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06/21/2007 Archived Entry: "Loch Ness Monster"
Everyone loves a mystery and this country is fortunate in being able to provide several enduring examples. Today we have sightings of big black cats, but no authentic photographs or scientific proof; we have ghosts galore ranging from entire armies to stage coaches and grey ladies along with other natural explainable puzzles like Will o’ the Wisp and the Northern Lights.
But there is one major puzzle that continues to defy explanation and that is Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster. Even as I write these notes, yet another photographer has come forward to say he has captured the creature on film. He is not alone – down the years, others have made several claims but not one has satisfied scientists of the true existence of this mythical creature. As with previous photographs, the latest will be subjected to the most stringent scientific examination – indeed in the past, some have been faked.
Other countries have reported similar creatures in seas, deep lakes and rivers; when I was in Thailand, I was made aware of a creature in the River Mekong. It was known as a naga, a huge serpent-like animal with a ferocious temper and appetite; in fact I brought home a walking stick carved with the head of a naga. And I believe there is a similar creature in one of the Norwegian fjords.
The classics also tell of fearsome sea serpents. One relates how a sea monster terrified the horses of Hippolytus’ chariot while another tale tells how Andromeda was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to sea monster before being rescued by Perseus. It’s all good thrilling stuff, but do these tales contain any truths?
The story of the Loch Ness Monster is probably one of the most enduring because it has been told for more than 1,400 years, often with convincing sightings. Loch Ness itself is a mysterious lake – twenty-four miles long and surrounded by hills rising to more than 2,000 feet, it has a depth of 1,000 feet, deeper than the North Sea. To make a thorough search of that massive inland water is impossible, as successive experts and expeditions have discovered even when equipped with the latest technology.
No-one can be sure when the first sighting occurred, but the first on record is believed to be that of St Columba in AD 565. He described it as a dragon in a boiling lake; he saw it at the northern end of Loch Ness when he is reputed to have saved a man from being devoured by the creature he called a water-horse. Critics of Columba’s account suggest he was in fact describing an earthquake that had caused the water to bubble vigorously. Experts believe that all "sightings" of the monster were in fact underwater earthquakes that produced a terrifying effect along with disturbances of the water surface that might have been misinterpreted as large aquatic animals on the move. Earthquakes have reportedly coincided with many monster sightings.
Among the more convincing of reports is that of Mr and Mrs George Spicer who were driving along the side of the loch on July 22, 1933. Two hundred yards ahead they noticed a huge creature with an undulating body. It was crossing the road and completely blocked it – the Spicers described it as five feet high and up to 30 feet long. In the same year, a man witnessed a creature whose long neck was protruding from the water to a height of about five feet; it swam half a mile in twelve seconds, and then sank.
In January 1934, a veterinary student, Arthur Grant, was motor cycling along the loch side in the moonlight when he saw a massive creature with flippers lurching across the road ahead before splashing into the loch. He went straight home and sketched it.
Down the centuries, these and other reports have only served to strengthen the myth of the Loch Ness Monster. The foundation of the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau in the 1960s prompted several scientific investigations of the loch and its contents, but apart from the discovery of a massive underwater cavern, no monster has been located.
Because the sightings span so many centuries, it suggests there is a family of monsters that have somehow survived in the loch since primitive times. So does the Loch Ness Monster really exist? Local residents believe it does, many having sighted it without making a fuss, and a few years ago I was speaking to a monk who lived at a monastery on the shores of the loch. When I asked about the monster, he smiled and said, "Oh, yes, I’ve seen it – very early one morning. It was crossing the road."