Legend of Loch Ness monster will be tested with DNA samples

Members of the Loch Ness Monster Investigation Team scan the loch for a sighting of the monster in 1968

Members of the Loch Ness Monster Investigation Team scan the loch for a sighting of the monster in 1968

If Nessie really is out there, she won't be able to hide from us for much longer.

Whenever a creature moves through its environment, it leaves behind tiny fragments of DNA from skin, scales, feathers, fur, faeces and urine.

Scientists who fancy a romantic busman's holiday to the Scottish highlands have come up with a new reason to examine the contents of Loch Ness, with this latest team hoping to analyse the water to hunt for the DNA signatures of mysterious contents. Others suggest people are mistaking large catfish or sturgeon for the mythical beast, and still others believe the sightings can be traced to odd wave patterns or pieces of wood floating near the surface.

He said the DNA results will then be compared against a database of known species.

The researchers are now planning to take 300 samples of water from the Loch, all at different locations and of varying depths.

While researchers are keeping an eye out for "Nessie", they said they're focusing on uncovering more information about bacteria in the lake. "While the prospect of looking for evidence of the Loch Ness monster is the hook to this project, there is an extraordinary amount of new knowledge that we will gain from the work about organisms that inhabit Loch Ness - the UK's largest freshwater body".

He said the real discoveries may come in determining things like the prevalence of invasive species.

And yet the next year, in 1934, the Daily Mail published what would become the iconic photo of the Loch Ness monster - a great giraffe-like neck rising out of the water in silhouette. Like thousands of tourists before him, he gazed out over the lake trying to catch sight of a monster.

"I hope he and his cohorts find something, although I think they'll be battling", Matheson said.

The trip, which has been a year in the planning, will include scientists from universities in New Zealand, Denmark, Australia, America and France, as well as Adrian Shine, leader of the Loch Ness Project in Scotland.

The story of the monster can be traced back 1,500 years when Irish missionary St Columba is said to have encountered a beast in the River Ness in 565AD. Last year, the BBC reported that purported sightings hit a record high.

Gemmell said they've already been offering him theories, like that Nessie might be on vacation after swimming to the sea via hidden underwater caves, or that the creature might be extraterrestrial and not leave behind any DNA.

"In our lives we want there still to be mysteries, some of which we will ultimately solve", Gemmell muses. "And sometimes, what you find may not be what you were expecting".