Thursday, September 3, 2015
Dave and I watched a documentary the other day about the Loch Ness Monster.
For a short time I thought I'd been swept back to the 1970s, the era of "In Search Of..." and "Chariots of the Gods." Wasn't Nessie debunked years ago, after all? I remember someone coming clean with the revelation that the most famous Nessie photo was faked. I thought we'd all given up on any possibility that she still swims in the Loch's murky depths.
As it turns out, that was basically the gist of the documentary. It explained away the many reported sightings over the years, using a variety of scientific devices and experiments. Aside from the famous faked photo, others had been mysteriously altered or depict natural phenomena such as waves. The most interesting explanation, I thought, involved seals -- apparently Loch Ness is open to the ocean and as a result, it's not unheard of for seals to enter its waters. The descriptions many witnesses offered sound like seals -- elephant-gray creatures with a hump emerging from the depths.
I used to love shows like "In Search Of..." in which Leonard Nimoy narrated explorations of all sorts of mysterious phenomena, from the disappearance of Amelia Earhart to the geoglyphs of the Nazca Plain. (And by the way, the old shows are available on a dedicated YouTube channel.) But even back then, I remember doubting that the Loch Ness Monster really existed. It was just a fun story, sort of like a ghost story -- something to tingle your spine and make you wonder what else humanity didn't know.
As it turns out, that's the most likely explanation for the durability of the Nessie myth. People like the drama, and part of us wants it to be true. Psychologically, we leave ourselves open to the possibility, and therefore seize on any shred of evidence to bolster the case.
No doubt it's also generated a lot of tourism for central Scotland.
That purple critter above is my own personal Nessie, which I've had since I was a small boy. In 1973 or so, my brother and I went to the Maryland home of one of my mom's college friends, and played with some small plastic dinosaurs belonging (I believe) to her sons. (I'm not sure where the sons were, but I don't think they were there at the time.) Mom's friend gave us a few of them, and I've held on to this plesiosaurus ever since. My brother and I named it, rather unimaginatively, "Plesie."
Plesie now lives on my windowsill. If I ever get to the real Loch Ness, maybe I'll take Plesie with me and fake my own photograph! (It won't be easy, since Plesie is only about two inches long.)
By the way, on Google Street View, you can take a virtual boat tour of Loch Ness. No monsters were visible that I could see.