The tech-enabled hunt for Nessie goes way back before Google stepped in.
Not the real Nessie. Image: StaraBlazkova/Wikimedia
Scotland's Loch Ness Lake harbours a deep secret. Legend has it that it's inhabited by the elusive, probably non-existent, Loch Ness Monster. And over the decades, many a monster hunter has wanted to capture it on camera—now including Google.
To celebrate the 1934 anniversary of the release of the " Surgeon's Photograph," a hoax photograph of the Loch Ness monster taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson, Google has brought its 360-degree Street View imagery of Loch Ness to Google Maps, so that anyone can hunt for Nessie from the comfort of their home.
Like the yeti and the chupacabra, a heavy-set creature with a row of spines on its back, the Loch Ness monster is a cryptid—a creature who is thought to exist, but has not been scientifically proven to do so. While some believe that Nessie could be a plesiosaur, a type of dinosaur that's been able to survive throughout the ages, others are convinced that Aliester Crowley, a magician and occultist, created the monster in the early 1900s while trying to conjure evil spirits at his home beside the Loch Ness.
As the creature has captured the public imagination for decades, there have been many earlier technological efforts to capture it on camera, from underwater photography and sonar scanning to, now, Google's Street view.
Between 1960 and 1987, noted Nessie hunter Tim Dinsdale went on 56 missions where he attempted to film the monster with his camera. For example, in April 1960, Dinsdale shot a brief piece of film of a mysterious object in the waters with a 16mm camera, using black and white film.
The Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau was established in 1962, with expeditions organised and led by Conservative MP David James. This group primarily focused on surface watches, where they mounted 35mm cine cameras with telephoto lenses either on fixed platforms or on vehicles driven around the loch. After failing to solve the mystery of the Loch Ness monster, the group disbanded in 1972.
In 1972, Ike Blonder, a member of the Academy of Applied Sciences, used sonar, underwater photography, dredging, and good old visual observation to try to scout out the monster. And in the same decade, MIT researcher Harold "Doc" Edgerton also joined the quest. Edgerton used his expertise in strobe photography and sonar to look for Nessie.
The next decade, in 1987, naturalist Adrian Shine led a one-week long £1 million search for Nessie with Operation Deepscan. The project, according to a report by the BBC, was made up of a flotilla of 24 boats equipped with high-tech sonars, which trawled the Loch Ness for two days. As an avid Nessie hunter, Shine, who heads the Loch Ness & Morar Project, has been active since 1973, meticulously logging more than 1000 supposed Nessie sightings.
With Street View, Google's taken the hunt for Nessie one step further. They've partnered with folks over at Catlin Seaview Survey, who dived into the lake and collected imagery along the way for Google's Street view maps. This, says Google, will let people the world over "imagine Nessie nestling within these dark, peat-filled waters."
Despite the advances in tech, and various missions to uncover the monster's whereabouts over the decades, true to the legend, the Loch Ness monster remains speculation. For now.