Monster hunters are gathering in northern Scotland this weekend for what is being billed as the biggest search for the Loch Ness monster in 50 years.
The expedition, which will have volunteers monitoring the surface of the lake for “inexplicable” movements, comes after several prominent efforts to spot the creature and more than a thousand independent sightings.
Preaching religion, finding monsters.
The monster made its first recorded appearance in the biography of a Catholic missionary from Ireland, St. Columba, who traveled to Scotland.
The account said that St. Columba witnessed the burial of a man who had been killed by a water beast, according to the British Library. The monster then returned to attack another swimmer in the River Ness, which flows from Loch Ness. St. Columba made the sign of the cross, causing the beast to swim away, the biography said.
An early depiction of the monster.
Six centuries later, Walter of Bingham, a minor English cleric, spotted a great beast with fire sparking from its eyes as he crossed the River Ness. He later drew a picture of the creature, which looked like a bear.
A burst of sightings.
The rush of expeditions and tourism to Loch Ness came in 1933, after a local newspaper, The Inverness Courier, reported on a couple’s sighting of a “fearsome-looking monster” as they were driving along the loch.
“There, the creature disported itself, rolling and plunging for fully a minute, its body resembling that of a whale, and the water cascading and churning like a simmering cauldron,” the newspaper reported.
Many sightings followed and were breathlessly covered by newspapers.
Scientists say it is probably not a monster.
The Loch Ness fever called for an explanation from scientists, many of whom guessed that the fantastical being was likely to be a known sea creature, such as a seal.
Dr. William Beebe, chief of the Department of Tropical Research for the New York Zoological Society (now the Wildlife Conservation Society), told a conference in January 1934 that he believed “it is nothing more than a great squid.” His comments prompted The New York Times to declare that there were “No More Ocean Dragons” in a headline.
April 21, 1934
The surgeon’s photo is published.
The Daily Mail published the enduring black and white photo of Nessie on April 21, 1934. It depicted a long, serpentine neck and head lifted from the water. In 1994, the image, known as “the surgeon’s photograph,” was revealed to actually be a 12-inch-high model made from plastic wood and a toy submarine.
An insurance magnate sends crew to watch Loch Ness.
Sir Edward Mountain, an insurance magnate, organized a search in 1934, and sent 20 people armed with Kodak cameras and field glasses to watch the loch, according to the scientific journal Nature. Sir Mountain told a scientific society that the expedition crew saw the monster 21 times in two weeks.
Organized searches become routine.
There were several expeditions to find Nessie in the 1960s.
The Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau formed in 1961 and carried out several expeditions, including night searches. The group dissolved in 1977.
Summer of 1976
An American-led investigation.
Dr. Robert H. Rines of Boston led a monthslong search of Loch Ness that used underwater cameras to take more than 108,000 pictures and sonar systems to search the bottom of the lake for potential skeletons and carcasses.
This event was sponsored by the Academy of Applied Science, a Boston‐based group of engineers and inventors, and The New York Times. The expedition found no new evidence to explain Nessie.
A sonar sweep of Loch Ness.
Adrian Shine, a naturalist, led Operation Deepscan, which was called “the largest scientific expedition ever undertaken,” on Loch Ness and involved at least 20 boats conducting a sonar sweep of the loch. They did not find the Loch Ness monster.
July 27, 2003
The BBC search includes a fence post.
The British Broadcasting Corporation used 600 sonar beams to investigate the loch and concluded that Nessie did not exist. The BBC also tested the public by hiding a fence post beneath the surface of the loch and raising it in front of a tourist group. When members of the group were asked to show what they had seen, some drew monster-shaped heads.
Sept. 5, 2019
Scientist finds a lot of eel DNA.
Professor Neil Gemmell of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, presented findings from 250 water samples he had taken from Loch Ness and tested for DNA. He said that he found a “significant amount of eel DNA,” but no genetic information to support a popular theory that the monster might be a Jurassic-age reptile. Professor Gemmell said that “what people see and believe is the Loch Ness monster might be a giant eel.”
Aug. 26 — 27, 2023
The biggest surface search in decades.
Loch Ness Exploration, a volunteer research group, will lead the newest search, which is billed as the largest conducted from the surface since 1972. The group will scan the loch for unusual movements and will use tools including heat-detecting drones and a hydrophone, which detects acoustic signals under water.
Viewing slots have filled up, but people will still be able to eye the loch on a livestream.
There have been three purported monster sightings this year, according to the official register of sightings.
The search continues.