Most people turn to Forbes – the 102-year-old magazine and global media company – for business news and its annual list of the world’s richest people. They don’t peruse its pages for paranormal or cryptid features. So it came as quite a shock when recent piece in Forbes carried this headline: “Was The Loch Ness Monster Inspired By Earthquakes?” That brings to mind a number of questions, not the least of which are “Well, was it?” and “Should I be investing in Nessie futures?”
“The explanation, if you like, is simple: Loch Ness is located along the Great Glen fault line, “very large and very active” and seismic movements are able to provoke that seething of waters and those earth tremors that accompany the stories of Nessie’s appearances.”
In 2001, Luigi Piccardi, a researcher specializing in studying the links between geology and mythology, gave a presentation to the Italian Committee for the Control of Claims on Pseudosciences (CICAP), an “organization of volunteers, scientific and educational, which promotes a scientific and critical investigation towards pseudosciences, the paranormal, the mysteries and the unusual with the aim to spread the scientific mentality and the critical spirit.” The Great Glen Fault line is a well-known geological fault which cuts through the Scottish Highlands and was active from 430 million to 2 million years ago. Loch Ness was formed after that by glaciers. And yes, moderate tremors have been felt in the area. Were they enough to create waves, bubbles and disturbances that could deceive bystanders into thinking they’ve seen a lake monster? In an interview with La Republica, Piccardi describes his theory.
“If we take into consideration the Latin that Adamnano uses, the beast appears” with great tremors “and when it disappears it does it” shaking itself “. I think it’s a pretty clear description of what was actually going on. ” Just a small earthquake. And the same can be said for what happened between 1933 and 1935. It is in those years that given the boom of the Loch Ness monster, but in 1934 the last major earthquake involving the Great Glen fault.”
Adamano or Adamnán of Iona was an abbot of Iona Abbey and a biogrpahper whose most famous subject was his cousin (here comes the big reveal) … St. Columba, the first recorded witness of a monster in the Loch Ness area back in 565. Piccardi then skips over a few centuries to 1933-1935 when there were a spate of Loch Ness monster sightings, along with the famous hoax photograph. Piccardi’s theory is that the waves caused by seismic vibrations made the “humps” witnesses describe and gas bubbles cause the wake. Case closed?
“Gary Campbell, president of the Loch Ness Monster Fan Club of Iverness told the Times: “Piccardi seems to forget that we have more than a thousand stories of people who say they have seen something solid in the water like a head and neck.”
Of course, logs, branches, giant eels, bird necks and other objects could also look like a head and neck when observed from a distance or through a lake mist. The La Republica article also points out that “the tourism industry has flourished around Nessie, which has built its raison d’etre on the monster and the myth.” While Piccardi presents an interesting argument, it’s not enough to dispel a myth that has survived hoaxes, radar searches and DNA tests.
Which brings us back to the Forbes article. Author David Bressan is a geologist who disagrees with Piccardi’s idea, noting that “Earthquakes along the Great Glen fault range between a magnitude of 3 to 4, too weak to cause any observable effects on the lake.” And his list of stronger ones in 1816, 1888, 1890 and 1901 don’t coincide with any reports of Nessie activity. That’s good news for Forbes readers who may be invested in hotels, tour companies, souvenir makers and other Loch Ness businesses.
Earthquakes can’t shake the mythology of the Loch Ness monster. Let’s hope the humans depending on it for business can survive the cornoravirus tourism lockdown.