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Loch Ness Monster

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The first recorded sighting of something strange in Loch Ness occured in 565 AD. According to the account, a person was bitten to death by a creature in the Loch. When one of St. Columba's friends swam into the Loch, the creature surfaced with the intent of killing the friend. St. Columba is supposed to have commanded the beast to leave and leave the man unharmed. After that there were other scattered Medieval sightings. In one of these sightings, which occured some time before 1527, a creature came out of the water and used it's tail to knocl over trees and kill 3 people.
 
Some sightings occured in  the late 19th and early 20th centuries, though the Monster started being seen frequently in the 1930s, after a new road made Loch Ness more accesible. Most sightings of Nessie (as the Loch Ness Monster has been nicknamed) report seeing several humps and sometimes a long, thin neck. According to biologist Roy P. Mackal, there have been around 10,000 reported sightings of Nessie. There have also been some rare reports of Nessie being seen on the land near the Loch.
 
The first photograph of Nessie was taken on Novermber 12, 1933, by Hugh
Gray. The photo seems to show a flipper and something coming out of the water. Personally, I doubt that this photo shows much of anything, and the quality is too poor to really be sure what is shows. The most famous photograph, the "Surgeon Photo", seems to show a serpentine head sticking out of the lake. Unfortunately, it appears that this photograph was a hoax, as was revealed by the stepson of one of the perpetrators. Several other photographs have been taken, showing humps. In 1972, Robert Rhines used an underwater sonar camera to try to take pictures of Nessie. The camera took 2 pictures of what appears to be a flipper of the monster. In 1975, Rhines again used an underwater camera to try to obtain more photographs of the monster. The camera took 2 more photographs, which although unclear, seem to show the monster. One seems to show a closeup of  Nessie's face. The other seems to shown the front side of Nessie.
 
As Nessie has been sighting since the 6th century, there has to be more then one monster. Even if we discount any Medieval sightings, that still leaves us with sightings ranging from 1871 to the present. Unless we are to assume that Nessie has more supernatural then natural properties, there must be several monsters in the Loch. Skeptics have suggested that the Loch would not be able to support a large carnivore, let alone a family of them. The lake is 24 miles long. It has an average depth of 433 feet, and there are a few areas that are 850 (and maybe even 900) feet deep. This could be enough room for a group of monsters. As for food, Loch Ness is populated by eels and salmon, as well as some sturgeon. Some people have also suggested that there could be underwater passages leading to the ocean. The problem with this is that the Loch would most likely drain out to reach a level at which the passages would be visible, though there may be underwater caverns in the Loch.
 
The final question is, if Nessie exists, just what is it? The popular theory is that it is some kind of Plesiosaur (a marine reptile) surviving from the Age of Dinosaurs. Other theories suggest that it may be some kind of pinniped (seals, sea lions, etc), an amphibian or a large eel. One problem with the pinniped or plesiosaur theory is that they would need to surface for air, thus making it more likely that they would be seen. Additionally, a piniped would not resemble most of the sightings and photographs. Another theory is that it is a Tully Monster (a bizzare prehistoric invertebrate). The Tully Monster does resemble the descriptions of Nessie, except for 2 main problems. The Tully Monster was 6 inches long, and is believed to have been extinct for 280 million years. Another theory is that it is some kind of Zeulodon (an extinct whale), which also resembles descriptions of sea serpents.
 
Whatever the Loch Ness Monster is, there is something strange in the Loch waiting to be discovered.

Sources
  • The Monsters of Loch Ness, by Roy P. Mackal
  • Monsters of the Sea, by Richard Ellis
  • Unexplained!, by Jerome Clark