Ol’ Nessie

Is the Loch Ness Monster a true creature living in the depths of the Loch or is the monster just a legend?

The+legendary+photo+of+Nessie+that+started+the+modern+day+hunt.+
The legendary photo of Nessie that started the modern day hunt.

The legendary photo of Nessie that started the modern day hunt.

The legendary photo of Nessie that started the modern day hunt.

Nikolas Thompson, Staff Writer

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“Is the Loch Ness Monster a true creature living in the depths of the Loch or is the monster just a legend?”

Many believe that monsters are real, living elusive and hidden lives out of man’s sight. The Loch Ness Monster is one of those creatures some believe to be the real deal, hiding in the waters of Loch Ness. Although many claim to have had encounters with the beast and believe in its existence, many others remain skeptical of its existence.

Loch Ness, located in the Scottish Highlands, has the largest volume of fresh water in Great Britain; the body of water reaches a depth of nearly 800 feet and a length of about 23 miles. Scholars of the Loch Ness Monster find a dozen references to the monster, or “Nessie,” in Scottish history, dating back to around A.D. 500, when local Picts carved a strange aquatic creature into standing stones near Loch Ness. The earliest written reference to a monster in Loch Ness is a 7th-century biography of Saint Columba, the Irish missionary who introduced Christianity to Scotland.

In 1933, a new road was completed along Loch Ness’ shore, giving drivers a clear view of the loch. After an April 1933 sighting was reported in the local paper on May 2, interest steadily grew, as several British newspapers sent reporters to Scotland, including London’s Daily Mail, which hired big-game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell to capture the beast. Wetherell reported finding the fresh footprints of a large, four-toed animal. He estimated it to be 20 feet long. Wetherell made plaster casts of the footprints and sent them off to the Natural History Museum in London for analysis. The plasters, however, were disproven when in early January, museum zoologists announced that the footprints were those of a hippopotamus. They had been made with a stuffed hippo foot—the base of an umbrella stand or ashtray. Although this was proven false, the modern legend and hunt for the beast began.

A famous 1934 photograph (see photo) seemed to show a dinosaur-like creature with a long neck emerging out of the murky waters, leading some to speculate that “Nessie” was a solitary survivor of the long-extinct plesiosaurs. The aquatic plesiosaurs were thought to have died off with the rest of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Loch Ness was frozen solid during the recent ice ages, however, so this creature would have had to have made its way up the River Ness from the sea in the past 10,000 years. And the plesiosaurs, believed to be cold-blooded, would not long survive in the frigid waters of Loch Ness. More likely, others suggested, it was an archeocyte, a primitive whale with a serpentine neck that is thought to have been extinct for 18 million years. Skeptics of these theories of living dinosaurs argued that what people were seeing in Loch Ness were “seiches”–oscillations in the water surface caused by the inflow of cold river water into the slightly warmer loch.

The use of technology to search the loch reached a new level in the 1970s, when a series of expeditions was sponsored by the Boston-based Academy of Applied Science.  The Academy’s approach was to set a trap for the monster by combining sonar and underwater photography for the first time. Nearby a side sonar system, they placed an underwater camera taking pictures every 45 seconds as a strobe light illuminated the depths with a bright flash. The system paid off one night in 1975. At the same moment the sonar was registering a large, moving object, the underwater camera was taking pictures of an object that looked, after development and computer enhancement, like the flippers of an aquatic creature.

More recently, several sightings have been reported in 2016. Tourists have reported seeing dark or black shapes moving around in the water near the Urquhart castle. Two separate groups of people on the same day, August 21, saw black figures swimming in the water and took photos of them. It is estimated that the figures are about 10 meters long. Obviously the monster’s reputation is alive and well.

Despite evidence for and against Nessie’s existence, it still remains a mystery to whether or not the beast lives in the Loch Ness. Some may say that the evidence is too overwhelming against the creature to believe in it, but others refuse to give up on trying to prove the Loch Ness monster’s presence. Regardless of whether or not the monster is real, its stories will forever be a part of history. To this day no one can conclude that the monster does or does not exist and so the hunt goes on.

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