The first recorded sighting of the Loch Ness Monster dates all the way back to 565 A.D. when a writer named Adomnan recounted a tale about Saint Columba coming upon local residents burying a man near River Ness. According to the tale Adomnan recounted, the man had died as a result of being attacked by a “water beast” from the loch. Later, in the 1870s, the first modern sighting of the Loch Ness Monster was reported by a man named D. Mackenzie, though his report wouldn’t see publication until decades later.
The Loch Ness Monster really grew to fame in the 1930s, with multiple sightings popping up throughout the decade, culminating in what is perhaps the most famous image of the supposed monster to date, the famed “Surgeon’s Photograph.”
This image was taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson (who was actually a gynecologist, but newspapers probably didn’t want to print a “Gynecologist’s Photograph”). For decades, the image served as proof of “Nessie’s” existence, that is, until the mid-1990s when analysis of the image all but confirmed that it was a fake.
Robert Kenneth Wilson’s 1934 photograph fooled the world for decades.
Despite the most famous bit of evidence likely being a forgery, there have still been countless sightings of what locals believe could be a living dinosaur in their loch, and the waterway’s size and extreme depth would allow for a population of aquatic wildlife to go largely unseen. But a dinosaur?
That’s what a new team of scientists and researchers hoped to find out over this past year, combing the loch for traces of hair, feces, scales, and anything else they could gather for DNA analysis. Their intent was to find evidence of an as-yet-unidentified species of animal living in the area, and in a strange twist, that may be exactly what they found. It just wasn’t the monster most people were looking for.
“There is a very significant amount of eel DNA,” Professor Neil Gemmell, a geneticist at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said in a press release. “Our data doesn’t reveal their size, but the sheer quantity of the material says that we can’t discount the possibility that there may be giant eels in Loch Ness.”
There may also be a Photoshop monster lurking beneath those waves.
The idea that the Loch Ness Monster may, in fact, be a giant eel has been proposed repeatedly over the years, with some suggesting that it was feasible as far back as the 1930s. To date, no giant eels have been caught in the loch, making them something of a mystery themselves, but despite the lack of official confirmation, Loch Ness has also been the sight of many eel sightings.
“Divers have claimed that they’ve seen eels as thick as their legs in the loch,” Gemmell pointed out before adding that an eel that thick would likely be in the neighborhood of 13 feet long — longer than giant eels are supposed to be able to get.
Many of the sightings and pictures of the Loch Ness Monster do look as though they could be the result of a large eel. The supposed long neck of the monster could actually be the eel’s body, and because giant eels aren’t known to live in the loch, it wouldn’t be hard to mistake a 15-foot eel for a sea monster. In fact, that’s exactly what such an eel really would be.
It can be easy to see how an eel could be mistaken for the neck of a plesiosaur.
This study doesn’t definitely close the case, of course. Despite an abundance of eel DNA found in many of the 250 studied samples, no giant eels have been caught or even cleanly observed in the area. Until giant eels are confirmed to reside in Loch Ness, believers will undoubtedly keep looking for the long neck of a plesiosaur peeking out of the dark waters of the loch.
“Is it a giant eel? I don’t know, but it is something that we can test further,” Gemmell concluded.