Saturday, 23 April 2016

Has the Loch Ness monster been found?

Well, one version of it has!


Cartoon drawing of the loch ness monster
CC0 image by ArtsyBee/Pixabay
Deep, deep down in Loch Ness something intriguing has been found. The monster? No, at least not the one everybody is looking for! The ''monster'' which has been discovered lying at the bottom of the loch is an old 30-foot-long movie prop used in a Sherlock Holmes movie filmed in 1969. During filming it sank to the bottom of the loch and was never seen again until recently when images of it were captured by an autonomous underwater vehicle - Munin - which has been commissioned to search Loch Ness in yet another attempt to prove the existence of the world-famous Loch Ness Monster.


graphic of the great glen fault line
For anyone who hasn't heard of the legend, the Loch Ness Monster is an (as yet) unidentified creature which is said to inhabit the depths of Scotland's second deepest loch, the largest volume of fresh water in the British Isles. Loch Ness is a long, narrow loch lying within the confines of the Great Glen Fault, a fault line which virtually cuts Scotland in two (see on map). The loch runs between Inverness and Fort Augustus and a well-used main road follows its northern shore.


''Nessie'' to give her her colloquial name (everyone assumes the monster is female but there is not one shred of evidence either way) made her first documented appearance in the early 6th century but since then there have been very few reports of appearances by Nessie until modern times that is and the advent of the motor car, the camera and tourism. The most famous time she was photographed was in 1934 (the so-called ''surgeon's photo'' which has now been revealed as a hoax) and there have been a number of photographs taken since then claiming to be of the monster
but none of them offer definitive proof.                                                                                       Image by Hellinterface/Wikipedia
                                                                                                                                                                               CC-BY-SA 3.0
There are many theories as to what Nessie might be. A relict population of the marine reptile the Plesiosaur perhaps. This seems to be one of the more popular theories based on the reported shape of Nessie - a long-necked, humpbacked creature as she appears to be when swimming at the surface.


skeleton of a plesiosaur
Photography by Kim Alaniz/Wikipedia CC-BY-SA 2.0
Other theories say that she is a giant eel or a giant catfish (or even an elephant!) but all of these theories (guesses, more like!) can't explain how a population of any such creature could survive in Loch Ness and where did they come from? They can't have been in the loch for millions of years because Loch Ness hasn't existed for millions of years and how do we account for them surviving through the last ice age which finally ended in Scotland about 10,000 years ago? It wasn't just the land that was frozen. Even the deepest lochs (which did exist by then) were also probably frozen from top to bottom. No creature could have survived tens of thousands of years locked under an ice-bound land and they can't have arrived in the loch after the ice age because Loch Ness has no outlet to the sea.

The cynical amongst us might question how it is that sightings of Nessie have really only been in the last 80 years or so. Actually, that's not hard to explain. It's only in the last 80 years or so that large scale tourism has come about with the growth of a more affluent population, the easier availability of cars and cameras and improvements in the road network leading to an increase in the numbers of people visiting Scotland and looking for the ''monster in the loch'' which they have heard about from other tourists with cars and cameras!

The really cynical amongst us might question why Nessie is often spotted at the beginning of the tourist season. She seems to be strangely absent during the winter months (or maybe she is hibernating!) and why, despite the constant surveillance of the loch by Nessie hunters, no good quallty photograph has ever been taken of her.

Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness
CC0 photograph by Bruce777/Pixabay
The above photograph is of the ruins of Urquhart Castle, a popular Nessie-spotting place on the north shore of the loch and one from which she has been spotted frequently. Yet there is still no definitive photographic proof nor indeed any other kind of proof - no footprints, no remains washed up the shore, nothing except blurry photographs and eyewitness accounts with no proof to back them up. Is it any wonder that belief in Nessie's existence is, ummm, patchy?

Mind you, whether she exists or not she does still bring some benefit to the Scottish economy. I doubt if there are many tourists who come to Scotland specifically to search for Nessie - most are likely to include a trip to Loch Ness as part of a general touring visit - but there is sufficient interest in her to support a number of ''Nessie-spotting'' tours both on and around the loch. Although I have spent a fair amount of time in the area of Loch Ness I have never seen the monster but there are over 1000 recorded sightings of Nessie and this Key Sightings website contains some interesting photographs of what may or may not be the monster.

Perhaps one day the mystery will be solved but in the meantime I won't hold my breath!



Some information from Wikipedia (in-text links)

10 comments:

  1. I would love visit Scotland, thanks to your blog I get a little taste of it.

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    1. Come and see for yourself! You never know - you might be the one to finally prove Nessie's existence.

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  2. What a beautiful photo of the castle. I think everyone has heard of Nessie!

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    1. Urquhart Castle lies at the entrance to a bay on the northern shore of the loch and this bay seems to be a popular spot for Nessie to display herself on the surface. Many Nessie sightings have occurred here.

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  3. These old legends do contribute to the economy, for sure! British Columbia has a similar mythical creature, called Ogopogo. It is said to live in the Okanagan Lake.

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    1. I have heard of the Ogopogo. I wonder if she and Nessie know each other? :)

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  4. It's an intriguing tale, but I don't think any creature could be that old. There would have to have been little "Nessies" somewhere along the way and a mate to provide them.

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    1. In other words there would have to be a viable population. Such a figure is a complex and variable calculation and depends on many parameters (life span, reproduction rate, etc.) but almost certainly requires several dozen individuals to maintain long-term viability. The Encyclopedia Britannica has a very interesting articles on minimum viable populations and how they could be calculated: http://www.britannica.com/science/minimum-viable-population

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  5. There must be boats all over the lake trying to find out Nessies hiding place. Does it ever get a bit too much with the Nessie hunters?

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    1. It's not so much boats on the loch it's the tourists who infest the shores of the loch snapping their cameras at anything that moves!

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