Award Offered for Loch Ness Monster Photo

Whether an elephant, a plesiosaur, a real monster or nothing at all, Nessie is back. After a new film of the Loch Ness monster was released early this month, a British bookmaker has decided to offer 1 million pounds to anyone who takes a picture of the sea creature at this weekend's Rock Ness music festival. They're even providing disposable cameras to 50,000 eager participants. Of course, this isn't the first time that monster hunters have trekked to the Scottish Highlands. Here's a timeline of the Nessie legend.

A.D. 565
Adamnan's "The Life of St. Columba" provides the earliest known account of Nessie. "He was obliged to cross the river Nesa [the Ness]; and when he reached the bank of the river, he saw the inhabitants burying an unfortunate man … He was swimming and bitten most severely by a monster that lived in the water."

Bertram Mills, a circus owner, offers a 20,000-pound reward to anyone who can capture the new monster for his traveling tour. Because many sightings come after this incident, paleontologists believe that Mills put one of his own elephants in the water as a marketing scheme.

The iconic swanlike photograph of Nessie comes from an image published in the Daily Mail, submitted by a physician named R. Kenneth Wilson. Dubbed "The Surgeon's Photo," questions arise due to the close framing and lack of perspective.

Tim Dinsdale, an engineer, films what he thinks is a boat crossing the loch. Others aren't so sure, and insist the hump he sees is further evidence for a sea monster. Either way, new technology (such as sonar and video) makes this decade prime for Nessie hunting. New footage, expeditions and even submarines are used to keep the Scots on their toes.

Monster mania returns when The Surgeon's Photo is declared to be a hoax. The animal in the image was nothing more than a toy submarine with a long neck attached, according to Alastair Boyd, who followed a paper trail back to the original engineer of the prank. True believers think this new discovery, not the picture itself, is the real lie.

A BBC documentary team uses 600 sonar beams in an attempt to disprove the existence of Nessie. Using data from previous accounts, they were looking for a plesiosaur, a marine reptile thought to be extinct since dinosaur times. Instead they found a buoy. Despite the totality of this search, others are still looking.

The monster-cum-plesiosaur myth is debunked. Leslie Noè, a paleontologist at the University of Cambridge's Sedgwick Museum, pieced together neck vertebrae to look at the prehistoric creature's stature. "The neck can only move downward or left or right, not that upward bend you see in pictures," he says. "There may be something in there, but it sure isn't a plesiosaur."

May 2007
Gordon Holmes, a 55-year-old visitor to the loch, shoots a new video that reignites the hunt. A long dark object moves within the frame and a wide shot provides context. "I don't think the video is a hoax," says Adrian Shine of the Loch Ness Project. "But it could be distorted by a meteorological effect, like wind blowing through the hills."

June 9-10, 2007
At this year's Rock Ness music festival, 1 million pounds is up for grabs to anyone who shoots a picture of Nessie that will satisfy Britain's Museum of National History. Current odds? 250 to 1, according to William Hill, the bookmakers who sponsored the competition.

Award Offered for Loch Ness Monster Photo | Culture