This Man Keeps Track Of Loch Ness Monster Sightings Gary Campbell runs the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register. He talks with NPR's Scott Simon about the lack of recent sightings.

This Man Keeps Track Of Loch Ness Monster Sightings

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Is the Loch Ness monster missing? There have been no reported sightings of Nessie for eight months. Gary Campbell, who runs the official Loch Ness monster sightings register joins us on Skype from Inverness, Scotland. Mr. Campbell, thanks for being with us.

GARY CAMPBELL: Oh, it's a pleasure, yes.

SIMON: Forgive me for not knowing - Nessie, a he or she?

CAMPBELL: Well, normally known as a she, but those of us here think that there's probably more than one or there would have to be more than one, so it's probably the Family Ness. Most time we talk about she just to make her slightly more friendly, I think, to the world.

SIMON: Well, with respect for your devotion and passion in life, is it possible that Nessie and his or her family haven't been seen in eight months because they don't exist?

CAMPBELL: Well, that's one thing that certainly the naysayers amongst us would probably say. But I think that we have to look at the 1,400-odd years of history before that, both at Loch Ness and from around the world, where the water horses, or water kelpies as they're called in Scotland, have lived in these lakes for many, many years. And it's not just the Loch Ness monster. So I think there's a huge weight of evidence that certainly something lives in these deep lakes around the world, including Loch Ness, and that just the last eight months have been a bit of an aberration.

SIMON: Have there have been eight-month periods like this or aberrant periods like this before in the 1,400-year history of sightings?

CAMPBELL: Yes, there have. But the difference this time round is that we, as well as the sightings of Nessie that we put on The Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register, we also receive a lot of other reports that we cannot explain. But actually, in this eight-month period, there's been nothing reported to us at all, not even things that we can't explain, which we think is really quite strange.

But we're hoping that people maybe here listening - maybe some of your listeners have been to Loch Ness and actually took a picture or saw something, and then they can get in touch with us and let us know that Nessie's alive and well.

SIMON: I got to think - in this day and age, there has got to be some scientific way of finding something in the loch if there is something in the loch. I mean, you know, they're picking up silverware from the Titanic wreckage these days.

CAMPBELL: (Laughter) The thing is, they knew where the Titanic was. That's the first point. So I mean, if you know where something is, you can go and have a look at it. Unfortunately, nobody knows where Nessie is. But the most recent advance is probably, I think, called environmental DNA.

And my colleagues at University of the Highlands and Islands here in Scotland, they look at the DNA of fish and other creatures in inland waterways. And what they are looking at doing is taking environmental DNA, which is tiny little - if anything swims through water or is in water, it leaves tiny traces of its DNA in the water. The best example would be, like, a scale of a fish just floating off as it died. And our colleagues have developed - are developing these very, very fine filters that can take that environmental DNA out of the water and then analyze it to see what is there.

It's actually great because it's a noninvasive way of actually checking what species are in water, which is what they wanted to do. But the added benefit for the Nessie fraternity is that if they find unknown DNA - well, what is it? Could that be Nessie? So it's a way of looking for Nessie without actually finding her. It's just to prove that she's there.

SIMON: Have you ever seen Nessie?

CAMPBELL: Yes. Well, this is what started me off in this kind of quest. Twenty-one years ago, I saw a very unimpressive small black hump coming out of the water twice in quick succession. The first time round, I thought, well, it's just I'm seeing things. And then a few seconds later, it came out again. And the best way to describe it would be like a miniwhale but without blowing water or anything.

SIMON: So to you, Nessie is not a mythological creature?

CAMPBELL: No, it's not. And the thing is, different people have different interpretations of what the Loch Ness monster is. Is it a ghost? Is it a dinosaur? Is it a seal? Is it a fish? Is it - you know, is it an unknown creature, or is it a portal into another dimension? I think we've probably heard them all. But underlying it is this story of the water kelpies, these creatures that are in lochs and lakes around the world. Of course in North America, Lake Champlain in Vermont; Lake Okanagan in BC; and Lake Memphremagog, which, you know, goes - bumps up from the United States up into Canada. All have similar creature sightings to the Loch Ness monster. So it's not just here, and it's not just a figment of people's imagination.

SIMON: Gary Campbell - he runs the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register out of Inverness, Scotland.

Good luck to you, sir. Keep watching the loch.

CAMPBELL: Thank you very much. And as we see here, generally, if you don't see something, a good glass of whiskey probably helps you on the way.

SIMON: (Laughter).

CAMPBELL: We'll be toasting you and your colleagues tonight, and hopefully we'll see something. But as I said, if any of your listeners have seen anything, please tell them to get in touch.

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