A giant hunt for the Loch Ness monster is happening this weekend, with believers in the mythical creature descending on the Scottish Highlands for the largest concerted search in 50 years. Armed with modern technologies, the mission to find the monster will now include drones, hydrophones and thermal underwater imagery.
Few mythical creatures have inspired curiosity in quite the same way as the Nessie, the Loch Ness monster. Bigfoot, the Yeti and werewolves all spring to mind, but even then, the enthusiasm and consistency of the hunt for Nessie remain unparalleled.
Despite thousands of reported sightings and plenty of blurry imagery, there has never been confirmed evidence of the fabled beast. That could, however, change in just a matter of days, when volunteers use acoustic equipment and infrared cameras attempt to locate Nessie underwater. Hundreds more people from around the world will monitor the loch’s vast surface from afar.
The mystery around Britain’s biggest body of water – there is nearly double the amount of water in Loch Ness alone than in every lake in England and Wales combined – dates all the way back to the year 565. Saint Columba, an early Christian Monk from Ireland, was said to have banished a monster into the loch.
But it was not until the 20th century that Nessie became a global phenomenon. In 1933 – in what must now go down as one of the best inadvertent marketing ploys in human history – a local hotel manager named Aldie Mackay said she and her husband encountered a whale-like creature in Loch Ness.
Local newspaper the Inverness Courier, when running the story, described Nessie as a monster. The Loch Ness monster, as we now know it, was born.
This weekend’s search party is being organized by the Loch Ness Centre and the Loch Ness Exploration group. The Loch Ness Centre was recently renovated and is located at the old Drumnadrochit Hotel, where Aldie Mackay worked.
Over 100 volunteers are getting involved in person, which is the most since a hunt by the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau in 1972. Another mission to find Nessie, known as Operation Deepscan, took place in 1987. It cost £1 million and lasted a week, consisting of a flotilla of 24 boats, equipped with high-tech sonars, which used sonar equipment to search the 22.5 mile long, 738ft deep lake. It claimed to find an “unidentified object of unusual size and strength”.
Although in-person registration has filled ahead of the weekend’s event, a global audience is able to tune into the event virtually, with five webcams live broadcasting the search.
“We are guardians of this unique story,” says Paul Nixon, general manager of the Loch Ness Centre, in a statement. “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.”
“If you believe that the Loch Ness monster exists, then we invite you to join the search,” Loch Ness Exploration wrote on Facebook.
Loch Ness Exploration’s Alan McKenna will brief volunteers each morning. Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “It’s always been our goal to record, study and analyze all manner of natural behavior and phenomena that may be more challenging to explain.
“It’s our hope to inspire a new generation of Loch Ness enthusiasts and by joining this large-scale surface watch, you’ll have a real opportunity to personally contribute towards this fascinating mystery that has captivated so many people from around the world.”
In recent years, thorough searches have taken place. Most notably, in 2018, researchers from the universities of Otago, Copenhagen, Hull and the Highlands and Islands concluded that a DNA survey of the loch “ruled out the presence of any large animals likely to be behind reports of a monster”.