near Tawa Village.

I think it unfortunate that some critics point out what particular investigators have not experienced personally and fail to point out what others have experiences personally. For those who have read criticisms of the living-pterosaur investigations, have you noticed anyone comment on Jacob Kepas’s sighting in late 2006? It reminds me of a recent article printed in the Houston Chronicle, in which the things I have not experienced personally are emphasized and all the eyewitness sighting reports, seven years of investigations and eyewitness interviews, are completely ignored. What difference does it make that I, Jonathan Whitcomb, have not yet seen a living pterosaur, when countless people around the world see these creatures?

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Marfa Lights of Texas

On August 18, 2010, in sighting in North America, by Jonathan Whitcomb

Visitors who stop at the viewing platform, in this remote higher-elevation semi-desert area of southwest Texas, are unlikely to view any truly mysterious light on the particular night they happen to be driving through Marfa. The real Marfa Lights appear on just a few nights a year, although a nearby highway causes car headlights to appear mysterious to some viewers.

How do Marfa Lights relate to the Bible and to modern living pterosaurs? They only relate if those mysterious lights are related to the ropen lights of Papua New Guinea, for there the flying lights are the bioluminescence of large flying creatures described like nothing other than modern Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs.

But must those apparent pterosaurs (in Papua New Guinea, Texas, or elsewhere) be closely related to the fiery flying serpents of the Old Testament? Of course the ropen may differ greatly from the creatures that terrorized the Israelites who were led through the wilderness by Moses. Nevertheless, the potential similarities are striking.

The flying (and sometimes dancing) lights of Marfa, Texas, only show themselves a few times a year, in contrast to the counterfeit “strange” lights caused by headlights of cars on a nearby highway. But if those lights are caused by the same general kind of creature as the ropen of Papua New Guinea (large or giant featherless flying creature with a long tail), how would ancient people describe it? A featherless long-tailed creature that curled up its wings while in repose would surely bring to mind a snake. And the “fiery” part of “fiery flying serpents” could come from the glow, what we now call bioluminescence.

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Pterodactyls in Texas

Car Headlights or Pterosaurs?

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