Operation Groundtruth is scaling up the search for the Loch Ness Monster with a new underwater vehicle called Munin.
Michelle StarrScience editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Well, sort of. It found a nine-metre Nessie prop that had been used in the 1970 film "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" languishing on the lakebed.
It may not be the monster they were searching for, but it's still good news. In the 46 years since the prop sank, there have been at least seven major Nessie-hunting surveys of the lake, including the BBC-sponsored 2003 search that used 600 sonar beams and satellite tracking. None of these surveys managed to find the prop.
The team searching for Nessie this time is called Operation Groundtruth, and it's being conducted by Norwegian company Kongsberg Maritime, funded by The Loch Ness Project and VisitScotland. And it's using technology that's never before been used in a search of the loch.
Called Munin, it's an autonomous underwater vehicle equipped with both sonar and camera equipment, usually used searching for downed aircraft and capable of mapping to a depth of 457 metres and areas of 1,500 metres. Loch Ness is 227 metres at its deepest point, which means Operation Groundtruth plans to leave no depth unplumbed.
Since Loch Ness has proven very difficult to survey, even if Nessie doesn't turn up, the team hopes the survey will reveal previously unknown information about the lakebed. Already it has also found a wrecked boat.
"We expect to uncover new information from the Loch during this survey, as Munin is the most advanced low logistics AUV on the market and is the first of the next generation AUVs from Kongsberg Maritime," said Kongsberg Maritime's Craig Wallace.
"Merging the cutting edge technology from the commercial sector whilst maintaining the robust reliability from the military market, the vehicle is providing insight to the Loch's depths as never before imagined. Finding Nessie was, of course, an unexpected bonus!"
There have been many reported sightings of the Loch Ness monster, beginning in the 6th century with St Columba. In later years, some have even claimed to have captured the beast on camera. Many of these photos and videos have since emerged as hoaxes, including the famous 1934 Surgeon's Photograph, but many believe the creature, most popularly thought to be a family of plesiosaurs, remains hidden in the depths.
Only one thing we can say for absolute certain: If Nessie is lurking somewhere in the depths of Loch Ness, it's exceptionally good at hiding.