Monsters and Mythical Beings - Scotland's Loch Ness Monster and Her Canadian Cousin Ogopogo
The Loch Ness Monster - fact or fiction, or is Nessie a combination of fact and fiction. Whatever the truth about one of Scotland's best known tourist attractions, aside from her notable distillery tours, Nessie has enchanted thousands of visitors and millions film goers the world over. She has inspired a following that includes scientists, film-makers, and would-be Nessie-nabbers from all walks of life.
Imagine, if you will, a quiet evening on shores the loch - a moonless night with a thick fog rolling in from across the dark waters. A cloaked figure paces the battlements of the ruined castle on the shore of the loch, barely visible in the flickering, fitful light of a lantern it carries. The ghostly sound of a lone piper skirls through the mist. The fog rolls in around you, thick and chill - sounds seem to come from everywhere and nowhere. You catch the creaking of oarlocks and an urgent voice in the fog, "Here, give us a hand, there!" ...then a sudden rushing of water, a cry for help cut off by a strange whistling roar ...and all is silent, except for the lapping of the waters and a piper's lament, wild and lonely across the stillness of the black, fog-bound loch.
The Stuff of Legends
On such a night, one could well believe in the existence of sea monsters. But, how did this tale originate, and how do we separate truth from fiction?
The Loch Ness Monster, or "Nessie", as she affectionately known, is purported to be a creature or group of creatures that live in Loch Ness, a deep freshwater lake in Scotland near the city of Inverness.
The oldest known sighting of Nessie dates back to 565 AD when Saint Columba is said to have seen a large monster in the waters of the loch. From then until the 1930s, the monster of Loch Ness was largely ignored until a letter to 'The Scotsman' newspaper in 1933. The letter, from a Mr. D Murray Rose tells of a story in an old book that spoke of the slaying of dragons and: "It goes on to say that Fraser (of Glenvackie) killed the last known dragon in Scotland, but no-one has yet managed to slay the monster of Loch Ness lately seen ." ' The Scotsmen', 1933.
The letter touched off a spate of articles all referring to monsters and leviathans in the loch. After 'The Courier' ran an article, 'The Daily Mail' announced it would send its own big game hunters to pursue the creature.
Since that first newspaper article, thousands of sightings have been reported on the loch and on land as well. Many reported having seen a long neck and head emerging from the loch, while others have described moving shapes and objects on the loch surface or a large beast crossing the road in front of them.
Over 50 images have been recorded, all purporting to be images of the "real Loch Ness monster", but only six of these have stood up to rigorous investigation. The others have been exposed as either fakes or mis-identifications. The most famous of these images is the 'surgeon' photo generally attributed to gynecologist Kenneth Wilson in 1934.
In 1968, a first, unsuccessful, sonar investigation was undertaken in an attempt to track large objects in the loch. It had been hoped that this would conclusively prove or disprove the "Nessie" question. The second attempt, in 1987, "Operation Deepscan" used 20 sonar boats and made 3 possible contacts between 77 and 178 meters. While these results were hopeful for the "Yes" side of the question, they were still not conclusive proof.
A scan undertaken in 1992 to create a picture of the floor of the loch found no evidence of caves or anomalies. This was a blow to a favored theory which held that Nessie was a plesiosaur that had somehow survived in the loch without detection for millions of years.
The ancient plesiosaur is an air breather, however, and a surface dweller, which makes it a very unlikely candidate. When the survey turned up no caves or anomalies, and therefore no likely places for the plesiosaur to have lived, hidden away, that theory seemed to be dashed as well.
Nessie on TV
Nessie has made numerous appearances on the small screen, some of them moderately scary, some of them downright silly, but all good fun.
Nessie and her hubby paid a visit to Darren and Samantha Stevens, of "Bewitched", and managed to give us a few good chuckles with their benignly intended, but scary tactics.
In Season 5 of "the Saint', another popular TV show of the 1960s, in an episode entitled, "The Convenient Monster", Simon Templar investigates a series of murders attributed on the Loch Ness Monster. He discovers the murders are being carried out by a mad, larcenous, bag-pipe playing Scot who bashes his victims with a club designed to mimic the teeth of the legendary monster.
The Saint, of course, saves the beautiful young woman from the dastard, who flees back across the foggy loch. The "real" Nessie then shows up to finish off the would be robber-baron in a classic case of biter, bit.
Nessie on the Silver Screen
On the Silver Screen , Nessie has not fared well at times. Alternately portrayed as a demonic, fiendish monster with glowing eyes that chases cartoon characters across the battlements of a haunted castle; a misunderstood, gentle giant left-over from another world; and a throw-back omnivore capable of eating its weight in film extras several times over, between the ominous, opening chords and the closing credits.
One of the hardest tasks for any special effects department is to create a monster worthy of our respect and fear. The director and lighting director set up everything with half-seen, shadowy shapes and "terrified" actors screaming in horror as they are stalked and eaten, or reacting in fear and horror as they come across the grisly remains of the recently mauled or partly-eaten.
Ray Harryhausen was famous for his special effects and received many awards for his "monsters". Many of his creations still stand up to modern scrutiny.
There used to be two types of monsters in movies - bad ones and misunderstood ones. The bad ones, the evil fiends who slaughter for pleasure, "Jason ", "Freddy Kruger " and their ilk, or the simple forces of nature, such as the shark in "Jaws", were ultimately the scarier, as they tended to be impervious to logic, reason, or pity.
The misunderstood ones, "Frankenstein's monster " for example, as he is portrayed in the original creaky silent flick or the more modern film "Van Helsing ", kill because they are driven to it either to survive, or to save the world from a greater evil.
Modern cinematography allows the creation of incredibly frightening and realistic monsters through special effects and C.G.I., or computer animation. These effects are, however, rather costly, and some productions, with all the goodwill and talented actors in the world, simply do not have the backing to afford top-notch effects, leaving their monsters to cause more guffaws than screams of fear.
This last incarnation of Nessie is guaranteed to raise a few screams. The monster roller-coaster has terrified throngs of delighted visitors to the Busch Gardens in Virginia.
To get back to the monster in the lake theories though, on popular premise hangs on the fact that, geographically, Loch Ness is one of three rift lakes.
As such, it was surmised that there might be some deep opening between the three lakes and the ocean, which would allow the monster to slip from lake to lake to ocean, thus avoiding detection.
Though the 1992 survey of Loch Ness put paid to that notion, as well as to the hope that there might be deep caves in which such a creature could hide, the idea of the rift lake with some ancient species surviving in its depths still exerts a powerful pull on the imagination.
Lake Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, is a rift lake in the heart of the province's summer country.
Tourist havens abound, and a tongue-in-cheek ad campaign suggested that there might be a similar lake monster lurking in the unplumbed depths of one of the largest and deepest inland lakes.
Ogopogo is a fixture in the summer parades and tourist features of the whole lakes district, with many sightings claimed, especially after a hot day in the sun, or a convivial evening imbibing Canadian brews round the lakeshore fire.
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