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Loch Ness is one of a series of interconnected, murky lakes in Scotland that were carved by glaciers during previous ice ages. Quite large and deep, it features exceptionally low water visibility due to a high peat content in the surrounding soil. Rumours of a monster or animal living in the loch have been circulating for at least several centuries, although to date there has been no convincing evidence to that effect. Many local inhabitants still argue strongly for its existence. Some skeptics suggest that this may be because the rumours of 'Nessie' underpin local folklore and the tourism industry.
Most accounts of the monster's appearance, including historical ones, indicate a creature with a striking resemblance to the long-extinct plesiosaur. Actual fossil evidence for this prehistoric creature shows it to have been physically large, with a long neck and tiny head, and flippers for propulsion. The alleged connection of this creature with the Loch Ness monster has made it a popular topic in the field of cryptozoology. However, most scientists suggest that the idea that it is a remnant of the prehistoric era is not plausible - there would need to be a breeding colony of such creatures for there to have been any long-term survival, and this would result in far more frequent sightings than have actually been reported. Many biologists also note that the lake simply isn't large or productive enough to support even a small family of these creatures.
The majority of other theories as to the exact nature of the Loch Ness monster are considerably less sensational. The sighting of disturbances in the water caused by seals, fish, logs, mirages, and light distortion, crossing of boat wakes, or unusual wave patterns have all been proposed. Very large sturgeon have been found in inland streams close to Loch Ness and, due to sturgeons' size and unusual appearance, one could easily be mistaken for a monster by someone not familiar with it. A recent theory postulates that the 'monster' is actually nothing more than bubbling and disruptions in the water caused by minor volcanic activity at the bottom of the loch. This latter argument is supported (to a minor degree) by the correlation between tectonic motion and reported sightings.
While 'monster' sightings have occurred as far back as 1,500 years ago, documented descriptions of 'Nessie' exist as far back as October 1871, where 'D. Mackenzie' described seeing something that moved slowly before moving off at speed. People who saw 'the monster' described it as having a hump (sometimes more than one) that looked like an upturned boat.
The first modern sighting occurred on May 2, 1933. The newspaper Inverness Courier carried a story of a local couple who reportedly saw "an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface." The report of the "monster" (a title chosen by the editor of the Courier) became a media sensation, with London papers sending reporters to Scotland and a circus even offering a reward of £20,000 for capture of the monster.
Later that year, A.H. Palmer, who allegedly witnessed 'Nessie' on August 11, 1933, at 7am, described the creature as having its head set low in the water, which they saw it from the front view. Its mouth, which had a width of between 12 and eighteen inches, was opening and closing, its opening size being speculated as approximately six inches.
The modern preoccupation with the Loch Ness Monster was aroused by a photograph allegedly taken by surgeon RK Wilson on April 19, 1934, which seemed to show a large creature with a long neck gliding through the water. Decades later on March 12, 1994, Marmaduke Wetherell[?] admitted to staging the photo after being hired by the Daily Mail to track down Nessie (the photo had by that time, been printed worldwide as 'absolute evidence'). Wetherell also stated that Wilson did not take the photo and his name was only used to give added credibility to the photo. The year before another conspirator, Christian Spurling, made a death-bed confession to helping with the hoax. However, many other photographs were taken by others, and some have been authenticated by independent sources as untampered-with images (Wilson's famous photo was also not tampered with). All show a similar image of what appears to be a large creature with a long neck, usually photographed from a considerable distance. (Video 'evidence' has also been produced, though as much of it is out of focus, its reliability is questioned.) A film crew in August 1997 recorded some sort of 'fast object' moving rapidly across the loch.
A television documentary in the 1990s broadcast in Britain sought to find 'Nessie'. Though the film crew recorded for a number of weeks, no 'monster' was found. However, sonar equipment brought by the film makers and scientists and which was used to scan every inch of the loch to 'disprove' Nessie's existence, did show some movement of a large body at the lowest depths of the lake. Scientists admitted themselves puzzled as to the sonar readings, which suggested that something was in the lake. But what that something was remains a mystery, though one scientist involved in the programme indicated that, having started off believing there was nothing in the loch and that the 'monster' was just a 'tourist gimmick', he left believing that something is there, and that it seems to be some form of exceptionally large mammal able to swim at surprisingly low levels.
Regardless of what, if anything, is actually in the loch, the Loch Ness monster has some significance for the local economy. Dozens of hotels, boating tour operators, and merchants of stuffed animals and related trinkets owe part of their livelihood to this monster although people visit the loch for many reasons other than to see the monster. Hence the legend is likely to endure for quite some time.
A similar creature, "Champ", has been reported in Lake Champlain in the United States. Ogopogo[?] in British Columbia's Lake Okanagan[?] is another, and the most well-known example of a multitude of such obscure monsters in Canada -- NaDene Indian mythology is replete with lake creatures, and many of these have been picked up by European-descended settlers.