The Loch Ness monster refuses to die.

Big hooves, sturgeon or ancient dinosaur? Countless witnesses claim to have seen the monster lurking in the Scottish lake Loch Ness. But every time scientists show up, the sea monster…

Big hooves, sturgeon or ancient dinosaur? Countless witnesses claim to have seen the monster lurking in the Scottish lake Loch Ness. But every time scientists show up, the sea monster disappears into the water.

When driving along Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands on one of the rare sunny days there, it’s hard to imagine that this still water, in which the mountains and yellow flowers are reflected, should also hold an ancient name.

But when increasingly common rain clouds pile up between the grassy green banks and mountains that surround the lake and the lake seems dark and cold, one can well wonder what secrets may be lurking in its depths.

Rumor has it that monsters have always lived in this vast body of water. Judging by all the souvenirs that can be bought around the lake, Nessie, as the monster is called, is some kind of hybrid between a dragon and a dinosaur.

All the many tourists – who leave almost five billion kroner in the region’s economy – come primarily for this famous water monster, but in itself the nature there is magnificent enough and worth the visit – even without the mythical creatures.

Since 1968, the company Royal Scot has been sailing with tourists around Loch Ness in search of the monster – without success.

This large Scottish lake is about 37 kilometers long and runs through a beautiful green valley that emerged after the end of the Ice Age. Despite all these many tourists, the lake is still surrounded by both deserted areas and untouched nature.

But if you stand alone there by the lake and look over the calm area and know that the bottom of the lake lies 200 meters below the murky surface, then it may very well be possible that this deep water still holds a secret.

The most famous picture of the Loch Ness monster is from 1934. Since then, tourists have flocked to the place to try to catch a glimpse of it.

Nessie is less than 100 years old

Rumors of the Loch Ness monster first surfaced almost a century ago. In 1933, the Inverness Courier, a newspaper published in the official capital of the Highlands, Inverness, just north of the lake, printed a reader’s letter from a man called George Spicer. In the letter, Spicer described how he and his wife had seen “the closest thing to a dragon or any prehistoric animal that I have ever seen in my life”.

Spicer reported how the animal he had seen in Loch Ness was about eight meters long with no visible limbs but an extremely long neck.

Much to Spicer’s surprise, this sex creature had left the water and crossed the road in front of him with a fish or some other prey in its mouth.

The newspaper did not provide any evidence for this meeting of Spicer with the mysterious creature, but it was not long before countless letters began to arrive at the newspaper.

The Scots in Inverness now both discussed a possible giant fish, dragon or sea serpent, until they agreed to name the creature the Loch Ness Monster.

“Come no further. Don’t touch the man and make yourself disappear already.”
In 565, the monk Kólumkilli allegedly sent the monster on the run.

In the same year, the first picture of the creature surfaced, causing tourists to flock to Inverness.

The photo was not very clear and was taken by a man named Hugh Grey. But a year later, probably one of the best-known pictures of the supposed monster emerged, in which something resembling a long neck can be seen sticking out of the water.

The photo was nicknamed the “surgeons photograph” because it was allegedly taken by a gynecologist from London named Robert Kenneth Wilson.

Wilson wanted to remain anonymous, but the nickname stuck with the picture, as it was thought that it increased its credibility that a doctor managed to capture the Loch Ness monster in a picture.

Now a kind of Loch Ness craze began in earnest, and a Scotsman there by the name of MacKenzie, was suddenly able to report that as early as 1871 or 1872—he wasn’t quite sure—he had seen something that looked like a log or half sunk boat, however, moved around in the water and slowly crossed before disappearing into the water at high speed.

It didn’t take long for hundreds of accounts of this Scottish monster to emerge.

The oldest one dates back to 565 AD. and laid the foundation for the idea that the monster has always been a part of the lake’s history, despite the fact that all these old stories only came to light after the great interest of people arose after 1933.

Monk warns of ‘monster’

In the book The Life of St. Columba, which was written in the late seventh century, the abbot Adomnán of Iona described an event that was said to have taken place about 100 years earlier: Then the Irish monk Columba or Columkilli approached some Scots who were burying a man by the river Ness.

They reported that the man had been swimming across the river when he was attacked, bitten and dragged under the water by some kind of monster.

Kólumkilli immediately ordered them to follow him out to the river, and when the monster appeared again, Kólumkilli made the sign of the cross over it and ordered:

“Come no further. Don’t touch the man and make yourself disappear already.”

The Forynjan stopped under one, “as if it had been pulled backwards by a rope and then fled”, can be read in this 1,400-year-old story.

People who believe in the existence of the Loch Ness monster point to such rumors about the River Ness – which flows from the lake through Inverness to the sea to the north of the lake – as evidence that monsters have lived in or around the lake for centuries.

Skeptics point out, however, that the story of a river monster held in check by one man is a common theme in heroic tales from this time – so-called saints’ tales.

The monk Kólumkilli is said to have seen the Loch Ness monster in the 5th century

Since 1933, many people have reported sightings of the Loch Ness Monster, and aspiring photographers have taken countless photos and even movies of this famous beast.

All these photo shoots have in common, however, that the subject is usually extremely unclear and thus extremely open to various interpretations – if it is not just outright fakes.

For example, the hunter Marmaduke Wertherell traveled to the lake in the 1940s to hunt this famous creature and – according to himself – found clear traces of Nessie.

He had some casts made of the footprints, but when Wetherell received the results of the analysis, they turned out to be hippopotamus footprints – some guy had used a hippopotamus foot to mark the footprints, but such feet were popular umbrella stands at the time.

40 years later, in 1972, scientists found a large carcass of a mysterious animal weighing about one and a half tons. The carcass was badly rotted and, according to the men’s dramatic descriptions, had “a bear’s head on a brown carcass with scales and fins but at the ends of which were claws”.

However, the animal turned out to be a dead elephant seal that some zoo employee had shaved off the hunting hairs and used instead to eat his colleagues.

Apple Maps captured the monster

While such tricks can be a lucrative scam at best, photographers have also captured images that are more difficult to interpret – for example, subsurface images that may resemble large fins or heads.

Images of lumps and other hard-to-identify objects sticking out of the water have also emerged, possibly resembling some sort of giant animal but more likely waves in the wake of a ship, but Apple Maps released aerial images of the lake in 2014.

In that town, people wipe out the ships themselves so that only one remains in their wake.

In 2011, one of the captains who take tourists in search of Nessie, George Edwards, finally managed to get a picture of three lumps, after he claimed to have searched for the monster 60 hours a week for 26 years.

Edwards has since searched for Nessie with an echo sounder and claims to have found a canyon at the bottom of Loch Ness where the water is deeper than previously thought.

The canyon could thus explain where the Loch Ness monster hides and why it is so difficult to find.

The quality of the Nessie movies varies wildly. Some of the movies are so bad they’re almost funny.

However, this Scottish captain has not been able to convince others of the existence of this gorge.

Over the years, hopeful knights of fortune, just like George Edwards, have made many more or less organized attempts to find Nessie by taking pictures of the bottom of the lake and looking for cracks, caves and deep canyons that might explain why so difficult turns out to find the swarm.

The first search began already in 1934 and the last as late as 2018.

In the latter search, an international team of biologists took samples from the water to look for the genetic material of this sex animal.

DNA analysis can reveal lizard remains that could be from the Loch Ness Monster. In this way, one of the main problems in the search for this sex animal could be solved.

One problem with diving and taking pictures in the water is that the water contains a large amount of all kinds of particles, peat and turf, so that sometimes you can only see a few centimeters in front of you.

In the neighboring town of Inverness there are many things done to earn a little shilling from the Loch Ness monster.

And Robert Riners who has studied the lake with echo sounders and cameras and large searchlights in 1972, 1975, 2001 and 2008 has both found something that could be a tail or neck and he also took pictures in 1972 of what he believes to be a diamond shaped coil. It can also be noted that in 1975, two unknown objects swam in the opaque water.

However, critics have dismissed these images as any solid evidence, as they could simply be rocks or fish fins, and these swimming creatures could just as easily have been otters.

After all this trouble in finding solid evidence for the animal’s existence, Riners came up with the hypothesis in 2008 that the animal was now extinct.

Sonar was the hope of scientists

In 1987, another expedition, Operation Deepscan, investigated the lake with 24 boats equipped with echo sounders and, according to them, found a large object at a depth of 180 meters.

One expert who had donated equipment to the expedition concluded that something unknown, larger than a fish, lived in the water, but could not offer a more detailed explanation.

These experiments continued in 2003 with 600 new echo sounders attached to satellites, but nothing interesting was revealed.

One of the most persistent hypotheses is that the Loch Ness Monster is a plesiosaurus – a giant, long-necked lizard that went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period 66 million years ago.

Tourism in the Inverness area took a hit after rumors of a monster in the water. In 1980, Loch Ness Exhibition Center was opened in the town.

Historians know this for sure

No dinosaur lives in Loch Ness

  • Seals sometimes visit the lake and can explain the rumors about the monster.
  • The shape of the water results in unique waves that are easy to misinterpret.
  • Loch Ness is the second deepest lake in Scotland and its maximum depth is 226.96 m.
  • The water never freezes and its temperature remains fairly constant.
  • Nine known species of fish live in the lake.
  • There is a man-made island in Loch Ness and it is believed to be from the Iron Age.

A problem with this hypothesis concerns the geological history of Loch Ness. The lake is relatively young, having formed as a result of a glacial retreat towards the end of the last ice age some 10,000 years or so ago, so this dinosaur would have had to survive elsewhere for millions of years to eventually reach Loch Ness, once the massive ice sheet that had covered the valley disappeared.

Scientists have taken samples from the lake and can therefore map the history of the lake in great detail – for example, they have found a radioactive layer from the Chernobyl accident – and there is no sign that salt water has ever entered Loch Ness.

It must be considered extremely unclear how a swimming dinosaur could have gotten there. In addition, animals of the genus plesiosaurus were cold-blooded, so the water, which is normally only 5.5 degrees, would be far too cold for the animal.

Other explanations have been, for example, giant carp that are native to Scotland but have been seen in many British waters. The fish can grow up to two meters long. Sturgeon has also been mentioned as a possible explanation.

However, scientists do not know this

Click on an image to see it larger with description

But maybe the explanation for the monster’s behavior doesn’t have to involve large animals that are unlikely to hide for centuries.

The objects in many of these blurred images may simply be much smaller animals such as pike or, for example, logs and other driftwood. Many of these images showing waves or boat wakes can be explained by the unique surface conditions in this long stretch of water.

So since no physical evidence or clear pictures of Nessie have ever been found, and since extensive research with echo sounders has yielded no solid results, the most likely explanation for the Nessie rumors is that there is an interaction between man’s tendency to exaggerate his fantastical experiences, as well as fooling fellow travellers.

There is no indication that one or more giant animals live in this Scottish water.

Read more about the Loch Ness Monster

Malcolm Robinson: The Monsters of Loch Ness (History and and the Mystery) , Lulu, 2016

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