The Loch Ness Monster, also known around the world famously as Nessie is a creature reported to inhabit Loch Ness, a deep fresh water body located near the city of Inverness in northern Scotland.
Nessie is as mysterious if not more mysterious than any other creature in the world today except perhaps for Bigfoot or the Yeti. The debate rages on to this day to the very existence of the creature with many annual sightings, and almost as many attempts to locate and track the creature. Is it a single animal, or a group? Both claims have been presented by different people with various tales and presentations. Nessie is one of the many known lake monsters around the world joining other famous lake monsters such as Ogopogo and Champ. However, Nessie eclipses them all with her (Indeed it is treated as female, despite the fact no gender is known one way or the other about the creature) stories and sightings. It was given the scientific name "Nessiteras Rhombopteryx" by Sir Peter Scott in the 70's. Many have noted how this is an anagram of "Monster hoax by Sir Peter S". Whether or not it is indeed a hoax is, as of yet, unproven.
Along with the aforementioned Bigfoot, Nessie is one of the most enduring mysterious in current day cryptozoology. Experts cannot locate any proof that Nessie exists, yet they cannot prove that she does not either. The critical and the accepting are under constant arguments with facts and figures, with neither side able to totally put the mystery to rest one way or the other. Scientists find the evidence in favor of Nessie non persuasive, and the sightings to be lies or confusion. However, many more people easily argue the other side, stating in their firmness that they have seen it, and that it is a real creature. Most believe it is a living relative of a creature thought long extinct... the plesiosaur.
In the early part of the 1930's a new road was built around Loch Ness which in turn brought in a spate of new sightings from road users and sightseers. Up until this time stories of the monster circulated more within the local community but talk of other sightings were spreading out with the village. The first recorded sighting of Nessie on land was made by Mr Spicer and his wife, on July 22nd 1933, who were driving down the road between the Loch Ness side villages of Dores and Inverfarigaig. They caught sight of a large cumbersome animal crossing the road ahead, which was some 20 yards from the water. They first saw a long neck, forming a number of arches, a little thicker than a elephant's trunk and a huge lumbering body heading towards the Loch. It disappeared into the bushes out of sight. After this sighting reports flooded in and interest grew on an international scale. Speculators offered huge prizes for the animal, dead or alive. Circus owner Bertram Mills promised a sum of £20,000 to any man who could bring the creature alive to his circus. Probably one of the first photographs to be taken of the monster was snapped by a British Aluminum Company worker, Mr Hugh Gray, near Foyers. It showed a writhing creature creating a considerable disturbance on the surface of the Loch. He only saw part of the animal which he estimated to be around 40 ft long, which included a thick rounded back and also a muscular looking tail. In December of the same year a hippo's foot had been planted by a prankster and all was taken seriously until officials finally uncovered the truth. This had an affect on future reports of sightings, as they were taken less seriously. But still reported sightings were becoming increasingly common and more intriguing. On the 5th of January, 1934, a motorcyclist almost collided with the monster as he was returning home from Inverness. It was around 1 am. and was bright due to the moonlight. As Mr Grant approached Abriachan on the north-eastern shore of the Loch he saw a large shape loom on the right side of the road. As he approached the object he saw a small head attached to a long neck. The animal saw Grant and promptly crossed the road back down to the Loch. Mr Grant, by this time, had jumped off his motorbike and followed the path it took to the Loch only to see the rippling water where the creature had entered. In April,1934 the most famous photograph was obtained by a London surgeon as he heading towards Inverness along the new road (Later to be proven a fake). An event on the 5th of June, 1934 was considered to be of importance but was not widely publicized. It involved a young girl from the Fort Augustus area who was employed as a maid in a large house close to abbey. It was about 6:30 am., the maid was looking out of a window down the Loch. She saw on the shore, ' one of the biggest animals she had seen in her life, ' at a range of about 200 yards. Her description was similar to those of others, giraffe like neck, small head, skin like an elephant and two very short fore legs or flippers. She watched it for around 20 minutes when it re-entered the water and disappeared. There were a number of privately funded investigations, most of which were not successful, which took place in the same year. There was one such expedition which did have a degree of success. It was led by a Sir Edward Mountain in July, 1934. During that period of research and investigation he obtained five still pictures of the monster, he had observed the monster, along with members of his team, and had actually filmed the monster. It was probably because the expedition was so well funded that a result was most likely and that a poorly funded investigation would be doomed to failure. As the threat of war with Germany grew stronger, Nessie and all of the sightings were the furthest things from peoples minds, but there were some recorded sightings and even a number of photographs were taken. During the war Loch Ness was in control of the Navy and the loch area was secured. This did not stop the monster from making itself known. In May, 1943, a Mr C.B. Farrel of the Royal Observer Corps was on duty to warn of incoming enemy bombers but instead observed the movements of the monster at a distance of 250 yards. He saw 20-30 ft of the monster's body and the neck which was approximately 4-5ft above the surface of the water. The eyes, he explained, were large and the body of the monster appeared to have a 'fin'. It finally submerged without a movement on the water.
However, tales of a monster in the loch have circulated for much much longer, at least according to many interested parties. Carvings of an unidentified animal, made by the ancient inhabitants of the Scottish Highlands some 1,500 years ago, are the earliest evidence that Loch Ness harbors a strange aquatic creature. Many question the carvings and tales for relevance or historical accuracy, but currently, they are difficult to prove or disprove. Most tales were not even known before the 60's, but interest in Nessie was at best a curiosity more than scientific study. Only now are people honestly trying to analyze and document cases of sightings and tales. According to one tale, in 565 St. Columba, an abbot of Iona, faced off against a monster in the loch, to save the life of a Pict (pre-Scottish settlers of the time). This is possibly the earliest known report of an encounter with a creature of some kind in the loch. It was related in "The Life of Saint Columba" by Adamnan, another Irish abbot, and the biographer of St. Columba. The event was recorded as follows:
"...(He) raised his holy hand, while all the rest, brethren as well as strangers, were stupefied with terror, and, invoking the name of God, formed the saving sign of the cross in the air, and commanded the ferocious monster, saying, "Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man; go back with all speed." Then at the voice of the saint, the monster was terrified, and fled more quickly than if it had been pulled back with ropes, though it had just got so near to Lugne, as he swam, that there was not more than the length of a spear-staff between the man and the beast. Then the brethren seeing that the monster had gone back, and that their comrade Lugne returned to them in the boat safe and sound, were struck with admiration, and gave glory to God in the blessed man. And even the barbarous heathens, who were present, were forced by the greatness of this miracle, which they themselves had seen, to magnify the God of the Christians".
Of course it is not the only story about St. Columba, including another very wild tale in which he slays a boar with nothing more than the authority within his voice. It also in the story claims to have taken place upon the River Ness and not the loch itself. St. Columba apparently slew many monsters in his adventures in and around the River Ness, thus putting even more questions to the truthfulness of this tale. Also, why was the monster attacking if it was indeed Nessie, or some relation? By all accounts Nessie is very shy and docile... hardly a threat to people considering how many people are around the loch at a given time.
Many claim that with so many sightings, this alone is proof of the validity of the monsters existence. However, since most of these stories are challenged continually by critics, it is difficult to call them fact. There have been well over 10'000 rumored sightings, many of which are reported in the media. In 1968, Professor D.G. Tucker of the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering offered his assistance in searching for the elusive beast using the latest in sonar development. This was just one small part of the overall effort by the LNPIB (Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau) and had many different professionals and experts across many different fields. Professor Tucker wanted to test the latest prototype transducer which had a maximum depth capability of 800 meters. The device was installed at Urquhart Bay, and an electronic wall of sound was aimed directly into the loch. No moving object could pass through undetected... at least not one of Nessie's reported size. For two weeks the sonar bounced and recorded, capturing multiple signals of targets ranging in many sizes, including several up to six meters. These were analyzed and identified with mixed results. In 1968 the LNPIB released this statement on the findings:
The solution to the question of whether or not unusual phenomena exist in Loch Ness, Scotland, and if so, what their nature might be, was advanced a step forward during 1968, as a result of sonar experiments conducted by a team of scientists under the direction of D. Gordon Tucker... Professor Tucker reported that his fixed beam sonar made contact with large moving objects sometimes reaching speeds of at least 10 knots. He concluded that the objects are clearly animals and ruled out the possibility that they could be ordinary fish. He stated: "The high rate of ascent and descent makes it seem very unlikely [that they could be fish], and fishery biologists we have consulted cannot suggest what fish they might be. It is a temptation to suppose they might be the fabulous Loch Ness monsters, now observed for the first time in their underwater activities!"
Other later tests yielded even more results to bring the myth further alive. In 1969 Andrew Carroll, a researcher from New York, proposed a mobile scan of the loch. Using a trawling scan they made contact with a very strong signal, which sent back an echo stronger than what was remotely expected. Calculations on the data estimated the creature to be around 20 feet.
During the so-called "Big Expedition" of 1970, Roy P. Mackal, a biologist who taught for 20 years at the University of Chicago, devised a system of hydrophones (underwater microphones) and deployed them at intervals throughout the loch. In early August a hydrophone assembly was lowered into Urquhart Bay and anchored in 700 feet of water. Two hydrophones were secured at depths of 300 and 600 feet. After two nights of recording, the tape (sealed inside a 55 gallon steel drum along with the system's other sensitive components) was retrieved and played before an excited LNPIB. "Bird-like chirps" had been recorded, and the intensity of the chirps on the deep hydrophone suggested they had been produced at greater depth. In October "knocks" and "clicks" were recorded by another hydrophone in Urquhart Bay, indicative of echolocation. These sounds were followed by a "turbulent swishing" suggestive of locomotion by the tail a large aquatic animal. The knocks, clicks, and resultant swishing was believed to correspond to predation - an animal pinpointing prey via echolocation and then moving in for the kill. The noises died out when craft passed along the surface of Loch Ness near the hydrophone and resumed when craft had reached a safe distance. During previous experiments, it was observed that call intensities were greatest at depths less than 100 feet. Members of the LNPIB decided to attempt communication with the animals producing the calls by playing back previously recorded calls into the water and listening via hydrophone for any results - which varied greatly. At times the calling pattern changed, other times it increased or decreased in intensity, sometimes there was no change at all. Mackal noted that there was no similarity between the recordings and the hundreds of known sounds produced by aquatic animals. "More specifically," he said, "competent authorities state that none of the known forms of life in the loch has the anatomical capabilities of producing such calls."
The famed "Surgeon's Photo" was confirmed as a hoax based on the deathbed confessions of Chris Spurling, son-in-law of Marmaduke Wetherell. Spurling claimed the photo, which inspired much popular interest in the monster, was actually a staged photograph of clay attached to a toy submarine. Also notable are the ripples on the photo, which fit the size and circular pattern of small ripples when photographed up close, not large waves. Wetherell, a big game hunter, had been tricked into searching for an imaginary monster around the loch based on evidence which turned out to be the result of children's prank. He was publicly ridiculed in the Daily Mail, the journal which employed him. To get revenge, Marmaduke Wetherell set this hoax up, with the help of Chris Spurling (his son-in-law as mentioned), who was a specialist in sculpture, Ian Marmaduke (his son), who bought the material for the fake Nessie, and Maurice Chambers (an insurance agent), who was to call and ask Robert Wilson (a surgeon) to show the pictures. Well before Spurling's claims, however, others had argued the photo was that of an otter or a diving bird. There are in fact two "Surgeon's Photos," which depict slightly different poses, leading some to argue the photos are evidence against a hoax. However, at the time of this confession his father had already died, and Spurling wanted to disprove the photo.
In July 2003, the BBC reported 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. In 2004, a documentary team for Channel 4 deliberately tried to make people believe there was something in the loch. They constructed an elaborate animatronic model. Despite setbacks, it was a success, and numerous sightings were reported on the day, in the places they performed the hoaxes. In addition, sunlight does not penetrate very deep into the water because of peat washed into the loch from the surrounding hills. This limits the amount of algae in the loch, thereby reducing the number of plankton, small fish, and then large fish up the food chain. The loch simply does not have enough food to support animals as big as a plesiosaur, particularly a breeding population of plesiosaurs. Paleontologist Neil Clark has also proposed that the 1933 sightings were actually elephants from the traveling circus of Bertram Mills. According to the Swedish naturalist and author Bengt Sjögren (1980), the present day belief in lake monsters in for example Loch Ness, is associated with the old legends of kelpies. Sjögren claims that the accounts of lake-monsters have changed during history. Older reports often talk about horse-like appearances, but more modern reports often have more reptile and dinosaur-like-appearances, and Bengt Sjögren concludes that the legends of kelpies evolved into the present day legends of lake-monsters where the monsters "changed the appearance" to a more "realistic" and "modern" version since the discovery of dinosaurs and giant aquatic reptiles from the horse-like water-kelpie to a dinosaur-like reptile, often a plesiosaur, or even a dragon like appearance.
Arguments against the plesiosaur theory include the fact that the lake is too cold for a cold-blooded animal to survive easily, that air-breathing animals like plesiosaurs would be easily spotted when they surface to breathe, that the lake is too small to support a breeding colony and that the loch itself formed only 10,000 years ago during the last ice age, while the plesiosaur is thought to have gone extinct millions of years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous Period during the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event. However, these arguments have all been opposed by Robert Rines, who said that "animals can adapt" and that "some reptiles can stay in water for a long time". "Many sightings tell of "horns" or "ears", which may be nostrils. If it (the monster) breathes regularly, it could breathe without being noticed". Supporters of the plesiosaur theory also say that the coelecanth was also thought to be extinct since the time of the plesiosaurs and was rediscovered in 1938. In 2001, the Academy of Applied Science, known for Robert Rines' photographs, had videoed a powerful V-shaped wake going across the water on a calm day. They also found what looked like a decaying carcass of an animal bigger than a fish.
Operation Deepscan has been by far the largest and most intense search of Loch Ness to attempt to find the proof of the mystery known as the Loch Ness monster. The newspapers claimed it was "a sonar exploration of Loch Ness, an operation which would sweep the unfathomable depths of the loch from shore to shore and end to end with a curtain through which nothing could escape". It was the brainchild of Adrian Shine, the leader of the Loch Ness project who teamed up with Darrell Laurence head of Laurence Electronics, Tulsa Oklahoma. He thought Loch Ness would be a good testing site for his sonar units, not to mention the publicity. The tests started at the loch in October 1986 using ten boats fitted with Laurence X-16 sonar units. The x-16 sonar unit was used because it would record on a paper chart anything seen in the lochs depths. The units had a range of 1300ft and could target objects as small as 1' and separate objects just 1" apart. The boats, which were supplied by Caley Cruises set out from the New Clansman Hotel into the loch and tried to form a line down the loch but bad weather and strong winds stopped any chance they had to gather information that day, so all they had to show was yards of meaningless sonar readings. Operation Deepscan was therefore cancelled for that year. It was decided to go ahead with Operation Deepscan the following year. So on October the 9th, 1987 started the largest sonar sweep of any fresh water loch anywhere in the world. The boats again supplied by caley cruises met at the New Clansman Hotel, as well as the 24 boats that were to take part in the operation. Every layby for miles around the loch were full of interested spectators and their cars. Over 250 newspersons and 20 television crews turned up to record the the event for the newspapers and T.V. stations from all over the world. Nearly every boat that could be hired was on the loch that morning including a pleasure steamer hired for the media and an helicopter buzzing around the line of boats. The proceedings started with Adrian Shine talking to everyone taking part, which included volunteers from the Docklands Fund and the Drake Fellowship, through a megaphone asking they do it for "all the maligned eyewitnesses who look to you for vindication ". The media loved it and spirits were high for the start of the operation. The boats edged out into the loch, where they formed a line of 19, all fitted with lowrance X-16 sonar units with other boats following including the New Atlantis fitted with a Simrad scanning sonar which can still be seen on the loch today. The first problem they encountered was the sonars forming the curtain interfered with each other so the sensitivity had to be turned down to almost minimum or the readings would be indecipherable. This problem solved, the searchers moved down the loch towards Fort Augustus keeping in line using flags set on several of the boats. On the first day 3 strong sonar contacts were recorded from 78 metres to 180 metres. The best of these was made just off Whitefield opposite Urquhart Bay. The object entered the the sonar at 174 metres and was tracked for 140 seconds. The new atlantis moved forward to try and engage the target with the Simrad scanning sonar but without success. The position of all three targets was taken using Decca navigation equipment so they could be revisited later. The boats returned to the New Clansman Hotel and everyone waited with bated breath for the debriefing in the hotel that evening. In the debriefing it was reported that 3 strong sonar contacts were made that day, larger than would be expected from a fresh water loch. David Steensland of Laurence said that the 78metre target might be of a very large known fish but thought that unlikely at that depth. Of the other two targets he said they were very strange and larger than those he picked up from sharks off the coast of Florida. Darrell Laurence said that all the contacts were larger than a shark but smaller than a whale. Adrian Shine, leader of the Loch Ness project said in his opinion all 3 targets were unlike those which could be expected from the lochs known inhabitants like salmon eels or shoals of char and that they are deep midwater contacts of considerable strength. So the first day of the operation ended with great optimism for the following day of the search. Day 2 started with the 19 boats lined up just north of Fort augustus and the sweep started back down the loch all the way to abriachan. Apart from a couple of indistinct contacts nothing was seen to match the 3 contacts of the previous day. The media, assembled at the debriefing with hopes of more good contacts, took the no contact news badly. Adrian explained that he had sent 5 boats out that morning to check the sites of the previous days contacts but nothing could be found that could have made them. That proved that they were not fixed objects but moving mid water targets. It was estimated that the search covered 60% of the total loch area as the sides and bays could not be covered. The media left the loch some what dismayed that the Loch Ness Monster had not been dragged from the loch for all to see and some reported Operation Deepscan as a flop. Whatever they may say or print the operation was a success. It did record 3 large sonar contacts in the loch of a size too large to be made by anything known to live in the loch. So what were the 3 contacts which were said to be larger than a shark but smaller than a whale?
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- The Loch Ness Monster: The Evidence by Steuart Campbell
- Encyclopedia of the Loch Ness Monster by Paul Harrison