One of the most enduring cryptids for which nothing concrete has ever been proven, is that of the `Loch Ness Monster`.
Said to inhabit Loch Ness which is a deep, large, freshwater loch which extends for approximately 37 km (23 mi) southwest of Inverness.
The earliest recorded sighting was in the 6th century A.D when the Irish monk Saint Columba who was staying in the `land of the Picts` (Scotland) with his companions came across the locals burying a man by the River Ness.
They explained that the man had been swimming the river when he was attacked by a "water beast" that had mauled him and dragged him under. They tried to rescue him in a boat, but were able only to drag up his corpse.
Hearing this, Columba stunned the Picts by sending his follower Luigne moccu Min to swim across the river. The beast came after him, but Columba made the sign of the cross and commanded: "Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once."
The beast immediately halted as if it had been "pulled back with ropes" and fled in terror, and both Columba's men and the pagan Picts praised God for the miracle.
The monster was first brought to the world`s attention in 1933 when on July 22, when a George Spicer and his wife saw 'a most extraordinary form of animal' cross the road in front of their car.
They described the creature as having a large body (about 4 feet (1 m) high and 25 feet (8 m) long), and long, narrow neck, slightly thicker than an elephant's trunk and as long as the 10–12-foot (3–4 m) width of the road; the neck had a number of undulations in it.
They saw no limbs, possibly because of a dip in the road obscuring the animal's lower portion It lurched across the road towards the loch 20 yards (20 m) away, leaving only a trail of broken undergrowth in its wake.
From what had been previously seldom mentioned folklore, there suddenly began a rash of sightings firstly from August 1933 when a motorcyclist named Arthur Grant claimed to have nearly hit the creature while approaching Abriachan on the north-eastern shore, at about 1 am on a moonlit night.
Grant claimed that he saw a small head attached to a long neck, and that the creature saw him and crossed the road back into the loch. A veterinary student, he described it as a hybrid between a seal and a plesiosaur (See Dinsdale & Rines). Grant said he dismounted and followed it to the loch, but only saw ripples.
However some believe this story was intended as a humorous explanation of a motorcycle accident.
Its importance lies in the fact that it was the first photo and only photographic evidence of a “head and neck” – all the others are humps or disturbances. Dr. Wilson claimed he was looking at the loch when he saw the monster, so grabbed his camera and snapped five photos. After the film was developed, only two exposures were clear.
The first photo (the more publicised one) shows what was claimed to be a small head and back. The second one, a blurry image, attracted little publicity because it was difficult to interpret what was depicted. The image was revealed as a hoax in 1994.
Originally, the `monster` was crafted by a Christian Spurling, the son-in-law of Marmaduke Wetherell, a big game hunter who had been publicly ridiculed in the Daily Mail, the newspaper that employed him.
Spurling claimed that to get revenge, Marmaduke Wetherell committed the hoax, with the help of Chris Spurling (a sculpture specialist), his son Ian Marmaduke, who bought the material for the fake Nessie, and Maurice Chambers (an insurance agent), who would call to ask surgeon Robert Kenneth Wilson to offer the pictures to the Daily Mail as a joke.
In 1938, G.E. Taylor, a South African tourist, filmed something in the loch for three minutes on 16 mm colour film, which was in the possession of Maurice Burton. However, Burton refused to show the film to Loch Ness investigators (such as Peter Costello or the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau). A single frame was published in his book The Elusive Monster; before he retired. Roy P. Mackal, a biologist and cryptozoologist, declared the frame was "positive evidence".
In May 1943, C. B. Farrel of the Royal Observer Corps was supposedly distracted from his duties by a Nessie sighting. He claimed to have been about 250 yards (230 m) away from a large-eyed, 'finned' creature, which had a 20-to-30-foot (6 to 9 m) long body, and a neck that protruded about 4–5 feet (1.2–1.5 m) out of the water.
Sporadic land sightings continued until 1963, when film of the creature was shot in the loch from a distance of 4 Kilometers. Because of the distance it was shot at it has been described as poor quality.
In 1960, aeronautical engineer Tim Dinsdale filmed a hump crossing the water in a powerful wake unlike that of a boat.
In 1993 Discovery Communications made a documentary called Loch Ness Discovered that featured a digital enhancement of the Dinsdale film.
A computer expert who enhanced the film noticed a shadow in the negative that was not very obvious in the positive.
By enhancing and overlaying frames, he found what appeared to be the rear body, the rear flippers, and 1–2 additional humps of a plesiosaur-like body. He said that: "Before I saw the film, I thought the Loch Ness Monster was a load of rubbish. Having done the enhancement, I'm not so sure".
Several of the photographs, despite their obviously murky quality, did indeed seem to show an animal resembling a plesiosaur in various positions and lightings. One photograph appeared to show the head, neck and upper torso of a plesiosaur-like animal.
On 26 May 2007, Gordon Holmes, a 55-year-old lab technician, captured video of what he said was "this jet black thing, about 45 feet (14 m) long, moving fairly fast in the water." Adrian Shine, a marine biologist at the Loch Ness 2000 centre in Drumnadrochit, has watched the video and plans to analyse it. Shine also described the footage as among "the best footage ever seen."BBC Scotland broadcast the video on 29 May 2007.
STV News' North Tonight aired the footage on 28 May 2007 and interviewed Holmes. In this feature, Adrian Shine of the Loch Ness Centre was also interviewed and suggested that the footage in fact showed an otter, seal or water bird.
Holmes's credibility has been doubted by an article on the Cryptomundo website, which states that he has a history of reporting sightings of cryptozoological creatures, and sells a self-published book and DVD claiming evidence for fairies. His video also has no other objects for size comparison.
The Monster Quest team investigated this video as well in their TV episode "Death of Loch Ness", where they examine evidence that Nessie has died, as well as other photos. In this documentary, Holmes asserts he spotted two creatures.
In 2008, Rines theorised that the monster may have become extinct, citing the lack of significant sonar readings and a decline in eyewitness accounts.
Rines undertook one last expedition to look for remains of the monster, using sonar and underwater camera in an attempt to find a carcass. Rines believes that the creature may have failed to adapt to temperature changes as a result of `global warming`.
`Global warming` is an oft used excuse for cryptid research failings in the world of academia.
Despite numerous scans and surveys of the Loch, the `monster` is more of a money pit to researchers than a proven reality.
One of the obvious and most significant facts is that if the monster really existed as a surviving plesiosaur or similar, the creature would require a huge natural food larder than that presently available in the loch as 11 species of small lake fish.
A similar creature in size such as the predatory killer whale (Orcinus orca) requires regular and larger meals of seal meat as well as fish. Yet there is no evidence of loch-side animals being killed or taken.
Also, if the plesiosaur like creature genuinely existed there would have been a colony of such wild creatures showing up continually throughout history, and yet the presence of the monster is largely anecdotal with dubious catches on film or photo.
I for one would love to believe such a beast existed (at least) up until modern times, but I believe the Loch Ness Monster is more a `reality` to the imaginations of the tourist industry and tabloid newspapers who make money from every `sighting` of the `monster`.