A tour boat operator at Scotland's Loch Ness claims to have discovered the lake's deepest trench, fueling speculation that it may be home to its world-famous watery denizen Nessie.
As Gizmodo reports, "A sonar reading recently revealed a previously unseen trench ... located about nine miles east of Inverness, it looks just large enough for Nessie to hide in." It was recently found by retired fisherman Keith Stewart, and if the reading is confirmed the deepest point of the Loch is now 889 feet instead of 754 feet.
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Because of its reputed monster, Loch Ness has been repeatedly searched for over 70 years, using everything from miniature submarines to divers. In 2003 a team of researchers sponsored by the British Broadcasting Corporation undertook the largest and most comprehensive search of the loch ever conducted. Despite a multi-day search scouring the lake using 600 separate sonar beams and satellite navigation, they found nothing unusual.
Though the discovery of a previously unknown and unusually deep trench is intriguing, it doesn't really increase the likelihood of Nessie being real. While the headline "Undiscovered Crevice at the Bottom of Loch Ness is Big Enough to Hide a Monster" is technically true, the speculation that it may have hidden the monster from view during previous searches ignores the fact that there are countless places in the lake that the monster could have been lurking during any given sonar search.
After all, the lake is more than 20 miles long and about a mile wide for much of its length. Nessie's exact size is of course unknown but most reports suggest that the creature is between 10 and 40 feet long, ranging from about the size of a small car to somewhat shorter than a school bus. This is actually quite small, and there are already many known outcroppings, holes, shallow caves and other natural underwater geological features around the lake where an animal that size could have temporarily hidden during a sonar search. The newly discovered trench just adds one more.
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The question is not whether one specific animal of that size could have hidden itself in the deep trench every time a thorough search was conducted for it - assuming, of course, it somehow knew when it was being searched for, and wasn't in another part of the lake when the searches began. The question is instead how likely it is that the trench could realistically be used to hide the animal over the years.
Though people often speak of Nessie as a solitary (often female) animal, if it exists there must be more than one in the lake - at least dozens if not hundreds - to maintain a breeding population. This changes the equation and deepens the mystery, because with so many of them allegedly living in the lake they should be seen much more often. Sure, maybe one of them hides in the deep trench when searchers are above - but do all of them?
Plus, of course, we know for a fact that - assuming the Loch Ness monsters exist - they do not spend their time hiding in deep trenches. If the sightings, photos and other reports are what they are claimed to be then Nessie is in fact often at the surface of the lake, splashing, catching fish and posing for ambiguous photos.
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The theory that lake monsters use hidden caves and undiscovered passages to other lakes and oceans migrating and avoid detection is common. In Canada's Lake Okanagan, for example, the Ogopogo lake monster is said to have an underwater lair near the base of Rattlesnake Island, and across the border Champ, the Lake Champlain creature, is sometimes claimed to escape up to the St. Lawrence River when being sought.
If the new-found trench is in fact Nessie's lair, then the new discovery should yield spectacular results. It should be a simple task to place cameras and sonar devices around the mouth of the trench and wait to finally capture good-quality video evidence of the beast. On the other hand if it's just a new deepest trench with no connection to Nessie then we can expect that nothing more will come of this latest discovery.
Still, regardless of whether or not Nessie exists, it's fun to picture him (or her, or them) hanging out in the little man-cave trench at the bottom of Loch Ness, laughing at having baffled the public for nearly a century.