The origins of the legendary Nessiteras rhombopteryx (‘Ness inhabitant with diamond-shaped fin’ in Greek), so named by the naturalist Sir Peter Scott, hark back to the 6th century BC.
The famous monster first appeared during the year 565 BC in the giant Loch Ness, a freshwater lake in the Scottish Highlands.
It was said to be an Irish monk on an evangelisation mission that saw the monster for the first time. According to the legend, he managed to send the monster away simply by making the sign of the cross.
Clearly terrified by the monk, the monster didn’t make a reappearance until 1369 years later – an apparition immortalised by the London doctor Robert Wilson and then relayed in the English press in the Daily Mail. But it was an elaborate hoax – the monster which appeared in the doctor’s photo was nothing more than a toy…
In the decades which followed, despite Wilson’s confession and the discovery of the hoax, the rush of testimonies continued and didn’t show any sign of stopping!
The world believed it: the Loch Ness monster existed, the evidence was there.
We decided to investigate ourselves, on the ground, for Ap. D Connaissances…
Stretching to over 200m deep, the Loch Ness is intimidating. And very cold. A monster could definitely hide in these troubled waters.
When we arrived at the shore, at the beginning of our investigation, a strange coloured caravan attracted our attention; a sign underneath read ‘NessieHunter.com’.
Steve Feltham was its proud owner. Passionate about the monster since childhood, he had abandoned his routine and peaceful family life in 1991, in favour of heading for the shores of the loch.
He has not moved since. He observes and scrutinises the lake with powerful binoculars, waiting for ‘Nessie’. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the chance to approach him during our visit in July; he was too busy filming a documentary with a television crew in his caravan.
To make his living, he makes little figurines of the monster with modelling clay and sells them in their droves to tourists who, each year, gather at the 56.4km2 lake.
All around in fact, we came across Bed & Breakfasts, souvenir shops, exhibitions… in the shops, Nessie is for sale as soft toys of all sizes, keyrings, mugs, hats, t-shirts…
The area around Loch Ness is, of course, very touristy. Boat tours even offer holiday-makers the opportunity to survey the lake with underwater cameras, for a few dozen pounds!
But this did not compromise the wild and magnificent setting, which was conducive to us seeing some little-known monsters in the middle of the calm waters.
Fulfilling our role as journalists-cum-investigators-cum-tourists, we made our way for the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre, in the unpronounceable town of Drumnadrochit, to continue our research.
The exhibition rooms analysed the myth of the Loch Ness monster with several films and animations, and the numerous testimonies were deconstructed. The rare images of this fabulous animal often have an explanation…
What if, in fact, the monster was nothing more than a piece of wood, or perhaps a seal? And what if the waves that it created at the surface were what in fact resulted in the movement of boats? And what if the mysterious bubbles that were sighted were just natural gas produced by decomposing shrubbery?
It is important to note that many research projects were devised by scientists, to try to distinguish fact from fiction.
On five occasions between 1954 and 1972, surveys were completed using sonar, a detection instrument which uses soundwaves for tracking, localisation and identification of underwater objects.
Eight of these surveys were deemed ‘positive’ – a strange echo had indeed come from the mysterious lake.
Upon leaving the exhibition centre, the natural history of the Loch and its depths were no longer secret to us. We decided, reader, to conclude the investigation by affirming that the Loch Ness monster exists. She’s just shy.
So, is this a mysterious Jurassic plesiosaurus, a giant snake, a huge sturgeon? It’s a mystery of crypto-zoology, and it’s up to you whether you believe in Nessie or not.
And if this short report leaves you curious, take a trip to the Highlands yourself.
Because even without its famous monster, Scotland is home to many more riches, and is the home of several other legends…
‘Nessie has enabled me to live this glorious life and I am living proof that it is possible to follow your dream. […] It’s not the length of life that is important – it’s the width of life, the amount of adventures that you can squeeze into any given year. That’s what matters.’ Steve Feltham, in the magazine Scottish Field.
Translated by Jenny Frost