Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mythbusters: The Loch Ness Monster.

Now this blog finally gets to live up to its once-relevant URL: tracking mythological monsters and seeing how they could be possible in real life.  Luckily for this week, a lot of cryptoids are quite possible. That is what makes them cryptoids as opposed to acid nightmares. Cryptoids are simply animals whose existence has not yet been proven. Plausible animals, mind.

We're starting this week off with one of the best-known cryptids in existence: A lake monster. There are lake-dwelling leviathans found all over the world. It all probably loops back to our instinctive fear of the unknown and things dwelling in the icy cold depths in which the human eye cannot see. For those of us interested in sea monsters of more questionable existence than the dwellers of the lightless sea trenches, we have the Loch Ness Monster:

The Surgeon's Photograph: a confirmed fake, yet people still say it's real.

Nessie, for those of you living beneath rocks, is a lake monster native to Loch Ness, Scotland. The main evidence for its existence comes from numerous photographs and video footage. It is generally agreed that Nessie is a very long, semi-amphibious creature that spends most of its time in the lake. It is always described with a very long, slender neck and a body with anywhere from 1-3 humps.

Nessie as we know it was first spotted in the 1930's, although reports of water monsters in the River Ness date back to the 6th century.  The first semi-reliable account of Nessie comes from the Spicers in 1933. The husband and wife were driving along the loch one night when they saw a creature with a neck as long as a Burmese Python and a body a little over a meter in height crossing in front of their vehicle.

Aside from photographs, eyewitness reports, and odd ripples, sonar hunts have been done in search of Nessie. One search in the December of 1954 yielded results 146 meters beneath the surface, keeping up with the boat. The other, a more formal study done by the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau in 1968, picked up large creatures moving at approximately 12 mph. Another study done a year later came back with huge echoes. These are not fish, whatever they are.

The most obvious candidate for Nessie's true identity is some form of plesiosaur. Although plesiosaurs were not true dinosaurs, they did live around the same time, and describing them as "brontosaurus with flippers and sharp teeth" tends to simplify things. That said, they ate fish and other animals, not kelp, so if you do encounter a prehistoric beast in Loch Ness, approach with caution. They also had live babies, thus the lack of Nessie eggs.

To this day, we are not certain if there is anything in Loch Ness.  There are even some people theorizing that Nessie died a while back. Before you get on my case about how the government likes to cover things up, bear in mind that lakes are enclosed bodies of water. It is generally easier to find things that live in such a small range. Granted, Loch Ness is fairly deep and there are a bunch of unexplored areas, including underwater caverns. If Nessie does exist, it is doing a decent job at hiding.

Whether it exists or not, Nessie remains very popular in media. The Simpsons and South Park both had episodes mentioning Nessie. The Pokemon Lapras supposedly had the name "Ness" before the dubbers went with "Lapras." Then, of course, there is the CGI-fest called Water Horse - Legend of the Deep - a story which combines the legend of Nessie with that of the kelpie,  a magical Celtic creature. (J.K. Rowling suggested that, too.). Even if it isn't real, Nessie has made its mark.

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