Bob Shell: The Loch Ness Monster

AI rendering of Loch Ness Monster mythology
Loch Ness Monster. Rendering by AI.

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2024


Loch Ness Monster


I like to watch ‘History’s Greatest Mysteries’ on the History Channel. They usually do a pretty good job in their research. But, not so for the program about the Loch Ness Monster. This program was poorly researched. In my original career I was a zoologist. I’ve been interested in cryptids, unknown creatures since the 1960s. In around 1965 I read the seminal book ‘On the Track of Unknown Animals’ by Bernard Heuvelmans. That book really captured my attention, and spurred a lifelong interest in the subject. 

Interestingly, some of the animals in the book that were unknown at the time, some are now known, and some can even be seen in zoos. 

The Loch Ness creature has been of particular interest to cryptozoologists since reports of it go back at least 1,500 years. The ‘dragon’ that Saint George killed may have been one of these animals. 

In the 1960s a researcher named Tim Dinsdale got a 16mm film of an animal swimming rapidly away across the lake. You can clearly see the animal’s big front flippers churning up the water as it swims rapidly across the lake. Later he had a man take a powerboat across the lake to allow comparison. They’re obviously very different. To date Dinsdale’s film is some of the best evidence for an unknown animal in Loch Ness. 

In the early 1970s, as I recall, Dr. Harold ‘Doc’ Edgerton designed special underwater camera equipment and powerful electronic flash equipment to penetrate the murky water of Loch Ness, which is stained by peat. Visibility is limited to a foot or two. 

Now, Doc Edgerton wasn’t just anybody. He was the inventor of electronic flash. And he designed the special flash equipment to penetrate the murky water in his lab at MIT. 

The expedition using Edgerton’s equipment got several amazing photographs. One shows a large rhomboid flipper and the side of a very large animal. Another photo shows the head, neck, and front of the body. The head looks somewhat like a horse’s head. This fits with eyewitness descriptions that say the head looks like a horse’s or sheep’s. 

Why didn’t the TV program show Dinsdale’s film or Edgerton’s photos? Could it be that their researchers are too young to know about them? 

The program did devote time to a Swedish study that sampled water from Loch Ness and analyzed the DNA found there. They found DNA from many species, but also a significant amount of unknown DNA. Certainty they ought to have been able to determine what the unknown DNA was in broad strokes. For example, was it from a mammal, a reptile, a fish? That should have been possible to determine. 

One important point has been missed by every TV report and book I’ve seen on the subject. The Loch Ness creature and those from other large lakes are reported to undulate vertically. Because of the structure of their vertebrae, reptiles and fish undulate horizontally, not vertically. Mammals alone undulate vertically. That’s why fish and the extinct ichthyosaurs have vertical tails, while dolphins and whales have their flukes horizontal. Watch videos of fish and dolphins swimming. Fish move side to side, dolphins up and down. I would argue that what lives in Loch Ness is an unknown mammal that has resulted from convergent evolution to look like a plesiosaur. 

Dr. Heuvelmans also wrote the best books on the great sea serpent. The Loch Ness creature and other similar lake monsters are only found in lakes with connections to oceans. In the case of Loch Ness, the loch is connected to the North Sea by the River Ness, so the creatures could be migratory, like the eels that breed in Loch Ness then migrate to the sea. Animals looking like Nessie have been seen by fishermen around Scotland and the Hebrides. 

Gavin Maxwell, who wrote the great book ‘Ring of Bright Water’ and its sequels, tells of his sighting of an unknown creature while he ran a shark fishery off the island of Soay. This animal rose silently from the water, a horse-like head atop a long, slender neck. The animal stared at him for a few moments with very large eyes, then sank straight down and disappeared. These animals, whatever they may be, seem able to change their buoyancy, to surface or sink without disturbing the surface of the water. 

About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 15th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, link here:


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