Loch Ness Monster
A persistently reported monster or colony of monsters in
the vast area of Loch Ness in northern Scotland. The loch is
some 24 miles long and about a mile wide, with a depth from
433 to 754 feet. A monster was reported here in ancient Gaelic
legends as well as in a biography of St. Columba circa 565 C.E.
The modern history dates from 1933, when the monster began
to receive a significant amount of media attention. Research efforts
to produce conclusive proof of the monster’s existence
were initiated by different researchers in the 1970s.
In 1972 Robert Rines, an MIT physics graduate who went
to Loch Ness to search for ‘‘Nessie,’’ obtained some now famous
computer-enhanced ‘‘flipper’’ photographs. The photographs
were taken by an underwater camera after a sonar device detected
what appeared to be two large moving objects. The pictures
clearly showed a rhomboid shape that appeared to resemble
the flippers on seals and similar aquatic mammals.
Other films and photographs of an unidentified object in
the loch have been obtained in the last few decades. An impressive
picture of a large unknown creature in Loch Ness made the
front page of the New York Times (April 8, 1976); the photograph
was captured in 1975 with an underwater camera using
a sonar echo technique. A scientific report by Martin Klein and
Harold E. Edgerton appeared in Technology Review
(March–April 1976).
Two widely known photographs of the head and neck of the
monster were taken by monster-hunter and conjurer Tony
‘‘Doc’’ Shiels on May 21, 1977, near Castle Urquhart at Loch
Ness, Scotland. One of these photographs was reproduced in
both Cornish Life and the London Daily Mirror for June 9, 1977,
and both photographs were reproduced and discussed in
Fortean Times (No. 22, summer 1977). Interest in the Loch Ness
and similar monsters was stimulated by reports and photographs
of the decomposing body of a sea creature caught by
Japanese fishermen April 25, 1977, off the coast of New Zealand.
In 1983, Rikkie Razdan and Alan Kielar, two young electrical
engineers, visited Loch Ness and spent six weeks trying to
spot the monster with 144 sonar devices, covering an area of
6,400 square feet. After failing to find any significant traces of
the monster that could not be explained as gas bubbles, floating
debris, etc., they decided to study the sonar tracings obtained
by Robert Rines.
They contacted Alan Gillespie of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
who had handled the computer enhancement of the Rines
pictures, and asked for copies of the shots. To their surprise,
the images were vague and indistinct, quite unlike the distinctive
‘‘flipper’’ shape that had been given such prominence in
press accounts. It seems that the pictures were retouched after
being returned to Rines. An unretouched picture was reproduced
in the journal Discover (September 1984) alongside the
retouched ‘‘flipper’’ images of Rines. However, the basic shape
remains, although somewhat hazy.
After centuries of sightings, it seems reasonable to suppose
that there might be a continuing colony of creatures rather
than a single monster. Biologist Roy Mackal made the case for
the ‘‘possibility’’ of the existence of the monster, though definiThe
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tive evidence remains elusive. Known in Great Britain affectionately
as ‘‘Nessie,’’ the creature was recently named Nessiteras
rhombopteryx by Sir Peter Scott and Robert Rines (see
‘‘Naming the Loch Ness Monster,’’ Nature, December 11, 1976)
in an attempt to secure official protection as a rare species qualifying
for conservation. In the late 1970s the existence of a
‘‘nessie’’ religious cult was revealed by European New Religions
scholars, who made contact with the priestess who led the
group.
The Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau was
founded at 23 Ashley Place, London S.W.1, England, in 1961,
though it became inactive after 1972. It was succeeded by the
Loch Ness & Morar Project, concerned with claims of the
Loch Ness Monster as well as ‘‘Mhorag.’’ On October 9–11,
1987, the project instituted ‘‘Operation Deepscan.’’ Twenty
small boats equipped with sonar apparatus were deployed
abreast, sweeping up and down Loch Ness in line, forming a
‘‘sonar curtain.’’ At a press conference on September 17, organizer
Adrian J. Shine stated that the project had scientific objectives—a
study of fish distribution, water temperatures, and
the contents of the loch. The results of this scan were inconclusive,
although there were three unexplained sonar contacts, indicating
something that might be large fishes or perhaps debris.
No colony of monsters was located.
The Loch Ness and Loch Morar monsters are not unique,
since similar creatures have been reported in lakes in a number
of different countries. Their study is one of the main objects of
cryptozoology.
Sources
Binns, Ronald. The Loch Ness Mystery Solved. London Star
(W. H. Allen), 1984.
Campbell, Steuart Campbell. The Loch Ness Monster The Evidence.
Wellingborough, England Aquarian Press, 1986.
Clark, Jerome. Encyclopedia of Strange and Unexplained Phenomena.
Detroit Gale Research, 1993.
Costello, Peter. In Search of Lake Monsters. London, 1974.
Dinsdale, Tim. The Story of the Loch Ness Monster. London,
1973.
Gould, Rupert T. The Loch Ness Monster. London, 1934. Reprint,
New Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1969.
Heuvelmans, Bernard. In the Wake of the Sea Serpents. London,
1968.
Holiday, F. W. The Dragon and the Disc. London, 1973.
Oudemans, A. C. The Loch Ness Animal. Leyden, 1934.
Witchell, Nicholas. The Loch Ness Story. London, 1974.