Excitement as compelling new evidence suggests Loch Ness Monster exists; 'I've never seen anything like it' says veteran skipper
Get the Ross-shire Journal sent to your inbox every week and swipe through an exact replica of the day's newspaper
VETERAN Nessie hunters are in a state of excitement after new "evidence" of the existence of the Loch Ness Monster was recorded.
The “most compelling” sonar images of a 32-foot long object, some 500 feet below the loch’s surface, have been revealed.
And experts believe they are the most convincing images yet of the mysterious creature said to lurk in the icy depths of Britain’s most famous – and mysterious – waterway.
The stunning sonar image was captured by Cruise Loch Ness director Ronald Mackenzie, who has worked on the loch for more than 30 years.
It was around 4.30pm last Wednesday – during the last sailing of the day – that the dramatic contact was made aboard his two year-old catamaran, The Spirit of Loch Ness.
“I have known Ronald Mackenzie for 30 years. He’s a Highland lad who does not seek publicity and shies away from the fanciful Nessie theories. He’s not somebody who would cry wolf – or Nessie – but within seven minutes of getting the sonar contact he messaged me and I said ‘wow’." - Steve Feltham
“It was a bit of a dreich day and we only had 12 passengers on board. I was skippering because the usual skipper had a day off,” said Mr Mackenzie, (49)who runs the company with his wife Debi (43).
“We were at our half-way point off Invermoriston, where we turn around. The water is 189 metres (620ft) deep there. The passengers were quite excited because we had just spotted a sea eagle, but then I saw on the sonar something more eye-catching.
“It was right bang smack in the middle of the loch at about 170 metres (558ft) down. Because the boat was doing 10.7 knots it was unable to detect if it was moving or stationary, but it was big - at least 10 metres (33ft).
“The contact lasted ten seconds while we passed over. I’ve been on the loch since I was 16 years old and I have never seen anything like it. We have had contacts in the past, but nothing like this. We have real state-of-the-art sonar on the new boat, it doesn’t lie. It can’t lie. It captures what’s there.
“I’ve always got my eyes glued to the screen, but I’ve never seen anything like this. One of the guides onboard told the passengers we had had a strongLoch contact. They had been watching the sea eagle, unaware of what was below.
“I believe there’s something in the loch that nobody knows what it is and we should leave it alone. I’ve always thought there was something there, be it a big eel or a sturgeon or a big fish of some sort - or even Nessie.
“It’s blown me away. I’ve been looking at it all night and all morning and it’s something big.”
Leading sonar expert Craig Wallace described the images as “100 per cent genuine”.
Mr Wallace, marine robotics senior application specialist with Kongsberg Maritime AS, has surveyed Loch Ness half a dozen times. Four years ago, he famously detected and discovered the lost model of Nessie, which was used during the filming of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in 1970.
The scientist was in no doubt about the authenticity of Mr Mackenzie’s startling sonar image.
“There is no question there is a real, clear and distinct contact. It is a 100 per cent real target. It is 100 per cent genuine. I do believe large sturgeon do enter Loch Ness, so it may be a sturgeon or a small shoal of fish,” said Mr Wallace (39).
Nessie expert Steve Feltham, who has set a world record for the longest vigil of looking for the monster, said Mr Mackenzie’s sonar image was the “most compelling” evidence of the existence of the legendary creature.
“It is extremely exciting. There is no comparison in clarity for the evidence that we have been looking for – that there are big animals swimming around in Loch Ness,” he said.
“I have known Ronald Mackenzie for 30 years. He’s a Highland lad who does not seek publicity and shies away from the fanciful Nessie theories. He’s not somebody who would cry wolf – or Nessie – but within seven minutes of getting the sonar contact he messaged me and I said ‘wow’.
“This is the most credible and compelling evidence in 30 years. I think it is the most crystal clear evidence and the least debatable piece of evidence. It is a big object 60 feet off the bottom. This is 100 per cent genuine. If I was asked to pick the best ever sighting of Nessie, I would say this one and I would be willing to stand beside Ronald and say so. It is startling.”
Mr Feltham this year celebrated both the beginning of his 30th year looking for Nessie full-time and 50 years since his first visit to the loch which sparked his lifelong fascination. He is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records for the longest continuous monster hunting vigil of the loch.
“When I first came I thought I was looking for a plesiosaur, then a Wels catfish – which it might be – and I’m currently reappraising the evidence,” he said. The jury is out – but I definitely think Nessie is an animal.
“I think we are getting closer to finding the answer. The vast majority of sightings can be explained but that still leaves those that can’t. The reality is people are seeing something that can’t be explained. It’s not going to be a dinosaur or a giant eel, but it’s something living in that loch that’s bigger than is currently known about.”
Mr Feltham has dismissed scientists’ previous claims they had solved the mystery and Nessie could be a giant eel. It follows DNA analysis of living species in the freshwater loch.
“A 12-year-old boy could tell you there are eels in Loch Ness. I caught eels in the loch when I was a 12-year-old boy,” he said.
But in a documentary on the project, lead scientist Prof Neil Gemmell, a geneticist from New Zealand’s University of Otago, admitted that about 25 percent of the samples remain ed unidentified.
The monster is said to be worth £41m to the region in tourism income.
There have been eight accepted sightings this year by the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register.