With all the theories of a giant, mythical sea creature floating around, Loch Ness is probably the last place most people want to take a dip. Ross Edgley, though, is not 'most people'.
Last month, the 36-year-old took on the challenge of not just entering Loch Ness, but swimming in it for as long as he possibly could to try and break the world record for the longest tideless open water swim in history, in the wild waters of Scotland.
He wasn't allowed to touch the ground, a boat or even another person, and had to eat, drink and go to the toilet (in a pouch) all while staying afloat.
'But why?' I hear you cry. Well, Ross says it himself – he's someone who 'basically does silly swims at sea for long periods of time'. Case in point, he previously took 157 days to swim around the entire UK.
This time, Ross took it upon himself to try and break some world records to raise awareness for the protection of Scottish seas, in collaboration with Talisker whiskey and environmental organisation Parley for the Oceans, which works to help ocean preservation and protect sea kelp forests in Scotland.
Ross wanted to swim for as long as he physically could, but that's easier said than done when faced with temperatures as low as 5°C, rising waves, rain and wind of up to around 23mph.
Ross told LADbible: "Basically, on the first night, we very quickly realised that it wasn't ideal conditions. So that's why we ended up as a team sort of like talking and just going, 'You know what, let's just go as long as we can, under these brutal conditions'."
Though the conditions weren't what he'd hoped for, Ross couldn't deny that Loch Ness, with its 'history and heritage and mystique', was 'amazing'. The swimmer certainly had a lot of chances to check out the water during his swim, and there was one moment that he hasn't quite been able to explain.
It took place approximately 36 hours in to the swim, on his second night in the water. Ross had what he described as a 'poo flap' to prevent him from soiling the water, but while using it in the pitch black, at about 1.00am, he felt something graze his left bum cheek.
I can't imagine a worse time for such an event to happen, but Ross said it actually wasn't that scary.
He explained: "[It was] not in an inappropriate way. More just kind of an encouraging way, or that's certainly how I took it."
Though whatever was behind the mysterious touch was apparently supportive of Ross' charitable efforts, the swimmer admitted he 'didn't want to hang around' in the aftermath of the encounter, and decided to keep it to himself rather than relay the scene back to his support team on a nearby boat.
Having been in the water for more than a day straight at that point, Ross admitted his mind could have been playing tricks on him due to sleep deprivation. He even had to tread water while he ate, trying to consume 120g of carbohydrates every hour, which equates to 'three or four bananas every hour'.
"Even when you are treading water, it's kind of a rest but then hypothermia starts setting in because you're not really generating heat. So it was like oh, this is quite nice, taking a break. [Then] oh, no, I'm getting hypothermic," Ross said.
"The only way I can describe it," Ross continued, "is trying to eat your breakfast blindfolded while in a washing machine."
It definitely doesn't sound like a pleasant experience, but Ross powered on for as long as he could. Unfortunately, however, he'll never really know how long the swim really could have been, as he was forced to abandon the water when it was determined he'd developed cellulitis, which can be serious if left untreated.
With the help of his family and girlfriend, he stumbled his way back on to dry land with his jelly-like legs and was taken to hospital for a couple of days to recover.
Though the swim didn't quite end as planned, Ross' historic efforts weren't in vain as he achieved the world record for the longest Loch Ness swim, at 52 hours and 39 minutes.
The impressive achievement has also succeeded in raising awareness for Talisker's collaboration with Parley, and the importance of preserving sea kelp forests in Scotland – areas that are essential in the fight against climate change. As part of the effort, Talisker will also be donating £1 from every bottle of Talisker 10-year-old online and in participating Tesco stores until 17 October to Parley for the Oceans.
After having spent more than two full days in Loch Ness many people probably wouldn't ever want to step foot in water again, but Ross actually considered his effort a 'training swim'.
Discussing his plans to take on another world record in the future, Ross said: "I promised my family I wouldn't do anything stupid for the rest of the year. But I'm certainly eyeing up something next year. So I'm putting the feelers out now, and the team are kind of almost looking at a big map, [looking at] lochs, lakes, you know, so that's where we're at at the minute. Just like the planning stage."
Only time will tell where the Ross Ness Monster goes next.Featured Image Credit: Rob Ball/Alamy/Supplied