Loch Ness Monster Lovers Come Together for Biggest Hunt in 50 Years

Volunteers will convene in the Scottish Highlands armed with drones, hydrophones and other technologies

First Nessie photo
Hugh Gray's famous 1933 photo of a creature he believed to be Nessie Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Loch Ness monster enthusiasts from around the world will converge on the Scottish Highlands this weekend for the biggest hunt in half a century.

“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,” says Paul Nixon, general manager of the Loch Ness Centre, in a statement.

During the search for the creature, known as Nessie, participants will use surveying technologies such as hydrophones, which detect sounds underwater, and drones equipped with infrared cameras, which produce thermal images of the loch.

Roughly 100 volunteers will participate in person, while many others will keep watch online, reports CNN’s Lianne Kolirin. Every morning, organizers will brief the group and provide instructions.

Organizers are billing the search as the “biggest of its kind” since a hunt by the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau in 1972. The event is hosted by the Loch Ness Centre and the research group Loch Ness Exploration.

“If you believe that the Loch Ness monster exists, then we invite you to join the search,” writes Loch Ness Exploration on Facebook. “We equally invite you to support the study of the Loch and the natural behavior of the elements that may be the root cause of these strange reports from Loch Ness.”

Loch Ness sign
The first recorded sighting of the monster took place in 565. Benedikt von Imhoff / picture alliance via Getty Images

The history of the Loch Ness monster stretches back to 565, when the Irish monk Saint Columba made what may be history’s first recorded Nessie sighting. As the story goes, he confronted the monster, which had been terrorizing locals, and banished it into the loch.

The global phenomenon of the Loch Ness monster really began 90 years ago, in 1933. That spring, a local hotel manager named Aldie Mackay claimed she and her husband had encountered a creature that looked like a whale in the loch. A journalist for the local paper, the Inverness Courier, ran the story and referred to Nessie as a “monster” for the first time.

Later that summer, a visitor to the region reported seeing a creature crossing the road with a lamb in its mouth. A few months later, in November, a man named Hugh Gray took the first alleged photograph of the creature from the northern shore of the loch.

“The photo kicked off the modern era of [Nessie] hunting. Up until then, it was just a local mystery,” Roland Watson, the author of several books about the Loch Ness monster, tells Samantha Drake of the Washington Post.

The worldwide attention that followed these sightings created an entire tourism industry of enthusiasts and skeptics alike. This weekend’s gathering is just the latest chapter in a story that spans generations.

Today, the legends surrounding Nessie are also helping out a community facing increasing challenges. Fraser Campbell is director of the Cobbs Group, which owns various sites around Loch Ness. He tells Libby Brooks of the Guardian that the buzz surrounding this hunt for Nessie has generated “unbelievable” business in the region—which is sorely needed in the wake of challenges like Brexit and increasing costs of living.

Many smaller surveys have taken place at the site. A few years ago, researchers tested the waters of Loch Ness for traces of DNA to find out more about the creatures that live there. They didn’t discover anything especially startling—though they did find plenty of eel DNA.

Registration for this weekend’s in-person events has already filled up, but hunters from around the world can tune in virtually to search for Nessie via one of five webcams the organizers have set up.

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