Most probably imagine the 'monster' looks like a plesiosaur – a long-necked creature with a body similar to a seal or a whale. The reason for this is probably the so-called "Surgeon's Photograph", which has become the iconic representation of the mythical creature, despite the existence of other photographs claiming to also have captured Nessie. The name of the photograph stems from the claim that it has been allegedly taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson, a London gynecologist; it was published in the Daily Mail on April 21, 1934 – a newspaper with a certain reputation, but, nonetheless, extremely popular.
The history of the legend itself can be traced back to the seventh century. Scottish abbot Adomnán, wrote that an Irish monk named Saint Columba came across a burial by the River Ness. In the book Loch Ness Monster 136 Success Secrets, Jeremy Reeves writes:
….Saint Columba was remaining in the terra firma of the Picts with his partners once he appeared athwart the locals burying a individual by the River Ness. They clarified that the individual had been aquating the watercourse once he was striked by an… animal that had mauled him and dragged him under….. Hearing this, Columba stunned the Picts by dispatching his follower… to swim… the watercourse. The animal appeared following him, however Columba produced the mark of the Cross and commanded:… go back at one point. The animal right away stopped as if it had been tugged back with cords and escaped in horror…
This and others were mostly local legends, unknown to the outside world until around 1933, when a new road was built on the northern shore of the Loch, providing easy access to unobstructed views of the water. Immediately Nessie sightings proliferated and began to draw international attention, but it was not until the following year that the famous 'Surgeon's Photograph' was taken. It's author, Robert Wilson, refused to be associated with the photo, hence the nickname.
As with anything exciting, the validity of this photo was disputed – skeptics suggested it depicted driftwood, an otter or even an elephant. It was not until 1975 when the now-iconic photo, regarded by many to be proof of Nessie's existence despite naysayers, was completely debunked. A news article in The Sunday Telegraph laid out the investigation. Before the “Surgeon's Photograph” there were other unsubstantiated claims, one made by famous big-game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell, who claimed he had proof of Nessie's existence after he 'found' giant animal tracks. Unfortunately for him, these were discovered to have been made by a dried hippo foot – which, believe it or not, was used as a fashionable umbrella stand. Humiliated, Wetherell retreated from the public view.
The Sunday Telegraph's investigation discovered that it was Wetherell who orchestrated the hoax. Together with Christian Spurling, a sculptor and his son-in-law, they used a toy submarine with the head and neck made out of plastic wood. In the article, Ian Wetherell, Marmaduke's son, admitted that had made the whole thing up.
They have found an inlet where the tiny ripples would look like full size waves out on the loch, and with the actual scenery in the background. Then it was just a matter of winding up the sub and getting it to dive just below the surface so the neck and head drew a proper little V in the water.
Interestingly, the hoax was not considered to be widely debunked as the article did not explicitly state that its subject was the famous "Surgeon's Photograph.” The photo eventually became regarded as fake even by zealous crypto zoologists in the 90s. Despite this fact, some still believe if in the photo, but in Nessie's existence – which has spawned numerous works both 'proving' and debunking its existence, and of course, boosted Scotland's tourism industry.