Without a doubt, the story that dominates is that of Nessie, resident of Loch Ness in Scotland. The tales are well-known, around the world.
There's a long line of sightings, beginning in July of 1933, when Mr. and Mrs. Spicer were driving along Lakeshore Road, returning from a vacation in Northern Scotland. This was one of the few sightings that placed the monster on land. They described a large, black long-necked creature that slithered through the brush and plopped into the lake with a splash.
Since then, reports of Nessie have numbered in the thousands. As recently as 1993, a young couple reported watching the lake monster for nearly ten minutes.
The description of Nessie hasn't varied much in all the years of it's alleged existence. A hoax? Not likely, with so many witnesses for this many years. However, a variety of solutions have been presented, ranging from a floating log to a prehistoric plesiosaur that should be long extinct. Since no irrefutable proof has been found one way or the other, anything is possible.
Photographs exist that many claim as evidence of the creature's presence, and scientists have rallied each time, usually proclaiming the photos doctored. Only a few have been labeled as uncertain as to the authenticity. In fact, in the mid-1970's, Dr. Robert Rines and his crew took underwater snapshots with a strobe camera, every few seconds for several hours. Later, when the film was developed, he was astonished to find that there were several pictures of the underside of the boat, from the camera being attacked. However, he was also awarded with a true treasure, and some people believe it is irrefutable proof of Nessie's existence: photos that outline the head of a monster, the body of something similar to a plesiosaur, and the outline of a large fin.
When this evidence was presented to various sources, Dr. Chris McGowan of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada, stated that "...a sufficient weight of evidence to support that there is an unexplained phenomenon of considerable interest in Loch Ness." One of the world's foremost zoologists and director of the Harvard University Museum of
Comparative Zoology found the pictures to be "sufficiently suggestive of a large aquatic animal... and worth more investigative study in the future." Even the British Museum called the photos "truly authentic," however, they also stated that the photos "didn't constitute acceptable evidence of the existence of an unknown aquatic animal in Loch Ness."
Is it because it would disrupt preconceived theories that science is based on? Because after so many years of teaching that plesiosaurs have been exctinct for millions of years, it would upset some sort of balance?
Regardless of the eventual outcome, Nessie isn't alone in her adventures. Across the ocean in North America, two more lake monsters are under scrutiny. One, Ogopogo, resident of Canadian Lake
Okanogan, actually has a history that predates Nessie's.
The first sightings can be traced back to archived records in 1872. A cryptozoologist named Roy Mackal later assessed the gathered descriptions of Ogopogo, and while similarities to Nessie do exist, witnesses of this creature often reflect on its incredible resemblance to a log. From this, he's determined it may be a type of primitive whale, Basilosaurus cetoides, or zeuglodon, which closely resembles a log.
Additionally, it's interesting to note that both Loch Ness in Scotland and Lake
Okanogan in British Columbia are long, narrow lakes with deep waters, and both lie at approximately the same latitude.
The Indians on this lake believe a small Rattlesnake Island is the home of the creature. It's unclear as to if their beliefs adapt the idea that Ogopogo may be land-dwelling at times, or if they think it just hides along the shores. Pictographs depict the monster near the headwaters of Powers Creek.
Early inhabitants felt it was a malevolent beast requiring appeasement, and fear coupled with that belief led to the routine of carrying a small animal to toss into the lake as they crossed.
In 1914, people got quite close to physical proof. A group of Indians discovered the decomposing carcass of an unknown animal along the shores of Rattlesnake Island. It measured five or six feet long and was estimated at a weight of 400 pounds. It was a blue-grey color and had a tail and flippers. A naturalist in the area believed it was a manatee. Upon reading this, I looked up the habitats for manatees, and they only live in tropical waters, so that theory isn't possible. Also, because of the size of it's body, it
appeared that it should have had an elongated neck, which was missing with the head, so once again, it can't be labeled as proof.
So, maybe people have invented the stories? And those wanting to be among witnesses have wanted to see the creature so badly that they allowed their imaginations to run away? Possibly, for some that may be the case. However, on September 16, 1926, at least 30 cars of people watched from
Okanogan Mission Beach, as Ogopogo swam nearby. Again, on July 2, 1947, several boaters witnessed a visit from the infamous lake resident, and in July 1959, a group of people aboard a boat watched in surprise and disbelief as it trailed their boat for nearly five minutes before submerging and disappearing.
Yet another monster, again not nearly as famous as Nessie, makes waves occasionally. In Lake Champlain, Vermont, the local mysterious beast is simply known as Champ, and he dates back to 1609. Among the theories about Champ is that he's either a plesiosaur that survived extinction, a primitive whale called a zeuglodon, or a large sturgeon.
A zeuglodon, believed extinct, although fossils found in nearby Charlotte, VT, tell us that they have lived in the region at some point. Likewise, the sturgeon are considered very old, almost
prehistoric. They are/were a fish, without scales, and their skeleton is/was at least partially cartilage. While the dorsal fin along it's back would match some descriptions of Champ, it's shark-like tail wouldn't, and considering this portion, it wouldn't match up with a plesiosaur either, since they didn't have a dorsal fin.
While the plesiosaur is prehistoric, it was not a dinosaur, but rather an aquatic reptile. It's a common misconception. It had a long neck, and four large flippers, and goes back to the Triassic Period of 200 million years ago, versus the 65 million years when it's commonly believed dinosaurs became extinct, so if one or a handful of them survived and have managed to continue populating for millions of years, one can firmly grasp just how important irrefutable proof would be, hence the race for the monster-hunters.
In 1977, a Japanese trawler near New Zealand might have had just the proof the world needed. They accidentally
netted a carcass, snapped some photographs, took some measurements and tissue samples and threw it overboard again. Many regard it to be the decayed remains of a prehistoric plesiosaur. It certainly appears similar to what we're told the plesiosaur looked like.
Upon further study and close scrutiny, the samples were believed to be that of a basking shark instead. This was generally believed to be truth, even as inconsistencies of this theory were brought to life. For example, when sharks decompose, there's a distinct ammonia odor, which wasn't present with this carcass. Also, the head was quit hard, despit the decay, and sharks contain no bones -- only cartilage, which would have been soft and pliable at this stage of decomposition; and the crewmen said the pelvic fins were similar in size to the pectoral fins, as they would be with a plesiosaur, not a shark.
It isn't such a far reach to think that something beyond our scope of common understanding is possible. People used to deny reports of the ship-attacking Kraken, until the undeniable carcass of a giant squid washed up on New Zealand's shore. None of those have been caught alive yet either. In 1997, the U.S. Navy detected something much larger in the depths of the ocean. Deep positioned spy devices picked up a more powerful call than anything known on earth. It's called "Bloop," and when it was analyzed against all sorts of sea-faring
life forms, it's doubtful that it belongs to even the giant squid, but in fact, something much larger.
Lakes, too, have had strange, inexplicable residents for a long time. In Lake Nicaragua, in Central America, a shark thrives, quite possibly more vicious than even the Great White. It's the Bull Shark, with lengths up to 12 feet, that's quite aggressive and swims in extremely shallow waters.
So, if you're skeptical about what could possibly live in the depths of the water, you may want to at least admit to yourself that it hasn't been proven otherwise yet, either. Be sure to keep to the shallows when you go swimming. *wink*