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Nessie, Beast of the Loch

Updated on April 20, 2015
Nessie in the Night
Nessie in the Night
Nessie smiles for the camera
Nessie smiles for the camera

The Loch Ness Monster, true or false?

Is there a Loch Ness Monster?

Could this poor wee beastie be a left-over from the last Ice Age? Known fondly as "Nessie", Niseag, this plesiosaur-like creature is said to be under a long, deep lake near Inverness, Scotland.

Even St Columba met Nessie, (although in less than pleasant circumstances) and he seized the moment to practice a little Christian conversion.

Perhaps I will never meet Nessie, that fabulous beastie in the depths of the Loch, but. I would love to. It's on my bucket list.

Does this look like Nessie?
Does this look like Nessie?
The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep
The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep

To be fair, some are more believable than others. But who cares?


Nessie, Grandmother of all Monsters

Sea serpents, the terrfiying kraken and other mythological creatures have formed a part of folklore since the beginning of time.

Around the world there are reputed to be sea serpents or monsters in many bodies of fresh water.

Nessie in Loch Ness, Morag in Loch Morar, Shielagh in Loch Shiel, Lizzy in Loch Lochy, Champ in Lake Champlain, Ogopogo in Lake Okanagan and, quaintly, Wally in Lake Wallowa.

While research has been conducted at many of these lakes, Loch Ness is the icon for monsters and Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster is, without doubt, the grandmother of them all.

Nessie is in the realms of cryptozoology, the study of hidden animals considered to be legendary or otherwise nonexistent by mainstream biology.

A Cryptozoological Creature

Hoax photo from 1943
Hoax photo from 1943

St Columba meets Nessie

Columba was a man who stood for no nonsense, not even from a monster.

He had ordered one of his monks to swim across the River Ness to fetch a boat when, halfway across, the beast appeared, roaring in a most frightening manner. The monster headed straight for the swimming monk.

The Saint himself jumped in the river crying out at the monster :

Go no further, nor touch the man! Go back!

Thus commanded, the monster fled.

According to a 7th century text from St. Adamnan, ... the monster was terrified, and fled more quickly than if it had been pulled back with ropes. The brethren gave glory to God.

How do we know St Columba met Nessie?

It wasn't Columba himself who jotted this Nessie encounter in his journal.

It was Adamnan, descendant of kings and a man respected at that time for his great learning. who tells us this.

Adamnan is the author of Vita Columbae. The Life of Columba, possibly the most important surviving work written in early medieval Scotland. He wrote many other works dealing with law, one of which (The Law of Innocents) is considered the prototype of the Geneva Convention.

If you would like to check on this story, you can read the complete Vita Columbae online at Life of Saint Columba, Written by Adamnan, Ninth Abbot of Hy

Could the story about Columba be true?

So should we take what Adamnan says seriously? What about these reports Columba encountering and conquering, sometimes converting, various assorted "monsters", at various places in Scotland?

How reliable is this?

This reliability of this earliest reference by Adamnan has been questioned. I have a few questions myself.

Critics always point out that the event is said to have occurred on the River Ness, not in the Loch. But my concern is deeper than a little geographical license.

My concern is the alleged attack by Nessie. There's certainly no other reported instance of her attacking anyone. She is generally portrayed as shy and quick to avoid people, and who could blame her for hiding from us? If Nessie had not remained so elusive, her poor body, stuffed and mounted, would doubtless be gracing some baronial hall right now.

I believe Adamnan confused Columba's peaceful encounter with another occasion. An occasion when Columba experienced a less happy meeting with another Highlands beastie, the Water Horse.

I think Columba saw a Kelpie

In Scottish folklore, large animals are associated with many bodies of water from small streams to the largest lakes, often labeled Loch-na-Beistie on old maps.

These water-horses, or kelpies, have magical powers but often harbour malevolent intentions.

They are dragons under water, lurking with ravenous intent, waiting for the onset of darkness in the long Northern nights before they come forth and devour the Innocent.

Nessie Sighting 1933

In August 1933, a London man named George Spicer said he had sighted Nessie. A few weeks earlier while motoring around the Loch, both Spicer and his wife had seen "the nearest approach to a dragon or pre-historic animal that I have ever seen in my life", trundling across the road toward the Loch carrying "an animal" in its mouth.

The following month, another letter came from a veterinary student reporting a similar encounter while on a night drive.

By the end of the year, Nessie received official recognition from the Secretary of State for Scotland, ordering the police to prevent any attacks on her.

The Great Glen

This Great Glen, almost cutting Scotland in two, is home to the black waters of Lochs Ness, Oich, Lochy and Linnhe.

As the continents began to break up and cluster around the north pole, great Scottish mountains, which would have been Himalayan in size were gradually worn down to the stumps which you see today.

Scotland was still in the grip of the ice twelve thousand years ago, but the main advances were over and the land was beginning to rebound from being depressed into the mantle. The surface of Loch Ness would have been at a similar elevation to sea level.

Anything living in the Loch today must have arrived from the freezing North Sea up the River Ness after the final retreat of ice!

Did Nessie's family arrive in the Loch at this time?

Urquhart Castle
Urquhart Castle

Researchers Flock to the Loch

It is to Loch Ness that myriad researchers have flocked with their cameras and sonars, webcams and mini submarines, their hopes, fears and dreams of solving the mystery of Nessie.

Some say that she lives under or around Urquhart Castle and many photographs (mostly fake) have been taken of her in the vicinity

The Numerous Theories

There are numerous theories as to her identity, including ..

  • a type of long-necked aquatic seal
  • a giant eel
  • a giant walrus
  • a giant mollusc
  • a giant otter
  • a giant diving bird
  • a surviving plesiosaur
  • a floating mat of plants
  • an image from a 'slip in time'
  • a "paraphysical" entity
  • a drug-induced hallucination from marsh gas
  • a survivior from an alien spacecraft!

Nessiteras Rhombopteryx

Is this a joke?

Nessie was even given a scientific name "Nessiteras rhombopteryx" named by Sir Peter Scott so that Nessie could be added to the British Register of officially protected wildlife.

The name, from Greek, means "The wonder of Ness with the diamond shaped fin".

Over the years many people have noted that if you rearranged the letters of Nessiteras rhombopteryx, it can be made to read "Monster hoax by Sir Peter S".

This may mean something - or it may mean nothing at all.

Is this Nessie on Google Earth?

Has Climate Change done for Nessie?

Some people believe that climate change may have killed Nessie, (there have been no credible sightings since 2010) as environmental conditions in the loch have changed drastically and can no longer sustain the poor creature.

I maintain hope for Nessie, however, especially since the photos from Google Earth in 2009, and the new images of Loch Ness from April 2014.

What do you think?

Is Nessie really in the Loch?

Yes of course! She is merely a little shy of strangers

Yes of course! She is merely a little shy of strangers

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    • savateuse 5 years ago

      Of course there are Nessies in the lochs!

    • Doc_Holliday 5 years ago

      Had a look for her on the day I visited Loch Ness. Didn't find her. Must have been on her own holidays at the time :-)

    • Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I hope it's true. Wouldn't it be great if a species survived from long ago.

    • jlshernandez 5 years ago

      Of course. Nessie is just shy and elusive. SIghtings from way back were not fabricated and there must have been something there.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      either she is really old or she had babies

    No, of course not! But it's great for tourism

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      • poetryman6969 2 years ago

        Nah. But I do believe in headless rainbow space aliens zombies from area 69.

      • chrisqw 5 years ago

        There's no monster. But it's a good, never-ending story

      • RealMonstrosity 6 years ago

        Nope. If all these monsters were real there wouldn't be enough space for all the other animals!

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        She nay have passed on by now but her legend is as good as it gets

      • hayleylou lm 6 years ago

        I like to believe not. It's too spooky to think otherwise :)

      I'm looking for a Tasmanian Tiger too

      On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger
      The Tasmanian Tiger or Thylacine, is said to be extinct, but each year there are at least a dozen unconfirmed sightings in remote areas. I've camped out at Pyengana, where many sightings have been reported. I've searched diligently for traces of...

      Long may Nessie live in the loch!

      Nessie is either there, or she's not. I like to think she has outwitted our efforts to trap her, pin her down, categorise her, tame her and turn her into an icon on tea towels.

      And one day I may get to see her myself. Long may she live in the loch!

      © 2008 Susanna Duffy

      Send Nessie a friendly Cheerio

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        • poetryman6969 profile image

          poetryman6969 2 years ago

          I have heard two things about Nessie. One is that we killed it with golf balls. The other is that Google has found Nessie.

        • mariacarbonara profile image

          mariacarbonara 3 years ago

          I suspect there is some truth in it.

          There are still tribes in remote parts of the world that have very little contact with the modern world until very recently, so if that's possible then its perfect feasible that a prehistoric beast could survive in a remote part of Scotland.

          It could well be some sort of sea animal that can also breath on land and only needs to come up when short of food.

        • Lady Lorelei profile image

          Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

          I believe that Nessie the Loch Ness Monster and others like her still exist. The oceans are very deep and there are old growth forests which have never been fully explored. That has to mean that a few of these creatures may have escaped man's hand for bringing rare animals to extinction.

        • flycatcherrr profile image

          flycatcherrr 5 years ago

          As a teenager, trekking in Scotland, I must have spent the equivalent of a full week just staring at Loch Ness, willing the head of Nessie to appear above the wavelets. I'm sure if it hadn't started raining quite so hard that last time, and if I'd given it just a few more minutes...

        • LiteraryMind profile image

          Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

          Very interesting lens on Nessie--more info than I have ever read before

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