Lochness Monster Centuries Old!

January 19, 2022 ·

For 1500 years, the story of the strange beast that roams the waters of Loch Ness has driven curiosity in the minds of folks for generations. And despite the vast reports, scientists have failed to settle the debate about one of Scotland’s most beloved creatures.

When the Romans first came to northern Scotland in the first century A.D., they found the Highlands occupied by fierce, tattoo-covered tribes they called the Picts, or painted people. All the animals depicted on the Pictish stones are lifelike and easily recognizable—all but one. The exception is a strange beast with an elongated beak or muzzle, a head locket or spout, and flippers instead of feet. Described by some scholars as a swimming elephant, the Pictish beast is the earliest known evidence for an idea that has held sway in the Scottish Highlands for at least 1,500 years—that Loch Ness is home to a mysterious aquatic animal.

The earliest written reference linking such creatures to Loch Ness is in the biography of Saint Columba, the man credited with introducing Christianity to Scotland. In A.D. 565, according to this account, Columba was on his way to visit a Pictish king when he stopped along the shore of Loch Ness. Seeing a large beast about to attack a man who was swimming in the lake, Columba raised his hand, invoking the name of God and commanding the monster to “go back with all speed.” The beast complied, and the swimmer was saved.

Fast forward to the 1950s, a local doctor named Constance Whyte began collecting eyewitness accounts, along with sketches of what the people had seen, finally publishing them in 1957 as a book entitled More Than a Legend. Noting that many of her friends had been subjected to ridicule and contempt, Whyte said her goal in writing the book was “the vindication of many people of integrity who had reported honestly what they had seen in Loch Ness).

In the span of a decade, beginning in 1958, four separate expeditions were launched, first by the BBC, then by three respected British universities: Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of Birmingham. Rather than scanning the surface with binoculars and cameras, as the amateur investigators had, these expeditions came equipped with sonar, a military technology that used sound to search the underwater environment. Though the expeditions found nothing conclusive, in each case the sonar operators detected large, moving underwater objects they could not explain.

In 1987, Operation Deep Scan, the most ambitious sonar survey of Loch Ness, found three unexplained underwater targets. Itused a flotilla of 20 sonar-equipped boats to sweep the loch with a curtain of sound; the operation yielded three underwater targets that could not be explained. In the early 1990s, the BBC’s Nicholas Witchell helped organize Project Urquhart, the first extensive study of the loch’s biology and geology. Although they weren’t looking for monsters, the expedition’s sonar operators detected a large, moving underwater target and followed it for several minutes before losing it. And during the 1997 expedition featured in NOVA’s Loch Ness film, Rines and his longtime colleague Charles Wyckoff detected yet another puzzling underwater target. According to the expedition’s sonar expert, marine biologist Arne Carr, it was a moving target, appeared to be biological in nature, and was about 15 feet long—the size of a small whale.

In the 65 years since the birth of the modern legend, dozens of people have come forward with photographs purporting to show the monster. Most were quickly dismissed as either outright frauds or images of ordinary objects mistaken for monsters. But to the believers, you can’t convince them of anything outside of a world with Nessie in it.

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