Lots less monster
GRABBING the binoculars at his ageing mobile home, Steve Feltham focuses on a splash in murky Loch Ness. Sadly for the monster hunter it is just two swimmers further along Dores Bay at the north end of the stretch of water - but the ultimate Nessie fan does not give up hope of a sighting.
It is 19 years since Steve left his girlfriend, well-paid job and Dorset
home to live without electricity or running water in a bid to solve the riddle. But sightings have declined drastically from a high of 17 in 1996 to ONE
last year... and none so far in 2010. The drop has alarmed Steve and other devotees. As he crafts the souvenir Nessie models that provide the bulk of his income, 45-year-old Steve remains determined to stay put for an encounter, no matter how long it takes. "The drop in sightings does concern me but there are several factors at play," he says. "There is surely more than one Nessie, so the animals we are looking for could be dying out. "The sheer size of Loch Ness is another point. It's 23 miles long and more than a mile wide. "I am optimistic, but after 19 years looking I'm aware the odds of seeing Nessie are stacked massively against me. I'm content to watch and wait. "As a young man I was always up and down on the bus from London
. At 27 I'd had enough. "I could either settle down and continue installing burglar alarms for the family business or go in search of adventure. There was no contest. "I sold my house in Bournemouth
, ended a seven-year relationship and bought an old library van for £1,500. "I arrived at Loch Ness on June 19, 1991, and spent nine years moving around before pitching at Dores. "I've no electricity or running water but there's a wood-burning stove. It sounds awful but it never feels like a sacrifice. Being involved in the mystery is all I ever wanted, so I wouldn't dream of doing anything else." Tony Harmsworth, 62, is another Nessie obsessive. He recalls family trips as a child when he would stare into the Loch
water hoping for a glimpse. By 1978 he was a high-flier in an American cosmetics company, though feeling increasingly stressed. When Tony and his wife decided to leave the south of England
for a more relaxed lifestyle, he had only one place in mind. Tony says: "I knew the Loch Ness area well and Nessie was part of the appeal. My interest had grown over the years and I read any books I could get. "At first I worked as a milkman, then developed the first official Loch Ness Monster Exhibition. "In the late Nineties I began running specialist tours, which is my main job."
As a prominent member of the monster community, Tony attended major investigations and named the most famous, Operation Deepscan, in 1987. He is writing a book about the role Nessie has played in his life and is not surprised that fewer eye-witnesses are coming forward. He says: "I've had one experience in my time on the Loch
. I saw a dark spot moving diagonally across the water against the wind. I never say I saw the monster but I did see something I can't explain. "You leave yourself open to ridicule admitting something like this. That's probably why sightings have declined." Mikko Takala also moved to the loch to track down the monster. He became obsessed as an eight-year-old. In his twenties and frustrated with London
life, Mikko abandoned an IT career to live in a crofter's cottage. Within three years he was rewarded with a sighting. Mikko, 42, says: "It was October 1995 and I was on the shore. About 300 yards out I saw three humps appear on the surface and move slowly against the current. "I observed for about 15 minutes while what was clearly some kind of creature went on its way." In 1994, Mikko and fellow eye- witness Gary Campbell founded the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club, which has 130 members. The self-employed computer programmer set up a "Monster Cam" trained on the loch. Lochness.co.uk
gets around 33,000 hits a month. Mikko is miffed about the slump in sightings. He says: "Maybe Nessie is dead, though I prefer to think not." As he settles in for another few hours of spotting, Steve Feltham explains his relationship with the monster. He says: "Before moving I asked myself if working nine to five was going to be my lot. It wasn't. "Instead I went to look for Nessie - and I cherish the freedom it brought."
I had to post this as I advised the journalist who to see at the loch and gave him a few facts. He had a great time up there. There were actually 2 sightings in 2009 but at the time I told him I didn’t know about the other one. Still a great article though about the Nessie Hunters.
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