Gary Campbell, the man who logs every credible Loch Ness Monster sighting, celebrates 25 years tracking Nessie's occasional visits to the surface
Get the Inverness Courier sent to your inbox every week and swipe through an exact replica of the day's newspaper
After recording more than 1100 sightings, the man who faithfully keeps a log on Nessie's appearances is celebrating 25 years of monster-hunting – but admits the great mystery may never be solved.
However Gary Campbell, keeper of the Official Loch Ness Monster Register, says he is prepared to devote the rest of his life to the quest.
The 56-year-old also believes the sightings are getting more credible all the time and said the worldwide fascination in Nessie shows no signs of abating.
The chartered accountant has already accepted six sightings this year – following 13 last year – but 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, who is from Inverness.
"When I started the register I never expected to be doing it this long but, after 25 years, nobody has solved the mystery, so I expect I will be doing this to the day I die.
"In fact I hope to make 100 because that would coincide with the 1500th anniversary of the first sighting and I suspect we will still not have a definitive answer over Nessie!
"The sightings are getting more credible all the time because everybody seems to have a smartphone with a camera these days."
From among the most memorable, Mr Campbell cites three credible accounts which have really stood out over the years.
"There was Richard White, in 1997, who took a series of photographs of something coming out of the water," he said.
"There was Glasgow postman Bobbie Pollock who, in 2000, took a video of an object swimming in Invermoriston Bay.
"But the best picture of the Loch Ness Monster for years was taken by a 12-year-old girl on holiday with her parents."
Little Charlotte Robinson, from Leeds in Yorkshire, was staying at Loch Ness Highland Lodges at Invermoriston in 2018 when Nessie popped up about 50 feet away.
The creature surfaced for about a minute before re-surfacing about ten feet further away some seven minutes later – but for less than 60 seconds.
"The worst ones have usually involved publicity campaigns, most notably when a submarine was used. Somebody put Nessie's head on it so it looked like the monster swimming along, sparking lots of 'sightings'," added Mr Campbell.
• Stay up to date with Loch Ness Monster news here
"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."
It was in 1996, Mr Campbell himself saw something resembling a "mini-whale" – with a black shiny back – at the south end of the loch.
"I have spent the last 25 years trying to explain it," he admitted.
"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 with my wife, the following May."
Since then Mr Campbell, with the help of his wife Kathy (52) has logged 1135 historic sightings dating back to 565AD.
"When I had my only sighting I went into things with an open mind, but I don't believe Nessie is a prehistoric monster," Mr Campbell said.
"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 an eel – a view shared by Steve Feltham, the loch's other famous 'monster' hunter.
Mr Feltham, who is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records for the longest continuous monster-hunting vigil of the loch – now stretching 30 years – also believes Nessie is no plesiosaur.
"I think there are creatures that have inhabited Loch Ness for hundreds of years that have previously been known as 'water kelpies'," said Mr Campbell.
"The term 'monster' is misleading. It is something that grew around the modern phenomenon, although it has 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.
"About 20 years ago we had report from two anglers who saw an eel that was bigger than their 16 foot 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."
Irish missionary St Columba is first said to have encountered a beast in the River Ness in 565AD.
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.
In contrast, all of the officially accepted images of Nessie this year have been by webcam.
In 2020, startling images of a large creature inhabiting the depths of Loch Ness were captured on sonar off Invermoriston by skipper Ronald Mackenzie aboard his Spirit of Loch Ness tourist boat.
They are said by Mr Feltham to be the "most compelling" evidence of the existence of a Loch Ness Monster.
Scientists had earlier claimed that they had solved the mystery and Nessie and she could possibly be a giant eel. It follows DNA analysis of living species in the freshwater loch.
But in a documentary on the project, lead scientist Prof Neil Gemmell, a geneticist from New Zealand's University of Otago, says about 25 percent of the samples remain unidentified.
That is good news for Nessie believers and the Highland tourist industry – the monster is said to be worth £41m to the region.
According to Google, there are 200,000 searches each month for the Loch Ness Monster.