Loch Ness Monster first seen (565)

Although the Loch Ness monster has been a mythological legend throughout time, the first recorded observation of the creature occurred on August 22, 565.  On that date St. Columba, an Irish priest traveling through Scotland, is said to have confronted the beast as it attempted to eat one of his colleagues.

Sketch of the Loch Ness Monster, based on a 1934 sighting

St. Columba raised his hand, made the sign of the cross and told the monster, “You will go no further, and won’t touch the man; go back at once.”  Apparently frightened by the saint’s invocation of god, the monster departed in haste—“more quickly than if it had been pulled back with rope.”  This, at least, is the account recorded by the historian Adamnan, in his biography of St. Columba, written about a century after the supposed sighting.

If a huge aquatic monster were to pick a place to hide out, Loch Ness would be the perfect choice.  The Loch itself is huge—running for about 23 miles at a width of up to a mile and reaching a depth of over 750 feet.  It contains more water than all the other lakes of England and Wales put together.  The water is tea-colored, stained by the peat soils of the watershed.  The Loch, which lies 57 feet above sea level, was an important transportation corridor in Scotland, especially since the Caledonian Canal was built in the mid-1800s.  The canal linked several lochs, allowing water-borne transit across the country from East to West and back.  Today, however, the canal is used only for recreational purposes—including attempts to see the Loch Ness monster.

Inchnacardoch Bay, Loch Ness (photo by Ian Greig)

The Loch Ness monster, or “Nessie” to its friends, belongs to a group of animals called “cryptids,” which may or may not exist.  Cryptids are common in almost all cultures and locations, reflecting basic human fear of and fascination with the unknown in nature.  Although some famous cryptids are terrestrial, like Big Foot and the Yeti, most are aquatic.  Because humans are short-term visitors at best to the aquatic environment, we are more likely to imagine cryptids lurking in the mysterious deep waters below the surface.  Relatives of Nessie are known as Ogopogo in Lake Okanagan in British Columbia, Dobhar-Chu in Ireland, Altamaha in the Central Asian country of Georgia, Akkorokamui in Volcano Bay off the coast of Japan and  Tessie in Lake Tahoe.

The legend of the Loch Ness monster is particularly stubborn.  A sighting in 1933 launched a tourist industry around the lake.  That was followed by the famous photo of the monster’s long neck and head above the water’s surface, taken by a respected surgeon (and, hence, an unquestionably credible observer) in 1934.  A 1957 book by Constance Whyte gave a patina of authority to many sightings by “people of integrity who had reported honestly what they had seen in Loch Ness.”  Since then, several serious investigations have been undertaken to find the monster.  None has succeeded.

Nonetheless, the legend continues.  As Lord Chesterton wryly commented, “Many a man has been hanged on less evidence than there is for the Loch Ness Monster.”

References:

Graves, Dan.  2007.  Columba Encounted Loch Ness Monster.  Christianity.com. Available at:  http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/301-600/columba-encountered-loch-ness-monster-11629714.html.  Accessed August 21, 2017.

Jones, Paul Anthony.  2015.  16 Cryptids That Might (Or Might Not) Exist.  Mental Floss, posted November 23, 2015.  Available at:  http://mentalfloss.com/article/58943/16-cryptids-might-or-might-not-exist.  Accessed August 21, 2017.

Loch Ness Water.  Random Loch Ness Water Facts.  Available at:  http://www.lochnesswater.co.uk/loch_ness_water_facts.htm.  Accessed August 21, 2017.

Lyons, Stephen.  1999.  The Legend of Loch Ness.  PBS, Nova, posted on January 12, 1999.  Available at:  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/legend-loch-ness.html.  Accessed August 21, 2017.

This Month in Conservation

February 1
Afobaka Dam and Operation Gwamba (1964)
February 2
Groundhog Day
February 3
Spencer Fullerton Baird, First U.S. Fish Commissioner, Born (1823)
February 3
George Adamson, African Lion Rehabilitator, Born (1906)
February 4
Congress Overrides President Reagan’s Veto of Clean Water Act (1987)
February 5
National Wildlife Federation Created (1936)
February 6
Colin Murdoch, Inventor of the Tranquilizer Gun, Born (1929)
February 7
Karl August Mobius, Ecology Pioneer, Born (1825)
February 8
President Johnson Addresses Congress about Conservation (1965)
February 8
Lisa Perez Jackson, Environmental Leader, Born (1982)
February 9
U.S. Fish Commission Created (1871)
February 10
Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, born (1944)
February 11
International Day of Women and Girls in Science
February 12
Judge Boldt Affirms Native American Fishing Rights (1974)
February 13
Thomas Malthus Born (1766)
February 14
Nature’s Faithful Lovers
February 15
Complete Human Genome Published (2001)
February 16
Kyoto Protocol, Controlling Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, Begins (2005)
February 16
Alvaro Ugalde, Father of Costa Rica’s National Parks, Born (1946)
February 17
Sombath Somphone, Laotian Environmentalist, Born (1952)
February 17
R. A. Fischer, Statistician, Born (1890)
February 18
World Pangolin Day
February 18
Julia Butterfly Hill, Tree-Sitter, Born (1974)
February 19
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Established (1962)
February 20
Ansel Adams, Nature Photographer, Born (1902)
February 21
Carolina Parakeet Goes Extinct (1918)
February 22
Nile Day
February 23
Italy’s Largest Inland Oil Spill (2010)
February 24
Joseph Banks, British Botanist, Born (1743)
February 25
First Federal Timber Act Passed (1799)
February 26
Four National Parks Established (1917-1929)
February 27
International Polar Bear Day
February 28
Watson and Crick Discover The Double Helix (1953)
February 29
Nature’s Famous Leapers
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