The Loch Ness Monster is a cryptid that is reputed to inhabit Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. The most frequent
speculation is that the creature represents a line of long-surviving plesiosaurs.
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 fluctuated 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 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)
1950s.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 claim 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
talked of a "monster fish", "sea serpent", or "dragon",
settling on "Loch Ness Monster". On 6 December 1933
the first purported photograph of the monster, taken by Hugh Gray, was
published, 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 which describe the author's personal investigation and collected record of
additional reports pre-dating the summer of 1933. Other authors have claimed
that sightings of the monster go as far back as the 6th century (seen below).
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.
to Adomnán, writing about a century after the events he described, the Irish
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
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
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, skeptics 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 skeptics, 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
Binns acknowledges that this account is the most serious of various alleged
early sighting 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.
Modern interest in the monster was sparked by the July 22, 1933 sighting,
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 m) high and
25 feet (8 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
am 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.
Grant said he dismounted and followed it to the loch, but only saw ripples.
some believe this story was intended as a humorous explanation of a motorcycle
In another 1933 sighting, a young maidservant named Margaret Munro supposedly
observed the creature for about 20 minutes. She claimed it was about 6:30 am on
5 June, when she spotted it on shore from about 200 yards (180 m). She described
it as having elephant-like skin, a long neck, a small head and two short
forelegs or flippers. The sighting apparently ended when the creature re-entered
Sporadic land sightings continued until 1963, when film of the creature was
shot from a distance of 4 Kilometers. Because of the distance it was shot at it
has been described as poor quality.
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 April 27,
In 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.
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
One of the most iconic images of Nessie is known as the "Surgeon's
Photograph". Its importance lies in the fact that it was the first photo and
only photographic evidence of a “head and neck” – all the others are humps or
disturbances. Dr. Wilson claimed
he was looking at the loch when he saw the monster, so grabbed his camera and
snapped five photos. After the film was developed, only two exposures were
clear. The first photo (the more publicised one) shows what was claimed to be a
small head and back. The second one, a blurry image, attacted little publicity
because it was difficult to interpret what was depicted. You can see the second
photo here: http://iconicphotos.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/nessie2pic1.jpg.
The image was revealed as a hoax in 1994. Supposedly taken
by Robert Kenneth Wilson, a London gynaecologist, it was published
in the Daily Mail on 21
April 1934. Wilson's refusal
to have his name associated with the photograph led to it being called
"Surgeon's Photograph". The strangely
small ripples on the photo fit the size and of circular pattern of small ripples
as opposed to large waves when photographed up close. Analysis of the original
uncropped image fostered further doubt. A year before the hoax was revealed, the
makers of Discovery Communications's documentary
Loch Ness Discovered analysed the uncropped image and found a white
object was visible in every version of the photo, implying it was on the
negative. "It seems to be the source of ripples in the water, almost as if the
object was towed by something", the narrator said. "But science cannot rule out
it was just a blemish on the negative", he continued. Additionally, analysis of
the full photograph revealed the object to be quite small, only about 60 to 90
cm (2 to 3 ft) long.
In 1979 it was claimed to be a picture of an elephant (see below). Other skeptics in the 1980s
argued the photo was that of an otter or a
diving bird, but after Christian Spurling's confession most agree it was what
Spurling claimed – a toy submarine with a sculpted head attached. Details of how the photo was accomplished were published in the 1999 book,
Nessie – the Surgeon’s Photograph Exposed. Essentially, it was a toy submarine with a head and neck made of plastic
wood, built by Christian Spurling, the son-in-law of Marmaduke Wetherell, a
big game hunter who had been publicly ridiculed in the Daily Mail, the newspaper that employed him.
Spurling claimed that to get revenge, Marmaduke Wetherell committed the hoax,
with the help of Chris Spurling (a sculpture specialist), his son Ian Marmaduke,
who bought the material for the fake Nessie, and Maurice Chambers (an insurance
agent), who would call to ask surgeon Robert Kenneth Wilson to offer the
pictures to the Daily Mail. The hoax story is
disputed by Henry Bauer,
who claims this
debunking is evidence of bias, and asks why the perpetrators did not reveal
their plot earlier to embarrass the newspaper. He also claimed that plastic wood
did not exist in 1934, although it was a popular DIY and modelling material in
the early 1930s. It is obviously a
hoax as there are hardly any ripples around the water, the "monster" is
ridiculously small, and the back is not humped, unlike other famous photos. A
humped back is also the most famous description, making it likely that if Nessie
is real, then she will most likely have a humped back.
Alastair Boyd, one of the researchers who uncovered the hoax, argues the Loch
Ness Monster is real, and that although the famous photo was hoaxed, that does
not mean that all the photos, eyewitness reports, and footage of the monster
were as well. He also argues that the hoaxed photo is not a good reason to
dismiss eyewitness reports and other evidence
Having read the book by Gould,
Mountain decided to finance a proper watch in which 20 men with binoculars and
cameras were positioned around the Loch from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., starting 13 July
1934 and running for five weeks. Some 21 photographs were taken, 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.
The Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau (LNPIB) was a UK-based society
formed in 1962 "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 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. Its
founders included MP David James and naturalist Peter Scott. 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. Its directors were listed as Norman Collins
(Chairman), Lord Craigmyle, Prof.
Roy P. Mackal, R. S.
R. Fitter, David James, MP, and Peter Scott.
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 1967–1968 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:
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).
Earlier submersible work had yielded dismal results. Under the sponsorship of
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.
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 to be 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. "More specifically," he
said, "competent authorities state that none of the known forms of life in the
loch has the anatomical capabilities of producing such calls."
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 made precautions to avoid
it. A submersible camera with an affixed, high-powered flood light (necessary
for penetrating Loch Ness's notorious murk) 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. A
rarely publicised photograph depicted two plesiosaur-like bodies. Another photo
seemed to depict a horned "gargoyle head", consistent to that of several
sightings of the monster. Some believe the latter to be a tree stump found
during Operation Deepscan.
A few close-ups of what is to be the creature's supposed 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
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 exactly sure how
the original came to be enhanced in this way.
On 8 August 1972, Rines' Raytheon
DE-725C sonar unit, operating at a frequency of 200 kHz and anchored in Ness 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 and come to
this conclusion. 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 not normally found in fresh water lakes, 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 believes that the creature may have
failed to adapt to temperature changes as a result of global warming.
In 1987, Operation Deepscan, the biggest sonar exploration of Loch Ness,
place. Twenty-four boats equipped with sonar were deployed across the whole
width of the lake 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 SONAR images, it seemed to
point to debris at the bottom of the lake, although three of the pictures were
of moving debris. Shine speculates that they could be seals that got into the
lake, since they would be of about the same magnitude as the objects
Darrell Lowrance, sonar expert and founder of Lowrance Electronics, donated a number of
sonar 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."
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.
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
A variety of explanations have been postulated over the years to account for
sightings of the Loch Ness Monster. These may be categorised as:
misidentifications of common animals; misidentifications of inanimate objects or
effects; reinterpretations of traditional Scottish folklore; hoaxes; and exotic species of large animals.
There are wake sightings that occur when the loch is dead calm with no boat
nearby. A bartender named David Munro claims to have witnessed a wake which he
believed to be a creature zigzagging, diving and reappearing. (There were 26
other witnesses from a nearby car park.) Some
sightings describe the onset of a V-shaped wake, as if there were something
underwater. Moreover, many
wake sightings describe something not conforming to the shape of a boat. Under
dead calm conditions, a creature too small to be visible to the naked eye can
leave a clear v-shaped wake. In particular, a group of swimming birds can give a
wake and the appearance of an object. A group of birds can leave the water and
then land again, giving a sequence of wakes like an object breaking the surface,
which Dick Raynor says is a possible explanation for his film.
A giant eel was
actually one of the first suggestions made. Eels are
found in Loch Ness, and an unusually large eel would fit many sightings. This
has been described as a conservative explanation. Eels are not known to protrude swanlike from the water and thus would not
account for the head and neck sightings. Dinsdale dismissed the proposal because eels move in a side-to-side
On 2 May 2001, two conger eels were found on the shore of the
loch; however, as conger eels are saltwater animals and Loch Ness is a
freshwater body of water, it is believed that they were put there to be seen as
In a 1979 article, California biologist Dennis Power and geographer Donald
Johnson claimed that the Surgeon's Photograph was in fact the top of the head,
extended trunk and flared nostrils of a swimming elephant, probably photographed
elsewhere and claimed to be from Loch Ness.
In 2006, palaeontologist and artist Neil Clark similarly suggested that
travelling circuses might have allowed elephants to refresh themselves in the
loch and that the trunk could therefore be the head and neck, with the
elephant's head and back providing the humps. In support of this he provided a
When viewed through a telescope or binoculars with no outside reference, it
is difficult to judge the size of an object in the water. Loch Ness has resident
otters and pictures of
them are given by Binns, which could be
misinterpreted. Likewise he gives pictures of deer swimming in Loch Ness, and
birds which could be taken as a "head and neck" sighting.
A number of photographs and a video have now been taken which confirm that
seals have been present in the loch, for up to months at a time.
In 1934 the Sir Edward
Mountain expedition analysed film taken the same year and concluded that the
monster was a species of seal, which
was reported in a national newspaper as "Loch Ness Riddle Solved –
Official". A long-necked seal
was advocated by Peter Costello for Nessie and for other
reputed lake monsters. R.T.
Gould wrote "A grey seal has a long and surprisingly extensible neck; it swims
with a paddling action; its colour fits the bill; and there is nothing
surprising in its being seen on the shore of the loch, or crossing a road."
explanation would cover sightings of lake monsters on land, during which the
creature supposedly waddled into the lake upon being startled, in the manner of
could also account for sonar traces which act as animate objects. Against this,
it has been argued that all known species of pinnipeds are usually visible on land during daylight
hours to sunbathe, something that
Nessie is not known to do. However seals have been observed and photographed in
Loch Ness and the sightings are sufficiently infrequent to allow for occasional
visiting animals rather than a permanent colony.
In 1933 the Daily
Mirror showed a picture with the following caption 'This queerly-shaped
tree-trunk, washed ashore at Foyers may,
it is thought, be responsible for the reported appearance of a "Monster"'. (Foyers is on Loch
In a 1982 series of articles for New Scientist, Dr Maurice Burton proposed that sightings of Nessie
and similar creatures could actually be fermenting logs of Scots pine rising to the surface
of the loch's cold waters. Initially, a rotting log could not release gases
caused by decay, because of high levels of resin sealing in the gas. Eventually, the gas pressure
would rupture a resin seal at one end of the log, propelling it through the
water—and sometimes to the surface. Burton claimed that the shape of tree logs
with their attendant branch stumps closely resemble various descriptions of the
Four Scottish lochs are very deep, including Morar, Ness and Lomond. Only the lochs with pinewoods on their
shores have monster legends; Loch Lomond — with no pinewoods — does not. Gaseous
emissions and surfactants resulting from the decay of the logs can cause the
foamy wake reported in some sightings. Indeed, beached pine logs showing
evidence of deep-water fermentation have been found. On the other hand, there
are believers who assert that some lakes do have reports of monsters, despite an
absence of pinewoods; a notable example would be the Irish lough monsters.
Loch Ness, because of its long, straight shape, is subject to some unusual
occurrences affecting its surface. A seiche is a large, regular oscillation of a lake, caused
by a water reverting to its natural level after being blown to one end of the
lake. The impetus from this reversion continues to the lake's windward end and
then reverts back. In Loch Ness, the process occurs every 31.5 minutes.
Boat wakes can also produce strange
effects in the loch. As a wake spreads and divides from a boat passing the
centre of the loch, it hits both sides almost simultaneously and deflects back
to meet again in the middle. The movements interact to produce standing
waves that are much larger than the original wake, and can have a humped
appearance. By the time this occurs, the boat has passed and the unusual waves
are all that can be seen.
Wind conditions can give a slightly choppy and thus matte appearance to the
water, with occasional calm patches appearing as dark ovals (reflecting the
mountains) from the shore, which can appear as humps to visitors unfamiliar with
the lake. In 1979, Lehn showed that atmospheric refraction could distort the shape and size of
objects and animals, and later showed a
photograph of a rock mirage on Lake Winnipeg which could
represent a head and neck.
The Italian geologist Luigi Piccardi has proposed geological explanations for
some ancient legends and myths. He pointed out that in the earliest recorded
sighting of a creature, the Life of St. Columba, the creature's emergence was
accompanied "cum ingenti fremitu" (with very loud roaring). The Loch Ness is
located along the Great Glen Fault, and this could be a
description of an earthquake. Furthermore, in many sightings, the report
consists of nothing more than a large disturbance on the surface of the water.
This could be caused by a release of gas from through the fault, although it
could easily be mistaken for a large animal swimming just below the surface.
Binns concludes that it would be unwise to put forward a single explanation
of the monster, and probably a wide range of natural phenomena have been
mistaken for the monster at times: otters, swimming deer, unusual waves.
However, he adds that this also touches on some issues of human psychology, and
the ability of the eye to see what it wants to see.
According to the Swedish naturalist and author Bengt Sjögren (1980),
present day beliefs in lake
monsters such as Nessie 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
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.
The Loch Ness monster phenomenon has seen several attempts to hoax the
public, some of which were very successful. Other hoaxes were revealed rather
quickly by the perpetrators, or exposed after diligent research. A few examples
are mentioned below.
In August 1933, Italian journalist Francesco Gasparini submitted what he
claims was the first news article on the Loch Ness monster. In 1959, he
confessed to taking a sighting of a "strange fish" and expanding on it by
fabricating eye witness accounts. "I had the inspiration to get hold of the item
about the strange fish. The idea of the monster had never dawned on me, but then
I noted that the strange fish would not yield a long article, and I decided to
promote the imaginary being to the rank of monster without further ado."
In the 1930s, a big game hunter named Marmaduke Wetherell went to Loch Ness
to look for the Loch Ness Monster. He claimed to have found some footprints but
when the footprints were sent to scientists for analysis, they turned out to be
hippopotamus footprints. A
prankster had used a hippopotamus foot umbrella stand to make the
On 2 July 2003, Gerald McSorely found a fossil supposedly belonging to Nessie
when he tripped and fell into the lake. After examination, it became clear that
the fossil wasn't from Loch Ness and that it had been planted there.
In 2004, a documentary team for television channel Five, using special
effects experts from movies, tried to make people believe there was something in
the loch. They constructed an animatronic model of a plesiosaur, and dubbed it "Lucy". Despite setbacks,
such as Lucy falling to the bottom of the loch, about 600 sightings were
reported in the places they conducted the hoaxes.
In 2005, two students claimed to have found a huge tooth embedded in the body
of a deer on the loch shore. They publicised the find widely, even setting up a
website, but expert analysis soon revealed that the "tooth" was the antler of a
muntjac. The Loch Ness tooth was a publicity stunt to promote a horror novel by Steve Alten titled The Loch.
In 2007, a video purported to show Nessie jumping high into the air showed up
on YouTube. This was revealed by the online amateur sceptic's community eSkeptic
to be a viral ad promoting the then-upcoming Sony Pictures film The Water
The release of the
film confirmed the eSkeptic analysis: the viral video comprises footage
from The Water Horse.