Myth or unsolved mystery? Unending quest for Scotland’s Nessie
Loch Ness Centre says in-depth report on findings to be available later this month
Whether Nessie is a real undiscovered creature or a product of the imagination, one thing is certain: the eyes of the world are once again fixed on the tranquil waters of Loch Ness.
Watchers are eagerly awaiting the next chapter in the timeless quest to uncover the truth behind Scotland's most famed legend.
For decades, the story of the serpent-like Loch Ness Monster has been shrouded in mystery. Despite countless hoaxes and skepticism from the scientific community, the legend has remained a symbol of wonder and curiosity.
The history of the Loch Ness Monster, affectionately known also as "Nessie," dates to the sixth century, when it first made its recorded appearance in the biography of St. Columba, an Irish Catholic missionary.
According to historical accounts, St. Columba is said to have intervened in a life-or-death encounter between a swimmer and a mysterious water beast, invoking the power of the cross to repel the creature. This early account ignited the imagination and curiosity of generations to come.
The legend began to take root in 1933, coinciding with the completion of a road running alongside its supposed home of Loch Ness, providing an unobstructed view of the mysterious lake.
In April of that year, a couple had a remarkable encounter, reporting to have witnessed a colossal creature that they likened to a "dragon or prehistoric monster," crossing their car's path before vanishing into the water.
The incident was promptly covered in a Scottish newspaper, sparking a wave of subsequent sightings.
Efforts to confirm Nessie's existence tended to gain momentum in the wake of sensational news. In 1934, English physician Robert Kenneth Wilson captured a picture of the purported creature, a famous image known as the "surgeon's photograph."
It appeared to depict a creature with a head atop a long neck, setting off a global sensation when it was published in the Daily Mail.
Speculation ran rampant, with many suggesting the enigmatic creature could be a plesiosaur — an ancient marine reptile that vanished over 65 million years ago.
The allure of the Loch Ness region has since drawn countless monster hunters over the years.
Numerous attempts were made to locate the creature using sonar technology, with notable efforts in 1987 and 2003, but none yielded success.
A multitude of photographs claiming to capture the elusive beast have also surfaced, yet most were ultimately debunked as forgeries or misidentifications, often showing other animals or inanimate objects.
In 2018, a group of researchers carried out a comprehensive DNA survey of Loch Ness to identify the aquatic life inhabiting its waters.
Contrary to expectations, no traces of a plesiosaur or a comparably large creature were detected.
But the survey did reveal the presence of a substantial population of eels. That discovery raised the intriguing possibility that the legendary monster might be an exceptionally large eel.
Biggest search in 50 years
In 2023, Loch Ness Exploration took up the mantle, promising the most extensive search for Nessie in more than half a century.
The Loch Ness Centre, in collaboration with the dedicated research team from Loch Ness Exploration, announced their intention to employ cutting-edge surveying tools that have never before been deployed in the Loch, including state-of-the-art thermal drones.
Volunteers hailing from various corners of the globe were assigned specific positions along the 23-mile (37-kilometer) stretch of the lake, where they diligently watched for any possible indications of Nessie.
"Well, a few weekends ago we had the biggest search in over 50 years, with 150 volunteers across the world participated in. We determined 14 different locations across Loch Ness. We're looking forward to see what we can find and see if we can find the monster. We can't wait just to go through the data and work out mistaken identities and maybe the monsters," a member of the Loch Ness Centre, Emilie Lumineau, told Anadolu.
People love searching for mystery, said Lumineau, adding that this is why they have come to Scotland to find out whether there is a monster in Loch Ness Lake.
"The thing is that we can't prove that the Loch Ness monster doesn't exist, so people love the mystery and the imagination. Perhaps they believed in this story when they were children, and when they come here, they see the beautiful atmosphere of Loch Ness," she said.
The Loch Ness Center also confirmed that there have been numerous reports of potential sightings.
A virtual volunteer described a shadow of signficant size just below the surface, moving as it dipped in an out of sight, the center said in its initial report.
Four mysterious and previously unheard loud noises from the depths of the loch were also identified, it said. An in-depth report will be available in September.
'Scottish legends have truth in them'
"There's a lot of Scottish legends that have that have truth in them," Kacey, a resident of the Loch Ness area, told Anadolu.
"And whether she's (Nessie) still around in the same form that she was around hundreds of years ago? Perhaps not. But I think there's definitely something out there," she said.
There is a lot of photographic evidence regarding Nessie, she added.
"Obviously some of it has proven to not be true and has been made up. But there have been lots of other photographs of lots of other strange goings on that I think definitely point to there being a monster, "she said. "Lots of the children — when children are very little they go to the Loch Ness side and they feed her shortbread — and they leave it for her and it's always gone in the morning."
Martin, another local, said the story has been around ever since he was a boy.
"And people started finding the monster they look for it in the 1970s and they haven't found this and I would like to believe there is one but I'm not sure. But yes, it's true. If you come to Scotland, you must have a look at that," he said.
Lucy, a tourist from Belgium, is more skeptical of the story. "So it attracts people to come in. And there's a lot of tourism because of it," she said.
Tourism over the fabled beast is said to add nearly $60 million to the Scottish economy every year.