A sailor who has spent 26 years searching for the Loch Ness Monster has what he believes is the best ever picture taken of the elusive beast.
George Edwards spends around 60 hours a week patrolling the famous loch, taking tourists out on his boat Nessie Hunter IV, and has led numerous hunts for the fabled created over the years.
But this image is the one that’s convinced him that there really is a monster or even monsters - out there.
It shows a mysterious dark hump moving in the water towards Urquhart Castle.
“I was just about to return to Temple Pier (in Drumnadrochit) and I went to the back of the boat which was facing the pier and that’s when I saw it,” said Edwards.
The 60-year-old added: “It was slowly moving up the loch towards Urquhart Castle and it was a dark grey colour. It was quite a fair way from the boat, probably about half a mile away but it’s difficult to tell in water.”
After watching the object for five to ten minutes, Edwards said it slowly sank below the surface and never resurfaced.
“I’m convinced I was seeing Nessie as I believe in these creatures. Far too many people have being seeing them for far too long,” he said.
“The first recorded sighting was in 565AD and there have been thousands of eye witness reports since then.
“All these people can’t be telling lies. And the fact the reports stretch over so many years mean there can’t just be one of them. I'm convinced there are several monsters.”
Edwards took the picture at 9am on 2nd November last year on a compact Samsung digital camera that he always keeps on the boat.
He added: "I hung around for a good half-an-hour and used the deep scanning sonar to try and pick it up, but I’m afraid I had no luck at all.”
Steve Feltham, who has dedicated the past 21 years to hunting for Nessie, said: “It is the best photograph I think I have ever seen.
From his base on Dores beach and has studied many Nessie sighting photographs.
He said: “I think the images are fantastic — that’s the animal I have been looking for all this time.
“I would say it doesn’t prove what Nessie is, but it does prove what Nessie isn’t, a sturgeon which is a fish that has been put forward as one of the main explanations as to what Nessie could be but this hasn’t got a serrated spine like the sturgeon."
Before releasing the picture publicly, Edwards sent it to the USA for analysis.
“I did not want to mention my sighting until I was sure that I had not photographed a log or something inanimate in the water in the water.
“I have friends in the USA who have friends in the military. They had my photo analysed and they have no doubt that I photographed an animate object in the water. I was really excited as I am sure that some strange creatures are lurking in the depths of Loch Ness.”
In February, a sonar image of a large mystery object deep below the surface of Loch Ness netted boat skipper Marcus Atkinson the Best Nessie Sighting of The Year Award — the first time in several years it has been presented by bookmaker William Hill.
The photograph, claimed by at least one seasoned Nessie spotter to be conclusive evidence of a creature, was a late contender in the contest which has been dormant following several lean years of close encounters with the loch’s most famous resident.
However, 2011 proved to be a bumper year with three “good” sightings reported to the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club which first launched the competition in conjunction with the bookmaker in the 1990s.
The entry was judged to be the winner by Inverness Courier readers in an online poll along with the views of an expert panel.
Mr Atkinson received a £1000 cash prize and a free £500 bet while William Hill will also place a £100 bet on the Natural History Museum confirming the existence of Nessie by the end of the year — odds are currently 100/1.
Loch Ness Monster Sonar Images