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News Release June 21, 2001
GSA Release No. 01-29
Contact: Christa Stratton

Does Nessie Stir When The Earth Shakes?

The Loch Ness Monster could be the result of earthquakes, according to Dr Luigi Piccardi, a geologist at the Centro di Studio dell' Appennino e delle Catene Perimediterranee (Firenze) who specialises in finding links between mythical and historical descriptions and geological phenomena.

Dr. Piccardi presents his theory in a poster session at Earth System Processes, a multidisciplinary meeting organised by the Geological Society of London (GSL) and the Geological Society of America (GSA) in Edinburgh. He thinks it may not be a coincidencel that Loch Ness lies along the Great Glen Fault (GGF), one of the major fault lines of the UK, and still active. The GGF was responsible for a magnitude 5 quake as recently as 1901.

Piccardi, who has already suggested that the Oracle of Delphi had her visions as a result of hallucinogenic vapours rising along a fault line from hydrocarbon-bearing strata below, believes that mythological sites in Greece are strongly correlated with active geological faults. For example, "chthonic dragons", weird feminine polymorph creatures who (as their name suggests) live underground, were indicated at many sacred sites - their supposed "lairs" located above major active faults.

"Veneration of these places may have been a result of people seeing unusual natural phenomena there" says Piccardi. "These may have been gas and flame emissions, underground roaring, shaking and rupture of the ground. Of course the Aegean is a very seismic area, so the association might be coincidental. But I think it can also be seen in less earthquake-prone areas."

Loch Ness provides an example. The first reports of the monster, says Piccardi, occur in Adomnan's Life of St Columba (7th Century AD). "In the original Latin, the dragon (which is known to derive from an ancient Pictish cult of the "water-horse") appears cum ingenti fremitu - "with strong shaking". It disappears tremefacta - or "shaking herself"."


During the Earth System Processes meeting, June 25-28, contact the GSA/GSL Newsroom at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre for assistance and to arrange for interviews: +44 (0) 131 519 4134

Ted Nield, GSL Science and Communications Officer
Ann Cairns, GSA Director of Communications

The abstract for this presentation is available at:

Post-meeting contact information:

Luigi Piccardi
Centro di Studio dell' Appennino e delle Catene Perimediterranee
Via G. La Pira 4
Firenze 50121, Italia
Tel: +39 (0)55 210 670
Fax: +39 (0)55 230 2302

Ted Nield
Geological Society of London
+44 (0) 20 7434 9944

Ann Cairns
Geological Society of America
+01 303 447 2020 ext. 1156

To view other Earth System Processes press releases, see

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