What is the Loch Ness Monster? MJ STEEL COLLINS gives a brief history of Loch Ness’ most famous resident
The Loch Ness Monster, fondly known as Nessie, is probably the best known cryptid in Scotland, if not the entire UK.
Though the first recorded sighting of Nessie was over 1,000 years ago, contemporary ‘Nessie-mania’ as we know it only came about in the 1930s, when a strange beastie was sighted by people using the newly constructed road surrounding Loch Ness.
The first to encounter the creature were George Spicer and his wife in 1933, who were enjoying a walk by the Loch when they saw an exceptionally long animal, approximately 25 feet in length, come out of the foliage and cross the road. A few weeks later, motorcyclist Arthur Grant nearly collided with a similar animal that crossed the road and vanished into the Loch.
In 1934, what was purported to be the first picture of Nessie was published, taken by a doctor. As a result, the photo became known as The Surgeon’s Photo. Although it has apparently been debunked several times since the 1970s, debate still rages about whether or not the picture is genuine. Several other photos have been put forth for the edification of Nessie fans.
Sightings of the Loch Ness monster
As well as the photos and purported sightings, some ‘monster enthusiasts’ have gone one step further and trawled Loch Ness for solid proof of Nessie. Given that Loch Ness is up to 800 feet deep in some points and 22.4 miles long, making it the largest body of fresh water in the UK, it’s no wonder evidence has been somewhat scant.
Several creatures have been put forward as the potential for Nessie, the main train of thought being that she is a Plesiosaur, which would make her an interesting anachronism, given Plesiosaurs existed at the same time as dinosaurs. Looking into the folklore of Loch Ness, it is interesting the amount of tales that exist of Each-Usige, the waterhorse, and Kelpies. It could be that Nessie is a modern version of them, albeit a rather friendlier version, given both creatures’ predilection for death!
Whatever Nessie may or may not be, she has certainly made an impact on the public consciousness. Something of a cottage industry has grown around the beast, with tours, books, cuddly toys, ornaments, and even a Nessie shop and exhibition in Drumnadochit, not far from Loch Ness. Hollywood even got in on the act in 1996 with the slightly lamentable film Loch Ness, which made Nessie a tad more murderous than the lovable being we think of today.
Nessie continues to make headlines. Following speculation that she had relocated to Lake Windermere during the Scottish Referendum, she appears to be firmly back in home waters, with yet another Nessie hunt announced in October 2014.