Born in County Västerbotten, Sweden, in 1947, Jan-Ove Sundberg is a controversial international journalist who has dedicated the better portion of his life to unveiling the secrets of unidentified biological, mechanical and astronomical phenomenon.
During the1970s and early 1980s, Sundberg brought his paranormal expertise to bear on magazines such as “The Unknown” and “Spectra,” for which he served as Editor-in-Chief in 1977. In the latter portion of the 1980s Sundberg turned his attention to film and television, producing numerous commercials as well as Sweden’s first independent motion picture to be released for the rental market.
Although his highly publicized investigations have included everything from “Phantom Submarines” to “UFOs,” there can be little doubt that Sundberg’s biggest claim to fame is his continued pursuit of Lake Monsters, which has brought him global recognition as one of the world’s foremost crypto-investigators.
1993 saw the publication of Sundberg’s first book concerning mysterious aquatic phenomenon “Phantom Submarines,” which dealt with the foreign intrusions of unidentified submersibles in the Baltic Sea. Although this tome was not considered to be raving a success by publication standards, his follow-up book “The Great Lake Monster, The Seljord Serpent, Nessie and Other Sea Monsters” was quick to become a cult favorite among Lake Monster aficionados.
In 1997, Sundberg founded GUST (Global Underwater Search Team) and began to search for unknown aquatic animals throughout Europe. As of 2001, Sundberg and his organization have made almost 30 expeditions, to countries such as Sweden, Norway, Scotland and Ireland.
These expeditions were covered by thousands of members of the media throughout the world and to date there are no less than eight documentaries about GUST, two of which have aired on the Discovery channel. It has been estimated that approximately two billion people have been exposed to the work GUST on television and print, greatly enhancing the dissemination of information regarding these unique beasts.
Between 2001 and 2003, Sundberg cancelled all but one of his expeditions due to a serious illness, but expeditions have resumed again and Sundberg insists that they will continue until they find the Holy Grail of Lake Monster investigations –- proof of the existence of unknown aquatic animals.
INTERVIEW: JAN-OVE SUNDBERG
When and where were you born?
Skelleftea, northern Sweden, on July 27, 1947. I have lived and worked in Motala, County of Ostergotland, southern Sweden, since the summer of 1971.
What factors in your youth do you believe helped to mold your career choices?
That’s a good question and a hard one to answer since I have been somewhat a Jack-of-all-trades. However, I was always good at the Swedish language, writing and making up novels, so freelance journalism was a natural choice.
When and why did you decide to become involved with cryptozoological investigations?
Already in the 60’s I heard about the Loch Ness Monster and it fascinated me more than anything else. In 1971 I was given the opportunity to go to Loch Ness and make a feature about it and after that I was caught up in solving the mystery.
No one over here had heard the word cryptozoology before the Internet came about and I myself got in contact with the word first in 1997, when I got on to the web. That same year I started the search.
What was the first cryptid that ever intrigued you? Why?
Nessie, no doubt, and it seemed so truthful that so many witnesses had seen something in such a small space as a lake is.
What inspired you to make your 1971 pilgrimage to Loch Ness? How did that affect your career?
Curiosity firstly, being the first Swedish journalist there secondly. It didn’t affect my journalistic career in any special way, but my coming cryptozoological view was molded in that year – unknowingly.
Describe your first meeting with Tim Dinsdale. Did his dedication to the LNIB serve as an inspiration for you?
Tim appeared to me as a very sincere man. He was patient with my lousy English, my repeatedly naïve questions, that he had heard so many times before and my ignorance about the subject as such. He inspired me, no doubt, but at the same time I realized that I was far away from becoming like him. My career at the time was becoming a journalist, not a monster hunter. That was brewing and it was to take a long cooking time before I was ready.
How many expeditions have you mounted in pursuit of various cryptids? Where have you traveled during these pursuits?
Almost 30 to date, most of them to Norway but also in my native Sweden, and to Scotland and Ireland.
What has been the most satisfying aspect of your field research?
The adventure – that a search really is from the problem-filled preparations to the journey itself and the hardships of the search.
What was your most intriguing encounter? The most frightening?
The search for Selma in the summer of 1977, when I was invited by a loose team of dedicated Norwegians. One sunny day in July I was sitting in our search boat together with Adolf Refvik. Our location was the Seljord Bay and our sonar indicated that an unidentified object desperately tried to get away from its pulses by racing around the entire bay.
When it seemingly couldn’t get away anymore it headed straight for us, as if it was trying to ram us! It was as fantastic as unrealistic: 800 meters away people were swimming and having fun, while this unknown animal was heading towards us at full speed, unseen in the depth by human eyes but coldly registered on the best technical instrument of those days.
My skin got goose-pimples and I froze in my bones and marrow when I thought about what the witnesses had told us about the “monster”: 15 up to 30 meters long, serrated back, strong and muscular, horse-like head with large black eyes… in the back of my mind a monster out of hell was coming for us and I was to end up as it’s prey.
But Selma, as I affectionately called it soon after, stopped its “attack” before it reached our boat, took a right turn and headed out into the open lake, where it vanished to even deeper water. We could breath out again, started the engine and headed for the shore. Adolf was as pale as I was, and as convinced that the lake really was inhabited by an unknown creature.
Can you tell us a little bit about GUST?
GUST was born thanks to the Internet. When I came on to the web in 1997 I first realized there was something called cryptozoology and that this meant the search for unknown animals. Second I easily found people who already were involved in such research, even though this was more a desk job than practical survey experiences. We communicated through email and they encouraged me to set up an organization that could handle expeditions.
I’ve always been good at names and GUST (Global Underwater Search Team) stuck immediately. The very first search to Lake Storsjon, Central Sweden, in pursuit of Storsie (or Storsjöodjuret; The Great Lake Monster as the Swedes called it) was a flop and never really got off the ground. Media interest, however, was enormous and a fore taste of what would come, even though I couldn’t grasp it at the time.
Although your work in the field of Lake Monster investigations is legendary, what are your opinions concerning more terrestrial cryptids such as Bigfoot, Chupacabra or other creatures of that ilk?
A large hairy biped are well established throughout the world, so no one has to doubt either Bigfoot of North-America, the Yeti of Tibet or the Alma of Russia, but Chupacabra & Others are too cartoon-like in my eyes to be real.
Of all the Lake Monsters which have been reported across the globe, which one has, in your opinion, the largest body of evidence to support its existence?
Selma the Sea Serpent of Lake Seljordsvattnet, Norway. Reason: Witnesses are common, trustworthy people with their feet firmly on the ground. Their testimony are consistent down to the very last detail, even though we haven’t told them or anyone else everything we know, of the simple reason that we don’t want to affect their stories.
What is your opinion regarding the existence of North America’s two most famous Lake Monsters: CHAMP and OGOPOGO? Have you ever personally investigated either of them? Do you intend to?
I have looked into them both and they seem plausible enough, as do the people who are searching for them, with whom I have had a little co-operation. We have been asked to come and join local groups in their search, but our budget has not yet permitted us to do so, unfortunately.
Do you believe that Lake Monsters are biological organisms or part of a supernatural phenomenon?
I believe they are biological organisms, unknown animals that has been right under the nose of scientists all along, but lost in legends and fairy tales because they have not been taken seriously, until recently.
They will be found and proved, either by GUST or someone else, but I realize now that science wont be as happy as I once thought they would be. For reasons which they only can answer themselves, they have decidedly molded the world the way they want it to be, not the way that it is, and lake monsters and sea serpents do not fit into their perfect little world.
After all of these years what drives you on your continued pursuit of these unknown animals?
Fame and fortune! I would love us to go down in history as the team who found an unknown species and at the same time got stinking rich. Filming Selma from 10 feet away would give us that fame and a bank account with $ 100,000,000 dollars.
That’s correct, one hundred million dollars. Because $ 100.000.000 dollars is the equal of one billion Swedish kronas, we would have to leave Sweden after getting that stinking rich, because over here you’re considered a crook if you earn that much, especially if you tread on grounds where you don’t belong according to those who always know best.
Many of your field searches have focused on Lake Seljordsvatnet, what intrigues you most about the creature or creatures, which allegedly dwell there?
Selma is there, all right, we haven’t been able to analyze what make her tick yet, but piece by piece we’re getting there and we know much about her that we haven’t told anyone outside our little inner circle. It’s a shy animal, a surprise to both science and everyone else, an “impossibility” like Platypus, which was denied by British scientists even though their own people sided with the aborigines and declared they had seen it too.
Can you tell us a little bit about 20-second clip of SELMA, which you managed to capture on your most recent expedition there?
This film is one in a million and what makes cryptozoologist’s talk about an internal phenomenon called The Curse of the Sea Serpent.
What you can see in the 20 sec long, digital video footage is a 1,5 meters long sea serpent. A baby serpent, perhaps. It swims at a certain pace, in the opposite direction of our search boat, for 15 seconds and vanishes straight down in another 5. It’s black in the strong sun and no details are visible.
A rare atmospherical phenomenon is glued to the serpent! This mirage creates a false serpent in the air above the real one, on the surface of the water. Between the two are a heat haze, making it both difficult to see what the whole thing is and what to make of it. No one likes the interference of the mirage, except the meteorologist’s at the Swedish Weather Bureau, who never heard that anyone else has been able to record such an unusual weather phenomenon.
More about the footage and our entire expedition, this year called Operation Red Eye, will be submitted to our home page at www.cryptozoology.st in the beginning of September.
What is the best evidence to date that you or your team has turned up regarding the existence of unknown aquatic animals?
The 1999 and 2000 hydrophone sounds of Selma the Sea Serpent. In 1999 the Norwegian Marine Research Institute in Bergen, Norway, analyzed our first recordings in Lake Seljordsvattnet and they went public with the astonishing information that it came from unknown animals.
The sounds was confirmed in August 2000 by a representative for the Swedish Navy’s HQ in Stockholm, who participated in our expedition. CNN covered both these expeditions and was very impressed.
How did you get involved with television? How has it affected your career?
The Discovery Channel descended on us already in 1998 and ever since we have been covered by thousands of media. There’s been eight documentaries about GUST so far and we reckon that over two billion people across the globe, has seen us in action at various lakes.
In the beginning we thought it would make a difference, open wallets and make the rich flip out their checkbooks. But none of that has happened yet and instead much of the media has been a pain in the butt, even though we never refuse an interview and always reveal the four magic(words): “when”, “where”, “how” and “why” to them.
This may be a little off topic, but do you feel that the Patterson/Gimlin footage is authentic?
It looks faked but doesn’t necessarily have to be. The reason is that the face does not seem to fit in with the rest of the body, being much lighter, has less hair and seems to disagree at the edges.
What do you think is the most intriguing unknown animal on Earth today? Why?
Selma the Sea Serpent. For eluding discovery since the 1650’s.
What are your future plans? Expeditions… writing… television?
The search for Selma the Sea Serpent will continue and we’re getting closer each summer to proving beyond a reasonable doubt that she’s there.
Next summer we’re also trying to catch a catfish in northern Sweden, that will be a world record if we succeed. It’s 5 meters long and weighs almost half a ton. It’s a northern species unknown to science and the Swedish Fishery Board in Stockholm has given us their blessings and full support.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention that we may have neglected!
Even though I have barked high and loud at you Americans, sticking my nose into things you don’t like me to investigate, like your obsession with guns, war and the extermination of the natives, I have you to thank for much of my success, especially on the Internet.
Many individuals has also backed and comforted me during my close call with death in 2001-2002, especially Alfred Constanzo in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who tried to get me into an American hospital and Nick Sucik of Minnesota, an ex Marine and true cryptozoologist who joined our search in Lough Ree, Ireland, before becoming a lone ranger at the cryptozoological plains in the US of A.
Thank you everyone, in America the Great!