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Sunday, August 16, 1998 Published at 21:23 GMT 22:23 UK

World: Europe

Swedish sea monster makes waves

A "sighting" of Nessie - is there a Swedish cousin?

An expedition searching for a sea monster in a Swedish lake has reported promising findings. Tony Samstag reports

Almost everybody has heard about Scotland's Loch Ness monster, also known as Nessie. Fewer, I think it is safe to say, are acquainted with Thelma, the Norwegian equivalent; or, right next door, the Swedish variant, which is so elusive as to have not yet acquired a nickname.

This time of year, the silly season - which translates into the Scandinavian languages as "the cucumber time" - is of course also the high season for sea monsters everywhere.

[ image: The hunt has captivated Swedish media in the
The hunt has captivated Swedish media in the "cucumber time"
In Scotland, the annual Loch Ness monster hunt is well underway.

In Norway, it has been some days since a high-powered scientific expedition set off in search of Thelma, sightings of which have been reported quite regularly since the 17th century in a large but otherwise non-descript lake a few hundred kilometres to the south-west of Oslo. And now it is Sweden's turn.

A fleet of 15 vessels has just set sail on a reasonably large body of water, known in Swedish, imaginatively enough, as Great Lake, about 400km north-west of the Swedish capital, in search of this no-name monster.

About 175 reported sightings over the last 400 years have described the monster variously as five to 15 metres long; serpent-like, or plump; grey, green or red in colour; with a head like a dog or like a fish; making a wailing, or perhaps it was a rattling, noise.

From these descriptions, it is clear that the Swedish monster has much in common with its Scottish or Norwegian counterparts. The latest sonar readings in Sweden's Great Lake - blips basically - confirm these similarities, and that they are somewhat inconclusive, but ever so encouraging.

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