Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Loch Ness Monster
The Loch Ness Monster—sometimes called Nessie—is a creature or group of creatures said to live in Loch Ness, a deep freshwater lake (known in Scotland as a loch) near the city of Inverness. Nessie is generally considered a lake monster. Along with Bigfoot and Yeti, Nessie is perhaps the best-known mystery in cryptozoology.
History of sightings
- Rumours of a monster or animal living in the loch have reportedly circulated for at least several centuries, though some have questioned the accuracy, reliability and the existence of such tales. Many local inhabitants argue strongly for its existence. Some skeptics suggest that this may be because the rumours of Nessie underpin local folklore and the tourism industry.
- "Monster" sightings have occurred as far back as 1,500 years ago. The earliest known reference is from the Life of St. Columba ; it describes how in 565 he saved the life of a Pict who was being attacked by the monster in the River Ness. Some critics have questioned the reliability of the Life, noting a different story, in which Columba slays a wild boar by the power of his voice alone.1)
- The first modern sighting occurred on May 2, 1933. The newspaper Inverness Courier carried a story of a local couple who reportedly saw "an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface." The report of the "monster" (a title chosen by the editor of the Courier) became a media sensation, with London papers sending reporters to Scotland and a circus even offering a reward of £20,000 for capture of the monster.
- Later that year, A.H. Palmer , who allegedly witnessed Nessie on August 11, 1933, at 7 a.m., described the creature as having its head, which they saw from the front, set low in the water. Its mouth, which had a width of between twelve and eighteen inches (30-45 cm), was opening and closing; its maximum mouth aperture was estimated to be about six inches (15 cm).
- The modern preoccupation with the Loch Ness Monster was aroused by a photograph allegedly taken by surgeon R.K. Wilson on April 19, 1934, which seemed to show a large creature with a long neck gliding through the water. Decades later on March 12, 1994, Marmaduke Wetherell claimed to have faked the photo after being hired by the Daily Mail to track down Nessie (the photo had by that time, been printed worldwide as "absolute evidence"). Wetherell also stated that Wilson did not take the photo and his name was only used to give added credibility to the photo.
Most accounts of the monster's appearance, including historical ones, indicate a creature resembling the long-extinct plesiosaur. Actual fossil evidence for this Mesozoic creature shows it to have been physically large, with a long neck and tiny head, with flippers for propulsion. The alleged connection of this creature with the Loch Ness monster has made it a popular topic in the field of cryptozoology. However, most scientists suggest that the idea that the Loch Ness Monster is a remnant of the Mesozoic era is highly unlikely — there would need to be a breeding colony of such creatures for there to have been any long-term survival, and, coupled with the fact that plesiosaurs needed to surface to breathe, this would result in far more frequent sightings than have actually been reported. Many biologists also argue Loch Ness is not large or productive enough to support even a small family of these creatures. Moreover, the Loch was created as the result of geologically recent glaciation and was frozen solid during recent ice-ages.
Other sightings, however, do not fit the plesiosaur description, or even a water-bound creature: In April of 1923, Alfred Cruickshank claimed to have seen a creature 3 m to 3.5 m long, with an arched back and four elephant-like feet cross the road before him as he was driving. Other sightings report creatures more similar to camels or horses.
Theories as to the exact nature of the Loch Ness Monster sightings are varied: pareidolia or misidentification of seals, fish, logs, mirages, seiches, and light distortion, crossing of boat wakes, or unusual wave patterns.
Very large sturgeon have been found in inland streams close to Loch Ness and, due to sturgeons' size and unusual appearance, one could easily be mistaken for a monster by someone not familiar with it. A recent theory postulates that the "monster" is actually nothing more than bubbling and disruptions in the water caused by minor volcanic activity at the bottom of the loch. This latter argument is supported — to a minor degree — by a correlation between tectonic motion and reported sightings.
Perhaps typical of the many unsatisfactory "facts" about Nessie is the alleged sighting of October 1871. In this incident a "D. Mackenzie " supposedly described seeing something that moved slowly before moving off at a faster speed. People who saw "the monster" were said to describe it as having a hump (sometimes more than one) that looked like an upturned boat. However, although this story has been repeated in several places , no original 1871 source has been cited, casting doubt on the report.
In July 2003, the BBC reported that an extensive investigation of Loch Ness by a BBC team, using 600 separate sonar beams, found no trace of any "sea monster" in the loch. The BBC team concluded that Nessie does not exist. 
The famed "Surgeon's Photo" (pictured above) was confirmed a hoax, based on the deathbed confessions of Chris Spurling, son-in-law of Marmaduke Wetherell. Spurling claimed that this photo, which inspired much popular interest in the monster, was actually a staged photograph of clay attached to a toy submarine. Wetherell, a big game hunter, had been tricked into searching an imaginary monster around the which turned out to be the result of a children trick, and got publically ridiculed with the Daily Mail, the journal which employed him. Marmaduke Wetherell set this hoax up in order to take revenge, and worked on this with Chris Spurling (his son-in-law as mentioned) who is a specialist in sculpture, Ian Marmaduke (his son) who bought the material for the fake Nessie, Maurice Chambers (an insurance agent) who will call and ask Robert Wilson (a surgeon) to show the pictures.
Well before Spurling's claims, however, others had argued the photo was that of an otter or a diving bird. Note that there are in fact two "Surgeon's Photos", which depict slightly different poses, leading some to argue the photos are evidence against a hoax.
Some have argued a history of "monster" sightings in the loch is circumstancial evidence supporting the creature's actuality. Note that these notions have been challenged.
In the early 1970s, a group led by American patent lawyer Robert Rines obtained some underwater photographs. One was a vague image, perhaps of a rhomboid flipper (others have argued the object could be air bubbles or a fish fin). On the basis of this photograph, Sir Peter Scott, one of Britan's best-known naturalists, announced in 1975 that the scientific name of the monster would henceforth be Nessiteras rhombopteryx1 (Greek for "The Ness monster with diamond-shaped fin). This would enable Nessie to be added to a British register of officially protected wildlife (but compare ). It has been noted by London newspapers that Nessiteras rhombopteryx is an anagram of "monster hoax by Sir Peter S".
The underwater photos were obtained by painstakingly scouring the lake's depths with radar, over the course of days, for unusual underwater activity. An underwater camera with an affixed high powered light (necessary for penetrating Loch Ness' famed murk) was then deployed to record images from below the surface. Several of the resulting photographs, despite their obviously murky quality, indeed seem to show- with only a very slight stretch of the imagination- an animal quite resembling a plesiosaur in various positions and lightings. A few closeups of what is alleged to be the creature's diamond shaped fin were also taken, in different positions, indicating movement.
The Loch Ness Monster and local culture
Regardless of whether anything is actually in the loch, the Loch Ness Monster has some significance for the local economy. Dozens of hotels, boating tour operators, and merchants of stuffed animals and related trinkets owe part of their livelihood to this monster although people visit the loch for many reasons other than to see the monster. Hence the legend is likely to endure for quite some time.
The Loch Ness Monster and popular culture
A Saint story titled "The Convenient Monster" written by Leslie Charteris featured the Loch Ness Monster. The story appeared in the 1962 collection Trust the Saint and was included in The Fantastic Saint (1982). The story was also made into an episode that first aired November 4, 1966 in the fifth season of the BBC television series starring Roger Moore as the Saint.
The television series The Simpsons included an episode (#224, 'Monty Can't Buy Me Love') on the Loch Ness Monster. Mr. Burns took Homer, Groundskeeper Willie, and Professor Frink to Scotland to capture the creature. After failing to find the monster by manually searching the lake, Burns ordered the lake drained. Sure enough, they found the monster and brought it back to Springfield. After a disastrous unveiling reminiscent of Kong's rampage in King Kong, Burns gave Nessie a job at a casino.
The television series "Scooby Doo" included a movie "Scooby Doo and the Loch Ness Monster". The gang went to Scotland to solve the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster. It turned out that the monster was just a machine, though the existance of an actual one is hinted at in the ending.
Loch Ness Monster Researchers
- F.W. Holiday
- Dr. Robert H. Rines
- Tim Dinsdale
- Erik Beckjord
- Roy Mackal
- Adrian Shine
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