Information about the Loch Ness Monster

The Loch Ness Monster is a creature or group of creatures said to live in Loch Ness, a large lake in Scotland near the city of Inverness. "Nessie" is generally considered a lake monster. Along with Bigfoot, Nessie is perhaps the best-known mystery in cryptozoology.

History of sightings
Loch Ness is one of a series of interconnected, murky lakes in Scotland that were carved by glaciers during previous ice ages. Quite large and deep, it features exceptionally low water visibility due to a high peat content in the surrounding soil. Rumours of a monster or animal living in the loch have been circulating for at least several centuries, although to date there has been no convincing evidence to that effect. Many local inhabitants still argue strongly for its existence. Some skeptics suggest that this may be because the rumours of 'Nessie' underpin local folklore and the tourism industry.

Most accounts of the monster's appearance, including historical ones, indicate a creature resembling the long-extinct plesiosaur. Actual fossil evidence for this Mesozoic creature shows it to have been physically large, with a long neck and tiny head, with flippers for propulsion. The alleged connection of this creature with the Loch Ness monster has made it a popular topic in the field of cryptozoology. However, most scientists suggest that the idea that the Loch Ness Monster is a remnant of the Mesozoic era is highly unlikely - there would need to be a breeding colony of such creatures for there to have been any long-term survival, and this would result in far more frequent sightings than have actually been reported. Many biologists also argue Loch Ness is not large or productive enough to support even a small family of these creatures.

Other sightings, however, do not fit the plesiosaur description, or even a water-bound creature: In April, 1923, Alfred Cruickshank claimed to have seen a creature 3 to 3.5 metres long, with an arched back and four elephant-like feet cross the road before him as he was driving. Other sightings report creatures more similar to camels or horses.

Theories as to the exact nature of the Loch Ness Monster sightings are varied: Misidentification of seals, fish, logs, mirages, seiches, and light distortion, crossing of boat wakes, or unusual wave patterns have all been proposed. Very large sturgeon have been found in inland streams close to Loch Ness and, due to sturgeons' size and unusual appearance, one could easily be mistaken for a monster by someone not familiar with it. A recent theory postulates that the 'monster' is actually nothing more than bubbling and disruptions in the water caused by minor volcanic activity at the bottom of the loch. This latter argument is supported--to a minor degree--by a correlation between tectonic motion and reported sightings.

Evidence Against
In July, 2003, the BBC reported that an extensive investigation of Loch Ness by a BBC team, using 600 separate sonar beams, found no trace of any "sea monster" in the loch. The BBC team concluded that "Nessie" does not exist.

The famed Surgeon's Photo is cited by some as a hoax, based on the confessions of Christian Spurling and Marmaduke Wetherell. Well before Wetherall's claims, however, others had argued the photo was that of an otter or a diving bird.

Evidence For
'Monster' sightings have occurred as far back as 1,500 years ago. The earliest known reference is from the Life of St. Columba; it describes how in 565 he saved the life of a Pict who was being attacked by the monster in the River Ness. Some critics have questioned the reliability of the Life, noting a different story, in which Columba slays a wild boar by the power of his voice alone.)

Documented descriptions of 'Nessie' exist as far back as October, 1871, where 'D. Mackenzie' described seeing something that moved slowly before moving off at speed. People who saw 'the monster' described it as having a hump (sometimes more than one) that looked like an upturned boat.

The first modern sighting occurred on May 2, 1933. The newspaper Inverness Courier carried a story of a local couple who reportedly saw "an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface." The report of the "monster" (a title chosen by the editor of the Courier) became a media sensation, with London papers sending reporters to Scotland and a circus even offering a reward of £20,000 for capture of the monster.

Later that year, A.H. Palmer, who allegedly witnessed 'Nessie' on August 11, 1933, at 7 a.m., described the creature as having its head, which they saw from the front, set low in the water. Its mouth, which had a width of between twelve and eighteen inches, was opening and closing; its maximal mouth aperture was estimated to be about six inches.

The modern preoccupation with the Loch Ness Monster was aroused by a photograph allegedly taken by surgeon R.K. Wilson on April 19, 1934, which seemed to show a large creature with a long neck gliding through the water. Decades later on March 12, 1994, Marmaduke Wetherell claimed to have faked the photo after being hired by the Daily Mail to track down Nessie (the photo had by that time, been printed worldwide as 'absolute evidence'). Wetherell also stated that Wilson did not take the photo and his name was only used to give added credibility to the photo. In 1993, another man claimed to have been involved in such a hoax.

In the early 1970s a group led by American patent lawyer Robert Rhines obtained some underwater photographs. One was a vague image, perhaps of a rhomboid flipper (others have argued the object could be air bubbles or a fish fin). On the basis of this photograph, they announced in 1975 that the scientific name of the monster would henceforth be Nessiteras rhombopteryx.1

Regardless of whether anything is actually in the loch, the Loch Ness monster has some significance for the local economy. Dozens of hotels, boating tour operators, and merchants of stuffed animals and related trinkets owe part of their livelihood to this monster although people visit the loch for many reasons other than to see the monster. Hence the legend is likely to endure for quite some time.

Explore the legend of the Loch Ness Monster yourself with a trip to the engimatic but beautiful Scottish highlands. Read our hand-selected hotel and accommodation listings.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Loch Ness Monster"

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