Thursday, February 16, 2006

There be Dragons

Mark Richey—ace alpinist, retired president of the American Alpine Club, business owner, family man, generally level-headed guy—swears he saw a sea monster in January. Richey was climbing an ice pillar high above Lake Willoughby in far northern Vermont with Joe Terravecchia, and both of them saw what Richey described as a 20- to 25-foot humped creature that swam around the unfrozen lake for 45 minutes before diving and disappearing. He said it looked just like, well, Nessie. To those who have seen the Lake Willoughby monster before, he goes by Willie. And apparently he's not the only sea creature plumbing the depths of northern Vermont. Lake Champlain has Champy, and Lake Memphremagog has Gog (or Memphre, depending who you ask). Skeptics abound, of course. Sightings of Vermont's sea serpents have been ascribed to bobbing logs, beavers towing bushes and swimming moose. Cornered later, Terravecchia allowed, "It could have been a sturgeon." But Richey is sticking to his story. Willie's 1,600-acre home lake is 300 feet deep and it's hard to see much of the surface from anywhere except, say, hundreds of feet up an ice climb. Since the combination of well-formed ice climbs and an unfrozen lake surface is quite rare, who knows? Maybe these guys really did see something. Or maybe it was just the whiskey talking.

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