A sketch a frame from the 1994 footage (c. Lisa Peach)
Toshikazu Saitoh's illustration of the massali
The Willaumez Peninsula with Lake Dakataua at the top
Screenshots from the 1994 footage
The migo is an unknown species of aquatic animal said to live in Lake Dakataua, a 48 square kilometre, 400-foot deep lake on the Willaumez Peninsula of New Britain. Lake Dakataua is very saline and has no fish population, but does have numerous aquatic invertebrates. This means that, if a real animal, migos are either herbivorous or prey on waterfowl and wildlife swimming across the lake.
Though the locals were presumably aware of migos from much earlier, the first written mention was in the February 1st, 1972 issue of the Japanese Mainichi Daily News newspaper. The article is about Shohei Shirai, the head of the Pacific Ocean Resources Research Institute, who first reported the creature. Shirai wrote that migos had laterally compressed tails, large fins, and were significantly larger than any animal known to live in the lake. He likened it somewhat to a mosasaur in general appearance, though the lack of fossil evidence for the past 65 million years makes it extremely improbable that migos are an actual modern mosasaur population.
In 1978, Japanese cryptozoologist Toshikazu Saitoh went to Lake Dakataua. Though he didn't see anything himself, he interviewed numerous locals of the Bulu tribe, who called the creature "massali." In one 1971 sighting, more than five people claimed to have seen a massali in the lake. They said it was around 30 feet in length, had a long muzzle on a tiny, crocodile-like head, a long neck, and had a bulky, streamlined body. It had four flippers, with the front being larger, and a crocodilian tail. One of the strangest details of this sighting was that the creature had a thin covering of black fur, suggesting it was a mammal. Besides the fur, the long neck and small head are also quite different from a mosasaur.
In January of 1994, documentary filmmaker Nadaka Tetsuo went to Lake Dakataua to make a documentary on the migo. The documentary, besides showing various interviewed witnesses, features footage of a strange animal in the lake. The video shows three different body portions of a head, neck, and flat hump, probably the animal's back. The animal seemed to move in an up-and-down undulating motion. The hump appeared to have small dorsal fins or spines, though it is unclear if it is simply artifacts in the video.
Prof. Roy Mackal, a biologist and cryptozoologist from the University of Chicago, was featured in the documentary and saw the creature. He guessed it was 30 to 50 feet in length and was moving at about four knots. The documentary erroneously concluded that the creature was probably a mosasaur, though that seems highly unlikely, as the only freshwater mosasaur species, Pannoniasaurus, was significantly smaller, lacked a single hump and died out 83 million years ago.
Although many details imply migos are a species of mammal (i.e. presence of hair, vertical swimming), they could also be a crocodile. Saltwater crocodiles who inhabit the lakes of New Britain have been noted for being genetically, geographically, and anatomically distinct from their mainland relatives. Roy Mackal, who allegedly witnessed a migo while it was filmed in 1994, later changed his mind and said he likely saw some sort of crocodilian, not a cetacean, as he previously said. Mackal later went on a second expedition several months later and had another, similar experience, but even closer. Mackal saw two saltwater crocodiles in close contact, probably mating, with a third attempting to join. He then assumed his earlier sighting wasn't one 50 foot creature, but three 16 foot creatures close together in the water, creating an illusion of a lake monster.
In 2008, British paleontologist and cryptid researcher Darren Naish studied the 1994 migo footage. He concluded that the subject in the video wasn't swimming vertically, but horizontally, and that it was an illusion due to the shaky, grainy quality.
Though the two sightings and video from 1994 have been pretty conclusively debunked, the various sightings of the more Nessie-like, swan-necked creatures seen by the local people remain unexplained.