Loch Ness Monster, Highlands
It makes you wonder about Scotland that its most famous and most loved animalís existence hasnít actually been proven beyond all reasonable doubt.
A common pastime when in the company of our trans-Atlantic cousins is to regale them with stories of the wild haggis Ė the physiology of which is entirely open to interpretation. But more cemented into the colourful taxonomy of cryptozoology, the study of animals whose very existence is disputed, is the Loch Ness Monster. Nessie is up there with the Yeti, and there are plenty who want to believe.
With or without an underwater monster, Loch Ness is an imposing setting in the Scottish Highlands. It is up to 230 metres deep, freshwater, and 24 miles long. So really, it is not unfeasible that there is something in there that hasnít been fully discovered yet.
The Loch Ness Monster is not a new phenomenon. Back in 565AD Saint Columba is said to have freed one unfortunate Pictish native from the gaping maw of a Ďferocious monsterí Ė a miracle, indeed. But it was not until the 1930s that the monster became something of an international concern, a bastion of mystery, and a place to put oneís faith that there may be some sort of living relic from the dinosaur age that wasnít so banal as a crusty old saltwater crocodile.
It was a chap called George Spicer who brought Nessie to the worldís attention once more. Travelling with his wife in the summer of 1933, he reported the sighting of an improbably huge creature, some 25 feet in length, haring across the road in front of him before secreting itself in the loch. This sighting was quickly followed by others: all describing some long-necked beast, sometimes with flippers, sometimes without. Then came the photographic evidence.
The Surgeonís Photo, depicting what looks like a plesiosaurís neck popping out of the water, has become one of the best Nessie pictures, which makes it all the more disappointing that the Daily Mirror exposed it has a fake in 1994. Oh the irony that it was the Mirror, but still there has never been any shortage of people who still believe.
Every effort has been made to discover the animal: underwater sonar; underwater cameras; men stationed around the loch, armed with binoculars. Short of draining the loch, there seems to be no answer to the mystery. Every search team that arrives in the Great Glen, armed to the teeth with bespoke butterfly nets and hi-tech gizmos, leaves with the most desultory of findings. As for the theories: otters to elephants, Nessie has been all of them one time or another.
With all this in mind, the unconvincing sightings, the hoaxers, weather phenomena, seals, and (itís worth mentioning again given how rare these animals are in the Highlands) Elephants; it is not hard to lose faith in the Loch Ness Monsterís existence. But, and it is a huge but, why is it that when by the banks of Loch Ness you can't take your eyes from the water? Perhaps, thatís the greatest mystery of all.
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