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Loch Ness Monster

 
 
 

Loch Ness Monster

The Loch Ness Monster (Scottish Gaelic: Niseag) is a cryptid that is reputed to inhabit Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It is similar to other supposed lake monsters in Scotland and elsewhere, though its description varies from one account to the next. Popular interest and belief in the animal has varied since it was brought to the world's attention in 1933. Evidence of its existence is anecdotal, with minimal and much-disputed photographic material and sonar readings.
 
   
 

The most common speculation among believers is that the creature represents a line of long-surviving plesiosaurs. The scientific community regards the Loch Ness Monster as a modern-day myth, and explains sightings as a mix of hoaxes and wishful thinking. Despite this, it remains one of the most famous examples of cryptozoology. The legendary monster has been affectionately referred to by the nickname Nessie (Scottish Gaelic: Niseag) since the 1950s.

 
   
 

Origins

The term "monster" was reportedly applied for the first time to the creature on 2 May 1933 by Alex Campbell, the water bailiff for Loch Ness and a part-time journalist, in a report in the Inverness Courier. On 4 August 1933, the Courier published as a full news item the assertion of a London man, George Spicer, that a few weeks earlier while motoring around the Loch, he and his wife had seen "the nearest approach to a dragon or pre-historic animal that I have ever seen in my life", trundling across the road toward the Loch carrying "an animal" in its mouth.

 
 
   
 

Other letters began appearing in the Courier, often anonymously, with claims of land or water sightings, either on the writer's part or on the parts of family, acquaintances or stories they remembered being told. These stories soon reached the national (and later the international) press, which described a "monster fish", "sea serpent", or "dragon", eventually settling on "Loch Ness Monster". On 6 December 1933 the first purported photograph of the monster, taken by Hugh Gray, was published in the Daily Express and shortly after the creature received official notice when the Secretary of State for Scotland ordered the police to prevent any attacks on it.

 
   
 

In 1934, interest was further sparked by what is known as The Surgeon's Photograph. In the same year R. T. Gould published a book, the first of many that describe the author's personal investigation and collected record of additional reports pre-dating 1933. Other authors have claimed that sightings of the monster go as far back as the 6th century.

 
   
 

History

Saint Columba (6th century)
The earliest report of a monster associated with the vicinity of Loch Ness appears in the Life of St. Columba by Adomnán, written in the 7th century. According to Adomnán, writing about a century after the events he described, the Irish monk Saint Columba was staying in the land of the Picts with his companions when he came across the locals burying a man by the River Ness. They explained that the man had been swimming the river when he was attacked by a "water beast" that had mauled him and dragged him under.
 
 
   
 

They tried to rescue him in a boat, but were able only to drag up his corpse. Hearing this, Columba stunned the Picts by sending his follower Luigne moccu Min to swim across the river. The beast came after him, but Columba made the sign of the cross and commanded: "Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once." The beast immediately halted as if it had been "pulled back with ropes" and fled in terror, and both Columba's men and the pagan Picts praised God for the miracle.

 
   
 

The oldest manuscript relating to this story was put online in 2012. Believers in the Loch Ness Monster often point to this story, which notably takes place on the River Ness rather than the loch itself, as evidence for the creature's existence as early as the 6th century. However, sceptics question the narrative's reliability, noting that water-beast stories were extremely common in medieval saints' Lives; as such, Adomnán's tale is likely a recycling of a common motif attached to a local landmark.

 
   
 

According to the sceptics, Adomnán's story may be independent of the modern Loch Ness Monster legend entirely, only becoming attached to it in retrospect by believers seeking to bolster their claims. Additionally, in an article for Cryptozoology, A. C. Thomas notes that even if there were some truth to the story, it could be explained rationally as an encounter with a walrus or similar creature that had swum up the river.

 
 
   
 

R. Binns acknowledges that this account is the most serious of various alleged early sightings of the monster, but argues that all other claims of monster sightings prior to 1933 are highly dubious and do not prove that there was a tradition of the monster before this date.

 
   
 

Spicers (1933)

Modern interest in the monster was sparked by a sighting on 22 July 1933, when George Spicer and his wife saw 'a most extraordinary form of animal' cross the road in front of their car. They described the creature as having a large body (about 4 feet (1.2 m) high and 25 feet (7.6 m) long), and long, narrow neck, slightly thicker than an elephant's trunk and as long as the 10–12-foot (3–4 m) width of the road; the neck had a number of undulations in it. They saw no limbs, possibly because of a dip in the road obscuring the animal's lower portion. It lurched across the road towards the loch 20 yards (20 m) away, leaving only a trail of broken undergrowth in its wake.

 
   
 

In August 1933 a motorcyclist named Arthur Grant claimed to have nearly hit the creature while approaching Abriachan on the north-eastern shore, at about 1 a.m. on a moonlit night. Grant claimed that he saw a small head attached to a long neck, and that the creature saw him and crossed the road back into the loch. A veterinary student, he described it as a hybrid between a seal and a plesiosaur. Grant said he dismounted and followed it to the loch, but only saw ripples. However some believe this story was intended as a humorous explanation of a motorcycle accident.

 
 
   
 

Sporadic land sightings continued until 1963, when film of the creature was shot in the loch from a distance of 4 Kilometers. Because of the distance it was shot at it has been described as poor quality.

 
   
 

Chief Constable William Fraser (1938)

In 1938, Inverness Shire Chief Constable William Fraser penned a letter stating that it was beyond doubt the monster existed. His letter expressed concern regarding a hunting party that had arrived armed with a specially-made harpoon gun and were determined to catch the monster "dead or alive". He believed his power to protect the monster from
the hunters was "very doubtful". The letter was released by the National Archives of Scotland on 27 April 2010.

 
   
 

C.B. Farrel (1943)

May 1943, C. B. Farrel of the Royal Observer Corps was supposedly distracted from his duties by a Nessie sighting. He claimed to have been about 250 yards (230 m) away from a large-eyed, 'finned' creature, which had a 20-to-30-foot (6 to 9 m) long body, and a neck that protruded about 4–5 feet (1.2–1.5 m) out of the water.

 
 
   
 

Sonar contact (1954)

In December 1954 a strange sonar contact was made by the fishing boat Rival III. The vessel's crew observed sonar readings of a large object keeping pace with the boat at a depth of 480 feet (146 m). It was detected travelling for half a mile (800 m) in this manner, before contact was lost, but then found again later. Many sonar attempts had been made previously, but most were either inconclusive or negative.
 
   
 

Sonar image (2011)

On 24 August 2011, Marcus Atkinson, a local Loch Ness boat skipper, photographed a sonar image of a long 5 ft wide unidentified object which was apparently following his boat for two minutes at a depth of 75 ft. Atkinson ruled out the possibility of any small fish or seal being what he believed to be the Loch Ness Monster. In April 2012, a scientist from the National Oceanography Centre said that this image is a bloom of algae and zooplankton. However, Roland Watson, a cryptozoologist and Loch Ness Monster researcher, has criticized this analysis, stating that the object in the image is very unlikely
to be a bloom of algae and zooplankton, since algae needs sunlight to grow, and the waters of Loch Ness are very dark, and nearly devoid of sunlight, 75 feet down.

 
   
 

George Edwards' photograph (2011)

On 3 August 2012, skipper George Edwards published a photograph he claims to be "The most convincing Nessie photograph ever", which he claimed to have taken on 2 November 2011. Edwards' photograph consists in a hump out of the water which, according to him, remained so for five to ten minutes. The Daily Mail reports that Edward has had the photograph independently verified by specialists like a Loch Ness Monster sighting devotee and a group of US Military monster experts. Edwards spends 60 hours per week on the loch aboard his boat, Nessie Hunter IV, in which he takes tourists for a ride on the lake, and claims to have searched for the Loch Ness monster for 26 years. Said Edwards, "In my opinion, it probably looks kind of like a manatee, but not a mammal. When people see three humps, they’re probably just seeing three separate monsters."

 
 
   
 

However, other researchers of the Loch Ness phenomena have questioned the authenticity of the photograph. A subsequent investigation by Loch Ness researcher, Steve Feltham, suggests that the object in the water is in fact a fibreglass hump used previously in a National Geographic documentary which Edwards had participated in. Researcher Dick Raynor has also questioned Edward's claims about finding a deeper bottom to Loch Ness, which he refers to as "Edwards Deep". He also found inconsistencies between Edwards' claims of the location and conditions of the photograph and the actual location and weather conditions of that day. Additionally, Raynor also stated that Edwards had previously told him he had faked a photograph in 1986, which he had promoted as genuine in the National Geographic documentary.

 
   
 

Searches for the monster

Sir Edward Mountain Expedition (1934)

Having read the book by Gould, Edward Mountain decided to finance a proper watch. Twenty men with binoculars and cameras positioned themselves around the Loch from 9 am to 6 pm, for five weeks starting 13 July 1934. They took 21 photographs, though none was considered conclusive. Captain James Fraser was employed as a supervisor, and remained by the Loch afterwards, taking cine film (which is now lost) on 15 September 1934. When viewed by zoologists and professors of natural history it was concluded that it showed a seal, possibly a grey seal.

 
   
 

Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau (1962–1972)

The Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau (LNPIB) was a UK-based society formed in 1962 by Norman Collins, R. S. R. Fitter, David James, MP, Peter Scott and Constance Whyte "to study Loch Ness to identify the creature known as the Loch Ness Monster or determine the causes of reports of it." It later shortened the name to Loch Ness Investigation Bureau (LNIB). It closed in 1972. The society had an annual subscription charge, which covered administration. Its main activity was for groups of self-funded volunteers to watch the loch from various vantage points, equipped with cine cameras with telescopic lenses. From 1965 to 1972 it had a caravan camp and main watching platform at Achnahannet, and sent observers to other locations up and down the loch. According to the 1969 Annual Report of the Bureau, it had 1,030 members, of whom 588 were from the UK.

 
 
   
 

LNPIB sonar study (1967–1968)

 

Professor D. Gordon Tucker, chairman of the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Birmingham, England, volunteered his services as a sonar developer and expert at Loch Ness in 1968. The gesture was part of a larger effort helmed by the LNPIB from 1967 to 1968 and involved collaboration between volunteers and professionals in various fields. Tucker had chosen Loch Ness as the test site for a prototype sonar transducer with a maximum range of 800 m (2,600 ft). The device was fixed underwater at Temple Pier in Urquhart Bay and directed towards the opposite shore, effectively drawing an acoustic 'net' across the width of Ness through which no moving object could pass undetected. During the two-week trial in August, multiple animate targets 6 m (20 ft) in length were identified ascending from and diving to the loch bottom. Analysis of diving profiles ruled out air-breathers because the targets never surfaced or moved shallower than midwater. 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 (19 km/h; 12 mph). 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 in New York City, proposed a mobile sonar scan operation at Loch Ness. The project was funded by the Griffis foundation (named for Nixon Griffis, then a director of the aquarium). This was the tail-end (and most successful portion) 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 just north of Foyers. The identity of the contact remains a mystery. Later analysis determined that the intensity of the returning echo was twice as great as that expected from a 10-foot (3 m) pilot whale. On returning to the University of Chicago, biologist Roy Mackal and colleagues subjected the sonar data to greater scrutiny and confirmed dimensions of 20 feet (6 m).

 
 
   
 

Submersible investigations

Earlier submersible work had yielded dismal results. Under the sponsorship of World Book Encyclopedia, pilot Dan Taylor deployed the Viperfish at Loch Ness on 1 June 1969. His dives were plagued by technical problems and produced no new data. The Deep Star III built by General Dynamics and an unnamed two-man submersible built by Westinghouse were scheduled to sail but never did. It was only when the Pisces arrived at Ness that the LNPIB obtained new data. Owned by Vickers, Ltd., the submersible had been rented out to produce The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, a film featuring a dummy Loch Ness Monster.

 
   
 

When the dummy monster broke loose from the Pisces during filming and sank to the bottom of the loch, Vickers executives capitalised on the loss and 'monster fever' by allowing the sub to do a bit of exploring. During one of these excursions, the Pisces picked up a large moving object on sonar 200 feet (60 m) ahead and 50 feet (15 m) above the bottom of the loch. Slowly the pilot closed to half that distance but the echo moved rapidly out of sonar range and disappeared.

 
   
 

"Big Expedition" of 1970

During the so-called "Big Expedition" of 1970, Roy Mackal, a biologist who taught for 20 years at the University of Chicago, devised a system of hydrophones (underwater microphones) and deployed them at intervals throughout the loch. In early August a hydrophone assembly was lowered into Urquhart Bay and anchored in 700 feet (210 m) of water. Two hydrophones were secured at depths of 300 and 600 feet (180 m). After two nights of recording, the tape (sealed inside a 44 gallon drum along with the system's other sensitive components) was retrieved and played before an excited LNPIB.

 
 
   
 

"Bird-like chirps" had been recorded, and the intensity of the chirps on the deep hydrophone suggested they had been produced at greater depth. In October "knocks" and "clicks" were recorded by another hydrophone in Urquhart Bay, indicative of echolocation. These sounds were followed by a "turbulent swishing" suggestive of the tail locomotion of a large aquatic animal. The knocks, clicks and resultant swishing were believed were the sounds of an animal echo-locating prey before moving in for the kill.

 
   
 

The noises stopped whenever craft passed along the surface of the loch near the hydrophone, and resumed once the craft reached a safe distance. In previous experiments, it was observed that call intensities were greatest at depths less than 100 feet (30 m). Members of the LNPIB decided to attempt communication with the animals producing the calls by playing back previously recorded calls into the water and listening via hydrophone for results, which varied greatly. At times the calling patterns or intensities changed, but sometimes there was no change at all. Mackal noted that there was no similarity between the recordings and the hundreds of known sounds produced by aquatic animals.

 
              
 

Robert Rines's studies (1972, 1975, 2001 and 2008)

In the early 1970s, a group of people led by Robert H. Rines obtained some underwater photographs. Two were rather vague images, perhaps of a rhomboid flipper (though others have dismissed the image as air bubbles or a fish fin). The alleged flipper was photographed in different positions, indicating movement. On the basis of these photographs, British naturalist Peter Scott announced in 1975 that the scientific name of the monster would henceforth be Nessiteras rhombopteryx (Greek for "The Ness monster with diamond-shaped fin"). Scott intended that this would enable Nessie to be added to a British register of officially protected wildlife. Scottish politician Nicholas Fairbairn pointed out that the name was an anagram for "Monster hoax by Sir Peter S".

 
 
   
 

The underwater photos were reportedly obtained by painstakingly examining the loch depths with sonar for unusual underwater activity. Rines knew the water was murky and filled with floating wood and peat, so he took precautions to avoid it. A submersible camera with an affixed, high-powered flood light was deployed to record images below the surface. If he detected anything on the sonar, he would turn the lights on and take some pictures. Several of the photographs, despite their obviously murky quality, did indeed seem to show an animal resembling a plesiosaur in various positions and lightings.

 
   
 

One photograph appeared to show the head, neck and upper torso of a plesiosaur-like animal. After two distinct sonar contacts were made, the strobe light camera photographed two large lumps in the water, suggesting there to be two large animals living in the loch. Another photo seemed to depict a horned "gargoyle head", consistent to that of several sightings of the monster. Sceptics point out that several years later, a log was filmed underwater which bore a striking resemblance to the gargoyle head.[who?]

 
   
 

A few close-ups of what would be the creature's diamond-shaped fin were taken in different positions, as though the creature was moving, but the "flipper photograph" has been highly retouched from the original image. The Museum of Hoaxes shows the original unenhanced photo. Team member Charles Wyckoff claimed that someone retouched the photo to superimpose the flipper, and that the original enhancement showed a much smaller flipper. No one is sure how the original came to be altered.

 
 
   
 

On 8 August 1972, Rines' Raytheon DE-725C sonar unit, operating at a frequency of 200 kHz and anchored at a depth of 35 feet (11 m), identified a moving target (or targets) estimated by echo strength to be 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 m) in length. Specialists from Raytheon, Simrad (now Kongsberg Maritime), and Hydroacoustics, Inc.; Marty Klein of MIT and Klein Associates (a producer of side scan sonar); and Dr. Ira Dyer of MIT's Department of Ocean Engineering were all on hand to examine the data. Further, P. Skitzki of Raytheon suggested that the data showed a protuberance, 10 feet (3 m) in length, projecting from one of the echoes. Mackal proposed that the shape was a "highly flexible laterally flattened tail" or the misinterpreted return from two animals swimming together.

 
   
 

In 2001, the Robert Rines' Academy of Applied Science videoed a powerful V-shaped wake traversing the still water on a calm day. The AAS also videotaped an object on the floor of the loch resembling a carcass, found marine clam-shells and a fungus-like organism not normally found in fresh water lochs, which they suggest gives some connection to the sea and a possible entry for Nessie.

 
   
 

In 2008, Rines theorised that the monster may have become extinct, citing the lack of significant sonar readings and a decline in eyewitness accounts. Rines undertook one last expedition to look for remains of the monster, using sonar and underwater camera in an attempt to find a carcass. Rines believed that the animals may have failed to adapt to temperature changes as a result of global warming.

 
 
   
 

  Operation Deepscan (1987) 

 

In 1987, Operation Deepscan took place. Twenty-four boats equipped with echosounder equipment were deployed across the whole width of the loch and they simultaneously sent out acoustic waves. BBC News reported that the scientists had made sonar contact with a large unidentified object of unusual size and strength. The researchers decided to return to the same spot and re-scan the area. After analysing the echosounder images, it seemed to point to debris at the bottom of the loch, although three of the pictures were of moving debris. Shine speculates that they could be seals that got into the loch, since they would be of about the same magnitude as the objects detected.

 
   
 

Darrell Lowrance, sonar expert and founder of Lowrance Electronics, donated a number of echosounder units used during Operation Deepscan. After examining the echogram data, specifically a sonar return revealing a large moving object near Urquhart Bay at a depth of 600 feet (180 m), Lowrance said: "There's something here that we don't understand, and there's something here that's larger than a fish, maybe some species that hasn't been detected before. I don't know."

 
   
 

Discovery Loch Ness (1993)

In 1993 Discovery Communications began to research the ecology of the loch. The study did not focus entirely on the monster, but on the loch's nematodes (of which a new species was discovered) and fish. Expecting to find a small fish population, the researchers caught twenty fish in one catch, increasing previous estimates of the loch's fish population about ninefold.

 
   
 

Using sonar, the team encountered a kind of underwater disturbance (called a seiche) due to stored energy (such as from a wind) causing an imbalance between the loch's warmer and colder layers (known as the thermocline). While reviewing printouts of the event the next day, they found what appeared to be three sonar contacts, each followed by a powerful wake. These events were later shown on a program called Loch Ness Discovered, in conjunction with analyses and enhancements of the 1960 Dinsdale Film, the Surgeon's Photo, and the Rines Flipper Photo.

 
   
 

 Searching for the Loch Ness Monster BBC (2003)

 

In 2003, the BBC sponsored a full search of the Loch using 600 separate sonar beams and satellite tracking. The search had enough resolution to pick up a small buoy. No animal of any substantial size was found whatsoever and despite high hopes, the scientists involved in the expedition admitted that this essentially proved the Loch Ness monster was only a myth.

 
     
 

Folklore

 

According to the Swedish naturalist and author Bengt Sjögren (1980), present day beliefs in lake monsters such as the Loch Ness Monster are associated with the old legends of kelpies. He claims that the accounts of loch monsters have changed over the ages, originally describing creatures with a horse-like appearance; they claimed that the "kelpie" would come out of the lake and turn into a horse. When a tired traveller would get on the back of the kelpie, it would gallop into the loch and devour its prey. This myth successfully kept children away from the loch, as was its purpose. Sjögren concludes that the kelpie legends have developed into current descriptions of lake-monsters, reflecting modern awareness of plesiosaurs.

 
 
   
 

In other words, the kelpie of folklore has been transformed into a more realistic and contemporary notion of the creature. Believers counter that long-dead witnesses could only compare the creature to that with which they were familiar, and they were not familiar with plesiosaurs. Specific mention of the kelpie as a water horse in Loch Ness was given in a Scottish newspaper in 1879 and was commemorated in the title of a book Project Water Horse by Tim Dinsdale. A study of the Highland folklore literature prior to 1933 with specific references to Kelpies, Water Horses and Water Bulls suggested that Loch Ness was the most mentioned loch by a large margin.

 
   
   Reconstruction of Nessie as a plesiosaur outside Museum of Nessie  
   
 

Cryptoclidus model used in the Five TV programme "Loch Ness Monster: The Ultimate Experiment"

 
 


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