By the living-pterosaurs expert Jonathan Whitcomb
This is a reply to a portion of a huge web page that was written by the living-pterosaur critic Glen Kuban: “Living Pterosaurs (‘Pterodactyls’)”. I recommend avoiding that page.
Introduction to the ropen sighting by Duane Hodgkinson
Around mid-1944, on the eastern edge of the island of New Guinea, after the Japanese military had left that area of the southwest Pacific, two American soldiers obtained permission to hike into the jungle interior west of Finschhafen. While in a jungle clearing that was about a hundred feet across, they witnessed a huge flying creature take off into the air. That sighting in clear daylight, with no obstruction to the view of those two men, has in recent years become known, among at least some cryptozoologists, as an important report among many accounts of encounters with living pterosaurs in the 20th century. To the best of what my associates and I can determine, this was an encounter with a gigantic extant Rhamphorhynchoid (long-tailed) pterosaur.
In the 21st century, the cryptozoologists Garth Guessman and I (Jonathan Whitcomb) interviewed Duane Hodgkinson, one of the two eyewitnesses of that “pterodactyl.” The other soldier, George, we have not been able to interview. Here is part of what was reported by the World War II veteran Duane Hodgkinson:
- The wingspan of the flying creature was similar to that of a Piper Tri-Pacer airplane
- The long tail was definitely not a misidentification of the feet of the animal
- The estimated length of the tail was “at least” ten or fifteen feet
- The “pterodactyl” had a long horn-like appendage coming out the back of its head
Introduction to Guessman and Whitcomb
I communicated with Hodgkinson by telephone and by letters, and he was very open to answering all of my questions. In addition, my associate and friend Garth Guessman visited the World War II veteran in Livingston, Montana, in 2005. Their interview was videotaped and I later edited it and published it online: “Ropen-Pterodactyl American Eyewitness.” Many of the keys points of the interview, but not all of them, can be seen in that Youtube video.
This was not the first eyewitness that Guessman and I had interviewed, during our investigations of sightings of apparent pterosaurs. Both of us explored Umboi Island in 2004, in separate expeditions, and we interviewed a number of native eyewitnesses on that remote tropical island in Papua New Guinea. In addition, Guessman and I have interviewed eyewitnesses in North America and have searched for those flying creatures in the western United States.
To learn more about us and those we have worked with, or in harmony with, see this:
Guessman and I are true cryptozoologists, questioning eyewitnesses and searching for the cryptids that we specialize in: apparent extant pterosaurs.
Introduction to Glen Kuban
From his page on Wikipedia, this computer programmer does not appear to have any connection with living-pterosaur investigations, although he is connected with apparent dinosaur footprints. From my experiences in communicating with him, on occasions over a period of many years, I’ve come to see Glen Kuban as an amateur paleontologist. He is certainly not a cryptozoologist, at least not in the usual sense. And in spite of the lack of any indication on Wikipedia, he has been very much involved in reports of apparent living pterosaurs, albeit he was devoted a portion of his life to trying to disprove them.
During the eleven years or so that I have read of his criticisms of living-pterosaur investigations, and from our communications by emails, I have seen no evidence that Glen Kuban has ever interviewed even one eyewitness. He has written an exhaustive web page that appears to be aimed at convincing people that all species of pterosaurs became extinct long ago. His “Living Pterosaurs (Pterodactyls)?” appears to have been written to protect standard models of geology and popular assumptions about Darwinian evolution.
How large is Kuban’s “Living Pterosaurs” online page? It has tens of thousands of words. In fact, it mentions me by name 463 times, yes four hundred sixty three times (“26 Nov. 2017” version). Many web pages, on whatever subject, do not even have a total word count over 400. It brings to my mind a phrase in Hamlet: “the lady doth protest too much.”
Finschhafen Harbor, Papua New Guinea (image by Jonathan Whitcomb, 2004)
Living-pterosaur sighting by Hodgkinson — answering criticisms
I think Kuban would have done much better in writing about this sighting if he had simply communicated with me before publishing his criticisms. As they stand, as of the end of November, 2017, his many paragraphs about Hodgkinson’s encounter with an apparent “pterodactyl” have many grave weaknesses.
Is it important for a researcher to interview eyewitnesses? Consider what Kuban himself has said: “Whitcomb admits that he never interviewed George. So, if anyone was overspeculating, it was not me.” (I have never, as of December 5, 2017, interviewed George, the army buddy of Duane Hodgkinson.) I admit that I may speculate, to some degree and at some times, but let’s examine the context here.
Kuban, during the years that he has published online criticisms of eyewitness accounts of living pterosaurs, has never interviewed even one eyewitness. His general practice is to take what he finds online or in books and, without asking me for clarifications, he then finds anything and everything that he thinks might discredit the sighting; then he publishes it. That is what his tens of thousands of words have shown to me.
I admit that I sometimes make mistakes. In one of my earlier editions of Searching for Ropens, I may have said that Hodgkinson’s army buddy was a biologist. If I did, however, I was speculating. In the fourth edition of Searching for Ropens and Finding God, I put it thus: “Hodgkinson was not a biologist but his army buddy was, or at least had some education in biology.” Even there, I may have been speculating. I wrote that, because Hodgkinson gave us some indication that his buddy considered himself to have some knowledge of science in general or possibly of biology in particular. In reality, that is far short of evidence that he actually was a real, dependable expert in biology.
Glen Kuban, however, seems to have taken that mistake that I made and tried to turn it into some significant fact, a practically-given proof, perhaps, that George was either a biology professor or a qualified expert in biology who could be relied on. That is what I consider “over-speculating.” From what Hodgkinson told me and Guessman, it is possible that George had taken one or more classes in biology, if he had taken even one college course in biology.
The point is this: George made it clear, within seconds of the end of that sighting in that jungle clearing in 1944, that he would not tell anybody what he and Hodgkinson had seen. Nothing in Hodgkinson’s testimony gave even a hint that George said anything about the possibility that they had seen a bird or bat. To the best that we can now determine from Hodgkinson’s testimony, George just wanted to keep quiet about the encounter, even if it meant denying that they had seen anything.
That kind of denial does not come from a biologist observing an unusual bird or a huge bat. It certainly can come from a man who would like to be respected as knowledgeable and who has just witnessed a gigantic living pterosaur fly up out of the middle of a jungle clearing in the middle of the day. That kind of man would not want to be laughed at as if he were the greatest fool in history.
Kuban seems to have taken pieces of some sighting reports and criticized an incomplete portion as if they were the whole story, speculating in doing so. Even when he has a fuller account, he sometimes appears to be blind to important elements, and those parts would have answered his criticisms, if he had paid proper attention or had comprehended them.
Let’s take an example. Guessman and I learned from Hodgkinson that the long tail he had seen was definitely not a misidentification of legs; the video makes that clear. He did not focus on the end of the tail, so he could not say whether or not there was a structure there, yet his testimony, available for viewing on Youtube, makes it clear that he did see a tail, for he estimated it was “at least” ten or fifteen feet long. Further testimony from that World War II veteran reveals that he saw the legs moving as the creature was running to get airborne. In other words, he was observing both running legs under the animal and a very long tail trailing behind the body of the “pterodactyl” as it was taking off into the air, so it was clear that the legs and the tail were separate parts of the body.
Kuban says, “Hodgkinson himself says on the video that he did not get a good look at the tail.” In fact, that is not what Hodgkinson said. Consider now what that World War II veteran actually says on the video: “I didn’t pay attention to what the end of his tail looked like.” Why did he not concentrate on the end of the tail? He tells us on the video: He was fascinated by the appendage at the back of the creature’s head. Yet with an estimated length of “at least” ten or fifteen feet, the end of the tail is a great distance from the rest of the animal, even a fair distance from the middle of that tail. In other words, he saw the tail well enough to make a crude estimate of its length: at least ten of fifteen feet.
What does that tell us? Hodgkinson was a weather observer for the field artillery, as I recall from what he told me. I don’t know exactly what that entails, but I think we should be aware of one word: observer. That was his job in the military at that time in 1944. So what can we learn from his observation of a tail that was “at least ten or fifteen feet long?” That flying creature was nothing remotely like any bird or bat known to Western science.
Kuban, on the other hand, appears to prefer to pretend “that he did not get a good look at the tail” (the words of that critic Glen Kuban). I do not accuse Kuban of dishonesty; it’s more likely something like subconscious self-deception. Yet I see an explanation for why he allowed himself to be fooled into the idea of “did not get a good look.” Anything remotely like a tail length of 10-15 feet practically eliminates birds and bats.
The following may be redundant, regarding George, but people need to know the whole truth about what happened in that jungle clearing in 1944.
Kuban, in the Nov-26-2017 version of “Living Pterosaurs,” says that George “denies that they ever saw a pterosaur.” That statement is extremely misleading, for it implies that he told somebody (other than Hodgkinson) that they did not see a pterosaur. In reality, George seems to have never told anybody anything about the incident except to make it clear TO HODGKINSON, within a few seconds of the sighting, that he would say nothing about it. George apparently did not even want to talk about it with Hodgkinson.
I don’t mean to imply that all of Kuban’s writings have had only a negative impact on everybody that reads them, deceiving everybody who comes in contact with them. At least some of the readers of his “Living Pterosaurs” have probably come to see things in a new light, notwithstanding they have come to suspect that some pterosaurs may actually be living after all. With tens of thousands of words aimed at disproving the existence of modern pterosaurs, it can become obvious that “the lady doth protest too much.”
For myself, I have come to feel more confidence in the reality of living pterosaurs, after seeing all the weaknesses in “Living Pterosaurs.” In spite of the possibility of bias on my part, and in my potential for mistakes and misunderstandings, the many eyewitness reports of extant pterosaurs, together with the failings in efforts to disprove them, have given me greater hope that these wonderful featherless flying creatures will soon be officially discovered and acknowledged for what they are: modern living pterosaurs.
In that sense, Glen Kuban has played an important role in the progress of scientific knowledge, albeit his role may differ greatly from what he had expected.
A modern pterosaur!? How could it be? Extraordinary but true, huge flying creatures, with no feathers yet unlike any bat, live among us, although they mostly fly at night.
The kongamato and sightings of modern pterosaurs