The Ropen and Frigatebirds

By Jonathan D. Whitcomb

A critic of living-pterosaur investigations (Dean Traylor) wrote a post, “The Ropen Hoax,” in which he emphasized a misidentified frigatebird [undated post but copyright 2015]. Let’s look briefly at the strength and weakness of his post.

He starts by referring to a couple of Youtube videos, apparently two video segments of the same footage (I assume he refers to the same videos that I have seen). They were published on Youtube a few years ago, as if evidence for a ropen that was soaring over a shoreline in daylight. The flying creature is an obvious frigatebird, obvious to those who can recognize that oceanic bird. [It is sometimes spelled as two words: frigate bird.]

Youtube Video Weirdness

I’m pretty sure I know what videos Traylor refers to: a man with a Mexican-like accent calmly describes the flying creature, and one of the videos briefly shows a beach that looks much more like a beach of western Mexico than a beach in Papua New Guinea. I have never accused the producer or recorder of that video of dishonesty, but it looks weird to me.

  • Why does the hill have almost no vegetation at all?
  • Why do we see an apparent telephone pole on the hill?
  • Why do we see two cars parked on the beach?
  • Why is there not even one apparent native of PNG?

The above questions appear too much, in themselves, to allow the video to have much credibility, but the flying creature itself is the big problem: It is indeed a frigatebird; Mr. Traylor is correct there.

Soon after the two videos came out on Youtube, I tried to comment on them, but the producer’s setting would not allow me to make any comment. (Actually, I do not recall whether one of the videos or both of them were on Youtube during those first few months.) Yet I did write about the videotaped Frigatebird on some of my own blogs.

Whitcomb Writings on Frigate Birds and Ropens

I Googled Frigate bird ropen on August 5, 2015 and found five of the ten first-page results were my web pages, dated from 2010 to 2011. No other individual writer, it seems, has written more than I have about potential misidentification of frigate birds as apparent modern pterosaurs (this includes analysis of sighting reports of flying creatures that differ significantly from frigatebirds). Yet critics neglect to mention even one of my publications about the problems with those two Youtube videos.

I would probably not mention that, except for what Dean Traylor does mention in “The Ropen Hoax.”

” . . . cryptozoologists, fringe scientists, creationists and bloggers who were searching for proof . . . were . . . wasting no time promoting the videos.” [fourth paragraph]

One problem with Traylor’s post is that he gives no example or quotation here: What cryptozoologist, what fringe scientist, what creationist? When did any of my associates use one of those videos to promote belief in the ropen? If any one of them has made such a mistake, that person has probably long since corrected the error. But without any example, without any quotation submitted by Mr. Traylor, I do have doubts about his proclamation. (By the way, I do not consider the writer of a story on Salem-news-dot-com to be my associate.)

A little later in the post he mentions me: “cryptozoologist Jonathon Whitcomb.” Later still, he implies that maybe my associates and I were responsible for the videos. If only that skeptic had attempted elementary research! Just a quick Google search with something like “frigate bird ropen” would make it obvious that I have been telling people, for years, that the videos show a frigatebird, NOT a ropen. In other words, Traylor wrote a post that can easily lead people to believe something that is the direct opposite of the truth.

Please be aware: I do not imply that most of the post by Traylor is misleading or fallacious. It does have many truthful statements, although some of them land off the mark.

Cryptozoologists Mentioned in “The Ropen Hoax”

The following names were mentioned in the post written by Dean Traylor:

  • Carl Baugh
  • Paul Nation
  • Jonathan Whitcomb [spelling corrected]
  • David Woetzel

He calls Paul Nation “a self-proclaimed ‘living-pterosaur investigator,’ adventurer, and cryptozoologist.” But if you look deeply, using a Google search on the words “living-pterosaur investigator,” it appears that those are my words, not Paul Nation’s, and I usually use them when I refer to myself (or to my associates in general when the word “investigator” is in the plural). Nation hardly ever mentions himself or labels himself, especially when compared with all that I have written about my associates and me. “Self-proclaimed” applies much better to me.

Comparing Ropens and Frigatebirds

But let’s now look at the differences between these two kinds of flying creatures.

Early in 2015, I recorded video of a frigatebird flying over a beach of a Caribbean island. Notice details in the following images taken from my video.

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underside of a frigate bird - closer

Notice the white portion; it appears to be a female frigatebird (definitely not a ropen)

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"Gitmo Pterosaur" sketch by Patty Carson

Eyewitness sketch of the flying creature seen in Cuba in 1965 (definitely not a frigatebird)

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sea-going frigate birdNotice the lack of any appearance of a neck on the frigatebird [unlike the ropen]

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U. S. Marine's sketch of two pterosaurs observed in Cuba

A different eyewitness sketched what he saw in Cuba in 1971

Notice the similarities in the two sketches of ropens in eastern Cuba. The single flying creature was sketched by Patty Carson, who saw the featherless “dinosaur” in 1965. The two “pterodactyls” were sketched by Eskin Kuhn in 1971. Both sightings were at the American military installation at Guantanamo Bay.

Now please notice how much the sketches differ from the images I captured of a frigatebird that I videotaped on an island east of Cuba. The ropen has a long neck and a long head crest.

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frigate bird flies a bit towards cameraThe frigatebird has no head crest

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Nobody that I know of has proclaimed that a frigatebird cannot be misidentified as a ropen. The oceanic soaring bird may give one the impression that it has no feathers, and it does have a long tail. But the ropen has often been described as having a long neck and a long head crest, both of which are absent in frigatebirds.

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How Absurd! A Frigate Bird!

I’ve lost count of how many times I have responded to that video footage, explaining that it does not show any ropen but only a common ocean-going bird. [< written in 2010.]

Evidence of Modern Pterosaurs or Ropens

Many persons in Western societies, including in the United States, are blind to ideas that run contrary to deeply-entrenched assumptions.

Frigate Bird Misidentification

You would think the humble Frigate bird incapable of masquerading as a featherless pterosaur with a wingspan of a Piper Tri-Pacer airplane, but some skeptics appear to be ignorant of the 1944 “pterodactyl” sighting by the U.S. serviceman Duane Hodgkinson.

Ropen Creature

At least five light expeditions, 1994-2004, were conducted by American creationists, including Carl Baugh, Paul Nation, Jonathan Whitcomb, Garth Guessman, and David Woetzel. [Now, there have been additional expeditions]

Ropen TV Episode

I believe that Josh Gates did very well in the limited time his team had in their ropen search.

Rhamphorhynchoid Pterosaurs and ropens

On a clear spring day in 1994, the two eyewitnesses there [south of Sacramento, California] saw a flying creature, apparently featherless, with long thin tail and a “pterodactyl-like head.” They were sure that it was living, not a kite.

Ropens and the Disappearances of Children

The creature flew “straight up” and over a mountain ridge near the intersection of Allen Avenue and Altadena Drive [north of Pasadena, California, in the 1960’s]. The wings were wide and long, and the wingspan was the “length of a bus.”

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