Searching for Ropens

Press Release, General News 03-Z

Long Beach, California, July 7, 2006

Pterosaur-like Creatures

Seen in Papua New Guinea


Jonathan Whitcomb

office: 562  989-1334

Long-tailed bat-like creatures seen in coastal areas of Papua New Guinea are, according

to a forensic videographer, pterosaurs, commonly called pterodactyls. The newly published book “Searching for Ropens,” by Jonathan Whitcomb, 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). The book also describes a seemingly bioluminescent glow that the rare nocturnal pterosaur-like creature may use to catch fish.


Whitcomb, of Long Beach, California, explored part of Umboi Island in 2004, videotaping native testimonies. Two more Americans, who followed him on a separate expedition, climbed mountains, interviewed eyewitnesses, and watched the sky at night. Although Whitcomb saw no ropen, his interpreter and one of the Americans saw a distant glowing object. Contrary to meteor flashes, the ropen’s five-second glow moves horizontally, just above the treetops. Five native eyewitnesses also described a long tail and bat-like wings.


Although Whitcomb admits having no photograph to disprove textbook declarations that the last pterosaur died 65-million years ago, he disputes the idea that the ropen is a different kind of creature. His book examines the investigation by the explorers Garth Guessman, a Southern California firefighter; and David Woetzel, a New Hampshire businessman. Their 2004 expedition uncovered a native tradition about the ropen’s tail: It moves only near the tail’s base. This relates to Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur anatomy, according to Guessman.


Before his expedition to Papua New Guinea, Whitcomb interviewed 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.


The ropen has a long beak or mouth and no feathers. 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 Hodgkinson’s.


Fossils of Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs are distinguished by their long tails. Contrary to some accounts of ropens, very few of these fossils show head crests. In addition, two ropen eyewitnesses described dorsal ridges which are not a characteristic of the fossils. Whitcomb’s book acknowledges differences and that ropens grow larger than Rhamphorhynchoid fossils but it emphasizes that the “diamond” on the ropen’s tail may relate to the tails of the fossils.


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 seeks funding for a major expedition to videotape a ropen before the end of 2007.