Reports of Loch Ness monster sightings keep coming. The last report, accompanied by a video, is of a 20- to 30-foot-long creature occasionally breaking the surface of the water. While the video clearly shows a moving V-shaped wake, it does not reveal the underlying source. The witnesses certainly saw something, but what?
There have been over 85 theories about what the Loch Ness monster is, ranging from the prosaic (windspots, reflections, plant debris, and boat contrails) to the implausible zoo (anacondas, orcas, and ocean sunfish) to the downright wacky. (dinosaur ghosts). The people who invented these theories weren’t necessarily familiar with the lake.
Many early suggestions from foreign zoologists suggested that they thought the lake was saltwater, which explains the suggestions of sunfish, whales, sharks and rays. Some theories have been independently reinvented, showing the ingenuity of each generation of Nessie inventors. For example, the idea that the Loch Ness monster was originally a swimming elephant from a visiting circus resurfaced three times, in 1934, 1979 and 2005. Each time, the person claimed the idea was original.
Nessie the reptile
However, it was the notion of the Loch Ness monster as a prehistoric reptile that really captured the public imagination in the 1930s. The modern genesis of Nessie really began in April 1933. The first eyewitness accounts of an animal stranger on the lake began in 1930.
However, it was not until August 1933 that witness George Spicer, who saw Nessie on land, first suggested that the creature was a reptile. Until then, well-informed commentators assumed that if there was an animal in the lake, it was some kind of freshwater wandering animal, such as a seal, that had come from the Moray Firth. Spicer just described it as a prehistoric reptile. It claimed it had a long neck, which allowed a journalist five days later to suggest it was a plesiosaur, a type of long-necked marine reptile from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. A (but not the only) popular image of the Loch Ness monster was born.
The fact that Nessie’s plesiosaur image surfaced in August 1933 casts doubt on Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero’s theory (2013) Nessie originated with the highly popular 1933 film King Kong, with its portrayal of a man-eater of men, long neck and swamp dwelling reptile. It is more likely that King Kong only influenced, rather than created, modern Nessie. The first sightings of the Loch Ness Monster were in 1930, and while there were more sightings in 1933, they started in April, before King Kong was shown in Scotland.
she is complicated
Most accounts of the Loch Ness monster do not feature long necks. Biochemist (and Nessie researcher) Roy Mackal said that in 1976 there were over 10,000 reports of the Loch Ness monster, but gave no evidence to support this, and a table in his book Loch Ness Monsters contains only 251 reports. I know 1,452 different encounters. Only about 20% of reports mention a neck of any length, so it’s not the monster’s normal shape. Also less than 1% of creatures in the reports are described as reptilian or scaly. So I think it’s reasonable to assume that whatever the reported phenomenon of the Loch Ness monster is, it’s not based on glimpses of a prehistoric reptile.
In reality, the Loch Ness monster has multiple identities. It may not be a walrus, elk, camel or extraterrestrial visitors, as some have suggested, but it could be a myriad of anthropogenic (boats, wakes, debris) and natural (animals, mats of vegetation) and physical (wind effects, reflections) phenomena. . The Loch Ness monster can range in color from pink to black, it can be matte or glossy, furry or scaly. It may have humps and manes, it may have horns, and it may travel at great speed or not move at all. No identity captures the variety of Nessie’s reported characteristics.
This suggests that Nessie is a function of human psychology rather than nature. And perhaps it is human psychology, not nature, that has underpinned Nessie’s idea since the 1930s.
So what did the last witnesses see? The reality is that we have too little information to come to a firm conclusion about what was happening in the video. The problem with the vast majority of Nessie reports is that they just don’t have the details you need to identify an animal. And any details reported could be misinterpretations. The fact that the visible wake moves indicates that it was a real animal (rather than trapped vegetation). But was it a 20- to 30-foot animal or some water bird or an underwater otter that created a big trail in the smooth water? We will simply never know.
Charles Paxton, researcher at the School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Santo André
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