Loch Ness Monster

Loch Ness Monster

The Loch Ness Monster (Nessiteras rhombopteryx) is an alleged animal, family and upward incertae sedis, purportedly inhabiting Scotland's Loch Ness. The Loch Ness Monster is one of the best-known cryptids studied by cryptozoology. Popular belief and interest in the animal has fluctuated over the years since it came to the world's attention in 1933. Evidence of its existence is largely anecdotal, with minimal, and much disputed, photographic material and sonar readings: there has not been any physical evidence (skeletal remains, capture of a live animal, definitive tissue samples or spoor) uncovered as of 2008. Local people, and later many around the world, have affectionately referred to the animal by the diminutive Nessie (Niseag) since the 1950s.

Origins

The term "monster" was reportedly coined on 2 May 1933 by Alex Campbell, the water bailiff for Loch Ness and a part-time journalist, in a report in the Inverness Courier. On 4 August 1933, the Courier published as a full news item the claim of a London man named George Spicer that, a few weeks earlier, while motoring around the Loch, he and his wife had seen "the nearest approach to a dragon or pre-historic animal that I have ever seen in my life", trundling across the road toward the Loch carrying "an animal" in its mouth. The following month, another letter came from a veterinary student reporting a similar encounter while on a night drive. These stories soon reached the national (and later the international) press, which talked of a 'monster fish', 'sea serpent' or 'dragon', eventually settling on 'Loch Ness Monster'. On 6 December 1933 the first photograph (taken by Hugh Gray) was published, and the creature received official recognition from the Secretary of State for Scotland, ordering the police to prevent any attacks on it. Other letters began appearing in the Courier, often anonymously, with claims of land or water sightings, either on the writer's part or on the parts of family, acquaintances or stories they remembered being told. In 1934, interest was further sparked by what is known as The Surgeon's Photograph. In the same year R. T. Gould published a book, the first of many which describe the author's personal investigation and collected record of additional reports pre-dating the summer of 1933. Subsequent investigations by other agents over the ensuing decades added additional material which was eventually woven into a continuum of sightings dating from the 6th century A.D. to the present, and which appeared to present a strong case for the existence of a large, possibly unknown and certainly unidentified animal or family of animals living in Loch Ness. However, some people, such as Robert H. Rines, believe that the last few creatures died out in the 20th century.

History of reported sightings

From 1933 onward, a picture has emerged from investigations of reports of large animals in the loch having existed for centuries, but in recent times have declined from over ten per year in the 1990s to three in 2006. Some believers have argued that a lengthy history of monster sightings in the loch provides ample evidence of the animal's existence in and of itself.

Saint Columba (565)

The earliest known report is said to be found in the Life of St. Columba by Adamnan, written sometime during the 7th century. It describes how in 565 Columba saved the life of a Pict, who was being supposedly attacked by the monster. Adamnan describes the event 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 had seen, to magnify the God of the Christians".

Many question the reliability of the Life of St. Columba as evidence for the Loch Ness Monster's existence, because it contains tales of other encounters between the Saint and other entities, natural and supernatural, which have no similar tradition building out from them to present-day occurrences. They also argue that the monster encounter occurred on the River Ness, not in the loch. Moreover, there are no other accounts of the Loch Ness monster attacking anyone, as the creature is normally portrayed as even being shy. Finally, they point to the necessity of miraculous events in general in writings of the lives of saints, often involving monstrous beasts unknown to science, and that this tale's setting near Loch Ness may have more to do with where Columba lived than any history of Loch Ness being inhabited by large animals, fearsome or not.

1871

Although an alleged sighting in October 1871 by a "D. Mackenzie", who supposedly described seeing something that moved slowly before moving off at a faster speed, has been repeated in several places, no original 1871 source for this report has been discovered, indicating that it may be an invention.

1933

Although sightings of the creature on land around the loch reputedly date back to the sixth century, modern interest in the monster was sparked by a 22 July 1933 sighting, when George Spicer and his wife saw 'a most extraordinary form of animal' cross the road in front of their car. They described the creature as having a large body (about high and long), and long, narrow neck, slightly thicker than an elephant's trunk and as long as the ten- to twelve-feet (3.0–3.7 m) width of the road; the neck had a number of undulations in it. They saw no limbs because of a dip in the road obscuring the animal's lower portion. It lurched across the road towards the loch away, leaving only a trail of broken undergrowth in its wake.

In August 1933 a motorcyclist named Arthur Grant claimed to have nearly hit the creature while approaching Abriachan on the north-eastern shore, at about 1 am on a moonlit night. Grant saw a small head attached to a long neck; the creature saw him and crossed the road back into the loch. Grant dismounted and followed it to the loch, but only saw ripples. However some believe this was only a joke by a friend of Grant.

In another 1933 sighting, a young maidservant named Margaret Munro supposedly observed the creature for about 20 minutes. It was about 6:30 am on 5 June, when she spotted it on shore from about . She described it as having elephant-like skin, a long neck, a small head and two short forelegs or flippers. The sighting ended when the creature re-entered the water.

Sporadic land sightings continued until 1963, when a poor-quality film of the creature was made from a distance of several miles.

WWII

In May 1943, CB Farrel of the Royal Observer Corps was supposedly distracted from his duties by a Nessie sighting. He was about away from a large-eyed, 'finned' creature, which had a twenty- to thirty-foot (6–9 m) long body, and a neck that protruded about 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 m) out of the water.

1950s

In December 1954 a strange sonar contact was made by the fishing boat Rival III. The vessel's crew observed sonar readings of a large object keeping pace with the boat at a depth of . It was detected travelling for half a mile (800 m) in this manner, before contact was lost, but then found again later.

Photographs and films

The 'Surgeon's Photograph' (1934)

One of the most iconic images of Nessie is known as the 'Surgeon's Photograph', which many formerly considered to be good evidence of the monster. Its importance lies in the fact that it was the only photographic evidence of a “head and neck” – all the others are humps or disturbances. The image was revealed as a hoax in 1994.

Supposedly taken by Mr Robert Kenneth Wilson, a London gynaecologist, it was published in the Daily Mail on 21 April 1934. The photo is often cropped to make the monster seem huge, while the original uncropped shot shows the other end of the loch and the monster in the centre. The ripples on the photo fit the size and circular pattern of small ripples as opposed to large waves when photographed up close. Analyses of the original uncropped image have fostered further doubt. A year before the hoax was revealed, the makers of Discovery Communications's documentary Loch Ness Discovered did an analysis of the uncropped image and found a white object evident in every version of the photo, implying that it was on the negative. "It seems to be the source of ripples in the water, almost as if the object was towed by something," the narrator said. "But science cannot rule out it was just a blemish on the negative," he continued. Additionally, analysis of the full photograph revealed the object to be quite small, only about 60 to 90 centimetres (two to three ft) long.

In 1979 it was claimed to be a picture of an elephant (see below). Other sceptics in the 1980s argued the photo was that of an otter or a diving bird, but after Christian Spurling's confession most agree it was what Spurling claimed - a toy submarine with a sculpted head attached. The details of how it was done have been given in a book. Essentially, it was a toy submarine with a head and neck made of plastic wood, built by Christian Spurling, the son-in-law of Marmaduke Wetherell, a big game hunter who had been publicly ridiculed in the Daily Mail, the newspaper that employed him. Spurling claimed that to get revenge, Marmaduke Wetherell committed the hoax, with the help of Chris Spurling (a sculpture specialist), his son Ian Marmaduke, who bought the material for the fake Nessie, and Maurice Chambers (an insurance agent), who would call to ask surgeon Robert Kenneth Wilson to offer the pictures to the Daily Mail. The hoax story is disputed by Henry Bauer, who claims this debunking is evidence of bias, and asks why the perpetrators did not reveal their plot earlier to embarrass the newspaper. He also claimed that plastic wood did not exist in 1934, although it was a popular DIY and modelling material in the early 1930s.

Alastair Boyd, one of the researchers who uncovered the hoax, argues the Loch Ness Monster is real, and that the hoaxed Surgeon's Photo is not cause enough to dismiss eyewitness reports and other evidence.

The Taylor film (1938)

In 1938, G.E. Taylor, a South African tourist, filmed something in the loch for three minutes on 16 mm colour film, which is now in the possession of Dr. Maurice Burton. However, Burton has refused to show the film to Loch Ness investigators (such as Peter Costello or the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau). A single frame was published in his book The Elusive Monster; before he retired. Dr. Roy P. Mackal, a biologist and cryptozoologist, declared the frame to be "positive evidence". Later, it was shown also to the National Institute of Oceanography, now known as the Southampton Oceanographic Centre. It was agreed by the experts that the film clearly showed an ordinary inanimate object floating in the Loch.

The Dinsdale film (1960)

In 1960, aeronautical engineer Tim Dinsdale filmed a hump crossing the water in a powerful wake unlike that of a boat. JARIC declared that the object was "probably animate". Others were sceptical, saying that the "hump" cannot be ruled out as being a boat, and claimed that when the contrast is increased a man can be clearly seen in a boat.

In 1993 Discovery Communications made a documentary called Loch Ness Discovered that featured a digital enhancement of the Dinsdale film. A computer expert who enhanced the film noticed a shadow in the negative which was not very obvious in the positive. By enhancing and overlaying frames, he found what appeared to be the rear body, the rear flippers, and 1-2 additional humps of a plesiosaur-like body. He said that: "Before I saw the film, I thought the Loch Ness Monster was a load of rubbish. Having done the enhancement, I'm not so sure". Some have countered this finding by saying that the angle of the film from the horizontal along with sun's angle on that day made shadows underwater unlikely. Believers (and some nonbelievers) claim the shape could have been undisturbed water that was only coincidentally shaped like a plesiosaur's rear end. But the same source also says that there might be a smaller object (hump or head) in front of the hump causing this. Nonetheless, the enhancement did show a smaller second hump and possibly a third hump.

The Holmes video (2007)

On 26 May 2007, Gordon Holmes, a 55-year-old lab technician, captured video of what he said was "this jet black thing, about long, moving fairly fast in the water." Adrian Shine, a marine biologist at the Loch Ness 2000 centre in Drumnadrochit, has watched the video and plans to analyze it. Shine also described the footage as among "the best footage [he has] ever seen. BBC Scotland broadcast the video on 29 May 2007. STV News' North Tonight aired the footage on 28 May 2007 and interviewed Holmes. In this feature, Adrian Shine of the Loch Ness Centre was also interviewed and suggested that the footage in fact showed an otter, seal or water bird.

Holmes's credibility has been doubted by an article on the Cryptomundo website, which states that he has a history of reporting sightings of cryptozoological creatures, and sells a self-published book and DVD claiming evidence for fairies. His video also has no other objects by which to discern size.

Searches for the monster

Sir Edward Mountain Expedition 1934

Having read the book by Gould, Sir Edward Mountain decided to finance a proper watch in which 20 men with binoculars and cameras were positioned around the Loch from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., starting 13 July 1934 for five weeks. Some 21 photographs were taken, though none was considered conclusive. Captain James Fraser was employed as a supervisor, and remained by the Loch afterwards, taking cine film (which is now lost) on 15 September 1934. When viewed by zoologists and professors of natural history it was concluded that it showed a seal, possibly a grey seal.

Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau (1962-1972)

The Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau (LNPIB) was a UK-based society formed in 1962 to study Loch Ness to identify the creature known as the Loch Ness Monster or determine the causes of reports of it. It later shortened the name to Loch Ness Investigation Bureau (LNIB). It closed in 1972. The society had an annual subscription which covered administration. Its main activity was for groups of self-funded volunteers to watch the loch from various vantage points, equipped with cine cameras with telescopic lenses. Its founders included MP David James and naturalist Peter Scott. From 1965 to 1972 it had a caravan camp and main watching platform at Achnahannet, and sent observers to other locations up and down the loch. According to the 1969 Annual Report of the Bureau, it had 1,030 members, of whom 588 were from the UK. Its directors were listed as Norman Collins (Chairman), Lord Craigmyle, Prof. Roy P. Mackal, Richard Fitter, David James, MP, and Peter Scott.

The LNPIB sonar study (1967-1968)

Professor DG Tucker, chairman of the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Birmingham, England, volunteered his services as a sonar developer and expert at Loch Ness in 1968. The gesture was part of a larger effort helmed by the LNPIB from 1967-1968 and involved collaboration between volunteers and professionals in various fields. Tucker had chosen Loch Ness as the test site for a prototype sonar transducer with a maximum range of 800 metres (2600 ft). The device was fixed underwater at Temple Pier in Urquhart Bay and directed towards the opposite shore, effectively drawing an acoustic 'net' across the width of Ness through which no moving object could pass undetected. During the two-week trial in August, multiple animate targets six metres (20 ft) in length were identified ascending from and diving to the loch bottom. Analysis of diving profiles ruled out air-breathers because the targets never surfaced or moved shallower than midwater. A brief press release by LNPIB and associates touched on the sonar data and drew to a close the 1968 effort:

The answer 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

Andrew Carroll's sonar study (1969)

In 1969 Andrew Carroll, field researcher for the New York Aquarium in New York City, proposed a mobile sonar scan operation at Loch Ness. The project was funded by the Griffis foundation (named for Nixon Griffis, then a director of the aquarium). This was the tail-end (and most successful portion) of the LNPIB's 1969 effort involving submersibles with biopsy harpoons. The trawling scan, in Carroll's research launch Rangitea, took place in October. One sweep of the loch made contact with a strong, animate echo for nearly three minutes just north of Foyers. The identity of the contact remains a mystery. Later analysis determined that the intensity of the returning echo was twice as great as that expected from a pilot whale. Calculations placed the contact's length at .

Submersible investigations

Earlier submersible work had yielded dismal results. Under the sponsorship of World Book Encyclopedia, pilot Dan Taylor deployed the Viperfish at Loch Ness on 1 June 1969. His dives were plagued by technical problems and produced no new data. The Deep Star III built by General Dynamics and an unnamed two-man submersible built by Westinghouse were scheduled to sail but never did. It was only when the Pisces arrived at Ness that the LNPIB obtained new data. Owned by Vickers, Ltd., the submersible had been rented out to produce a Sherlock Holmes film featuring a dummy Loch Ness Monster. When the dummy monster broke loose from the Pisces during filming and sank to the bottom of the loch, Vickers executives capitalized on the loss and 'monster fever' by allowing the sub to do a bit of exploring. During one of these excursions, the Pisces picked up a large moving object on sonar 200 feet (60 m) ahead and above the bottom of the loch. Slowly the pilot closed to half that distance but the echo moved rapidly out of sonar range and disappeared.

The Big Expedition of 1970

During the so-called "Big Expedition" of 1970, Roy 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 (215 m) of water. Two hydrophones were secured at depths of 300 and . After two nights of recording, the tape (sealed inside a 44 imperial gallon (55 US gal/200 L) 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 the tail locomotion of a large aquatic animal. The knocks, clicks and resultant swishing were believed to be the sounds of an animal echo-locating prey before moving in for the kill. The noises stopped whenever craft passed along the surface of the loch near the hydrophone -- and resumed once the craft reached a safe distance. In previous experiments, it was observed that call intensities were greatest at depths less than . 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 results, which varied greatly. At times the calling patterns or intensities changed, but 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."

Robert Rines's studies (1972, 1975 and 2001)

In the early 1970s, a group of people led by Robert H. Rines obtained some underwater photographs. Two were rather vague images, perhaps of a rhomboid flipper (though others have dismissed the image as air bubbles or a fish fin). The alleged flipper was photographed in different positions, indicating movement. On the basis of these photographs, British naturalist Peter Scott announced in 1975 that the scientific name of the monster would henceforth be Nessiteras rhombopteryx (Greek for "The Ness monster with diamond-shaped fin"). Scott intended that this would enable Nessie to be added to a British register of officially protected wildlife. Scottish politician Nicholas Fairbairn pointed out that the name was an anagram for "Monster hoax by Sir Peter S".

The underwater photos were reportedly obtained by painstakingly examining the loch depths with sonar for unusual underwater activity. A submersible camera with an affixed, high-powered light (necessary for penetrating Loch Ness' notorious murk) was deployed to record images below the surface. Several of the photographs, despite their obviously murky quality, did indeed seem to show an animal resembling a plesiosaur in various positions and lightings. One photograph appeared to show the head, neck and upper torso of a plesiosaur. A rarely publicized photograph depicted two plesiosaur-like bodies. Another photo seemed to depict a "gargoyle head", which some believed to be a tree stump found during Operation Deepscan.

A few close-ups of what is to be the creature's supposed diamond-shaped fin were taken in different positions, as though the creature was moving. But the "flipper photograph" has been highly retouched from the original image. The Museum of Hoaxes shows the original unenhanced photo. Charlie Wyckoff claimed that someone retouched the photo to superimpose the flipper, and that the original enhancement showed a much smaller flipper. No one is exactly sure how the original came to be enhanced in this way.

In 2001, the Academy of Applied Science, known for Robert Rines' photographs, videoed a powerful V-shaped wake traversing the still water on a calm day.

Discovery Loch Ness (1993)

In 1993 Discovery Communications began to research the ecology of the loch. The study did not focus entirely on the monster, but on the loch's nematodes (of which a new species was discovered) and fish. Expecting to find a small fish population, the researchers caught twenty fish in one catch, increasing previous estimates of the loch's fish population about ninefold.

Using sonar, the team encountered a kind of underwater disturbance (called a seiche) due to stored energy (such as from a wind) causing an imbalance between the loch's warmer and colder layers (known as the thermocline). While reviewing printouts of the event the next day, they found what appeared to be three sonar contacts, each followed by a powerful wake. These events were later shown on a program called Loch Ness Discovered, in conjunction with analyses and enhancements of the 1960 Dinsdale Film, the Surgeon's Photo, and the Rines Flipper Photo.

GUST expedition (2001)

A controversial expedition by the Global Underwater Search Team (GUST) was conducted with advanced sonar equipment to search for the creature. One night, a small sonar contact moved on the screen. On another occasion, a vague disturbance was captured on film. The expedition was shown on a program called Loch Ness Monster: Search for the Truth.

Explanations

Many explanations have been postulated over the years to explain the claims for the existence of a Loch Ness Monster. These may be categorized: (1) unknown species of large animals; (2) mystic or paranormal; (3) misidentification of known animals; (4) inanimate objects or effects; (5) hoaxes. Note that believers in (1) or (2) accept that some or even most sightings may be due to (3), (4), and (5). In particular note that most sightings are of a large shape in the water - very few have more details.

Unknown species

In 1961 Dinsdale stated the principal existing animal theories to be (a) Giant Eel, (b) Hypothetical Long-Necked Seal (c) Hypothetical Long-Necked Newt, (d) Evolved Plesiosaur. Later biologist Roy Mackal listed and reviewed these candidates: (a) Pinnipedia (seal family) (b) Sirenia (manatee family) (c) (evolved) plesiosaur (d) amphibians (e) gastropods.

Plesiosaur

In 1933 the suggestion was made that the monster "bears a striking resemblance to the supposedly-extinct plesiosaur", a long-necked aquatic reptile that is thought to have become extinct during the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event. At the time, this was a popular and plausible explanation. The following arguments have been put against it.

  • Plesiosaurs were probably cold-blooded reptiles requiring warm tropical waters, while the average temperature of Loch Ness is only about 5.5 °C (42 °F). Even if the plesiosaurs were warm-blooded, they would require a food supply beyond that of Loch Ness to maintain the level of activity necessary for warm-blooded animals.
  • In October 2006, the New Scientist headlined an article "Why the Loch Ness Monster is no plesiosaur" because Leslie Noè of the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge reported, "The osteology of the neck makes it absolutely certain that the plesiosaur could not lift its head up swan-like out of the water". However, this does not rule out the reports where a head and neck was not seen.
  • The loch is only about 10,000 years old, dating to the end of the last ice age. Prior to that date, the loch was frozen solid for about 20,000 years.

Thus proponents such as Tim Dinsdale, Peter Scott and Roy Mackal postulate a marine creature which has become trapped and has evolved either from a plesiosaur or to the shape of a plesiosaur by convergent evolution.

Long-necked seal

In 1934 the Sir Edward Mountain expedition analysed film taken the same year and concluded that the monster was a species of seal, which was reported in a national newspaper as "Loch Ness Riddle Solved - Official. This idea was advocated by Peter Costello for both Nessie and other reputed lake monsters. This theory would cover sightings of lake monsters on land, during which the creature supposedly waddled into the lake upon being startled, in the manner of seals. Against this, it has been argued that all known species of pinnipeds are usually visible on land during daylight hours to sunbathe, something that Nessie is not known to do. However seals have been observed and photographed in Loch Ness (see below: Misidentification of known animals) and the sightings are sufficiently infrequent to allow for occasional visiting animals rather than a permanent colony.

Eel

A giant eel was actually one of the first suggestions made. Eels live in Loch Ness, and an unusually large eel would fit many sightings. This has been described as a conservative explanation. Eels are not known to protrude swanlike from the water and thus would not account for the head and neck sightings. Dinsdale dismissed the proposal because eels move in a side-to-side undulation.

Amphibian

R. T. Gould suggested something like a long-necked newt and Roy Mackal discussed this possibility, giving it the highest score (88%) in his list of possible candidates.

Invertebrates

In 1968 Frank Holiday proposed that Nessie and other lake monsters such as Morag could be explained by a giant invertebrate, and cited the extinct Tullimonstrum as an example of the shape. He says this provides an explanation for land sightings and for the variable back shape, and relates it to the medieval description of dragons as "worms". Mackal considered this, but found it less convincing than eel, amphibian or plesiosaur types of animal.

Paranormal

Kelpie

According to the Swedish naturalist and author Bengt Sjögren (1980), present day beliefs in lake monsters such as Nessie are associated with the old legends of kelpies. He claims that the accounts of loch monsters have changed over the ages, originally describing a horse appearance; they claimed that the "kelpie" would come out of the lake and turn into a horse. When a tired traveller would get on the back of the kelpie, it would gallop into the loch and devour its prey. This myth successfully kept children away from the loch, as was its purpose. Sjögren concludes that the kelpie legends have developed into more plausible descriptions of lake monsters, reflecting awareness of plesiosaurs. In other words, the kelpie of folklore has been transformed into a more "realistic" and "contemporary" notion of the creature. Believers counter that long-dead witnesses could only compare the creature to that with which they were familiar -- and they were not familiar with plesiosaurs.

Specific mention of the kelpie as a water horse in Loch Ness was given in a Scottish newspaper in 1879, and was commemorated in the title of a book Project Water Horse by Tim Dinsdale.

Misidentification of known animals

Resident animals

When viewed through a telescope or binoculars with no outside reference, it is difficult to judge the size of an object in the water. Loch Ness has resident otters and pictures of them are given by Binns, which could be misinterpreted. Likewise he gives pictures of deer swimming in Loch Ness, and birds which could be taken as a "head and neck" sighting.

Seals

A number of photographs and a video have now been taken which confirm that seals have been present in the loch, for up to months at a time. R.T. Gould wrote "A grey seal has a long and surprisingly extensible neck; it swims with a paddling action; its colour fits the bill; and there is nothing surprising in its being seen on the shore of the loch, or crossing a road. A film taken in 1934 was identified by experts as probably a seal. Seals could also account for sonar traces which act as animate objects.

Bird wakes

There are wake sightings that occur when the loch is dead calm with no boat nearby. A bartender named David Munro claims to have witnessed a wake which he believed to be a creature zigzagging, diving and reappearing. (There were 26 other witnesses from a nearby car park.) Some sightings describe the onset of a V-shaped wake, as if there were something underwater. Moreover, many wake sightings describe something not conforming to the shape of a boat. Under dead calm conditions, a creature too small to be visible to the naked eye can leave a clear v-shaped wake. In particular, a group of swimming birds can give a wake and the appearance of an object. A group of birds can leave the water and then land again, giving a sequence of wakes like an object breaking the surface, which Dick Raynor says is a possible explanation for his film.

Elephant

In a 1979 article, California biologist Dennis Power and geographer Donald Johnson claimed that the Surgeon's photograph (see top of page) was in fact the top of the head, extended trunk and flared nostrils of a swimming elephant, probably photographed elsewhere and claimed to be from Loch Ness. In 2006, palaeontologist and artist Neil Clark similarly suggested that travelling circuses might have allowed elephants to refresh themselves in the loch and that the trunk could therefore be the head and neck, with the elephant's head and back providing the humps. In support of this he provided a painting.

Inanimate objects or effects

Trees

In 1933 the Daily Mirror showed a picture with the following caption 'This queerly-shaped tree-trunk, washed ashore at Foyers may, it is thought, be responsible for the reported appearance of a "Monster"'. (Foyers is on Loch Ness.)

In a 1982 series of articles for New Scientist, Dr Maurice Burton proposed that sightings of Nessie and similar creatures could actually be fermenting logs of Scots pine rising to the surface of the loch's cold waters. Initially, a rotting log could not release gases caused by decay, because of high levels of resin sealing in the gas. Eventually, the gas pressure would rupture a resin seal at one end of the log, propelling it through the water -- and sometimes to the surface. Burton claimed that the shape of tree logs with their attendant branch stumps closely resemble various descriptions of the monster.

Four Scottish lochs are very deep, including Morar, Ness and Lomond. Only the lochs with pinewoods on their shores have monster legends; Loch Lomond — with no pinewoods — does not. Gaseous emissions and surfactants resulting from the decay of the logs can cause the foamy wake reported in some sightings. Indeed, beached pine logs showing evidence of deep-water fermentation have been found. On the other hand, there are believers who assert that some lakes do have reports of monsters, despite an absence of pinewoods; a notable example would be the Irish lough monsters.

Seiches and wakes

Loch Ness, because of its long, straight shape, is subject to some unusual occurrences affecting its surface. A seiche is a large, regular oscillation of a lake, caused by a water reverting to its natural level after being blown to one end of the lake. The impetus from this reversion continues to the lake's windward end and then reverts back. In Loch Ness, the process occurs every 31.5 minutes.

Boat wakes can also produce strange effects in the loch. As a wake spreads and divides from a boat passing the centre of the loch, it hits both sides almost simultaneously and deflects back to meet again in the middle. The movements interact to produce standing waves that are much larger than the original wake, and can have a humped appearance. By the time this occurs, the boat has passed and the unusual waves are all that can be seen.

Optical effects

Wind conditions can give a slightly choppy and thus matt appearance to the water, with occasional calm patches appearing as dark ovals (reflecting the mountains) from the shore, which can appear as humps to visitors unfamiliar with the lake. In 1979, Lehn showed that atmospheric refraction could distort the shape and size of objects and animals, and later showed a photograph of a rock mirage on Lake Winnipeg which could represent a head and neck.

Seismic gas

The Italian geologist Luigi Piccardi has proposed geological explanations for some ancient legends and myths. He pointed out that in the earliest recorded sighting of a creature, the Life of St. Columba, the creature's emergence was accompanied "cum ingenti fremitu" (with very loud roaring). The Loch Ness is located along the Great Glen Fault, and this could be a description of an earthquake. Furthermore, in many sightings, the report consists of nothing more than a large disturbance on the surface of the water. This could be caused by a release of gas from through the fault, although it could easily be mistaken for a large animal swimming just below the surface.

Hoaxes

The Loch Ness monster phenomenon has seen several attempts to hoax the public, some of which were very successful. Other hoaxes were revealed rather quickly by the perpetrators, or exposed after diligent research. A few examples are mentioned below.

In the 1930s, a big game hunter named Marmaduke Wetherell went to Loch Ness to look for the Loch Ness Monster. He claimed to have found some footprints but when the footprints were sent to scientists for analysis, they turned out to be hippopotamus footprints. A prankster had used a hippopotamus foot umbrella stand to make the footprints.

In 2004, a documentary team for Five, using special effects experts from movies, tried to make people believe there was something in the loch. They constructed an animatronic model of a plesiosaur, and dubbed it "Lucy". Despite setbacks, such as Lucy falling to the bottom of the loch, about 600 sightings were reported on the day, in the places they conducted the hoaxes.

In 2005, two students claimed to have found a huge tooth embedded in the body of a deer on the loch shore. They publicised the find widely, even setting up a website, but expert analysis soon revealed that the "tooth" was the antler of a muntjac.

Popular culture

See also

References

Books

  • Gould, R. T., The Loch Ness Monster and Others, London, Geoffrey Bles, 1934 and paperback, Lyle Stuart, 1976, ISBN 0806505559
  • Whyte, Constance, More Than a Legend: The Story of the Loch Ness Monster, London, Hamish Hamilton, 1957
  • Dinsdale, Tim, Loch Ness Monster, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961, SBN 7100 1279 9
  • Burton, Maurice, ''The Elusive Monster: An Analysis of the Evidence from Loch Ness, London, Rupert Hart-Davis, 1961
  • Holiday, F. W., The Great Orm of Loch Ness, London, Faber & Faber, 1968, SBN 571 08473 7
  • Mackal, Roy P., The Monsters of Loch Ness, London, Futura, 1976, ISBN 0 8600 7381 5
  • Binns, Ronald, The Loch Ness Mystery Solved, Great Britain, Open Books, 1983, ISBN 0 7291 0139 8 and Star Books, 1984, ISBN 0-352-31487-7

External links


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