Thursday, 28 August 2014

Sceptics, Steamships and Nessie

A comment appeared on the Internet recently concerning Victorian steam boats and the Loch Ness Monster. It is not the first time it has appeared, and I think I ought to address this from my side of the Nessie debate.

The argument runs that steam ship tourism was popular on Loch Ness during the time of Queen Victoria, so why do we not hear of any sightings from these passengers in the archives of books and newspapers? The argument is a corollary of the general argument that Nessie was just a 1930s fiction inadvertently created by fevered tourists whilst aided and abetted by a story-hungry media.

Now, we do have stories of people seeing the monster from 19th century steamers. We have the accounts of Roderick Matheson and Alexander MacDonald but since these were brought to light post-1933, sceptics dismiss them as lies and exaggerations.

But the argument, like most sceptical arguments, looks plausible on a cursory examination. However, when it is more closely scrutinised, it does not look probable. The word "plausible" is qualitative, but "probable" is more quantitative. We need some numbers here and the problem revolves around observers and sightings.

Today, many more people visit Loch Ness and as a consequence, there are more than a thousand recorded reports of the Loch Ness Monster. Some will be misidentification, some will be hoaxes and others will be genuine sightings of our famous monster. But how does that map to mid-19th century Scotland? Before we can make the semblance of a quantitative assessment, we need an idea of numbers.


The story of Highland tourism is one of a journey from seclusion and inaccessibility to one of improving infrastructure and prosperity. At the time of Samuel Johnson in the 18th century, most travellers either had a scientific, economic, religious or military purpose. In other words, Highland tourism back then was a bit like excursions to the Antarctic or Amazonian rain forests today. This was a worthy setting for our Loch Ness Kelpie to reside and rule.

The building of General Wade's military roads after the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion eased access to major population centres, but the infrastructure for travellers such as places to rest and eat were in very short supply. The other hindrance was the native language of Gaelic and the lack of English speakers to communicate with.

It was not until the mid 19th century that the pioneering explorer group gave way to the romantic traveller and aristocratic sportsman. This was aided by the building of the Caledonian Canal, railways, the popularity of Walter Scott's romantic novels and the deployment of steam powered boats. Many parts of Scotland opened up to the traveller, but it was far from the massed hordes we see today.

One source I have consulted for this article is the paper “Evolution of Tourism in the Scottish Highlands” by R. W. Butler published in 1985 as part of the "Annals of Tourism Research", vol.12. To quote Butler: 

A continuing improvement in roads and steamer services, and particularly the extension of rail service to Glasgow and Edinburgh, greatly eased this burden, such that “thousands of summer tourists every year and from every part of the civilized world” [Murdoch 1867:l) ranged over the Highlands and Islands by 1867.

It is here we first get a hint of the numbers involved as "thousands" made their way north every year. Indeed, the travel agency, Thomas Cook, was arranging travel packages to Scotland beginning in 1846 with a notable increase in the "middle and humbler classes". We are told he arranged parties of up to 200 people, the majority of whom, it seems, were ladies. In contrast, we are told he only ran four annual excursion trains from London (two each to Edinburgh and Glasgow).

However, the main reasons for travelling to Scotland were not exactly those of the modern tourist. Many made the trip to fish the rivers, shoot the grouse and bag a stag. It seemed the ideal Scottish souvenir was one that could be stuffed and mounted on the wall. Others were attracted to the alleged therapeutic benefits of certain locations or grand vistas to indulge their artistic hobbies.

By the end of the 19th century, major tourist hot spots had been established. We had Oban, Inverness, Strathpeffer, Fortrose, Tain, Golspie, Portree and so on. From our point of view, it is noted with interest that Inverness was described more as a route centre than a final destination in itself. However, by this time, Groome's Gazetteer only lists 170 inns and hotels in the area (not including fishing and shooting lodges) and their distribution reflected the high demanding for game.


Hardly the number we would expect of hundreds of thousands annually thronging the Highlands. As Butler states:

In general, the numbers of visitors at the turn of the century were still extremely small ...

Moreover, he elaborates:

The relatively high cost of travel, and the time involved, the generally expensive nature of most of the accommodation, and at least until the early twentieth century, the absence of holidays with pay, meant that for the most part the Highlands and Islands remained the holiday area for a fortunate elite and were not subjected to the pressures of large numbers of visitors.

So, we have indications of lower than supposed tourist traffic in the 19th century Highlands. Butler attempts to quantify that number by comparing the 1921 census with that of 1911 and 1931. The advantage to us is that the 1921 census was conducted in June whereas the others were done in April. Therefore, the difference in numbers should reflect the increase in tourists between April and June. As it turns out, the difference between April 1911 and June 1921 in the Highlands turns out to be 3,043 individuals.

I'll say that again - only 3,043 individuals. Butler statistically alters that number to 7,143 to account for the average rate of decrease between 1911 and 1931, but it is still a surprisingly small number. Of course, we would expect July and August to be busier with a drop off into autumn. Assuming modern tourist flows all year round, what would the total projected number of tourists be? The graph below denotes traffic flows between Fort William and Mallaig in the years 2006 and 2009.

Now, I have no idea how well this maps to changes in monthly Victorian tourism, but given the weather is the main driver of holidays, I suspect it will not be much different. So, given the known proportions for the other months relative to June we get the projected numbers below based on the assumption that the tourist season runs from May to September. So we estimate about 36000 tourists in the Highlands in 1921 and presume that this was pretty much the way of it in previous decades.

April 0
May 6428
June 7143
July 8095
August 8333
September 5952

But what proportion of these visitors went to Loch Ness? Comparing this to a recent study on Highland tourism, we note that there were 2.1 million visitors to the Highlands in 2010. How many went to Loch Ness? I have seen estimates ranging from 400,000 to 1 million. Clearly, the monster attraction of modern tourism does not apply to Victorian tourism, but the picturesque Great Glen and the "Royal Route" up the canal popularised by Queen Victoria still made this a top destination.

Applying our modern numbers of 0.4 and 1 million to 2.1 million Highland visitors, would equate to about 6,800 or 17,100 annual visitors to Loch Ness in Victorian times. Compared to up to a modern million, that is not a lot.

By way of confirmation, while I was researching, I found the book "From Sea to Sea: A History of the Scottish Lowland and Highland Canals" by Len Paterson. In this well researched publication, I found some hard numbers for Caledonian Canal traffic.

We find that tariffs charged by the Caledonian Canal authorities changed in 1860. Whereas they were previously calculated by ship tonnage, they were now calculated by passenger numbers. From this we learn that in 1863 15,500 passengers used the Caledonian Canal. This proved to be a bit of a watershed year as the railways were beginning to reach the Highlands and this alternate form of transport was beginning to eat into steam ship numbers.

Our calculation was an estimate between 6,800 and 17,100 (an average of nearly 12,000). So we were not far from the more accurate 15,500. So how does all this relate to the supposed absence of monster sightings in the mid 19th century? From this we can make an estimate as to how many Nessie sightings there may have been based on modern accounts. 

First, we need two numbers from the modern era of accounts. The first is the number of sightings since 1933. This is not too difficult to ascertain and we end up with a number close to 1250. The next question is how many people visited Loch Ness over that period of 80 years. That is not so easy to calculate as tourist numbers have varied quite a lot over that time frame.

For example, we have the manic period of 1933-34 when hordes of expectant travellers went to Loch Ness. In contrast, we have the period of 1939-1950 which included the Second World War and the subsequent rationing of petrol and other items which hindered long distance travel to the Highlands.

So 1933-1950 was a pretty volatile period and one is tempted to exclude it and concentrate on 1951-2013. Feel free to guesstimate tourist numbers for that period as I continue with a more statistically stable data set.

So between 1951 and 2013, I estimate 806 sightings were recorded. If we assume the lower range for visitors over that 62 year period of 400,000 per annum, that is 30,769 visitors per sighting. Using that ratio for the Victorian steamship period of 1860 to 1900, the projected number of sightings is:

15500 * 40 / 30769 = 20 sightings

That is one sighting every two years on average. Hardly a rate of sightings that would propel a Victorian phenomenon to escape velocity.  Moreover, the actual number of sightings could be lower for two further reasons.

Firstly, a proportion of the 806 sightings will be misidentification. Since there was no "Nessie Effect" back in the 19th century, these would have to be discounted. What that proportion could be is very much in the eye of the beholder. For example, if you think it is 10%, the 20 drops to 18.

Secondly, tourists between 1951 and 2013 would likely be spending more time per person watching the loch, because, after all, there is now a monster in the loch. One should not assume that just because a Victorian steamer was in the middle of the loch, that passengers were more consistent observers of the loch. You had the distraction of the restaurant, the bar and your friends. In fact, the third class fare payers were normally kept below to keep them apart from the higher value customers who had more privileged access to the open areas.

If you don't think there is a monster to look for, you're better off admiring the changing landscape rather than the repetitive wave patterns below. Indeed, boat passengers see less of the loch compared to land observers. Watch the loch from Urquhart Castle and you will know how far your vista expands before you.

Being on the loch near surface level makes observation more difficult as a dark coloured object can be lost against the backdrop of the opposite shoreline (this argument is used by sceptics against Tim Dinsdale when he drove to the shoreline to find the creature after his famous footage).

What this all means quantitatively is uncertain, but it seems clear to me that the only advantage of being on the water is that one in theory could be closer to the monster. But then there is the argument that Nessie stays away from noisy, threatening steam ships.


But there is one final item that confirms this analysis. Paterson in the aforementioned "From Sea to Sea" mentions that the steamer ship trade experienced something of a revival in the 1930s. No prizes for guessing why - the Loch Ness Monster. He goes on to say that,

In that decade tourists numbered never less than 9,300 and were as many as 14,800. After a gap this trade revived and grew back again to pre-war numbers, cynics attributing this to the publicity give to the myth of the Loch Ness Monster.

So here we have a perfect opportunity to put Victorian era passengers numbers into a Nessie era setting. How many sightings were made from these boats? Paterson does not state which years these two numbers refer to, but I have no doubt that the high of 14,800 passengers were on the loch in the most manic year of 1934.

Looking at the database of sightings I have, the total number of reported sightings in 1934 from steamships was exactly zero. That is despite there being nearly 200 reports for that year. There are three reports from boats (Donald Williamson, crew of "Sedulous" and A.G. Chambers), but none of these were excursion steamships. If anyone cares to tell me of any steamship based sightings for 1934, leave a comment below.

The calculations here predicted one sighting every two years in the Victorian steamship age. Zero sightings in the one year of 1934 is consistent with that. It seems monster hunting from steamships is not all it is cracked up to be.

In fact, this is a bit of a mystery. Why so few reports from boats? After all, even witnesses on boats can mistake birds, otters, waves, deer, etc from their vantage point. Why do we not even have a goodly number of lightweight reports that can be dismissed as known phenomena?

It would be naive to simply suggest witnesses can better assess objects in the water. After all, an object 400 metres away is no more easier to judge than an object at a similar distance seen from land. Indeed, it could be argued it is harder to judge from the water.

It would be tempting to suggest this has monster connotations, but the truth seems to be that there are simply not enough boat witnesses in proportion to land based witnesses to generate the expected number of reports.

In conclusion, the claim that Victorian steam boat tourists should have been a rich source of sightings is not borne out by the numbers. Doubtless, some did see the monster. If they reported it to the Highland newspapers, they would have been dismissed. What their local newspapers back down in England made of these "kelpie" stories is unknown. It is not even known what proportion were reported to the media and what proportion of that proportion made it into print.

What seems to be certain is that the supposed issue is not as big as some make out.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Roy Mackal's Library

I note that some of the books of the great monster hunter, Roy Mackal, are being sold on eBay. You can view them via this link.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

New Nessie Booklet

John Dykslag, a regular reader here, contacted me about a booklet he has written on long term Nessie hunter, Steve Feltham. As you may know, Steve left a comfortable job down south in England to become a full time monster hunter at Loch Ness. It is now over 20 years since he set up base near Nessie and does he regret it? Nope.

Determined to help out Steve in his quest for the Loch Ness Monster, John produced this 17 page booklet and all profit from sales goes to Steve Feltham at Dores, Loch Ness. So, if you wish to add a title to your Nessie collection and help the search, purchase this book. It is more intended as a booklet that Steve can sell with his models at Dores to tourists, but it is generally available to all.

The publisher is Print Point and you can get further information about purchasing a copy by emailing John at

But the book is not just about the Loch Ness Monster, it's about following your dreams and not leaving them until you are drawing a pension!

And, Steve, when can we expect the full autobiography of your life at Loch Ness?

Saturday, 16 August 2014

New Photograph of Nessie?

John Gillies, who was at Loch Ness at the same time as me last week, has put up an interesting picture of an object in the loch. It is a still from a piece of footage taken on the 11th August.

The brief clip, as far as I can tell, is not the footage that contains the subsequent still image. I do not think it is a bird as I see no body. Admittedly, a passing wave can temporarily obscure the body, but the surrounding waves do not look rough enough.

Perhaps a branch protruding from a horizontally floating tree trunk? Perhaps, but again the same argument applies to the missing bird body. John did not see it at the time of filming, so it is always worth reviewing images when one returns home.

Does it have Nessie potential? I would need to see the original film before making further comment.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Nessie on Land: Morphology and Behaviour

In the next instalment of our occasional series on land sightings of Nessie, it's time to look at what kind of creature was described by witnesses. As stated before, the presumed advantage of a land sighting is that we get to see much more of the creature as opposed to when it is in the water.

When one studies water based accounts, there is sometimes the feeling that you are re-enacting the parable of the blind men and the elephant. In other words, what part are we looking at, how does it fit into the whole picture and just how do these creatures vary as individuals and over their lifetimes and natural cycles? With land sightings, we get a bit closer to the truth; but, again, not wholly there. 

By way of a panorama, a sequence of witness's drawings are presented. Of the thirty seven land sightings that this blog knows about, we only have seven original sketches, one photograph and one film drawn from them. The sixth sketch below is my own reconstructed from an earlier article from the witness' description. The one sketch not included is Alfred Cruickshank's 1926 sighting (which was never published by Tim Dinsdale). The drawings are all flipped to point the same direction for ease of comparison.

I also have no stills from the 1963 LNIB film, which is held by the Loch Ness Project (headed by Adrian Shine). It is now over 30 years since the Loch Ness Project obtained the films, photos, sightings reports and other materials from the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau. To this day, precious little of that has been put in the public domain despite the Loch Ness Project having an Internet presence for a long time.  I wonder what LNIB co-founder David James would make of that?

A. Margaret Munro 1934
B. Arthur Grant 1934
C. Mr. and Mrs. Spicer 1933
D. Torquil MacLeod 1960
E. Alastair Dallas 1936
F. Patricia Harvey and Jean MacDonald 1934
G. Ian Monckton 2009
H. Lt. Fordyce 1932

The question to ask of you, reader, is what were your expectations of this gallery of images? Did you expect (as some sceptics insist) that each sketch must vary little from the other? Or (more reasonably), you would expect some variation depending on the creature and the witness?

In terms of creatures, it is not unreasonable to expect one individual to differ from another. Male may differ from female, young may differ from old and a sexually active creature may differ from a sexually inactive one. They may even differ in colour as some other animals do. 

In terms of the witness, they are not going to give a perfect description of what they saw. They will have seen enough to convince them this was no otter or deer, but to ask for details accurate to the square centimetre is not reasonable. 

But, you may ask, what is real, what is hoax and what is misidentification? The sceptic has a simplistic answer, all fall into the second and third categories. On the other side of the debate, the argument is more nuanced and could fall into any of these categories. Of those 37 land sightings, some may well be hoax and misidentification, but which ones is a rather more difficult task.

Some of the arguments put forward by sceptics in this vein may convince their compatriots, but we are more demanding of their arguments on this blog (because, after all, they are more demanding of our arguments on their blogs).

But, of the list above, I would put a question mark over the Dallas and Fordyce cases. In the case of Fordyce, either he seriously mis-remembered his account after over 50 years or what he saw has nothing to do with the Loch Ness Monster. The pros and cons of the Dallas case have been covered elsewhere on the Internet. That leaves six cases which are actually quite uniform in their general appearance.


Moving onto particular features of the creature, we first look at limbs. Of the 37 reports available, only 11 (30%) mention them. Four of these reports describe them as webbed feet, with two of these adding the details that they were three toed. One of the reports describes them more as like pig hooves (i.e. two toed). However, three of the eleven reports describe them as flippers. The remaining limb reports do not add any further details.

Now webbed feet are not the same as flippers. So, unless one set is discounted at the expense of the other, how are they reconciled? If we take the view that the creature does indeed have webbed feet (which I tend to favour), then it is possible that these can be presented as flipper like.

In fact, an idea originally suggested by (I think) Bernard Heuvelmans, would have the webbed feet observed in an open or closed position. I think the picture below of the rear flipper of a seal conveys that idea best. It is a matter of guesswork whether the webbed feet lock into a closed position or just just relax into that position.


Moving onto the head and neck, the majority of witnesses describe it in a pretty standard or brief way, but others add more detail:

head and neck thrown over so as to rest on the creature’s back” (MacLennan 1933)

undulations were rapid and showed two or three arches” (Spicers 1933)

relatively slender neck, and it turned from side to side” (Smith 1870s)

the long neck was twisting from side to side” (MacGruer 1912)

The "floppiness" or fluidity of this structure is highlighted in these reports. In fact, enough to suggest its flaccidity is due to the absence of a spinal column in that part of the body. 

Another curious feature is mentioned in two reports separated by forty years.  It is this strange side to side movement of the creature’s neck as it headed back into the loch. I think there are two ways of looking at this. My own opinion is that it is another argument against the traditional head neck interpretation.

The reason being that if the creature has two eyes at the end of a head, then it is going to be looking straight ahead of its intended destination. Twisting the neck in other directions other than the direction of travel suggests that eyes are not a feature of the end of the “neck”.

However, there is another interpretation, and that is the idea that the monster has poor or non-existent eyesight brought on by millennia of living in dark, peat stained waters. In that case, there may be vestiges of eyes in the usual place but they are not employed in a meaningful way (apart from sensing basic light levels).

In either case, this would suggest the described neck movement is not without purpose and may have another sensory use. Is the neck being used in the same manner as a blind man’s stick to find obstacles or is other sensory data being collected based on smell, vibration, electric fields or something else?  Your guess is as good as mine.

In regard to the head and neck of the monster, one final case needs to be mentioned. That is the account Alfred Cruickshank wrote to Tim Dinsdale in 1960. Tim describes the drawing as showing a shortened neck which he states is contrary to the standard long neck model. I would agree that it would, but I would suggest it is consistent with a neck which is more retractable and pliable than has been previously thought.


Looking at the land reports in terms of other characteristics, movement is mentioned in 15% of reports. It is described variously as "waddling", "lurching", "caterpillar-like" and "jerky". The word "rapid" is also mentioned though we are talking about short distances here.

It has been suggested that the monster is incapable of movement on land due to its bulk and water-equipped limbs. If the creature does indeed have webbed feet (as mentioned above) then perhaps it is more adapted to land motion than first surmised.

The weight issue is not so big to me. A male elephant seal can weigh two to three tonnes and can move at up to 5 mph. There is no requirement for the Loch Ness Monster to be a rapid mover in any case. I will look more at this when I critique Mr. Lovcanski's explanation of the Spicers account.

In terms of times and seasons, 26% of reports are stated as being in darkness whilst 43% of reports which state the months are during the winter months of December to February. Does this signify a nocturnal creature or a creature which prefers environments devoid of tourists, boats and noise?

Be that as it may, this is a higher percentage than expected for land sightings, if the matter was merely down to misidentification and hoaxes. It could be also argued it is an anomaly for real monsters, but that really depends on your monster "model".

Does the Loch Ness Monster make any utterances? Apparently, yes, if two reports are to be believed. These describe a bark noise or a walrus like noise. A walrus can make a variety of noises, so which one was being described? Conceivably, a walrus can make a bark-like noise, but it is not certain what was meant by the witness. I do not think we should take this to mean the Loch Ness Monster is a mammal, but assuming this was a vocal noise, it would imply lungs. Then again, it is not mandatory to me that it has to be lungs (I think particularly of the proposed gas production method of the humps). Answers on a postcard ...

Furthermore, we have 9% of reports mentioning the creature carrying an object. This is normally taken to be food and casts the Loch Ness Monster in the role of land predator. I have covered this aspect of Loch Ness Monster reports in a previous article. But I would add one story which I did not add to that article. It comes from the Inverness Courier of the 20th October 1933.

The community of Benedictine nuns who once resided near Fort Augustus are now living close to me here at Holme Eden Abbey, and one of the lay sisters, an old Inverness-shire woman , says she can remember fifty years ago talk of an uncanny beast being seen in the Loch, and also that animals grazing by the loch-side disappeared.

It may surprise you to learn that there were nuns as well as monks at Fort Augustus. Both are gone now, but the sheep and cows are still here! Talk of loch-side livestock disappearing in the 1880s is perhaps less relevant now with reduced farming and increased fencing, but one wonders if the exploding population of deer provides alternate meals?


If you are a believer in a large creature residing in Loch Ness, then these accounts can help form a better picture of the monster. The most interesting aspects for me are the webbed feet and the strange neck descriptions. What kind of species possess such webbed feet? All types from mammals to reptiles to amphibians. My own idea of an amphibious like-fish still comes within that domain, though a more standard fish morphology is less likely. For example, the pectoral fins of the amphibious mudskipper do not differentiate in this way (although they are perfectly adequate for moving on land). Nevertheless, given the diversity of nature's ability to adapt, it would not surprise me if such a fish existed.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Nessie Culture at the Commonwealth Games

It's time for some Nessie culture again as the Commonwealth Games opened in Glasgow last week. It was no surprise that our favourite cryptid made an appearance at the stadium in a serpentine form with a bunnet on its head and a smile.

For something that is not meant to exist, the Loch Ness Monster continues to hold the attention of the Scottish public and how they seek to represent themselves to the world. Admittedly though, like their ancestors' Kelpies and Water Horses, the "Nessie" presented is not an exact representation of what swims in the waters of Loch Ness.

One assumes that the current Nessie presented by today's culture would nod approvingly at the equality and diversity slogans that marked the opening ceremony. I suspect the one forged by the inhabitants of the oppressed and resource-scarce Highlands would have none of it. Back then, it would feast upon your flesh in its watery depths and leave your liver to be buried by your terrified family. A bit of a difference one might suggest.

Nessie also has pride of place in the Village where the Games' competitors live. The photos below show a stone and wood creation which also acts as a bench to sit on. This stylised version of Nessie is an even greater departure from the living reality. The statue's creator, Stuart Murdoch said

I was honoured to be asked to work with Glasgow 2014 and to produce this sculpture. The Loch Ness Monster is recognised globally as an icon of this country and in this work I wanted to represent the nation’s mythology, creativity, ancient history, as well as to highlight the grit and determination shown by all the Commonwealth athletes. It is a beast that has inspired our people since before the first written word. I hope it inspires all the athletes in the village.

There is perhaps a reference to the Picts and Saint Columba's brush with the beast in that phrase "before the first written word". But how does a statue of Nessie depict "grit and determination"? I don't know, maybe because the beast continues to be reported despite the best efforts of the sceptics to consign it to the same mythological graveyard as the Boobrie, Cu-Sith and the Lavellan?

Meanwhile, back at Loch Ness, what is Nessie making off all this fuss? The cartoonist for the Daily Mail is not convinced she is altogether happy with the way she is being represented! It was bad enough being shown as a saddled up demon steed centuries ago, but a glorified tyre?

Aw. Did you see that cheap plastic Nessie they used for the Games opening ceremony?

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Tuesday 24th July 1934

It is now 80 years since the date in the title, but you may ask what is the significance of it? Was there an important sighting on that day, a significant photograph taken or did some personality get up to something that has forever lived in modern Loch Ness folklore?

The answer is none of these, for the 24th July 1934 was the day in which the Loch Ness Monster was reported the most times in one day. In total, there were five claimed sightings of the monster on the busiest day of the busiest month of the busiest year ever for loch Ness Monster stories.

Now, these days, I would consider it good going if we had five reported sightings in one year, let alone one day, and this just reminds us just how manic things were up at Loch Ness those long years ago. Once can only dream of such activity now.

However, before I look at that day, I must dismiss the rival claim of Barbara Abbot. If you go to the very first entry of Paul Harrison's 2012 edition of "The Encyclopedia of the Loch Ness Monster" you will read of her claim to have seen Nessie five times at different locations in one day. The whole affair is topped off by Nessie tossing a live seal into the air, catching it in her mouth and eating it. I am not going to take this one any further.

The sources for the reports are all newspapers, The Scotsman for the 25th and 27th July 1934, the Inverness Courier for 27th July and the Northern Chronicle for the 25th July.

The sighting log begins in the morning with Duncan Cameron who reported a long neck moving at speed in Urquhart Bay toward Fort Augustus. The clipping below is from the 27th July edition of The Scotsman.

The account was also reported on the same day by the Inverness Courier, but both do not give a more precise time than the "morning". However, a reading of the other four sightings leads me to conclude this was the first sighting of the day. By 11:15am, the second sighting had occurred when a Mr. Charles Mace saw an object off Ruskie further down the loch. His account is taken from the Northern Chronicle.

The third account occurred at 11:30am a couple miles north of Fort Augustus by the crew of the steam drifter, "Sedulous". They saw a black hump like an upturned boat at a distance of 400 yards which drifted about for a period of time. This account appears in the Scotsman and Northern Chronicle and though generally in agreement, they don't seem to agree on how long the object appeared for. The Scotsman has the object "cruising about" while the Chronicle has the object visible for only a few seconds. The account below is from the 25th July edition of The Scotsman.

Moving onto our fourth account, by about noon, the object (or another object) was back at Ruskie where it was spotted by Robert C. Urquhart. Mr. Urquhart was one of the 20 watchers employed by Edward Mountain for his four week surface watching expedition. Each man was equipped with a camera and a telescope (or binoculars) in pursuit of their quarry.

Finally, our busy day for Nessie closes with the fifth sighting reported by another watcher for the Mountain expedition. This was a Mr. Ralph who was stationed at Temple Pier overlooking Urquhart Bay. His sighting occurred at 3:25pm when he saw a dome shaped object break the surface for a short time. The account below is from the Chronicle but an ink blemish on the original document obscures some of the details.

I have plotted the five reports on a map of Loch Ness, each numbered in chronological order from Duncan Cameron through to Mr. Ralph. The salient details for each sighting are given in tabular form.

Cameron      AM           Urquhart Bay     20 minutes         long neck and head with 50 yard wake
Mace            1115          Ruskie               30 minutes         eel like object with seal like head
"Sedulous"   1130          nr F.Augustus    seconds?            black hump like upturned boat
Urquhart       1200         Ruskie                5 minutes          duck-like
Ralph            1525         Temple Pier        seconds             semi circular object

Now the first question that naturally arises is whether these are all genuine sightings of the Loch Ness Monster? For the sceptic, the answer is easy. It is "No" at all times and all places, till Loch Ness freezes over again.

For the Nessie advocates, each case has to be judged on its own merits. Three of the cases involved the witness examining the object through a telescope or binoculars, which enhances their credibility (Mace, Urquhart and Ralph). Three cases also were of multi-minute duration, which again allows time to assess the object in view as to whether it is common or uncommon. Based on these factors, I would rank the sightings in order of decreasing credibility as Mace, Urquhart, Cameron, Sedulous and Ralph.

The last, by virtue of the fact that part of the account was obscured, made an assessment more difficult. It is also to be noted that one witness (Urquhart) thought the object looked like a duck. Another (Mace) thought the object looked like a seal (in part). Some sceptics when looking at these phrases will subconsciously replace the phrase "looked like" with "was" and conclude misidentification. This is despite the two objects in question being examined through a telescope or binoculars. Note that this "retranslation" of the text does not carry so well when the other phrases "looked like an eel" or "looked like an upturned boat" are examined.

The Urquhart account is the only one to mention photographs being taken. Two of our accounts involved Mountain men, so one would reasonably presume an attempt to photograph the object was also attempted in the case of Mr. Ralph. Then again, perhaps not, as his report suggests the object was in view for only seconds.

Does the Urquhart photograph exist to this day? Well, five pictures were publicised but individual details of each picture are lacking. This photograph was taken opposite Foyers but the Mountain Expedition pictures I have are inconclusive in determining if any were taken from Ruskie.

Another question that may be asked is whether these could all be the same creature? The answer to that is most likely "No". I say this because the Mace and Sedulous accounts overlap by 15 minutes but are about 8 miles apart. So, if these are monster reports, we have at least two creatures. Furthermore, one could conjecture that the two sightings at Ruskie are the same object (Mace at 1115-1145 and Urquhart at 1200).

Meanwhile, what about the two reports near Urquhart Bay? These were Cameron in the morning and Ralph at 1525. One could speculate that this could be the same creature which appeared to Cameron, swam onto Ruskie for the two sightings and then finished the day back around Urquhart Bay. Yes, I know, sheer speculation, but readers will form their own opinion.

So, it was a busy day on the 24th July 1934 and one doubts it will ever get that busy again. Meanwhile, we look forward to the next year which manages to muster five sightings over 365 days.