A record number of sightings of the Loch Ness Monster were reported in 2017, according to the BBC. Eight in total add up to more “official” reports than in any other year this century. While the “monster” moniker has stuck, the affectionate nickname Nessie is known around the world. Perhaps a more accurate term for Nessie is “prehistoric animal” or “oversized eel” … certainly a legendary creature that has captured many minds for decades.
In the latest sighting, Dr. Jo Knight from Lancaster University snapped a photo of a “fin” in the water. Her 9-year-old son had been sitting by her side, pining for just such an appearance. Like people of all ages from around the world, this little boy has been entranced by the mythical beast all his life. He’s just as amazed by the possibility of yetis; his mother realized Nessie could be more plausible (and local), though Dr. Knight admits what they saw was probably not Nessie after all. “There aren’t enough fish available for a large creature to be eating,” she told the BBC and Newsbeat.
While her practical perspective may be accurate, the fact that her story made the news proves Nessie’s appeal. The widely viewed original 1934 “photo” ended up being a hoax, promoted by the photographers who staged it. And the legend dates back even further. The first recorded sighting was in 565 AD, when, legend tells, the creature ate a local farmer, according to Visit Inverness Loch Ness Ltd. Quite a few Scots connect the dots to ancient Scottish myths about shape-shifting water spirits called Kelpies and the water horse, or “Each Uisge.” Both legend and history shape the landscape. The ruins of Urquhart Castle (pictured above) lie beside Loch Ness, a reminder to tourists and locals alike of the country’s violent past. Nessie has lingered among revolts against the monarchy in the 1200s, which lost the castle to the English and the coronation of Robert the Bruce as King in 1306 which resulted in Scotland regaining ownership of the castle … only to fall again to the Clan MacDonald. By the 1600s, Urquhart Castle was left abandoned, perhaps with the Loch Ness Monster as its only regular visitor.
On May 2, 1933, the Inverness Courier ran its first story about a “monster” sighting at Loch Ness. The couple interviewed insisted they saw “an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface,” according to History.com. A chaotic excitement engulfed the story, as a circus offered 20,000 pound sterling for the beast’s capture.
And curiosity has only grown for the legend of Nessie. In the 1960s, British universities led sonar expeditions in the loch. No conclusive evidence, but that didn’t stop the research. In 1975, sonar and underwater photography revealed an enormous aquatic flipper. In 2016, they found what they thought was a massive piece of evidence at the bottom of the loch — a 9-meter model of the Monster, which was built in 1969 for a Sherlock Holmes movie. Expeditions continue, as amateur investigators and curious tourists hope for another sighting. Lack of proof does not dampen the legend of the Loch Ness Monster. Could Nessie be a prehistoric animal? Seismic activity? A clever lighting trick? These evocative questions tickle the imaginations of many with the power of a good story.