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The Hunt for Lake Monsters

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WHAT THEY ARE

No one knows for sure what these creatures are - or even that they really exist. Like UFOs, there are many sightings, but no definitive proof. And, like UFOs, many of those sightings are probably misidentified natural phenomena. Large logs, unusual wave patterns, and even other animals like otters have been mistaken for the monsters. And when it comes to photographic evidence, the parallels to the UFO phenomenon continue: there have been many hoaxes as well as many tantalizing examples that are not easily dismissed.

For cryptozoologists - researchers who study and hunt for such unknown, legendary, or supposedly extinct creatures - and others who believe the animals are real, the consensus seems to be that the Loch Ness Monster, and perhaps many of her cousins that fit the same description, is a plesiosaur. Plesiosaurs roamed the oceans of the world during the late Triassic period (about 213 million years ago) to the Cretaceous period, dying out when all other dinosaurs did about 65 million years ago. As far as science knows, none have survived. Yet it's certainly possible that some have.

WHY ARE THEY SO ELUSIVE?

For a creature like the Loch Ness Monster to have survived in the lake for so long, there obviously must be more than one. The animal cannot be a 65 million-year-old plesiosaur. There must be enough of them to breed in order to continue their lineage for all these millions of years. Scientists theorize that there would have to be between 20 and 100 or more animals to be able to survive. And although most of the lakes in which the creatures are sighted are deep, with this many creatures, it's surprising that they are not seen more often.

Why aren't they? In an article for Strange Magazine called Rogue Nessie, Kurt Burchfiel speculates that the loch may actually only contain one or so animals - that they occasionally may enter the loch from the ocean as juveniles, feed, get too large to leave, and live out their lives there. Another reason they elude detection is that they may simply be hiding. New Loch Ness Mystery describes how George Edwards of the Auxiliary Coast Guard discovered a huge underwater cavern in Loch Ness. Edwards suspects that the cavern could be part of a large network of caves where dozens of Nessies could live.

We may be closing in on these sea serpents. The proliferation of home video cameras increases the chances that conclusive photographic proof for one or more of these animals will appear. And with more explorations taking place using high-tech equipment, like this month's in Sweden, we may finally get the evidence for the reality of these great creatures.

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