No offense to cryptozoologists who might want to believe in the following interpretation of Manta rays, but those fish are nothing like what eyewitnesses see when they report flying creatures they call “pterodacyls.” Jumping fishes, even the strange Manta rays, look far different, completely different, and they fall back into the sea within a very few seconds. Also, those fish do not fly over trees, far inland from any sea or large body of water.
Paul Nation, of Texas, crosses a river on Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea, in 2002
Late-2006 Indava Expedition
The American explorer Paul Nation, searching for living pterosaurs, has probably traveled to Papua New Guinea more than any other cryptozoologist. His first two expeditions were on Umboi Island, but his third was deep in the mainland, high up in the mountains. This 2006 expedition was far away from the nearest coast, in rain forest jungle where Manta rays cannot live.
His interpreter, Jacob Kepas, and a local guide hiked up a mountain and got a distant view, in daylight, of an indava that was apparently sleeping on a cliff. It was similar in size to a small airplane. It was obviously no oceanic fish up there on that mountain.
1944 Finschhafen “Pterodactyl”
Duane Hodgkinson’s encounter just west of Finschhafen, New Guinea (many miles east of the 2006 sighting above), shocked him and his army buddy. They had no expectation of witnessing a giant flying creature that was too big to be any common bird and far different. The creature tool several steps with its feet and long legs, before it got into the air. The “pterodactyl” flew up over the jungle canopy and within a minute or so (maybe less) it flew back in the opposite direction, over the clearing and then over the jungle canopy.
It had a tail “at least” ten or fifteen feet long. It also had a long neck and a long appendage, horn-like, coming out of the back of the creature’s head.
And critical to evaluating the Manta ray hypothesis, the jungle clearing where Hodgkinson saw the creature was not by the beach but inland, west of Finschhafen. No mental gymnastics of the imagination can cause that creature to transform itself into a Manta ray fish jumping out the sea.
1971 Bougainville Sighting
Brian Hennessy’s encounter on Bougainville Island, New Guinea, surprised him, for he had no reasonable explanation for what he had observed. It was a large creature flying over his head, a creature that gave him a distinct impression of “prehistoric.” It had a long tail, a long neck, a pointed head crest, and no feathers in sight.
Hennessy’s sighting was nowhere near the sea but up on a mountain road. No, he is not crazy; he is a psychologist.
I have trudged through the rain forest of Umboi Island, the same island where these two sightings took place, and can testify that “tree-top level” is much higher than the ten feet or so that a Manta ray can jump out of the water.
I wish to acknowledge the concept of jumping Manta rays. Of course they could look shocking to a person in a boat who had never before seen such a fish, below or above the surface of the sea. But Mr. Drinnon misses the critical point, that the overall picture of pterosaur sightings could not have been jumping fishes.
The misidentification of a Manta ray oceanic fish does not adequately explain any significant pterosaur sighting, not even one sighting that I have analyzed.