Loch Ness Monster

The Loch Ness monster is possibly the world’s best known cryptid — an animal that has yet to be proven to exist. For centuries tales of a large beast living in Scotland’s Loch Ness has been passed down and retold. Let's take a look at the legacy of Nessie.

This story was created for the Google Expeditions project by Vida Systems, now available on Google Arts & Culture.

The Surgeon's Photograph

The tale of the monster may have just remained an obscure folklore from a small town, however in 1934 a photograph was released claiming to show the beast in all of its glory. The photograph was published around the world and the hunt for Nessie began in earnest.

The Loch Ness

The loch where the Nessie supposedly lives is located in Scotland, around 3 hours north of Edinburgh. The word “loch” is a Scottish word meaning “inland lake” and Loch Ness is the deepest loch in Scotland with some sections reaching over 700 feet deep. 

The water of Loch Ness is also very murky due to the high peat content of the water; it can be easy to imagine all sorts of strange creatures living in the deep, dark depths of the loch. 

The Loch Ness

This freshwater loch was formed around 10,000 years ago at the end of the last Great Ice Age. Before then, the whole area was filled with glaciers over a mile high. This young lake did not exist during the time of the dinosaurs.

Something Unusual

Maybe you spotted something unusual in the water; could it be the famous Loch Ness monster? Looking closer, you can see that it is a log. Because of the murky water, many objects get mistaken for the monster including logs, fish, and other large debris. 

Sightings of Nessie

Stories of a giant beast living in the depths of Loch Ness have been around for centuries. However a photograph released in 1934 brought the myth to a worldwide audience and Nessie, as the beast is affectionately known, now represents a £30 million per year tourism draw to the Loch Ness region. 

The First Sighting

In the 6th Century, St. Columba met some men at the loch who said that a giant water beast had attacked and killed their friend. St. Columba told one of his own companions to swim across the Loch, and the beast appeared. According to the story St. Columba made the sign of the cross, which made the beast stop in its tracks, turn tail, and flee. 

The Surgeon's Photograph

The Surgeon's Photograph

The most recognizable image was reportedly taken in 1934 by a doctor named Robert Kenneth Wilson, however he refused to be acknowledged. This photo has been used for decades as proof that Nessie exists however it is now generally believed to be a hoax.

Toy Submarine

In the uncropped version of the photo, one can see how small the “beast” is relative to the water ripples.  The “monster” was really a toy submarine with a wood putty head and neck. There are still believers of Nessie that insist the photo is real or believe that even though this photo is fake it doesn’t disprove Nessie’s existence. 

Loch Ness Muppet

Loch Ness Muppet

A 1977 photo claims to be the clearest photo. Dubbed the Loch Ness Muppet, this photo is criticized for several reasons. Taken by Anthony Shiels, a self–proclaimed magician and psychic, he claimed to have summoned Nessie out of the water to take the photo. Skeptics comment on the lack of ripples and ridicule the “fake” look, which resulted in the “Muppet” nickname.

Under the Loch

So if Nessie does in fact exist, what could the creature be? It is commonly accepted that all the descriptions of the Loch Ness monster point to it being some type of plesiosaur, a large aquatic dinosaur that went extinct over 66 million years ago.

If the Loch Ness is a type of plesiosaur, how did it get into the Loch in the first place? And why haven’t we found any definitive proof of its existence?

Possibly Plesiosaurs

Over 100 different species of plesiosaurs fossils were found in the world’s oceans. Due to the weight of their necks, scientists agree that it is improbable that these animals could lift and hold their necks out of the water, especially in the swan–like manner of the Nessie photographs. 

Possibly Pescatarian

Plesiosaurs eat fish and most Nessie believers think that Nessie is a pescatarian (fish eater). However the Loch is not big enough to sustain an animal of this size. For a plesiosaur to survive since the sixth century, there would have to be dozens of them to maintain a healthy breeding population.

Trace Remains

If plesiosaurs were living in the lake, then fossils, bones, carcasses, or even feces would have been found by now. People have dredged and scoured the lake bottom for decades and have not found any bones or biological matter of a large animal.

Age of Lake

The age of Loch Ness is another key piece of evidence against a plesiosaur existing in the area. This lake is only 10,000 years old, much too young for an animal that went extinct 65 million years ago.

Hunt for the Loch Ness

Many expeditions has been conducted to find the cryptid in the Loch Ness. Thousands of man hours have been spent looking, photographing, dredging, and sampling the Loch. As yet, no one has managed to find definitive proof that a large, previously undescribed animal lives in the Loch Ness. 

The Loch Ness Investigation Bureau

The Bureau was formed in 1962 with the aim of providing conclusive proof of Nessie’s existence. The purpose of the Bureau was to encourage teams of volunteers to scour the water using binoculars, cameras, and telescopes in hopes of glimpsing the creature.

Robert Rines

American lawyer Robert Rines dedicated his life to trying to find evidence of the Loch Ness monster. He conducted various expeditions using sonar, underwater cameras, and floodlights for over 30 years. His research produced several photographs, and their authenticity is still debated to this day.  

Sonar results

Rines’ 2 most famous sonar results appear to show a fin from a large animal and a “gargoyle’” head. The first image was heavily enhanced and detractors state that the image is the muddy lake bottom. The gargoyle head was later found to be a tree stump.

Operation Deepscan

The largest and most expensive search took place in 1987, cost over £1 million, and lasted over a week. Using 24 boats equipped with sonar equipment, 3 large objects were detected, which the leader noted could have been schools of fish or seals. 

BBC Search

In 2003 the BBC sponsored a search of the Loch Ness. They used 600 sonar beams and satellite tracking to try and find evidence of the monster. Their advanced technology was able to pick up small items at high resolution. No animal of substantial size was found.

The legacy of Nessie

The Loch Ness monster is a huge boon for the local economy. Tens of thousands of visitors flock to Loch Ness each year hoping to spot the elusive cryptid. The legend of the Loch Ness monster makes this area arguably the most well known location in Scotland and brings in an estimated £30 million per year. 

Tourism Around Loch Ness

Towns around Loch Ness have undoubtedly benefited from the mystery of the Loch Ness monster. Accommodation providers, restaurants, cafes, and tours thrive in the area, however as evidence stacks against the existence of Nessie, the whole area’s economic future becomes uncertain. 

Eyewitness Accounts

There are over 1000 eyewitness accounts of people claiming to have seen the monster since the early 1930’s. According to the official Scotland tourism website, Nessie really does exist and they encourage visitors to keep their cameras ready at all times. 

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