Legend has it that the Loch Ness Monster was first sighted in the sixth century by an Irish monk while preaching by the lake. Now, a Scottish sailor who has spent the last 26 years of his life searching for the elusive creature, says he has the best picture yet of "Nessie."
George Edwards takes his boat, "Nessie Hunter," out onto Loch Ness nearly every day, often with tourists who hope to see the creature for themselves. Early one morning in November of last year, Edwards was turning his ship back to shore after spending the morning searching for an old steam engine on the lake floor, when he saw something else.
"I saw something out of the corner of my eye, and immediately grabbed my camera," Edwards told ABC News. "I happened to get a good picture of one of them."
The typical "media Nessie," as Edwards calls it in his thick Scottish accent, depicts the creature with three humps sticking out of the water and a long neck with a head like a horse, but Edwards says that's probably not what Nessie looks like.
The picture Edwards took shows what he says is the back of one of the Loch Ness monsters.
"In my opinion, it probably looks kind of like a manatee, but not a mammal," Edwards told ABC. "When people see three humps, they're probably just seeing three separate monsters."
While many people think of the Loch Ness monster as a single creature, Edwards maintains that can't be true.
"It was first seen in 565 AD," Edwards said. "Nothing can live that long. It's more likely that there are a number of monsters, offspring of the original."
Edwards has a lot of theories about the Loch Ness monster, which he first became fascinated with when he was a 13-year-old boy and his father would take him fishing at the massive lake. He says he was a skeptic at first, but decades on Loch Ness have turned him into an ardent believer.
"I grew up with the legend, like the boogeyman, or Big Foot in your part of the world, and most people start out thinking it's a myth," Edwards said. "But Loch Ness is so deep and dark and mysterious, when you start hearing more and more stories, you start believing more."
He says his wife, who has been with him since before he started searching for Nessie full time, was initially a skeptic too, but after years of hearing stories from her husband and others, "she came around, and she's a believer now."
There are other monster "hunters" in the area, but Edwards says it's something a lot of people don't want to talk about.
"Many people loathe to talk openly about believing in Nessie for fear of ridicule," Edwards told ABC News. "Of course I've faced the ridicule, but I can't bury my face in the sand, when I know what's out there."
The main argument Edwards says he hears from skeptics is that the lake has been searched, and nothing has ever been found proving the existence of a Loch Ness monster.
"That's a silly reason to not believe though, because those expeditions can't prove anything one way or the other," Edwards told ABC News. "It's a massive body of water, deep and dark, and we simply don't have the technology to really do that kind of search."
He likens the sonar searches he's seen in the past to trying to do an ultrasound on a pregnant woman while she's running down a hallway.
"If you can't see the baby on the scan, will you say she isn't pregnant?" Edwards said.
Edwards has "every bit of electrical equipment available," to aid in his search. He used to take it all out onto the lake seven days a week, but he says he's going out a bit less these days. He doesn't know if he'll ever see the elusive creature again, but he plans to sail onto the lake as much as possible.
"I'm 60 years old now, I can't go out every day," Edwards told ABC. "But I won't stop going out onto Loch Ness until they put me in a box six feet under."
He wakes up very early nearly every morning to get on the lake, regardless of the weather
Capturing the picture at the end of last year "felt good," Edwards said, "because it reinforced my beliefs, and might help convince other people."
Edwards told ABC News that because of personal matters that arose shortly after he took the picture - including the death of both his mother and sister - he did not immediately circulate the image. He said that he just recently started showing people the picture and it is now just picking up some steam.
This picture, he contends, clearly shows something that could only be the monster. He says the other monster hunters he's shown it to have called it the best they've ever seen.
"Lots of people have come up to me since the picture started getting attention, and telling me they've seen something similar," Edwards said. And there's no smoke without fire, so there must be something in that lake."
Edwards has a few tips for monster hunters who want to see Nessie for themselves.
"You have to be on the lake every day, with a camera and binoculars, and you have to be in the right place at the right time."
- the Loch Ness Monster