IS this the best photograph ever taken of the elusive Loch Ness Monster?
Shot by George Edwards — who has led Nessie hunts as part of his Loch Ness Cruise business in Drumnadrochit for the past 26 years — it shows a mysterious dark hump moving in the water towards Urquhart Castle.
The image was captured by Mr Edwards from his passenger boat, Nessie Hunter IV, while using sonar to search for old engines used to build the A82 which were supposedly dumped in the loch, south of the Clansman Hotel at Brackla.
"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 60-year-old Mr Edwards, a lifelong believer in the monster.
"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 10 minutes, Mr 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.
Determined to get more evidence, Mr Edwards, who thinks there is more than one giant creature lurking below the loch, used his vessel’s sonar to make a contact but to no avail.
"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."
Mr Edwards took the photo at 9am on 2nd November last year but before releasing it publicly 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," he said. "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."
Equally excited about the photograph is Steve Feltham, who has dedicated the past 21 years to hunting for Nessie from his base on Dores beach and has studied many Nessie sighting photographs.
"I think the images are fantastic — that’s the animal I have been looking for all this time," he said yesterday.
"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.
"It is the best photograph I think I have ever seen."
It is not the first time that Mr Edwards — a father-of-two who lives in Pitkerrald Road, Drumnadrochit, with his wife Lenora — has spotted something unexplained in the loch. In 1986, another of his photographs was widely used in the media.