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

August 1
Hawaii National Park Created (1916)
August 2
White Giraffes Found in Kenya (2017)
August 3
Arbor Day in Niger
August 4
Liang Congjie, Pioneering Chinese Environmentalist, born (1932)
August 5
First Traffic Light Installed in U.S. (1914)
August 6
Rajendra Singh, the Waterman of India, Born (1959)
August 7
World’s Oldest Tree Cut Down, Accidentally (1964)
August 7
Elinor Ostrom, Noble Laureate in Economics, Born (1933)
August 8
Banqiao Dam Collapse, World’s Biggest Dam Disaster (1975)
August 9
Smokey Bear Born (1944)
August 10
John Kirk Townsend, Pioneering Naturalist, Born (1809)
August 11
Gifford Pinchot, Father of American Forestry, Born (1865)
August 12
“The Lorax” Published (1971)
August 13
Roald Amundsen Completes Northwest Passage (1905-1906)
August 14
Hetch Hetchy Began Producing Power (1925)
August 15
Sponge Act passed (1914)
August 16
E. F. Schumacher, Environmental Economist, born (1911)
August 17
Cape Hatteras National Seashore created (1937)
August 18
Margaret Murie born (1902)
August 19
Cickamauga and Chattanooga Battlefield established
August 20
The Great Fire (1910)
August 20
Rajendra Pachauri, Nobel Peace Laureate in Climate Change Research, Born (1940)
August 21
“Bambi” Released (1942)
August 22
Loch Ness Monster first seen (565)
August 23
Chile’s Atacama Desert Blooms (2017)
August 24
Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, Maine, Established (2016)
August 25
National Park Service Born (1916)
August 26
Krakatau Volcano Erupted (1883)
August 27
First Oil Well Drilled (1859)
August 28
Roger Tory Peterson, Ornithologist, Born (1908)
August 29
Henry Bergh, Founder of ASPCA, Born (1813)
August 30
International Whale Shark Day
August 30
Lord Walsingham Shot 1,070 Grouse (1888)
August 31
John Muir Home preserved (1964)
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