The Loch Ness Monster
The Loch Ness Monster is a creature said to inhabit Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It is often described as large, long and dark with a snake-like neck and visible breath caused by its nostrils; but in truth no one has any idea what it looks like or where it might live.
This elusive creature has been affectionately named ‘Nessie’ after its home lake, and more than 1,000 sightings have been reported since 1933, including sonar readings of its body from afar.
Although the monster is the subject of many mostly fanciful sightings, scientists have their own theories about what it is. Some think that a plesiosaur, a long-necked marine reptile that went extinct 150 million years ago, has survived in Scotland’s lochs.
Others say some kind of large fish could be lurking there but no conclusive evidence has been found to prove this theory. However, as yet evidence for the existence of ‘Nessie’ simply does not exist. The most recent ‘Nessie’ sighting was made by Mrs. Margaret Munro, who told reporters that she saw a large fish-shaped head and neck cruising just above the surface of the loch, its black eyes peering at her as it passed.
Mrs. Munro insisted that her sighting was different from the many others and had seen something real.
A search by boat of the loch turned up no signs of the creature, but a photograph taken by Mr. Nicky Campbell in 1982 became one of the most famous sightings. The photo was published in all major newspapers around the world and is still held by some as genuine, even though many people have questioned its authenticity.
To investigate this issue, the BBC sent a team of experts to Loch Ness in April 2003. The team included marine biologists, zoologists, geneticists and engineers and they used the most advanced techniques to try to find ‘Nessie’. They deployed an underwater robot, called ‘Echo’, which was equipped with powerful sonar. The robot was sent deep into the depths of the loch where it could not be seen by anyone on the surface. The only person on board was a scientist who kept contact with it using an underwater microphone. At a depth of 60 meters (196 ft) the robot detected what board told him was a large “porpoise-shaped” object. The robot was directed to follow this object and it did so for a period of fifteen minutes. However, when the robot reached the same spot again some time later it could not detect anything unusual.
To find out what was down there, the team used sonar on its own boat. It pointed its sonar device at an area of water which showed up as an intense black on its screen, indicating that something large was nearby and it was able to scan it with its camera. However, the pictures did not produce any evidence of a monster.
The team also had a hydrophone, which is an underwater microphone that can detect the sounds made by large animals. They used this to track down fish in the loch and managed to attract them using chopped-up herring as bait. However, when they tried to use it to track down ‘Nessie’ the hydrophone recorded nothing unusual but after much discussion amongst themselves, they decided it was probably because ‘Nessie’s’ sounds might be too low for even this sophisticated piece of equipment to detect. They also said that even if ‘Nessie’ were in the loch, the sounds of the hydrophone would not have been strong enough to make it through to the sonar device aboard a boat.
Finally, geneticists checked the hair sample provided to them by Mrs. Munro and compared it against several samples from animal carcasses in Scotland and found no match. The geneticists said that it was unlikely that any animal could persist for so long without being caught on camera or caught as a specimen in such a small area of water as Loch Ness. This was very disappointing news for everyone involved.