March 9, 2006—Throwing a bit of cold water onto the legend of Loch Ness, paleontologist and painter Neil Clark says the monster was perhaps a paddling pachyderm.
Clark noticed similarities in the hump-and-trunk silhouettes of swimming Indian elephants and the serpentine shapes of 1930s Nessie descriptions and photographs, such as the famous 1934 image shown as an inset above.
Why would an elephant be swimming in a chilly Scottish lake? "The reason why we see elephants in Loch Ness is that circuses used to go along the road to Inverness and have a little rest at the side of the loch and allow the animals to go and have a little swim around," Clark told CBS News.
And there's one more wrinkle in this elephantine mystery. In 1933 a circus promoter in the area—acting perhaps on inside information that the monster was really a big top beast—offered a rich reward for Nessie's capture, says Clark, a curator at the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow.
Clark's theory is published in the current edition of the journal of the Open University Geological Society.