Scientists Researching The Loch Ness Monster?

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Scientists Researching The Loch Ness Monster?

Harper Kolehmainen, Staff Writer

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Long considered to be a myth, efforts of finding the alleged ‘Loch Ness monster’ have dwindled over the last hundred years. However, a new team of scientists has begun experiments to determine whether or not the Loch Ness monster exists, giving new light to the theory.

Supposedly, the Loch Ness monster, or ‘Nessie,’ has lived in the large freshwater lake Loch Ness in Scotland for upwards of 1,500 years. The earliest accounts date back to approximately 500 A.D. when local inhabitants carved the monster into stones near the lake. Written references to Nessie began in 565 A.D. when a 7th century St. Columba biographer stumbled onto the beast while on his way to visit the king. It is recorded that Nessie was approaching another man, intending to attack him, when the St. Columba biographer intervened and commanded the beast back to the depths of lake Loch Ness. Allegedly, Nessie retreated and never harmed another soul.

The story of the Loch Ness monster became popularized in the early 1930s when a road was completed spanning across the shore of Loch Ness and providing a clear view to the lake. It wasn’t long before reports rose of Nessie. The first was published on May 2nd of 1933 by the Inverness courier when a local couple reported that they had seen “an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface” which resembled a “dragon or prehistoric monster.” Claims like these spread like wildfire and a media frenzy surrounding the supposed beast ensued. This phenomenon caused many attempts at finding evidence of Nessie; a circus even went as far as to offer a 20,000-pound reward for its capture. A notable attempt at this was made in December of 1933 when the British newspaper Daily Mail commissioned the big game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell to locate the sea monster. In his search for evidence, Wetherell discovered large footprints belonging to a four-foot creature that he claimed was the Loch Ness monster. This spurred the daily mail to publish the supposed evidence with the sensational headline “MONSTER OF LOCH NESS IS NOT LEGEND BUT A FACT.” Under this alleged evidence, the Loch Ness monster would be “a very powerful soft-footed animal about 20 feet long.” Unfortunately, in recent years, many people have claimed this evidence as a hoax.

The first popularized photographic evidence was gathered in 1934 by the physician Robert Kenneth Wilson. The image, which is famous to this day, is commonly referred to as the surgeon’s photograph. It appears to show a creature, resembling a dinosaur, with a long neck emerging slightly from the waters of Lake Loch Ness. The Daily Mail, a newspaper with previous notable experience with the loch ness monster, published the photograph.

In the wake of this evidence, many speculated that the Loch Ness monster was a plesiosaur – the last remnants of an extinct marine reptilian species, the rest of which had died out 65.5 million years ago. Nessie, despite a lack of conclusive evidence, has continued to gain popularity among the general public and has served an $80 million annual contribution to Scotland’s economy.

Despite this lack of evidence, actual scientists have begun research to attempt to prove a definitive conclusion on whether or not Nessie is real. The current project is centered around collecting samples of the of lakes water, extracting DNA fragments from the samples, and comparing them to animal DNA databases. Environmental DNA is present in every ecosystem due to the organisms leaving a trace amount of their DNA behind in the form of skin cells, excrement, etc. which can then be collected by researchers. In this case, running all collected environmental DNA samples from lake Loch Ness through a database of known animal DNA could lead researchers to find and isolate a sample of Nessie’s DNA as it would be the only DNA fragment to not match an animal in the database. It could be only months before the world has definitive proof – or disproof – of the existence of the Loch Ness monster.