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· Master of Scaremonies
13,086 Posts

The one that got away

NESSIE has become one of the most iconic symbols of Scotland, with a history stretching from St Columba to The Simpsons. In the latest in our series on myths and legends, we ask: is it one big hoax?
Truth factor: 1/5

We all love a Nessie story and millions want to believe a monster lurks in the epths. Every 'sighting' has been xposed as a hoax, but they insist no ne an prove the monster DOESN'T exist. Most of us are not so credulous.

START looking into the phenomenon of the Loch Ness Monster and you cannot help but stir up controversy. Nessie is one of the most iconic symbols of Scotland and every year thousands of tourists make the trip to the banks of Loch Ness. But the question of what is, or isn't, beneath the deep mysterious waters of the loch has given rise to feuds, rivalries, forgeries and even bombings.

Even today, a simmering rivalry exists between the two monster museums of Drumnadrochit, one of which takes a sceptical view of the mystery, while the other is very much pro-Nessie.

Years of hoaxes, pseudoscience and counterculture obsessives have made Nessie a dubious area for serious naturalists, while monster souvenirs are a byword for tourist tat. Yet, Nessie is one of our most enduring myths, with a history which stretches from St Columba to The Simpsons.

Whatever the real nature of the beast, she has become a much-loved symbol of the nation, instantly recognisable across the world.

Stories involving St Columba, and early-history Pictish carvings found in the Highlands, include a strange beast with flippers and a beak. Folk tales speak of kelpies, mischievous water horses who lured children to their deaths, and early maps contain places marked Loch Na Beistie.

The first written account of Nessie comes in St Adamnan's Life of St Columba in the seventh century, which tells of the saint rescuing a Pict from a monster in Loch Ness. Columba declared: "Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man: go back with all speed." Some say Nessie has never attacked anyone since - others believe the story is a parable showing Christianity overpowering pagan belief in nature spirits.
Eyewitness accounts

THOUSANDS of people swear to have seen a creature moving on the dark, deep waters of Loch Ness. Some see humps, some a large shape like a whale, others something like a horse's head. Among the witnesses have been sober and upstanding members of the community. In June 1965, Detective Sergeant Ian Cameron said he saw a "whale-like object" 20ft (6m) feet long, while, in October 1971, Father Gregory Brusey, a monk from Fort Augustus Abbey, said he saw a neck 10ft (3m) high.
Nessie and the media

AFTER a new road along the shore of the loch was built in 1933, there was a spate of monster sightings, including those of Mr and Mrs Spicer, who claimed to have seen something like "a dragon or prehistoric animal" cross in front of their car.

The Daily Mail sent big-game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell, who produced plastercasts of two giant footprints, which turned out to have been created using a hippopotamus-foot umbrella stand. Wetherell, who may have been the victim of a hoax, became a national laughing stock - until he produced The Surgeon's Photo showing a plesiosaur swimming across the loch. Years later he confessed it had been faked by sticking a plaster head on a toy submarine.
Nessie and the counterculture

BELIEF and interest in the Loch Ness Monster rose in the 1960s when Nessie was adopted by the counterculture as one of the unexplained mysteries of the world. Psychics said Loch Ness was a gateway between one world and another and science fiction writers imagined Nessie was a time-travelling dinosaur. As science disputed the evidence, the legend grew. In the 1970s, amateur Nessie hunter Frank Searle lived in a caravan near Boleskine, the country house owned by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and where Aleister Crowley claimed to have contacted his holy guardian angel. Searle produced scores of photographs of Nessie - all fake.
Nessie on television

THE second series of The Goodies, in 1971, kicked off with an episode where the trio who resolved to "go anywhere, anytime" went to capture the Loch Ness Monster to cheer up a suicidal zookeeper. The threesome ran into Stanley Baxter, as a tourist official who tried to get them to prove they were Scottish, and the deadly Bagpipes Spider - "one bite and you dance the Highland Fling till you drop dead".
Nessie the cartoon

IN the 1983 BBC cartoon The Family-Ness, Elspeth and Angus McTout make friends with an entire community of Loch Ness monsters. The cartoon features German monster-hunter Professor Dumkopf, who tries to catch the monster using underwater telescopes and his "sherbet fizz" bubble machine.

In the 1999 Simpsons episode, Monty Can't Buy Me Love, Mr Burns drains the loch to find the monster and take him back to Springfield in a doomed bid to win popularity. The episode sees an emotional reunion between Groundskeeper Willie and his parents. Ma: "So you're back home now." Willie: "Aye." Pa: "I s'pose y'all be leavin soon." They shrug and walk off.

Nessie also stars in a Scooby Doo movie, in an episode of South Park and in scores of computer games, including Tomb Raider, Sim City 2000, Zoo Tycoon and Monster Truck Madness.
Nessie and Hollywood

THE 1996 Hollywood film Loch Ness captured many recurring Nessie themes, with its tale of a disconsolate scientist exiled on a hopeless mission to find the monster. Dr Dempsey, played by Ted Danson, is hampered at every turn by uncooperative locals but falls in love with hotelier Laura, played by Joely Richardson. He discovers the monster is real, but must be kept a secret.

In 2004, director Werner Herzog starred in a fake documentary Incident at Loch Ness, in which film-makers trying to disprove the existence of Nessie come across the real monster.

Currently in production is a major film The Water Horse, based on the novel by Dick King-Smith, set in the Second World War, in which two children find an egg which hatches and grows to become a Loch Ness Monster.

The exposure of numerous hoaxes has done nothing to dampen the public appetite for tales of the monster. Physicists argue the optical illusions seen so frequently are mirages. Biologists argue there is not enough food in the water to support such large creatures. Sonar surveys over the years have failed to find conclusive evidence. And there has never been any discovery of a Nessie corpse or bones.

Even the official name Nessiteras rhombopteryx, registered by Sir Peter Scott has been discovered to be an anagram of "Monster Hoax By Sir Peter S".

But the tales have their own life - thousands come to Loch Ness every year; millions around the world believe. And, as GK Chesterton pointed out: "Many a man has been hanged on less evidence than there is for the Loch Ness Monster."

· Master of Scaremonies
13,086 Posts
Study concludes Nessie not a dinosaur

Loch Ness monster ain't no dino: study
Updated Fri. Nov. 3 2006 9:24 AM ET

Amy Bonin ,DiscoveryChannel.ca

The legend of Nessie has been around for decades, with imaginative people describing it as a snake threaded through a turtle, leaving many to believe that it could be a prehistoric dinosaur of some sort.

The plesiosaur is a marine reptile that lived 160 million years ago. It sported long neck - in many cases as long as its body and tail combined. Scientists have pondered over the why an animal would need such a long neck. Leslie Noè of the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge, UK has an answer.

Plesiosaurs, he says, used their long necks to reach down and feed on soft-bodied animals living on the sea floor. During a vertebrate paleontology meeting in Canada last month, Noè examined the fossils of a plesiosaur called Muraenosaurus.

Calculating the articulation of the neck bones, he concluded the neck was flexible and could move easily when pointing down. He explained how the neck was like a feeding tube, to collect soft-bodied prey: The small skulls of plesiosaurs couldn't cope with hard-shelled prey.

However, the osteology of the neck makes it absolutely certain that the plesiosaur could not lift its head out of the water - as most alleged pictures of Nessie show.

Sadly Noè ruled-out the plesiosaur as a candidate for the Loch Ness monster.

© Copyright 2006 Bell Globemedia/DCI

· Master of Scaremonies
13,086 Posts
Life thrives at searing sea vent, under ice

Life thrives at searing sea vent, under ice-report
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
Sun Dec 10, 4:53 PM ET

Marine creatures are thriving by a record hot volcanic vent in the Atlantic and in dark waters under thick Antarctic ice, boosting theories that planets other than Earth are suitable for life, scientists said on Sunday.

About 150 new types of fish were among 500 new marine species, including furry crabs and a lobster off Madagascar, found in the seas in 2006, according to researchers in the 70-nation Census of Marine Life.
Many species were found in places long thought too hostile for life -- including by a vent spewing liquids at 407 Celsius (764.6F) and other habitats that were dark, cold or deep. Some places seemed as inhospitable as planets such as Mars or Venus.

"The age of discovery is not over," said Jesse Ausubel, a programme manager at the U.S. Sloan Foundation which is a sponsor of the 10-year Census. Finds "are provocative for NASA and for people who are interested in life in places other than Earth." Among discoveries in 2006 were shrimps, clams and bacteria living by the searing 407C vent on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean north of Ascension Island, the hottest sea vent ever documented and more than hot enough to melt lead.

"This is the most extreme environment and there is plenty of life around it," said Chris German, of Southampton Oceanography Centre and a leader of the Atlantic survey. He said one big puzzle was how creatures coped with shifts in temperatures -- water on the seabed at 3,000 metres (9,842 ft) was just 2C yet many creatures withstood near-boiling temperatures of up to 80C from the thermal vent.


German said it was a bit like a person agreeing to live in a blistering sauna and be hosed at random with freezing water. Scientists had not yet probed how hardy the microbes nearest the hottest part of the vent were -- a type of bacteria called "Strain 121" found in the Pacific in 2003 holds the record by being able to withstand temperatures of 121 Celsius. And another expedition found crustaceans, jellyfish and single-celled animals living in darkness in the Weddell Sea off Antarctica under ice 700 metres thick and 200 km (125 miles) from open water. Most of those creatures were new to science.

"You can think of it as a cave, one of the remotest caves on earth," Ausubel said of findings by a robot camera. "Wherever we've gone on earth we've continued to find life," German said. He said recent discoveries could be encouraging for the search for life elsewhere in the universe.

Some experts speculate that Jupiter's moon Europa could hide an ocean beneath its frozen surface and Ausubel noted life has been found on Earth beside subsea methane seeps -- Saturn's moon Titan also has methane. And NASA said last week it had found signs of liquid water on Mars.

Among other 2006 finds by the census, due for completion in 2010, was a "Jurassic shrimp" in the Coral Sea east of Australia and previously thought extinct 50 million years ago. The biggest new species was probably a 1.8 kg (4 lb) rock lobster found off Madagascar. And a furry crab, also dubbed a "Yeti crab", was found off Easter Island. In the longest migration ever documented, census researchers tracked sooty shearwater birds on a 70,000 km flight sweeping round the Pacific in 200 days, an average 350 km a day.

· Master of Scaremonies
13,086 Posts
Giant squid caught

Certainly gives credence to all the mariners' stories about sea monsters...

Giant squid caught on video by Japanese scientists 5 minutes ago

Its mass of reddish tentacles flailing, a giant squid fought a losing battle to evade capture in a video unveiled by Japanese scientists on Friday.

Images of the squid -- a relatively small female about 3.5 metres (11 ft 6 in) long and weighing 50 kg (110 lb) -- were the ultimate prize for zoologists at the National Science Museum, who have been pursuing one of the ocean's most mysterious creatures for years.

"Nobody has ever seen a live giant squid except fishermen," team leader Tsunemi Kubodera of the museum's zoology department said in an interview on Friday. "We believe these are the first ever moving pictures of a giant squid."

Little was known until recently about the creature thought to have inspired the myth of the "kraken", a tentacled monster that was blamed by sailors for sinking ships off Norway in the 18th century.

Unconfirmed reports say giant squid can grow up to 20 metres long, but according to scientists they are unlikely to pose a threat to ships because they spend their lives hundreds of metres under the sea.

The Japanese research team tracked giant squid by following their biggest predators -- sperm whales -- as they gathered to feed near the Ogasawara islands, 1,000 km (620 miles) south of Tokyo between September and December.

They succeeded in taking the first still photographs of a living giant squid in 2005, observing that it moved around in the water more actively than previously thought, and captured food by entangling prey in its powerful tentacles.

The latest specimen, whose formalin-preserved carcass was displayed at a news conference at the museum in Tokyo, was caught on a baited hook laid 650 metres (2,150 ft) under the sea off the Ogasawara islands, on December 4, the scientists said.

A squid about 55 cm (21.65 inches) in length had been attracted by the bait and the giant squid was hooked when it tried to eat the smaller squid, the scientists said.


· Master of Scaremonies
13,086 Posts
It's crazy. As I said, you can see how the legends and myths concerning sea serpents, monsters and things like the Kraken originated.

The ancient legend of the Kraken

# Stories circulated as early as 1752 that a mile-long creature with tentacles stretching to the top of a ship's mast could be found off Norway

The squid, known as Kraken, could sink warships, eat crew and wrestle with sperm whales

Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem The Kraken, dedicated to the giant squid, opens: "Below the thunders of the upper deep / Far far beneath in the abysmal sea / His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep / The Kraken sleepeth"

The poem is thought to have influenced the description of the giant squid's lair in Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

It is suggested that Tolkien's character the Watcher in the Water in The Fellowship of the Ring was based on Tennyson's description

Squid the size of "floating islands" were once thought to have sank ten British warships that vanished in 1782

Source: Project Gutenberg; Encyclopaedia Brittanicaginated.
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