Lawrence Conway – Daily Mail April 20, 2012
It is one of the greatest mysteries of the deep, and its legend has outfoxed score of investigators over the generations.
Stories, pictures and rumors about a monster living below the surface of Scotland’s deepest loch go back for decades.
But it is now hoped this grainy image of a long ‘serpent-like creature’ may finally unlock the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster
The sonar picture, that shows a large unidentified living object deep underwater, was recorded by Loch Ness boat skipper Marcus Atkinson.
The mysterious being was recorded at a depth of 75ft in the murky water and measured nearly 5ft wide.
Mr Atkinson’s sonar fish-finder device records the width of objects in the depths directly below his tourist boat every quarter of a second.
Image produced when his vessel was in the Loch’s Urquhart Bay showed a long moving object that had followed the boat for more than two minutes.
The consistent marks on Mr Atkinson’s sonar create a horizontal mass, which is not an indicator of length.
But excited Loch Ness monster experts have ruled out the ‘sighting’ being any other fish, seal or wood debris and believe it is proof of an unknown creature in the Loch.
The picture taken on Mr Atkinson’s mobile phone of his sonar screen, has won him first prize in the Best Nessie Sighting of The Year Award run by bookmakers William Hill.
Mr Atkinson, 43, from Fort Augustus in the Scottish Highlands, said: ‘I was dropping customers at Urquhart Castle and then got my boat out of the way of the other tour companies.
‘I moved out into the water and looked at the sonar and saw this image had appeared.
‘The device takes a reading of the depth and what is below the boat every quarter of a second and gradually builds up a picture, so it covered a time of about five minutes.
‘The object got bigger and bigger and I thought “bloody hell” and took a picture with my mobile phone.
‘There is nothing that big in the Loch. I was in shock as it looked like a big serpent, it’s amazing. You can’t fake a sonar image. 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.
‘I have seen a lot of pictures in 21 years of being here but this is the most clearest image yet. Undoubtedly, there is something in the loch.’
‘It’s also totally unexplained and can’t possibly be fish because in water 75ft down you just wouldn’t find them.
‘It’s very exciting and the best evidence we have had in donkey’s years. There is usually a mundane explanation yet no one has come up with one for this.
‘It’s images like this that will keep me going with my hunt for the next 20 years.’
But other marine experts claim the mystery object may well have been algae in the water.
Dr Simon Boxall, from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, said: ‘The picture is built up slowly as the boat moves.
‘So it’s not a snap shot and thus the image is not an image of a single object unless it is very still.
‘The image shows a bloom of algae and zooplankton that would exist on what would be a thermocline.
‘Zooplankton live off this algae and reflect sound signals from echo sounders and fish finders very well.
‘They will appear as a linear “blob” on the screen, just like this.
‘This is a monster made of millions of tiny animals and plants and represents the bulk of life in the Loch.’