>NESSIE may only have poked her head out of water a handful of times but it was enough to see 2005 hailed as a good year for sightings with the first unexplained pictures of an object in the loch since 2001.
It took until August for any credible sightings to be reported, but the four reports over three months led Loch Ness Monster Fan Club president Gary Campbell to comment: "Overall it was a good year for sightings.
"Although there were only four, all of them appear bona fide and at least one had pictures to back it up. These were the first unexplained pictures taken at the loch for about four years."
The sightings reported in 2005 were:
- Nigel Bell and his family from Newcastle watched what they described as the head of a large animal move through the loch at 6pm. The family, who were on the veranda of a holiday lodge at Foyers at the time, said that the head was larger than that of a cow and was about a third of the way across the loch.
Regular visitors to the area, they were convinced what they had seen was not the result of a boat wake or wave movement.
- Kelly Yeats and Neil McKenzie, from Bridge of Dee, were staying at Foyers Bay House when they saw a "long-necked, curvedheaded" creature in the loch at 8.30am.
The sighting lasted 10 minutes.
- A retired Master Mariner was cruising just south of Urquhart Bay in a Caley Cruisers' boat at a speed of nine knots when it was overtaken by an unknown object which came between them and the south shore.
The sighting lasted several minutes and the object only disappeared as the boat moved towards it. A regular boat user on the loch, the captain said that there was no rational explanation for the object, which was unlike anything any of the boat's occupants had seen before.
- Robbie Girvan, owner of the Loch Ness Caravan Park at Invermoriston, took five pictures of what he described as a fourft high head and neck at 6pm when he was walking his dogs by the loch shore.
He said he saw a long neck come out of the water and had time to return to the house, get his camera, and return to take the pictures. Previously a nonbeliever, he said the "dark green and silvery" creature could only have been Nessie.
Meanwhile, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal how, in 1985, civil servants examined ways of protecting the loch's best-known inhabitant from monsterhunters.
The 1985 Conservative Government may not have admitted to being Nessie believers, but documents laws have revealed how the move was prompted by Swedish officials who were considering how they could protect their equivalent of Nessie, the Lake Storsjo monster.
In August 1985, the British Embassy in Stockholm wrote to the permanent under-secretary at the Scottish Office, apologetically stating: "I am sorry to bother you with an inquiry which will, no doubt, be greeted at first glance with gales of laughter."
The writer went on to point out the inquiry was a serious one, however, and explained the Swedes wanted assistance in drawing up legislation to protect the Storsjo monster. The inquiry led to an exchange of letters between Government departments.
One Scottish Office official wrote:
"The protection of this putative denizen of the deep deserves serious consideration."
However, a Department of Agriculture and Fisheries official commented:
"There is, of course, another part to the question and that is measures to protect man from Nessie, however, past history indicates that Nessie's tastes do not extend to homo sapiens."
Eventually, after taking advice from the Nature Conservancy Council, the Scottish Development Department concluded Nessie would be protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act and sent a letter to that effect to the UK's Stockholm Embassy.
They added: "We should certainly welcome teams of Swedish scientists, amateur and professional, bent on establishing Nessie's identity, and I can assure them that there is ample accommodation in the Highlands and plentiful supplies of the national beverage which will help them to see her in the dark."