Loch Ness geological explanation resurfaces, is sunk

A not new, not news, story is making rounds as “news”, a geological explanation for the Loch Ness phenomena.

Loch Ness Monster: It’s Scotland’s Fault | LiveScience.

[...]Italian geologist Luigi Piccardi credits the Great Glen fault system for reported sightings of the legendary beast, Scientific American reports.

“There are various effects on the surface of the water that can be related to the activity of the fault,” Piccardi said in an interview published in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

Piccardi also claims that alleged Loch Ness monster sightings have coincided with periods of seismic activity. “We know that this was a period [1920-1930] with increased activity of the fault. In reality, people have seen the effects of the earthquakes on the water.”

Piccardi presented this idea back in 2001 at a scientific meeting, according to this Scientific American blog. This critique piece also noted that the basis for this claim of bubbles and shaking associated with the monster is the St. Columba story of a beast in the River Ness. This account is dubious as a religious “hero” stories and is not even in the loch. It has been tenuously linked to the Nessie legend but probably shouldn’t be, it has poor detail. It’s just a nice story to throw into the Nessie mix instead of considering it on it’s own merit – as a fable.

Even the seismic connection posed by Piccardi is not supported. Sure the Great Glen on which the loch is situated IS a fault, there is no correlation apparent on the seismic records, a small quake might not cause waves or rumbling as reported, and we still have all those yearly sightings to explain. If the sightings were correlated with seismic activity, this would be cut and dried as a good possible explanation. But they are not so it isn’t. Don’t put too much faith in this.

It’s a shame that science reporters mess this stuff up. Live Science can be astonishingly wrong on some of this stuff. I have no idea why they covered this story the way they did. They used the Sci Am piece (a blog, not a science news report) but missed covering the part that stated it was unreliable and not good science. Hmm.

The Italian story link from 2001 is here.

Addition: This story got major traction including a piece on the Huffington Post and a spot on NBC’s Today show. I’ll be damned if I understand why. Does ANYTHING on Loch Ness make news, no matter how baseless and boring? At least the Huff Post piece tells it for what it is – not the solution to the mystery.

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  5 comments for “Loch Ness geological explanation resurfaces, is sunk

  1. July 1, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    My favorite book about Loch Ness is “The Great Orm” about how Nessie is really a giant prehistoric worm. The author makes a great case for it, except for everything is wrong. But, you almost believe it. He even gets other people to write “well he sure is passionate about what he believes” in an attempt to write something supportive.

  2. One Eyed Jack
    July 1, 2013 at 7:19 PM

    It’s a shame that science reporters mess this stuff up.

    Competent science reporters are exceedingly rare. Ira Flatow’s Science Friday is one of the few I can think of. I’m having a hard time thinking of another outside of publications like Science or Discover.

  3. One Eyed Jack
    July 1, 2013 at 7:25 PM

    well he sure is passionate about what he believes

    “Good teacher. He really seems to care. About what I have no idea. ” – Back to School, 1986

  4. July 2, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    Silly geologists – Nessie believers know that she travels via underground caves to not only the ocean but Lake Champlain, Lake Okonogan, Lake Tele and many other locations.

  5. Aaron
    July 4, 2013 at 1:48 AM

    I think Live Science is good for blurbs about newly found creatures in Papua New Guinea and other fun bits, but not a lot else.

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