Space & Innovation

Loch Ness Monster Find Is a Film Prop

A marine robot has found the remains of a mechanical monster.

A marine robot deployed in the waters of Scotland's Loch Ness has found the remains of a monster but it turned out to be a prop from a movie shot in 1970.

The robot, belonging to Norwegian offshore oil company Kongsberg Maritime, is drawing up the first high-resolution map of the 230-meter (755-feet) deep lake in a project named "Operation Groundtruth."

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"Although it is the shape of Nessie, it is not the remains of the monster that has mystified the world for 80 years," Scottish tourism agency VisitScotland, which is backing the project, said on Wednesday.

The agency's statement said "Nessie found" with an asterisk at the bottom reading "replica model."

The blurry object with a long neck was a 30-foot (9.15-meter) long model of the monster made for the film "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes," directed by Billy Wilder.

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"It is thought the model sank after its humps were removed (the buoyancy was in the humps) never to be seen again," VisitScotland said in a statement.

The monster was actually a submarine in the film.

The film prop was used in the 1970's as part of the film, "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes." | Kongsberg Maritime

The mapping is being carried out by a robot called "Munin," which resembles a missile-shaped drone.

It also found a 27-foot long shipwreck, which is still being investigated, and worked out that there is no "Nessie trench" in the loch bed in which a creature could be hiding, as previously believed.

"The vehicle is providing insight to the loch's depths as never before imagined. Finding Nessie was, of course, an unexpected bonus," Craig Wallace, a Kongsberg Maritime engineer, said in a statement.

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Previous discoveries made in Loch Ness include a crashed World War II bomber plane, a 100-year-old fishing boat and the remains of a speedboat used in a 1952 speed record attempt which killed its pilot.

The lake has been notoriously difficult to survey due to its depth and steeply sloping side walls.

VisitScotland estimates the revenue generated by tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of "Nessie" at £60 million (76 million euros, $85 million) a year.

A sonar image shows the submerged remains of the Loch Ness monster prop resting on a crest 590 feet below the water's surface.

We all enjoy a tall tale. Cultures with seafaring traditions are especially ripe in what seem like the tallest sea monster tales of all: hydra, kraken, sirens, scylla, leviathans, assorted serpents and mermaids. Usually the stories are never confirmed and deemed baseless. Then again, some of the tales are based on something. With our skeptical hats on, let's have a look at sea monsters both real and fanciful. We begin with a story that went viral just this week, about a supposed monster that revealed itself during a swim in the Thames River. A

Nessie-like

bump in the water, filmed from overhead, started it all. But you'll have to judge for yourself: Real or fake? Watch the video and read

Ben Radford's take

on the tale.

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In keeping with our subject of monsters of the deep, we also learned this week that at least

some whales

really can, and will, use their heads for ramming -- just as the fictional Moby Dick did, in the Herman Melville classic of the same name. Did whales perfect the head-butt long before people started banging heads?

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Sea monsters are truly global, of course. This one from Japan serves as the villain for the classic maiden in distress, who awaits rescue by her hero. The poor monsters are almost always cast as the bad guys. And so they usually end hacked to pieces; fish food. But is there any truth behind these sea serpent tales?

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Maybe it's the oarfish. It looks too monstrous to be true. It can grow many meters long, has strikingly bright silver scales, scarlet fins and some ornate headgear that more than explains why some call it a roosterfish. If only it were a reptile, it'd be a true sea serpent. Alas. It is a fish. A very weird and beautiful fish, but still a fish.

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There are also other, newfound "sea serpents" our sea-going ancestors never imagined. This one was spotted by a satellite coiling off the south coast of Japan's Hokkaido island. What do we know about it? 1) It's arguably one of the largest organisms on Earth, 2) It swallows ships, engulfs islands and generally does what it wants, and 3) We're darned lucky it's made of plankton.

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Research into such massive blooms and the individual plankton cells that comprise them has revealed surprising cooperation among the microorganisms. They appear to operate like more than just floating individual cells. They live and die for the greater good, it seems. So they may be, in fact, a gigantic watery superorganism. Now that's a cool monster for you: You can swim in it and never know you've been in the belly of a beast.

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Mermaids and mermen have always been the stuff of fantasy. Where did the fantasies come from? There are some standard answers to this question, which have always seemed rather inadequate. For instance ... (next slide, if you please) ...

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The manatee has often been called the source of mermaid myths. It's a mammal, so it breathes air. But who would ever mistake a manatee for a sleek and beautiful mermaid? Could it be love-starved sailors with poor eyesight? There was no shortage of these fellows in the days before optometrists.

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Another possibility is that merfolk were inspired by fish with roughly human-looking faces, like this fellow. Some fish can look humanoid. That would be enough to get superstitious sailors started.

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How about giant, ship-destroying squid and octopi? These monsters were old hat even to the easily freaked-out. Most folks figured they were historical exaggerations. That's until some very large and unusual squids started washing up or being hauled in by marine biologists in recent years. Colossal squid are meters long, pretty amazing beasts. Still, they have never been known to lift ships out of the water. And since were on the topic of squids ...

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Do you remember when this one hit the headlines? It's not so gigantic, at four meters long, but it was observed 3,380 meters down in the Pacific Ocean near Oahu. It's pretty big to have gone unseen before its May 2001 discovery. So what else is out there? It's pretty clear marine biologists have only just begun discovering what lives in the deep sea. The more time they spend searching, the more they will find. But none would dispute that the nastiest sea monster to ever rise out of the sea is ... (drum roll please) ...

You might have guessed it: Human garbage. Yep. It's the ugliest, most alien-looking, fatal and pervasive monster in the seas. Garbage patches have been getting a lot of attention lately. These are areas on the seas where currents and winds tend to concentrate floating garbage.

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