A New Explanation for Loch Ness Monster?

ByABC News
June 27, 2001, 11:45 AM

L O N D O N, June 27 -- The legend of Scotland's Loch Ness Monster is getting a good shakedown.

The elusive plesiosaur known as "Nessie," who is said to have first appeared in Britain's largest lake 13 centuries ago, may be nothing more than an illusion caused by earthquakes, according to an Italian scientist.

Luigi Piccardi, a geologist at the Italian National Research Center, presented his theory today at the Earth Systems Processes conference in Edinburgh.

Piccardi deduced that seismic activity in the Great Glen Fault, which runs underneath Loch Ness, releases gas bubbles, resulting in a violent commotion on the water surface. That commotion, says Piccardi, could be mistaken for sightings of Nessie.

A Small Sample of Reports

Although there are more than 3,000 known reports of Nessie sightings, Piccardi analyzed fewer than 40 of those incidents.

"When you look at the reports of people who saw the monster, they say we heard a great noise, saw a large commotion in the water, and that the waves rocked," says Piccardi. "They say we couldn't see the beast because the water hid the creature. The usual sighting is humps moving in the lake and normal waves, which can be related to the seismic effect."

Even the earliest account of the monster, from the seventh-century Life of St. Columba, pointed to an earthquake as the source, according to Piccardi. While walking along the shore of Loch Ness, the saint, who warded off the monster by "forming the saving sign of the cross in the air," experienced strong shaking.

But Piccardi will have a hard time swaying the staunchest Nessie-believers. Gary Campbell, president of the Loch Ness Monster Fan Club in Inverness, Scotland, disputes Piccardi's findings.

"Most of the sightings involve foreign objects coming out of the water. There's two most common one's a hump, and the other is a head and neck," says Campbell. "At the end of the day, there's still sightings that are inexplicable. There's something physical in there."