A fireman has been left baffled after he recorded a “classic” sighting of the Loch Ness Monster.
Forestry worker Ross MacAulay has lived all his life around Loch Ness.
Having never seen Nessie he counted himself as a non-believer in the mythical animal.
Ross has now had to reconsider his scepticism after photographing what appears to be a 12ft creature on his phone.
In doing so, the 35-year-old captured the first “accepted” sighting of Nessie on a mobile phone this year.
The other five have been by the loch’s webcam.
Ross is a firefighter at Drumnadrochit, lying on the shore of Loch Ness.
He is also a tree feller and fencer for Forestry and Land Scotland, working around the loch.
But on July 8, Ross was driving just outside Fort Augustus when he glanced at the water, about 200ft below the road.
“There were a couple of kayakers, but 100 yards ahead of them was something below the surface,” he explained.
“At first I thought it was a big rock under the water and I just carried on driving,
“Then I thought ‘there’s never been a rock there before’ – so curiosity got the better of me. I turned round and parked in a long lay-by.
“The object had moved and was now out in the middle of the loch.
“The kayakers were much further behind. The creature must have done 400 yards in a minute – and against the wind.
“I started watching it for five minutes. There was no long neck, no head, just the hump bit.
“I would say it was 12ft long and 4ft wide, at its widest. It was light grey and it went under the water then up and then disappeared.”
Ross went on to explain how rare a sighting it was.
“I have lived all my life in the area and I am keen fisherman who has spent hundreds of hours on the loch,” he said.
“But I have never seen anything like that before. Did I believe in Nessie? – hell no!
“I have seen seals dozens of times in the loch, but this was far too big to be a seal.
“It was not a log and was travelling against the wind. If somebody can explain to me what I have seen that would be great – but I just can’t explain it.
“I never thought I would be one of those guys seeing Nessie.”
He went on to explain how his friends are coming round to the idea of him having seen the mythical Scottish beast.
“I kept quiet at first but then I showed it (the images) to my fellow firefighters and they at first took the Mick, but are equally baffled,” Ross continued.
“In fact one had seen something himself, 25 years ago. I have no idea what I saw, but I would say it was an animal of some kind.”
Gary Campbell, the recorder of the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register, said:”This is the first sighting of Nessie this year that was not from the webcam.
“It is a classic sighting of Nessie – with no head or neck discernible.
“It is just under the surface – and may not have been visible to the kayakers at water level.
“It is a fascinating sighting and adds to the mystery. It does nor definitively prove the existence of Nessie, but it certainly adds to the debate.”
Mr Campbell said nearly a third of sightings of Nessie in recent years were from people watching the loch’s webcam.
“I would like to see webcams all around the loch to get a 360 degree watch,” he continued.
“I’m sure that would produce even more sightings.”
The fifth accepted sighting of the year of the Loch Ness Monster was recorded from over 4,500 miles away in Oregon, US.
Kaylynn Wangle logged her second sighting of the year when on June 9 she watched the Nessie webcam and saw a black object moving across the loch from right to left.
The object is said to change shape and disappear under the water before resurfacing.
Splashing also seems to visible. This sighting is over 10 minutes long.
Ms Wangle also recorded Nessie on April 10 with a seven minute video.
Hospital clerical worker Eoin O’Faodhagain from Northern Ireland is responsible for the other three sightings this year, including his glimpse of Nessie on January 18, which was also the earliest of the monster for 19 years.
Last year the 55-year-old devoted Nessie watcher had four sightings accepted.
Sightings of the Loch Ness Monster last year reached a record 18 for this century and were at their highest level for more than 35 years.
The end-of-year total came after scientists earlier claimed that they had solved the mystery of Nessie and she could possibly be a giant eel.
It follows DNA analysis of living species in the freshwater loch.
The scientists ruled out the presence of large animals said to be behind reports of a monster.
No evidence of a prehistoric marine reptile called a plesiosaur or a large fish such as a sturgeon were found.
But in a documentary on the project, lead scientist Prof Neil Gemmell, a geneticist from New Zealand’s University of Otago, says about 25 percent of the samples remain unidentified.
That is good news for Nessie believers and the Highland tourist industry – the monster is said to be worth £41m to the region.
It was in 1996, Mr Campbell saw something resembling a “mini whale” – with a black shiny back – at the south end of the loch.
Since then Mr Campbell has researched and now logged 1,121 historical sightings, from records stretching back over the centuries.
According to Google there are 200,000 searches each month for the Loch Ness Monster.
Irish missionary St Columba is first said to have encountered a beast in the River Ness in 565AD.
Among the most famous claimed sightings is a photograph taken in 1934 by Colonel Robert Kenneth Wilson.
The image was later exposed as a hoax by one of the participants, Chris Spurling, who revealed that the pictures were staged on his death bed.