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Loch Ness hunters hope for monster sighting in Scotland this weekend


This weekend, hundreds of monster hunters have gathered in the Scottish Highlands to carry out what's probably the largest search for the Loch Ness Monster in 50 years. It's dubbed The Quest. Those out on the famous Loch Ness, which is the U.K.'s largest lake by volume, are armed with both high and low-tech hunting gear, everything from binoculars to drones and sonar equipment.

Now, it's been 1,500 years or so since the first recorded sighting of a monster in Loch Ness, but the modern craze dates back to 1933, when a local hotel manager named Aldie Mackay barged into a pub and startled drinkers with their claims that she had seen a water beast. Since then, there have been hundreds of reported sightings, but verifiable proof has been elusive. Eyewitness accounts are often varied but always dramatic. You can hear it in this 1965 report from Independent Television News.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Suddenly I heard this peculiar sound. It was going sort of (imitating breathing sounds) - after that, I was only interested in putting as much distance between me and it as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: It was short, the head and the four humps and all the body.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Can you tell me anything about its color?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Yes. It was the very same color as an elephant.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: Well, the witnesses are - most of them are repulsed when they get a very close sighting of it. They're horrified.

DETROW: Today, monster hunters are fanned out across the loch, hoping to find some proof. We caught up with one of them, Betsy King, when she was out on a sonar-equipped search boat. We talked with her just after the skipper gave the hunter some basic information about the loch.

UNIDENTIFIED SKIPPER: Right in the middle of there, Loch Ness is almost 750 feet deep. And we've done some work down in the depths there as well.

DETROW: So tell us where you are right now. What are you doing?

BETSY KING: I'm currently on the deep scan cruise on Loch Ness itself.

DETROW: Who all is on the boat with you? What's the mood like? Is it fun? Is it serious? Is it a mix of both?

KING: Yeah, it's really fun. I've not done a deep-scan cruise before. Once you see the equipment, you can see how deep below you the loch is and all the thermal readings. So it's been really exciting. Yeah.

DETROW: So I'm just trying to get an image of the boat. It's you and several other people. There's sonar equipment. It sounds like you're scanning the bottom of the loch, looking for any sort of signs.

KING: Yeah. If there was a sign on the white bit, which represents the water below us, it'd come up a red dot, but nothing so far.

DETROW: What inspired you to sign up for this this weekend?

KING: Well, you know, I live in Inverness. I've lived up here for almost 20 years now. And I've loved Nessie since I was a kid and, you know, just can't not miss it, you know. Like, it's so exciting that, you know, there's this new adventure happening, especially in our day and age. You know, it last happened in the '70s. Yeah. It's just amazing.

DETROW: Do you - what are your personal views on Nessie? Do you think she's likely down there? What do you think?

KING: Yeah. I think there definitely is something people have been seeing all these years. I don't know if it's a deep-sea mammal, something not discovered before. I don't know. Maybe it could be missightings, but I definitely think there's something.

DETROW: What do you say to the doubters and the haters out there who think this is nonsense, there's nothing there, this is an urban legend, this is a made-up story?

KING: Yeah. I think Nessie represents something in this life that we hold on dearly to, and that's something of hope that there is something beyond in this world. I think that brings a lot of comfort to people. And I think it brings joy to childness wonder. Yeah. I think it's very positive.

DETROW: I maintain positivity and optimism, like you said, is important. But I do wonder this - if, at the end of two days, with all this equipment and all of this focus, nothing turns up that's an interesting sign, would that change your mind at all or hey, it was just one weekend, we'll keep looking?

KING: I think it'd change it a bit in the sense of, you know, it's upsetting, didn't find anything. But there's still so much evidence out that I feel that says, what was that? That was never explained. You know, there's still a lot of things, you know, just as there is with Bigfoot, for example. And I still think it's (inaudible) thing, especially seeing kids enjoying it so much. That's a nice thing to see.

DETROW: Yeah. Well, Betsy King, thanks for talking to us from Loch Ness. And best of luck hunting over the next day or so.

KING: Thank you. Bye.

DETROW: To put this all into context and to get a broader sense of the history of the Nessie legend, we called up Willie Cameron in Inverness. He's an entrepreneur and founding director of the Cobbs Group, which owns several hotels in the Loch Ness area.

Why do you think there's so much interest in this?

WILLIE CAMERON: The world loves a mystery, and this is probably one of the greatest unsolved mysteries, certainly of the modern world, and with no real definitive explanation to what people are seeing.

DETROW: I'm sure you've talked to a skeptic or two. What is the first thing you tell them to kind of dent that skepticism a little bit?

CAMERON: What they've got to understand, although the general public and everybody just sees the surface of the water, it's an amazing cavern. It's a cathedral of the earth. It's 24 miles long and about a mile and a half wide. It is absolutely vast, vast area. And at the end of the day, we are only mere mortals. So we are - who are we to say that there is nothing there?

DETROW: Taking it today, help us understand what Nessie means for your community when it comes to its identity and also when it comes to just the tourism and the revenue and the traffic it brings in.

CAMERON: From an economic point of view, Scott, it is enormous. The population around Loch Ness is probably less than 5,000 souls. It's a hundred miles round, completely round by road. Tourism is one of the main business, probably the main business pre-COVID. The number of people, visitors to Loch Ness would be between 1.4 and 1.5 million people from all over the world, generating an income of between 45 and 50 million pound sterling to the economy. There's many a CEO today wouldn't mind having a Loch Ness monster in his front garden.

DETROW: Willie Cameron, thank you so much for speaking to us about Nessie and Loch Ness. Thank you. We appreciate it.

CAMERON: My pleasure. My pleasure.


DETROW: If they do find Nessie, we will be sure to let you know. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Emma Klein
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Adam Raney
Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.