They Came to Find the Loch Ness Monster. What If They Do?

Washington Post photo by Jennifer Hassan
Boats and drones were deployed in the two-day hunt for the Loch Ness monster in Scotland on Sunday.

INVERNESS, Scotland – They arrived here from all over the world on a mission to locate the Loch Ness monster. But if the biggest hunt for this creature in 50 years actually yields results, what happens next?

The volunteer hunters, traipsing around the Scottish Highlands, have varying ideas about what they might do if they find Nessie, who, legend has it, has been hiding in the loch since as early as the 6th century.

Some say they will take a selfie with the creature, securing the money shot that will serve as hard evidence – a photo that would go viral, bringing them fame and fortune. Others appear to have bolder ideas, like the man who was spotted in the Loch Ness gift shop, a wooden sword slung over his back.

Drones are playing a huge role in this weekend’s search of Loch Ness, raising fears among Nessie’s fans that the underwater being might be detected and captured, or scraped for DNA. Some worry Nessie will be pulled from the loch and killed, eventually ending up on display inside a museum for people to gape at.

“LEAVE IT ALONE. LET IT BE,” one of the many people concerned about the creature wrote on Facebook, as organizers from the Loch Ness Centre, which is heading up this weekend’s search, announced that a 60-foot hydrophone being used to detect sounds from below the loch’s dark waters, heard at least four “very distinctive noises” on Saturday.

But NatureScot, the government conservation body, has a plan in place to protect Nessie – the elusive yet widely cherished beast that is knitted into Scotland’s history and culture – despite experts and skeptics insisting there is no concrete evidence that such a being exists.

Known as the Nessie Contingency Plan, the document was drawn up in 2001 mainly as “a bit of fun,” but also “to offer protection not just to the elusive monster but to any new species found in the loch,” Nick Halfhide, director of nature and climate change at NatureScot, said in an email, adding that with new species being discovered off the Scottish coast all the time, that plan may soon need dusting off.

Boston native Robert Dunakin, 19, is among the many hunters who flew from overseas to join the search this weekend. “I grew up on stories of the Loch Ness monster and I also grew up on stories of adventure and exploration that happened centuries ago,” he said. “It feels like there’s little left in the world that is exciting and mysterious. Loch Ness represents one of the last frontiers of that.”

Dunakin isn’t convinced the monster is real but he wanted to volunteer to be a part of this weekend’s hunt anyway. “It’s a bit of a fool’s errand,” he quipped. “But it’s a fun fool’s errand.”

Dunakin, who is hunting for Nessie solo, referenced several theories swirling about what the creature could be. Possibly an eel, he said. Or a sturgeon. When asked what he would do if he found Nessie, he replied, “probably call the police.”

Agata Balinska and her partner Matty Wiles drove almost 12 hours from Hull in England to join the hunt for Nessie.

Balinska does not plan to call emergency services if she sees anything sinister in the loch. She also has no plans to take selfies with Nessie. Instead, she wants to be present and enjoy every moment – after all, this quest is a “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she said. “If we ever saw it we would definitely embrace the moment in real-time rather than looking through a lens.”