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Fan club president Gary Campbell
"I don't know how an earthquake can be used to explain a solid hump"
 real 28k

Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Expert shakes up Nessie legend
Loch Ness
A major fault line runs under Loch Ness
An Italian geologist has poured cold water on the legend of the Loch Ness monster by blaming earthquakes for sightings of the creature.

Dr Luigi Piccardi, from the centre for the study of geology in Florence, believes the observation of strange phenomena could be explained by shocks along a major fault line.

He said the tremors would cause the ground to shake, produce a "roaring" sound, and release bubbles of gas to churn up the calm surface of the Highland loch.


I don't really know how people can explain that away as being an earthquake - unless it is the earth moving for Nessie that's causing these earthquakes

Gary Campbell, fan club president
But his theory has failed to shake Gary Campbell, the president of the official Loch Ness Monster fan club.

"I have heard this one before about the bubbles, but it being caused by an earthquake is a new one," he told BBC Scotland.

He said it was "a nice theory". But he continued: "All the way through there have been these sightings that are more than just bubbles.

"There is definitely something solid and three years ago there was even one on land.

"I don't really know how people can explain that away as being an earthquake - unless it is the earth moving for Nessie that's causing these earthquakes."

Nessie sighting picture
Nessie was first sighted in the 7th Century
Dr Piccardi was presenting his theory on Wednesday at a scientific meeting in Edinburgh.

Earth System Processes has been organised by the Geological Society of London (GSL) and the Geological Society of America (GSA).

Reported sightings of Nessie date back to the 7th Century, when a water beast is said to have appeared "with strong shaking" before St Columba.

According to legend, he drove away the creature, who was pursuing one of his followers, by lifting up a cross. Dr Piccardi said that the encounter took place at the part of the loch where seismic activity is strongest.

"The Great Glen Fault is a very big fault which is still active, and Loch Ness lies directly above it," he said.

Modern witnesses

"The most seismically active end of the loch is the north end. This corresponds to the site where St Columba encountered the monster, and also where many modern witnesses claim to have had experiences.

"In these reports, people don't usually describe seeing the beast itself.

"More often they talk of seeing a lot of commotion on the water, and hearing loud noises, and they assume it to be caused by the monster.

"But it could be due to a small shock and gas emission."


The Great Glen Fault is a very big fault which is still active, and Loch Ness lies directly above it

Dr Luigi Piccardi
He said that the "humps" reported during sightings could be the result of "anomalous waves" produced by gas bubbling up to the surface.

In July 1930, three people in a boat at the north end of the loch saw a 6m long hump-like shape travelling fast through the water. And in April 1933, Aldie Mackay also saw a violent disturbance in the water and a hump "like that of a whale" while driving along the north side of the loch.

Dr Piccardi said a strong tremor was recorded near Loch Ness the following year - and that it was possible the area was "under shock" a few months earlier.

However, Roger Musson of the British Geological Survey told BBC Scotland that the theory could not be supported.

He said that the 1934 earthquake actually took place in the Torridon area.

Mr Musson said there was no good evidence that the fault was seismically active.

Waters disturbed

"No earthquakes were ever detected at times when the monster was supposedly sighted," he said.

"An earthquake strong enough to cause the effects reported would affect a large part of the loch, not just one spot."

He said no monster sightings had been associated with the two largest earthquakes near Inverness - and that the one time the loch's waters were disturbed by an earthquake it was clearly recognised that this was the cause.

And Mr Campbell said that the St Columba sighting was actually reported to have taken place at the River Ness.

Dr Piccardi has also argued that many ancient Greek myths originate from earthquakes.

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See also:

24 Apr 01 | Scotland
Monster hunt hopes to net Nessie
21 Mar 01 | Scotland
Battle brewing over Nessie hunt
04 Jan 01 | Scotland
Nessie protection plan drawn up
24 Oct 00 | Scotland
Storm hits Nessie 'fishing' plan
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