Inside the Kiwi efforts to debunk Scotland's Loch Ness monster myth

One of the world's greatest mysteries is on the cusp of being solved by Otago University Professor Neil Gemmell - whether or not the Loch Ness monster actually exists.

For the first time ever, he's scouring the waters of Scotland's Loch Ness to capture the DNA of anything and everything living in it.

If Nessie is alive and kicking - or paddling - its DNA will be in the lake, and is likely to be picked up by Prof Gemmell and his team.

His method involves taking water samples from 300 different locations in the loch, and at different depths.

Prof Gemmell takes a sample from the loch
Prof Gemmell takes a sample from the loch Photo credit: Newshub.

The water from each sample is then put through micro-filters that capture any DNA that's present. Because DNA degrades quickly in water, traces of organisms older than two or three days won't be picked up.

Prof Gemmell says he has taken 190 samples so far, and hopes to get to 300 by the end of the week.

"We haven't found Nessie yet. But you never know what is in our water samples," he said.

The sampling only began last week, just days after an Irishman visiting nearly by Urquhart Castle filmed a 10-minute video of a strange creature frolicking in the loch.

"Two days after he shot that video, or at least claimed he shot that video, we sampled water from there. So that sample will be a very interesting one for us to examine," said Prof Gemmell.

It won't be until he's back in his Dunedin lab and profiling the DNA that he'll get any idea of whether there's a monster in the lake.

Even before the results are in though, the project is getting a lot of attention from the world's media. It's the most coverage an Otago University research study has ever received.

Film crews are following him around daily, and his project has been reported in all corners of the globe.

Local Loch Ness legend and designer of the visitor centre Adrian Shine is helping out with the project, as he has done with hundreds of previous scientific missions to the loch.

"This is the most sophisticated project we've had. DNA is actually the most elegant, the most sophisticated way we have had of looking for creatures," he said.

Adrian Shine in his lab at the Drumnadrochit Visitor Centre
Adrian Shine in his lab at the Drumnadrochit Visitor Centre Photo credit: Newshub.

Even if there's no DNA evidence of the monster, Prof Gemmell said it won't be the end of the world's fascination with the legendary lake creature.

"We can't stop people believing in Nessie, because you can't prove a negative," he said.

The results of the mission are expected later in 2018.


Contact Newshub with your story tips: