|Photo by Dr. Robert Kenneth 1934|
To be honest, I have never been confident or comfortable with the claims of the well-known freshwater cryptids throughout the world. The Loch Ness Monster has the most extensive history and legend thus making it, to me, the most credible of the lot...though I still have trouble believing in it's existence. Since the modern story of this creature is well known I'd like to offer a bit into it's background...then leading up into the present day.
Existence of the creature known as the Loch Ness Monster was recorded in Celtic and Norse folklore, though accounts of sightings can be traced back to St. Columba in 565 AD.
Loch Ness is a large loch of over twenty-one square miles and an unfathomable 800 feet deep. It is one of several lochs that became interlinked when the Caledonian Canal was completed during the 19th century opening out into the North Sea.
|Loch Ness, Scotland (marker)|
The water of Loch Ness is very murky because of the high concentration of peat and the loch's great depth. Many believe its bottom is interspersed with large caves in which Nessie rests in. While many scientific studies have been undertaken to hunt for Nessie and to make topographical images of the bottom of Loch Ness by use of sonar surveys, these studies have been unable to prove or disprove the existence the monster.
St. Columba and the Monster
The earliest legend about the Loch Ness monster recorded is the story by Adamnan of St. Columba's encounter with the beast.
Guilty for being partly responsible for the death of many men in the Battle of Cul-drebene, St Columba set out to mainland Scotland on a pilgrimage to spread Christianity across the land.
During this time, on his way to visit with the Pictish king in Inverness, he encountered some Picts burying what remained of one of their own people - badly savaged by a creature in the Loch.
The dead mans boat lay on the other side of the water, so Columba ordered one of his followers to swim over and retrieve the boat.
During this the servant was attacked by a creature that reared out of the Loch to attack the swimmer.
Columba commanded the beast to return to whence it came and it vanished beneath the waters of the Loch leaving the swimming man unharmed.
|St.Columba and the lake beast|
The most common description of Nessie is that of a large dinosaur-like monster who holds a great resemblance to a Plesiosaur. It is usually said to be about 40 to 45 feet in length with long, slender neck, a "head like a horse," a long tail, humped back and flippers in place of legs and feet. The back varies according to the sighting. Some reports say it has a single hump while others say it has two.
Often seen on the western edge of Loch Ness in the vicinity of the ancient Urquhart Castle, sightseers have in this century supposedly taken many photographs of Nessie. In all, there have been at least three thousand reported sightings of Nessie since 1933 although there are several recorded sightings from the 1800s.
|Supposed underwater image of the Loch Ness Monster|
The earliest police reports of sightings begin in October 1871 in which D. Mackenzie told how the creature moved slow, looked like a log at first but then the back came into view which resembled "an upturned boat." This description has been used repeatedly to describe the back of Nessie.
The next recorded sighting was by Roderick Matherson in 1885 in which he said the creature "was the biggest thing I ever saw in my life." In 1888 Alexander Macdonald saw the creature as well. In 1889 a "great horrible beastie" was reported to be in the loch by several people the same day.
There were sporadic reports of Nessie for several years but April 1933 saw the beginning of an all-new era. Between April 1933 and August 1934, over 50 sightings were reported with the majority of these being by more than one person at a time. A London surgeon, Robert Kenneth in 1934, took the most famous of Nessie photos. Then Nessie seemed to take a break and the next recorded sighting wasn't until 1936. With few sightings during the 1940s the Loch Ness monster began being seen again on a regular basis during the 1950s.
|Dr. Robert Rines (left)|
In 1972 and 1975 Dr. Robert Rines of the Academy of Applied Sciences in Boston used side scan sonar to take full body shot photos of a large object with what could be flippers. When Dr. Rines returned to Loch Ness in 1990 he was unable to find the object or creature again.
In the following article, Virginia Tech science professor emeritus Henry Bauer believes that a family of large aquatic cryptids still occupies the lake, and it’s only a matter of time before their existence is proven:
|Henry H. Bauer|
In his case, however, it isn’t from lack of trying. The Virginia Tech science professor emeritus has made a number of trips to Scotland hoping to catch a glimpse of the world’s most elusive aquatic beast, only to be disappointed. But not disheartened.
“Almost all of the sightings have been random,” he said, “and they tend to catch people by surprise.”
In other words, you can’t meet “Nessie” by appointment. That is, if he or she actually exists.
There appear to be three possibilities:
-The Loch Ness Monster is nothing but a figment of some Scotman’s imagination, a legend that has morphed into a mass hallucination among the believers.
-There was a Loch Ness Monster once upon a time, but now it’s dead.
-A family of Nessies still occupies the mile-wide, 20-mile-long lake, and it’s only a matter of time before their existence is proven.
Bauer describes himself as “about 95 percent certain” of the third option. He will be one of the speakers at an “UFOs at the Lake Conference” at the Mariner’s Landing Resort on Smith Mountain Lake, which is a neat coincidence. A movie in production called “Lake Effect” has been filmed there, and one of its components is a Nessie-style monster.
The producers of “Lake Effect” didn’t enlist Henry Bauer as a technical advisor, but they should have. As the pursuit of Nessie has changed from hobby to obsession, he has read everything he can find on the beast, pro and con.
“I’m a scientist,” he said, “and so I have an open mind, both ways. I’m just trying to help get at the truth.”
The initial spark for Bauer was a chance encounter with a book by Tim Dinsdale, described as the only person ever to capture the Loch Ness Monster on film. You’ve probably seen a famous still photograph from that footage, a grainy image of what appear to be eel-like loops protruding from the water of the Loch.
Naturally, that photo has come under withering fire from debunkers. It’s a boat, it’s a sturgeon, it’s an imperfection in the film.
“I took a year’s sabbatical in 1972,” Bauer said, “to study at the University of Cambridge in England. Naturally, I took a side trip to Loch Ness, Dinsdale happened to be there, and I met him.”
Bauer leans toward the theory that the Loch Ness Monster (or monsters) is a prehistoric creature that somehow became landlocked when the Ice Age closed off Loch Ness’ former connection to the ocean.
“There is another body of water called Loch Morar, also near the ocean, and there are legends surrounding creatures there, too,” Bauer said.
If you’re picturing Loch Ness as a small body of water, think again. This is no glorified farm pond.
“It’s 700 feet deep at one point,” Bauer said.
Nor is it surrounded by Loch Ness Monster tourist attractions.
“There aren’t any summer cottages and only a few hotels,” Bauer said. “The local planning committee is very conservative, and they want to keep the place pretty much like it’s always been. You can buy a Nessie doll in some stores, but that’s about it.”
Obviously, there are Nessie questions with no current answers. Since there have been sightings since the 1930s, the creature either has a very long life span or it has reproduced. And if one of the beasts has died, why was no carcass ever found?
On the other hand, Bauer said, no one has been able to explain certain sonar findings that appear to show large objects in motion.
For all its size and presumably carnivorous diet, Nessie has never tried to eat one of its human neighbors, or even a tourist. Rather, the beast seems reclusive and shy, appearing only by chance and disappearing just as quickly.
Or else this is all a hoax. Like any true scientist, Henry Bauer just seems to be enjoying the puzzle.
“I guess you’d say I’m into oddball science,” he said with a chuckle.
|Ottawa Citizen - June 11, 1960|