Sunday, 27 September 2015

Bear Grylls around Loch Morar

Adventurer Bear Grylls was around the austere mountains of Loch Morar recently and you can see it televised on STV this Tuesday (29th) at 9pm. There will be a mention of the Loch Morar Monster, but how much I am not sure. Loch Morar is much more of a wilderness compared to Loch Ness, a good backdrop to a good monster story.

More information here.


Quite a good programme. Bear Grylls opened by paramotoring over Loch Morar. Though there was a chat with one witness and his photo, the main item of interest was the sediment analysis taken at the lowest depth at over 1000 feet with a core sampler attached to a very long rope.

No saltwater from the post ice age inundation was found at the bottom but another water analysis suggested this was a low nutrient lake. A sonar sweep suggested a low fish population. I found this a bit surprising considering the loch is not as opaque as Loch Ness which ought to help the food chain.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

More On Those LNIB Films

This is a small follow up to an article I did last year on the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau. The article mainly focused on those films taken by the Bureau in the 1960s which have now disappeared from view but are known to be in the hands of private individuals. The general tenor of the article was that we know these films are not game changers, but we would still like to see them.

On the back of that, I found an article by David James (co-founder of the LNIB) from the Straits Times dated 9th June 1964 (which you can find here). The one film I would like to see is the filming of an alleged Nessie on land back in June 1963. It seems this film (at least last year) was not found, but David James acknowledges its existence here and gives us a distance to object metric. What is entailed by the word "wallowed" and whether this action is visible in the film is not know.

Another film which looks of interest was taken on October 19th 1962 and is described here. It was a multiple witness event of a long, dark shape in the water at 200 yards which was accompanied by some extreme jumping fish behaviour. Again, whether this film exists, is recoverable, is digitiseable and can be put online remains to be seen. You would think that at 200 yards, something of interest would register on film.

The rest of the article takes us back to a time of innovative and sometimes wacky experiments. The searchlights on Loch Ness is a good ploy, but it is not clear whether such a tactic could easily record anything on film. I have learnt that what I see with my eyes on the loch, does not always transmit well onto recording equipment. 

It is claimed that some "unusual" objects appeared in the spotlight but quickly disappeared. One wonders what animals would be out on the loch surface in darkness? Within a week, the two spotlights became one, as one was cannibalised to keep the other going!

Moving into 1963, the LNIB manned 10 stations over a two week period which produced two films. They also conducted an interesting experiment to test the theory that the noise of the road blasting of the 1930s stirred up the Loch Ness Monster. To that end, five days of "plaster blasting" ensued as the peace of the loch was disturbed. David James would not commit to the conclusion that this contributed to a post-1930s record of more than 40 sightings. (I myself am more inclined to the view that it was the thousands of tons of rock being dumped into the loch that was more likely to stir the creature.)

All in all, an interesting read from a time of high adventure and monster enthusiasm.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Nessie FAQ

Realising that people of varying familiarity with the Loch Ness Monster visit this blog, I thought it appropriate to put up a page of frequently asked questions concerning Nessie. For some, most of these facts and figures may be well known but to others such as kids who may wish to write a school essay on Nessie or anyone else who wants the straight facts for any article, this Loch Ness Monster FAQ can help them.

 Now when I say "facts" or "evidence" there is clearly going to be disagreement on what constitutes evidence for the Loch Ness Monster. Indeed, most will regard any evidence as falling short whilst others such as myself will be found closer to the other end of the spectrum. The point of this page is not to sit in judgement but rather state what has historically been regarded as evidence.

Also facts can lack unanimity. This is perhaps best shown in the total number of claimed Nessie sightings. Some claim as many as 10,000 whilst others drop to the hundreds depending on their "filtering" processes. I have no doubt in my mind that the number of sightings are in the thousands but most never make it into the public domain.

The sources for the data come from a variety of places and the data may change as new information comes to light. This is a work in progress!

Q. How did the Loch Ness Monster story begin?

A. There had been stories of strange things in Loch Ness going back centuries, but the "Loch Ness Monster" as we know it began in 1933 as a series of reports of monsters received increasing attention from local, national and international media organisations.The first report came on May 2nd by a Mrs. Mackay and was followed in August by a sensational sighting of the creature on land by a Mr. and Mrs. Spicer. The first photograph by Hugh Gray followed in November and monster fever reached its highest pitch in April 1934 when the famous Surgeon's Photograph was published.

By the end of 1934, there had been over three hundred claims of monster sightings and the Loch Ness Monster was now firmly established as an international mystery. The press loved a monster story, especially during those years of economic depression, and so a large dinosaur-like creature turning up at a remote highland loch was a godsend for them. The debate around that time revolved around not only the reports but what the creature could be and what steps should be taken to solve this mystery.

Theories from the fantastical to the more mundane abounded while plans to trap the creature ranged from large, baited hooks to huge steel cages. Plans were afoot to set up long term observation platforms with cine cameras and send divers down to explore the murky and intimidating depths. The creature even merited mention in the British parliament as questions were asked as to the protection the law afforded to a creature as yet unidentified.

Expeditions of varying seriousness and complexity were organised as people proactively sought to obtain conclusive evidence, not only of the creature's existence, but also it's identity. However, given the loch's wide range and the creature's apparent shyness, nothing that would convince the likes of the Natural History Museum was ever forthcoming. It seemed there was no need to consult protection laws while Nessie successfully eluded all insipid attempts at capture and by 1935 the story began to slow down and almost disappear as the country moved onto a war footing.

Q. Was there any monster legends before the Loch Ness Monster became news?

A. Like a lot of other lochs in Scotland, Loch Ness was feared as the abode of a Water Horse. This creature would capture people by pretending to be an ordinary horse ready for use by the wayside. On mounting the beast, the victim would be stuck to the monster which would then race into Loch Ness to feast upon its drowned victim. There are a lot of reference to this unworldly beast in old Victorian books and it is also sometimes referred to as a Kelpie or the more benign Water Bull. Loch Ness is the most often mentioned home of a Water Horse in old Highland literature, exceeding other lochs such as lochs Lomond, Morar, Tay and Awe.

Q. What about Saint Columba and the Monster?

A. Adamnan's "Life of Saint Columba" mentions the saint invoking the name of God to drive away a "water beast" that had killed one man and threatened to take another in the River Ness. The account was written in the 8th century but the event probably took place in the middle of the 6th century. The incident perhaps took place at the Bona Narrows just north of Loch Ness though other tales of Columba tell of further encounters with the beast in Loch Ness itself.

Some say the tale is fabricated or speaks of a bear or walrus. The story itself does not identify the animal though it is reasonable that the story presents it as an aquatic-based animal and not something demonic like the Water Horse.

Q. How many times has the Monster been seen?

A. In terms of reports starting in 1933 that appears in books, magazines and newspapers, the total runs to about one thousand seven hundred (1,700). Doubtless, there are others which have gone unreported. This would average out at about twenty sightings a year, but the actual numbers per year can vary enormously from over a hundred to none. Indeed, it seems that the number of reported sightings has been on a continuous slide since the 1970s with various explanations being offered as to why. Is Nessie dead or do less witnesses come forward now?

Undoubtedly, a proportion of these reports fall into the hoax or misidentification category. It is generally agreed that witnesses are sincere in what they claim to see and so hoaxes form only a small part of the overall number. As to how many of the remaining reports are monster or misidentification depends on who you ask!

There are also reports of the monster before 1933, most of which were revealed by witnesses coming forward after 1933. These come to about seventy in all since the St. Columba story.

Q. What is usually described?

A. The majority of reports describe a large humped like object in the loch. Sometimes the object has two or three or more humps which can change shape. Perhaps a fifth will describe a long neck seen with the humps or on its own. More rarely a long tail and flippers or webbed feet are described. The object can be described as moving in the water and producing a noticeable wake. Sometimes it simply sinks vertically back into the loch.

The skin is usually described as dark in colour and can be smooth or rough in appearance. Horns are mentioned in very rare circumstances as are small eyes and mouth. Finer details of the creature are not usually expected since it is normally seen hundreds of metres away (unless the witness has binoculars or telescope).

Q. Has the creature been seen out of the water?

A. Yes it has, but on even rarer occasions than water reports; about 29 times in the last 81 years. There are about 55 water based sightings for every land based sighting. The last claimed report was in 2009 and most were in the 1930s. What witnesses describe is in keeping with water based reports, though there are some exceptions which are weird to say the least.

Q. What is the evidence for the Loch Ness Monster?

A. There is a large volume of eyewitness testimony as well as a range of films, photographs and sonar readings. However, the quality of the evidence is disputed. It is said that the testimonies are unreliable and untrustworthy while the photographs and films are deemed inconclusive or hoaxes. Sonar readings are disputed as being illusions created by sound reflections and refractions as well as lacking resolution.

To some extent the evidence is in the eye of the beholder as personal bias and prejudice enters the assessment on both sides. Because a number of sightings, photos, films and sonar have been found to be erroneous, there is always a small chance that someone has lied or misperceived. However, this should not be used as a reason for wholesale rejection of all evidence. One bad report does not invalidate 100 others. Each has to be assessed on it own merits and that is where the debate begins and continues to this day.

Ultimately, zoological experts will require a piece of the creature, dead or alive. It may be that even close up shots of the creature in this digital age will be disputed, so in the tradition of the Wild West, it is a case of "Wanted, Nessie: Dead or Alive".

Q. Where can I get the latest sightings of the Loch Ness Monster?

A. There are various outlets. Online newspapers will carry stories as will this blog from time to time. Gary Campbell's sightings website is also recommended (link). For the latest news on any aspects of Nessie, you could always set up a Google News alert to your mail inbox when news items appear on the Web.

Q. Why has no carcass of the monster been found?

A. The nature of the loch does not allow for carcasses to rise and drift ashore. Anything that dies will sink to the bottom aided by the loch's sheer high sides. Once the body is hundreds of feet below, the cold waters of the loch arrest the decomposition process, allowing scavangers to strip the carcass. This also defeats the buildup of gases in body chambers and the remains will not achieve buoyancy and float to the surface. The high water pressure at the bottom of the loch will also compress any decomposition gases, which again defeats buoyancy. If the monster has a skeleton, it will eventually be buried in silt or even dissolve in the water's slightly acidic environment if they are cartiliginous.

Q. Is there enough food in Loch Ness to feed the monster?

A. That again depends who you ask and how you frame the question. If by that you mean a herd of 50 plesiosaurs then the answer is "No". But if you specify a different kind of monster and lower the presumed population, the answer moves towards "Yes". Various attempts have been made to estimate the biomass of Loch Ness (excluding monsters) by sonar counting fish or extrapolating mathematically from samples of various animals from various points in the food chain. The only exact thing known is that no one knows exactly how much biomass is in Loch Ness. 
The best estimate for fish in the top layer of the water column is up to 24 tonnes but this does not account for fish along the sides, near the surface and closer to the bottom. This would include migratory salmon, trout and bottom feeding eels. These will increase the total number multiple times (my own estimate is over 160 tonnes). 
The other factor is Nessie dietary requirements. One estimate suggests the Loch Ness biomass can sustain a monster population one-tenth in mass which could range from 2.4 to 16 tonnes. But there are other ratios depending on the type of creature which allows a small population of monsters. The answer is not as clear cut as some make out.
But some Nessie believers do accept there is not enough food and these people tend to believe in a monster that is of paranormal origin or is a regular visitor to the loch which feeds in the oceans. More information can be had at this link.
Q. Will the Loch Ness Monster mystery ever be solved?

A. This again depends on who you ask. Some feel that the mystery was solved in the 1980s when people such as Adrian Shine synthesised a theory based on various misidentifications of known and not so well known natural phenomena plus the additions of hoax explanations and the occasional visit to the loch by Atlantic Sturgeon. Others think this theory is too simplistic and makes unwarranted assumptions about the observational abilities of the eyewitnesses. The manner in which photographic evidence is handled is also seen as too dismissive by those on the monster side of the debate. The accusation that something should have been found by now is also levelled, though without a convincing explanation as to why this should be the case. 


Note it is not being claimed here that all these are proof of the monster. Some are not but some will be. Also, there are a number of lesser known photos which I don't about which briefly "surfaced" in the 1980s and 1990s in one particular newspaper only to disappear from view.

Total number of known sightings: about 1800
Total number of land sightings: 35
Total number of sightings before Nessie "Era": about 70
Total number of photographs: about 30
Total number of films: about 30
Total number of sonar contacts: over 20


Earliest account of Monster: 565AD by Adamnan (link)
First newspaper report of a "huge fish" in Loch Ness: Inverness Courier 8th October 1868
First "modern" sighting: 14th April 1933 by Aldie Mackay (reported 2nd May) (link)
Land sighting by Spicers on 22nd July 1933 which made international news
First photograph by Hugh Gray: 12 November 1933 at Foyers
Marmaduke Wetherell investigation for Daily Mail: November 1933 to January 1934
First organised expedition by Sir Edward Mountain: July-August 1934
The Surgeon's Photograph published April 21st 1934 by the Daily Mail
Rupert Gould publishes "The Loch Ness Monster and Others" in June 1934
Loch Ness Monster news goes into hibernation during war years
Lachlan Stuart photograph of three humps taken in July 14th 1951
Peter MacNab takes a picture of the monster swimming by Castle Urquhart on July 1955.
Constance Whyte publishes "More Than A Legend" in 1957.
Tim Dinsdale takes his famous monster film in April 1960.
The Loch Ness Phenomenon Investigation Bureau is founded in 1962 spending 10 years on the hunt
The Academy of Applied Sciences expeditions take their famous flipper photo on 8th August 1972.
They repeat the feat with the gargoyle and body pictures in 1975.
Operation Deepscan sweeps the loch with a line of boats in October 1987 with three unidentified sonar hits.
Nicholas Witchell fronts Project Urquhart in 1993.
April 1994: Surgeon's Photo exposed as hoax by Alistair Boyd and David Martin.


Best year for sightings: Five on the 24th July 1934 (link)
Best month for sightings: August (about 20%)
Worst month for sightings: January (about 3%)
Best day of month for sightings: 27th (5% average is 3%)
Worst day of month for sightings: 31st (1.5% but only 7 months have that day)
Best time of day for sightings: 3pm-4pm (10%)
Worst time of day for sightings: 3am-4am (0.5%)


There are a multiplicity of candidates which attempt to identify what the Loch Ness Monster is. Though some may be drawn from known animals, be they existing or extinct, some kind of modification was required to fit the Nessie identikit. Here is a selection of them. Note that questions about the lifecycle of the monster very much depend on which (if any) of these creatures best describes the monster.

Plesiosaur or Elasmosaurus

Tullimonstrum Gregarium

Giant eel

Long Necked Seal

Paranormal Entity


 Embolomeri Amphibian

Atlantic Sturgeon

Misidentification of common phenomena

Monster Statistics

Average Length: 20-25 feet
Maximum Length: up to 60 feet
Minimum Length: A few feet!
Humps: Generally up to three, 3 to 10 feet in length and up to several feet high.
Neck: Typically 5 to 6 feet which tapers to about one foot where it joins body. Can be described as pillar or pole like.
Head: Sometimes described as small or even a continuation of the neck.


The Loch Ness Monster has had its supporters and detractors throughout the decades. From the earliest days in 1933, when investigator Rupert Gould turned up at the loch to interview eyewitnesses through to today when a plethora of all types can be found with a simple Google search, finding an opinion on the monster is not difficult to find. Here we categorise some past and present names according to for, against or just simply in it for the publicity. The decades they were/are active in these roles is an estimate in some cases.

The Monster Men

Rupert Gould (1930s - 40s) Wrote first book on Nessie in 1934, "The Loch Ness Monster and Others"
Alex Campbell (1930s - 70s) Water Bailiff at Loch Ness who claimed 17 sightings.
Constance Whyte (1930s - 70s) Wrote influential book "More Than a Legend" in 1957.
Tim Dinsdale (1960s - 80s) Took most famous footage of beast in 1960 and wrote five books.
David James (1960s - 70s) Lead founder of Loch Ness Investigation Bureau
F. W. Holiday (1960s - 70s) Author of three books on or relating to Nessie.
Robert Rines (1970s - 2000s) Led the famous underwater searches in the 1970s.
Nicholas Witchell (1960s - 90s) Wrote the book "The Loch Ness Story".
Steve Feltham (1990s - today) Longest serving monster hunter living by the loch since 1992.

The Sceptics

Tony Harmsworth (80s - today) Former curator of the Official Loch Ness Exhibition
Adrian Shine (80s - today) Leader of Loch Ness Project and curator of Loch Ness Centre
Dick Raynor (80s - today) Loch Ness Researcher and author of various articles.
Maurice Burton (1960s - 90s) Author of "The Elusive Monster" and first major sceptic.
Steuart Campbell (1980s-today) Author of  "The Loch Ness Monster - The Evidence" and various articles
Ronald Binns (1980s) - Author of "The Loch Ness Mystery - Solved"

The Dubious Men

Marmaduke Wetherell (1930s) Lead conspirator in the Surgeon's Photo fake.
Frank Searle (1960s - 80s) Faker of many a Nessie photograph.
Anthony "Doc" Shiels (1970s-80s) Faker of various Nessie and Sea Serpent photos.
George Edwards (1980s-today) Loch Ness cruise boat operator ans self confessed hoaxer.

Noted Eyewitnesses

Aldie Mackay (1933)
George Spicer (1933)
Hugh Gray (1933)
Kenneth Wilson (1934)
Alex Campbell (various years)
Tim Dinsdale (1960)
Greta Finlay (1952)
Marjory Moir (1936)
James McLean (1937)

Noted Photos

Hugh Gray (1933)
Kenneth Wilson (1934)
F. C. Adams (1934)
Lachlan Stuart (1951)
Peter MacNab (1955)
Peter O' Connor (1960)
Jennfier Bruce (1982)
Anthony Shiels (1977)
James Gray (2001)
Roy Johnston (2002)

Noted Films

Malcolm Irvine (1933 and 1936)
G. E. Taylor (1938)
Tim Dinsdale (1960)
Peter Smith: (1977)
Gordon Holmes (2007)
Dick Raynor (1967)

Total number of books on monster: Sixty Three (and counting!)

Loch Ness Facts

Maximum Depth: 227 metres
Average Depth: 132 metres
Max Length: 36.2 kilometres
Max Width: 2.7 kilometres
Height above sea level: 17 metres
Volume: 7.5 cubic kilometres

Rivers: Oich, Moriston, Tarff, Foyers, Coilte, Enrick, Ness (outflow)

Towns (population estimates in parentheses): Fort Augustus (646), Invermoriston (264), Drumnadrochit (1020), Abriachan (120), Dores (109), Foyers (276), Inverfarigaig (74)

Total Loch Ness human population Estimate: over 2,500.

Total Loch Ness monsters population Estimate: ???

Any ideas or comments, send me an email to

Friday, 4 September 2015

Elizabethia nessiae


Would the Loch Ness Monster have been named after Queen Elizabeth I if its existence had been proven beyond doubt? So runs an interesting article based on the archive of papers belonging to Sir Peter Scott, one time major advocate of the Loch Ness Monster.

It seems her Majesty was following the mystery of Loch Ness during those heady days of the 1960s and the suggestion had been made by Scott that the creature be named "Elizabethia nessiae" in the light of its scientific discovery. Naturally, the Palace did not warm too much to such a suggestion.

The original article can be found here.  

I was aware that Prince Philip had a keen interest in the Monster and that Tim Dinsdale, somewhat presumptuously but patriotically, had desired that the Queen was first to view his 1960 film. This story brings a bit of extra gloss to those human satellites that orbit that great planet known as Nessie!

 The author can be contacted at

The Queen and the Loch Ness monster: a murky tale of myth, nature and spin

Exclusive: The Queen was 'very interested' in the quest to solve the mystery of the mythical life form, but a senior aide was not amused by proposal for it to become her namesake
From the royal stable of thoroughbreds to her loft of racing pigeons, the Queen’s fascination with creatures great and small is a lifelong affair. But until now nothing has been known of the monarch’s passion for another sizeable beast of her dominion - the Loch Ness Monster.
New research into the heyday of the hunt for Nessie 50 years ago has revealed for the first time how the Queen was “very interested” in the quest to solve the mystery of the mythical life form swimming some 70 miles from her Scottish Balmoral retreat and asked to be kept informed of all developments.
The Sovereign’s curiosity, which seems to have been shared by the Duke of Edinburgh, was piqued by the efforts of Sir Peter Scott, a war hero turned eminent naturalist, to launch the first comprehensive scientific investigation into the possible existence of a prehistoric animal in the waters of the Scottish Highlands.

Documents unearthed from the archive of Scott’s papers held at Cambridge University and seen by The Independent show how the scientist, who was the son of the famed Antarctic explorer Captain Scott and went on to co-found the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), even went so far as to suggest eventually naming Nessie after the Queen - putting forward “Elizabethia nessiae” as a possibility to the Palace.

Sir Peter, who was known to senior royals after his sculptress mother once made a bust of King George VI and himself once drew a portrait of the young Princess Elizabeth, wrote to the Queen’s assistant private secretary Martin Charteris in May 1960 revealing his proposals to track down the monster.

In reply, Charteris, a friend of the formidably well-connected naturalist, made clear the Palace’s enthusiasm for the project, adding it would be “great day in the zoological world if it can be proved that a hitherto unknown animal exists”.

The senior royal aide wrote: “Her Majesty has seen your letter and was very interested in its contents, and I hope that you will keep us in touch with the progress of your investigations.”

Charteris, who served in the innermost circle of the Queen’s advisors for nearly 30 years, made clear he was also showing the letter to the Duke of Edinburgh, who later became president of the WWF. But the courtier was distinctly more cautious about the matter of lending the monarch’s name to a creature of uncertain existence, and potentially unprepossessing appearance.

With full royal reserve, he wrote: “If there is any question of naming the animal after the Queen, there must of course be absolutely irrefutable evidence of its existence. It would be most regrettable to connect Her Majesty in any way with something which ultimately turned out to be a hoax.

“Even if the animal does prove to exist I am not at all sure that it will be generally very appropriate to name it after Her Majesty since it has for so many years been known as ‘The Monster’.”

The remarkable exchange was sparked by the decision of a leading Loch Ness hunter - an aeronautical engineer from Reading called Tim Dinsdale - to write to the Queen a month earlier offering to show her a three-minute film he captured of a “Nessie” swimming across the lake.

In his letter to Charteris, Sir Peter, whose godfather was Peter Pan author JM Barrie, described the images as “extremely impressive”, adding: “The object is evidently very large and in my view admits of only two possibilities - a new animal or extremely costly and elaborate hoax.”

The documents, uncovered by a Cambridge post-graduate researcher, cast new light on the evolution of the post-war Loch Ness Monster hunt and the way in which a group “gentleman amateurs” from the heart of the British Establishment, led by Scott, organised the most serious attempt yet to try to resolve the question of what, if anything, was lurking in the dark, landlocked waters adjacent to Inverness.

Sir Peter, a wartime Royal Navy officer decorated for his valour in battles including the ill-fated Dieppe Raid, had rapidly established himself in peacetime (after an unsuccessful flirtation with trying to become a Conservative MP) as a pioneering conservationist, successfully saving the “nene” or Hawaiian goose from extinction in the 1950s.

His standing among eminent zoologists as a well-regarded naturalist therefore stood him in good stead when he sought to mobilise British scientific opinion - hitherto resolutely scornful of the existence of the monster -  to support a programme of searches to get to the bottom of growing speculation that Loch Ness was home to one or more plesiosaurs, the waterborne dinosaurs that swam the Earth’s seas 250 million years ago.

The paper held at Cambridge University Library show that Scott was careful to bring a scientific rigour to his investigations while harbouring his belief that it was “more than probable that an undescribed animal lives in Loch Ness”.

Zac Baynham-Herd, the post-graduate history researcher who brought the documents to light, told The Independent: “Scott never claimed to have seen the monster. He was no fool - he analysed all the information in a scientifically rigorous manner. But ultimately he convinced himself that there was indeed something in Loch Ness.”

He added: “There is no-one who did more to address the question of the Loch Monster. He was inspired by the idea of the wilderness, of an untouched nature that had to be protected and preserved.”
But despite winning the broad support of his confreres for what one leading zoologist described as a beast belonging to “the category of ghosts and fairies”, Scott failed to gain public backing or finance for an official body to pursue Nessie. Instead, in 1962 he set up a private group - the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau (LNPIB) - with the help of his wartime comrade and Highland laird, David James, a Conservative MP and friend of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Although James was initially reluctant to pursue Nessie - he wrote to Scott telling him he had “entered the House to make a reputation and not destroy one” - the resulting partnership proved formidable.

Along with another public school-educated conservationist called Richard Fitter, the group not only grabbed the attention of the monarch but pulled strings to gain a loan of Ministry of Defence equipment in the shape of searchlights to sweep Loch Ness and the services of an elite military photo-reconnaissance unit to scrutinise images from the lake.

The modern consensus is that the subsequent searches were always doomed to end in vain and Nessie was the product of a critical mass of optical illusions, crude hoaxes, clever marketing and wishful thinking.

But those who knew Sir Peter argue it is easy to forget the spirit of zoological discovery that existed at the time and the global fascination with the Loch Ness Monster that raged in the 1960s. As well as Buckingham Palace, the interest even reached space when a Parliamentary debate on how to preserve Nessie was apparently broadcast to Apollo 11 astronauts en route to the moon.

Dafila Scott, Sir Peter’s daughter, told The Independent: “He was interested in natural history and passionate about it. We have to remember it was a very different time and several major new species had not long been discovered - the Komodo Dragon was found in 1910, the Coelacanth in 1938. People were going out into the world and finding new species and my father was excited by the possibility that there might be something in Loch Ness.”

After more than a decade of LNPIB searches, Sir Peter eventually went public with his belief that Nessie existed in 1975 when photographs taken by an American patent lawyer, Robert Rines, appeared to show the fin of a passing animal caught on underwater cameras. Scott declared that there was “no further doubt in my mind that large animals exist in Loch Ness”. 

The episode was to end in embarrassment. It was found that the Rines photographs had been computer enhanced without Scott’s knowledge and in fact showed only images of debris on the loch floor. Sir Peter’s discomfort was not helped by the discovery that the Greek name given by him to the creature - Nessitteras rhombopteryx, meaning “Ness wonder with a diamond shaped fin - was an anagram of “Monster hoax by Sir Peter S”.

Dafila Scott, who underlined that the anagram was a coincidence, said: “It is easy to say that he should have been more sceptical. But he was not totally familiar with the technology [used by Rines] and the evidence at the time seemed to him worth pursuing.”

The naturalist, who is credited with helping to shape much of the modern conservation movement, continued to believe that something extraordinary had plied the waters of Loch Ness until his death in 1989.
But it is unclear to how far beyond 1960s the monster chase in the Highlands continued to be followed by the Queen.

When The Independent asked Buckingham Palace if the monarch continues to take an interest in the mystery, a spokesman said: “Her Majesty has seen many things in her life but there are currently no plans for an Audience with the Loch Ness Monster.”

The author can be contacted at

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Nessie on the Rise

She's been scunnered by the sceptics, dumped by the debunkers and disputed by the doubters. You would have thought Nessie would have disappeared a long time ago. But the Loch Ness Monster just keeps motoring along as this graph from a Mirror article shows. The article author consulted the number of mentions of the famous monster in the print media since 1984 and came up with the graph above.

I won't attempt to critique the graph or search for cryptozoological and sociological reasons for this surge. It seems that people just like to read Nessie stories. Note the graph takes off in 2012. This blog started in July 2010 and so has nicely caught a ride on this wave, arguing the case for the Loch Ness Monster and making a regular appearance on the first page of Google hits.

Long may the ride continue!


As a comparison, here's the Google Ngrams plot of printed matter references since 1933.


BBC4 will be televising a programme on the giant Amazon Otter tomorrow at 2200 GMT from the series "Natural World".  Those interested in the master otter theory may like to watch this.

The author can be contacted at

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Yet more on the Nessie book Front!

In a recent post, I brought to your attention three books that I hoped would be upcoming in the months ahead. In fact, there is a fourth book I can tell you about that is due for publication on the 12th November this year. 

It is titled "A Monstrous Commotion" written by Gareth Williams and it is a book that focuses, not on the monster, but those who have dedicated their time and energy into pursuing it. I have helped Gareth on a few points in the book (as others no doubt have), but am in no position to review it yet. What we can be sure of is that it will be of interest to both sides of the Loch Ness Monster debate. In fact, both sides can agree that that the existence of the subjects of the book has been established beyond reasonable doubt. We have the close up photos and film. We even have recordings of sounds they have made and unimpeachable testimony as to their eating habits and migratory patterns.

But, all joking aside, the book does have a serious side, because, though the people involved are known; their personalities, motives and relationships may not be so clear. How much of this Gareth Williams will help ascertain is left to another day. You can pre-order your copy here and Amazon's book description runs as follows:

A MONSTROUS COMMOTION delves deep into the depths of the Loch Ness phenomenon, one of the iconic scientific mysteries of the last hundred years. The legend of the 'water horse' in Loch Ness and other Scottish lakes is ancient, but reports of the monster date from as recently as the 1930s, courtesy of a correspondent of the Inverness Courier. Rather than debating the arguably unfathomable realities of what lies beneath these murky Scottish waters, Professor Gareth Williams instead engages with the people who have dedicated themselves to unearthing the truth of the monster's existence. He explores just what it is that drives these people to the point of obsession, and the ways in which their own quests have changed their lives, and the lives of others. 

With the use of interviews and never-before-seen archives, Williams creates a gripping narrative about the diverse people and stories behind the phenomenon. In his journey to discover the allurement of Nessie, he unravels a compelling tale of human eccentricity, full of twists, turns and entertaining surprises. 

While A MONSTROUS COMMOTION provides the facts and history behind the legend, and lucidly articulates the current state of scientific research and evidence, readers must ultimately decide on the truth for themselves. They too will embark on a journey of discovery, engrossed by a mystery that never fails to astonish.

As a footnote, books that examine the hunters rather than the hunted are thin on the ground. Of the sixty-plus books on Loch Ness that I am aware of, perhaps six focus on a person or persons involved in the Nessie hunt. Of course, other books will be semi-biographical as the author recounts their own adventures within the context of the Loch Ness Monster phenomenon (e.g. Dinsdale and Holiday).

So it seems a niche is being filled here as I am not aware of any book that takes on the whole genre of monster hunter to the extent of Gareth's 400 page work. I look forward to his book with anticipation.

The author can be contacted at

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Loch Ness Trip Report August 2015

I headed up to Loch Ness for a few days earlier this month armed with equipment and a modicum of hope. The weather was better than the last time we pitched our tent in May, but to tell you the truth, the Summer has generally been wet and a disappointment.

Whether this impinges on your typical monster hunter is a moot question. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Dinsdale, Holiday and others, one might think this is not meant to be a vacation but more like an expedition. Well, it probably can't be classified as either as I also put theories about Nessie preferring calm, warm weather to the back of my mind.

I pulled up at the Foyers campsite looking across to the nearby circle of houses where Tim Dinsdale had furiously driven round from the main road in the hope of catching more conclusive footage of his monster. It wasn't there as he scanned the waters and so began a debate that still echoes to this day.

By way of contrast, just below the camping fields is a shingle beach where various boats are moored and ready for launching into the deep. The contrast lies in the counter theory that this was where Dinsdale's "monster" launched out with its human crew.

I learnt you can now hire engine boats from the campsite in an attempt to get up close and personal with the Loch Ness Monster. Perhaps I'll bite and go out in one some day, but it is not stories of boats being hit by Nessie that deters me; more being confident that I am competent enough not to shipwreck them!

As I scanned the area, the monster history of the location began to settle upon me again. Dinsdale we have mentioned, a short walk away was the site of the first ever Nessie photograph taken by Hugh Gray. Or was that a double exposure of a swimming dog over a dead swan holding a stick in its mouth? I get a bit vague on that.

A glance over to the right and beyond the trees was the inlet where Ted Holiday had his first sight in 1962 of the Orm as he called it. And near to that inlet was the location where the infamous Frank Searle camped and began his less than scientific approach to monster hunting.

They are all dead now, and being surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses, the importance of continuing the hunt and vindicating the likes of Dinsdale and Holiday is an ever present motivation. However, the pursuit of finding a beast that rarely surfaces was also felt. Between them, Dinsdale and Holiday saw the creature perhaps six times in their decades of visits. Whether I would be allowed to join those ranks was something very much out of my hands.

Going out along the aforementioned beach, the loch was in its usual unyielding mood with dark, impenetrable waters giving nothing away. Driftwood was scattered along the shoreline and one piece of wood reminded me of the old tales of the Water Bull of Loch Ness. Simulacra saw to it that this piece of wood resembled a bull's head.


At the first loch watch the next day, my eyes fixed upon the choppy waters. Most people do not give quality eye time to the loch. They glance at it, get distracted by kids, conversations, texting, calls, hills and passing cars. Whether people are in more of a hurry these days is a debatable issue. If less people do believe in a monster, one could assume they look at the loch in a less intense manner.

So the boat wakes were scrutinised and the floating birds bobbed by. As I watched these rather insipid waves and distant beaked dots, that same realisation came upon me as it does every visit. I am less convinced of the force of these explanations of monster sightings. They look singularly unspectacular and one would barely give them a second glance, yet people tell other people that is their monsters. I will continue to accept such a theory forms part of the monster mosaic, but the role it plays diminishes for me with each visit.

I say that despite a visit to Fort Augustus Pier that reproduced a "Nessie" moment from the media back in 2013. I am referring to the David Elder video that received some attention from leading newspapers. As the Royal Scot cruise boat headed up the loch, its bow wave began to spread out and move towards the north shore. I recorded the event on the video and photos below and it is clear that the boat is the source as it is still in view.


The main difference between my boat images and David's is that his shows only one wave as shown below. Bow waves always appear in a train, so that was a noticeable difference between the two events. David Elder insisted there was no boat in view. If it was truly a bow wave, the boat would have surely have been in view. As you can see on my video, the cruise boat is clearly on the right as I pan over. It's a pity Mr. Elder's video does not pan to the right to prove beyond doubt that no boat was involved. However, if one desires photos that will be more convincing to the general public, the height to width ratio of the object has to be higher.


Another realisation dawned upon me and that was the time of the year. I was here about two weeks earlier than usual due to other commitments and the difference in tourist numbers was noticeable. In fact, it was verging on frustrating. Fort Augustus was heaving with people as streets were lined with pedestrians and the roads were well supplied with vehicles. It even proved impossible to find a parking spot in the main car park.

Looking over to the Cruise Loch Ness boats run by Marcus Atkinson, the queues were as big as I had ever seen them. So much for the unattractiveness of a wet summer. I decided it would not be a particularly good time to engage him in a long conversation.

Going back along the southern side of the loch, I was minded to stop off at one of my favoured spots only to see a motorcyclist standing there by his steed checking his smart phone. With a shrug, I drove on a few hundred yards to another spot I like only to find a car of tourists parked and munching on their lunch!

Okay, I didn't quite shunt their car into the loch to free up the space, but I did resolve never to visit the loch again so near to the peak of the tourist season. The camp owners told me the peak occurred just after the beginning of the English school holidays a week or so before.

You see, monster hunters are a bit like those bird watchers you see couped up in camouflaged hides waiting for their feathered quarry to appear. They need a bit of quietness and solitude, some tranquillity to focus the mind and the eyes. This particular visit felt like ornithology in Piccadilly Circus! Be that as it may, we need tourists to be part of the story as they form a sizable part of the witness roster, so long may their thronging of the loch continue! I just won't be there to see the worst of it.


But then we had the night hunts. The tourists are in their beds or at the bar and I am alone with the loch again. Like others, I am sure Nessie is a nocturnal creature. Bound by nature and circumstances to swim through darkness, it is no surprise that the silent opacity of the midnight surface offers no resistance to the creature. The trouble is the loch, as seen from the shore, is as black as pitch. The problem is resolved with infra red vision equipment. I have a pair of Yukon Night Ranger binoculars which offers a composite video feed to a recording device. In my case, that is a bog standard laptop running video recording software. The Yukon video feed runs through a usb conversion cable and Bob's your Uncle.

As an experiment, it was off to the area near Whitefield on the side of the loch opposite Castle Urquhart. The idea was to see how that classic sight would look on infra red. It would also put beyond doubt that any footage was taken at Loch Ness. The results were not that good as it turned out. I include a short clip below.


At that time of night, the castle is still bathed in the light from spotlights and on infra-red their intensity made it look as if the castle was up in flames! You can also see how bright a passing car on the A82 appears. This seemed to have a kind of bleaching effect on the rest of the darker areas. The loch surface was too dark and grainy as the software in the equipment compensated for the flood of light. Well, that is the way it seemed to perform.

By contrast, the night footage I took from the beach at the Foyers campsite offered the kind of resolution I am looking for. Check out the clip below for a compare and contrast. If you had looked out on the loch at the same time with the naked eye, it would be complete darkness. It's a great piece of equipment to have in the armoury - if you can stay awake!


Once the infra-red work was done, it was time to do the night run along the Dores to Foyers road. This is the stretch of road which has the most reports of the monster on land. You compound this with the aforementioned idea that Nessie is a nocturnal creature and you have possibilities. The car has a dashcam attached which ran throughout the entire drive from Whitefield to Dores and back to Foyers at about 1:30 in the morning. Of course, it's a long shot even for a monster believer, but it's a fun ride as the clip below shows. At the end of the clip, something crosses the road near Boleskine House ....


A visit was paid during the day to Steve Feltham. As we approached his now static mobile home, he pulled up in his Volvo after an enjoyable time at the Belladrum Festival. He didn't have any news on sightings at the loch and the conversation inevitably turned towards catfish and the recent controversy over remarks he had made.

Steve was unequivocal in saying that his suggestion that Wels Catfish solved the Loch Ness mystery was a misquote. It was just a theory amongst others and didn't explain the long necked sightings. I guess you could take that two ways, but the hunt continues as far as Steve is concerned.


The less said about Loch Morar the better! Having decamped from Loch Ness, we diverted west onto the Mallaig road and arrived at Loch Morar about two hours later (nice having two famous monster lakes so close to each other). It is quite a winding little road that gets you to the secluded village of Bracara on the north side. I remember reading Tim Dinsdale on how he went to the loch in his old Mercedes towing his Water Horse boat. That must have been a hairy drive!

Unfortunately, the trail camera I had left was gone. Stolen, I'll wager by someone who has no respect for other people's property. Such is the risks of monster hunting but lessons have been learnt at this place where two cameras have now gone AWOL. 

And so ended another trip to the cryptid lakes of Scotland. I will let things lie now for the colder months and hope to be back in the Spring of 2016.

The author can be contacted at