Curator's Choice: The Loch Ness Centre

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The Independent Culture
The first of the exhibits I have chosen is the vessel called The Sir John Murray, named after the first man to plumb the depths of Loch Ness using piano-wire and a very strange machine on a rowing-boat. It is made up of two of the largest inflatables in the world. It was devised by Adrian Shine, the leader of the Loch Ness Project, and was capable of silent drift patrol, which means they could take it out onto Loch Ness with sonar machines at night and just let it drift quietly. During the 1980s it was used quite a lot and in that time they managed to make 40 strong sonar contacts with something larger than your average fish.

The earliest photographic evidence we have of the monster was the surgeon's picture which came to light in 1934. It was taken by Colonel Frank Wilson, a surgeon in the British army and is probably the most famous picture of the monster in the world. It shows a creature which is just surfacing, with a small head and long neck. But now the whole thing has been blown apart. It was a hoax. We have always suspected that there was something not quite right about it but, because of its age, it was difficult to prove. We tracked down the only living person who knew. He spilled the beans but asked that nothing be published until after his death. He died two weeks ago, on 10 March, so now it's been made public. Even I believed in the surgeon's picture for a long time. You get people seeing things they can't explain on Loch Ness but there has never been another head and neck sighting, they are usually what we call 'upturned boat' or 'hump' sightings.

Betty Macdougall is the curator of The Official Loch Ness Monster Exhibition, Drumnadrochit, Inverness-shire (0456 450 573). 9.30- 5.30pm daily.

(Photograph omitted)

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