The Mysterious Lake Monster

Sprawled out just south of Mount Ararat in Eastern Turkey is the country’s largest lake, called Van Gölü Canavarı, or more commonly just Lake Van. It is an impressive body of water, covering a surface area of 3,775 km, 119 kilometers across its widest point, and with a maximum depth of 451 meters, and it also is known for its rather unique qualities. It is one of the largest endorheic lakes in the world, subject to massive fluctuations in water levels, and despite is vast amount of water, its extreme alkaline, carbonate, and salt levels make it largely devoid of any large aquatic organisms, with the only known fish here being a type of chub called the pearl mullet, which feeds on the generous amounts phytoplankton zooplankton found here. However, if reports are to be believed there is something much larger that also calls this place home, often reported as being a reptilian beast around 50 feet long, with mottled skin and spikes, spines, or triangular humps present on its back.

Stories of something strange inhabiting Lake Van go back centuries. It has been speculated that tales of “water dragons” from Armenian folklore called Vishaps have been present here for centuries, and there is apparently a church on a lake island called called Akdamar Island that carries an engraving of one of the creatures in the lake dating back to 915 AD. However, perhaps the earliest documented news report of something bizarre lurking within Lake Van comes from the Ottoman Period, when in the year 1889 three men were on a journey through the area on their way from Tatvan to Ahlat and stopped to rest and set up camp at the lakeshore, at the time undoubtedly not expecting at all what was to happen next.

Lake Van, Turkey

According to the report, which was carried in the Ottoman newspaper the Saadet News, at one point they made their way to the water’s edge in order to wash their hands, and as they did an enormous and very fierce monster came surging up from the depths to attack them. The beast allegedly grabbed one of the men and began to drag him into the water, and although the others tried to fight it off with fire they were unable to overcome its immense strength. The creature purportedly thrashed wildly and let out an ear piercing shriek before bolting under the waves with its still screaming victim, the body of which was never found.

It seems the monsters of Lake Van were then banished to obscurity for years, with only sporadic unconfirmed sightings, until they hit the public consciousness again in the 1990s with a series of high profile sightings. On November 2, 1995, the Daily Telegraph printed an article saying that the Turkish provincial deputy governor himself claimed to have seen it. According to the article, this sighting was enough to launch a full search for the beast, with the paper saying:

Turkish authorities are sending investigators to the country’s largest lake to look for what witnesses have described as a dinosaur-like monster. A parliamentary commission has agreed to send a search party designed to unveil Turkey’s version of the Loch Ness Monster, after the provincial deputy governor claimed to have seen it.

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Ragnar Larsen