It’s been eighty six years since one of the world’s most popular urban legends was popularized. Nessie, better known as the Loch Ness Monster, was spotted on April 14 1933 by Aldie Mackay, who at the time was a manager for the Drumnadrochit Hotel. Mackay originally reported seeing a “whale-like fish” in the Loch. Alex Campbell, a part-time journalist at the time, recorded the sighting in the Inverness Courier, under the headline: “Strange Spectacle in Loch Ness” and thus a legend was born.
Aldie Mackay’s story is one that is known across the globe, and has greatly contributed to the tourism market in Scotland. To this day thousands of individuals visit the famous Loch in hopes of getting a glimpse at this “monster” that may or may not be there. In fact, every year on the anniversary of the siting, groups of monster enthusiasts take a boat out on the famous lake and have a glass of whiskey in honor of Mackay’s iconic “discovery”.
Monster buffs and legend lovers alike aren’t the only demographics that are fascinated by this mysterious monster supposedly living among us, but scientists as well. All throughout the past eighty six years people have made claims to see the mythical beast. According to LochNessSightings.com there have been an estimated 1131 recorded sightings of the Loch Ness Monster so far. The website has been busy documenting every sighting and picture of the creature, and currently in 2019 the website claims that there have been fourteen recorded sightings, but many consist of distant pictures or sonar recordings.
Scientists have been very intrigued by this, and decided to step in to do their own research. Even with all of the recorded sightings being blurry and distant specs, the universal consensus from almost all of those 1131 recordings is that something was seen that these people have never seen before.
This past week, a group of international scientists met in London to deeply analyze and experiment with this theory. The group was led by Professor Neil Gemmell of the University of Otago, New Zealand, and with his help the team collected over 250 environmental DNA samples from the Loch in which Nessie supposedly has been growing old for the past 80+ years.
Environmental DNA basically means the team collected a bunch of water samples and were able to use all those samples to analyze for creature DNA. Scientists often do this when exploring new pieces of the natural world in order to gage the total population and range of species it can support.
The first thing they were looking for is the DNA of a prehistoric amphibious dinosaur known as the Plesiosaurus (see image), which has been the number one theory of what Nessie actually could be based on the extreme similarity in look and size as witness statements.
Unfortunately, Gemmell reported that they “couldn’t find any evidence of a creature that’s remotely related to that in our environmental-DNA sequence data.”
After days of collection and deep analysis, the team was able to reach some conclusions about the potential genetic makeup of Nessie, and a possible explanation for this “monster.”
“So there’s no shark DNA in Loch Ness based on our sampling. There is also no catfish DNA or any evidence of sturgeon [a large lake fish that’s very prehistoric looking] either. There is a very significant amount of eel DNA. Eels are very plentiful in Loch Ness, with eel DNA found at pretty much every location sampled – there are a lot of them. Our data doesn’t reveal their size, but the sheer quantity of the material says that we can’t discount the possibility that there may be giant eels in Loch Ness. Therefore we can’t discount the possibility that what people see and believe is the Loch Ness Monster might be a giant eel” says Gemmell in his interview with BBC News.
Other explanations that have come about throughout the years include giant pieces of driftwood floating in the middle of the body of water, and circus elephants from back in the early 20th century who were able to swim in the lake whenever the carnival was in town. As you can see by the left image an elephants trunk sticking above the water is very similar to the photographs taken of Nessie.
The reality is, nothing is 100% confirmed in regards to an explanation of what the Loch Ness monster is. Gemmell ended his interview by saying that even though we might have a better explanation now based on the DNA evidence, we’ll never really know for sure unless we all witness it ourselves, so until then, the legend of Miss Nessie lives on.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.