For the past few days a major internet news story has circulated about a “Scottish sailor” who has captured “the best photograph yet” of the Loch Ness Monster. I was tempted to skip the link, as it is the most ho-hum image put on film since Herbert Hoover’s yearbook picture, but anyway, here you go. You could also spare yourself the trouble of pulling it up by just settling for this description – a floating, motionless lump, looking a lot like a plastic garbage bag, is shown from a distance of about half a mile. Oh, and that Scottish sailor who snapped the timeless picture is none other than the captain of the Nessie Hunter, a Loch Ness Monster tourism boat!
I generally do a Loch Ness Monster tribute every April 1st, in honor of the anniversary of the most famous photograph of the celebrated “cryptid.” That would be the so-called Surgeon’s Photograph, which after several decades was revealed to be a small plastic dinosaur mounted on a toy submarine. For now let me just run this brief summary of the Ness mystery: The whole thing started in 1933, with the enthusiastic promotion of one eccentric local. The so-called ancient sightings (St. Columba and all that) are untraceable. Loch Ness was a major tourist attraction in the 19th century, and not one mention of a giant monster was made in print in that century, or at any time before 1933. Loch Ness is too small to support a colony of whale-sized creatures. No dead Nessies have ever been found despite extensive dredging of the bottom, and no clear, close-up photos exist. Decades often pass between sightings. All kinds of mirage effects are found at the misty Loch, including otters, diving birds, and floating tree trunks.
There’s no Bigfoot, either.
What’s really funny is that new species are being discovered quite often these days! The deep diving robot that explores the ocean off Monterey Bay photographs new species almost every time it goes down. Numerous new species on land have been uncovered in recent years, including a gorgeous big cat in Indonesia called the “clouded leopard.”
What is interesting is that none of these creatures fit the profile of what cryptozoologists are looking for, and this says something about the psychology of these people.
Apparently, to trigger the enthusiasm of the cryptid hunters, a creature has to be something right out of a Hollywood monster movie. It needs to be colossal, preferably carnivorous or menacing, and it would help if it bore no resemblance to any other life form. Deep ocean critters are fine, but they would have to be able to make the journey to and from the high pressure depths, like the sperm whale does. A permanent resident of the abyss would hold limited interest, because it could never interact with human beings. To be a real monster of cryptozoology requires that an animal take part in a human storyline.
This gives short shrift to an awful lot of interesting creatures being discovered in our time, in the oceans and elsewhere. It also limits the cryptozoologists importance in the biological sciences (which is very nearly shrunken to the vanishing point anyway). Did cryptozoologists rejoice, or even notice, when in 2002 the “Gladiator” insect was discovered in Namibia? This living animal represents not a new species but a new order of insect, the first new order discovered among insects since 1915.
The new species that we are finding are small, simple life forms, like bugs and birds and sea jellies. The chances of a cryptozoological superstar turning up grow smaller every day. The fact is, there would be evidence of such a big, rampaging beast. Even if it lived in the oceans, we would be finding carcasses with bigger-than-shark-size bites taken out. Other measurable patterns of predation would be seen, too, by real biologists who study these things. Not to mention that there would eventually be some dead cryptids. None of this is happening.
Maybe someday a creature that is a Creature will surface from some Black Lagoon, and the cryptid buffs will have their moment of triumph. Unfortunately, it is more likely that the only real monster on Earth worthy of the name is homo sapiens.