eXXpedition Round Britain crew member Dr Jessica van Horssen tells us all about her up-close-and-personal encounter with the Loch Ness Monster:
All-Female Contingent Discovers Loch Ness Monster Actually Made of Plastic
“The all-female exxpedition collective made their way through the Caledonian Canal on their mission to trawl British waters for plastic contamination, and in the process, they made a surprising discovery. The Loch Ness Monster, or “Nessie,” as she is better known, was on our minds as we sailed the Sea Dragon from Loch Oich into Loch Ness. Immediately, signs of the mythical monster began to appear, as they passed discarded plastic water bottles, polystyrene cups, and even a broken and abandoned sail boat floating on the surface. These were surely signs of something dark lurking in the water.
We dropped the manta trawl and plankton trawl over the side of the Sea Dragon in hopes of assessing the level of plastic contamination in Loch Ness, and we were able to identify and collect a number of visible plastic pieces this way, sieving through the organic matter and uncovering small pieces of plastic that could, perhaps, have once been the water bottles or cups that had greeted us upon our arrival to the loch.
These discoveries made us wonder: what if Nessie wasn’t a serpent-like monster, but instead something much more sinister. Could the Loch Ness Monster actually be a reflection of how humans have treated the marine environments of the world as bottomless waste disposal units? Loch Ness is gorgeous, and over 200,000 tourists visit it each year, many with the hope of searching for Nessie herself. This intense human presence has impacted the local environment, as well as the larger, global ecosystems the loch is connected to.
The work the exxpedition crew has been doing on our journey around Britain is an attempt to begin to track this impact, as well as to open conversation about ways we can reduce (or eliminate!) the amount of plastics in our marine environments. Since the 1950s, our use of plastic has increased exponentially, and we can see the impact of this on the environment.
Each body of water we’ve trawled on the exxpedition stands as an archive housing evidence of the ways in which we interact with the world around us, and how it interacts with us in turn. What does this evidence of plastic contamination tell us about the way society sees the natural world? How can we add new evidence to this eco-archive that demonstrates an engaged population committed to improving the health of the environment? By developing ways to reduce our plastic consumption, as well as better methods of disposing waste responsibly, we have the opportunity to change the narrative, but we need to do this soon, as monsters like Nessie continue to lurk beneath the surface of our marine environments, getting larger and more irreversible each year.”
Dr. Jessica van Horssen is a Senior Lecturer in North American History at Leeds Beckett University.