Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Books on Nessie and Sea Serpents


It has been a while since a Nessie book has been published. The last two were in 2019 and nothing in 2020, which was a bit of a surprise considering the extra time people had on their time during various coronavirus lockdowns. But Ken Gerhard was at work in 2020 researching his own Essential Guide to the Loch Ness Monster with a foreword by Steve Feltham. The promotional text on amazon.co.uk read thus:

For centuries, the Scottish Highlanders have told of great water beasts said to inhabit particular lochs and burns. The most famous of these is, of course, the Loch Ness Monster, or ‘Nessie,’ said to be twenty to forty feet long – far larger than any freshwater animal known to exist in the murky, fathomless lake. In this essential primer, world famous cryptozoologist Ken Gerhard presents the most accurate and indispensable information that’s been gathered with regard to the Loch Ness Monster – the best evidence supporting its existence, consensus expert opinions up to this point, the most compelling encounters, and really everything you need to know about the subject in order to become Nessie knowledgeable.

In addition, Gerhard discusses other celebrated aquatic cryptids, including Champ, Ogopogo, and so-called sea serpents. The reader will get answers to questions such as: Could they really exist? What do they look like? How many are there? Are they dangerous? Where are the remains? Finally, Ken makes an argument that these elusive creatures may be descended from a line of ancient whales, believed to have gone extinct millions of years ago. For centuries, the Scottish Highlanders have told of great water beasts said to inhabit particular lochs and burns. The most famous of these is, of course, the Loch Ness Monster, or ‘Nessie,’ said to be twenty to forty feet long – far larger than any freshwater animal known to exist in the murky, fathomless lake.

In this essential primer, world famous cryptozoologist Ken Gerhard presents the most accurate and indispensable information that’s been gathered with regard to the Loch Ness Monster – the best evidence supporting its existence, consensus expert opinions up to this point, the most compelling encounters, and really everything you need to know about the subject in order to become Nessie knowledgeable. In addition, Gerhard discusses other celebrated aquatic cryptids, including Champ, Ogopogo, and so-called sea serpents. The reader will get answers to questions such as: Could they really exist? What do they look like? How many are there? Are they dangerous? Where are the remains?

Finally, Ken makes an argument that these elusive creatures may be descended from a line of ancient whales, believed to have gone extinct millions of years ago. For centuries, the Scottish Highlanders have told of great water beasts said to inhabit particular lochs and burns. The most famous of these is, of course, the Loch Ness Monster, or ‘Nessie,’ said to be twenty to forty feet long – far larger than any freshwater animal known to exist in the murky, fathomless lake. In this essential primer, world famous cryptozoologist Ken Gerhard presents the most accurate and indispensable information that’s been gathered with regard to the Loch Ness Monster – the best evidence supporting its existence, consensus expert opinions up to this point, the most compelling encounters, and really everything you need to know about the subject in order to become Nessie knowledgeable.

In addition, Gerhard discusses other celebrated aquatic cryptids, including Champ, Ogopogo, and so-called sea serpents. The reader will get answers to questions such as: Could they really exist? What do they look like? How many are there? Are they dangerous? Where are the remains? Finally, Ken makes an argument that these elusive creatures may be descended from a line of ancient whales, believed to have gone extinct millions of years ago.

Now Ken is better known for his other cryptozoological adventures in North America and beyond, but he has turned his investigative eye to Scotland as well as some other lake cryptids. His theory that the monster may be a descendant of some ancient whales reminds me of Roy Mackal's zeuglodons, which he favoured at some point, so it does have some pedigree behind it. I am not inclined to that idea myself, but I will hear him out when I get a copy of the book. 

Looking at the preview on Amazon, the book actually extensively covers the whole range of sea and lake cryptids and so is not purely a book on the Loch Ness Monster, I would say just under 30% is devoted to my favourite cryptid. Ken did communicate with me by email asking questions which I was happy to answer and I know he is a believer in the beast, so he is off to a good start.

In the meantime, I note his arty cover bears a resemblance to this one from the 1970s. Both nice pieces of Nessie artwork and Ken's book is also on amazon.com.

A second book which has come to my attention is "Sun, Sand and Sea Serpents" by David Goudsward which focuses on the seas around Florida and the Caribbean. I hope to dip into that book at various points and its back cover text reads from amazon.com:

Ever since Columbus spotted mermaids, sea monsters, and mystery lizards in the New World, sightings of a diverse array of marine cryptids have continued unabated in the waters of Florida, the Southeastern coast, and the Caribbean. Dinosaurs, mermaids, and sea serpents in a range of colors and lengths, along with monster sharks, mystery seals, and giant penguins, all seem to have made the tourist-friendly waters of the region their home. In Florida, it became a running joke that the tourist season officially started when the first sea serpent report appeared in the newspapers.

What's behind all the reports? Hoaxes? Some certainly are. Yellow journalism? Yes, sometimes. Misidentifications? It's pretty common. A way to drum up business?  Shocking, but true. But in that mix, there are probably some unidentified animals as well. David Goudsward digs up the original sources and interviews to sort fact from fiction, and tells some fascinating stories along the way. 

Certain cases I will be reading up on are the famous Pensacola case of 1962 which alleged some fatalities. This case grabbed my attention as a youth back in the 1970s when I read it in Dinsdale's "The Leviathans", if I recall correctly. The case of the three toed monster also has my attention as I believe the Loch Ness Monster is three toed, although I suspect our American three toes has some deception involved.

So, plenty of reading ahead of me in the months ahead.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Sunday, 14 February 2021

The Long Necks of 22nd September 1933


Illustrated London News 13th January 1934

Was Friday the 22nd of September 1933 an auspicious day for Monster Lore when something happened for the first time? According to Loch Ness expert, Adrian Shine, this was when the classic long neck made its first appearance in the loch waters (see link). Sure, some couple from London had previously reported a grotesque sight with a writhing neck on land, but in the monster's prime domain, it had finally raised its imposing long neck and small head.

And not only that, witnesses were treated to not one but three reports of long necks that day. Or was it one long neck? The story begins at about 9:30 in the morning. Water Bailiff, Alex Campbell looked out on the loch from near his cottage to behold a sight he later described as prehistoric. 

Suddenly my attention was drawn to a strange object that seemed to shoot out of the calm waters almost opposite the Abbey boathouse ... the swan like neck reached six feet or so above the water at its highest point, and the body, a darkish grey glistening with moisture was at least 30 ft. long. I gauged this carefully in my mind's eye by placing two ordinary rowing boats of 15 ft. overall length end to end, and I don't think I was far wrong, because I have had lots of experience of that sort of thing, because I have lived on the shores of the loch all my life - apart from the last war years.

Still watching and wondering if I would have time to run for my camera, I heard the noise of the engines of two herring drifters (they call them trawlers in England) which were proceeding down the lower basin of the Caledonian Canal, which enters the loch almost alongside the Abbey boathouse. The animal certainly must have heard, or sensed, the approach of these vessels too, for I saw it turn its head in an apprehensive way, this way and that, and, apparently being timid, it then sank rapidly out of sight, lowering the neck in doing so, and leaving a considerable disturbance on the mirror-like surface of the loch. The animal would have been some 400 yards from where I stood, possibly less, and I had a very clear view of it which lasted several minutes.

The sketch above of what Campbell saw was drawn for reporters who came up some weeks later. But the monster was not finished for the day as it submerged and swam up the loch in close tandem with the two trawlers, apparently not so frightened by them as it kept to its natural element deep below. By 11 o'clock in the morning, one and a half hours later, it stopped and surfaced for whatever reason these dark denizens feel the compulsion to stop. This was just north of the village of Invermoriston almost in a line with the Halfway House, a tea room built by the Altsigh river to take advantage of the increased traffic on the now widened and improved Inverness road. That's about seven and a half miles from Fort Augustus as the monster put in a leisurely four and a half knots (about 5 mph).

Time for another display as more than half a dozen witnesses stopped their activities to gaze from the balcony upon this awesome sight as the sun continued to shine brightly upon a calm loch. The Inverness Courier reported the events four days later as follows:

Miss Fraser, the proprietrix of the tea room, the "Halfway House," which occupies an excellent position overlooking the loch. near Altsigh. told a Courier representative that on Friday, about noon, she and upwards of half-a-dozen people, including two ladies from the Parsonage, Glen Urquhart, who were having tea at the time, watched the creature disport itself for almost fifteen minutes. The loch being dead calm and the sun shining strongly, they watched the "monster" raise its head, then its back (which seemed to consist of two very pronounced "humps") above the surface of the water, and calmly proceeded to amuse itself by swimming about the loch.

Two steam drifters, which were passing, did not appear to cause the creature any concern, and from this it seems possible that the "monster" is now becoming quite reconciled to their presence, for up to within the past few weeks its always seemed to take fright and disappear on the slightest provocation. 

Other eyewitnesses were Mr and Mrs Simpson, who live at Altsigh, and their daughters and Mr George Macqueen, an A.A. scout, who patrols the Fort Augustus-Invermoriston road, and who saw the creature opposite Port Clair. Mr Macqueen said that when he saw the "monster" it was just like an upturned rowing-boat but it was travelling at a great speed.

It is interesting to note that on almost every occasion on which the "monster" been seen the weather conditions were the same as on Friday - calm and bright. It would be interesting to learn whether the crews of the drifters which were proceeding to Inverness noticed the "monster" on Friday, as the Altsigh witnesses think that they could not possibly failed to have seen it.

Miss Fraser's Sketch

Miss Howden's Sketch

Mrs Fraser's Sketch

To these we can add the following sketch done for The Scotsman newspaper dated 15th November 1933 where one of the Halfway House ladies describes a frill or mane attached to the neck.

Lt. Cmdr. Rupert T. Gould tells us in his 1934 work on the monster that the creature was about 1000 yards from the witnesses, or about halfway across the loch and somewhat to their right with the sun behind the creature. Eyewitness sketches are shown above and his interview with some of them adds more detail and he refers, as usual, to the monster as "X":

[X] remained in view - without much change of position, but rising and sinking slightly from time to time - for some ten minutes. The head and neck rose almost vertically out of the water. Miss Fraser concentrated her attention upon these; and their general appearance, by her account, was that of "a mythical creature." The head was slightly "dished" - "like a terrier's," she put it - in front; and at the junction of the head and neck, when facing her, she noticed a kind of frill, which she described as like "a pair of kippered herrings."

She also noticed what appeared to be a large glittering circular eye in the head, in the position in which one would expect an eye to be situated. X moved its head from side to side, and the "eye " appeared to move with the head. [I am of opinion that this "eye" was produced by irradiation, or reflection - see above, as to the sun's position.] The head and neck rose and sank periodically; moving more or less vertically in doing so.

Miss Fraser only remarked the head and neck; but Miss Howden also noticed two humps, and " something indefinite" which might be a "tail." The colour of head, neck and humps was dark; but in the bright sunlight it might have been anything from dark-brown to dark-grey. Mrs. G. Fraser also saw the head and neck, two humps and an indefinite tail. She first noticed a splashing in the water, at one end of what appeared to be a "long stretch of glittering silver," showing up against the (comparatively) dark surface of the water.

Then the head and neck rose slowly out of the water at the opposite end, remained in view for a minute or so, and then sank. They reappeared, and slowly rose higher, than before, while two humps appeared close behind them. The splashing from the tail end had ceased by this time, but the " silver streak " was still visible. The head turned slowly from side to side. X did not appear to be discomposed by a vessel passing on the far side of the Loch, but ultimately headed towards Invermoriston, moving quite slowly. 

It finally sank and did not reappear, having been almost continuously in view for over a quarter of an hour. Mrs. Hobbes (and a friend, Miss Mullock) saw what she described as "two shining eyes, separated by a dark perpendicular line." She took it, at first, for a steamboat with its lights showing. They left the balcony, and drove in their car to a point from which they hoped to get a closer view; but by that time X had finally submerged.

Mrs. Fraser told Gould that she noticed one of our trawlers near the monster but Gould failed to track down the vessel. The Monster pressed on northwards, leaving a clutch of bemused people in its wake. Three hours later, at about 2 pm, it was the turn  of Mr. D. W. Morrison and others to be dazzled. These people were at the Balnafoich residence perched high on a hill near Dores. The house was about 600 yards from the shore and 250 feet above the loch. The animal was a similar distance from their shore as the sun continued to shine and it was at the end of its hike, turning back the way it came. Gould continues again, quoting Morrison's letter to him:

It was heading towards Fort Augustus, and passed in front of the observers, from right to left, at a speed of some 15 miles per hour (13 knots). At its nearest approach, it was roughly 950 yards away; and it submerged when approximately 2,200 yards 241° from Balnafoich, having been in sight for some four minutes.

When it sank, a trawler was in sight about a mile away, steaming towards Inverness along the far side of the Loch. X looked like " a huge caterpillar," and appeared to move "with an up-and-down motion, and not the lateral motion you would expect in a giant eel. ... The portion of the body above water was in a series of humps, with water spaces in between. I should say that there were about seven humps, some possibly two feet above the water-line, and with Nos. 3, 4 and 5 more prominent than the others as if indicating the larger girth of the body amidships

I regret that I am unable to say how these portions of body compare in proportion with the water spaces, and there is no point in my guessing. My drawing, however, seems to represent it fairly, as I saw it. The head I should describe as 'snake-like,' similar to an adder and tapering. It would, however, be approximately the same bore as the neck, which appeared to be at right angles with the water when raised. . . . The head was not apparent unless raised. ... My camera had been left in my car at the top of the drive - about 300 yards away. ... I debated fetching it, but was unwilling to give up my view of the creature, which might in the meantime have disappeared, and again I knew that at that distance it would have appeared only as a speck, if that." 

Altsigh to a point parallel to Balnafoich is 12.5 miles, so our creature was again averaging about four knots (4.5 mph). It is at least consistent in this one thing, though it put in a final spurt of 16 mph according to Mr. Morrison. In some ways, this day was the real debut of the Loch Ness Monster - in terms of its iconic pose, thrice seen for emphasis. Within a short time, the national press was picking up the story and sending their journalists north. The legend was beginning to solidify into a certain form.


The location of each sighting is denoted on the map below from Alex Campbell's at the bottom to D. W. Morrison's at the top with their times in parentheses. The question you may be asking is whether this was indeed the adventures of one large thirty foot creature? 

The main objection leveled against this view would be that the sketches of the eyewitnesses look different enough to suggest different creatures. However, when one considers that the four different sketches to the Halfway House incident refer to the same creature, then this argument is not compelling. If eyewitnesses to one event cannot produce the exact same sketch, then why should others to potentially the same creature at other locations and times?

I would further suggest that if the witnesses were asked to sketch the boats which were in the vicinity of their sightings, these would be recognisable as boats, but they too would have degrees of variation to them. Such is the imperfection of eyewitness testimony; but let us not allow the sceptics to own this subject. Yes, eyewitnesses are imperfect recording machines, but not to the extent scepticism wishes to impose upon them. At 400, 1000 and 1250 yards respectively, there is certainly increasing scope for some error. But we must also remember that the presence of the trawlers in all three events provided useful frames of references for our eyewitnesses to make a determination of the large size of the creature.

But what about the sketch by Mr. Morrison which shows six humps? It is perfectly acceptable for us to go from Campbell's single hump to Howden's two humps, but reconfiguring from two to seven seems a stretch. I thought about this and noted that Morrison's sighting was the furthest at over 1200 yards. Was it possible he had misinterpreted some of the water turbulence behind the monster as low lying humps? I think that is a possibility, though what was behind the long neck could also have been a combination of one or two humps with waves.

Then we come to the matter of Alex Campbell. Poor old Alex Campbell, he does get some flak from the critics. When Adrian Shine stated that this was the first long neck in water event, he was referring to the women at the Halfway House as the first witnesses to the long neck of Nessie in her natural habitat, he would have discounted Campbell's account as cormorant misidentification, because that is what Campbell himself admitted to at one point before recanting. Mind you, Adrian would be classing every other sighting that day as misidentification.

Constance Whyte's 1957 recounting of Campbell's sighting places it on our date of 22nd September. The fact that he mentions two trawlers and the Inverness Courier account from the Halfway House also mentions two trawlers tends to corroborate this date. So Alex Campbell appears to be the first person to see a long neck in water, perhaps. I have written a previous article on Alex Campbell's sighting and why it should not be dismissed at this link


Having noted Adrian's statement that the women at the Halfway House were the first witnesses to a long neck in the loch and my counter that Alex Campbell claims the prize, it turns out we are both wrong. As I came to the end of this article, I double checked some old paper printouts I had made from the microfilm rolls of the Inverness Courier held by the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. A clipping was discovered from the 2nd September, which relates how Mrs Barbara Macdonell and Mrs. A. Sutherland at Port Clair watched a 30 foot creature from less than one hundred yards away with a huge flat head and "wriggly" neck plus a single humped back.

So the prize goes to to these two ladies, but it only takes a little gloss off that special day about three weeks later when the Loch Ness Monster went on a tour of the loch before a dozen or more gaping humans. The earlier sighting was just a dress rehearsal, the big show came on the 22nd September.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Monday, 1 February 2021

More on the Rip Hepple Nessletter Archives


As readers will know, a digitized archive of Rip Hepple's Nessletter has been available on this blog for some years, all you do is click on "Rip Hepple Newsletter" to the right. But recently I have been talking with Isaac Koi about getting another site to run these letters. That is the Swedish Archives For the Unexplained who asked if Rip's Nessletter could also be put online.

Naturally, that required Rip's permission who I put in contact with them and he gave them the nod not too long ago. Rip also said that the remainder of his newsletters run which I have not published could be done by both of us. The current run on this blog comprises issues 1 to 120 in 1995, but I will add the rest in due time, but they can be viewed at the AFU. So, follow this link to access Rip's archive at the AFU or follow them here, that's your choice.

Thankfully, a full hard copy set of the Nessletter is also held by the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. So it looks like all the bases are covered to preserve this important work. What we now need is a subject index, which is something I have been working on and off for some time.

It is uncertain whether there will be another Nessletter, so again we thank Rip for those Ness Information Service newsletters which he faithfully produced for over forty years. They were initially written to plug the gap left by the dissolution of the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau, but they went beyond that plugging a general gap in Loch Ness Monster news and views as that generation of monster hunters disappeared and their books with them.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Thursday, 28 January 2021

Interesting Blog on Nessie Postcards

I am an avid collector of postcards to do with the Loch Ness Monster and general views of the loch from the Castle and all along the shore. The way our favourite beast is depicted is a source of amusement with a tinge of sociology thrown in while the places shown from over a century old give some insight into olden days. They can also come in useful for research when considering eyewitness locations from the past.

So Leigh Penman emailed me to tell me about a new blog on Nessie related postcards he has started with discussions on selected postcards. If you are interested in such postcards and the history behind them then have a look, his blog is at this link.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Sunday, 24 January 2021

The Nessie Turtle Theory

My fellow Nessie believer, Henry Bauer, has been in the news recently as his latest views on what the Loch Ness Monster could be has gained some attention. Henry has moved away from the popular plesiosaur theory to consider whether the monster could be an ancient, unknown species of the giant turtle. Henry actually published this theory as a paper back in March 2020 for the Journal of Scientific Exploration and you can read his original paper here

Now as to the actual theory, the idea that Nessie could be some large form of sea-going turtle has been going around since the very first year of 1933 (see link). When Hugh Gray's famous photograph was published in the Scottish Daily Record, a Major Meikle wrote to the 8th December 1933 edition of the paper commenting on how much the hump and the head to the right of the picture looked like a "leathery or green turtle". He differed from Henry in that he thought a known species of turtle was sufficient to explain the new story from Loch Ness.

Now one could imagine that the head in the Gray picture (below) could resemble a turtle's head, though my own preference is fish like. However, the tail to the left is much longer than any known species of turtles swimming the seas just now. Nevertheless, it is an unknown species of turtle with some adaptions over the vast ages that Henry has more in mind.

Back in 2013, I also wrote on a TV documentary entitled "The Loch Ness Monster Revealed" from the Discovery Channel which speculated upon a possible variant of turtle that was dubbed the plesio-turtle which sounded more like Henry's speculated beast. They produced the theoretical image below with the outstretched neck which did not look that different from some known species such as the snake necked turtle (below). One has to be reminded that though such species have Nessie like features, they are significantly smaller than our denizen of the loch.

Other factors in this hypothetical turtle's favour are the long times they can spend underwater, even absorbing oxygen from the surrounding water and controlling their metabolism to even hibernating underwater. The high oxygen content of the loch also favour creatures who employ such biological devices. The fact that we do have very large turtles in the fossil record also confirms that no unrealistic gigantism is required as we see applied to other theories. This is demonstrated in the photograph at the top of the page which shows a fossil skeleton of the extinct species Archelon which grew to at least fifteen feet long.

However, like all theories (including sceptical ones), there are drawbacks. Turtles lay eggs and go ashore to lay them in often large numbers. No such activity has ever been witnessed of the Loch Ness Monster. Indeed, it is doubtful that any that could be construed as reproductive has ever been observed with any certainty.

Obviously, no eggs have been found or the mystery would have been solved by now. It could be counter proposed that such a cryptid turtle gives birth to live young but since all known turtles lay eggs, this would seem a drastic departure. It may be suggested, like our snake necked turtle above, that it could lay eggs in the waters of the loch. The problem here is that the snake necked turtle lives in the warm waters of Australia. It is unlikely a developing egg could survive in the cold waters of Loch Ness.

The other issue is that the recent eDNA study by Professor Neil Gemmell revealed no reptile DNA, let alone turtle DNA. Henry takes hope in the 25% of DNA samples that were not readily identified with any species from the genome database. That may be true, though the fact that less samples were taken at the lowest depths of 200 metres may be a better explanation.

One could go on further about shape changing humps, long necks with non-turtle heads and three toed limbs but the truth of the matter is that no theory fully explains all the features described. The turtle theory is at no disadvantage there compared to other theories and doubtless is ahead of others. But we have a eyewitness database which will contain misidentifications and hoaxes which only muddy the waters. To that we can add those genuine eyewitnesses to a genuine monster which imperfectly describe what they see. How that is handled is entirely down to each investigator and their own combination of skill and bias.

I certainly prefer the giant turtle theory to the giant eel theory but still have my doubts when I compare it to the AAA sightings. For example, our last article on the John MacLean sighting, would a giant turtle fit all that went on there? My thinking is that it would not.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Monday, 11 January 2021

Further Thoughts on the John MacLean Sighting

It is one of the classic Loch Ness Monster accounts from the 1930s involving Inverness man and angler, John MacLean. This sighting was covered on this blog back in 2015 and you can read that to get the basic facts. John himself stated that he was fishing from the shore near the mouth of the Altsigh Burn when the monster surfaced about twenty yards from him. It appeared to be in the act of swallowing something which he presumed was one of the abundant fish from that area.

The creature resurfaced further west displaying itself from tail to head as in the contemporary sketch above from The Scotsman newspaper from July 1938. The six minute sighting ended with the foremost hump inflating in an extraordinary manner before it submerged for the final time. All in all, a super sighting which surely would leave the sceptics scratching their collective heads?

Well, the answer to that is no as there is apparently no sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, no matter how close or detailed that cannot have a mundane, ordinary explanation arbitrarily assigned to it. To this end, one leading sceptic told me personally it was clear that MacLean saw a mere otter. This "fact" was communicated to me when I knew that another leading sceptic had assured us all that the sighting was nothing more than a group of cormorants. That opinion was presumably formed on the tenuous grounds that MacLean had stated that the creature swallowed like a cormorant. It seems we have a choice of what John MacLean "really" saw.

To get to the main point, when it was pointed out that John MacLean estimated the length of the creature to be eighteen to twenty feet while otters and cormorants are an unspectacular three feet long, I was told he had got his estimates wrong because he was looking across a very foreshortened loch due to him being right on the shore and not from an elevated position. Now there is a grain of truth in that and this is the danger of sceptical interpretations - part of it is based on something people would admit to be sensible. However, the devil is in the details. I took this picture near where John MacLean was to demonstrate the foreshortening effect. It is actually taken at the back of the youth hostel looking across the loch from the beach.

Would one have trouble trying to estimate the length of that stick out in the water? You might, but I would not have as I was there. The foreshortening problem comes if such an object is located further away towards the opposite shore a mile away. Looking at the water in the vertical axis, there is more nearby water visible in the bottom three quarters of water than there is of distant water in the top quarter.

The conclusion is obvious, the problem of estimating distance and therefore size is proportional to how far away the object is. It is not a binary solution. If the object is close to the observer, foreshortening is a minor issue. If it is three quarters of a mile away, the margin of error increases greatly. So the question is how far away MacLean's creature was? The sceptic says it was a long way off, despite MacLean's experience by the loch. 

The problem was recently resolved by an e-clipping sent in by Gary, a regular reader. He emailed to me an image from the Radio Times from 1938, just weeks after John MacLean's sighting. The BBC had sent a team out in their radio van to investigate the phenomenon of the Loch Ness Monster which included interviewing local experts and eyewitnesses. Now there is a program I would love to hear. That page gives us our first look at John MacLean alongside the BBC interviewer.

It is always good to get a contemporary photograph of an eyewitness, especially at the site in question, but that is not the only reason why this picture is helpful. Look at the direction he is pointing in and its orientation to the loch behind him. Since we know he was fishing by the mouth of the Altsigh Burn, we can project a line of sight onto a map of the area. The 20 metre scale at the bottom right of the map is roughly the same as 20 yards and gives you an idea of the arc along which the creature may have appeared.

John MacLean was not looking out over to the far side of the loch, he was looking across the mouth of the river where he was casting his line. A look at my stock of trip photographs gave me a shot of the view across the estuary where I stood close to where John did. The nearest headland point is about thirty yards away and the more distant one over a hundred yards away. The creature he saw lay in between these points, but it is more likely to have been closer to the nearest headland.

The proximity of the headland you can see which was opposite from John MacLean excludes any chance of observational errors due to foreshortening. There are multiple frames of references from which to deduce distances as John's eyes darted between monster and locality. Twenty yards puts us about halfway out where the river meets the loch, a perfect vantage point. 

So, a main plank of sceptical objections is removed. The beast sketched below at that time was no otter and no cormorant. Unless one wishes to pursue the view that John MacLean was an outright liar, you've got yourself an excellent view of the Loch Ness Monster seen by an experienced witness at close range.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Nessie Review of 2020


Looking back on 2020 can only leave one with a sense of good riddance to a bad year from just about every perspective. As the coronavirus swept across the world, vast swathes of the population hunkered down and battened down the hatches. Social distancing became the norm and many of the places we love to visit became off limits. Some levity was required as a debate ensued as to whether UFOs, Bigfoot or Nessie was the time honoured champion of social distancing as we only too well know.

You can make your own mind up on that, though in the year past, we did have one story from 1922 where Nessie and eyewitness seemed to break that two metre distance and even touched. That story may never be corroborrated but looking back on the Nessie highlights of the year, we first look at the claimed sightings from the last twelve months.

A look at Gary Campbell's Loch Ness sightings register has Gary reckoning on twelve reports this year. Five of these were from the webcam positioned high above Urquhart Castle, Those occupied the first half of the year when the loch was either quiet due to winter or due to the coronavirus lockdown which forbad any non-locals coming to the loch for anything but essential reasons. My opinion on webcam reports has been stated before. They may or may not show the monster, but they are too far away to make any difference and we await the day when a camera is installed somewhere near the shore to provide greater clarity (and I suspect fewer claims).

Next up was a smartphone recording by Ross MacAulay on the 8th July of which the best frame I could see is shown below.  This shows a white water disturbance in the centre of the loch described as twelve feet in extent and four foot wide. It had appeared near some kayakers nearer to the shore and the progressed to the centre where it was filmed.

Unfortunately, the witness was about a mile away from the object and so the recording is of little value in determining what it was. No doubt what he saw with the naked eye was better than what was recorded but herein lies the problem with surveillance. Having a high vista of multiple square miles of loch surface may improve the chances of seeing something but what you see is going to occupy a very small part of a smartphone's field of view. Conversely, getting closer to the shore brings the object into closer relief but less surface to survey.

Another image shown below was taken on the 29th August by Mr Van Scheurbeck from Point Clair. I was wondering if this object was a buoy to warn boaters of shallow waters. On enlarging what is a low resolution image, it did not appear that the object could be seen against the trees in the background on the opposite shore, which suggests it is not very tall as one sees in long necked sightings. 

The following month led to more pictures of a water disturbance taken from Bunloit Farmhouse which again were inconclusive. A video of an object in Dores bay by Trevor Ross in October was nothing more than a bobbing log though the large hump seen by Corey Sturrock in the same area sounded more genuine to me. 

Moving into November and another indistinct object was photographed by Karen Scott on the 24th which is shown below. On the original picture, you would not know where to look to find the object as it is so small, so the triangular object is not big, and as we know, size matters when it comes to Nessie. I covered a similar picture back in July when I was emailed a photo by Jeremy taken from the same vantage point of the Grant Tower at Urquhart Castle. If it did submerge and reappear further on then that does not suggest debris such as logs. Birds obviously submerge and resurface, but the witnesses claim it was not a bird. If you wish to see anything monstrous in this photo, you would be confining yourself to a small part of its anatomy.

Now even as I was typing this article, another report came in as reported by the Sun newspaper concerning yet another water disturbance filmed by local lady Louise Power some days before near Drumnadrochit. In the words of the Sun:

Louise, a school clerical assistant, said they saw “something strange” in the water less than half-a-mile away. She said: “There was a wake after it and it just kept moving slowly. Then it turned and just went under the water and disappeared. It was big and whitish grey. I did believe there was something unexplained in the loch — now I know there is!”

Again, being about half a mile away, we are not going to get much detail from a smartphone camera and mark this interesting but inconclusive. So not a great selection of images but that all changed on the 30th September when Ronald Mackenzie got this sonar image from his cruise boat at a point near the Horseshoe Scree opposite the village of Invermoriston. The object is at a depth of about 570 feet below and about 43 feet off the bottom of the loch. Monster Hunter Steve Feltham persuaded Ronald to go public and we are glad he did. I estimated the object was eleven feet thick in the vertical axis. The horizontal axis on the sonar display is time, but the manufacturers of the equipment estimated the length of the object was 15-20 feet. 

This excellent image was certainly covered in this blog, initially here and here where we suggest from Adrian Shine's own mouth that this is the kind of convincing image he was looking for in Operation Deepscan in 1987! We then dismissed theories about floating organic debris here. A few other sonar images turned up after this were publicised and the impression I certainly got was that the panoply of unexplained sonar hits that boats had picked up over the years are more likely to be large creatures than people are letting on.

So far to date, the sceptics have said very little about this image and would love it to just go away. They are quite happy with distant pictures of water disturbances, but not this. But what is the next step for sonar? Let us see what 2021 brings. 

As for me, the coronavirus restrictions meant I was limited in my trips to Loch Ness this year. But once the lockdown was eased in June, I headed off asap to the area. It was a good trip and as far as water disturbances are concerned, my game cameras caught their own version. What it was I am not making any assessment of.

What was more tantalizing was the large thirty foot depression I found at the estuary of the River Foyers. What had caused it? Canoes, wild campers or something else? The possibilities are considered in my trip report.

In terms of other research, the lockdowns must have had their effect as 2020 was the lowest count for blog postings in this its tenth year. I had published only 41 times (including this article). That compared with 104 in 2012 and the lowest ever of 33 in 2010, but 2010 posts began in July. However, there were one or two gems in that 41 including a video interview with Harry Finlay who had one of the most famous sightings of the monster with his mother, Greta Finlay, in 1952. That post is here and this is a sketch of the creature he saw at a distance of about twenty to thirty feet. Harry is not just a believer, he is a knower!

I also had the pleasure of talking to Arthur Kopit who had a land sighting back in 1961 which was related here. If you scroll down to the right of this page you will see the Blog Archive and you can click on the arrows to unpack various date ranges to see all the articles for this year and others.

So what will 2021 portend? Will one of those game cameras of mine snap something up close and personal? Will more exciting sonar hits aggravate the sceptics even more? Will some very lucky eyewitness get close enough to one of these shy creatures with a decent camera to snap something to rival or even exceed the photos of the past? 

I don't know, but I look forward to being back up at the loch no earlier than April this year ... coronaviruses allowing.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com