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The Monster of Loch Ness
By Aaron Justice
Perhaps the most famous monster of our time is the Loch Ness monster, or Nessie. Loch Ness itself is indeed a spectacle, the largest lake in Great Britain. It is 23 miles long, one mile wide, and almost 900 feet deep in places. It is estimated that all 6 billion people on earth could fit in the loch. It is indeed a beautiful place--green hills surround it on all sides. It was extremely hard to get to until the 1930's when roads were constructed around Loch Ness. It was only then that the sightings really boomed.

What may be the first sighting of the Loch Ness monster was in 565 AD by the missionary Saint Columba, who was visiting Scotland to spread the Gospel. He needed to cross the loch, so one of his followers swam out in the water to reach their boat, which wasn't tied properly and had floated out. Then a great beastie arose from the water and seemed that it was going to devour the man. Saint Columba ordered the rest of his followers to be quiet, and in the name of the Christ rebuked the monster. The monster drew back "as if pulled by ropes" and the man was left unharmed.

There were scattered reports of the beast prior to the construction of the roads: a gypsy once saw it and was badly frightened, and some school children saw what they thought was a large camel, but reports were few before the building of the road that now runs alongside Loch Ness.

A peculiar aspect for a lake monster, the Loch Ness monster has sometimes been seen on land. Perhaps the first was by Mr. and Mrs. George Spicer in 1933. They were driving alongside the loch when Mrs. Spicer pointed out something crossing the road. It was a large-bodied creature with a long neck, and it slogged across the road in a seal-like fashion. At first they thought it was only about 6-feet long, but they later changed it to 30 feet when they remembered that it was wider than the road.

Another land sighting occurred about one year later when veterinary student Arthur Grant was heading home at around one in the morning. He saw something lurking in the bushes and when he rounded the corner the thing bounded onto the road. He swerved and stepped on the brakes, barely not colliding with it. His headlight was on the creature, which he estimated to be about 20 feet long--it had a long neck and tail, which tapered to a point. Its head was eel-like with oval eyes, and it had two humps on its back, one on each shoulder. The beast bounded back to the loch like a seal and swam off. Grant immediately drew what he saw. It highly resembled a plesiosaur.

Torquil Macleod, while on a private monster hunting expedition in February of 1960, also saw Nessie on shore, this time laid up on a beach at the remote Horseshoe area:
"I had a clear view of its left fore flipper which is grey in color and spade shaped... I confess to being rather appalled at its size, somehow the dimensions have never sunk in, but there is no doubt in my mind that this individual was of the order of 40-60 feet in length."
Whatever the Loch Ness monster may be, it can come on shore, perhaps to migrate or to lay eggs.

It is estimated that about 11,000 people have seen the Loch Ness monster, but most may be too embarrassed or afraid of ridicule to report it. Perhaps the king of Nessie sightings is Alex Campbell, a water bailiff (game warden). He has seen the Loch Ness monster on 18 different occasions. He describes his best sighting, which was in 1934.
"My best sighting was in May 1934 right off the Abbey boathouse. That morning I was standing at the mouth of the river Hawick looking for what we call a run of salmon. I heard the sound of two trawlers coming through the canal from the West. Suddenly there was this upsurge of water right in front of the canal entrance. I was stunned. I shut my eyes three times to make sure I wasn't imagining things-the head and the huge humped body were perfectly clear. I knew right away that the creature was scared because of its behavior. It was twisting its head frantically. It was the thud, thud of the engines that was the reason for its upset. Then it vanished out of sight when the trawler came within my line of vision. I estimated that the body alone was 30 feet long, the height of the head and neck above the water was 6 feet, and the skin was grey."
Mr. Campbell had many more sightings, his last just before his retirement.

For 15 minutes on October 8, 1936, Nessie showed herself to a group of tour buses and several cars. About 50 people in all saw the beast, a neck with two humps traveling behind it, many of which had telescopes and binoculars. Unfortunately no one had cameras, or cameras loaded with film. Then the creature sank as if it were a stone.

The Loch Ness monster showed itself many times during the forties and fifties, but the sightings of the beast increased during the sixties and seventies. Unshakable in his faith, Father Gregory Brusey entertained no doubts about his sighting of the monster in 1971. For about 20 seconds at a distance of 300 yards he saw a long neck followed by a hump swimming idly by for about 20 seconds. The clergyman admitted that if his friend weren't with him that he would have run away. "It gave us a feeling of something from another world."

A German nun and her friend Mrs. Robertson were alongside the loch back in 1975 when they saw the creature. Mrs. Robertson just took a picture of the nun and was handing her back her camera when she saw the beast. She estimated that it was about 40-45 feet in length and had a neck that stuck about 10 feet out of the water. It was grey with white underneath its neck. She asked her friend, the nun, if she had taken a picture of it. The nun was so frightened that she was on her hands and knees praying and forgot to take its picture.

Of course sightings of the beast will not convince any scientists of its existence. They usually discount the sightings, explaining them away as waves, floating logs, ducks, otters, and the occasional red deer that frequent the loch.

Every once in a while the opportunity arises in which a person not only has seen the Loch Ness monster, but also is lucky enough to have a camera. The first photograph was not taken by Robert K. Wilson, as many believe, but by a local named Hugh Gray as he was walking home from church. He saw a disturbance in the water and took four photographs, three of which did not come out, but the fourth shows an unusual shape in the water, on the left side of which may be a tail or a flipper. Mr. Gray interpreted it as a tail.

Now dubbed the "Surgeon's Photograph", the picture taken by Colonel Robert K. Wilson has been dubbed fake because of a recent deathbed confession. Most people immediately wrote about it, calling it "The Surgeon Photo Hoax" but some people were still not convinced. A recent study shows that the claim by Christian Spurling, the man who claimed it was fake on his deathbed, may be incorrect. Many people noted that the angle was wrong for a one-foot high model out 100 feet in the water, but is more likely four-feet high and 400 feet out like the original account goes. The second photo shows the neck in a different position as well.

Peter A. MacNab took an intriguing photograph of Nessie back in 1951. It shows two humps, possible a third in the front, of Nessie about to swim past Urquhart castle. There is some controversy over the photograph (apparently the reflection of the castle was not where it is supposed to be) but MacNab stated that he did not fabricate the photo, as his skills are limited to shooting and developing. If it wasn't fabricated it suggests the immense size of this particular Nessie. Urquhart castle is over 40 feet tall, yet the monster matches it in length.

Peter O'Connor also photographed Nessie, this time at close range and by torchlight. He waded out in the water up to his waist and snapped a picture that is now under controversy. The problem with the photograph is that it seems to have been taken from 12 feet up rather than a few feet. But the photo does seem genuine; the hump shows a whale like skin texture, which most people who have seen the monster have mentioned. Until the events around it are cleared up, this photograph is not used as evidence to support that a large beast lives in Loch Ness.

Perhaps the best photographs were taken during the 1975 expedition at Loch Ness, led by Robert H. Rines. Two photographs show what looks like a flipper, perhaps 6 feet in length. Another shows what looks like the head of Nessie, although many believe it to be a rotting tree stump. Two more photographs show what looks like the body of Nessie; in the second there are two of them. These photographs were not developed until a month after the expedition, so many believed them to be fakes, but Rines explains that they were so disappointed that their main camera didn't photograph the monster so they forgot about the backup camera.

Anthony "Doc" Shiels, a showman and a psychic, claims to have photographed Nessie back in 1977. If the photos are real, these are the best photographs of Nessie in existence. Most people believe they are fake, and justly so for the creature isn't making much of a wake. The picture does greatly resemble what many report the Loch Ness monster to look like; it has a lighter underbelly and a small head which doesn't differentiate itself from the neck. Once again, if they are real, then the mystery of Loch Ness is solved. An obvious faker, Frank Searle has taken as many photographs of Nessie as Alex Campbell has seen it. His photographs never look the same, and the creature often looks lifeless. One photo looks very similar to a brontosaurus model sold in museums. His first photograph looks real, but his credibility faded as he started faking pictures in order to shock the scientific world.

Films are much better evidence than photographs, they are harder to fake and provide information about movement. There are numerous films of Nessie; many of them are indisputable.

Malcolm Irvine may be the only person to film Nessie twice; his first was just before Christmas of 1933 and his second in 1936. His first one shows a hump making a considerable wake in the water. The whereabouts of the second film is unknown, but it presumably shows a long neck followed by three humps gliding serenely through the water.

A South African, G. E. Taylor got the first color film of Nessie, showing a hump 200 yards offshore bobbing up and down. Dr. Maurice Burton believes that it is not an animate object because it never lifts its head to look above the water. Dr. Roy P. Mackal counters that by saying the movement is very similar to fish predation, and that a creature looking for food under water has no reason to look above water.

The most celebrated film came in 1960. Monster hunter Tim Dinsdale saw and filmed the monster at a distance of about 1,300 yards. The film was a grainy yet exciting piece of film as it shows what appears to be an animate object zigzagging across the loch. Its wake is unlike that of a motorboat, and to prove so he also filmed some boats to show the difference. The film is used today as the most important piece of evidence in the investigation of the Loch Ness monster.

Peter and Gwen Smith filmed what appears to be the head and neck of Nessie as it rises and plunges in the water. When it came up they started filming, and the film shows it rise and plunge three times. Although clear, the film adds little to the other films and photographs of the monster.

What is the great beastie that inhabits the loch? There are numerous theories on what it is, but each one has its problems. Undoubtedly the favorite is the plesiosaur. But there are other theories that are as equally plausible as the plesiosaur theory.

The Plesiosaur
Plesiosaur is actually a broad term for marine reptiles with long necks and flippers, but no one knows what type of plesiosaur the Loch Ness monster is. The elasmosaur, the biggest and longest of the plesiosaurs, is the best candidate. There are others that also fit the description. Indeed the photographs taken by Robert H. Rines fit the plesiosaur theory, but there is always one nagging fact pulling it down. The plesiosaur was supposed to have died out almost 70 million years ago, but of course there are problems with that too. Unless killed off by man, like whales, sea dwelling creatures do very well, they have a nigh unlimited space to live in and an unending food supply. A meteorite cannot explain why the plesiosaurs died. Another problem is that it is hardly ever seen at the surface, and since plesiosaurs were air breathing animals, they have to come up for air. Sea turtles, however, don't have to come up for air very often; they can hold their breaths for hours. It's fair to assume that we know nothing about plesiosaurs other than they lived in the water and ate fish, so we don't know how often they had to come up for air. There are also motor boats constantly traipsing the loch, and because water is an excellent conductor, the sound from them would scare any prehistoric beast. Nessie has learned by now to stay away from humans.

The Eel
Another good theory is that the Loch Ness monster could be an eel. Eels fit the hump description much better than the plesiosaur, but one of its faults is that the monster often sticks its head up out of the water, a characteristic usually not attributed to an eel. Another is that no eel has been found that reaches the length of the Loch Ness monster. The largest eel, the conger eel, reaches only about 1/4 the needed size to fit Nessie's size.

The Zeuglodon
The zeuglodon, or the basilosaurus, is another likely candidate for the Loch Ness monster. It is a long, slender whale, which died out long ago, but it seems that a few may be around today. The monster of Okanagan, referred to as Ogopogo, also seems to be this creature. The zeuglodon may be too large though; they grew to over 70 feet in length, yet Nessie does not seem to exceed 50 feet. It also shares one of the problems that the eel has; it doesn't have a long neck to stick out of the water. Once again, the best theory seems to be the plesiosaur.

Whatever the Loch Ness monster may be, scientists are still unconvinced of its existence. They never admit when they are wrong and try to prove theories wrong with other theories instead of solid facts. The plesiosaur may be the most unwanted creature in history because the discovery of one may hurt their methods of dating and maybe the theory of evolution itself. A monster in Loch Ness, a very romantic idea....


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