Could The Loch Ness Monster Actually Exist?

It’s the most famous beast in the world of cryptozoology, but is Nessie more than just the stuff of silly speculation?

The Loch Ness monster AKA Nessie

YES!

Don't snort, don't scoff, and don't be so cynical. There's every chance the so-called "Loch Ness Monster" exists, in some form or another. And that's the important bit: "some form or another".

We're not suggesting Nessie really is (necessarily) some kind of underwater dragon beast, or a dinosaur-type creature which was somehow left behind by evolution. It might be something else entirely. A kind of giant fish, perhaps, or a hitherto undiscovered species of... well, something. We don't know. But just because we don't know what something is, doesn't mean something isn't there at all.

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And how about all those many sightings, which have been frequent and well-documented, and stretch back a reassuringly long time. In the 1930s, when the building of roads and the rise of mass media helped alert the world to the mystery of the monster, people were quite certain that SOMETHING was out there. Local chief constable William Fraser documented the situation, noting that people were threatening to hunt the monster with harpoon guns.

"That there is some strange creature in Loch Ness seems now beyond doubt," he wrote, "but that the police have any power to protect it is very doubtful."

While some stories have been fabrications and hoaxes, the sheer variety of testimonies HAS to be taken into account. One prominent local, Willie Cameron, says "I know four people who genuinely believe they have seen a creature, but they would not speak about it publicly for fear of ridicule. My late father saw something unexplainable in 1965. Nine other people saw it at the same time."

That there is some strange creature in Loch Ness seems now beyond doubt

And it's completely untrue to assume scientists haven't taken the allegations seriously. Referring to various studies of Loch Ness, including peculiar sonar readings, Dr G.R. Zug - curator of the Division of Reptiles and Amphibians at the prestigious Smithsonian Institute - wrote that "I believe that these data indicate the presence of large animals in Loch Ness, but are insufficient to identify them."

It would be the height of arrogance to discount the circumstantial evidence, and the possibility of things yet to be discovered. Remember that, back in 1938, coelacanths - an order of fish - were discovered near South Africa, 66 million years after they apparently went extinct. Nature has a way of shocking us. And that kind of shock may well lurk in the depths of Loch Ness.

NO!

The myth of the Loch Ness Monster, as we know it today, only really began in the 1930s. In historical terms, that was a few moments ago, and is hardly indicative of some long-standing phenomenon which has puzzled us for a significant period of time.

Some Nessie fans will point to a story involving St Columba, a monk who apparently had a brush with a "water beast" in the area back in the 6th Century. This is often held up as evidence that something peculiar has been afoot in Loch Ness for a good long while. Yet the St Columba story is just a riff on a popular kind of folk tale, and ancient stories of mysterious water creatures are certainly not unique to Loch Ness.

No, the Loch Ness Monster is nothing but a modern myth, forged by certain over-eager "witnesses" in the 1930s, and encouraged by newspapers eager to please their readers. Just consider the "Surgeon's Photograph", which is still the single most famous image of Nessie. Taken in 1934, it seems to show a head and neck rising up from the loch, and helped cement the whole myth in the public imagination.

Being up to 230m deep, Loch Ness is the largest expanse of water by volume in the British Isles.

Being up to 230m deep, Loch Ness is the largest expanse of water by volume in the British Isles.

Decades later, it was revealed to be a massive hoax, perpetrated by a big-game hunter who had been mocked by a national newspaper after he'd been fooled by footprint "evidence" of the monster (the footprints turned out to have been made using a hippopotamus-foot umbrella stand). Humiliated, the hunter decided to play a trick on the media by creating a hoax of his own, using a false monster head fixed to a toy submarine. And that's what we see in the Surgeon's Photograph.

Time and time again, supposed "evidence" is exposed as flawed and absurd. A recent sonar picture of a monster-shaped lump in the depth of the loch caused a tizzy of excitement, until Dr Simon Boxall of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton weighed in: "The image shows a bloom of algae and zooplankton... they will appear as a linear 'blob' on the screen, just like this."

Despite the best efforts of obsessive Nessie hunters, despite crackpot organisations like the "Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau", which was a genuine thing that existed in the 60s, despite the many people who diligently film and photograph and dare to believe in any salacious rumour or terrible tall tale, there's zero - ZERO - hard proof of anything unusual in Loch Ness. Sorry, monster hunters. In this instance, the truth isn't out there.