Science has tended to cast some doubt on the question of whether some unknown type of creature lives in Loch Ness, the long, straight, deep lake running like a rip through the middle of Scotland. If a large unidentified creature does exist there today, it must have been living there since the last ice age, when the loch was open to the sea. Original estimates based on the environment said it was improbable that loch could sustain such a creature, but those estimates have had to be modified as we have gathered more data in the last thirty years or so.
Loch ness is a lake nearly 22 miles long, a mile wide, and at least 754' deep, running along a section of the `Great Glen`. Reports have bee made that soundings of as much as 975' in depth have been taken. The River Ness connects the Loch to the sea. The Loch is nearly pristine and has not been largely affected by human habitation or human technology. That meant the study of the Loch could yield information that was beneficial to science whether or not the study identified any creature living there, and a few scientists have taken the opportunity to do whatever research they could. Few scientists take the theory that a large, undiscovered lifeform lives in Loch Ness seriously, but they are quite willing to use the money to study the Loch when it becomes available.
Loch Ness is far from having the sole Loch to claim a large lifeform is living in it, since Loch Mhorag has had its tales of a monster as far back as anyone can tell. Loch Arkaig has its Lake Horse, and a similar creature has been reported seen in Loch Assynt and others. The most notable feature of the creature, other than its large size, is the head that looks similar to that of a horse.
There are several main factors that would affect the ability of a large lifeform to survive in the loch. Descriptions of the creature were generally the same, that of a creature between 40 and 45 feet long, having an undulating body with four large flipper-like appendages. We could gauge that such a creature would have to prey on the fish and would have to eat quite a lot per individual, since such a large body would require a lot of food.
Estimates were that about nine tons of fish available at any time in the loch. That would be about enough food to support about 42 large adult creatures based on average estimates of the amount of food necessary to support an active predator of that size. However, that numer was also the bare minimum of the number of creatures necessary to maintain a living gene pool. Since natural fluctuations would cause such a narrow balance to collapse from time to time, it seemed improbable that the loch could hold
such a creature for any length of time. Researchers also estimated that such a creature, if it exists, would probabably have had to remain in the loch since the last time it was open to the sea. Coupling all of that fact together, it appeared highly improbable that the creature could exist there.
An even stronger reason that some scientists felt the creature could not exist was based on the type and amount of evidence people presented to support the possibility. The creature rarely and randomly shows up, frightens a few locals and a tourist or two, then vanishes again. When people attempt to systematically investigate the deep waters of the loch, nothing can be found. No hard evidence outside of a few photographs and motion pictures has been presented. At least one of the major photographs has been found to have been faked, and another is strongly thought to have been. It is easy for a scientist to say that he or she doubts any factual data does exist to support the possibility of a large creature there. They feel, rightly so, that some person at some time should have been in the right position to get some definitive data, especially since so many people have been looking for so long. Yet no one has provided that data.
There has been a great deal of evidence supplied that could support the idea a large unidentified lifeform is living in the deeper waters of the loch, especially the sonar tracings that have been accumulated. Some of these seem to show the patterned behavior of such a creature, but such tracings can not be accepted as proof. At the same time, they should not be discounted. The point to the possibility that some large creature might be living in the Loch and we must figure out how to substantiate or disprove the theory that it suggests.
In the 1960's, it was estimated that about 9 tons of fish was available in Loch Ness, with salmon runs that temporarily increased the food supply. That was based on other deep lakes having a low bacteria supply. The loch is extremely deep, with an official depth of nearly 800 feet, and reported depths at times of over 900 feet. In studying the loch, scientists have learned a great deal because the loch is nearly pristine, and few lakes remain in that condition today.
When a scientist did an actual population sampling during the late 1970's, he found that there were a great deal more fish than the estimate predicted. He also found the reason; the bottom worms that would normally have hidden in the muddy bottom had mutated. Since the loch was so deep, the worms moved up, becoming free-floating at a level about the lower limit of the sunlight, at about the 100-foot depth. The fish conglomerated arond this rather vague layer and lived off of them. Because the worms proliferated, the fish were able to increase also. Since the actual amount of fish was adjusted to be nearly ten times what had been thought, meaning any creatures would find enough food to survive in large numbers.
The greatest amount of information that points to a large life form living in Loch Ness remains the many sightings reported. There are many sightings that predate the 20th century, however, the larger bulk comes from a time after the road around the Loch was completed in 1933. The road made the Loch much more accessible, and more people found themselves in the right place to get a glimpse of something mysterious. However, the sightings are problematic in many ways. The water in the Loch is normally calmer than the ocean surface, and the Loch is surrounded with high walls, creating shadows and reflections that complicate what the viewer sees. There are boats traveling up and down the loch, and the relative calm water tends to cause the wakes of these boats to have a much longer life than they would in the ocean, and to create long-lasting and mysterious ripple patterns. Atmospheric conditions had tend to distort things or make the viewers perception less distinct.
A few of the reported sightings might have been misperceptions of normal objects, however, it is difficult to believe that the bulk of them could be explained that way. If you catalog the many sightings, few of them do not have details that point to a large, animate creature that pushes through the water, rises its head and undulating back out of the water, and moves in directions that are against the prevailing wind. Many of the sightings are of a creature that they estimate to have been over 40' feet long, and it is difficult to define a natural phenomena that produces an affect of that size with the characteristics that I mentioned before.
Tim Dinsdale and Richard Raynor have produced the most important, factually based, sightings to date, not by reporting what they had seen, but by filming it. Tim Dinsdale filmed a creature swimming on 4/23/1960 near the mouth of the River Foyers, a popular place for sightings. The film has been analyzed three times, each time producing additional details that were not discernable by previous technology. The first analysis was done by Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Center (JARIC) in England, and the conclusion was that the object was animate, about 5 and a half feet wide, and moved at about 10 miles per hour (mph). The Navy analyzed the film and was able to identify an large, undulating body beneath the surface of the water. Richad Raynor shot his film on 6/13/1967. His film was also analyzed by JARIC and the creature was noted to have its head stuck at least 7' out of the water.
The loch is very deep, perhaps over 900' in depth at certain spots, but only the top 100' or so gets lighted to any degree. Where the light stops, the temperature goes down. That line, called the thermocline, separates the upper water (as high as 54 degrees F in the summer) from the lower section that is always about 42 degrees F.
Usually, the predatory creatures within an environment are concerned with their food supply and little else. You would expect such a large creature would not be overly concerned with human presence, either considering humans to be food or something in the background. Yet that is not what seems to be happening, if accounts are accurate. The creature must keep away from humans by design. Also, the creature must possess some means to sense humans and their technology. Attempts to get close to the large lumps on the floor of the loch or the large sonar objects resulted in the objects moving away from them.
From the relatively rare amount of sightings reported, usually by people who are not looking for it, we must assume that any large life form in Loch Ness does not come to the surface very often. Sonar sightings have shown large creatures moving from the floor of the Loch to the 100-foot level where the fish congregate and then back down, but no trips towards the surface. That sounds strange, or at least it did for a time. It was in the 1970's that a study found a corelation between the sightings of a creature and a natural surface activity; the sightings nearly always occur at the time and place of the salmon runs. That should not surprise anyone, since such a creature who lives off of fish could not resist a sudden surge of such delicious food. Such a correlation might identify why the creature is only seen rarely, but it does not explain other aspects.
Work with sonar-equipped boats in the loch have contributed a bunch of data concerning what might be happening in the depths. One of the first things noticed was the lumps that tended to show up on the floor of the loch, and they found the lumps moved. In one test, they would target a lump and send the mini-submarine that has been kept in Loch Ness to find out what the hump was. As the sub would approach the spot, the vicinity would be engulfed in a cloud of disturbed bottom mud and the sub would find nothing but a freshly disturbed spot on the muddy bottom. Most of the sonar tracings that showed large objects were found to have been moving between the bottom and the level of fish that can be found around the 100' level, indicating that any large lifeform there probably should be considered to be a bottom-dweller.
There is little proof of anything in that type of data, however, it does mean you can propose a theory that says the creatures, if they exist there, have some sort of sensing system that works at a much longer range than the sight allowed by the peat-filled water. It also meants that any creature that lives there must be very shy, keeping well away from anything that might prove a threat to it.
Based on the data we have, we can propose a creature exists there that preys on fish, loves salmon, is fairly sedate sleeping on the bottom for long periods, is shy (indicating some intelligence), and that has some sort of natural sensing system. It is possible such a creature could exist there, and it is a fact that no expedition or investigators so far have used technology that could find and capture such a creature. Perhaps before long, someone will.
There is one point that is very important and goes contrary to what most people would believe. Any large, predatory lifeform that lives in Loch Ness does not represent a known species. It must breathe water, but that does not assume that it would have been descended from fish. The Plesiasaur has been identified as a reasonable candidate, however the Plesiasaur breathed air, was only about 18-20 feet long, and had much short fins and perhaps a somewhat differently shaped body. If any creature in Loch Ness came from the Plesiasaur, there has been a lot of changes in the last 65 million years. If the creature does not breath air, which seems likely if it exists at all, the question of how it got into the Loch becomes important, since the Loch was part of the ocean about 11,000 years ago, and was filled with fresh water someone after it became separated. The creature would have had to have changed from a saltwater aquatic environment to a freshwater one in a very short time.
If the flipper shot taken from within the Loch is not a fraud, it shows an extremely important detail, since the flipper has a rib along the center of the fin width. Such a fin is not efficient for propulsion, and it is different from the fins that plesiasaurs had. It is difficult to define a model that would explain how such a fin would be used by the creature, however, propulsion could come from the tail and the fins might be used in some bottom-living activity. It is not something that has an easy explanation.
Howevever, if it is not something like a modified plesiasaur, what might it be? There are no other, reasonable candidates. The composite model of descriptions made within the last 100 years or so points to a body something like you would expect a plesiasaur to have, but not a body that you find anywhere else. The combination of elongated fins with an undulating body and long neck culminating in a small, horse-like head would seem familiar to many readers, but where did it come from? What animals might have provided the model the monster might be based on? We do not have a good answer.
Asking people how they feel about the elusive creature and you usually get one of the two extremes, either they feel strongly that something is there or just as strongly that nothing can be. However, the question has no answer at this point; no one had done anything to conclusively answer the question of whether some large lifeform is surviving in Loch Ness. Not one of the methods used to investigate Loch Ness has had the ability to find all of the potential life forms that might exist there.
The question of a large life form in Loch Ness is far from answered. It is a possibility, but it also far from proven. The three times that the motion picture shot by Tim Dinsdale in 1963 has been analyzed have brought out details that could never have been placed there by fraud. That supports the idea a creature exists. The correlation of the sightings on the surface to the salmon runs in time and place supports the same idea. However, that is not proof. The rarity of the sightings and the seemingly shy nature of
the creature towards humans seems to support the theory that no creature does exist.
Perhaps someday, a scientist or investigator will develop a method to properly investigate Loch Ness and will gather data to finally answer whether an unknown large lifeform exists there. Until then, the mystery remains very real. The question is truly a scientific one, and one that must be answered at some point.
Does some body of evolved creature from the distant past live in the depths of Loch Ness? At this point, no one can say for sure. The questions remain.