Meet The Man Who's Spent The Last 26 Years Hunting For The Loch Ness Monster
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While this is mostly a story about a big fucking monster, which may or may not exist, it's also about adventure and following your dreams, because at the tender age of 28, Steve Feltham knew that the ordinary working life wasn't for him.
He knew he had a different calling. He knew he was destined to be a full-time Loch Ness Monster Hunter. And that's how he has spent the past 26 years of his life: living in a converted van, off the grid, close to Loch Ness. Always ready, in case the elusive Nessie decides to make an appearance.
Can think of worse places to live. Credit: Supplied
But how did it all start? Steve tells LADbible: "I was fascinated after a trip there as a kid. I was seven the first time I went. At the time there was an exhibition of Nessie hunters on and these guys were so exciting to me. From there my passion just grew. I read a lot about Loch Ness and its 'monster', and we visited regularly while growing up.
"When I was an adult I'd aim to go there at least every couple of years. I worked as a potter and a graphic designer and had a good work/life balance, but then I got into fitting security systems and was working full-time and I started to crave an adventure.
A tourist filmed this clip of 'Nessie' in June last year. Credit: SWNS
"Every day in work I would be in the home of elderly people and they would tell me about their regrets and how there's so many things they wished they'd done. So I thought, 'Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life? Or do I want an adventure?' I decided I wanted the adventure."
And off he went. He quit his job, finished things with the woman he was seeing, gave up his home and moved to Scotland.
"I think most of my friends probably thought 'at last', because everyone knew about my interest in Nessie. I think they were expecting it. I don't think they expected me to last the Scottish winter, though, and certainly not 26 years..."
Well, who would expect that? Steve has been searching for so long he has been officially recognised in the Guinness World Records, and currently holds the record for the longest continuous vigil hunting for the Loch Ness Monster.
Steve makes small Nessie figures and sells them to fund his hunting. Credit: Supplied
When it comes to tracking and recording the beast, it seems like every couple of months there's a new sighting which ends up hitting the headlines. In fact, there were seven just last year, according to figures from Loch Ness Sightings, and three already this year.
When I ask Steve if he thinks there have been any legitimate sightings of the monster, he tells me: "Yes. I think one of the best ones, one that really can't be explained away, is a photo Marcus Atkinson took back in 2011."
Marcus is a skipper who spends his days on the loch. He was out one day when he spotted a weird, unidentified - but crucially living - object on the screen of his boat's sonar system.
Steve said: "Markus knows the loch well. It couldn't have been a fish, it was 75ft down and was almost 5ft wide.
Proof? What do you reckon? I'm not convinced. Credit: BNPS
"There are plenty of other images that can't easily be explained, too." Steve has also done his fair share of debunking, too. He's previously called out a number of images as fakes, long before the photographer owned up.
Probably the most surprising thing about Steve, is that he doesn't wear a tinfoil hat and, as strange as this is for me to write, he's quite realistic about the whole Loch Ness Monster thing.
"I'm a firm believer there is something in there that needs explaining. What it is, I don't know. It's not for us hunters to decide what it is. It could be a big fish, it could be a dinosaur, it could be anything. We just want to find out what."
Steve has spent more time looking at those murky waters than most. A lot more. So, how many times has he seen the beast? Got to be dozens, right?
"Just once," he tells me. "It was when I first moved here. I was looking out over the water when I saw something moving rapidly through the water. The best way I can think of to describe it is like a Torpedo.
"I didn't have my camera on me, so I didn't get a snap of it. I remember thinking at the time, 'Well, this will be easy to solve, I've only just got here and I've spotted something already.' That was 26 years ago, and I'm still waiting for a second sighting." Hard lines, mate.
Finally, I have to know... the big question.
"Steve," I ask. "What happens if Nessie gets found tomorrow? What will you do with the rest of your life?"
"Well, hopefully it will be me that solves the mystery," he says. "And then I'll be able to travel the world and try and solve a few more. Lots of countries have their own lake monster stories."
He's got it all figured out. Fair enough - happy hunting, Steve.