Olivia Papp ’23
The Loch Ness monster, known as ‘Nessie,’ was supposedly first spotted in 565 AD. An Irish monk named St Columba found the Picts burying a man next to Loch Ness. Columba discovered that the deceased man had been attacked by a monster residing in Loch Ness. Columba sent one of his men to go investigate but unfortunately encountered the monster.
This lake is located in the Scottish Highlands and contains the largest volume of fresh water in all of Great Britain. The lake is 800 feet deep and stretches 23 miles. Many scholars have dismissed the Loch Ness monster as a myth originated by the Picts. The Picts were a Scottish tribe that settled in the Scottish Highlands during the Early Middle Ages. The majority of the tribe’s history was documented on Pictish stone carvings and medieval texts. The Loch Ness monster was first depicted on a Pictish stone, as the Picts carved an aquatic monster onto the standing stones near Loch Ness.
This monster gained traction in the 1930s. During this period, sightings greatly increased. On May 2nd, 1933, in Inverness, a small Scottish town surrounding Loch Ness, a couple recounted their findings. The couple reported they had seen “an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface.” The news spread across the United Kingdom, inevitably prompting a 20,000-pound reward for whoever found and captured the monster first. Following this initial sighting, another couple claimed to see this monster. For decades following 1933, investigators took their shot in trying to find this serpent. By the 1960s, British universities had assembled teams to venture out toward the small town of Inverness to capture the beast. While nothing tangible was found during these endeavors, sonar operators detected large objects moving underwater. In 1975, another team was assembled to find out more about this aquatic animal. After photo enhancements, it was found that there was a huge flipper, surely belonging to an aquatic animal. The findings from the 1980s and 1990s proved to be inconclusive. In 1934, a famous picture of the beast was taken. This picture showed the long neck of an aquatic animal poking up through the surface of Loch Ness. This picture motivated many teams to go out searching for this beast. However, in 1994, it was found that this photo was a complete hoax. After this finding, tourism of the monster has died down and the belief in this aquatic monster has diminished.
On January 29th, 2022, I visited Loch Ness and went on a cruise around the lake. The lake, in my opinion, is not much of a lake. Rather, it appears to be a narrow river that stretches for miles through the Scottish Highlands. The banks of the lake were teeming with wildlife, as several sheep, goats, and birds were spotted roaming around. At all times, the captain and cruise guide kept explaining the history of the Loch Ness monster, warning us to keep our eyes peeled as the tour across the lake went on. Although I am skeptical of the legitimacy of this monster, many tourists crowded the edge of the boat with binoculars. These tourists were constantly peering into the water, hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous serpent that has become a worldwide attraction.
According to Catherine Doyle ’23, who also went to visit Loch Ness on January 29th, “I have always been a believer in Nessie. Loch Ness contains the largest volume of freshwater in Great Britain so there’s bound to be some weird and amazing wildlife down there. Also, it’s just fun to think that there’s creatures like Nessie chilling in Scotland.”
On the tour, I learned of a man who has dedicated his entire life to finding Loch Ness… or at least getting to the bottom of the mystery of the monster. The name of the man is Steve Feltham. He gave up his job to move to Dorset, near Inverness, and investigate the truth. From his years of searching, Feltham has claimed he once had a sighting of something unexplainable. Since 2016, there have supposedly been more than one thousand sightings of this monster according to the Official Loch Ness Sightings Register. Feltham began his career in hunting down the monster in 1991 and continues to do so with hope.
Other people have deemed the Loch Ness monster a huge eel. Scottish folklore and storytelling have been a substantial aspect of Scottish culture over time. Perhaps the tale of Nessie is merely another one of these fictitious Scottish stories. Or maybe it is not. Only time will tell.