Although accounts of an aquatic beast living in Scotland’s Loch Ness date back 1,500 years, the modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster was born when a sighting made local news on May 2, 1933. The Inverness Courier related an account of a local couple who claimed to have seen "an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface." The story of the "monster" (a moniker chosen by the Courier editor) became a media phenomenon, with London newspapers sending correspondents to Scotland and a circus offering a £20,000 reward for capture of the beast. Then a famous 1934 photograph seemed to show a dinosaur-like creature with a long neck emerging out of the murky waters, leading some to speculate that "Nessie" was a solitary survivor of the long-extinct plesiosaurs.
Amateur investigators kept an almost constant vigil from this point on, and in the 1960s several British universities launched expeditions to Loch Ness, using sonar to search the deep. Nothing conclusive was found, but in each expedition the sonar operators detected large, moving underwater objects they could not explain. In 1975, Boston’s Academy of Applied Science combined sonar and underwater photography in an expedition to Loch Ness. A photo resulted that, after enhancement, appeared to show the giant flipper of a plesiosaur-like creature. Further sonar expeditions in the 1980s and 1990s resulted in more tantalising, if inconclusive, readings. Revelations in 1994 that the famous 1934 photo was a hoax has done little to dampen the enthusiasm of tourists and professional and amateur investigators to the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.
Nessie is one of many cryptids – mythical legendary creatures such as Bigfoot, the Yeti and the Skunk Ape – dismissed as impossible by scientists but whose existence are eagerly sought by cryptozoologists. A few living species such as the okapi, the kimono dragon and the mountain gorilla are commonly quoted by cryptozoologists as examples of animals that were previously thought to be cryptids, but are now known to exist. However, whilst these species are rarely predicted by cryptozoologists before their discovery by science, they are, nonetheless, often used as evidence that legendary creatures are still out there waiting to be found.
Cryptozoology has been criticised because of its reliance on stories rather than facts and because some cryptozoologists do not follow the scientific method, instead devoting a substantial portion of their efforts to investigations of animals that most scientists believe are unlikely to have existed. Scientific discovery has led to some amazing findings, but it would be a shame if we restrict our search for truths that can only be scientifically proven. Exotic zoology has suggested that some legendary creatures such as the cyclops and the unicorn may have been based on actual animals and truth is often stranger than fiction!