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Submarines Offer Tourists Chance to Search for Loch Ness Monster

Submarine Trips to Search for Loch Ness Monster

         LOCH NESS, Scotland (Reuter) - The first commercial
submarine offering tourist trips to the bottom of Scotland's
mysterious Loch Ness was unveiled Tuesday.
         Organizers said the chance to hunt for the monster which
legend has it inhabits the lake's depths had attracted more than
500 advance bookings, including several couples hoping to be
married on board.
         One of the submarine pilots, Gordon Swindells, 52, told a
news conference the trip would offer the chance to ``take part
in the ultimate monster hunt.''
         Loch Ness first hit the headlines more than 60 years ago
when a woman traveling along the newly opened lochside road saw
``an enormous black body'' moving up and down in the waves.
         Despite trying to keep the sighting a secret, news reached
the local paper and the monster myth -- now Scotland's third
most popular tourist attraction generating $37 million a year --
was born.
         The new hour-long underwater trips, costing just over $102,
begin on April 1 to coincide with the start of the tourist
season which brings vistors from around the world keen to catch
a glimpse of ``Nessie.''
         The 34 foot craft is a former deep-sea rescue vehicle built
in Canada in 1977 and bought two years ago by its present
owners, SilverCrest of Gloucester, England.
         The flat-topped craft, big enough to carry five passengers
and a pilot, is capable of reaching the bottom of Europe's
deepest freshwater loch, 750 feet down.
         But Swindells has tailored the dives to suit the public.
``Once they are on board and the lid on the conning tower is
closed they may become a little apprehensive.
         ``Most people have been on a plane or a boat but a submarine
will be a new experience,'' he said.
         On commercial dives the submarine will make a slow descent
to a maximum of 300 feet. ``If we go much deeper I think people
might start to get anxious,'' Swindells added.
         As well as commercial dives, the submarine -- equipped with
sonar equipment, acoustic tracking devices and cameras -- will
also help scientists unravel some of the mysteries of the loch
and its development since the last Ice Age.
         Scientists want to take a 39-foot-long sample from the lake
floor which they say will show the changes caused in the loch by
events such as the 1987 Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster
in Ukraine, which sent clouds of radioactive material across
Europe in the atmosphere.
         ``Everything that man does is eventually recorded by the
loch,'' said scientist Adrian Shine, who hopes the research will
yield new clues to environmental problems like global warming.
         But couples wanting to tie the knot underwater will have to
wait. Organizers say Scottish law would allow the ceremony, but
no clergymen have been found willing to officiate.