When it comes to the matter of mysterious creatures and unknown animals, one of the most famous of all is Nessie – the monstrous denizen of Scotland’s huge Loch Ness. For centuries stories have surfaced of a creature – or of a colony of creatures – lurking deep in the waters of the ancient loch, and occasionally surfacing to tantalize and terrify locals and tourists. But, what are the Nessies? That’s a very good question. The theories are many. The answers, however, are few. Nevertheless, it’s worth addressing some of the more intriguing suggestions for Scotland’s most famous monsters, and here are several of many. Take your pick.
There is no doubt that the theory suggesting the Loch Ness Monsters represent nothing less than a relic population of plesiosaurs is both extremely popular and engaging. It’s also a theory that the Scottish tourist industry, Hollywood, and the media love to promote whenever possible. Unfortunately for those willing to put their money on this admittedly likeable theory, the bad news is that the chances of the Nessies being plesiosaurs are slim, to the point of being almost impossible.
First, there is the not insignificant fact that the plesiosaur surfaced around 250 million years ago and died out around 65-66 million years ago. Plesiosaurs, the fossil record has conclusively shown, lived in saltwater environments: our planet’s oceans. Loch Ness, however, is a freshwater loch. Yes, there is evidence of the occasional plesiosaur in a freshwater environment, but the bulk of the cases are not suggestive of entire colonies of the beasts inhabiting freshwater bodies for countless millennia. It’s far more likely and plausible that they wandered into them and died there. And, yes, there are both a freshwater crocodile and a saltwater crocodile. But, the comparison is meaningless without evidence that plesiosaurs were 100 percent comfortable in both freshwater and saltwater.
Still on the matter of extinction vs. non-extinction: let’s take note of the fact that – as the fossil record shows – there is not a single bit of evidence to suggest plesiosaurs (anywhere on the planet) survived beyond 60-plus million years ago. Yes, we have fossilized examples of plesiosaurs. But, no, they don’t date from – for example, and hypothetically – 20 million years ago, or even 5 or 1 million years ago. They all date from the precise period in which science tells us they came to an end.
And even if plesiosaurs did survive (against just about all the odds conceivable) into the modern era, they could not have made their way into Loch Ness until around the end of the last Ice Age, for one simple reason: Loch Ness didn’t exist until then. Up until that time, the area (the Great Glen) was, for all intents and purposes, a vast block of ice. So, if they didn’t enter the Loch until approximately 10,000 years ago, up until that point they must have lived in the ocean waters. But, then there’s the problem of why we haven’t found any ocean-based remains of plesiosaurs dating back (for example) 10,000, 13,000, or 20,000 years. If evidence had been found of plesiosaurs off the coast of Scotland, and just before the end of the last Ice Age, each and every one of us should be even a bit impressed. But, nope, the evidence is always tens of millions of years old. If the plesiosaur survived beyond 65 million years ago, why is the evidence to support such a scenario 100 percent absent? Because there is no evidence, that’s why.
Nessie researcher Steve Plambeck has suggested that the Nessies may be giant salamanders. The salamander theory actually dates back to the earliest years of Nessie lore, but, certainly, no-one has dug quite so deeply and with such dedication as Plambeck. Salamanders are amphibians that are noted for their long tails, blunt heads, and short limbs and which—in the case of the Chinese giant salamander—can reach lengths of six feet. But, is it possible that some salamanders could grow much larger, even to the extent of fifteen to twenty-five feet? Incredible? Yes. Implausible? Maybe not.
Steve Plambeck says that the Nessies are likely to be creatures that derive their oxygen from the water. Add to that the distinct lack of large numbers of reports and what we have, believes Plambeck, is some form of creature that spends the bulk of its time on the bed of the loch. Or, at least, very near to it. Only on occasion, Plambeck suggests, do the animals venture to the higher levels, something that would account for the occasional sightings and images caught on sonar. He also suggests that when the monsters do take to the higher levels of Loch Ness, they do so along its sides—which are the main areas where Loch Ness’s fish populations dwell. In other words, the monsters surface chiefly when they are feeding. In that sense, Plambeck makes a persuasive argument when it comes to the matter of the creatures of Loch Ness possibly being huge salamanders, or, at the very least, another kind of large, unknown amphibian. Loch Ness Monster authority Roland Watson has also waded into this controversy and admits to being partial to the giant amphibian theory. Moving on, there is the paranormal theory.
On the night of June 2, 1973, Loch Ness played host to something truly extraordinary. It was nothing less than a full-blown exorcism, one that was designed to forever banish the monsters from the deep and dark waters. It was all the work of Donald Omand, both a doctor and a reverend. He was a man who had substantial knowledge on, and experience of, the domain of all things supernatural. And he gained a great deal of support and help from a notable Nessie-seeker, Ted Holiday. Of his thoughts on the Nessie phenomenon, Reverend Omand said: “Each year I drive along most of the long, somewhat tedious, shore of Loch Ness in traveling from the Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness, and never yet have I observed the monster.”
We should not, however, interpret this to mean that Omand was a skeptic when it came to the Loch Ness creatures. In fact, quite the opposite is the case. He believed that one had to be at the loch at the right time to encounter one of the monsters. His reasoning was simple: the Nessies are supernatural entities that can only be seen when the circumstances are conducive to an encounter. For Omand, the monsters were projections of something large and terrifying from a bygone era—monsters that may have existed millions of years ago but that continue to manifest, albeit in paranormal form. For the god-fearing reverend, the supernatural beasts had to be cast out, and the sooner the better, too.
A decision was reached to undertake a number of exorcisms: several on the shore at various points along the loch, and one in the dead center, on the water itself. A small boat was generously provided by Wing-Commander Basil Cary, who lived with his wife near the shore of the loch, and who was particularly intrigued by the monster legend. As things began, the seriousness of the affair quickly became apparent. When the Reverend Omand and Ted Holiday—along with Tony Artus, a captain in the British Army with an interest in the controversy of Nessie, and a photographer friend of Omand—arrived at Lochend, Omand asked one and all to kneel, which they did, and holy water was sprinkled on their foreheads, in the shape of a cross. As if right on cue, a chilled wind suddenly enveloped the area. That was not necessarily a good sign—at all.
The exorcisms went ahead, but, given that people still see the Nessies, it seems they did not have the desired effect. Looking back on that night a few years later, Ted Holiday said: “I felt a distinct tension creep into the atmosphere at this point. It was as if we had shifted some invisible levers, and were awaiting the result.”