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Is the Loch Ness Monster Real? – A Fun Guide to the Mystery & History of the Loch Ness Monster

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

A photo of the Loch Ness monster, taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson, known as "The Surgeon's Photograph"
A photo of the Loch Ness monster, taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson, known as "The Surgeon's Photograph"

On the 2nd May 1933, a newspaper called the Inverness Courier printed a bizarre story about a sighting of a “beast” swimming in the waters of a local lake.

Mrs Mackay, the manager of the Drumnadrochit Hotel, was in the car with her husband when she spotted the black creature in the lake. This was the first reported modern-day sighting of a creature in the famous Loch Ness, in Scotland. And for the last 90 years, people from across the world have been flocking to the area to try to catch a glimpse of the mysterious Loch Ness Monster.

The Loch Ness Monster? That’s a myth about a big dinosaur that lives in a lake right?

Yes, dear reader, you’re quite right! In the 1930s many people believed that the legendary Loch Ness Monster, also known as Nessie, might actually be an ancient marine reptile, called a Plesiosaur, that should have gone extinct 65 million years ago. This came about after a physician by the name of Robert Kenneth Wilson took a photo of a reptilian-looking creature with a long neck in the waters of the lake (shown in black and white, above).

Could the Loch Ness monster be a big Plesiosaur? Like this one, drawn by Nobu Tamura

A photograph of the monster? Does that mean the monster is real?

Sadly, the photograph was later proven to be fake.

Boo! Are there any sightings of Nessie that aren’t fake?

For that, you’d need to take a look at the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register.

Is that even a real thing?

Yes! The existence of the Loch Ness Monster itself may be in question, but I can assure you that the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register is a genuine thing.

The Sightings Register is filled with unexplained sightings at Loch Ness. This means that any sightings that end up being explained by regular everyday boring stuff (like floating logs or bow waves from boats), or sightings that are found to be faked, are not included or are later removed from the Register.

The Register currently includes 1145 sightings of the Loch Ness Monster, including 7 sightings from 2021, 6 from 2022 and 1 so far from 2023.

Arthur Grant, a Nessie spotter, describes his experience spotting the Loch Ness monster.

How far back do the sightings of the Loch Ness Monster go?

The earliest written record of a sighting of the monster dates back to 565 AD. In this story, St. Columba says that he had to order a large sea beast to go back into the lake after it had bitten a swimmer.

Ancient stone carvings have also been found in the local area that show pictures of strange sea creatures. Historians believe these carvings were made by the Picts around 1,500 years ago. These carvings could be showing that a creature like a kelpie was living in the Loch.

What’s a kelpie?

A Kelpie is a water horse spirit from Scottish folklore. These spirits would haunt areas of water and in the 1800’s there were tales of a Kelpie that haunted the shores of Loch Ness. Despite their beauty, the Kelpies could be pretty wicked. They would tempt people down to the edge of the water where the spirits would pull them in and drown them.

Eesh! That’s pretty nasty!

Isn’t it just.

So this monster could be a dinosaur, it could be a kelpie…

It could be an eel...

It could be a… Wait, an eel?

Yep, scientists think if there is a monster, it could just be an enormous eel.

Could the Loch Ness monster just be a big eel? Like this chunky dude!

Right. So this monster could be a dinosaur, it could be a kelpie, it could be an enormous eel. But how could a huge monster actually live in Loch Ness without being spotted every day?

Loch Ness is a really big lake. It has the largest volume of water of any lake in Scotland. It holds all that water because Loch Ness is both the second-largest and second-deepest Loch in Scotland. At around 23 miles long, you could fit the length of Blackpool seafront into Loch Ness 3 times over and still not reach the other end!

Also, Loch Ness is 230m deep at its deepest point. Continuing with our Blackpool theme, if you plopped the Blackpool Tower into the lake, you’d have to dive over 70 metres down to even reach the top spire of the tower.

And even then, you wouldn’t actually be able to see the top spire of the tower. Underwater visibility is incredibly low in Loch Ness because the peat content of the water is so high. If you were to dive more than 9 metres deep into Loch Ness, you wouldn’t be able to see anything at all!

So Loch Ness is certainly deep enough and dark enough for a big ol’ monster to live in it and nobody to know about it!

The beautiful Loch Ness from Urquhart Castle

But has anybody actually tried to prove the monster is real?

Oh yes! The mystery of the monster has encouraged lots of people to host exciting scientific investigations into Loch Ness and the surrounding areas, including sonar surveys and DNA studies. Now scientists know tonnes of mind-blowing information about the lake.

Oh really? Like what?

Well, they discovered that Loch Ness has loads of enormous underwater waves, called internal seiches. It also has a constant deep water temperature of around 5.5C. Oh, and those giant eels I mentioned earlier? That’s because scientists have uncovered a whole bunch of eel DNA in and around Loch Ness.

But rather than giving us conclusive proof that Nessie exists, these science projects have actually created even more questions about the mystery.

Now hold on a second. This blog I'm reading is called “Is the Loch Ness Monster Real?” But you haven't actually told me whether Nessie is real or not.

Ah. Yes. Well, I was hoping you might have forgotten about that.

To answer this question, I’ll leave you with this quote from Adrian Shine of The Loch Ness Project who says “There will be a Loch Ness Monster as long as people want there to be.”

Hold on! What does that mean?

Wait! Where did you go? Answer my question!

Urgh, typical! Now I'll never know...


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