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Life and Death in the Loch: Sightings of Strange Serpents Still Happening

In the middle to late 600s, the abbot of Iona, Saint Adomnán, penned the most famous document relating to the life of Saint Columba, known today as the Vita Columbae. This document, although having become a commemorative piece of sorts for both its author and its subject, is unique for other reasons. Namely, this document has what some hold to be the earliest mention of the world’s most famous water beast: Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.

The story (which actually takes place in the River Ness, a river connecting the Loch and nearby Inverness), reports that in 565 AD Saint Columba, after seeing a nearby group of Picts who were laying one of their own to rest among the river’s waters, was told of a water beast that had killed the ill-fated swimmer. To their astonishment, Columba’s response was to send one of his own companions into the water; as one might assume, this prompted an encore appearance from the man-eating beast. But rather than allow his companion to meet an untimely and bloody demise, the Saint merely lifted his hand, making the sign of the cross, and instructed the beast that it would go no further, prompting its return to the icy depths of the river.

Since those early times of saints and serpents, there have been scads of reports of similar water monsters the world over, and despite more recent rumors that the Large Lady of the Loch had actually passed from this watery world into that great land-locked lake in the sky, modern reports do continue to this day, involving a rather large something that is still seen swimming in the Scottish Highlands.

One of the most recent sightings on record dealt with an encounter described by Jan Hargreaves, a shop owner near the shore of the famous lake. She and an employee, while taking a short break outside their Foyers Store location, “saw something that looked bizarre.” Getting excited about what had appeared in the water nearby, she called to her husband, Simon, asking him to join them and watch the strange creature. Hargreaves told the area Inverness Courier that, “We stand here all the time and look out and we see boats and kayaks but it didn’t look like anything we have seen here before.” Though the animal the Hargreaves managed to observe wasn’t very close to them, they claimed nonetheless that they were able to discern a long neck, “too long to be that of a seal,” and which looked to be “black in appearance.”

Popular reports of monsters in Loch Ness in modern times date back to the turn of the last century, although a sighting by Mr. and Mrs. George Spicer in 1933 had the greatest success in putting the creature on the public radar. In fact, the very same newspaper, The Inverness Courier, carried the story on 4 August 1933, with the headline “Is this the Loch Ness monster?” Since that time, a number of sightings of the beast, both on land and in the water, have continued. Does the latest encounter, as related by the Hargreaves, truly indicate the presence of some strange, unidentified beast that lurks in the Loch’s depths, even to this day?

Over the years, a number of theories, ranging from sturgeon in the Loch, to more bizarre propositions that include species of long-necked seals and giant Tully monsters (or Tullymonstrum, a small, soft-bodied waterbound invertebrate that lived 300 million years ago in modern Illinois). However, the more popular speculation associated with Loch Ness and its famous monster tends to lean toward the idea of relic saurian animals that have survived for hundreds of thousands of years, specifically something akin to the aquatic plesiosaur, which thrived between the Triassic and Cretaceous periods. Despite the controversy over what exactly is being seen in the Loch–and whether such a creature, if it has ever existed, is still alive today–recent reports such as those described by the Hargreaves will no doubt help keep this strange and fantastic mystery very alive and well.

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  • Rebecca Blink-Conlon

    Ah, Nessie.  Personally, I think that she’s a myth.  People seem to think that every log is Nessie.  Although, there is still that one part of me that thinks there’s a slim chance of the Ness beast exsisting…

  • Anonymous

    Hiya Micah, if you haven’t already checked it out, Mike Swords is digging through the Ivan T Sanderson crates on his blog, ‘The Big Study.’ I’ll admit to being unfairly dismissive of sea beasts and serpents until reading his recent blogs.

    What I find fascinating is the combination of solid animals and elements of high strangeness. Some witnesses report the sea being very calm and glass-like during their sightings. The sheer panoply of descriptions is also puzzling. Predictably, I’m drawn to notions of some latent population of plesiosaurs as being a possibility. The probability of a species this size lasting through millions of years is minute, but the alternatives could be even smaller.

    Regarding Nessie, there’s a Time article from 1968 that describes a university study whereby something very anomalous was recorded…

    ‘Moving through the water at speeds as high as 17 m.p.h. and diving at a
    rate of 450 ft. per min., an object that could have been “several
    meters” in length traced a clear pattern on the sonar screen. Two other
    large bodies, moving more slowly, were also detected. “The high rate of
    ascent and descent,” Tucker says, “makes it seem very unlikely that
    they are fish.” ‘
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,900454,00.html

    Mike Swords also posted a heretofore unpublished analysis of the Dinsdale footage. It’s fascinating reading and you can save copies as high-quality jpegs. Here’s the link.

     http://thebiggeststudy.blogspot.com/2011/04/peeking-at-ivans-situ-files.html
     

  • Anonymous

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  • Anonymous

    @Rebecca Blink-Conlon. While I respect your opinion; I must say that you brought up a good point, without even knowing it. In Canada’s Lake Okanagan there is a lake monster that goes by the name of Ogopogo. At first glance – witnesses thought that they saw a log in the water. Until it starts undulating and swims away. The bottom line is that when people think they see a log, it’s actually the monster. Besides, there’s proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that something huge is in Lake Okanagan. That comes by way of The Art Folden Film. As for The Loch Ness, watch The Tim Dinsdale footage.