Thursday, 22 October 2020

The Latest Sonar Contact of Nessie

 


It has been a while since we had a sonar contact story from Loch Ness, but we have a good one here. The Mail on Sunday got a hold of the story and published on the 5th October. The gist of the main story is reproduced here for the record (these original links do sometimes disappear after a while) and I suspect the original print article had more information:


A sonar has detected a mystery 30ft long shape 500ft below the surface of Loch Ness - immediately sparking excited speculation from Nessie hunters. The 'solid and pretty big' sonar contact was picked up by a boat owned by Cruise Loch Ness. The mystery creature is likely to feed on trout and eels at the bottom of the loch, which has the largest volume of freshwater in Britain.

Director Ronald Mackenzie, 48, said: 'Who knows what it is, there is quite a lot of fish at the bottom of the loch, there is carnivorous trout and eels. I believe that there is something big living deep down in the Loch, who knows what it can be but I would love to think it's Nessie. It is something which is feeding on eels or trout. It is quite unusual.'

The mass was picked up around 4pm on Wednesday when Ronald was skippering a boat with technology from two years ago, about six miles from Fort August. The father-of-three added: 'A sonar expert has looked at it and says it's genuine. There is definitely something there. I'm going to give the image to the company which made the equipment to look at.

There were 18 'confirmed' sightings of the monster last year, making it the busiest year for claimed sightings since the peak of Nessie-mania in 1983. Last September, researchers from New Zealand claimed that the Loch Ness Monster could be a large eel, extracting DNA from water samples to test for this. Research carried out in 2018 revealed that the mythical creature is worth £41 million a year to the Scottish economy.



The Sun newspaper adds a few more details from Duncan:

We were at our halfway point off Invermoriston, where we turn around. The water is 620ft deep there. The passengers were quite excited because we had just spotted a sea eagle, but then I saw on the sonar something more eye-catching. It was right in the middle of the loch at about 558ft down. It was big – at least 33ft. The contact lasted 10 seconds while we passed over.  I’ve been on the loch since I was 16 years old and I have never seen anything like it. We have real state-of-the-art sonar on the new boat. It doesn’t lie. It captures what’s there. All the dots nearer the surface are shoals of Arctic char and deeper down there are ferox trout, so it gives you a good idea of the size of this large crescent shape.
Cruise Loch Ness posted the day after on their own Facebook page and monster hunter, Steve Feltham, has also been pushing this sonar contact on his own blog and talks about his involvement in persuading Ronald to release the image to the mainstream media. Cruise Loch Ness have been in the news before with their sonar contacts. Back in September 2011, Marcus Atkinson recorded an unusual trace near Urquhart Castle which generated some headlines as well. That article can be read here and is part of a sequence of articles over the last ten years following news of various anomalous contacts. I also wrote on their cruise business last year here.

I am not sure whether Ronald believes this is the Loch Ness Monster, but as a director of the cruise company he was keen to send it off for analysis to the manufacturers of the sonar hardware and we await further information. The article initially estimates the length of the object as ten metres or about thirty feet, which is a typical Nessie size. I blew up the image to full screen size and using a simple ruler against the depth axis you can see on the right hand side, an estimate of the area the object notionally occupies on the screen can be made. This comes out as about 2.3 metres per millimetre giving us a horizontal extent of about 9.3 metres and a vertical extent of about 3.4 metres or thirty by eleven feet.

I say notionally because dimensions are not all they seem on a sonar display. The depth at about five hundred feet can be taken as accurate enough using the depth scale. I estimate the object is at a depth of about 175 metres and the bottom of the loch is at 188 metres, so the object is about 570 feet deep and about 43 feet off the bottom. The problem is whether the object is actually thirty foot long and eleven foot thick and this lies in the fact that a sonar image is not like an optical image because though the vertical axis measures depth in metres, the horizontal axis measure time.

So what you may intuitively think is a large underwater mountain to the right of the creature is nothing of the sort for the loch is a flat basin. What actually happens is that the sonar machine under the boat sends out sound pulses at regular intervals at a frequency of 200KHz which are echoed back and analysed by the onboard hardware. Sonar records variations in density (water, gas, solid) and so what is rendered on the screen shows such variations. Now since animal flesh is mainly water, it does not register so well. In fact, when it comes to registering fish, it is their gas filled swim bladders that display the strongest signals on the screen. If this anomalous trace is a swim bladder, the overall creature would be enormous. But we do not know if it is a swim bladder.
 
Nevertheless, looking at the smaller specks on the screen, at the top near the surface and around the bottom, we can take these to be char, trout and eels amongst others. If relative size is anything to go by, then that gives us another ruler estimate that the contact is ten to fifteen times bigger than the fish contacts. Large fish sizes at Loch Ness can vary from one to three feet or more. But remember it is just the area of largest density variation that is being displayed. The actual object could be multiple times longer than the trace size and the more accurate vertical measure of over three metres is itself an indication of something large in the horizontal.

Going back to the overall trace, I can't quite remember if the constantly updating screen display goes from right to left or left to right. I will plump for left to right which means the oldest part of the display is on the right. Based on that assumption, we can see how the boat moved from deep water to the shore where the side wall of the loch rises to a depth of zero metres. Obviously, the sonar can only register land mass that is in water and not above. The peak then tails off and drops back down to about 200 metres and this is consistent with the testimony that they had reached the halfway point and turned around to head back into deeper waters.

The object then makes its appearance and then the contour of the loch begins to rise again suggesting the boat was moving a bit closer to land for a time, but not as close. I recall on my trip we stopped just off the Horseshoe Scree which is a bit south and opposite to Invermoriston. One well known Nessie sceptic who analysed this image suggested the new rising contour was the opposite side of the loch and hence this image was a complete profile of the loch bed from west to east. Using the known width of the loch at this point he calculated the object's width was a gigantic 50 metres - a number designed to cast doubt. This is incorrect as the boat would not have crossed that far over. This is an erroneous interpretation verging on disinformation and so we shall move swiftly on.

The next issue is the time axis and the dimensions of the creature. For example, if the object had stayed under the boat and tracked the same route as the boat, it would never leave the screen and form a long streak. One may presume the vertical size of the object would remain fairly constant. If it went off at a perpendicular direction to the boat, we may have a somewhat extended version of the object. However, looking at the zoom in of the object and its uniform crescent shape, there is a symmetry to the shape which suggests to me that it was closer to stationary that in motion. Note that smaller fish can also register this kind of crescent shape which may suggest a similar motion, though on this screen they are too small to be clear.

Since the horizontal axis is time, it does not measure distance. The display screen shows that the speed of the boat at the time of the snapshot was 10.7 knots or 12.3 mph or 18 feet per second. The witness states "the contact lasted 10 seconds while we passed over". So the object is bound within a maximum sonar cone with a diameter of 180 feet. But it is not clear what the speed was when over the object as the 10.7 knots was displayed further on and this would have been the speed quoted in the article. Since the boat would be heading off from a standing start at the turnaround point, it would be gaining in speed until the contact was hit. One assumption in all this is that one second of updating on the sonar screen display equates to one second of boat travel, which is not actually certain.
 
So what could it be? A large bubble of gas? The low decomposition rates and high water pressure at the bottom of the loch mitigate against this. A tree trunk floating over forty feet above the bottom? The abyssal plain of Loch Ness is very quiet and does not invite the kind of underwater currents that stir the waters above at the thermocline. To put it bluntly, no one has observed this phenomenon and it is not clear what a waterlogged tree trunk would look like on sonar as the variation in density with the surrounding water is far from that of a gas filled swim bladder. A shoal of fish seems unlikely at this depth and looks too "dense" to portray a loose aggregation of fish.
 
The manufacturers of the sonar will give their own analysis, but initial suggestions via Steve Feltham is that they think it is not a group of fish and it is likely a solid object between fifteen and twenty foot long. I would inquire as to whether that "solid" refers exclusively to the possible gas filled void or a larger estimate?

Now having considered various alternative explanations, one question to ask is where are all the other sonar contacts like this? If this is the best sonar contact in decades and we have various sonar-equipped boats sweeping the loch most days of the year, why have other similar contacts not been captured? Does the monster only pop up from the depths of the silt laden bottom a few times a year? That does not seem consistent with the amount of eyewitness testimonies on the surface over the last 87 years.

I suspect sonar hits such as this should not be as rare as the record suggests. I went over the discussions I have had with the Cruise Loch Ness crew in times past and this does indeed seem to be the case. When I went on a trip with them in April 2016, I was told by a crew member that they get large, anomalous sonar reading perhaps once every two years. On a return trip last year, a similar discussion with one of the older staff led to the statement that the boats have had about 600 sonar contacts over 10 years, most of those which were GPS tagged and when revisited were gone. That is one on average every week. Moreover, one crew member said he had once seen a sonar contact on the screen which required his thumb to cover it. That sounds similar to this latest contact!

That does not mean ever single contact is a monster, but I took a shot of an interesting blip on the sonar screen that day in 2016 which I reproduce below. The circular blip is seen above the big number "6". Measuring the object against the depth axis again gives a vertical extent of 3.33 metres or about eleven feet. The depth is estimated at about 130 metres or 420 feet. It is not as good as the latest image, but if I got that on a rare trip, what other interesting game changing images have Cruise Loch Ness obtained over the months and years but never get published? I was told that one of the senior crew has a private collection of these images collected over the years. I would love it if he released the best images to all Loch Ness researchers with no fear or favour for us all to pour over. 





The point being such a collection - not a single rare image - confirms that if there are large creatures swimming deep in the loch, you are not going to get one hit every thirty years. It is going to be a regular event and the images will range from interesting but inconclusive to very interesting and positive evidence. Let's face it, boats may be obtaining these sonar traces a lot more frequently than supposed, but they do not make it into the public domain unless they are more impressive.
 
So Steve Feltham says this is game changing evidence and "potentially the best indisputable evidence for large unidentified animals swimming about in Loch Ness". I think what constitutes best evidence in the eyes of each Nessie follower can be influenced by what genre they regard as most important be it video, picture, sonar or testimony. 




But I would say game changing evidence is determined with hindsight. For example, the Tim Dinsdale film was game changing evidence. We know this by what happened in the years following. Because people from all levels of society reacted to it in terms of attitudes and actions. The Loch Ness Investigation Bureau and all the other expeditions of the 1960s would not have happened if that film never saw the light of day. That is what I call game changing. Will this sonar contact have the same effect? I am not so sure.

I say that because we live in a much more sceptical age and the activity of the 1960s is unlikely to be reproduced as a result of evidence today. People are harder to convince today. What we may hope for is a like for like reaction. Various sonar manufacturers in the past have visited the loch to test their equipment. This may encourage some more to mount a more thorough and technical visit. However, the issue here is that the loch is already regularly swept by sonar by the various tourist boats from the top to the bottom of the loch and I suggest there are enough sonar images in the public eye or held in private. What are another few boats going to add?

The reaction has to be in superior equipment deployed at the loch such as the cutting edge Kongsberg family of autonomous underwater vehicles such as the MUNIN variant shown below which was trialed at Loch Ness back in 2016 when it found the remains of the 1969 Sherlock Holmes movie monster prop. The ability of this device to approach objects and areas of interest and thus produce more detailed sonar images is an obvious advantage to surface bound emitters.


The quality of the prop image below means a real monster could be resolved from a mere crescent shape to something approaching its real shape and form. There is however one problem as I found out when I contacted Kongsberg. If you want to buy such a sonar torpedo, it will set you back about £1,750,000 ($2,300,000). What if we just rented it for the duration of the search? That would be about £8,000 per day ($10,500) not including the specialists you would have to pay for to operate the complex equipment. 




That is probably not surprising for such cutting edge equipment and one would also have to consider how long the UAV would have to be deployed for in order to finally obtain a viable target to pursue? Days, weeks or months? A month's rent would cost £240,000! Also, could the monster out swim the maximum speed of the unit which is about six knots (7 mph)? Clearly, throwing such a large amount of money at this heightened level of search carries its own risks.

How game changing does evidence have to be to move some tech company, rich individual or sponsor company to put their resources or money at the loch's disposal? Only time will really tell on that score.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com










Saturday, 3 October 2020

Some good evidence coming up?

 


Steve Feltham posted this yesterday on his Nessie Facebook group:

So much driftwood,
So many boatwakes,
So many false alarms and out and out fakes.

For so long now we have been searching for that definitive, game changing piece of the jigsaw puzzle.
Decades can pass between one great piece of evidence and the next.
People ask me if I ever lose heart?
I have been constantly excited by the unpredictability of this mystery, there has always been something coming over the horizon, the next game changing twist in the pursuit of an explanation.
Strap yourselves in!
The next game changing piece of evidence has breached the horizon!
...and its the best I've seen in decades.

Can't say any more yet.


Naturally, this has got a lot of people excited and I await with some degree of anticipation what is about to be revealed myself. Is it a series of still images or a video or perhaps a sonar trace? Perhaps it is none of these. Steve says it is the best evidence he has seen in decades. Is that the best since the Dinsdale film or Rines body photo or Johnston photos? Well, I cannot be sure since my idea of best evidence in decades is not the same as another monster hunter's best. But it is described as "the next game changer" which is a phrase carrying a burden of expectation with it.


So, if it is such evidence, that means whatever media outlet will publish it also had to pay up. The better the images, the higher the fee. When such items come on the market, they are not just published with minimal checking such as the obvious bobbing log recently filmed at Dores Beach. No, one would expect that they are sent to people who try and test the claims to destruction. In the past, people such as Adrian Shine or others have been called in to assess images and testimony to provide an "expert opinion". Sometimes that opinion is not so expert but sceptics will never accept any images as proof of the Loch Ness Monster.


That's why the media can always rely on them to provide reasons why images should be treated with suspicion. These opinions may even move a media outlet to drop the items and the image owner moves onto the next newspaper. Anyway, once both sides of the fence have had space to investigate and contracts are signed, the images are published. At the end of the day, I hope this evidence is of such a rugged nature that even the sceptics are scrambling for excuses.


Steve, I've strapped myself in.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com




Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Podcast on Loch Ness Monster

 


Andy McGrath of "Beasts of Britain" recently interviewed me on the Loch Ness Monster. We covered various topics in a discussion lasting over an hour. You can listen to it on YouTube or via his Google Podcasts webpage.

Now, is that the infamous Searle brontosaurus image I see in Andy's graphics above?


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com



Sunday, 13 September 2020

Excellent!


I have been collecting books on the Loch Ness Monster since I was a kid. Back then I had the well known titles such as "Loch Ness Monster" by Tim Dinsdale, "In Search of Lake Monsters" by Peter Costello, "The Loch Ness Story" by Nicholas Witchell and "The Great Orm of Loch Ness" by Ted Holiday. After a hiatus of some years, I went back to collecting monster titles in the late 1990s and it has grown steadily over those years but tailed off as nearly all the titles came into my possession.

Some take a lot longer due to their rarity and when they do come up, a bidding war may ensue. So it was with Constance Whyte's "The Loch Ness Monster" published in 1951. It is a small work of fifteen pages and is a prelude to her greater work, "More Than a Legend" published six years later. I actually put out scanned copies of this booklet a few years back and you can read them here. But I did not own it and had to consult a library copy. Now the booklet did appear on eBay about six years ago and the bidding went up to about £250. I was not the highest bidder.

Last Tuesday another copy appeared with a Buy It Now price of £10. That is good and bad at the same time. It is good because you will get it at a great price. It is bad because others will be looking for it. When I got the eBay alert to its presence I was surprised no one had grabbed it hours before. Providence was on my side and I had no hesitation in clicking that buy button as fast I as could. The booklet is now sitting proudly amongst my other Nessie books.

How much is the booklet actually worth? Ten pounds or two hundred and fifty pounds? The answer is whatever someone is prepared to pay at the time. It may be another six or seven years before another one appears, so I would rather not wait for the next opportunity. But who knows? Another may appear in a matter of weeks. We shall see, but the problem with being a collector is that the more you collect, the less there is left to collect. There are now only three titles I do not possess and they are all booklets. I have never seen any of them on eBay or on the leading second hand book websites. It may therefore be reasonable to conclude that there is no one on earth who has the complete collection.

As befits a serious collector, I have also collected the various revisions and reprints of Nessie books. For example, Tim Dinsdale's aforementioned book went through four editions and all were updated in line with Tim's adventures and the latest news from the loch. Other titles were republished with the exact same content, so it seemed unnecessary to me to buy them. Of course, new titles continue to come onto the market, the last I think was "The Loch Ness Sea Lion" by Rob Cornes back in August 2019. Stories, films, photos and investigations always appear each year, so there is always scope to publish a new book on the subject.

Anyway, here's to all the Nessie books out there, the good, the bad and the ugly! With apologies for any omissions.





The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


 

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Possible Nessie Photos from 2005



I recently came across some issues of "Animals and Men" published by the Centre for Fortean Zoology which is run by veteran monster hunter, Jon Downes. It was issue 35 that caught my attention with a series of photographs allegedly of the Loch Ness Monster. I think it was published in early 2005, though there is little details about when these pictures were taken. Jon says the following in that issue:

A couple of months ago the CFZ were e-mailed several pictures purporting to be of the Loch Ness Monster. The person who sent them did not leave a name and did not reply to e-mails requesting further information. The sender said that they had taken the shots from a lay by above the loch. They had been driving along and saw something in the water. They pulled over and took three pictures before the creature disappeared.

The pictures seem to show an object with the classic "Nessieform" shape, a humped back and snaky neck. A road is clearly visible in the background as is a buoy. Richard Freeman showed the pictures to the gentleman who took the Loch Ness film shown on our website.

He believed them to be fake. Firstly the angle at which they are taken is too low to be from a lay above the Loch. They look as if they were taken from a boat. Also the width of the visible water is to slight for it to have been taken from were the witness said it was.

So there it stands. Without further information there is little we can do but it appears that, like several recent pictures of "Nessie", that these shots are fabrications.




I asked Jon about these pictures, but he says he could no longer remember anything about them and he could not find the originals in his files. Moreover, three pictures are mentioned but we have only two. The quality of the pictures are poor due to the print process and I suspect the originals looked better than what we are left with here. So we have various unanswered questions which I would prefer to have answered before forming an opinion.

Aside from obtaining better pictures (perhaps Richard Freeman could help), there is the mystery person who gave their interpretation that these were dubious due to the alleged angle of view versus where the observer was meant to be. You can see a navigation buoy beside the alleged creature and that looks like one of the buoys photographed below which are at the narrow top end of the loch at Lochend. That would be consistent with the closeness of the opposite shore. However, the text says a road is visible on the other side, but there is no road along that opposite shore. The analyst of the pictures also claims the loch is not wide enough to match the stated location.




These buoys I think are no higher that six feet which would mean the alleged creature is showing about ten feet out of the water if it was as distant as the buoy. That could translate to a potential overall fifteen feet of total length. There is that classic long neck and single hump to this picture with the other picture showing the presumed neck almost submerged.

So, can we find better versions of these pictures plus the third unpublished image? Who was the person who had previously filmed the monster prior to 2005 and was deemed a suitable person to analyse these pictures? Until we can get some further information, I will suspend judgement on these photographs from fifteen years ago.

UPDATE

Further information from Richard Freeman of CFZ suggests the object in the photographs is indeed of the fifteen foot size suggested and is long necked with a single hump, but it is man made. I refer to "Lucy the Plesiosaur" which was an animatronic plesiosaur created and used at Loch Ness in that timeframe of Summer 2005. The model was used in a Channel 4 documentary which I now recall watching from that time and was swum in front of various people to note their reactions. Here is a BBC article on the subject dated August 2005.





The model allegedly sank to the bottom of the loch, which reminds me of the photograph below which had a parallel monster model history.





The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Thursday, 20 August 2020

The Monsters of Achanalt

 


Achanalt is a small village on the road between Ullapool and Inverness in the Highland region to the north and west of Loch Ness. It has a nondescript loch amongst other nondescript lochs in this lonely wilderness setting. However, back in 1935, a man by the name of Robert Lawson Cassie (b.1859) came forward with some incredible tales of monsters swimming in these lochs and rivers. The cryptid stories appeared in two books entitled "The Monsters of Achanalt", volumes one and two. These were published in 1935 and 1936, created a minor stir and then disappeared from view as general interest in Scottish loch monsters waned. But first, where is Achanalt on the map of Scotland? The general locality is circled below and is about 40 miles from central Loch Ness. 



Zooming into that area reveals various small lochs and lochans and river systems surrounded by general mountainous terrain with a small population. Loch Achanalt (centred in the picture) itself is described as a body of water about three quarters of a mile across and a maximum depth of nine feet. You could walk around the loch in about half an hour. This is no more than a puddle in terms of lochs and would have escaped our notice if Cassie had not taken up his pen. However, other local lochs of various shapes and sizes are included such as Loch Rosque, Loch Crann, Loch Culan, Loch Luichart and Loch Garve.



By dave conner - originally posted to Flickr as Wester Ross - Loch Achanalt


But to give a flavour of what Cassie talked about, I quote two stories about monsters he claimed to have sighted with friends.


A VISIT TO THE WESTERN WATERSHED

On Thursday, August 29, I ordered a motor car from the Achnasheen Hotel. We left the Auld Hoose at 2.30 p.m., and our journey was by Achnasheen Loch Rosque, Loch Crane, past the watershed, the highest point on the Glen Docharty road, and down the brae as far as the vicinity of Kinlochewe, where we finished the outward trip. Our party consisted of Mr., Mrs., and Master MacMahon, Aberdeen; Mrs. Macrae, the Auld Hoose, Achanalt; the chauffeur, and myself. Stoppages were made at convenient points for scrutiny of the rivers and lochs. Creatures of varying sizes were noticed where the river was easily visible. Loch Rosque is about six miles long by half a mile wide. For the greater part of its length it is screened from the road by trees. We stopped twice at gaps in the wood before reaching the west end, where we made a very thorough survey. At the breaks I was able to distinguish at least a dozen of the immature reptiles, mostly about mid-loch, and showing only the briefest glimpses in the rough water. It was impossible to guess at their length. In most cases they escaped the notice of my companions, but experience made them unmistakable to me. Stopping at the western end of the loch, we all saw a number of large reptiles — about six at one time. general trend of their progress was across the loch to the brae of the south shore, where there was a tendency to leave the  water at the base of the high hill that rises steeply from the loch.  Their probable lengths would be from thirty to fifty feet.

Mr. MacMahon took various photographic exposures under favourable conditions. Proceeding a short distance farther, we left the car when we reached the nearest attainable point to loch Crann. It is a small, roundish, pond-like loch joined to Loch Rosque by a short and narrow stream. Reptiles were seen in this burn, and there were some five longish ones visible in Loch Crann itself. As they were partially submerged, approximate lengths could not be guessed at, but in my considered opinion, fifty feet average would be a safe estimate, perhaps erring on the side of moderation. They were not active, and their poses did not lend themselves well to photography; but Mr. MacMahon took several exposures, including that of a contracted or dinosaur-like pose of an animal seen on the brae, several yards from the bank, at the foot of the southern ben. Here I may interpolate that they seem to be landing in swampy places fairly often. On our return journey we noticed a slender form, a few feet long, motionless on a gravelly spit at a bend in the river. There is an extensive region of dry land at the watershed. For a mile or so we followed the course of a small burn that flows west to Loch Ewe, but it seemed too shallow to be the abode of reptiles. At any rate, no sign of life was observed in it. We saw two small reptiles, however, in the burn that feeds Loch Crann from the west. 


EXPLORATION OF THE EASTERN WATERWAY

On Friday, August 30, 1935, we scanned the lower reaches of the waterway as far as the Upper Blackwater - i.e., for some distance along the course of the river, after it leaves Loch Garve. This time the car came from our obliging friend, Mr. D. Mackenzie of the Garve Hotel. The party consisted of Mr. and Mrs. A. W. MacMahon and their young son Michael, Miss Jean Macrae, the Auld Hoose, Achanalt; Mr. Roderick Macrae, chauffeur, Garve Hotel; and myself. We left the Auld Hoose a little before 5p.m.

Loch Achanalt is now very populous, and we had a passing view of some of the creatures in it. From prolonged observations I consider that the northern section of the loch now contains reptiles up to fifty feet in length, while there are many measuring between ten and thirty feet. Their characteristics have been described in previous chapters. The southern or Badluchie side of the loch is nearly shut off by a long tongue of grassy land, leaving only a narrow strait of communication. For several weeks past, dating from a heavy rainstorm and inundation, there have been indubitable signs that the southern loch contains one or more creatures of incredible dimensions.

From the Auld Hoose, a mile or more away, I daily see a long and high "plough furr" crossing the loch from north to south. Any curve of extra length cannot be determined. But it is alive and moving. The humps and elevated ridges along its back cannot be mistaken, and - perhaps from its very length - it behaves very differently from the smaller reptiles, and is far less elusive. It bears a marked general resemblance to pictures of the sea-serpent appearing in the current literature on the subject.

I ought to have inspected this stupendous animal at close range,but I suffer from various disabilities. The walk over rough ground taxes my powers. The river is spanned by a long, swinging bridge with ricketty planks, causing an uncomfortable feeling of tension. Lastly, one has to cross a marsh tenanted by a black bull of uncertain temper. Providence, however, has enabled me to get a very near view of this animal, or his double. On Thursday, August 29, 1935, between 11.30 and 12 noon (the time was not exactly noted) I left home in the company of a witness of unimpeachable credence in every respect. At a distance of about thirty yards we saw the high back of a reptile gliding up the river. Our field of view was somewhat restricted by out-buildings. This creature took quite a number of minutes, moving at a slow rate, to pass our point of observation.

Proceeding to the road giving a complete view of the river between two bends, we saw the animal still slowly coming up. At the bend next us it seemed to dispose of its head and foreparts deeply in the water, under the east bank. I marvelled for some minutes at the manner in which it could be stowing itself away. Suddenly a whirl of numerous flat-topped humps, black or dark in colour, appeared in the nook at the east bank. The creature was turning! The process was a long one, and an elongated shape had lengthened well down the straight section of the river, between the bends, before the reversal was completed. So far as the witness and I could see, the length of the creature was about the distance between the two bends. I estimate this distance at three hundred yards or nine hundred feet. A local friend of great experience confirms my view. 

So what are we to make of these fantastical reports? The answer is simple, they are all fabricated nonsense. No one else ever corroborated such reports and, despite being told of various photographs of these creatures being snapped, none of them make it into Cassie's two books. The almost monotonous appearance of these creatures makes them easier to spot than deer and perhaps even sheep. The description at the end of a nine hundred foot serpent struggling to contain itself in a comparable river is surely designed to elicit sceptical reactions in even the most gullible believer.

One of the witnesses was an A. W. MacMahon of Aberdeen who took various photographs. A search of the online newspaper archives does reveal an A. W. MacMahon who ran a photography business in Aberdeen at that time but no mention of monsters. So the co-eyewitnesses likely did exist, but they were just in on the joke. But it has to be asked what made Cassie write such garbage? One clue is in a newspaper clipping from the previous year in which he claims a sighting of the Loch Ness Monster. The headline below is taken from the Aberdeen Press and Journal dated 25th June 1934.



The Aberdeen Press and Journal had published some of Cassie's previous books, so it is no surprise they take up his story. In this story, Cassie is again with a Mrs. MacRae and Mr. Healy, a chauffeur of the Garve Hotel. This report was not in the eyewitness database I use, so it was new to me. An examination of it gave me some doubts about it. The "disporting itself vigorously" involved Cassie's creature taking a sequence of leaps out of the loch in Urquhart Bay near the castle at 45 degree angles to the water revealing a roundish body and ending in a big splash and spray of water. I presume he had the idea of a humped back whale or a dolphin breaching the water as it leaps out.

The reason I have my doubts about this story is because I can find no other account in the stories of 2000+ witnesses that mentions such a breaching action. I therefore conclude the creature does no such thing and Cassie has made the whole story up by overdramatising it. However, his Achanalt stories would already have cast doubt upon anything he would say. Another account of Cassie's stories can be found in an article by Mike Dash in Fortean Times No.177 from 2003. He states that Cassie claims the Achanalt monsters began to appear in June 1934 which is the same time he claimed to have seen Nessie. I suggest this coincidence is no coincidence and rather denotes the time Cassie decided to embark upon his tales of deception.

Why June 1934? Well, stories of the Loch Ness Monster had been steadily rising since the summer of 1933, but Nessie fever was about to peak in July 1934 and news of the monster was just about everywhere all the time. That month of July would prove to be the busiest month right up to the present day for monster reports. As an undoubted sceptic of anything monstrous in any loch, Mr. Cassie must have been quite fed up with the coverage by June and was no doubt convinced anyone could submit a report and be published. With his reputation as a local and respected author, he put that to the test and was proven right.

The resulting mix of satisfaction and disdain he must have gained from that initial toe dip into the media would have emboldened him to expand the story into his basically satirical work on loch monsters in the region of Achanalt. His book was an attack on believers and not sceptics. However, he could not continue his story at Loch Ness as it was too busily watched and so he moved the story to the relative solitude of the hill country of Achanalt where Cassie (pictured below) lived.



So the booklets were published, nobody believed them, but that was not the point, it was Cassie's own personal commentary on the Nessie mania of 1933 to 1934 and his contempt for anyone who genuinely or ungenuinely claimed to have seen them. It's a pity he did not make a better attempt to properly evaluate eyewitness reports. That task was left to his contemporary, Lt. Cmd. Rupert T. Gould. I wonder what he made of Cassie's pack of lies?


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com







Thursday, 13 August 2020

Loch Ness and the Scientists

 



Here is an article I found recently from the Today magazine dated 8th July 1961. Tim Dinsdale had just recently published his first book on the monster entitled "Loch Ness Monster" and this had generated some interest amongst the media. The article itself does not interview Tim or go into the matter of his 1960 film or book in any great detail, it is more interested in the scientists and what they were going to do about it.

To that end, Doctor Denys Tucker, once of the Natural History Museum, figures prominently as he is interviewed about the negative attitude of the British scientific establishment and his failed attempts to drum up support from them. Constance Whyte who authored the book, "More than a Legend" which was published four years previously tells of her visits to the Natural History Museum to garner support for some kind of expedition to the loch by these fellows.

The author of the article then tells us of his telephone merry-go-round as he interrogated various scientific establishments on their plans. The Natural History Museum had none and it was a matter for the Royal Scottish Museums. The Royal Scottish Museum said they had no funds and it was a matter for the Natural History Museum.

A call to the Royal Society produced subdued titters and they had never heard of Denys Tucker. A final call to the government's Minister of Science elicited the response that it was a matter for the Scottish Department of Fisheries. Our caller must have gotten quite dizzy by that stage.

Now this was all before the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau had gotten off the ground and since then various scientific endeavors have been mounted at the loch, with or without the help of said institutions. The last was the eDNA studies conducted, not by a British establishment, but one from New Zealand on the other side of the world.

To view the article, click on the image and, depending on your browser, you can right click to view image and a magnification option may come up.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com