Loch Ness is in Scotland, and it is long and narrow and very deep. Loch Ness is special. What is it?
Well, "loch" is a Scottish Gaellic word that means a lake or an inlet of the sea. There are thousands of place names in Scotland containing the word "loch". So Loch Ness is a lake. It is in fact the largest freshwater lake in Britain. But that is not the reason why Loch Ness is special.
No, Loch Ness is special because it has its very own monster. People say that deep in the lake there lives a large creature. Occasionally - very occasionally - you can see the creature swimming on the surface of Loch Ness, or even moving on the land close to the shores of the lake. No-one is certain what sort of creature it is, so it has no proper scientific name. But everyone calls the Loch Ness monster "Nessie".
The oldest stories about the monster date from the 6th century. St Columba, who first brought Christianity to Scotland, is said to have saved the life of a man who had been attacked by a huge creature near Loch Ness. The modern stories about the monster started in 1933, when there were three sightings of a large, strange creature, about 1 metre high and 8 metres long, with a long neck. There have been similar reports in most years since then, sometimes of a creature on land, though more normally of a creature in the water. There have been some photographs of Nessie as well, but most of them are of poor quality, and some may be fakes. Several studies of Loch Ness using sonar equipment have found traces of a large object or objects deep in the water.
So what is Nessie? Some people think that she (or he?) may be a type of dinosaur, which had managed to survive when all the other dinosaurs on earth died out. But most scientists think that this is extremely implausible. So is Nessie some other sort of animal, such as an eel or a seal? Or perhaps Nessie does not exist at all. Perhaps the people who say that they have seen a creature in Loch Ness actually saw other things - a small boat, perhaps, or a group of birds, or a pattern of waves and shadows on the water.
Steve Feltham is one of the people who believes that Nessie exists. In 1991, he gave up his home, his job and his girlfriend to become a full-time Nessie hunter. For the last seventeen years, he has lived beside Loch Ness looking for the monster. His home is an old van that used to be a mobile library. It is parked in the car park of a pub, close to the shore of the Loch. Steve makes little clay models of Nessie to sell to tourists. He has only once, in 17 years, seen something which might have been Nessie, but that is not important for him. He loves his life as a Nessie hunter. We shall have more about him in the next podcast.
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