Dr Chris Jones is a research scientist at a natural history museum in London. As a biologist and historian, she is fascinated by the famous Loch Ness Monster. Here she is interviewed about Nessie.
Interviewer: To begin with, could you tell us a bit about the background to the monster story? What is Loch Ness, and where is it?
Dr Jones: "Loch" is the Scottish word for "lake". Loch Ness is a big freshwater lake in north central Scotland. It is a very interesting shape for a lake because it long and narrow. Loch Ness is thirty-five kilometres long, and in places it is two hundred and thirty metres deep. It goes down a long way, the perfect place for a gigantic water creature to live and hide. Because of its deepth, Loch Ness is, in fact, the largest freshwater lake in Great Britain.
Interviewer: When did stories about a monster in the lake first appear?
Dr Jones: Reports of a mysterious creature living in Loch Ness go back to the seventh century AD. A document written by a local monk tells of a man who was swimming in the lake when he was attacked by a beast that dragged him under the water. Fishermen tried to recue him in a boat, but they were able only to fish out his corpse.
Interviewer: Has the creature been seen recently?
Dr Jones: There were lots of sightings last century. In the 1930s, there were several reported sightings, and photographs of the monster were actually taken.
Dr Jones: On the 22nd of July, 1933, a man called George Spicer and his wife were travelling on the road that runs along the banks of Loch Ness. Suddenly they saw a gigantic creature cross the road in front of their car and head for the lake.
Interviewer: Did they get a good look?
Dr Jones: They did indeed. The Spicers described the monster as having a large body and a long, narrow neck, slightly thicker than an elephant’s trunk. They couldn’t see any limbs or feet. The creature lurched across the road and down into the water.
Interviewer: That must have been frightening.
Dr Jones: It was. Mrs Spicer was terrified. A month later, a motorcyclist called Arthur Grant saw a similar creature cross the road into the loch, but Grant saw a small head attached to the long neck.
Interviewer: Did any of those people get a photo?
Dr Jones: No. The most famous photograph of the Loch Ness Monster was taken five years later, in 1938. A doctor was admiring the lake when he saw the long neck and head of a creature heave out of the water. He grabbed his camera and snapped five shots. When the film was developed, one of the exposures clearly showed the back, neck and head of some sort of sea creature.
Interviewer: Have you seen this photo?
Dr Jones: Yes. You can easily find it online. Also in 1938, a South African tourist filmed something in the lake for three minutes on sixteen millimetre film. It isn’t clear if this was a creature, but there is definitely something there in the water. And in 1960, a tourist filmed a hump cutting through the water leaving waves behind it.
Interviewer: That was fifty years ago. Anything more recent?
Dr Jones: Yes. In 2007, a lab technician captured video of what he described as "this jet black thing, about 14 metres long, moving fairly fast in the water." This is some of the best footage we have so far of the creature.
Interviewer: Do you believe that a monster does exist in Loch Ness?
Dr Jones: I keep an open mind on the subject. Many people over the years have claimed they’ve seen a dragon-like or a prehistoric creature in or around Loch Ness. We cannot discount these accounts until we get more evidence. The locals around Loch Ness have nicknamed the monster "Nessie", and always refer to the creature as female. Look for photos of her online and see what you think. Is there a monster in Loch Ness or not? Are you there, Nessie?