Has science solved the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster?

An Italian geologist believes that he has the answer to the enduring mystery of the Loch Ness Monster. According to him, the answer isn't biological, but geological, and the reports of the monster can all be traced to a fault line that runs underneath the lake.

There have been accounts of some kind of creature around Loch Ness for centuries, with the earliest going back around 1,300 years (now available online as of 2012). Modern sightings started in 1933, with reports of motorists seeing it crossing the road near the lake (and one almost hitting it), and this is when the first photographic evidence started showing up as well.

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The blurry photos that have surfaced over the years, and even the film and video footage that's been captured, can be explained by floating logs, other animals (like otters or fish), and even as hoaxes. Some of the more compelling evidence, though, has been sonar sightings, as expeditions to find the creature have pinged sound waves through the lake water that returned images of what could be a large object moving under the lake's surface.

However, Italian geologist Luigi Piccardi — who specializes in using geology to explain myths and historical events — believes that there's another explanation for these sonar sightings as well. Back in 2000, he published a paper linking the Oracle at Delphi to an active fault that runs directly under the temple of Apollo there, and he says that the tales of the Loch Ness Monster are also linked to a fault line, called the Great Glen Fault, that runs right along the bottom of Loch Ness.

So, has Piccardi solved the mystery?

Apparently the earliest accounts have mentioned tremors before and after seeing the monster. Tremors in underwater fault lines can cause clusters of bubbles to suddenly form and rise to the surface, and sonar signals can bounce off these clusters just as they would a solid object. The tremors can also set up waves through the water that can cause anything that happens to be floating in or on the water (bubbles, logs, debris, etc) to move along at a pretty good pace. That would certainly account for sightings of fast moving objects in and on the lake (and even ones that can keep up with a motorboat).

Also, the original account was of a man who was apparently dragged under the water by a monster as he was swimming in the lake. If that man swam right into a cluster of bubbles, which would have a lower density than the water around it, there wouldn't be enough force from the water to keep him afloat and his own weight would have pulled him below the surface.

The seismic fault line isn't even the only possibly scientific explanation for these events, as a seiche (pronounced "saysh") — a persistent sloshing back and forth of the lake water that can be caused by earthquakes but is more commonly due to wind — could account for them as well.

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Will these scientific explanations deter people from believing in Nessie? Not likely. The legend persists and Nessie isn't even the only 'lake monster' legend out there.

There are many such stories from around the world, and Canada alone has had reports of many different lake monsters, in bodies of water from British Columbia to Newfoundland. Some are hoaxes or clearly just made up stories. Several have become persistent legends, though. A creature named Ogopogo apparently lives in BC's Okanagan Lake. There are similar tales of a monster called Manipogo that supposedly hangs out in Lakes Manitoba and Lake Winnipegosis, and another called Igopogo (or Kempenfelt Kelly) that lives in Lake Simcoe. Muskrat Lake, northwest of Ottawa, is apparently home to another sea monster named Mussie.

These 'monsters' are all (at least the ones that haven't been shown to be hoaxes) similar to the tales from around Loch Ness, so it's possible that phenomena like fault lines and seiches (along with floating logs and other debris) may account for these kinds of sightings as well.

As for the legends themselves, since we all love a good monster story, those will likely continue, regardless of what science has to say about it.

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