A few years ago, an American tourist peered out over a murky lake in Scotland and spotted something unusual in the water. He later described it as large, dark, and about the length of a school bus. But before he could snap a photo, the odd object disappeared beneath the surface.
The lake the man was visiting was Loch Ness, one of the largest in the United Kingdom. And he wasn’t the first person to spy something mysterious there. For centuries, people have reported seeing strange moving shapes in the lake’s cloudy waters. Many believe they’ve glimpsed an elusive creature known as the Loch Ness Monster, or Nessie for short.
There are plenty of theories about Nessie. Some people believe it’s a plesiosaur, an extinct prehistoric marine reptile that had a long neck. Others speculate that it’s an enormous fish. Or it could simply be a log. Although thousands of people have claimed to see Nessie, no one has been able to prove for certain that a large beast really lurks in the lake.
If there were any scientific evidence to support Nessie’s existence, Neil Gemmell thought he might know how to find it. Gemmell is a biologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand. In 2018, he rounded up an international team of scientists to travel to Scotland. “We set out to answer a simple question: What living things are in Loch Ness?” says Gemmell. “To answer the question, we planned to use a brand-new technology.”