Loch Ness monster: Biggest search in five decades to take place this weekend

Two-day search will involve specialist surveying equipment never used before

A surgeon's photograph of 'Nessie' in the 1930s was later dismissed as a fake. AP
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Monster hunters will scour Scotland’s Loch Ness this weekend in the largest hunt for Nessie in five decades.

The two-day search will be led by an independent team called the Loch Ness Exploration (LNE), a group of independent and voluntary researchers.

The technology features thermal drones that will take images from the air using infrared cameras, said staff at the Loch Ness Centre, which is near the huge body of water in Drumnadrochit.

Under the water, a hydrophone will listen out for unusual sounds. Meanwhile, volunteers will scour the surface for any signs of “breaks in the water or any inexplicable movements”, the centre said.

It is believed to be the largest “surface watch” since a group called the Loch Ness Investigation carried out a search in 1972.

Each morning someone from the group will brief volunteers on what to look out for and how to record findings. There will also be a debrief in the afternoon to go through the day's events.

Paul Nixon, general manager of the Loch Ness Centre, said: "We are guardians of this unique story, and as well as investing in creating an unforgettable experience for visitors, we are committed to helping continue the search and unveil the mysteries that lie underneath the waters of the famous loch.

"The weekend gives an opportunity to search the waters in a way that has never been done before and we can't wait to see what we find."

Reports of a monster living in the loch stretch back centuries, when the Picts – ancient people who lived in what is now eastern and north-eastern Scotland – etched carvings in the local stone of a beast with flippers.

In the 7th century, a biography of the Christian missionary St Columba told of how he ordered a beast to “go back” after it bit a swimmer in 565AD. It only appeared occasionally appeared after that, according to Britannica.

The myth grew in 1933, when Aldie Mackay, the manager of the old Drumnadrochit Hotel, reported spotting a “water beast” in the loch, the largest body of freshwater by volume in the UK and one of its deepest.

Soon after a couple reported seeing an “enormous animal”, which they compared to a “dragon or prehistoric monster”, crossing in front of their car before disappearing down a bank and into the water.

And that same year, the Daily Mail hired Marmaduke Wetherell, a filmmaker and big game hunter, to look for the beast.

He supposedly found “a very powerful, soft-footed animal about 20 feet [6 metres] long”.

But that was dismissed as a fake by experts at the National History Museum, who said the tracks had been made by an umbrella stand or ashtray with a hippopotamus leg as a base.

However, the following year an English surgeon claimed to have taken a picture of a monster which looked like a plesiosaur, a marine reptile that lived in the age of the dinosaurs. It was later revealed to have been faked by the photographer, who had attached objects to a toy submarine to carry out the stunt.

Five years ago, a DNA survey was carried out of the loch but no evidence was unearthed of an animal like a plesiosaur. However, results did suggest there were numerous eels, which some said could mean Nessie is an oversized eel.

Updated: August 25, 2023, 1:36 PM