An exploration of our Earth's ever-captivating fauna through musings on the bizarre side of Zoology, Cryptozoology, Paleontology, and Paleoanthropology

Sunday, April 14, 2013

80th Anniversary of Famous 1933 'Loch Ness Monster' Sighting

On April 14, 1933 Mrs. Aldie Mackay and her husband allegedly saw a large animal thrashing about in Loch Ness while driving along the road to Iverness. The animal was allegedly "whale-like" in the way that it was a monstrous animal, and it's body was described as black with water rolling off of it. This sighting has been widely regarded as the first modern day sighting of what has come to be known as the "Loch Ness Monster". It is also regarded as the sighting which set off the wide international interest in this legendary animal. Today marks the 80th anniversary of the sighting, and as news websites have been spreading theories about the origin of the legend, I have decided to share my own opinion on what the "Loch Ness Monster" sightings entailed. I think the most likely explanation for the alleged sightings of unidentified animals in Loch Ness are misidentifications of known animals such as large eels, seals, swimming deer, sturgeon, and basking sharks. However, if an unknown animal species was behind some of the sightings, I think that it was most likely a species or subspecies of elongate and long necked pinniped (a member of the genus which includes seals, sea lions, and walruses). In fact, many sightings mentioned hair, a mane, ears, and a bulky body similar to a pinniped. Intriguingly, a species of fossil seal from the Pliocene known as Acrophoca has been described as having an elongate neck and skull and being serpentiform in body shape. While it is unlikely that unknown animals behind "Loch Ness Monster" reports are relict Acrophoca, this does prove that physically elongate seals did exist in the past. Several noted cryptozoological researchers like Bernard Heuvelmans and Loren Coleman have also suggested this theory for lake monsters around the world before me. Although I think this is the most likely explanation for an unknown animal in the loch, I do feel that most sightings are misidentifications of known species (possibly abnormal specimens of known species at times).
Illustrations of what an elongated pinniped may look like
As for the sighting by Mrs. Mackay, I think this photograph of a walrus rolling in the water illustrates that a large species of pinniped could account for the sighting (if she actually saw an unknown animal rather than a known animal) and other "Loch Ness Monster" sightings.

References:

  •  Coleman, Loren, and Patrick Huyghe. The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep. New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2003. Print.

10 comments:

  1. Um, no dice on Acrophoca. Acrophoca is a mediocre fossil seal with a whole lot of hype. The neck is no more than a foot long and it belong to the shorter-necked bunch of seals. Seals are really out of the question for having a really long neck because they, like all other placental mammals, have only seven neck vertebrae no matter how long the neck is. That holds true for both mice and giraffes. Giraffes have long necks made out of seven very elongated vertebrae and the necks are actually fairly stiff with little range of motion: giraffes have trouble getting their heads down to drink water and then back up again. Im afraid if people are actually seeing creatures with necks like Plesiosaurs, Plesiosaurs are nearly their only available option open. And I have told that to Heuvelmans, Sanderson and Coleman, too: none of them ever had an answer to that part. And I believe I told you that part also.
    Best Wishes, Dale D.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Mr. Drinnon. I thought it was established that plesiosaurs had stiff necks though. But you do have very good arguments on this one, I just have trouble with the idea that a population of plesiosaurs could survive without leaving many fossils and account for some of the features being reported. But I haven't researched the Loch Ness monsters for years, so I may just not know something.

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  2. A 150 million year old plesiosaur fossil was found in Loch Ness 10 years ago.

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    1. It is debatable whether it was actually from Loch Ness deposits or not

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  3. OK Jay, I have addressed both problems on my blog. From the blog entries you should be made aware of two things: A) Postcretaceous plesiosaur fossils have been alleged almost as long as Plesiosaur fossils have been known. Several examples are known from the USA. They are found in association with both Archareocetes and more frecent cetaceans (dolphins). It is not a problem that they do not exist, it is a matter that they are not accepted. B) not all plesiosaur necks were the same which is a fact that should be self-evident. Different lengths of necks almost automatically translate to different degrees of flexibility. And the same critera for inflexibilty cannot be stated to carry across different lines of Plesiosaurs. So that saying "All plesiosaurs had stiff necks" is certainly very simplistic. Plesiosaur vertebral discs in cross section have about the same shape as human vertebral discs in cross section and yet you never hear people asserting humans had to have stiff backs.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

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  4. Aren't many loch ness monster sightings made at close range ( making misidentification of known animals and inanimate objects unlikely?)

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    1. Hello Joe. Actually, when I made that comment to you, I was referring to "sea serpent" sightings. I really don't know much about the context of alleged "Loch Ness Monster" sightings.

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  5. I believe certain sightings of lake monsters have occurred at close range, such as Mr. John Maclean's 1938 sighting at loch ness.

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  6. You can read more about such sightings at Tony harmsworth's loch ness information website.

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  7. I also reccomend the revised and updated edition of Paul Harrison's The Encyclopedia of the Loch Ness Monster.

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