Loch Ness Monster

Can you spot the Loch Ness Monster? Surely the world’s most famous loch monster, the Loch Ness Monster – known affectionately as ‘Nessie‘ – is said to inhabit the deep, dark, murky waters of Loch Ness. Many people think that reports of the Monster date from 1933, and yes, that is when traveller George Spicer reported seeing the Loch Ness Monster crossing the road in front of his car.

But there is much earlier reporting of a monster in the waters of Loch Ness. As far back as St. Columba, there are reports of a Loch Ness Monster. He wrote in his ‘Life of St. Columba’ work, a 7th century text, that he commanded the Monster not to attack one of his followers who was swimming across the River Ness, which links the Moray Firth with Loch Ness, via the town of Inverness. A Dr. Mackenzie reported a sighting in the early 1870s too.

A local policeman, Chief Constable William Fraser, wrote in 1938 that the Loch Ness Monster existed “beyond doubt” and expressed concerns that a hunting party was out to retrieve it live or dead. Then, in 1943, a member of the Royal Observer Corps reported spotting the Loch Ness Monster, before, in 1954, sonar contact was made by a boat of a large object keeping pace with it below in the murky waters.

Some doubt whether the Loch Ness Monster exists. Certainly the photographic evidence has not been overwhelming and some of the photographs produced have been found to be hoaxes (such as the Surgeon’s Photograph of 1934, which was of a toy submarine) or their authenticity has been doubted. Nowadays, people have much readier access to cameras via smartphones and similar devices, so in theory the probability of Nessie being photographed has increased. But if this is a shy animal which avoids noise and disturbance, and dwells in the gloomy depths, rarely coming up to the surface, what would be the chances of photographing it even if it did exist? The lack of convincing photographic evidence does not prove that the Loch Ness Monster does not exist.

A number of search parties have tried to track down Nessie. These included the Sir Edward Mountain Expedition (1934), the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau (1962-1972), the Andrew Carroll Sonar Study (1969), the Big Expedition (1970), Operation Deepscan (1987), and the BBC Loch Ness Monster Search (2003). Some of these turned up interesting results. For example, in the Big Expedition of 1970 a biologist from the University of Chicago, Dr. Roy Mackall, designed a hydrophone system and suspended them at various parts of Loch Ness. One recorded sounds which were reported to be consistent with a large aquatic mammal swimming, and the other recorded sounds consistent with a creature echolocating smaller prey to hunt it down and kill it. The noises stopped whenever boats passed above, and were most pronounced at deeper parts of the loch.

Apple Maps picked up a very interesting find as recently as 2014, which appeared to show a large creature just under the surface of the water. Some have claimed that this image is “debunked” as the wake of a boat which, due to its white colour, would not be visible in the image to the low contrast of the photography. However, naysayers and deniers seem sold on the idea that the Loch Ness Monster does not exist, and this attitude of denial means that they will always debunk any potential evidence of Nessie’s existence. These groups are responsible for claiming that reported sightings of Nessie are actually sightings of eels, otters, catfish and even elephants! How plausible is that!?

Others “debunkers” claim that reported sightings of the Loch Ness Monster are sightings of trees, waves and seismic gas. If the Loch Ness Monster sounded implausible, one has to wonder about the plausibility of these alternative narratives! (Note that the naysayers and deniers do not claim that the sightings were all fabricated – they claim instead that the sightings were of something other than Nessie. So it seems the ball is in their court… make your own mind up!).

If you want to search for the Loch Ness Monster, please do so safely. If heading out onto Loch Ness, make sure you are in a probably maintained and registered vessel and that you are properly trained in vessel safety with all the appropriate equipment including lifejackets. There are various boat tours including a “Nessie Hunter” which can be taken. Alternatively, why not just enjoy Loch Ness from the safety and comfort of one of the roads on either side of the loch, keeping an eye out, of course, for something moving among the ripples…

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