Luke Kenda, interpreter, and Jonathan Whitcomb, explorer, waiting for a ship to take them to Umbo IslandPterosaurs Still Living

Ropen Expeditions of 2004

Pterodactyloid pterosaurRhamphorhynchoid pterosaur

Jonathan Whitcomb returned to the U.S. on October 15th, after staying two weeks on Umboi Island. Although he obtained no photos or video footage of ropens, he found many valuable eyewitnesses whose testimonies he recorded  and  later analyzed.  The  first  film camera was given to one of the leaders in the village of Gomlongon. On October 17th, David Woetzel and Garth Guessman left the U.S. with a number of  additional  cameras for the local islanders to use in photographing the ropen. Yes, “the ropen!”  One of the amazing  findings of this expedition was that only one large ropen lives continuously in the interior of Umboi Island. One more surprising finding: It’s a Rhamphorhynchoid! Not only is it a tailed-pterosaur, but it’s much larger than any known fossilized Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur.


Woetzel and Guessman visited some of the same villages as Whitcomb plus additional mountains and villages on the northern side of the island. They spoke with many eyewitnesses and learned that the traditions in one area of Umboi Island correlate perfectly with what Western scientists know about  the internal structure of the tails of Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs. This seems to be a new evidence the ropen is a Rhamphorhynchoid. Additional cameras were given out to some key individuals in certain villages.

Mt. Bel is no longer the first- choice  mountain for  those investigating ropens on Umboi, for it’s often  cloud-covered.

Pterosaurs Still Living, Home           Umboi Island Eyewitnesses            Web Map            Video of Gideon Koro            Expeditions for Pterosaurs

Jonathan Whitcomb on Umboi IslandMount Bel, Umboi Island

Jonathan Whitcomb near Gomlongon Village on Umboi Island in Papua New Guinea

Luke, from Lae, Papua New Guinea, was interpreter, bodyguard, and counselor to American Jonathan Whitcomb.

Villagers of Opai, Umboi IslandMid-close-up of the native Gideon Korononfiction book Searching for Ropens, front cover

The nonfiction book Searching for Ropens (Living Pterosaurs)

The 2004 interview with Gideon was truly enlightening. He revealed that the ropen’s tail was “seven meter” long; that’s about twenty-two feet.

Opai Village, Umboi Island


Ropens are not confined to one island in Papua New Guinea. They’re rare enough, however, that even on the islands where they live, some local people have never seen one. (They’re mostly nocturnal.)


“Pterosaur” is what people usually mean when they say “pterodactyl.” “Pterosaur” is the general classification for reptilian-like flying creatures.

small Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur

Three Americans Explore Umboi Island