Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Loch Ness Monster

How could I do a mythical creatures special without mentioning one of Cryptozoology's favorite mysteries? Stories of the Loch Ness Monster date back hundreds of years. One particular example from 565 CE tells of Saint Columba saving a swimmer in the Ness. This story was even recorded in chapter 28 of Adamnan's 7th century Life of St. Columba.

The Surgeon's Photo (1934)
Modern interest in "Nessie" arose during the 1930s after a road was built alongside the 25 mile long lake. Perhaps the most iconic depiction comes from a 1934 photograph known as the "surgeon's photo." This image cemented the Loch Ness Monster as a plesiosaur-type creature. The surgeon's photo is now believed to be a fake, but even without it, there have been dozens, if not hundreds of sightings, including other photographs and videos.

What could Nessie be? Well, there are some that believe it is a relic of prehistoric times. This is probably not the case, as the lake has only existed for 10,000 years (since the last Ice Age). Others think it might just be a seal, or large river otter, or just a bunch of logs or waves. According to calculations based upon the number of fish, and the size of the lake, the Loch Ness monster could weigh no more than 660lbs. But with an animal that big, wouldn't we have seen some evidence by now? Bones perhaps? And if it were a Plesiosaur or large mammal, it would need to come up to breathe! There have been numerous sonar scans of the lake, with the largest, Operation Deep Scan, undertaken in 1987. None of these scans, including the most recent in 2003, have turned up any evidence of an animal that large.

So is Nessie really out there? Are the hundreds of sightings over nearly 80 years all completely wrong? We don't know. Science points to the fact that there is probably nothing down there, and especially nothing like a Plesiosaur, which went extinct 65 million years ago. But either way, the Loch Ness Monster provides an interesting tourist industry, raking in several million dollars a year. Hey, even I've been there. Sightings have gone down in recent years, perhaps we have just become more skeptical, but I don't think the Nessie legend is going to go away any time soon.

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