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What Happened To The Loch Ness Monster?

October 22, 2007

As recently as a decade ago sightings of Nessie, the famed monster of Scotland’s deepest freshwater loch, ranged into the high teens every year, though still nothing to match those claimed during the runaway hallucinogenic ‘60’s and 70’s. Sadly, in 2006, the creature was reportedly seen but three times, and thus far in 2007 only twice. Is Nessie dead? Were there other like beasties in Loch Ness responsible for monster reports that have also passed on to that big pond in the sky?

I say sadly because not only is Nessie responsible for bringing an estimated $12 million annually to the economy of Scotland’s Highlands through tourist trade, but also because there’s a certain idiosyncrasy in our makeup that needs myths.

One of the more telling technological blows to the legend landed in 1987 with Operation Deepscan. Lowrance sonars (fish finders) were fitted onto 19 cruisers that were followed by another boat sporting a Simrad Scanning sonar to sweep the loch with a sonar curtain—one end to the other. Hundreds of international reporters and TV crews were present. Hotels were filled. It was a grand show. Three sonar contacts were made the first day. A technician reported that one signal was the largest he’d seen in freshwater, but later on expert operators put the signal as something only in the 50-pound range rather than the estimated 2500 pounds Nessie should weigh.

Since then, the lack of sightings by self-appointed monster hunters and observers equipped with modern monitoring electronics have further diminished expectancy and traded the romance of illusions for the gray drabness of digital skepticism.

Worse yet, Dr. Neil Clark, curator of paleontology at Glasgow University’s Hunterian Museum now says Nessie is likely an elephant.

According to Clark, elephants belonging to circuses visiting Inverness regularly stopped on the banks of the loch allowing their beasts to rest and cool off. The most famous photograph of the monster is from 1933, after which there occurred quite a few supposed Nessie sightings. Says Dr. Clark, Nessie was likely dreamed up as a “magnificent piece of marketing” by a circus impresario after he saw one of his elephants taking a bath in Loch Ness. That fellow, Bertram Mills, promptly offered the equivalent today of $1 million to anyone who could capture the monster for his circus at Olympia, London. International interest immediately fired up.

If you look closely at that famous photo, it’s easy to conjure the trunk of an elephant, the head and ear just submerged beneath the surface.

Not to worry. Here we’ve still got Big Foot and Lord knows what creatures still comb the depths of the true oceans.

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