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The Legend of Nessie

written by: Andrea Campbell • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 1/4/2016

Is the Loch Ness Monster real or simply an age-old urban legend? Learn about sightings, scientific investigations and other details on the legendary Nessie and decide for yourself.

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    The Legend of Nessie A tribe of indigenous people called the Picts lived on the outskirts of Roman territory in northern highlands of Scotland in the first century A.D. Because the Picts were often painted or tattooed, the Roman legions thought they were wild savages who needed to be eliminated. In fact, they actually supported a highly sophisticated culture of their own.

    Archeologists have found a Picts’ monastery with religious artifacts and Gospels of their own. The Picts people also loved creatures and were extraordinary artists; there are stone drawings that capture the character of their animals.

    There are carved standing stones found in the region around Loch Ness with one particular animal drawing an exception to their style. It is a strange beast with an elongated beak, a head spout and flippers instead of feet. Could it have been home to a mysterious sea creature? Could it be the Loch Ness monster?

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    Something in the Water

    “Loch" is the Scottish word for lake.

    There is a great tradition of Scottish folklore often depicting water horses or water kelpies with magical powers and wicked objectives. A kelpie is a shape-changing aquatic spirit. Legend has it that water kelpies often encouraged children to get on their backs for rides. When the children climbed aboard, their hands were stuck to the beasts and the children were dragged to watery deaths, washing ashore the following day.

    In 565 A.D., Saint Columba was on a trip to visit a Pictish king when he stopped at Loch Ness for a rest. He spied a man swimming in the lake about to be attacked by a large beast. Columba raised his hand, invoked the name of God and commanded the monster to “go back with all speed." The beast complied, and the swimmer was saved.

    “Many a man has been hanged on less evidence than there is for the Loch Ness Monster." –G.K. Chesterton

    Loch Ness, a large freshwater lake, was once part of the North Sea that reaches out to the cold waters in the ocean. Thousands of years ago, land shifted and separated the lake from the sea; the continents began to break up. The lake itself is large: 24 miles (39 kilometers) long, one mile (1.6 kilometers) wide, and it sits 51-feet (16 meters) above sea level. Loch Ness carries a lot of silt—deposits from above that fall into its deep waters—that makes the water appear dark and acidic. After a heavy rain, the water can flow quite fast. The theory is that the sea serpent became trapped in the lake when this happened.

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    Loch Ness Investigations

    Loch Ness has been investigated by all means and manners. People have used lures and bait for the monster, tried exploding light bulbs, echo soundings and sonar. Telephoto cameras and underwater photography, including strobe flashes, video and digital cameras have been utilized as well.

    In the 1933, Alex Campbell wrote and published an account of the Loch Ness Monster. The first modern sighting was reported by two innkeepers, Mr. and Mrs. Mackay, who saw something. Campbell was in charge of fishing in the Loch and printed a story in the local paper. A new road was built along the lake and that same year, George Spicer and his wife spotted a monster on land.

    In April of 1934, Dr. Robert Kenneth took a photograph of the monster, which came to be known as the “Surgeon’s Photograph." Soon after an expedition led by Sir Edward Mountain, five photographs came to light.

    Arthur Grant said he saw Nessie on land in 1934, stating that he almost ran into Nessie with his motorcycle. Grant said the animal was large and had a long neck.

    C.B. Farrel claimed to have seen the Loch Ness monster in 1943 while on duty in the service of the British Military. Farrel was a member of the Royal Observer Corps and his post was at the Loch where he was supposed to be on watch for enemy bombers.

    In the 1950s, Constance Whyte—a local doctor—began collecting eyewitness accounts, along with sketches of what the people had seen, finally publishing them in 1957 as a book entitled More Than a Legend. She wrote the book was because her friends and wanted to vindicate them.

    Tim Dinsdale was determined to find evidence of the legendary monster. Beginning in the 1960s, he led over 50 expeditions to locate the Loch Ness monster. He used binoculars to examine the water and coastline. He conducted interviews with the locals.

    Photography experts in the British Armed Forces looked at his film and decided this was no hoax. They said the object in the water was at least 16-feet (5 meters) long, 6-feet high (1.8 meters) and 5-feet (1.5 meters) high.

    Later, a man named Dan Taylor used a submarine to look for the Loch Ness monster in 1969, but to no avail.

    In the 1970’s using advanced technology—an underwater camera—in an effort to locate and photograph the Loch Ness monster Robert Rines produced one picture that showed a flipper-shaped object. Rines thought it was about 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters) long.

    Scientists have used sonar to search for Nessie. In 1987, an operation known as “Deepscan" used 19 boats to study large objects. They saw three, but could not identify anything specifically.

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    Fakes

    People have had fun by creating fake sightings.

    • In 1993, Christian Spurling used a toy submarine to fool people.
    • In 1933, someone used a stuffed hippopotamus foot to make fake Nessie monster footprints.
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    Plesiosaur

    A British naturalist, Peter Scott, gave the Loch Ness monster a proper name. The Greek scientific name is referred to as Nessiteras rhombopteryx, meaning, “the Ness monster with the diamond-shaped fin."

    Arguments against it being the extinct plesiosaur are:

    • Plesiosaurs are believed to cold-blooded reptiles that need warm tropical waters while the average temperature of Loch Ness is only about 5.5°C (42°F).
    • Even if warm-blooded, plesiosaurs would require a food supply beyond that of Loch Ness to maintain the level of activity necessary.
    • In October 2006, the New Scientist printed that Leslie Noè of the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge reported, “The osteology of the neck makes it absolutely certain that the plesiosaur could not lift its head up swan-like out of the water."
    • The loch was frozen solid for about 20,000 years and the lake is younger than that.
    • If creatures similar to plesiosaurs lived in the waters of the Loch Ness, they would be seen frequently, as they would have to surface several times a day to breathe.

References

  • Schach, David. The Unexplained: The Loch Ness Monster. Minneapolis: Bellwether Media, Inc., 2011. Book.
  • Miller, Connie Colwell. The Loch Ness Monster: The Unsolved Mystery. Mankato, Minnesota: Capstone Press, 2009. Book.
  • Roberts, Steven. The Loch Ness Monster! New York: PowerKids Press, The Rosen Publishing Group, 2013. Book.
  • LochNess.org: Loch Ness Photos and Info

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