I've been trying for 26 years ... But I'll prove Nessie exists before I die; Top US scientist Bob Rines has devoted a third of his life to finding the Loch Ness Monster. He tells KATHLEEN MORGAN he is on the verge of a breakthrough.
Yet, for the last 26 years, Bob Rines has been searching for his personal Holy Grail - to prove the Loch Ness monster exists.
Rines, now 75, says he has only been frightened twice in his life before.
As a young radar officer in the Battle of Britain - and when he and his late wife, Carol, watched awestruck as Nessie broke through the still waters of the loch, off Urquhart Bay.
Dubbed the Loss Ness Monster Man, Bob Rines has been obsessed with Nessie for nearly three decades.
And the scientist claims Nessie is almost in reach - a quarter of a century after he first sighted it.
Rines' crusade to find the legendary creature took him back to Loch Ness in June - with a TV crew in hot pursuit.
His amazing three-day attempt to prove Nessie exists can be seen on Channel 4 tonight in a documentary, To The Ends Of The Earth.
Cynics might try to label Dr Rines a crackpot, but he is too highly regarded for that to stick. His radar work used in the Gulf War earned him a place in the Inventors' Hall of Fame.
When he and Carol were convinced they saw the creature from the shore near Urquhart Castle, in June 1972, it began an obsession with the creature.
He recalled: "I saw this massive hump with a backbone, a crest and mottled grey skin. It was five feet out of the water and 25ft long - half the size of a 50ft boat anchored nearby.
"It moved out past us and then turned around and came back. Then it disappeared.
"I know - and my wife knew - there was a big, animate object in Loch Ness."
Dr Rines felt the hairs standing up on the back of his neck as he watched the creature through binoculars.
The last time he had experienced fear like that had been during World War II.
He said: "There were times during combat when I was very scared. I had that same feeling the moment I saw the creature through my binoculars. The hair on my neck just bristled."
Over the next three decades, he revisited Loch Ness with cutting-edge equipment and teams of volunteer scientists, determined to prove the monster was real.
He even bought a holiday home on the banks of the loch. It has been his research base for 25 years.
Bob Rines has struck gold twice. In August, 1972, he filmed what looked like a flipper, using cameras attached to a boat. Then, in 1975, he got a picture of what might have been the creature's head, neck and body.
Bob was so convinced by the pictures that he appealed to Parliament to protect the monster under conservation legislation.
He has been continually snubbed by scientists scared of being branded nutty professors. But he believes he will be proved right one day - and his work will go down in history.
He said: "When we got the pictures in 1972, it was electrifying. We expected to get scientific groups from all over the world contacting us. But they were scared of getting tarred with the same brush as all the hoax stories.
"Rather than confront the evidence, the sceptics ignore it. But it puts me in the same boat as Louis Pasteur and all the people that made the great scientific discoveries pooh-poohed by the establishment and then proved right."
Bob first heard of Nessie on a holiday in Scotland in 1959, when he discovered a book on the monster. His imagination ran riot as he read eyewitness accounts dating back decades.
He sent the book to his friend Doc Edgerton, inventor of the electronic camera flash, joking that they could solve the mystery together.
A decade later, Bob got a phone call from Doc - a team of scientists were travelling to Loch Ness to investigate it using the inventor's latest sonar equipment.
They were shocked at what they discovered. Bob recalled: "I went with them to see what it was all about. The very first day there we were surprised by what we got.
"We detected large objects moving in and out of the bay that we just couldn't believe. You just couldn't explain these as fish or schools of fish."
But the only people convinced were on that trip -the scientific big wigs wouldn't believe Nessie existed.
Bob gets angry at what he sees as the stuffy, closed-minded attitude of the scientific establishment, which he blames for refusing to fund his work. He relies on volunteers as obsessed with finding Nessie as he is.
He knows discovering Nessie comes way down the list of priorities - after space and weapons research.
But that has not stopped him hoping.
The trip filmed for Channel 4 in June took him no closer to the truth, but he believes the last few months have brought him closer than ever to Nessie. The next time he returns to his secluded Inverness-shire home, he aims to nail the monster once and for all.
He Is developing a state- of-the-art underwater camera that will put Nessie's face up in infra- red lights. The 24-hour camera designed to penetrate Loch Ness's peat- filled depths will be triggered only by a giant creature.
Bob will test it on whales in the Atlantic before bringing it to Scotland - and then, he says, the world will sit up and listen.
But while scientists have trouble believing in Nessie, Bob has always found ordinary Scottish people open-minded. They keep his hope alive.
He said: "It's a totally different mind- set in Scotland. I still meet people who have known me for years who, one day out of the blue, tell me they saw Nessie a decade ago.
"They just see it as a fact of life - like the mountains around them."
Bob says he is not afraid of being laughed at. He can rely on his considerable reputation to wipe the smiles off the sceptical faces.
As founder of the Academy of Applied Science and one of America's top law schools - the Franklin Pierce - he is still a leading academic light.
But, even with all these achievements under his belt, he won't be happy until he can prove to the world Nessie is more than a myth.
He added: "There was a time when I said to myself `if the world doesn't want to believe in Nessie, that's the world's problem'.
"But I don't feel that any more -I would just like to verify it - if it's still alive."
But time is running out - Bob and Nessie are both getting long in the tooth. If the truth is out there, it had better be discovered soon.
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|Publication:||Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Apr 27, 1998|
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