MORIAH — Champ hunter Katy Elizabeth couldn’t believe her eyes when she looked at sonar images she’d taken on a cruise near the Moriah-Westport town line on Lake Champlain.
As the director of the Champ Search group, she’s on the lake almost every day in the summer looking for the legendary Lake Champlain monster.
It was the end of the day and her boat, which she named “Kelpie,” was running out of gas, she said.
“I saw two weird things moving on the sonar,” she said. “I looked down at the display and said ‘what are they?’ They were about 165 feet down. I took 65 pictures (sonar images).
“I didn’t look at them closely until the next morning.”
What the Ferrisburg, Vermont resident saw astonished her — the photos showed what appeared to be massive creatures with long necks moving below her boat.
“When I saw that head looking back at me, I started crying. I was shaking. I knew it was Champ. There were two animals.”
The closest creature was about 25 feet long, she estimated.
“He looked annoyed. I think the sonar is very sensitive to their ears. It was amazing. There are protuberances on their heads, maybe for echo location.”
Champ has been seen since since only Native Americans lived around Lake Champlain, she said, going back hundreds of years.
“For them to be in the lake that long, there has to be a breeding population of the animals. There can’t be just one.”
She said the animal did not resemble a plesiosaur, a prehistoric marine reptile often suggested as Champ.
“It was something else. I’m still working on what species it might have been.”
The next step is to return to the same location and continue the search, she said.
“We’re going to go back out there. We’ll start from Arnold’s Bay in Panton (Vt.) and head across the lake.”
Katy Elizabeth, 34, said she’s had about 10 above-water sightings of Champ since she started looking for the creature seven years ago. She became fascinated with the Champ legend while watching an episode of the “Unsolved Mysteries” TV show that featured the creature.
She had her first sighting in August 2012, while staying at the Button Bay State Park campground near Vergennes, Vermont.
None of her previous sightings were definitive, she said, but this one might be.
“It’s pretty promising. I’ve sent the sonar images off to a analyzation expert I know, for optical analysis. I don’t think it’s a mammal species. We’re dealing with a reptile.”
She said she’s taken photographs on her other sightings, but the creature was too far away or the light was too dim to get a sharp, clear image.
She’s also writing a second book on her search for Champ. The first, “Water Horse of Lake Champlain,” is available from Amazon.com and local businesses like Champ’s Trading Post in West Addison, Vermont.
“It will be out later this year,” she said. “I have to add a chapter on this latest sighting.”
Some people have told her they disagree with her findings, she said.
“Anyone that truly knows my way of research, I am not the type of person to exaggerate,” she said. “I also take utmost pride in this work, as well as always keeping a logical way of thinking.
“My protocol involves biology as well as supporting material to come to any of my own conclusions. There are too many theories out there that are unsupported; that is not my style of thinking or how I present my research findings.”
She’s now writing a report on the Aug. 5 sighting, she said, and plans to submit everything for peer review when it’s done.