Today marks 81 years since the notorious ‘Surgeon’s Photograph’, which claimed to show evidence of a monster living in Loch Ness, was published in the Daily Mail.
And to celebrate, Google has launched its latest Street View experience that lets you virtually explore both above and beneath the water in the iconic Scottish waterway.
The tech giant has also released a Google Doodle to commemorate the anniversary and changed the yellow Pegman to a Nessie peg-monster.
To collect the images, Google partnered with Catlin Seaview Survey and Adrian Shine from the Loch Ness and Morar Project – a project set up to explore the loch and investigate all alleged sightings.
‘Like the world’s best legends, the Loch Ness Monster transcends the everyday and exists at the edges of possibility,’ said Google in a blog post.
‘Whether or not you believe, most people hold a romanticised vision of the creature that, legend has it, plumbs the depths of the loch.
‘In 1934, the ‘Surgeon’s Photograph’ was released, claiming to show the monster in the misty waters of the lake. It’s the most iconic photo in the history of Loch Ness – and may be one of the most elaborate hoaxes of our age.’
‘Today, to celebrate the anniversary of its release, we’re bringing 360-degree Street View imagery of Loch Ness to Google Maps, so you can go in search of Nessie yourself.’
Formed of a series of interrelated bodies of water, including the River Oich to the south and the Bona Narrows to the north, Loch Ness stretches for 23 miles (37 km) southwest of Inverness.
Although it’s neither the largest Scottish loch by surface area nor depth, it is the largest by volume, containing more freshwater than all the lakes of England and Wales combined and is almost 800ft (243 metres) deep.
Explore Loch Ness
The Loch Ness Monster has been the subject of many sightings in the Scottish Highlands. Most, however, have been dismissed as hoax or fantasy.
Some experts believe the beast represents a line of long-surviving plesiosaurs, a type of carnivorous aquatic reptile from millions of years ago, while one of the most accepted explanations is that the monster is in fact a giant sturgeon, which can grow up to 12ft (3.7 metres) long.
Others include eels, bird wakes, seals, trees, logs, submarines, dogs with sticks – and even an elephant.
An online register lists 1,067 total Nessie sightings. The list was created by Gary Campbell, the man behind the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club.
But the Surgeon’s Photograph is among the most famous.
It was taken in 1934 by Colonel Robert Kenneth Wilson and published in the Daily Mail on 21 April that year, but was later exposed as a hoax by one of the participants, Chris Spurling, who, on his deathbed, revealed the pictures were staged.
The image turned out to be a toy submarine bought from Woolworths with a head and neck made of wood in an elaborate hoax by big-game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell in an act of revenge on the newspaper that had ridiculed him over his search for the beast.
Adrian Shine has been carrying out fieldwork in the Highlands since 1973 and has logged more than 1,000 Nessie sightings.
He said: ‘The Google project was so cloaked in secrecy, when people asked about the ripples in the loch during the special diving expeditions, for once I had no opinion.
‘I’m so proud to have been part of this initiative and I hope people worldwide enjoy exploring Street View to have a look and then be inspired to travel to Scotland to discover this area of magical beauty and natural intrigue.’
VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead added: ‘The Street View project is hugely exciting and we are delighted the team at Google have been as inspired about our monster as the hundreds and thousands of visitors who travel to Loch Ness every year hoping to catch a glimpse.’
Research carried out 20 years ago estimated the Nessie phenomenon having an economic impact of £40 million ($59 million) to the Scottish economy. With inflation, this figure would have risen to £60 million ($89 million) by now.
And Google said there are more searches for Loch Ness than there are for other UK institutions like Buckingham Palace and the Peak District.
‘Wherever you stand on the Nessie debate, the legend lives on – even in the digital era. Sail across the freshwater lake and take in its haunting beauty, made darker still by the peat particles found in its waters,’ the site continued.
‘Let the Loch unlock the spirit of your imagination, where the rippling water, tricks of the light, and drifting logs bring the legend of Nessie to life.
‘You can imagine Nessie nestling within these dark, peat-filled waters, waiting for the right moment to breach the surface into the Scottish sunlight above.