Loch Ness monster sighting register reaches 20 year milestone

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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It has been faithfully recording Nessie’s movements for two decades.

And now after logging more than 1000 sightings, the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month with one of the world’s greatest mysteries still unsolved.

Sightings of Nessie were at their highest in more than a decade last year - and already there has been the first of 2016, recorded by a visitor from Texas, who took pictures of a “dark creature” just under the surface following the boat she was on.

Gary Campbell, keeper of the register, said the fascination of Nessie was showing no signs of abating.

He accepted five sightings for 2015 - the most in 13 years.

Mr Campbell stressed that the majority of claimed sightings do not get included on the register - as most can be explained.

“Anything that is later proved to a hoax or can be subsequently explained is removed from the register,” said Mr Campbell, 51, a chartered accountant from Inverness.

“When I started the register I never expected to be doing it this long but after 20 years nobody has still solved it - so I expect I will be doing this to the day I die.

“The sightings are getting more credible all the time because everybody seems to have a smartphone with a camera these days. The best two credible accounts are from Richard White in 1997 who took a series of photographs of something coming out of the water - and Glasgow postman Bobbie Pollock who in 2000 took a video of an object swimming in Invermoriston Bay.

“The worst ones have usually involved publicity campaigns - most notably when a submarine was used and somebody put Nessie’s head on it so it looked like the monster swimming along, sparking lots of ‘sightings’.”

“It has been a good start to the year already. I think that this proves that Nessie’s not gone anywhere. We were a bit worried in 2013 when no-one saw her but it looks like she was just keeping her head down at the time.

“The reports also show that Nessie doesn’t just hide out in one part of Loch Ness - she’s just as likely to appear at either end so I suppose the message for monster hunters is to keep your eyes peeled no matter where you are at the loch.

READ MORE: Loch Ness Monster ‘could have been a giant eel’

“It’s 1450 years now since the first report of a monster in Loch Ness - it doesn’t look like Nessie’s going anywhere just yet.

“Everybody has their own theory what Nessie is and I doubt anybody will come up with a definitive answer soon.”

It was in 1996, Mr Campbell saw something resembling a “mini whale” - with a black shiny back - at the south end of the loch.

“I have spent the last 20 years trying to explain it,” admitted Mr Campbell. “Like most sightings I only saw it for a few seconds. When I went to record it, I found there was no register, so I started one, the following May.”

Since then Mr Campbell has logged 1077 sightings.

“When I had my only sighting I went into things with an open mind. But I don’t believe Nessie is a prehistoric monster,” said Mr Campbell.

“Loch Ness would have been a block of ice 10,000 years ago - but whatever is in there dwells at the bottom.”

Mr Campbell believes that Nessie is most likely a fish or eel - a view shared by Steve Feltham, the loch’s other famous ‘monster’ hunter.

Last year, Mr Feltham made global headlines, by declaring that the creature - or creatures - in the loch was probably a Wels Catfish.

Mr Feltham, who is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records for the longest continuous monster hunting vigil of the loch - now stretching 25 years - believes Nessie is no plesiosaur but more likely a giant catfish first introduced by Victorians.

Mr Campbell said a fish or eel was probably the best theory.

“I think there are creatures that have inhabited Loch Ness for hundreds of years that have previously been known as ‘water kelpies’,” he said.

“The term ‘monster’ is misleading to what is in there. It is something that grew around the modern phenomenon - though its been a huge benefit to the local tourist industry.

“I think what is in Loch Ness that has caused all these sightings is animate and there is more than one, which is backed up by the sightings and those of similar creatures in other Scottish lochs and lakes around the world.

“It may well be a cat fish, it might be a sturgeon or a giant eel. Something like that offers the most plausible explanation so far, but until we find a carcass or somebody catches something we are left guessing. That is part of the mystery.

{http://www.scotsman.com/news/1-4-million-super-catamaran-to-join-hunt-for-nessie-1-4055868|£1.4 million super catamaran to join hunt for ‘Nessie’}

“About 15 years ago we had report from two anglers who saw an eel that was bigger than their 16-ft boat!

“The chances of catching the ‘monster’ are minimal given that the size of Loch Ness and this creature lives on the bottom of something that is twice as deep as the North Sea. But something causes it to come to the surface - such as powerful underwater wave movements - and it comes up on rare occasions. Hence the relatively few sightings.”

According to Google, there are around 200,000 searches each month for the Loch Ness Monster, and around 120,000 for information and accommodation close to Loch Ness. The monster mystery is said to be worth £30m to the region.

Irish missionary St Columba is first said to have encountered a beast in the River Ness in 565AD.

But recently it was claimed that the Loch Ness monster may have been invented by a cunning British public relations consultant, who dreamed up the idea of the creature in a London pub.

The claims were made in a new book which suggests the story of the monster was started to encourage people to visit the Scottish Highland following the difficult years of the Great Depression.

Among the most famous claimed sightings is a photograph taken in 1934 by Colonel Robert Kenneth Wilson.

The image was later exposed as a hoax by one of the participants, Chris Spurling, who, on his deathbed, revealed that the pictures were staged.

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