Lake Iliamna is located in a remote region of southwest Alaska. The lake is not accessible by road so the only way to get there is by float plane or boat. It has a maximum length of 77 miles (142km) and a maximum width of 22 miles (35km) making it the largest lake in Alaska and the second largest lake in America. The lake’s greatest depth is 988 feet (301km).
The lake is home to a variety of fish, but there is some evidence that suggests something else may be swimming in the waters of Lake Iliamna. For decades people have reported seeing mysterious creature swimming in the lake. Such reports remain unexplained. The creature has been named the Iliamna Monster. The monster may be part of Alaska native mythology.
One of the most astonishing encounters with “Ji-Gi-Nak” – the Aleut name for this beast- occurred in 1967, when eyewitness, Chuck Carpuchettes saw the monster swimming in the lake while he was flying over it in his plane, and later decided to fish for it.
He and a friend attached tuna hooks baited with caribou meat to a float plane using 5/16″ stainless steel cable. Something in the water bit the hooks and towed the plane around the lake. When the plane was recovered, they found that the meat was gone and the tuna hooks had been straightened out.
The Aleut people tell of terrifying fish monsters called “Ji-gik-nak” which hunted in packs and would kill hunters canoeing on the lake. “Ji-gi-nak” were feared by the Aleuts, and they avoided hunting on the lake. The Tlingit people told of a monster that inhabited lake Iliamna called the Gunakadeit.
Strange monsters are ubiquitous in Alaska mythology, Alaska native folklore does not distinguish between fact and fiction but recent sightings are more reliable as sources of evidence for the existence of the monster.
There are many theories as to what the Iliamna lake monster could be. Many people believe that large fish called white sturgeons are responsible for the encounters.
White sturgeons are bottom-dwelling fish that inhabit estuaries, lakes, bays, and slow-moving rivers of the west coasts of america, from the Aleutian Islands to Central California.
White sturgeons can be as long as twenty feet and weigh up to 1,799 pounds and can live for as long as one hundred years. White sturgeons have been known to jump out of the water and accidentally hit boats, this would explain why boats have been knocked over. The fact that white sturgeon spend most of their time on the bottom of bodies of water would explain the rarity of sightings.
Another possible candidate is the pacific sleeper shark: a carnivore and scavenger that inhabits the north pacific (see habitat range below).
Pacific sleeper sharks can survive in freshwater but the amount of time they can survive in freshwater is unknown. The longest pacific sleeper shark ever found was 14 feet long, but biologists say that they might be able grow as long as 23 feet.
There is a lot that science does not known about pacific sleeper sharks. Little is known about their reproduction and their diet has not been thoroughly studied, but the remains of marine mammals such as porpoises have been found in the stomachs of pacific sleeper sharks, this suggests pacific sleeper sharks are highly aggressive predators.
Neither pacific sleeper sharks, nor White sturgeon have been officially documented as species that inhabit the lake, but lake Iliamna is huge and easily capable of providing a habitat of either of the two possible candidates.