Monday, June 22, 2009

Celebrating Fathers Day with Nessie



On this Father's Day, as I grilled a few hot dogs and burgers in celebration, my thoughts drifted to my own mortality, and the legacy I would leave behind. I have two daughters, both of whom are filled with curiosity, tenacity and an absolute devotion to discovering what might be around every corner. Both are born explorers, and I couldn't be prouder. I can only presume all fathers have this same feeling, including those of the world's still-mysterious menagerie. In their own way, of course.

Presumably, no animal can be immortal. Biological forms decay after time, organs age, and cells break down. Everything that once had life will eventually cease to live. Perhaps in response to this natural inevitability, all living things are blessed with an internal drive to reproduce. For higher animals, this means coital sex, and speaking for myself, I'm happy to fall within the category. I pity the poor, self-replicating protozoa. But of course, man is not alone in the use of sex to survive as a species. Along with more familiar animals such as zebras and herring, our installments of the crypto-zoo must also feel the need to spread their seed: Chupacabras, Sasquatch, and today's featured father, Nessie from Loch Ness in Scotland. Reproduction happens and leads to new life, so it can therefore be surmised that a critter witnessed in the 12th century surely couldn't be the same animal seen around tea time last Tuesday. There must exist several animals of varying size, gender and maturity in order to facilitate a healthy, and satisfying humpty-bumpty. In short, a sexually active population.

Though sightings have been notated throughout history, including St. Columba's 565 A.D. 'exorcism' of a water demon from the Loch, the modern record of Scotland's possible pleiosaur began on May 2, 1933, when the first stretch of Highway A82 was completed along the lake's western shore. After taking a late afternoon stroll along the new road, vacationers Mr. and Mrs. John MacKay reported seeing 'an enormous animal, rolling and plunging on the surface' of the peat-hued waters. The story was covered by the Inverness Courier, a local newspaper. No photographs of Niseag (Gaelic for Nessie) appeared with the article.

'Elephant' Photograph, 1972

An animal needs to procreate with a genetically diverse mate in order to maintain its species. It has never been a good idea to get jiggy with your first cousin, as certain isolated lion prides in Africa are now illustrating. Inbred species are more prone to negative mutations, and are at greater risk to disease. In order for a colony of Nessies to survive, the overall population must be large enough to ensure a healthy gene pool for breeding. If the pool is too small, the species would slip into extinction.

Satellite Photograph, Loch Ness and Environs

Even though Loch Ness is the largest body of freshwater in Great Britain at 23 miles long and nearly 1,000 feet deep, its size is still limiting. The volume of the lake alone is not large enough to support a required breeding population. However, in 1997, sub-geological surveys of the area showed Loch Ness was riddled with wide, underwater tunnels, linking Ness with Loch Morar and several other bodies of water, all of which have a history of their own pleiosaur-like sightings. Much like Jaqueline Bissette in The Deep, a Nessie could dive at one spot and surface miles away, in a completely different body of water.

Jacqueline Bissette, The Deep

These tunnels could allow for a larger population, and therefore, a larger gene pool. Based on the estimated number of char and salmon in Loch Ness and the inter-connected lakes, it is possible the Scottish eco-system could sustain a population of over 200 animals. If Nessie does in fact exist, he may not have as much time to show off for the cameras as some would prefer. He might just be a tad busy, chasing all that tail.