What is a Ropen?
Pterosaurs Still Living: Ropens
What are the flying creatures called
“ropens” on Umboi Island?
How often we've been taught that all dinosaurs
and pterosaurs became extinct millions of years
ago, as if that were proven! But what if some are
still living? Before you dismiss the concept of a
modern pterosaur (in particular, of a long-tailed
featherless Rhamphorhynchoid), consider the many
eyewitness testimonies of those flying creatures.
The following compilations of many eyewitness
testimonies are taken in the context of a few of
the second-hand accounts, with conclusions by
Jonathan David Whitcomb. More than one species
of long-tailed pterosaur may live in the Southwest
Pacific, in modern times, even now.
Reports of smaller ones, less than three meters
in wingspan, in the Manus Island area of Papua
New Guinea (second-hand accounts) might be
juveniles of the same species as the larger ones
on or around Umboi Island. We need much more
information, at least in detailed sighting reports.
We have reports of modern pterosaurs in other
parts of the world including the United States:
California, Washington State, Oregon, Arizona,
Utah, Maine, Ohio, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Georgia,
North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania,
Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas,
Oklahoma, Kansas, and other states. But for now
we examine sightings in Papua New Guinea.
Those who have searched for a large nocturnal
flying creature in Papua New Guinea call it by
the name known on Umboi Island: “ropen.”
With hundreds of cultures, and languages in
Papua New Guinea, a real creature should have
different names in different cultures. This is the
case, with other names for large nocturnal flying
creatures: duwas, kundua, kor, seklobali (also
spelled “seklo-bali”), indava, and wawanar. But
those names may refer to just one or two species.
It is nocturnal, but a few reports of daylight
sightings (1, 2, 3, 14, 24) reveal much about the
shape and features of the ropen.
After exploring Umboi Island in 2004, Jonathan
Whitcomb (author of Searching for Ropens and
Finding God) concluded that there is only one
large ropen living continuously in the interior
of Umboi Island, but many live on the mainland
of Papua New Guinea. He believes that the big
Umboi ropen is an older adult that has staked
out the larger mountains and the reefs that
surround the island. It's probably not the same
creature that was reported on Umboi Island in
1949: (11) grave robbery witnessed by Michael
of Opai (an old man interviewed by Whitcomb).
This island appears ideal for the species and large
ropens may claim the interior mountains of some
similar islands. The nocturnal creatures may do
better when they can sleep in daylight in secure
nesting areas on mountains close to the reefs of
Described in terms that, to Westerners, suggest
a Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur, the ropen lives in
tropical areas of the southwest Pacific. (13, 14, 18,
19, 21) It’s main diet may be fish or other oceanic
life that it catches at night with the aid of a
bioluminescence that may attract fish. (11) This
bioluminescence seems to be controlled by the
creature, within limits.
It can be attracted to carrion. On Umboi Island,
it used to be attracted to funerals, before coffins
were used. (11, 19, 20, 21) In addition, the ropen
is reported to carry giant clams into mountains
where it feeds on them (18), but this idea (from
the Woetzel-Guessman expedition) needs more
investigation through expeditions.
After Whitcomb learned of a cryptozoological
search in North America, with observations in
2007, he came to believe that some ropens eat
bats, although this may be only part of their diet
in this undisclosed location in North America,
and this could very well be a different species
than the flying creature of Umboi Island.
Most eyewitnesses of the ropen see only a glow
as it flies over land (6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 18, 21, 23).
The glow is also used to attract fish or other sea
creatures at the surface of the sea at night (11).
These two cases of light emission may or may not
be of the same degree of luminosity.
On Umboi, the light emission is brief: about 5-6
seconds (4, 5, 18). It may begin quickly and end
quickly (4) or dim gradually (5) until the light is
gone. One native told explorers that the ropen’s
light is never on for more than 5-6 seconds (18).
It’s used over the sea (4) or near the beach (5),
but it's usually seen over land and against a
The mouth of the ropen has been described by
one native eyewitness (Gideon Koro) (1) as like
that of a crocodile. That is, it resembles the
mouth of a crocodile compared with other
fauna on Umboi Island (Gideon’s testimony is
generally supported by 2 and 3). Others describe
it as resembling a bill somewhat similar to a
pelican's (21). Note that a crocodile’s mouth
has some general similarity to the beak of a
pelican in that it is relatively long and narrow.
Teeth, or their absence, is rarely noticed.
The ropen, with no feathers (1, 13, 19), is faster
than birds, slower than airplanes. (12,18)
Some ropens are described as brown (1, 22),
“black or dark brown” (24), or a light reddish
tan (13). One report indicates that on Umboi
Island they are dark or dark-grayish with dark
bluish spots (21), and outside Umboi Island
some are tan brown with dark spots. (21)
One Umboi eyewitness appeared to report that
the length of the tail is similar to the "wingspan,"
(1) but he probably a misunderstood the English
word “wingspan” and was referring to the size
of one wing. (Gideon himself did not use the
word “wingspan.”) Around Western Australia,
the body may be a bit shorter than the tail (13).
Some say the tail has a “diamond” or flange-
shaped structure. (1, 2, 3, 21) while others have
noticed no such detail but suggest it ends in a
point (15). This difference in testimony is most
likely due to a difference in point-of-view.
When the creature is seen from another
perspective, the flange is not visible as such
(or at least it’s not as obvious a structure). A
compilation of data from 128 of the more-
credible sighting reports (up to the end of 2012)
reveals that 28.5% of them include some kind
of description of a structure that suggests a
Rhamphorhynchoid tail flange. Very few of
those reports, if any, suggested a tail ending
in a point.
A tradition in north-central Umboi Island was
related to David Woetzel and Garth Guessman
regarding the ropen's tail. Can the tail move or
Have all species of dinosaurs and
pterosaurs been extinct for a long time?
Garth Guessman interviewed Duane Hodgkinson
Copyright 2004-2014 Jonathan Whitcomb
bend? The tradition says that it is always straight
except at the base where the tail connects to the
body. This correlates precisely with the biology
of the tails of Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs.
They could not (or cannot) move except by a few
vertebrae closer to the tail base. This is more
cryptozoological evidence that “basal” long-tailed
Rhamphorhynchoids are extant, not extinct.
Dorsal bumps or ridges are on the tail (1, 15) and
on the back of the head, over the neck and back
(1), although firsthand reports of this are rare.
The wings resemble the wings of the Flying Fox
bat, at least somewhat (1,21). But local villagers
are very much aware of the bat. (AKA “blak
bokus” in the Tok Pisin language or “byung” on
Umboi Island, in the Kovai language) There's no
confusion between bat and the ropen.
Some eyewitnesses report an appendage at the
back of the head (14, 15, 21); Some report that the
ropen has “hands” half-way up the wings (21).
At a close to moderate distance, big ones can be
terrifying to local villagers (1, 2, 3, 16, 17, 21).
On Umboi Island, it has a wingspan of “seven
meter” (twenty-three feet) (1). One seen over
Perth, Australia, in 1997, had a wingspan of
“30-50” feet (13). One seen in 1944, on the main-
land of Papua New Guinea, near Finschhafen,
had a wingspan close to 29 feet (14, 22). Some in
northern PNG are smaller, (21) with wingspans
of 3-6 feet. It is possible that these smaller
creatures may be a different species of ropen,
or even another type of pterosaur, but it seems
more likely they are juvenile ropens.
The ropen of Umboi Island sometimes flies over
the villages of Gomlongon and Opai (11, 19) or
between the south coast of the island and Mt. Bel
(and between mountains). It also flies to the
northern coast where it will rest on a particular
tree on a peninsula. (18)
Two native hunters watched a ropen hold itself
onto the trunk of a tree in an upright position
(19). This may be one of the reasons that local
legends refer to the ropen as being like a man or
changing into a man. Young boys and men climb
coconut trees by using a similar technique of
holding onto the tree trunk. Aside from humans,
probably the only living thing with two legs that
is seen to hold onto a tree trunk, in an upright
position, on Umboi Island, is the ropen.
Although this apparent extant pterosaur on
Umboi Island does not seem to be much of a
threat to humans, there have been reports, in
other areas of Papua New Guinea, of attacks
on natives. One man died while trying to catch
a ropen; after he found it sleeping on a beach,
he tried to tie the creature to a log (19). Another
man died when he was attacked in his garden
(21). A number of the local villagers witnessed
his body being eaten by the creature after they
arrived to see what the noise was about (21).
The creatures that are darker in color may be
more aggressive (21).
Since the early 1990’s, at least eight Americans
have been to Umboi Island, either searching for
ropens or interviewing native eyewitnesses.
One of the early expeditions was near a small
island in the northern part of PNG. In 1996,
the missionary Jim Blume saw a small glowing
form in the night, on a hill overlooking a
mangrove swamp. This is assumed to have been
one of the smaller of the creatures reported to
live in the Manus Island area, though the form
was vague. (21)
David Woetzel saw the ropen-light briefly in
2004. He saw no shape to the glowing object,
but it was heading towards the Lake Pung area,
where several eyewitnesses had previously seen
a giant featherless flying creature.
Paul Nation videotaped the “indava” light late in
2006, on the mainland, northwest of Port Moresby.
The video footage was analyzed by the missile
defense physicist Cliff Paiva: There was no
common-place explanation for the videotaped
lights. (See Contents of the scientific report on
the apparent bioluminescent indava lights.)
In-person interviews by Jonathan David
Whitcomb in 2004 (Papua New Guinea):
1) Gideon Koro, Umboi Island (close, daytime)
2) Wesley Koro, Umboi Island (close, daytime)
3) Mesa, Umboi Island (close, daytime)
4) David Moke, Umboi Island (night, close)
5) William Gima, Umboi Island (night, close)
6) Mark Kau, Umboi Island (night, distant)
9) Jonah Jim (night, close)
10) Venice Conrad (night, distant), John Anton
(night, distant), Dianne Aisi (nt, dist), John
Lapu (nt, dist), Jefron Ambolis (nt, dist)
11) Others interviewed by Whitcomb
12) Young men of Tarawe Village (night, distant)
Interviews by Whitcomb (phone or email)
13) Email communications between Whitcomb
and two Australians who saw an extremely
large flying creature over Perth in 1997.
14) Telephone, email, and correspondence inter-
views with a World War II vet. (Hodgkinson),
including survey with drawings and detailed
descriptions. The 1944 sighting was on the
mainland of New Guinea, near Finschhafen.
(See also #22: Hodgkinson 2005 interview)
In-person interviews by Garth Guessman
and David Woetzel in 2004
15) Jonah Jim (night, close)
16) Villagers of Arot
17) Villagers of Tarawe
18) Other eyewitnesses in Papua New Guinea
Various accounts of the ropen:
19) Videotaped interviews prior to 2004 (thanks
to Paul Nation, and to his son, Nathaniel,
and to Dr Carl Baugh, and to Jim Blume)
20) Second-hand reports in various parts of PNG
21) Telephone interview of Jim Blume by Garth
Guessman; Blume has spoken with about 70
people who’ve seen this creature in PNG.
Also an in-person interview in 2004.
22) In-person interview of Duane Hodgkinson,
June, 2005. (by Guessman) (see # 14)
23) Guessman interview of Jonathan Ragu of
Umboi Island. (2004)
24) Whitcomb’s 2006 interview with Mr. Brian
Hennessy (who is now a psychologist in
China) —he saw a ropen.
Native eyewitness describes the flight of a ropen