In the world of mysterious lake creatures, the Loch Ness Monster is the Kim Kardashian of the aquatic cryptid world – the biggest and best known but still making surprise appearances in its quest to stay in the spotlight. Other lake monsters, like the lesser Kardashians, have limited success against the Nessie publicity machine and the Prespan Lake Monster, which may have made an appearance this week, is a prime example. The what?
What is generally referred to as the Prespa Lake is actually two lakes – Golema (Great) and Mala (Small) – that are bordered by Macedonia, Albania and Greece, making them part of the Balkan Peninsula and the highest lakes in the Balkans (855 meters). Settlements on the islands in the lakes date back to the 10th century and wildlife is abundant, including 9 fish species known only to Prespa Lake – and one monster.
Like the Kardashians, lake monsters are everywhere in the Slavic countries from Russia to Macedonia. They include the Brosno Dragon of Brosno Lake in western Russia; the Lake Somin Monster of western Ukraine; the Water Bull of Rabisha Lake in Bulgaria; Besi, the Bela Crkva lake monster in Serbia; and the monster of Prespa Lake.
While long rumored, the most famous sighting appears to have occurred five years ago when something was seen in a photograph of a couple standing in front of the Greek section of the lake near the village of Nivica. The BBC investigated (link to video) but was able to find nothing.
The latest sighting (link to video) comes from the Albanian village of Pretor. Like the 2012 image, the shape seen has the classic long-necked Nessie-is-a-plesiosaur look of a small head far above the water, slowly sinking away. Most reports, like the one in The Mirror, quote an interview with local celebrity and monster expert/debunker Sima Jonoski, whose claim to fame is that in 1970 he became the first person to successfully swim across the lake. Unfortunately, the lake has also swallowed many others, including a ship that sank with children on board.
“I remember when a ship sank in Albania, near Mali grad, a lot of children drowned in Prespa Lake. Then I found out that the divers who searched for them saw great catfish. They were so scared that they stopped the search. I think that it was one of those catfish that the Greek fishermen saw.”
That would most likely be a Wels catfish, the largest true freshwater fish that can reach up to 5 m (16 ft) in length and weigh over 300 kg (660 lb). However, the Wels catfish doesn’t have a long neck like the thing seen in either one of the photos. That’s when Jonoski goes from skeptic to …
“Sometimes things happen in Prespa Lake that don’t happen in other lakes. When I was a teacher in 1976 I saw a large pillar of water rising near the border with Greece, shaped like a mushroom. It came down only after 10 to 15 minutes.”
Is Prespa Lake hiding something else besides a monster … something supernatural, other dimensional or a military secret (the Greek side was used during the Greek Civil War from 1946-1949)? The thing definitely doesn’t look like a log or a catfish. Hoax? If it’s real, will Macedonia and Greece claim it’s actually theirs?
Whatever it is, it doesn’t look like anyone will be swimming across Prespa Lake anytime soon.