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Loch Ness monster

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Faked photo of Nessie by Robert Kenneth Wilson (The Surgeon's Photo)

The Loch Ness Monster (Nessiteras rhombopteryx), also known as Nessie (Scottish Gaelic: Niseag), is a cryptid animal which is reputed to inhabit Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland. The Loch Ness Monster is one of the best-known mysteries of cryptozoology. Though there is little evidence, belief in the legend persists around the world. Locals and many people around the world have affectionately begun to call the animal Nessie.

Many explanations have been given over the years to describe what kind of animal the Loch Ness Monster might be. These fall into three categories: (1) misidentification of known animals; (2) unknown species; (3) paranormal creatures.

Known species

It has been proposed that at least some of the sightings might be explained by large pike, sturgeon, or dolphins. Land animals dogs, deer, and otters have been seen in the water. At a distance, even a bird could be mistaken for a head and neck.


A theory presented by Neil Clark has suggested that Nessie could just be a swimming elephant. There was a traveling circus passing through the area during the time of the most sightings. Bertram Mills used to take his circus to Inverness, Scotland. When they passed Loch Ness the circus would stop so the animals could rest and bathe. When the elephants were allowed to swim in the Loch, "only the trunk and two humps could be seen: the first hump being the top of the head and the second being the back of the animal." When stories of the Loch Ness Monster broke out, Bertram Mills was confident enough that the creature did not exist to offer a £20,000 reward (worth £1 million today) to anyone who could catch the monster. No one ever collected on the reward, and Mills gained publicity.[1]

Unknown species


Plesiosaurs, by Heinrich Harder, 1916.

The most common eyewitness description of Nessie is that of a plesiosaur. Supporters of the plesiosaur theory use the survival of the coelacanth, which supposedly became extinct at the same time as the plesiosaur but was found still alive off the coast of South Africa in 1938.

Scientists claim it can't be a plesiosaur because they are cold blooded. The average temperature of Loch Ness is about 42°F, thus it would die. Even if the plesiosaurs was warm-blooded, there wouldn't be nearly enough food to keep it alive.

Also, there is no indication that plesiosaur have sonar capability. Having this would be necessary in the loch since visibility is poor in the Loch because of a high peat concentration. Fossil evidence indicates [plesiosaurs] were sight hunters. It is highly unlikely that the loch's peat-filled water would allow such animals to hunt the limited food supply and be able to survive.

In October 2006, Leslie Noè of the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge pointed out that, "The osteology of the neck makes it absolutely certain that the plesiosaur could not lift its head up swan-like out of the water", precluding the possibility that Nessie is a plesiosaur.[1]


Some believe that "Nessie" may be a giant eel. They hypothesize that an eel might have grossly enlarged in order to eat the bigger fish, or that a larger eel species inhabits the loch. But eels are not known to protrude from the water as described in some sightings.[2]

Non-animal theories


In a 1982, Dr Maurice Burton said that sightings of Nessie could be fermenting logs of Scots pine rising to the surface of the loch's waters. Burton claimed that the shape of tree logs with their attendant branch stumps closely resemble various descriptions of the monster.[2]

Seiches and Wakes

Because it is long and straight, Loch Ness is subject to some odd 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, this occurs every 31 1/2 minutes.

Boat wakes can also produce strange effects in the loch. The wake of a boat spreads and divides from the boat the center of the loch. It then hits both sides almost simultaneously and deflects back to meet again in the middle. When the waves hit, they produce standing waves that are much larger than the original wake. This gives them a humped appearance. By the time this is witnessed, the boat has moved on out of sight[2].

Optical Effects

Winds can cause the water to become choppy, with occasional calm patches appearing as dark ovals (reflection of the mountains) from the shore. This can appear as humps to people unfamiliar with the lake. These reflections of the mountains could easily represent a head and neck.


The earliest known report occurred during the life of St. Columba by Adamnan. The written account describes how in 565 Columba saved the life of a Pict, who was being 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.[3]

Many people are skeptical of this because in the writings, it tells near impossible tales of him slaying many different monsters. It is also known that biographies of early saints were often exaggerated for reasons of religious persuasion and not to keep historical records.

Land sightings

Most of the sightings date back to the sixteenth century, but modern interest in the monster was sparked on the 22nd of July, 1933. Mr. George Spicer and his wife saw 'a most extraordinary form of animal' on road in front of their car. They said the creature had a large body and long, narrow neck, a little thicker than an elephant's trunk and as long as the width of the road. They saw no limbs because of a dip in the road that blocked the lower portion of the animal. It crawled across the road towards the loch about 20 yards away, leaving a trail of broken undergrowth [4].

On January 5th, 1934, a motorcyclist named Arthur Grant claimed to have almost hit the creature while approaching Abriachan, at about 1am on a moonlit night. Grant witnessed a small head attached to a long neck. The creature saw him and crossed the road back and went back into the loch. Grant followed it to the loch, but made it in time to only see ripples where it had entered. Some believe this was only a joke to a friend of Grant [5].

On the 5th of June, 1934 a young girl from the Fort Augustus area who was employed as a maid, was looking out of a window down the Loch around 6:30am. She saw on the shore, 'one of the biggest animals she had seen in her life,' at a distance of about 200 yards. Her description was like those of the others; giraffe like neck, small head, skin like an elephant and two very short fore legs or flippers. She observed it for around 20 minutes. it then re-entered the water and vanished[6].

The land sightings continued off and on until 1963. Then a poor-quality film of the creature was made from a distance of several miles.


The 'Surgeon's Photo' (1934)

Loch ness photo.jpg

This photo remains one of the most iconic images of Nessie to date. Many people consider it to be good evidence of the existence of Nessi, even though it was proved a hoax in the 1990's. The photographer, a gynecologist named Robert Kenneth Wilson, never claimed that it was picture of the monster. He only claimed to have photographed "something in the water". The photo is often cropped to make the monster seem huge. The original uncropped photo shot shows the other side of the loch and the monster in the center. One could then tell that the "monster" is really very small. The ripples on the photo fit the size and circular pattern of small ripples as opposed to large waves when photographed up close. Skeptics in the 1980s argued the photo was that of an otter or a diving bird, but after Christian Spurling's confession agree it was what Spurling claimed - "a toy submarine with a sculpted head attached"[7].

Nessie Fossil (2003)

In July 2003, a retired scrap metal dealer named Gerald McSorley was taking a stroll in the Loch and he tripped over something. What he had tripped over turned out to be a plesiosaur fossil. This proved to many people that Nessie indeed was a plesiosaur that lived in the Loch, but still others remained skeptical. Scientists later discovered that the fossil was embedded in a gray limestone, none of which could be found within 30 miles. There was also evidence that the fossil was sitting along a seashore up until a little while before the find. It is now believed that the fossil was planted for someone to find [8].

The Holmes video (2007)

On May 26, 2007, Gordon Holmes, a 55-year-old lab technician, recorded a video of what he said was "this jet black thing, about 45 feet long, moving fairly fast in the water." Adrian Shine, a marine biologist at the Loch Ness center in Drumnadrochit, has watched the video and plans to analyze it farther. It is said to be "among the finest footage ever taken" [9].

Holmes's credibilty has been doubted by the Cryptomundo website, which states that he has a history of reporting sightings of cryptozoological creatures, and has sold a self-published book and DVD claiming there is evidence for fairies. His video has no other objects that allow us to discern size, and is considered useless in some areas[10].

Search Attempts

The LNPIB sonar study (1967-1968)

In 1967, the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau (LNPIB) helmed a large effort to search for Nessie. It involved collaboration between volunteers and professionals in various fields. The Ness was chosen as the test site for a prototype sonar transducer with a maximum range of about 2,630 feet. The device was put in position underwater at Temple Pier in Urquhart Bay and directed towards the opposite shore. This created an acoustic 'net' across the Ness. No moving object would be able to pass undetected. During the two-week trial period in August, multiple animate targets 20 feet in length were identified ascending from and diving to the loch bottom. Analysis of the animals ruled out air-breathers because the targets never surfaced or moved shallower than about half-way to the surface. 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 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!

Andrew Carroll's sonar study (1969)

In 1969 Andrew Carroll, field researcher for the New York Aquarium, proposed a mobile sonar scan at Loch Ness. The project was funded by the Griffis foundation. This was the final part (and most successful part) 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. The identity of the source remains a mystery. Later analysis determined that the intensity of the returning echo was twice as great as that expected from a 10 foot pilot whale. Calculations placed the animal's length at around 20 feet[11].

BBC Team Investigation (2003-2004)

In July 2003, the BBC preformed extensive investigation of Loch Ness using 600 separate sonar beams to make sure that no part the loch's waters were missed. The sonar beams were scanning for any air found under the water. THe hope was that they would find the air in the lungs of Nessie. The expedition found no trace of any kind of monster or any other large animal in the loch. The BBC team concluded that Nessie did not exist.[3]


Extenal links