Theropod and sauropod dinosaurs sighted in PNG?
Published: 1 July 2008 (GMT+10)
Therizinosaurus-like dinosaur sighting in West New Britain
Since the 1990s, a large ‘reptilian’ creature has been sighted occasionally on Ambungi Island in West New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Ambungi Island is located on the south coast of West New Britain between Kandrian and Gasmata. The creature has also been sighted on Alage Island,2 about 1km to the south of Ambungi Island.
I interviewed a young man on Ambungi Island, Robert (see figures 1 and 2), who sighted the creature around 2005/2006. The creature was also sighted at the same time by Tony Avil, who was not on Ambungi Island when I was there. Robert does not speak English, so an interpreter was used to translate Pidgin to English.
The creature was described as having a long tail and a long neck and was 10–15 metres in length, with an appearance like a ‘very large wallaby’ and having a head like a turtle’s head.
It walked slowly on two legs and had smooth, shiny brown skin. The top of the head was estimated to be as high as a house and the underbelly of the creature was as high as an adult.
The creature was described as being fearful-looking, with the sighting being made from a distance of about 50 metres. The sighting was made in the late afternoon and was observed for a considerable length of time (not sure of the exact duration of time) and the creature was eating vegetation. Robert and Tony followed the creature from a distance and watched it go into the water after it finished eating.
When shown the handbook by Hazel Richardson, Dinosaurs And Prehistoric Life3 (cover shown in figure 3, Robert identified a picture of a Therizinosaurus as closely matching the animal he observed, with the exception of one feature, i.e. the creature’s head.
The animal that Robert saw had a head looking more like a turtle’s head as opposed to the horse-like head shown in the theropod dinosaur reconstruction on page 114 in the book. (See figure 4.) Should one wonder at this? Actually, paleontologists are reported as acknowledging that the fossil remains of Therizinosaurus are incomplete. So incomplete in fact that:
‘The feeding habits of Therizinosaurus are unknown, since no skull material has ever been found that could indicate its diet.’4 [Emphasis added.]
So it doesn’t surprise me that the artist’s reconstruction of the head of a Therizonosaurus doesn’t fit with the ‘like a turtle’s head’ observation of Robert and Tony. (For a creature that appears to spend much time in the water, I would think that a turtle-like head makes good design sense, too!)
Nine people have seen the ‘reptile’ since the early 1990s, with sightings occurring every 4–5 years, usually around Christmas time. Perhaps the creature is primarily nocturnal, which might account for the small number of sightings. Two women from Ambungi Island observed the creature from a boat on the south (unpopulated) side of the island as it was standing on some rocks at the bottom of a cliff. (See figure 5)
The animal has also been sighted swimming between Ambungi Island and Alage Island with its head above the water. I drew the outline of a three-toed foot of a dinosaur in the sand and Robert said that this was similar to the foot of the creature, with the feet being similar to that of a duck. About 90 people live on Ambungi Island, and 2-3 families live on Alage Island. The reptilian creature must be a good climber because Robert showed me the steep rock entrance from the sea to the land on the south side of Ambungi Island that the creature used when he sighted it. (See figure 2.)
I did not have the opportunity to travel to Alage Island to interview the local people there about the ‘reptilian’ creature, however I met a guy named Michael Atung from a logging company on the New Britain mainland near Abungi Island who was from Alage Island. Michael had heard that it had been sighted on Alage Island, but had not sighted the animal himself.
Sauropod sighting near Gasmata
One afternoon late in 2005, three people from Awrin Island, near Gasmata in West New Britain, Papua New Guinea, were on the beach on the south side of the adjacent unpopulated Dililo Island5 (figure 6) when they observed an amazing creature moving in the water.
Simon Patolkit (lay preacher for the Catholic Church on Awrin Island) and his wife Margaret (figures 7, 8) described their sighting of the reptilian creature to me through an interpreter who translated from Pidgin to English.
The creature had a long neck and a long tail and had a total length of about 20 metres and a width of about 2 metres. The head was described as being ‘like a dinosaur’ with an ‘oval-like face’.
The top of the legs of the animal were visible above the water, with the water being used to support the weight of the animal’s body. The skin of the animal was described as being ‘like a crocodile’ and was khaki green in colour. Dermal frills (possibly indicating the animal is a male?) could be seen on the creature’s back, extending to the back of the head. Something was observed protruding from the back of the creature’s head. The creature’s neck was almost horizontal during the sighting. Details of the creature’s eye and mouth could not be determined, as the observers were about 30 to 40 metres from the animal.
The sighting occurred for less than 30 seconds, until the reptile sunk into the water. No sound could be heard from the creature by the observers. The creature has not been observed since this sighting in 2005.
The only known animal that fits the description of this animal is a sauropod dinosaur, such as an apatosaurus.
This is not the first time that dinosaur-like creatures have reportedly been sighted in Papua New Guinea—see e.g., A living dinosaur? If ever a ‘living dinosaur’ is found and confirmed to the satisfaction of the scientific fraternity, many people would be astonished, given the prevailing evolutionary view that dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. Christians, however, should not be surprised, as the Bible teaches that God created the dinosaurs only around 6,000 years ago. (See also The ‘Lazarus effect’ : Rodent ‘resurrection’! and ‘Coelacanth’ yes; ‘Ancient’ no.) So we needn’t be too taken aback if a theropod or sauropod dinosaur is ever confirmed to be living in the world today.
- The author acknowledges the help of local interpreters. For the Ambungi Island sighting, the interpreter was a man named Thomas, and for the Dililo Island sighting, it was a woman named Helen. Return to text.
- Alage Island is also known as Aiu Island. Return to text.
- Richardson, H., Dinosaurs and prehistoric life, Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London, UK, 2003. Return to text.
- Wikipedia, Therizinosaurus, acc. 24 June 2008. Return to text.
- Also known by the locals as Apulu Island. Return to text.