Skip to main content

Could Earthquakes Have Given Rise to the Myth of the Loch Ness Monster?

The idea that Nessie is just another case of geological activity-induced mythology is at least slightly more likely than the theory that there is a modern-day plesiosaur living in Loch Ness.
Loch Ness Monster. (Photo: unukorno/Flickr)

Loch Ness Monster. (Photo: unukorno/Flickr)

Italian geologist Luigi Piccardi specializes in unraveling the geological origins of myths. The locations of ancient dragon lairs, he has found, are often located above major fault lines. According to Piccardi, natural phenomena such as ground shaking, rumbling, and flames emitted from ruptures in the ground may have led observers to develop supernatural associations with such locations. In 2001 at the Earth System Processes meeting, Piccardi presented on a new, geological explanation for the myth of the Loch Ness Monster. From the abstract:

In the original Latin description the dragon appears 'cum ingenti fremitu' (with strong shaking), and disappears 'tremefacta' (shaking herself), which seems to point to a telluric nature of the monster living in the lake. In fact, Loch Ness is positioned directly over the fault zone of the most seismic sector (for example the M=5 earthquake of 18.09.1901) of the Great Glen Fault, the major active fault in Scotland. In this light, many modern eyewitness reports attributed to Nessie may find a simple natural explanation.

Basically, waves and other earthquake effects on the surface of the lake produced by the fault beneath led people to believe that a sea monster was lurking below. But not everyone was convinced by Piccardi’s presentation. As Gary Campbell, president of the Loch Ness Monster Fan Club, told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, "Piccardi seems to forget that we have a thousand stories of people who say they have seen in the water something solid like a head and a neck."