"...(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 investigationsEarlier 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 1970During 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.
ExplanationsMany 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 speciesIn 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.
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 sealIn 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.
EelA 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.
AmphibianR. 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.
InvertebratesIn 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.
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 animalsWhen 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.
SealsA 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 wakesThere 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.
ElephantIn 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
TreesIn 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 effectsWind 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 gasThe 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.
HoaxesThe 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.
- Champ (legend)
- Chessie (sea monster)
- Lake monster
- Lake Tianchi Monster
- Lake Van Monster
- The Loch
- Loch Ness Monster (roller coaster)
- Sea monster
- The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
- The Lourdes effect
- 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
- Loch Ness Monster site from the UK
- Nova Documentary On Nessie
- Loch Ness Project Research
- Loch Ness Investigation
- Tony Harmsworth's Loch Ness Information Webpage
- Smithsonian Institution
- Skeptic World - Loch Ness Article
- Skepdic entry on Nessie
- The Legend Of Loch Ness