The first-season television broadcast of an episode of Destination Truth (on the SyFy Channel), in 2007, involved a search in a jungle in Papua New Guinea, looking for a dinosaur-like animal that somebody suggested might be an iguanodon. That was on the island of New Britain, just east of the smaller island of Umboi (home of the ropen).
In the first half of the third episode, broadcast in 2007, a Destination Truth team searches for a ropen in Salamaua, Papua New Guinea. I found it interesting that they sometimes used the word “ropen,” even though that word is used by Kovai-speaking natives on the island of Umboi; in other villages in other areas of Papua New Guinea, “ropen” means nothing or something other than a large featherless nocturnal flying creature that glows.
Josh Gates seems to lead all the expeditions, in all seasons of Destination Truth, and he often does well in working through problems that would cause most people to give up entirely. In the ropen episode, the expedition team began searching for a promising cave on the eastern coast of the mainland of Papua New Guinea. At first, they were led up into a jungle by a native guide who eventually admitted that he was not sure where the cave was located: the trees were the wrong size. Josh took charge and led the team out of that jungle, and they discontinued using that guide.
When the explorers did find a cave, Josh led the camera operator in exploring it. They found bones, eventually many human bones, and quickly exited that cave. To their credit, the team then set up four video cameras to continuously monitor what was around the cave, in four directions.
They located a distant flying light, something far beyond the cliff, something quite bright (considering the distance). The video recording of that flying light was later taken back to the United States for analysis. The two video experts found nothing common about the image: not a camera aberration, not anything that would discredit the bioluminescent-flying-animal idea. I praise the Destination Truth team for that successful episode.
Josh finds many bones, possibly human, in the cave
Flying light image from one of the video camera recordings in Salamaua
I’m thinking about a particular native who was interviewed by Josh Gates, during the Destination Truth expedition of 2007: Fabian.
But what do all those numbers mean? What can we learn? Perhaps the most important is that no hoaxes played any significant role in the sighting reports.
David Woetzel and Garth Guessman succeeded in their 2004 expedition on Umboi Island, even though they failed to get a clear view of a ropen, for their interviews with native eyewitnesses proved of great worth in their cryptozoological investigation. To the expedition of these two American creationists, I devoted a chapter, in my nonfiction book Searching for Ropens (this book is in its second edition, with the third edition now being written). Woetzel and Guessman deserve more credit than a brief reference in Wikipedia, so I quote from the book, although only in brief summary:
Kepas [interpreter] accompanied Guessman and Woetzel to Umboi Island, but rather than take a boat, as I had, they flew in a small plane, searching the landscape as they passed over the center of the island. . . . they flew directly to the northern coast which they followed to the air strip at Lab Lab.
Here the three ropen investigators met Peter (Pita) Ake, magistrate of Mararamu Village, and the four men took a banana boat along the northeast coast. . . . Stopping to refuel at Kampalap, they learned that villagers occasionally see the ropen as it leaves a cave, most recently, three weeks earlier. . . . The creature flies to a promontory north of the village, landing and waiting on the tree tops before flying out to the reef.
Guessman, Kepas, Peter, and Woetzel continued on the banana boat northwest, leaving it near Aupwel, where they were greeted by many local villagers. An older man, Patrik Sual (whose ancestors lived near or on Mount Sual) told the investigators that he sees the ropen once a month, only from a distance; it flies from mountain to mountain. . . .
[In the first major trek on foot] . . . passing between the mountains Barik and Sual, they arrived at Arot Village where they made friends with local men and prepared for the excursion up to Bono, the crater lake of Mount Sual.
Guessman interviewed Jonathan Ragu, of Mararamu Village, who saw a ropen in July of 2004, when he and his daughter were at a beach. Between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. . . . it flew away from the northwest coast of Umboi Island, heading toward Tolokiwa Island (northwest of Umboi). Glowing brightly red and white from the head and trailing edges of the wings, it flew fast, at tree-top level. . . . nose-to-tail length was eleven feet. From thirty-four silhouettes of bats, birds, and pterosaurs, Ragu chose the Sordes Pilosus, a Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur.
They had many more interviews with eyewitnesses and explored some of the central areas of Umboi Island. They stayed for a few more days than my own two-week expedition, which was a few weeks earlier than their expedition. Woetzel had a sighting of the ropen light one night, briefly and at a distance. That deserves another quote from the book.
Woetzel reported to me, “My sighting was so quick that it was impossible to get a video–maybe two seconds. The light was very different from what Garth and Pastor Jacob saw. I suspect theirs was a meteor. I also saw some meteors while on night watch. They were whitish in color and had a tail. But this thing was different. It went about as fast as a meteor, but it was very different in coloration . . . almost golden and shimmering around the edges. It looked like an old-fashioned street light in the fog. There was no tail and it was flying horizontally from Mt. Barik toward Mt. Tolo.”
Woetzel continued, “I . . . saw it streaking across the horizon and disappearing behind Mt. Tolo. The size, color and speed made it immediately stand out as unlike any other thing I’ve ever seen in the sky. . . . Woetzel estimated the angular size to be 20%-25% of a full moon and said, “. . . larger than any meteor I’ve ever seen.”
For an introduction to ropen expeditions in Papua New Guinea, read “Basics on Living Pterosaurs . . .” (It includes a correction to a mistake about Woetzel’s ropen-light sighting.)
Of course undue attention to the opinion of “tiny minorities” may be inappropriate in the biography of a living person (BLP), in an encyclopedia or similar publication; but with a giant like Wikipedia, there is an unspoken policy that resembles this: The virtual policy of “popular opinion rules.” This unofficial policy comes unavoidably from the nature of Wikipedia: an open platform for writing and editing.
I would not change Wikipedia; I would encourage knowledge and understanding of popular opinions in Western culture. Wikipedia makes many research projects much easier, but we need to remember that it comes mostly from writings of those who comply, at least to some extent, to popular models; concepts not based on standard axioms of developed nations are not portrayed in a positive light, in general, if they are portrayed at all.
So what do I suggest about Wikipedia? Use it when popular Western ideas are not a problem; do not use it to research something unorthodox at its roots. Of course, I am thinking about modern living pterosaurs. In particular, consider those Americans who have investigated eyewitness reports that suggest extant pterosaurs. Wikipedia has a somewhat informative page on the ropen; it includes informative reference URL’s as well (mostly quite positive towards researchers and investigators).
But the Wikipedia page itself tells us little about the investigators; it mentions names: “Carl Baugh, Paul Nation, Jonathan Whitcomb, David Woetzel, and Garth Guessman,” mentioning that they are American creationists who seek to “discredit mainstream scientific views on the age of the Earth.” As of July 19, 2010, almost nothing else is said about them, although Baugh has his own Wikipedia page (very negative about him, by standard BLP policies). So let’s now consider those three investigators who do not have their own pages on Wikipedia (Nation, Whitcomb, Woetzel, and Guessman), using CreationWiki:
As a living-pterosaur investigator, Paul Nation, of Granbury, Texas, conducted brief expeditions in Papua New Guinea in 1994 (with Carl Baugh), 2002, 2006, and early 2007 (Nation became involved in living-pterosaur expeditions because of his professional experience handling large ratites–flightless birds like ostriches–and their eggs). The earlier two expeditions were searching for the ropen of Umboi Island; the latter two, for the indava of the mainland interior.
While viewing an expedition video by Paul Nation, he noticed a high level of credibility in the testimonies of eyewitnesses of what is called the ropen of Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea. He then became involved in living-pterosaur investigations, exploring part of Umboi Island in 2004. Although he failed to see any ropen, he interviewed native eyewitnesses. In 2006, Whitcomb wrote the book Searching for Ropens. In it he criticizes the standard model of universal and ancient pterosaur extinction and criticizes the General Theory of Evolution.
David Woetzel, a New Hampshire businessman, is an active cryptozoology explorer, having searched for the Mokele Mbembe in Africa and the ropen in Papua New Guinea. His 2004 expedition to Umboi Island, with Garth Guessman and Jacob Kepas, resulted in detailed interviews with villagers. In addition, Woetzel himself saw what investigators believe was a bioluminescent ropen (a living pterosaur) one night as the distant glowing form flew behind a mountain. Like Whitcomb, Woetzel has written a scientific paper about living pterosaurs (both articles being published in the peer-reviewed Creation Research Society Quarterly).
Garth Guessman, of Southern California, explored (with David Woetzel and Jacob Kepas) Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea in 2004, searching for ropens. This resulted in one brief and distant sighting by Woetzel and in many formally conducted interviews with native eyewitnesses.
Guessman’s knowledge of Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur fossils allowed him to notice an important clue about the ropen‘s classification. The two explorers learned that the native traditions describe the ropen‘s tail as being stiff, never moving except near where it connects to the body. Guessman recognized that this relates to the stiffening extension rods of Rhamphorhynchoid vertebrae: all but a few vertebrae are locked into stiffness; the few that are flexible are near where the pterosaur’s tail connects to the body.
Strange Flying Creatures — Lack of fairness from critics
“The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.” I believe Nikola Tesla was thinking clearly when he said that. I also believe that we need clear thinking in the scientists of today, at least as much as in the time of Tesla. It appears to me difficult to define, although its opposite appears easy to expose. Perhaps we should be grateful for extremes that help us to distinguish between foggy and clear thinking. I suggest a couple of examples.
A few years ago, a critic of living-pterosaurs investigations appeared offended that I had, on one of my own web pages, included a link to a creationist site; he demanded that I remove that link, insinuating that I should not be taken seriously because of that link. I now suggest that those who can be offended by such a thing should consider this: Bias is not necessarily confined to those who disagree with you.
I later found a site produced by another critic; he used the words “lies” and “stupid” in his URL, with the content of his site ridiculing me and my associates. Not to repeat much of the content, I simply refer to part of it: He declared that “John Whitcomb” had been sponsored by Carl Baugh and led a group of creationists in an expedition in Africa; I have never gone by the name of “John,” have never been sponsored by Carl Baugh for anything, have never led any group of creationists on any expedition anywhere, and have never set foot in Africa.
Regarding his URL, I have told the truth, not lies; I hope that he was simply ignorant of my intentions. I make no comment about “stupid,” although I sometimes admit that my general intelligence may be inferior to that of some of my readers and my education may seem less impressive than that of some of my critics (not, it seems, this one), but let’s return to ”clear thinking,” for that is the subject.
I admit this subject cries for me to dig more deeply and learn more about human thinking, but one thing is obvious: We need to listen to each other, regardless of previous disagreements and regardless of differing labels. Truth can be found in the thoughts of those appearing to be most ignorant and foolish. Even my own most vehement critic did reveal some truth about me: My last name is “Whitcomb” and I am active in promoting the concept of modern living pterosaurs; this critic may have actually helped promote awareness of the case for living pterosaurs.
By the way, I did explore a remote island in Papua New Guinea (north of Australia) in 2004. I traveled to P.N.G. alone and found an interpreter on the mainland, before taking a small ship to Umboi Island. I interviewed many eyewitnesses of the ropen. My associates and I are convinced that this nocturnal flying creature is a modern Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur.
My critic may have confused Papua New Guinea with a small country in Western Africa. He may also have confused me with John C. Whitcomb who wrote The Genesis Flood many years ago. He may also have been confused by my assistance from Paul Nation, who was once a close associate of Carl Baugh. He may also have been confused about the two expeditions of 2004, for the second one was led by two American creationists and they followed my expedition by only a few weeks.
After I had replied to this web site, stating the inaccuracies, changes were made, including the correct spelling of my name: “Jonathan Whitcomb.” The newer page mentions nothing about my being in Africa. I appreciate that correction.
But many other inaccuracies were added, related to sightings and the living-pterosaur investigations. For example, the two indava lights videotaped by Paul Nation in 2006 were compared with high-speed UFO’s (the two lights were actually sitting motionless on the top of a nearby ridge). The critic mentioned those videotaped lights “flying in the sky above the peaks of volcanoes located on Umboi Island created by creationists possessing fake credentials.” (I suspect he was trying too hard to cram too many criticisms into one sentence.) At any rate, the videotaped lights were on the mainland of Papua New Guinea, nowhere near Umboi Island. I’m afraid that the critic has a problem with clear thinking, for he still tends to become confused.
I don’t know why this critic uses the words “lies” and “stupid” for me and my associates; I assume that it is also from some kind of confusion.
Objective interview methods of Guessman & Woetzel (2nd Umboi Island expedition of 2004)
“Objective Ministries” is a parody or hoax. The university is nonexistent. There’s no “objectiveministries.”
Late in 2006, Pastor Jacob Kepas was interviewed by Paul Nation, in a hut in Tawa Village, deep in the mountainous interior of the mainland of Papua New Guinea. Kepas had recently climbed up a hill adjacent to a cliff where some of the nocturnal flying creatures sleep during the day. He was accompanied by a local villager who confirmed that what was on that cliff was indeed an indava, the creature that glows at night.
During the videotaped interview, Kepas and his guide described how they had observed the sleeping winged creature. They had tried to videotape it from the hill they had climbed, but the resulting footage was poor, perhaps from a combination of inexperience of the camera operators and the distance involved (Kepas was observing it through binoculars). But even with binoculars, Kepas had been uncertain that it was the creature that they sought until his guide climbed up higher for a better view, confirming that it was an indava.
But that was not the first time that Kepas had observed a strange flying creature. When he was a boy, in another area of the mainland of Papua New Guinea, he had seen a seklo-bali as the glowing creature had flown overhead. Researchers believe that the seklo-bali, ropen, and indava may be closely related or even the same species of bioluminescent flying creature, apparently living pterosaurs.
Regarding the objectiveness of Kepas, in his 2006 sighting of what was identified as an indava, consider this: Kepas himself voiced his uncertainty that what he was observing was the creature that they had sought; the distance and viewing angle made identification difficult. After the other man had climbed higher, obtaining a better viewing angle, it was confirmed to be an indava. This confirms that Kepas is capable of objectiveness in his observations, for he did not force a conclusion when the conditions were inadequate for certainty.
In this 2006 expedition, Nation and Kepas were flown into the remote mountainous area by missionary pilot Jim Blume, who has been a great help, for many years, in living-pterosaur investigations.
See also “Fight With a Kor in Northern Papua New Guinea”