The revelation that a former Scottish police chief believed in the Loch Ness monster and was concerned for its survival underscores how Scottish authorities have sought to protect the iconic beast, says Loren Coleman, a leading experts on mythic animals.
“The Scottish government has long been interested in protecting Nessie,” says Loren Coleman, who is co-author of The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep. “This just reinforces this whole notion (that) the officials in Scotland take this creature very seriously.”
Newly publicized documents reveal that a former Scottish police chief believed that the existence of the Loch Ness monster was “beyond doubt” but its protection could not be ensured.
William Fraser, chief constable of Inverness-shire Constabulary in the 1930s, wrote a letter expressing fears that a London man might kill the beast with a large harpoon gun. "That there is some strange creature in Loch Ness seems now beyond doubt, but that the police have any power to protect it is very doubtful," Mr. Fraser wrote.
To be sure, most biologists believe Nessie to be a myth, and nothing more, pointing out that large animals typically leave large remains when they die. No "monster" carcass has ever been found.
But as recently as 1999, Scottish authorities took steps to ensure the safety of their tourist-attracting monster, Mr. Coleman told the Monitor in a telephone interview from Portland, Maine, where he runs the International Cryptozoology Museum.
In 1999, Coleman was set to go on a Nessie-search expedition in a homemade submarine with Dan Scott Taylor. Thirty years earlier, while diving deep in Loch Ness in a one-man submarine, Mr. Taylor had said he undoubtedly bumped into the monster. Now, he wanted to bring with him both a secondary observer – Coleman – and a harpoon so he could take a DNA sample of the beast.
When Scottish authorities caught wind of Taylor’s plan, they revoked his exploration permits and the submarine trip never materialized. Taylor died in 2005.
“There’s always been the sense that quietly…they were taking the reports more validly. There was a serious acknowledgment that the Loch Ness monster exists,” says Coleman.
While the submarine trip never happened, Coleman still presided over a two-week surface expedition in 1999. He interviewed 38 people who claimed to have seen the monster then or in the past, and of those sightings Coleman says eight appeared valid.
Sightings often describe the monster’s iconic neck sprouting from the lake, but Coleman says experts agree that those sightings are only of an otter’s tail or a water bird’s neck. In his opinion, the Loch Ness monster is something like a whale or a walrus.
But sightings have dropped of late. There was only one "credible" reported sighting of the creature in 2009, causing enthusiasts to fear the monster may be dead, reported The Telegraph.
American officials, too, have had their odd beliefs and close encounters with the third kind. The Vermont legislature voted in 1982 to protect the legendary beast “Champ” of Lake Champlain. And current Representative Dennis Kucinich and former presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan have all seen UFOs.
Coleman says that new animal discoveries show that humans still have a lot to learn about the world. Just three weeks ago, scientists reported that they had discovered a new species of giant lizard in the Philippines. Coleman says that the finding underscored how strange animals – from Big Foot to Yeti to the Loch Ness monster – may still be lurking beneath our noses.
“There are animals out there that will surprise us in the future,” he says.