Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Monster in the Deep: Searching for the Loch Ness Monster by Jennifer Rivkin

"With today's new technology and methods, researchers can answer question about the Earth in ways our ancestors could not have imagined.

Even with all of these tools at their fingertips, scientists have yet to solve one of the greatest mysteries of all time--does the Loch Ness Monster exist?"

And in recorded history, the famed Loch Ness Monster is the granddaddy of all monster mysteries.

Nessie was fortunate enough to make one of his/her appearances to a highly literate Irish monk, one destined for sainthood, none other than Saint Columba, who wrote in 565 C.E. that he found some fisherman burying a friend who had been attacked by a huge beast near Loch Ness. When the creature appeared again, St. Columba vanquished the beast with his famous invocation:

"Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man; return with all speed."

Although stories of the beast in the lake predate St. Columba, the good monk's written eyewitness account gave credence to the old monster tales. After all, would a genuine saint lie?

Since that time, both hoaxsters and creditable people over the centuries have reported some sort of hump-backed, long-necked creature in Loch Ness. In modern times, two respectable couples, the McKays and the Spicers, reported separate incidents of a sighting of a huge beast in 1933: the McKays were drawn by a loud commotion in the waters, and the Spicers reported seeing a large snail-like creature with a long neck cross the road on which they were driving and disappear into the loch. Loch Ness became an instant tourist and media sensation, with crowds of camera-toting reporters and curious citizens haunting the shores in hopes of being the first one to photograph the beast. Several photos caught murky images of an unidentified something, one of which, a shot of Nessie's head and long neck protruding from the water, was decades later admitted to be a fraud.

While Nessie-sighting was becoming an industry, scientists were drawn into the mystery, using submarines, sonar, and underwater motion-sensing cameras, one of which produced photographs of what looks like the tail and flipper of a large aquatic animal, giving rise to speculation that Nessie and her tribe might be some sort of prehistoric plesiosaurus-like beasts which escaped extinction in the deep waters of Loch Ness after the retreat of the Ice Age closed off the loch's opening to the North Sea.

For middle readers intrigued by monster mysteries, Jennifer Rivkin's Searching for the Loch Ness Monster (Mysterious Monsters) (Rosen/PowerKids Press, 2014) offers a recently updated account of the facts and fiction of everyone's favorite monster, retaining a reasonable skepticism about the likely existence of Nessie. Photographs and realistic color illustrations appear on each page, along with fact boxes that offer further information about Nessie-ology and the many other lake monsters in fact and folklore. Appended is a glossary, a bibliography of Nessie books, website links, and an index, for Nessie lovers to further their research.

So popular are the these mystery monsters that wordsmiths have created a neologism just for them--cryptids--and for their lore--cryptozoology. Here is a list of the Top 50 Cryptids, with Nessie duly honored as the all-time favorite.



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