Back in August, I did a story about a tour guide (and self-proclaimed Loch Ness Monster hunter) for a Loch Ness Monster cruise who captured a picture of the alleged beast. At the time, I voiced my suspicions about this very serendipitous find. Now it turns out that the photographer is admitting that it was all a hoax. Surprise, surprise.
The picture appeared to show the curved, brown back of the monster submerged in the loch, and attracted world-wide attention when it was published last year.
So convincing was the photo that Nessie expert Steve Feltham called it “the best photograph I think I have ever seen”.
Mr Feltham, who has dedicated 21 years of his life to hunting down the beast, added: “I think the images are fantastic – that’s the animal I have been looking for all this time.
But now 61-year-old George Edwards, who operates a cruise boat on the loch, insisted his picture was “just a bit of fun”.
He has admitted that ‘Nessie’ was nothing more than a carbon fibre hump that starred in The Truth Behind the Loch Ness Monster, a 2011 National Geographic documentary.
Mr Edwards, who was involved in the production of the documentary, said he had no regrets over the deception.
“Why should I feel guilty for having a bit of fun?” he asked. “These so-called experts come along with their theories about big waves and big fish, and their visitor centre, but I’m sick to death of them.”
He added: “Where would Loch Ness be without the world’s best known forgery, the Surgeon’s Photograph?”
The Surgeon’s photograph was taken in 1934 by Dr Kenneth Wilson and promptly published in the Daily Mail. It remains the most famous image associated with the mysterious monster.
In reality, vengeful big game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell had attached a wooden head and neck to a child’s submarine toy after the newspaper mocked his quest to find the beast.
Mr Edwards claimed to have owned up to faking the picture days after it was released last August, but there is no record of his confession.
At the time he said: “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. 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.”
Many theories have abounded over the years as to what kind of creature the Loch Ness monster could be. Popularly imagined as an ancestor of a plesiosaurs, a carnivorous marine reptile, one theory is that Nessie may quite simply be an overgrown sturgeon.
Speaking about Mr Edwards’ photograph at the time, Mr Feltham said: “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.”
Mr Feltham has now criticised the forgery as harmful to both Mr Edwards’ credibility and the Loch Ness Monster brand.
“It does the subject no good and damages his own reputation,” he said. “When you read things like this in the papers, people will think it’s all just a fairytale.
“But if you read the reports and books you’re more likely to think that something is there to be explained. He’s supposed to be taking people out on tours but he’s nothing more than a faker and a liar.”
I understand that Mr. Edwards wanted to have a “bit of fun.” Which would have been fine if he had just shown some friends his photos, but to go to the media and adamantly insist that the photo was real? I’m guessing the next news article he’s interviewed for will be him complaining about how his Loch Ness Monster tour sales are down…