A Scottish geneticist, Dr. Yvonne Simpson, has been researching the "Orkney Beast” (also known as the Stronsay Beast), and will be comparing it to the Loch Ness Monster in a talk she will be giving at the Highlands Science Festival this week.
The Orkney Beast was this huge, bizarre carcass that washed up on the shore of Stronsay, in the Orkney Islands, in 1808. It was pretty rotten at the time, but everybody seemed to agree that it was some sort of sea serpent (it was 55 feet long, with a 15 foot “neck,” and measured 10 feet around). However, a couple of anatomists later decided that it was probably a shark, specifically a large basking shark. The locals were pretty disappointed with this, but who can argue with an anatomist?
Even if it was a shark, the Orkney Beast remains an interesting find. The largest basking shark (which is a filter feeder, and the second largest shark after the whale shark) ever recorded was 40 feet, significantly smaller than the beast’s 55 feet.
The skull and “paw” of the creature were sent to London in the 19th century, but were destroyed in World War II. Some remains still exist at Edinburgh’s Royal Museum, however, and Dr. Simpson was given the chance to study them. The article didn’t say what Simpson, who has a PhD in the field of DNA damage repair, made of them.
I don’t know that the geneticist is claiming that Nessie or the Orkney Beast are genuine monsters (what a strange phrase), but she points out that the drawings and descriptions made of the carcass at Orkney are strikingly similar to descriptions in “eyewitness accounts” of Nessie. It’s an interesting coincidence, although I suppose people often see what they want to see, even when looking at giant, rotting fish.
Also, this is kind of interesting. Apparently there’s no shortage of Scottish loch monsters.