Searching for Ropens
. . . About the ropen, believe what you will; what do I think about this creature? Such is the power of the testimonies of the eyewitnesses I’ve encountered, that it’s as real to me, almost, as if I had stared it in the face. . . .
To the honest in heart who commonly recognize the
truth, even when it appears uncommon. You are the most likely to befriend a peaceful union between objective scientific inquiry and spiritual vision, for you love the truth.
Prelude to an Expedition
It looked like a dead pterodactyl: not fossil bones
but with skin, like it had died recently. Could these creatures, non-extinct, still fly? Although I never verified the authenticity of the photograph in the soon-forgotten library book, this idea—living pterodactyls—would be awakened four decades later, plunging me into the most dramatic adventure of my life: exploring a remote tropical island, searching for giant living pterosaurs.
Eyewitnesses on Video
Earlier Expeditions . . .
. . . after a large funeral procession arrived at the burial location, a creature with a glowing red tail came from the sea. (The tail was described like the glow from burning embers.)
. . . the boys ran home in terror. A few months later, in front of the video camcorder, Gideon answered questions, nervously. He described the ropen as skinny, and the size was “house to house” . . .
. . . The villagers heard the noise but came too late. The huge creature lifted the man off the ground, dropping him before picking him up again, then carrying his body . . .
World War II Sighting
Giant “Pterodactyl,” 1944
. . . “a perfect side view which clearly showed the long beak and appendage protruding from the back of its head. . . a Piper Tri-Pacer airplane . . . twenty nine feet . . . it appeared . . . about that size.”
Hodgkinson . . . is a certified flight instructor with over 13,000 hours of flight time.
The Perth Creature, 1997
. . . “having been brought up in a family of law and telling the truth was drummed into me from the time I could understand . . . I was simply telling the truth” . . .
. . .“and yes, we believe it did have a tail, and don’t believe they were feet, but actually a tail. It had a lizard appearance, and was a ruddy reddish brown colour. . .”
. . . “my wife has been corresponding with you concerning a certain sighting we witnessed near the coast of the Indian Ocean in Perth” . . .
. . . “The wings were the most definite leathery feature. They were shaped in a triangular arch, similar to a very elongated shark fin.” . . .
Deciding to Go
. . . unfortunately, many who promote molecules-to-man philosophy do so in the name of “science” while ignoring contradictory evidence. . . .
To Umboi Island
Faith; New Friendships
. . . I asked, “Do I need to pay you to go with me?” He de-clined, saying that it was just for friendship. This appeared to be the sign for which I had prayed. When I told him I needed an interpreter, he suggested one of his three brothers. . . . Luke
. . . As the ship plowed through the temperate night, I began talking with those around me. They were curious why an American was going to Umboi Island. When I told them I was looking for a creature called ropen, they became interested. Some had heard about the creatures, and Gibson Kuvurio, from Pilio Island . . . told me about the legend of wawanar, the dragon that flies around at night: It “owns the land and the sea.” Many gathered around us as I related what I knew about the ropen . . .
Opai and Gomlongon
Welcome to the Wilderness
. . . . Our first adventure appeared safe: riding over the waves, in a banana boat . . .
After we pulled away from the dock at Lab Lab, I noticed both the lack of sunscreen among my supplies and the lack of tree canopy over the sea . . . my frail white skin could soon be non-white. . . .
. . . As the boat owner was expecting less weight, we had to stop at a small island to refuel. The boat was low in the water from the overweight luggage, of course, for Luke, David, and the boat owner all had the slim build of young islanders. . . .
. . . because I had to stop often to catch my breath, the porters left Luke and me far behind. . . .
. . . a few days later, I would learn that on this same trail Luke and I were climbing, a man had recently seen, at night, a glowing ropen. . . .
We didn’t rush off to a mountain because villagers expected a funeral procession for Tarawe Village within two days, and Mark felt it might offend the mourners if we marched along that road immediately before the funeral. We waited, but later accidentally managed a different way to offend the Tarawe Villagers.
Two Nights on a Hilltop
Ropen Bait; Rumor of Bandits
. . . Descending to the streambed, we were struck by the smell; further upstream we rested at the hot springs where odorous gas bubbled to the surface . . .
I expected no ropen encounter that first night; nevertheless, after the sun set, a din of chirps, calls, hoots, warbles and sounds without category soared unceasingly through the night air.
Daylight Encounter . . .
. . . “Did you notice . . . did it have wings?”
. . . Gideon said, “Yea.”
. . . “About how large were the wings” . . .A villager came to my rescue with a few words in the local village language. . . .
Gideon said, “Sefan meeta.”
. . . “Seven meters? OK. . . . you call it a ropen?” . . .
When I asked about feathers, he gave me the puzzled look.
“There’s no feathers.”
Low on Food and Money
. . . later I would realize the significance of Jonah Jim’s testimony: The glow that flies around at night is the same kind of long-tailed creature seen by Gideon and his friends. . . .
Guessman and Woetzel
. . . Guessman interviewed Pastor Jacob Kepas, who was twelve years old when he saw what we believe was a ropen. One night, he heard a “woosh” of wind and ran outside to see the seklo-bali that had just flown over his village. . . . The boy caught only a brief glimpse of the back of the wings and tail. . . .
[on Umboi Island, at Kampalap Village] . . . The creature flies to a promontory north of the village, landing and waiting on the tree tops before flying out to the reef.
[Woetzel’s sighting] . . . this thing was different. . . . different in coloration . . . almost golden and shimmering around the edges. . . . There was no tail and it was flying horizontally from Mt. Barik toward Mt. Tolo.
. . . the men found Jonah Jim, the same young man I had met . . . a few weeks earlier. Guessman’s interview was more thorough. . . .Only the tail was glowing and it was blue . . . The “wingspan” was six to seven meters . . .
. . . a Rhamphorhynchoid?
In light of the failure of competing ideas, in light of the consistency and credibility of the eyewitnesses, in light of the abundance of supporting ideas, ropens are living pterosaurs, and future expeditions—major expeditions—deserve support.
Quotations from the Second Edition of the Book
“I sat up till nearly 4 a.m. reading your book.. . . personally I think you have done a brilliant job of it. Its full of humor and spirituality. Every page was interesting!
Your honesty in the book really shone through and it was just such good reading. Loved it!”
“I read the book cover to cover in the first 48 hours after I received it (it was hard to put down). The author does a great job of laying out the known facts about the Ropen.
“I was equally fascinated with his personal account of summoning up the courage to go on the trip in the first place. The book was as much . . . about finding the courage within you to do something extra-ordinary as it was about a possible cryptozoological event.”
Alex Aguila, Florida
Second Edition, 2007
Searching for Ropens
From readers of the first edition:
Gideon Koro, of Umboi Island
Composite sketch by Whitcomb and Guessman