Still Living

Woetzel-Guessman Expedition

Pterodactyloid pterosaurRhamphorhynchoid pterosaur

(Umboi Island, known to the nationals of Papua New Guinea as Siassi, is in Morobe Province, west of New Britain Island.)

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David Woetzel, Garth Guessman, and an islander friend

The American explorers David Woetzel (left) and Garth Guessman (lower right) made many friends on Umboi Island, including this villager. Some of the islanders were so touched by the friendliness of the ropen investigators that they adopted the visitors into their families, giving them new names. Woetzel and Guessman were invited to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in one or two villages.

Searching for Ropens

on Umboi Island


On October 17, 2004, Garth Guessman, of Southern California, and David Woetzel, of New Hampshire, left the U.S. for Papua New Guinea. One of their goals was to explore some of the northern areas of Umboi Island. Most of the previous explorers, who had visited this remote island to investigate reports of the large flying creature known as “ropen,” stayed in the southern villages. Jonathan Whitcomb, who had been to Umboi Island just a few weeks previous to Guessman and Woetzel, interviewed villagers in Opai and Gomlongon. But people in northern villages, such as Arot, had a wealth of information on the elusive nocturnal ropen. In addition, Guessman and Woetzel camped on two mountains near crater lakes, including Pung and Bono.


While near the village of Arot, Woetzel got a brief view of the ropen light just as it was passing behind one of the nearby mountains. Woetzel says it was different from any light he had ever seen in the sky, without any meteor tail and “shimmering around the edges.” It was flying close to horizontally, and, significantly, towards Lake Pung.

Lake Pung, a crater lake on Umboi Island

Over this crater lake, on a remote tropical island, flew the giant ropen that terrorized seven boys in 1994. This photo was taken by Guessman, ten years later.

David Woetzel on Umboi Island

David Woetzel saw the ropen light one night, near Arot Village. This may have been the best sighting by a Westerner in many years on this island. It lasted only two seconds—no time for a photo.

native's wooden carving of a strange creature

Special thanks to Guessman and Woetzel


How might these strange wooden carvings in Port Moresby relate to the creatures seen in many coastal areas of Papua New Guinea? Living-pterosaur investigators believe that these works of tribal art are supporting evidence for the existence of the ropen.

Leonard, native of Opai Village, Umboi Island

Special thanks to Guessman and Woetzel


Guessman and Woetzel also visited Opai and Gomlongon Villages. Here, Leonard describes to the two Americans how the ropen flies over Opai towards the sea. He sees it about once per month as it glows at night. Other villagers confirmed that the creature flies over villages sometimes.

Jacob Kepas tells of his sighting to Garth Guessman and Mr. Blume

Special thanks to Guessman and Woetzel


Guessman (left) interviewed a local pastor, Jakob Kepas, regarding his sighting of a flying “seklo-bali,” that investigators believe is similar to the ropen; they both glow.

Missionary Jim Blume describes his sighting

Thanks to Guessman and Woetzel


Missionary Jim Blume saw a small glowing penguin-shaped figure, but no detailed features. (1996, near Manus Island, north of Umboi)

notebook with sketches of birds, bats, and pterosaurs

Interview Methods


Woetzel and Guessman used sketches of many birds, bats, and pterosaurs, to test native eyewitnesses for possible misidentifications. The results were consistent: The ropen is unlike any bird or bat, but it is like a Sordes Pilosus, a Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur.

nonfiction book Searching for Ropens

Read many more details about the 2004 expeditions in the book Searching for Ropens by Jonathan Whitcomb.