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Loch Ness Trench Spurs Monster Speculation

A newly discovered trench in Loch Ness is said to be the lake's deepest. But could it be the home of Nessie? Continue reading →

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.

Is the Loch Ness Monster Dead?

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.

Photos: Sea Monsters Real and Imagined

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.

Top 10 Animal Mysteries and Myths Explained

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.

We all enjoy a tall tale. Cultures with seafaring traditions are especially ripe in what seem like the tallest sea monster tales of all: hydra, kraken, sirens, scylla, leviathans, assorted serpents and mermaids. Usually the stories are never confirmed and deemed baseless. Then again, some of the tales are based on something. With our skeptical hats on, let's have a look at sea monsters both real and fanciful. We begin with a story that went viral just this week, about a supposed monster that revealed itself during a swim in the Thames River. A

Nessie-like

bump in the water, filmed from overhead, started it all. But you'll have to judge for yourself: Real or fake? Watch the video and read

Ben Radford's take

on the tale.

'Thames Monster' Video: Hoax Or Mammal?

In keeping with our subject of monsters of the deep, we also learned this week that at least

some whales

really can, and will, use their heads for ramming -- just as the fictional Moby Dick did, in the Herman Melville classic of the same name. Did whales perfect the head-butt long before people started banging heads?

Real Moby Dick: Some Whales Ram With Their Heads

Sea monsters are truly global, of course. This one from Japan serves as the villain for the classic maiden in distress, who awaits rescue by her hero. The poor monsters are almost always cast as the bad guys. And so they usually end hacked to pieces; fish food. But is there any truth behind these sea serpent tales?

Ancient Sea Monsters Were Black

Maybe it's the oarfish. It looks too monstrous to be true. It can grow many meters long, has strikingly bright silver scales, scarlet fins and some ornate headgear that more than explains why some call it a roosterfish. If only it were a reptile, it'd be a true sea serpent. Alas. It is a fish. A very weird and beautiful fish, but still a fish.

Is the Loch Ness Monster Dead?

There are also other, newfound "sea serpents" our sea-going ancestors never imagined. This one was spotted by a satellite coiling off the south coast of Japan's Hokkaido island. What do we know about it? 1) It's arguably one of the largest organisms on Earth, 2) It swallows ships, engulfs islands and generally does what it wants, and 3) We're darned lucky it's made of plankton.

Monster Goldfish Found in Lake Tahoe

Research into such massive blooms and the individual plankton cells that comprise them has revealed surprising cooperation among the microorganisms. They appear to operate like more than just floating individual cells. They live and die for the greater good, it seems. So they may be, in fact, a gigantic watery superorganism. Now that's a cool monster for you: You can swim in it and never know you've been in the belly of a beast.

VIDEO: Why Squid Are Terror Monsters Of The Sea

Mermaids and mermen have always been the stuff of fantasy. Where did the fantasies come from? There are some standard answers to this question, which have always seemed rather inadequate. For instance ... (next slide, if you please) ...

Mermaids Exist! And They Are Seismically Sensitive

The manatee has often been called the source of mermaid myths. It's a mammal, so it breathes air. But who would ever mistake a manatee for a sleek and beautiful mermaid? Could it be love-starved sailors with poor eyesight? There was no shortage of these fellows in the days before optometrists.

Make Way For Manatees Month: Photos

Another possibility is that merfolk were inspired by fish with roughly human-looking faces, like this fellow. Some fish can look humanoid. That would be enough to get superstitious sailors started.

First Face? Prehistoric Fish Was a Jaw-Dropper

How about giant, ship-destroying squid and octopi? These monsters were old hat even to the easily freaked-out. Most folks figured they were historical exaggerations. That's until some very large and unusual squids started washing up or being hauled in by marine biologists in recent years. Colossal squid are meters long, pretty amazing beasts. Still, they have never been known to lift ships out of the water. And since were on the topic of squids ...

Giant Squid Photos

Do you remember when this one hit the headlines? It's not so gigantic, at four meters long, but it was observed 3,380 meters down in the Pacific Ocean near Oahu. It's pretty big to have gone unseen before its May 2001 discovery. So what else is out there? It's pretty clear marine biologists have only just begun discovering what lives in the deep sea. The more time they spend searching, the more they will find. But none would dispute that the nastiest sea monster to ever rise out of the sea is ... (drum roll please) ...

You might have guessed it: Human garbage. Yep. It's the ugliest, most alien-looking, fatal and pervasive monster in the seas. Garbage patches have been getting a lot of attention lately. These are areas on the seas where currents and winds tend to concentrate floating garbage.

Life On The Ocean Floor Garbage Patch: Photos