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Lair of the Beasts: What is the Loch Ness Monster?
By Nick Redfern
November 05, 2011
Two-hundred-and-fifty-million years ago, movements in the earth’s crust led to the creation of a huge rift across Scotland that, today, is known as the Great Glen. As the centuries passed, the deeper parts of the Glen filled with water, and it now exists in the form of three main bodies of water: Loch Oich, Loch Lochy, and Loch Ness. For more than a century and a half, they have been connected by the sixty-mile-long Caledonian Canal, which provides a passage for small boats from the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.
By far the largest of the three lochs is Loch Ness. Nearly twenty-four miles in length and almost a mile wide, it contains more water than any other British lake and at its deepest point, extends to a mind-boggling depth of almost one thousand feet.
Surrounded by trees, mountains, and filled with water as black as ink, it is little wonder that Loch Ness is viewed by many as both a magical and a sinister location. And as practically anyone who has ever marveled at the mysteries of our world will only be too well aware, the loch is the alleged home of Nessie – arguably the world’s most famous lake monster.
But what, exactly, are the beasts of Loch Ness? That is, not surprisingly, a question that provokes a great deal of controversy. Indeed, just recently over my blog There’s Something in the Woods, I polled the readers on what they thought Nessie – or, rather, the Nessies – might actually be. The results were as mixed as they were intriguing.
Of the many people who voted, a full twenty-five percent believe that the Loch Ness Monsters are plesiosaurs – marine reptiles generally accepted as first having appeared in the early Jurassic era.
On the other hand, six percent were sure that the most likely candidates for whatever lurks within the darkened depths of Loch Ness are monstrously huge, giant eels. Of course, the idea that Nessie is just an eel might disappoint some people, and particularly Scotland’s tourist industry, which pulls in millions of pounds in revenue each year from the sale of Nessie-themed t-shirts, caps, tea-cups, flags and much more.
But, if you’re faced with a thirty-foot-long eel, with a body the thickness of an oil-drum, heading towards you at high speed, you’re probably not going to quibble with the idea that this is a true monster!
Interestingly, more than a quarter of the people polled concluded that there is nothing strange, unusual or monstrous within Loch Ness at all, and that all of the reports can be explained away as misidentifications (of waves, of logs, and of large fish of a known nature, such as sturgeon), hoaxes, and not much else.
I also found it interesting that more than one in ten of those who responded to the poll suggested that rather than being animals of a flesh and blood nature, Loch Ness’ creatures of the deep have nothing less than paranormal or supernatural origins.
The overriding majority of all those who voted, however, concluded that whatever the nature of the beasts of that old, mysterious Scottish loch, they were – in all probability – animals that were definitively real, but that represented creatures presently unknown to mainstream science and zoology.
So, what does all of this tell us? Well, of course, no poll can accurately offer a definitive explanation for anything. But, if nothing else, what the results of this poll do tell us is that even within the realms of monster-hunting and cryptozoology, there are major differences of opinion on what does, or indeed does not, live within the confines of Loch Ness, Scotland. The mystery remains precisely that: A mystery.
Nick Redfern is the author of many books. His new book – Keep Out! – is published in December.