Friday 11 September 2009

The discoverer of Nessie's lair?

Monster mystery has kept George in the media spotlight

By Calum Macleod

Published: 11 September, 2009

WHEN George Edwards chats to The Inverness Courier, at least he does so at a more civilised hour than some of his past media encounters — the New York Times called him at at 6am.A decade on, George chuckles at the memory of the worldwide media frenzy which followed the announcement of his discovery of "Nessie's Lair", although that discovery had actually been made several years before. Now the longest continuously serving boat skipper on Loch Ness, in the late 1980s the auxiliary coastguard was taking part in a exercise with his boat Nessie Hunter when his sonar detected a bigger depth reading than previously noted in the loch.Eventually the depression, which came to be known as Edward's Deep, was measured at 812 feet below the surface of the loch — and over 60 feet deeper than that part of the loch had previously been thought to be. After Gary Campbell, president of the Loch Ness Monster Fan Club, discovered an article about George's discovery while looking through old issues of The Inverness Courier, the belated news of the discovery travelled around the world, in the process elevating George to chief coastguard officer for the UK and his discovery from a loch-bed depression to a cave which could provide Nessie with an underwater home."It was funny because my wife was away at the time — she was away raising money for charity by walking the Great Wall of China, and I was at home and my phone never stopped ringing," George recalled."It would be 4am and it would be Sydney, Australia: 'Is that George Edwards who's found all these caves in the bottom of Loch Ness?' Then the next call would be San Francisco. It was good in many ways because it really brought Loch Ness back into the picture again."In almost a quarter of a century on Loch Ness, George has had plenty of opportunity to promote his home to the world, providing his services to visiting television and film crews and having celebrities such as Steffi Graf and comedy couple Lenny Henry and Dawn French join his passengers aboard Nessie Hunter for his regular cruises out on the loch. Nessie Hunter even became the world's smallest aircraft carrier briefly in 1989 when a balloon filming an advertisement on Loch Ness and piloted by Per Lindstrand, who was later to join Richard Branson's round the world ballooning attempt, got into difficulties soon after launching from the loch. "I took them along from Temple Pier to the castle and they launched it. I don't know what happened, but they just couldn't get altitude and had to make an emergency landing," George said.Now 57, George has spent most of his life near Loch Ness having moved to Drumnadrochit from his original home of Bonar Bridge at the age of 11, although spending 45 years in the area does not necessarily qualify him as a local."I remember as a youngster hearing these two old boys talking," George said."One of them was saying: 'Well, he's not really from here at all.' And the other said: 'No — his great-grandfather came from Kiltarlity.' So what chance do I have?"His interest in boats predates his move to Loch Ness, however, and he recalls while still in Sutherland how a friend "borrowed" a boat from his pal's dad's salmon fishing station and had to be rescued after they ended up well out to sea and heading in the direction of Norway on an outgoing tide.His hopes of joining the Royal Navy were scuppered when his teenage asthma caused him to fail the Navy medical. So he followed a different career path, one which took him as far as London where he worked in Ford's Dagenham factory, but it was not until he was made redundant from McDermotts' Ardersier fabrication yard that he was able to take to the water professionally. Having just bought a house and with two children and a mortgage to support, he invested in Nessie Hunter to create Loch Ness Cruises while his wife Leonora opened her own business Celtic Crafts, which continues its made in Scotland only policy to this day."A certain director of tourism told me there was no demand for boat cruises in Drumnadrochit whatsoever and I'd be wasting my time," George recalled."Well, I've made her eat her words, that's for sure. There's at least three boats working out of the village."Though hard at first, with George working seven days a week to establish the business, he has been happy with the career move."Basically you meet people from all over the world and make friends with them," he said."It's wonderful to be able to put a smile on somebody's face, especially on a day when it's dark and pouring rain."This has seen him get invitations from around the world, some of which he took up when he and Leonora visited the US."I became a bit of a celeb out there," he laughed."Americans love anything to do with Loch Ness. The obvious question to ask, of course, is George's own views on Nessie. Though he readily admits he has a vested interest, George immediately puts himself among the believers, even if that belief does not quite stretch to the popular plesiosaur image.With so many hours on the loch, it is no surprise George has had some unexplained sightings on the water himself, even capturing one on camera when it surfaced on the east side of the loch in June 1986. His last log of a potential Nessie sighting was on 13th May 2003, but unlike some, this does not make him pessimistic about the monster's survival chances."Most people don't report the sightings to the media for fear of ridicule," he said."I've had three people on the boat this year and when they've seen my photograph, they've said: 'Oh! We saw something like that two or three days ago!'"I can usually tell when someone's spinning me a tale, especially when they start going on about the three humps and the long neck, because I don't think there's anything like that in Loch Ness."George's explanation for what is lurking in the loch may not be as romantic as an out-of-time dinosaur, but certainly plausible."I think what we have is one of two things," he suggested."It's some entirely new species that's yet to be identified, or something that has evolved and changed, possibly a catfish of some kind. All I would say for sure is that it has got to be totally aquatic and cold-blooded. If they weren't cold blooded, we would have be picking them up with the likes of thermal imaging."The iconic image, of course, is the three humps and that's what everyone wants to see, but I think when people have seen three humps, they're seeing three at one time."But there's no doubt in my opinion that they exist. Far too many people have been seeing them for far too long. They can't all be telling lies." Source:


2012Chick said...

Surely there must be more than one of these watery giant creatures. Can something really live for hundreds of years? There have been sightings of such creatures in a couple of deep lakes in the US. This leads me to suspect that either Nessie can travel in underground tunnels or there are more than one of them.

Tabitca said...

You are quite right. There would have to be a breeding population in order for them to survive all these years. The Loch is too high to have a tunnel to the sea but was once connected to the sea over 10000 years ago when the ice carved out the gouge that is now the loch.There have been so few sightings lately that Robert Rines has speculated that they are all dead and wants to try and find remains at the bottom of the loch. As is it over 800feet deep that may be difficult. Thank you for your comment.