But despite the monster's fame, its recorded history begins only in 1933. According to popular legend, this is because it was in this year that a new road was dynamited along the Southern shore, thus exposing the loch to the gaze of a new generation of travellers. In fact, the road had been in existence for centuries and that year merely saw improvements and modernisation. Furthermore, Loch Ness was a popular tourist spot throughout the 19th century - so much so that Queen Victoria herself was a visitor, and plied the loch's length in a steamer.
Nonetheless, in 1933 a sighting was made at the loch that caught the public's imagination like wildfire - and was quickly followed by a slew of photographs that purported to show the loch's watery denizen.
But what fuels these sightings? Among the theories advanced for Nessie's existence are relict plesiosaurs, misperception of ducks, and long-necked seals. Others have pointed the finger at canny local water bailiff Campbell, who reported seeing the monster some 18 times. They allege that Campbell saw the potential to generate much need tourist revenue and creatved a monster myth with other locals to bring visitors to the area. Campell is, of course, long dead and never admitted to any such scheme so it remains as speculative as the idea that a plesiosaur plies the depths of the loch.
To prove (or disprove) such ideas, teams have ventured forth to the Loch, armed with belief and/or the tools of science. Cameras, sonar devices, fishing lures and even submersibles have been lowered into the peaty depths in search of its mysterious denizen. None, as yet, have put a conclusive identity to Nessie. By far the most extensive study of the loch and its inhabitants has been made by Adrian Shine's Loch Ness Project, which grew out of the numerous amateur (but well-organised) efforts to determine whether Nessie was real that took place in the 1960s and 1970s. After decades of close study he has concluded that no evidence exists for anything more than ordinary fish species in the loch's waters, but remains dedicated to exploring and documenting the wildlife of the glen.