What on Earth (part 2)

On May 2nd, 1933, the Inverness Courier wrote about a couple who claimed to have seen ‘an enormous animal rolling and plunging the surface’ of Scotland’s Loch Ness. The story of a monster became a media phenomenon, with London newspapers sending journalists to Scotland and offering a 20,000 pound reward for the capture of the beast.

Loch Ness is located in the Scottish Highlands and has the largest volume of fresh water in Great Britain. It is 800 feet deep and about 23 miles long. 1933 was the year that turned the Loch Ness Monster into ‘Nessie’ a household name. It wasn’t the year that Nessie was first sighted though. The earliest written reference to Loch Ness is a 7th-century biography of Saint Columba, the Irish missionary who introduced Christianity to Scotland. It is said that Columba was on his way to visit the king of the northern Picts near Inverness when he stopped at Loch Ness only to be confronted by its namesake. Seeing the creature about to attack a man, Columba intervened. He called upon God and the beast retreated. Nice story. Whether it’s true or not…well, that’s a different story.

A famous photograph from 1934 shows a dinosaur-like creature with a long neck emerging out of the water. This led many to believe Nessie to be a survivor of the long extinct plesiosaurs. Plesiosaurs died out (as far as we know) with the rest of the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. Loch Ness was frozen solid during the last ice age, so the creature would have had to have made its way up the River Ness from the sea during the past 10,000 years. Thought to be cold-blooded though, the plesiosaur would surely not survive the freezing water of Loch Ness. Or maybe the plesiosaur wasn’t cold-blooded. Maybe it wasn’t a plesiosaur…who knows.

As yet, we haven’t been able to prove the existence or nonexistence of Nessie. Consider this though. Back in 1938, a lobe-finned fish called a coelacanth was caught off the coast of South Africa. These fish were thought to have become extinct about 100 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period. Another species of the same fish was caught in Indonesia in 1998. If a creature thought to have died out 100 million years ago can be caught in modern times, is it not conceivable that a creature thought to have died out 65 million years ago could still be with us today?

After a storm on the island of Stronsay in 1808, located in the Orkney Islands, a gigantic serpentine creature washed ashore. In terms of appearance, this sea creature shared strikingly similar characteristics with our friend, Nessie. The neck and the tail were extremely long and slender, with a wider torso and three pairs of short paws attached. To this day, the Stronsay serpent remains a mystery.

Until next time with the continuation …

Gavin

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