Pterosaur-like Creatures Reported in Papua New Guinea

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Intermittent expeditions on Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea, from 1994 through 2004, resulted in the compilation of eyewitness testimonies that substantiated a hypothesis that pterosaurs may not be extinct.

The conflict between evolution and creation took a new form with an investigation of reports of a pterosaur-like creature in Papua New Guinea. According to standard models of science, all pterosaurs became extinct by about 65-million years ago, but traditional interpretations of the Bible suggest that they lived in human times. According to Jonathan Whitcomb, a forensic videographer who interviewed native islanders in 2004, the “ropen” of Umboi Island is at least similar to a long-tailed pterosaur.

He maintains that the creationists who explored the island intermittently from 1994 through 2002 were not overly imaginative in believing the creature to be a pterosaur. According to Whitcomb’s new book, “Searching for Ropens,” there are many similarities between American, Australian, and native eyewitness accounts. Ropens appear featherless with long tails, and reports indicate they eat fish.

Whitcomb, from Long Beach, California, disputes an old idea that they are misidentifications of Flying Fox fruit bats. Two natives described a ropen holding itself upright on a tree trunk (fruit bats hang upside down from branches), and his book also describes an apparently bioluminescent glow that may help the nocturnal creatures catch fish.

The puzzle for the creationist investigators is that they’re unlike Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur fossils in some ways: A few ropens are too large and have dorsal ridges along the back. In addition, some eyewitnesses report a head crest on the ropen while few long-tailed pterosaur fossils have such appendages.

Although Whitcomb admits having no photograph to disprove textbook declarations that all pterosaurs are extinct, he disputes the idea that the ropen is an unknown bat. His book examines an investigation by the explorers Garth Guessman, a Southern California firefighter; and David Woetzel, a New Hampshire businessman. Their 2004 expedition, a few weeks after Whitcomb’s, uncovered a native tradition about the ropen’s tail: It moves only near the tail’s base. This, says Guessman, relates to Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur anatomy.

Before his expedition to Papua New Guinea, Whitcomb questioned Duane Hodgkinson, a flight instructor in Livingston, Montana, who maintains he saw a large “pterodactyl” in 1944, near Finschhafen. The World War II veteran’s description resembles that given by a couple who saw a creature flying over Perth, Australia, in 1997. Whitcomb also noted similarities to native accounts recorded by earlier explorers on Umboi Island between 1994 and 2002.

Whitcomb found no indication of any hallucination or hoax with the two Australians and the American veteran. He also noted that the native eyewitnesses he interviewed mentioned no supernatural elements and that their descriptions resemble those given by the Westerners.

Around Manus Island, the wingspan is three to four feet, according to Jim Blume, a missionary in Wau, on the mainland. Blume’s investigations indicate that wingspans may reach ten to fifteen feet in other areas. Whitcomb’s book mentions a few ropens that are even larger, including the ones seen by Hodgkinson and the Australian couple.

The book acknowledges differences between the ropen and Rhamphorhynchoid fossils but it emphasizes that the “diamond” on the ropen’s tail may relate to the fossil tails.

Whitcomb, a 57-year-old independent videographer who records evidence for attorney firms, completed his book after one year of compiling and analyzing eyewitness testimonies. He encourages a major expedition to videotape a ropen before the end of 2007.


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