As mentioned in past articles, growing up in northern Ontario, I heard many native legends and lore. These stories are part of an oral tradition pasted down the generation to teach the way of life, explain how nature works and history of a people. Some of these legends, also server as a warning to the dangers lurking in the forest or swimming in the water. One such myth I came across was the story about the giant sturgeon of Lake Superior.
The sturgeon is an ancient, species of fish dwelling in the various fresh waters throughout North America These creatures can live up to several decades, be several hundred pounds and grow over 10 feet in length. First, time encountering a sturgeon would appear monstrous, sparking the imagination of gigantic versions within the water. In a time when people went out on Lake Superior and never returned, one could envision them being eaten by a mammoth sturgeon which may have given birth to the legend. The native folklore mentions Lake Superior to be inhabited by several of these colossal creatures.
They constantly patrol the shoreline searching for food including anything that enters the water. Hence, the myth warning not to venture very far onto the lake. The legend describes the sturgeon as enormous, capable of swallowing men in canoes whole. Other adaptations speak of the fish to be more massive able to consume an entire village. Each express the same threat hiding within the depths of Lake Superior
Since the earliest settlement of European within the area, there has not been a reported sighting of any giant sturgeon. In the 300 years of shipping, other strange occurrences have been said to happen out on the lake. Stories detailed accounts about observing an abnormal outline of some unknown creature following alongside of vessels. Sailors describe hearing the thundering of splashing water by their boats, claiming the sound could only be made by a whale. A few accounts where people witness the suddenly emerging of large eyes through the surface of the water then vanishing as they sank back in. Even though Lake Superior maybe devoid of a giant sturgeons, it is not short of other legends and mysteries.
Butts, Ed. Shipwrecks, Monsters and Mysteries of the Great Lakes. Toronto: Tundra Books. 2010