The two expeditions of 2004 lifted the prestige of the ropen of Umboi Island. Before about mid-2007, I believe, “ropen” did not have its own page on Wikipedia. This nocturnal flying creature has elevated the concept of living pterosaurs, in recent years, at least among some cryptozoologists. But a few major organizations, at least with one writer each, have rebelled against this little upstart cryptid that has a wingspan sometimes reaching over twenty feet. The rebel organizations have included the Smithsonian and the Houston Chronicle newspaper. I have lived moments when I almost felt alone in defending the Alamo. Nevertheless on my right shoulder and my left shoulder have eyewitnesses have stood by me, reloading my guns. Eyewitnesses now deserve recognition, even though medals of honor must wait for the end of the battle.
Lab Lab is on the east coast of Umboi Island (the island, in Papua New Guinea, is called “Siasi”). A few ropen sightings have been reported from Lab Lab. (I recorded this image soon after my interpreter and I had arrived on Umboi.)
Ropen of Umboi Island
Natives of Umboi Island have several languages or dialects, with Kovai being spoken in Gomlongon Village. In Kovai, “ropen” refers to a nocturnal flying creature or spirit that glows for a few seconds at a time as it flies between a mountain and a reef or from mountain to mountain at night. They do not confuse the ropen with the Flying Fox, for the fruit bat does not glow and is much smaller. The Kovai word for that bat is “byung.”
A woman describes how the glowing ropen flew over Lab Lab, Umboi Island, one night. This interview was probably conducted by the American Carl Baugh, during one of his visits in the 1990’s (one or both men were interpreters for Baugh).
Michael, of Opai Village, saw the glow of the ropen as it came down to a recently-dug grave in Gomlongon Village in 1949. In the morning, the grave was open and the human body was missing. Michael saw the glow with his own eyes (“Mi Lukim tru”). I interviewed Michael while visiting Opai Village in my 2004 expedition.
Garth Guessman took this photo of Lake Pung during the 2004 Woetzel-Guessman expedition, a few weeks after my expedition. The two Americans stayed for only a few days and nights on the windy mountain overlooking this crater lake. Unfortunately they had arrived there after the ropen had flown off to another location. Woetzel and Guessman were inadvertently following the ropen‘s path, unable to catch up with the nocturnal flying creature.
I interviewed Gideon Koro in his village, just south of Lake Pung, where he and six of his friends, around 1994, had been terrorized at the sight of the giant flying ropen. On that day, seven teenagers (perhaps some of them pre-teens) had hiked up to look at the crater lake. Very soon after their arrival, the featherless creature flew over the surface of the lake and the boys ran home. During my interview with Gideon, in 2004, he thought carefully before answering my question about the length of the tail of the ropen that he had observed. He looked back and forth at the ground to his left while I waited for his answer. He then looked me in the eye and said, without flinching: “Seven Meetuh.” There is no way that he could have seen a fruit bat flying over a lake and misidentified it as something with a tail seven meters long (23 feet).