Take a swig of Scotch for a little Dutch courage as we cross north of the border for Terror Of The Zygons! Of course the Doctor has set foot on Scottish soil before, not long into his Second incarnation. Two selves on from his appearance at the Battle of Culloden, during which he gained Jamie McCrimmon as a companion, he's back- and a certain Caledonian sea beastie is on the agenda........the Loch Ness Monster, or ' Nessie'.
The Robert Banks Stewart Fourth Doctor adventure would be novelised by Terrance Dicks and released by Target books under the title of Doctor Who And The Loch Ness Monster. Such was/is the popularity of Nessie. The Monster in the lake is implied to be the destructive force behind the collapse of several oil rigs in the local area, & UNIT are called to the Highlands to investigate. But who are Nessie's masters? They're the Zygons, nasty shape-shifters making use of ' body print' technology to impersonate humans as part of an invasion plot.
What will come to be known as the Loch Ness Monster is also part of their armoury, a giant cybernetically-enhanced reptile known as the Skarasen. Hiding in Loch Ness as part of the Zygon plan, they were able to see through its eyes by means of handily-placed monitors as well as feeding off its 'milk', which came in the form of a green slime. Tasty! It's even able to follow the Doctor back to London from Scotland, leading to panic at the sight of the monster in the Thames.
But is there some truth to the various stories of something lurking in the Loch, or is it mere superstition?
The idea dates back to around the sixth century, the first reference to such a ' water beast' appearing in the seventh-century biography The Life Of St.Columba by Saint Adomnan, the Abbot of Iona. Relating the tale of Columba's observation of the funeral of a man said to have been attacked by the creature while swimming the River Ness, Adomnan implies that the power of God eventually proved enough to suppress Nessie- having sent one of his followers across the river, Columba is said to have made the sign of the Cross & warned the Monster "Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once." The result was hailed as a miracle, as it did indeed stop in its tracks almost as if "pulled back with ropes" .
Perhaps the next most famous case of a reported sighting dates from 1934, when London-based surgeon Robert Kenneth Wilson claimed to have seen the head & neck of the lumbering terror while looking out at Loch Ness. Capturing the sight on camera, he anonymously sent one of his photographs to the Daily Mail. They published it on April 21 of that year, & not until December 7, 1975 did the Sunday Telegraph reveal it as a fake. And the hoax appears to have been conducted by relatives of Marmaduke Wetherell, a big-game hunter who had earlier been tasked by the Mail with hunting down the Monster a year before Wilson's apparent witness to the emergence of Nessie.
Curiously, Wetherell had actually found tracks in the mud around the Loch said to belong to a creature which could have been the Monster ( depending on point of view on the whole thing). Following analysis of the tracks by a team from the Natural History Museum, it was revealed that the footprints did not belong to Marmaduke's intended quarry- the Mail subsequently ridiculing him in the aftermath.
And so a desire for some measure of revenge for his injured reputation drove Wetherell to approach his model-maker stepson, Christian Spurling, with a plan. Using a toy submarine & some plastic they were able to knock up an ingenious fake! This was taken down to the Loch & photographed, the result sold to the Mail. The story is also told in the documentary The Man Who Made The Loch Ness Monster & the 1999 book Nessie- The Surgeon's Photograph Exposed, by Alastair Boyd & David Martin...
Amazingly an average of twenty sightings a year are still reported! A contributor to www.nessie.co.uk ( which even has a 24-hour live webcam feed from the loch) has argued that if we were one day able to answer the questions of what the beast ( if it exists) eats, & indeed how, we might be a step closer to proving or disproving its existence:
"If we could find the answer to two questions relating to the Loch Ness Monster we would probably be able to solve the mystery in a relatively short time. The questions would be what does the creature eat and how?Any takers?
Answering these questions we would know where to concentrate the search and give us an idea of what we are looking for.Could Nessie live on zoo-plankton as there are large quantities of this in the Loch, more concentrated at the northern end?
I suppose the biggest argument against this is that most zoo-plankton eaters like the basking shark and other members of the whale family have gills that enable them to sift zoo-plankton just by swimming around. This of course goes against all the sightings when they are seen to be chasing fish around. Fish would be the obvious food source for any creature living in Loch Ness, but when we look at the fish counts done on the loch they vary from 1 ton to 27 tons. The Discovery Channel estimated 1 ton of fish in the loch. This was a very misleading figure as they could only trawl the centre of the Loch to a depth of 100 feet.The Loch Ness Project estimates around 27 tons of fish in the loch, but this does not include the eel population.
A new approach by the Loch Ness Project is to study the zoo-plankton then calculate how much fish it could support using known feeding diets of the lochs fish life.
So, if Nessie feeds on fish then she must feed in the top 15 feet of water using natural light or her eyes could be like owls which contain more cones than rods which collect as much light as possible. Below this level she would need some other form of detection to catch her prey. This could be the use of lateral lines which fish use to shoal and detect attack by predators.
The amblyopsis cave fish of Central America not only have lateral lines but have exposed neuromasts, the hair like projections which are extremely sensitive to low frequency vibrations, on their heads and bodies. With this system, Nessie could catch her food and live in complete darkness. Of course she could just sit at the river mouths and feed on the salmon who must wait for the river temperature to reach around 40 degrees fahrenheit so they can move up stream to their spawning grounds. Nessie of course could be nocturnal and again either system could apply.
The other form of detection could be the use of sonar like members of the dolphin family use, but I feel that with the amount of sonar work carried out on Loch Ness, she would have been heard by now. The hydrophone has been used on Loch Ness and in the early 1970's strange noises were recorded, but no results have been published as to what they may have been. I tried a hydrophone on the Loch, but without any luck I'm afraid. I think it would be interesting to station one in Urquhart Bay, one at Invermoriston and another at Fort Augustus and leave them for a month just to see if any strange noises can be picked up from these sites.
Hopefully one day if a sponsor steps in or some combined effort can be made, we may be able to try this.''