Thursday, February 16, 2012

Nessie 'sighting' wins £1000 prize

A SONAR image of a large mystery object deep below the surface of Loch Ness has 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 the 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.
Although Mr Atkinson’s encounter in Urquhart Bay was not registered at the time with the fan club, it was reported to full-time Nessie hunter Steve Feltham, based at Dores beach. The image depicts something about 1.5 metres wide and 23 metres below the surface. 
The entry has now been judged to be the winner by Inverness Courier readers in an online poll along with the views of an expert panel.
Mr Atkinson receives 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.
“I am absolutely delighted. It’s fantastic especially as the competition has been revived,” said Mr Atkinson who captured the image on 24th August while on his boat, Ness Express, waiting to pick some customers up from Urquhart Castle.
The quick-thinking skipper grabbed his mobile phone after a long solid echo appeared on the boat’s fish finder screen.
Mr Atkinson, who has spent about 18 years working on the loch, both on pleasure boats and teaching people to sail, remains baffled by the image.
“I think for a lot of ‘sightings’, there is often a logical explanation,” said the 43-year-old who believes some are seals, or stags swimming in the loch.
“Some sightings could have been a freak wave which people have caught in the periphery of their vision, or a dark shape.
“But I have never seen anything returned like this on the fish finder.
“It is a bizarre shape to me. I have shown it to other experienced skippers and none of us know what it was.
“Undoubtedly, there is something in the loch. I think there is truth behind every myth.”
Gary Campbell, president of the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club, described the image as quite exciting.
“From our perspective, it is conclusive proof there is something in the loch unlike some of the other ‘evidence’ which has been produced over the years,” he said.  
Rupert Adams, of William Hill, paid tribute to the winning image.
“Having something which is more specific in showing an object is very exciting for people who have an open mind to the existence of a Loch Ness monster,” he said.
Mr Adams also hopes it will encourage Nessie spotters to take part in an even “bigger and better” competition, the details of which will be announced soon. 
Other entries were:
* Runner-up Lewiston fish farm worker Jon Rowe who photographed a large, dark shape in the water while working at Dores fish farm. 
* Ayshire holidaymakers William and Joan Jobes who spotted what appeared to be a head bobbing above the water 200 to 300 yards from the shore at Fort Augustus.
* Foyers shop and cafe owner Jan Hargreaves and her husband, Simon, who saw a creature while taking a break from the store.
*Gary Campbell’s verdict on the sonar image which shows something about 1.5 metres wide and 23 metres below his boat:

“This is as good as any sonar image found in the loch. The important thing is that someone else went over the same patch and what was there, had gone.
“When you look at the size of the contact, it rules out any fish or other creatures which would be in the loch. Because of the depth, it rules out seals, deer etc which leaves us with only one conclusion.
“From our perspective, it is conclusive proof there is something in the loch unlike some of the other ‘evidence’ which has been produced over the years.
“This shows something moving and also by the nature of the sonar, it was certainly something alive underneath the boat. It is quite exciting.”  

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