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There aren't many biological phenomena that could account for a majority of Ogopogo sightings, but there's one that's frequently suggested which scientists agree may be a culprit: the sturgeon. The sturgeon is essentially a living fossil, unchanged for hundreds of millions of years. It can live for more than a century and grow to enormous sizes-over 5.5 metres and over 1,000 kilos. It's big, ugly, and somewhat horse-faced with knowing, unnerving eyes. A row of regularly spaced ridges runs down the centre of the dorsum; these could resemble humps with a sturgeon lolling on the surface. Largely a denizen of former glacial lakes and river systems, this elusive bottom-dweller rarely surfaces, making it hard to either find or catch without a struggle-a de facto freshwater monster.
It's a fishy anachronism capable of evoking plenty of reptilian speculation. As one internet ichthyophile notes: "If you...look into the eyes of a sturgeon, there are unfathomable depths there that take you back millennia; they take you back ages...And having looked into the eyes of a sturgeon, you can fully understand that these animals swim practically unchanged from the way they were when dinosaurs walked the earth."
There are sturgeon all over Okanagan Lake. In fact, divers working on the floating Westbank-Kelowna bridge frequently report being nudged by the giant, curious fish. I'd call that a pretty good reason for a lot of crazy ideas.
There are no rattlesnakes on Rattlesnake Island. The rabid Reverend Mackie from nearby Vernon made sure of that. In the 1930s, the biblical literalist launched a personal campaign to eradicate this scourge. He spent 20 years clubbing snakes, dynamiting dens, perpetuating the serpent's satanic image. The local populace followed suit. Rattlesnake Island got cleaned off early; any snakes that swim across the 150-foot channel these days get hacked up by the kids who party on the island. But back in the day, when they were busy cutting snakes in half with shovels and flinging the remains into the lake, no one caught the irony in vanquishing one monster to make money off another.
I'm thinking about rattlesnakes, religion and rationality when I climb into my tent. I try to sleep, but the night's endless audio distractions make it impossible: the wind moving what it will around, the sound of tiny animals going about inexplicably large business, and, of course, the restless lake, watery face of mayhem and mystery. In the end, I pass the hours burning handfuls of grass, listening to the waves play their soupy symphony along the grottos.