“There’s Loch Lochy.
There’s Loch Oich…like a pig.
There’s Linnhy. The biggest, due southwest.
And then this, here, Loch Ness.”
‘Loch,’ I would learn from our bus driver, was Scottish Gaelic for lake.
For years I thought the name connoted the magical. That mysterious void dropping to a depth of seven hundred and fifty five feet in some parts. When Pangea split apart, and pressed Scotland into England. The tectonic pressure creating a rift, an inverted mountain, plunging deep, cradling brackish waters so jet black that when I stepped up to the Loch’s edge to place my hand underneath the surface, it disappeared.
From our bus driver, his blond, almost afro-like hair serving well his lighthearted personality, we were handed off to our guide.
He: A Ness resident for over twenty five years.
By trade, an amatuer scientist. Grizzled by the sun. Grizzled by lost time. Humorless, his life dedicated to proving the existence of the Loch Ness Monster.
We boarded his research vessel. A trawler, converted to take those curious, up and down the length of the lake’s twenty three miles.
We discovered that the tours were a means of subsequent income to support their scientific scouring.
To record the goings-on, as they floated above the frigid waters, cruising each inch of the Loch for an inkling of tangible evidence of the unknown.
On that day, the Loch hung under a blue sky, steep hills firing up each side, where, up there, in the mix of primeval forest, Aleister Crowley’s home lay somewhat hidden.
Crowley, “the wickedest man in the world” who birthed witchcraft into the mainstream.
He was most suited here, where, not far below, Loch Ness served as a perfect atmosphere for Crowley and those, like myself, who suffer a visceral subjectivism, unable to differentiate the occult from the mundane.
The captain steered us out along the Loch. Heading North-East at eight knots, we were hammered by an odd, chilling summer breeze.
Around the stern, the scientist corralled us, not unlike a camp fire ritual, as he dove into the myth of Ness’ ecosystem.
Of what he knew to be a family. Not one, but many creatures.
Evolving, reproducing, evolving again.
Taking up residence in the Loch, since time immemorial.
They could exit, he said, migrating in and out of subterranean passages that dump into deep water currents well underneath the North Sea.
He thought the prehistoric pod was not like the typical image of the Plesiosaur. Not like the plastic tchotchke’s sold at the foot of Urquhart castle, or the Loch Ness visitor’s center where a giant cement dinosaur sits basking in a pool of fresh lake water.
He thought the creature more whale like: short flippers, a wider mouth, fat.
As the sun set, he pointed out the factual biodiversity of these chain of lakes. Trout, Salmon, but mainly Artic Char, the titans of the known food chain thriving deep down in extremely cold waters. Their populations were mysteriously regulated.
“Something keeps this fish at bay,” he mentioned, “and its not me or you.”
“Here, tell me what you think?”
The scientist pointed at his sonar.
Current. A live reading.
Speckled on the black map were what looked like tiny stars in an underwater galaxy. On each electronic re-boot, each passing of the radar’s ghostly arm, those specs representing fish wiggled across the void, positioning themselves in a new spot.
This was normal he said.
“Now, look at this.”
The scientist pulled up photos he had taken of past sonar readings.
Off set, in the bottom right corner, a blob, like a giant amoeba, positioned itself in a quarter of the image. Below it, a smaller oval, a mirror image to its partner above.
“This, I believe, to be a mother and its offspring.”
He shuffled through a selection of stills, each more convincing than the next.
Blobs layered on blobs. Giant creatures, hiding within the melanoid depths, avoiding, what seemed, any potential communion with the terrestrial.
“I wish I could prove that they’re out there,” he expressed in a straightforward tone.
His evidence, what seemed on the cusp of revelation.
Hard proof was what he begged for so that the creatures could be protected as an endangered species.
It was almost sad to listen to him.
Beyond that, psychologically, his plight was tragic. His situation was more about proving himself to not be a hoax. His methods to convince us practiced well on for decades. And I believed him.
As we cruised towards the trawler’s landing, the sun began to set behind a line of dark green alders. Our day was another fruitless hunt for Melville’s White Whale. The scientist, like Ahab, a morose and tragic character in a narrative destined for his reputational doom.
Below us, Nessy and her fellow monsters, circled the depths, circled through the human conscious where our curiosity, but much more so our fear of the unknown, maintain the tourist economy of Lake Ness.