Friday, December 22, 2006

Apple #212: Loch Ness Monster

About that So-Called Traffic Increase...

As soon as I said I had all those hits, they stopped. Traffic is way down again, to just a few hits per day. Maybe it's the fact that Christmas is almost here and people aren't that interested in checking blogs. Or something.


This is my new favorite blog to check, the Daily Monster. The guy draws a new monster every day, and you get to watch, in sped-up time. Sometimes he draws the monster upside down.

Loch Ness Monster

Thinking about monsters makes me wonder, what's the latest with the Loch Ness Monster?

  • The Loch Ness Monster is the name for an elusive creature that supposedly lives in Scotland's largest freshwater lake, or loch, called Loch Ness.
  • Sightings of the monster date back some 1,400 years.
    • Either the Loch Ness Monster is one old monster, or there are at least two, if not many of them, and they have been secretly propagating and allowing only one monster to surface at a time.
  • Many photos and anecdotes have been presented as evidence of the monster's existence. Usually it is depicted or described as having a very long neck and a torso that undulates above the water's surface.

Carol took down her painting of the Loch Ness Monster, so in its place I give you this poster of the Loch Ness Monster from Sea Serpent Productions (it can be yours for $16.99)

  • The monster was first described in the legend of Saint Columba, who battled a water beast that was attacking someone. But she may have been in the River Ness as opposed to the Loch Ness. Or she may have helped someone beseiged by many metaphorical monsters throughout his life. But anyway there was a monster in the water and she fought it.
  • Very little was heard of the monster for centuries until 1934 when a photograph taken by a gynecologist named Colonel Robert K. Wilson became a media sensation and launched all sorts of searches and excitement.
    • This photo is typically referred to as the Surgeon's photo, because Colonel Wilson never publicized the photo himself, and it was circulated without anyone's name attached to it.

The much-acclaimed Surgeon's photo
(Photo from

    • It turns out, however, that the photo was a hoax, and three people were involved, including the Surgeon himself.
    • In 1933, a road was built around Loch Ness and more people were saying they had seen the monster. So a newspaper hired a very famous big game hunter named Marmaduke Wetherall to find the monster. Wetherall did find some tracks made by a very large animal of some kind, and people got all worked up over them. Upon examination, the tracks turned out to have been made by an elephant foot -- and not a live elephant either, but the kind of elephant foot used in umbrella stands, which was a popular thing to have at the time. Wetherall retreated in humiliation.
    • Then Wetherall secretly went to his step-son, Christian Spurling, and asked him to make a model of the monster and take a picture of it and thus avenge himself for being humiliated. Spurling did as his step-father asked, and took a picture of a toy submarine with a plastic head affixed to it.
    • Then he gave the photo to Wilson, who was a highly respected doctor, and told him to turn it in to the newspaper.
    • Spurling confessed all this in 1994 when he was 90 years old and nearing the end of his life.
  • Despite this confession, the photo is still circulating with all sorts of oohs and aahs and significance attached to it. And people still say they see the monster, still take pictures, and still try to come up with explanations for the monster in the water.
  • In 2001, two large, dead conger eels were found next to Loch Ness. No one made any particular claims about these eels. The theory is that someone thought they could put eels into the lake, take pictures of them and claim to have seen the monster, but since the eels are saltwater creatures, that whole plan didn't quite work out.

This is a world record-sized 68 pound conger eel caught by Martin Larkins at Devil's Point, Plymouth, England.
(Photo posted at the British Conger Club)

  • In 2003, someone found a dinosaur fossil when he tripped and fell into the loch. The fossil was confirmed to be that of a plesiosuar, a dinosaur that once lived underwater. Some people have said that this could be the Loch Ness monster, or maybe its relative.
    • The fossil is embedded in limestone that dates to the Jurassic period. However, the rocks in and around Loch Ness date to a much older period and are igneous, crystalline, and metamorphic rocks.
    • Dinosaurs were cold-blooded reptiles, and could not have survived in the cold temperatures of Scotland's northerly lake.
    • The dinosaur whose bone this was originally lived in saltwater, but the Loch Ness is a freshwater lake.
    • So this plesiosaur was not the Loch Ness monster at any point, and probably no dinosaur ever lived in Loch Ness.
  • In 2005, two American students visiting in Scotland said they had found a huge tooth lodged in the body of a dead deer and suggested that the tooth belonged to the Loch Ness Monster. They took pictures of the tooth, which they said was then confiscated by a game warden, so they no longer had the actual tooth, but they did have photos.
    • Scientists who saw the photos said that the tooth was actually a deer's antler
    • It was later revealed that the photo, the story, and the website with the details all were part of an effort to publicize a horror novel called The Loch.
  • In 2006, one paleontologist suggested that Loch Ness monster is actually an elephant in the water. The head extending out of the water is actually the elephant's trunk, and what looks like humps of its body are the top of the elephant's head and its backbone. The paleontologist said that circuses used to travel that road around Loch Ness and maybe the let the animals go swimming in the lake now and then, and so that's what the Surgeon must have seen when he took his photo.

(Image from National Geographic News)

  • Except, we know what the Surgeon saw when he took his photo: a plastic toy submarine.

Lots of theories have been advanced to explain what people are actually seeing when they think they see the Loch Ness monster. Perhaps they're seeing sturgeon, which are fish that can grow to be up to seven feet long, and their fins do stick out of the water sometimes. Perhaps these people are seeing schools of fish, boats or wakes of boats, driftwood, birds with long necks, or even groups of otters swimming all in a line. But maybe the culprit really at work is what's known as "expectant attention," the phenomenon of thinking you're going to see something as you're looking at it, so you fool yourself into believing that you actually do see it.

"Loch Ness Sea Monster Fossil a Hoax, Say Scientists," National Geographic News, July 29, 2003
Crystalinks, Loch Ness Monster
Museum of Hoaxes, The Loch Ness Monster and the Surgeon's Photo
"Photo in the News: Loch Ness Monster was an Elephant?" National Geographic News, March 9, 2006
"Why the Loch Ness Monster is no plesiosaur," New Scientist, November 2, 2006
"North America's 'Loch Ness Monster' Spotted Again," LiveScience, March 7, 2006


  1. I really enjoyed this one! When I was younger I would get so swept up in those History-Channel-type shows about the Loch Ness Monster. I'm reading a good book called "Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization." It's really good!

    Merry Christmas!!!!


  2. Thats not true there are fresh water species in the Rhine

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. pleusiosaurs are NOT dinosaurs get your facts right before making sensationalist claims

  5. That conger eel is huge, I like to visit Devils Point and know it's the place to catch them, but how do you go about reeling that in? Devil's Point sticks out into the (deep) Plymouth Sound, just over the water from Cornwall. The link shows the location and a shot of the beach there. They do the fishing on a low rock platform on the furthest west side.

  6. Recent paleontological studies show that both dinosaurs and plesiosaurs were both warm-blooded. Just thought you should know that.


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