Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Up at the Loch again

About six weeks after my day trip to Loch Ness, it was time for a longer visit to Britain's largest stretch of freshwater. We pitched up at the Foyers campsite where we have been going for a number of years now and always found a great place to stay. That site is up for sale and we wish Donald and Lyn Forbes well in their retirement and hope the good work continues under new ownership.

Now I do not normally go up north in July as I anticipate a surge of tourism crowds and it is generally hotter for moving around. As it turned out the crowds did not turn up and it looked more like May than July to me. Well, a lot of foreign tourists did not make the trip this year and the staycation people may have gone abroad in bigger numbers than I thought. 

As usual, I took a walk along Foyers beach to take in the views but also this year with a task in mind; as will be explained later. Back in the tent as the sun descended, I read my usual chapter from Ted Holiday's 1968 book, "The Great Orm of Loch Ness". The chapter was "Foyers at Sunrise" which describes Holiday's first trip to the loch in August 1962, a spartan affair in an old van with fishing rods and frying pans which ended with Holiday catching his first sight of the creature from Upper Foyers. 

The "orm" was down below in a small estuary beside the old aluminium works, but today I wondered if there was any chance of recreating that view due to the surge in growth of the intervening trees and other foliage. That depends where Holiday was standing, but the loch is not as accessible as it was sixty years ago.

One thing to check on this initial walk was that curious depressed area of grass I had found almost exactly a year before. The first photo shows what this large area looked like then and the second what it looks like now. Clearly some large weight had laid upon it a year ago and at some point it recovered its normal position. Actually, it looked a bit threadbare compared to last year. No worries, I jokingly mused, Nessie's toxic slime must have killed them off.

The following day, the hot and humid conditions continued as we took a leisurely drive up to Inverness, stopping at various points to watch the loch and consuming Pot Noodle for lunch. This was what is traditionally considered, "Nessie Weather", though how much of this is due to monsters or humans is unclear. More people are looking at the loch in good weather and the surface conditions are far less choppy, though there was a cooling breeze travelling up the loch.

In Inverness, we visited some bookshops and took in the reopened Museum. It has to be said that books on the Loch Ness Monster are hard to find in the largest centre of population just eight miles from the loch - apart from the usual kids' books. Even a visit to the well stocked Leakey's Secondhand bookshop had nothing. No Holiday, no Dinsdale, no Whyte or Gould (though their Abebooks account did have two Whyte books). But go online and you will find everything you need.

The next day we did a circuit of the entire loch from Foyers, through Fort Augustus, Drumnadrochit and back down via Dores. Stopping at Kilchuimen for supplies, I had one task which involved walking along the River Oich. There is a path you can take which lies tight between the river and the petrol station. Just remember to bring a machete at this time of year. Once the towering but derelict bridge arch came into view, I remembered Ricky Phillips.

I wondered if the branch he had photographed about two and a half years ago and palmed off as the monster was still there? Yes, it was as the photo below demonstrates. It is right in the centre and the zoom in shows it more clearly. As it turned out, the focus of this trip was all about famous hoax pictures.

Once we were back at base, there was work to be done. The waders were donned and the Garrett Ace 250 metal detector was taken out of the car boot. What has this to do with the Loch Ness Monster you may ask? The answer is the Surgeon's Photograph and the alleged toy submarine employed by Marmaduke Wetherell. Back in March, I had written an article suggesting that the site for this hoax was the western end of the beach at Foyers which I had walked along many a time. 

There was therefore two questions to answer. Did Wetherell leave any pieces of the toy sub when he crushed it underfoot and how detectable would such fragments be today, eighty seven years on? My assumption was that it was a long shot that anything would be found, but there was only one way to find out and start metal detecting.

Since I was searching in the waters of the loch, there was no need to seek the permission of the owner of the beach. Fortunately, the Garrett detector is waterproof up to the control unit at the top. That gave me a couple of feet of water to work with. Since Ian Wetherell stated that his father had stepped on the sub as the water bailiff approached, it did not sound like too deep a waters.

I must admit I felt like that chap, Gary Drayton, from one of my favourite programmes, "The Curse of Oak Island". Would I manage that "top pocket find" and draw the curtain on the infamous picture? As I kicked off and swept the coil above the submerged rocks, the detector began buzzing almost right away. The rocks underfoot are quite big on this beach, going up to a foot across, so it was more about moving rocks than digging.

I reached down into the now cloudy waters and moved the rocks, retried the coil, gathering up handfuls of gravel for testing until I pulled up a very rusty sliding bolt latch. This was followed by hits on some metal bars, a door hinge and a fly tackle. The Gary Drayton effect had moved more onto what some of these objects were. They would send them off to a specialist blacksmith, I had to make my own educated guesses.

I suspect some of this was related to farming equipment, as the fields above used to be farmland. Fragments may have made their way down the hill from the fields above and kids just picked them up and threw them into the loch over the years and decades. How old the items were was not clear. But their thickness certainly helped preserve them over the years. What was also surprising was that they were buried under quite large rocks. I just expected those rocks to not move and things to lie on top.

So nothing related to the Wetherell hoax found, but I did not cover all the possible areas. After such a long time, my expectation was that perhaps the wind up motor unit would survive the longest, but of course, we do not know what was left behind as the Wetherells headed back to London. But all in all, it was a worthwhile exercise.

The next day, everything was packed up and we slowly headed back south. The weather was brilliant throughout, I had also done some reconnaissance on where to place trap cameras on our next visit and the metal detector as a device performed beyond my expectation, though what else one could employ it for in Loch Ness research is not so clear. Any ideas are invited.

As an aside, I listened to some of Scott Mardis' "Haunted Sea" chats on the "Monster X" podcasts in my tent in the evening. I would recommend his interview with veteran Nessie hunter, Henry Bauer and his chat with Ken Gerhard here. All good stuff.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Monday, 28 June 2021

A Sighting from 1987


Here is an sighting which I came across on the Unexplained Mysteries Forum which had been there for nine years - I wish I had found it earlier. The original link is here and I pull together the posts of the witness, who appears to be named Catherine Ross.

I've joined this forum to share (and hopefully receive explanatory feedback) on a sighting myself and my then husband had of something in Loch Ness in the late summer of 1987. At the time, we were both baffled and perplexed by what we saw, and acknowledged that it was something neither of us could identify rationally. Of course, we were familiar with the legendary 'monster', but the creature we viewed didn't really conform to what I've ever expected 'Nessie' to look like - it certainly did not look like a plesiosaur with a long, thin neck. Anyway, we were holidaying in Inverness and took a trip to the Loch purely for its beautiful, highland views. We were walking long a road which runs alongside the Loch in the vicinity of Dores, where we stopped at a little layby which overlooked the Loch (there was no beach, just a steep incline to the water). It was, if I recall correctly, about four o'clock in the afternoon (although it might have been earlier) and the weather was fine and dry. We were watching the water and looking across the Loch for about ten minutes when we spotted what I took to be a horse swimming off to the right. My first response was panic/worry that a horse would be out in deep water (I thought about 100ft out, although I'm awful with distances). We observed for a while, trying to work out what we were seeing, which is as follows:

A big horse's or camel's head on a thick neck sticking up out of the water with a rounded hump a little behind. The colouring looked black or very, very dark and, like a horse, there was some fuzzy, mane-like stuff sticking up and running down its back. It was moving forward, from the right of our vision to the left, fairly rapidly. We couldn't distinguish facial features or the like. After a minute or so, the head curved downwards into the water (as though diving) and a black, tube-like body followed it, as though the neck just kept going. A few seconds later a fluke-like appendage emerged and then quickly sank down, in a way that reminded me of a whale's tail going under. There was a far amount of spray and disturbed water. Whatever it was did not look like a dinosaur or plesiosaur, and was rather slimy and unpleasant looking.

As you can imagine, this experience was all very confusing, and we mentioned it to the people we were staying with in Inverness, who seemed interested but didn't take it too seriously. They thought perhaps we'd seen a deer. We never reported the sighting to anyone official (heck, we'd have had no idea how to do so) and it's just been a fairly interesting anecdote we've told family and friends whenever a programme about Loch Ness popped up on TV. We had a camera with us at the time, but, stupidly in retrospect, the moment we noticed the creature and stared (both trying to work out what we were seeing) and the moment it went under the water, all happened so quickly that it didn't cross our minds that it was something possibly connected with the mystery and worth photographing. Has anyone else ever had a similar sighting? Is there a natural explanation for this horsey creature? Any thoughts or opinions are warmly welcomed.

So perhaps August or September 1987 and Catherine is recounting events 25 years later in 2012. Naturally, some details will be less sharp when recalled after so long. My first question was where this exactly happened - near Dores, a layby with no beach below a steep incline. There is a layby with a steep incline just south of Dores, but there is a pebble beach below. If one goes any further south, grass fields begin to impose between the road and shoreline.

I wondered if she had misremembered this or foliage prevented her seeing a beach? Perhaps some local can clarify here. The replies came as others chipped in with questions and comments. In the absence of a sketch, she posted some animal photos best describing what she saw: "If anything, these pictures look closest to what we saw"

We have had a good number of eyewitnesses describe this merhorse kind of event, albeit, one should imagine these animals in the photos without ears to get a better sense of what was seen and a thinner head. She goes on to say:

Everyone we spoke with at the time was sure we'd seen a swimming deer, but even at the time I recall being convinced that wasn't what it had been. Another problem is scale - I'm not good at judging that kind of thing at the best of times, but when there was nothing else in the water, the thing could have been anything from 5ft to 10ft to 30ft - I couldn't hazard a guess. The thing I thought looked like a fluke could have been a flipper or anything - it definitely appeared at the back part of the submerging animal for a few seconds, though. I should be frank, it was an experience which at the time was perplexing and interesting, but we didn't 'do' anything about it, and I've never really thought about it that much (the trip being replete with other very natural fond memories!). It's only after reading about other people's experiences I started to think 'hey. I saw something strange back then - but it wasn't anything like what other folk have seen!'. Perhaps we did spot a monster back then, and there's a plethora of completely different looking beasties out there!

Catherine initially suggested a distance of 100 feet out, which is very close for a monster sighting. This should make length estimates easier, but what length is being described? That which is out of the water or a composite length based on parts seen throughout the event? Apart from deer, one could tentatively suggest a grey seal which has a more pronounced snout than the harbour seal, though she discounts a seal explanation further down. Some posted a drawing of an artist's impression of the cryptid cadborosaurus which reminded her of the creature, that picture is at the top of this article. 

I should also add, that nothing I've come across (and I've spent - or wasted - some time today looking this up) in terms of reported sightings of the Loch Ness monster seem to match or come close to whatever we saw. Similarly, nothing on any TV shows I've seen over the years ever sounded like it. It was nothing like a plesiosaur, or sturgeon, or whale, or dinosaur, or otter and there was no graceful swan-neck or flippers. In fact, a 'swimming deer' probably comes closer than all those things, without being right. For all intents and purposes, what we both saw and said at the time (and what I still remember) looked like nothing so much as a slimy horse, way out of its depth and with fishy bits.

On another note, I've spoken to my ex (on the subject of the Scottish trip my friends are taking) and raised the subject. From what he recalls (without my prompting), he saw a horsey head on an big eel with a fish-tail. The fish-tail is, I suppose, as similar as one can get to my memory of the whale's tail. The eel part I've never thought about, as I'm not in any way familiar with eels. Perhaps others can let us know if there are big eels with anatomy like the thing I've described (a horse shaped head and fish or whale tail).

A horse like head on an elongated eel like body with a fluke tail at the end. Again, our monster defies easy correlation with known species of aquatic animals, no matter how much we inflate their sizes to bring them up to Loch Ness Monster proportions. But what resemblance does this have to the long neck sightings which describe a head which is almost no head but rather a continuation of the neck? Indeed, some sightings are almost just like poles sticking out of the water. Are those a different part of the animal or a different stage in development of the creature? Your guess is as good as mine.

if the animal was a horse (or deer) swimming (and it would have to have been been a fairly large specimen of either), it would have to be very dark and very dead afterwards (as we watched for some time after the thing submerged and nothing reappeared in the vicinity). The picture of the swimming horse with the dolphin following was very interesting, however - as this at least captured the sense of movement, which I would describe as wormy (if that makes sense). Is it possible a horse could have been swimming and dragged down by a big eel or some other big fish with a fluke or fish-tail? As I've also said, there were no ears that I can recall either seeing or mentioning at the time. If it was a seal, it would have to have had a long, thick neck which continued to a similar, tubular body.

Catherine posted some sketches of what she saw, but unfortunately nine years on, the site hosting these images has gone AWOL and they are no longer visible. Since she has not posted for nine years and moved on, it would probably require her to do another search for the monster to perhaps find this site and then email me those sketches. But all in all, an interesting sighting by two eyewitnesses which is thought provoking and adds to the merhorse genre.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Thursday, 17 June 2021

Old Posters from the 1970s


I spotted this Nessie poster on eBay last week and bought it for about a fiver. I think people are more likely to call them infographics these days, but I had never seen it before and so it joins the Loch Ness Monster memorabilia collection that has grown in size over the decades. It is entitled "The Eigh-Uisge of Loch Ness" which is a reference to the old Gaelic for "Water Horse".

The text of the poster looks like it has the influence of famed monster hunter, Tim Dinsdale, all over it as he is quoted on the mystery, two frames from his 1960 film and the artist's impression of the creature looks like it is taken from his works. The 1972 flipper photo and sonar graphics are included but not the subsequent pictures taken by Robert Rines and the AAS from 1975. To that we can add the classic MacNab, Wilson and Lowrie pictures.

In answer to the question, "Where is your scientific evidence?", Dinsdale tells us it was a question no one would bother asking by 1973. Unfortunately, he did not see what would come to pass as the sceptical era ensued within a decade. What exactly Tim was thinking prior to his death in 1987 was probably more sanguine, albeit still positive towards there being a monster in the loch. 

Everything you see in this poster has been panned by the sceptics, I agree with some of it, but not all. The poster is a product of its time and would look a lot different today. But where did this poster come from? The answer came from noting that the copyright lay with Canon Records. A quick Internet search revealed this poster was an insert for a vinyl LP record pressed in 1975 entitled "Come to Scotland".

This was a collection of traditional and popular songs from Scotland which was a promotional tourist item. Yet alongside "I Love a Lassie" and "Flower of Scotland" was a poster about the Loch Ness Monster. Well, it was something designed to get people to visit Scotland, but it seems a suitable song about the monster was harder to find. The LP is described at this link.

On the general theme of Loch Ness posters, the classic one for me is still "The Facts about Loch Ness and the Monster" first published in 1977. The folded product unfolds into a nice 3-D map of the Loch Ness basin surrounded by various images and text boxes. 

Around the same time the first poster was produced was another which I have owned since 1975 and that was simply titled "The Loch Ness Monster" published by Phoebus. This expanded into a large poster of Sir Peter Scott's well known "Courtship at Loch Ness" painting. It also included the Wilson and Flipper photos and two of Frank Searle's productions.

Moving on, we have another item called "Loch Ness - An Illustrated Guide" which is a simpler item and has more to say about the loch and its sight with a section for the monster. This has no sensational photos of the creature and I would date it to around 1970.

Another poster which came to light after the first version of this article came from David from Canberra, Australia. He told me he bought this A2 sized poster back in 1977 published by the Aberdeen Press & Journal newspaper called "The Strange History of the Loch Ness Monster". He sent me a picture of it included below. Like the poster above, it also features a 3-D type map of the loch and shares some of the well known photos but includes the 1975 AAS pictures. The text is fairly standard stuff but I wonder about that Peter Scott like rendition of Nessie but with a flared newt-like tail?

Finally, it is no surprise that Frank Searle got involved in this type of product as he had a portfolio of monster pictures that were ideal material for a poster. So he collaborated with a Graham Forbes and the result was entitled "Loch Ness - The Hidden Facts" and is shown below. I thought I owned this and then I recalled I balked at paying the eBay price of thirty quid. Perhaps I was wrong, but I copied the images on the auction for future use.

If you know of any other poster products from the 1970s or any other time, let me know.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Monday, 7 June 2021

Day Trip to Loch Ness


Things had to be shorter this time around at Loch Ness, so I resolved to jump in the car and head up north about 8am, arriving at Inverfarigaig just over three hours later. The Scottish Government had lifted the coronavirus lockdown a few weeks before allowing travel across the mainland for most everyone. The weather was overall pretty good, considering more rain was forecast.

The first and main task was to pick up the various trap cameras that had been surveying the loch since September. Now is generally a good time to take them back home before the tourist season gets in full swing and various kids and so on begin to explore the fringes of the lochside. When I got back and reviewed them, it was evident that one problem had been solved.and that was the issue of high trigger wave events.

Basically, trap cameras were not made for looking at shorelines, they were made for viewing trees and fields.  Any decent incoming wave can trigger the camera and this can go on for days, taking hundreds of pictures a day until the memory card is filled up in a few weeks and the camera shuts down with five months of surveillance still left.

The only viable solution was to set the interval period between triggers much higher. This is the period of time when the camera turns off monitoring for the specified time. This used to be one minute, but it is now set to sixty minutes. That means a maximum of about 36 pictures per day (three per trigger) or 7500 over seven months. As it turned out, the most was about 2,000 on one SD card, since a lot of days are quiet with no triggers.

Of course, this means a compromise or trade-off as the creature could swan past during one of those sixty minute intervals and we would be none the wiser. However, I think that is better than 10,000 pictures of waves over four weeks and then nothing. As it turned out, the multitude of images checked revealed nothing of a cryptid nature, another blank drawn this season past. But this should not be a surprise.

Again, consider the odds we are fighting against. The cameras can trigger on boats, canoes and surfers up to 20 metres away. An arc of sensitivity of about 120 degrees gives us an sweep area of  about 420 square metres. But how big is the surface area of Loch Ness? The answer is about 56,000,000 square metres. So if we say the creature randomly surfaces once a day (an average 12 hour period of daylight), the odds of it surfacing in our arc of detection is 133,333 to 1 against. 

Let us say this single per day surfacing proceeds over six months of surveillance or 182 days. The odds then drop to a mere 732 to 1 against. In other words,you still don't bet the house on it. If you have five cameras on the lochside simultaneously, then the odds drop further to 146 to 1 against. The overall impression you may get is that in 146 years, you will finally get the clinching photographs. Clearly, I am not going to wait around that long.

So, you either massively increase the camera count or be more strategic in where you place the cameras. Increasing cameras is a task proportional to the number of cameras. There comes a point where it becomes too cumbersome, but there is no reason not to increase them by some reasonable amount. Strategic placements may prove a more valuable tactic.

For example, where the cameras currently get placed may be less conducive to monster surfacings if they are over too shallow waters. Perhaps it is more likely to snap the creature over an area where it shelves more rapidly. Or perhaps beside the mouths of rivers where fish congregate and the monsters have long been held to seek out such prey? There are various possibilities, but for now I was limited to snapping passing objects such as these below. You can see from the height of the person that a ten foot hump would occupy a very desirable quarter or more of the horizontal line of the image.

Having collected all cameras safely, I indulged in some good old fashioned monster hunting by watching the loch for that disturbing of the water that could signify something large and alive was stirring. I then drove over to Foyers Power Station to walk around that area, taking in the old Frank Searle site, the 5 Megawatt Power Station and the discharge of water from it that creates a swirl of colliding water as it enters the loch further along. A walk nearby on the spit of land at Foyers Estuary allowed some beach combing and thinking ahead to the next visit. 

After this I drove up to Dores and walked along the southward beach again watching, musing and scouring as the sun came out to shine upon us. I stumbled upon some anglers and chatted as I watched them land a decent sized brown trout. Looks like dinner was sorted out. I asked jokingly if they had tried to land anything of monstrous proportions. Hmm, nothing like that! But no fishermen stories of the big ones that got away, no outsized eels either.

I then walked up the beach to say hello to Steve Feltham at his home on the beach. I complimented him on getting that big story on the sonar contact into the media and we discussed that and its implications for a while. Despite the obvious drawbacks of Covid-19 on the area, it had actually been a good year for Steve in that the area was a lot more peaceful. I could understand that right away as some mopeds drove to within a few feet of us, you could hardly hear yourself think!

I would point out that Steve must be almost at his thirtieth year at the loch since he arrived in 1991. So well done to him on the continued search at the loch. With that, I had a spot of dinner at the Dores Inn and then motored back down south to Edinburgh. I hope to be back at the loch no later than August and for longer than just a day trip.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Friday, 28 May 2021

Charles Wyckoff on the Loch Ness Monster

Long time Nessie fans will be aware of Charles Wyckoff and his association with the Loch Ness hunt in the 1970s along with his friend, Harold Edgerton. Charles was best known for his work on high speed photography from the 1950s onwards and had worked with Edgerton on various projects such as photographing the Pacific atomic bomb tests.

However, it was in the 1970s that Edgerton brought him in to help out with the 1975 Academy of Applied Science led by Robert Rines. Edgerton had expertise in stroboscopic and sonar work and wanted Wyckoff to help integrate underwater photography with this into a complete sonar triggered set up at Loch Ness. The results were of course controversial and misinterpreted in part, but the technical contribution of Wyckoff could be less criticized. For example, it was Wyckoff who, using the light levels in various photos, estimated that the 1975 AAS "body" pictures was 25 feet away.

In this interview with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1995,  he talks about his involvement with the AAS, though a large portion of the talk focuses on the work to get two dolphins trained to take cameras down into the loch. That project never bore fruit when one of the dolphins died. Wyckoff himself died a few years later in 1998.

The link to the interview can be found at this link and the ten minute portion on the Monster begins about forty and a half minutes in. Thanks to Thomas Eitler who pointed me to the video.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Monday, 17 May 2021

The Lancashire Policeman who saw the Monster


Here is a sighting report that is new to me which recently appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post (link). It dipped into its archives to retrieve this account from 86 years ago and from which the illustration above was taken. I reproduce the text below.

Lancashire police chief spotted the Loch Ness Monster

Officer on holiday when he saw a creature in the Scottish loch

In August 1935, when the holiday season was at its height, one of Preston’s most prominent citizens journeyed to Scotland and returned to town with an astonishing tale. At that time the policing of Preston was carried out by the Preston Borough Police Force, under the guidance of the Chief Constable J P Ker Watson, who had been in charge for 20 years. That summer Watson packed his suitcase and headed for Scotland, in particular the area around Inverness.

During his vacation he drove along the road from Fort Augustus to Inverness and halted at the 13 miles to Inverness sign post, near to a castle on the shore of the famous Loch Ness. What he observed from his vantage point was to make the following headline in the Lancashire Evening Post - ‘The ‘Monster’ Of Loch Ness - Appears before Preston’s Chief Constable’. At that period of time the search for the Loch Ness Monster was a frenzied one with innumerable sightings and the Chief Constable had been told to look out for the creature as he ventured into Loch Ness territory.

He was keen to tell a Post reporter how he had seen a head and humps moving above the water, almost a mile from the shore. He estimated the length of the creature as between 25 and 30 feet with a relatively small head and very large bumps. Keen to record his sighting, he had done a rough sketch which the Post cartoonist Furnival happily reproduced for inclusion in the newspaper. He told the reporter he felt it was not unreasonable that a creature could survive in the deep waters, with vegetation in abundance on the bottom of the lake.

The Chief Constable then relating how many of the locals were convinced the monster did exist and thought it quite conceivable that such a creature could have come up into the loch and stayed there. With hundreds continually flocking to Loch Ness, hoping to catch a sight of the creature, it had boosted tourism in Inverness, but he felt the locals did not have any ulterior motive for publicising their monster’s existence. It seems Preston’s senior policeman was not the only Chief Constable who believed in the existence of ‘Nessie’, because in 1938 the Chief Constable of Inverness penned a letter stating that it was beyond doubt that the monster existed. He was at the time concerned over reports that a hunting party were about to descend on Loch Ness armed with harpoon guns and were determined to catch the creature ‘dead or alive’.

Sporadic sightings continued for some 30 years and in 1963 a film of the creature was taken on the loch – but from some five kilometres distance it was of poor quality. Some of the most infamous photos of the monster were taken by Lancashire man Frank Searle, who moved to Loch Ness in 1969 living in a tent looking for definitive proof of its existence. When his photos were published in 1972 it caused a worldwide sensation, before they were eventually exposed as fakes. Searle moved back to Fleetwood and lived out his years in relative anonymity in the port.

Now I have no idea whether this 13 miles signpost still exists. I would hazard a guess with the use of Google maps that the place he saw the beast was perhaps a mile north of the entrance to Temple Pier, which is on the opposite side of Urquhart Bay from the Castle. The object was a mile away from him and the fact that the improvised map in the illustration suggests it was between the castle and the distant monastery at Fort Augustus means he was more or less looking south down the loch.

Of course, Fort Augustus Abbey is not visible from Urquhart Bay and the map is rather idealized. You would think, looking at the map, that the monastery was on the other side of the loch from the Castle. Now as to the sketch of the monster, there are some issues which point to artistic licence. For example, no one is going to make out those eyes at one mile distance. But then again, for those who may suggest he saw a bird, I don't think birds are very visible at all at that distance.

The statement that there is an abundance of vegetation at the bottom of the loch is a wild guess and false. There is nothing but silt at the dark floor of the loch. Quite why the police officer thought the beast did not rather live off fish is a bit of a puzzle. However, the idea that the beast may have been a visitor who decided to stay in the loch had more merit. The estimate of 25 to 30 feet is a pretty standard monster size, though when such statements are made, one is never quite certain if the eyewitness is trying to include any invisible features such as a tail.

So, another sighting for the record, albeit a bit lacking in detail. The original article can be found on the British Newspaper Archive. If I renew my subscription, I will update this article.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

One of the Silliest Nessie Theories

I was recently contacted by Sean Murphy from the Scottish newspaper, the Daily Record, regarding a "novel" theory about what the Loch Ness Monster may be. Was it giant eels or some new variant of the plesiosaur or something new to excite debate and discussion? Well, if you think whale penises can generate discussion, you have your answer. The article from the paper says:

'Loch Ness Monster just a Whale Penis' theory is 'mostly false' says internet fact-checking site

A recent article by Snopes.com looked at one of the strangest theories over what Nessie could be.

Over the years, sightings and photographs of the Loch Ness Monster have been attributed to everything from toy submarines and floating logs to giant eels or even a surviving prehistoric plesiosaur. However, one of the latest theories to emerge on the internet might be the most bizarre one yet, even prompting the fact-checking website Snopes.com to investigate in a bid to clear things up.

A post on the popular site headlined "Is the Loch Ness Monster Just a Whale Penis?", added that the strange online theory is "more plausible than it might appear". Focusing on the famous Surgeon's photograph, reportedly taken by surgeon Robert Kenneth Wilson in the 1930s, the theory, which appeared online earlier this year, compares the pic with another one taken of a similarly shaped whale penis rising from the water.

The bizarre theory is based on a study by a team of researchers, which was published in a paper in the Archives of Natural History and speculated that many accounts of large mysterious sea creatures with a “serpent-like tail” were actually a large baleen whale and its “snake-like penis”. They added that other accounts could be attributed to the male members of certain whale species which can be at least 1.8 metres long and are sometimes spotted rising from the water during mating.

However, Snopes stated that the famous photo of Nessie couldn't be, as it was a confirmed hoax, but added that it's possible that other sea serpent and Nessie sightings throughout history may have been misidentified whale penises. The team at Snopes summarised: "While the famous picture of the Loch Ness Monster certainly wasn’t a case of mistaken whale-penis identity, and while whale-penis sightings probably can’t explain every sea serpent sighting throughout history, it is plausible that some of these 'sea serpents' were attached to the bottom of a whale."

Considering the fact that Loch Ness is technically landlocked, fresh water and the biggest mammals regularly spotted there are seals, it seems the whale theory cannot be applied to Nessie. Famous Nessie Hunter Steve Feltham is happy to rule out the theory that whales could have been mistaken for the famous Scottish monster, he said: "I have lived on the shoreline of Loch Ness for over 30 years, watching and waiting for for a glimpse of one of the animals that are reported to live in here.

"I have never seen a whale in Loch Ness, and one hundred percent believe that I never will.

"One thing that I can do after all these years of investigation is cross whales off the list of possible explanations."

While author Roland Watson, who runs the Loch Ness Mystery blog, added that even if whales did make an appearance in Loch Ness then long necks emerging from the water would only be seen during the whale mating season, however, sightings of long necks are reported all year round.

Now it is apparent that this theory was originally suggested for cases of sea serpent sightings and we could give some credence to that, but inevitably it got linked with Nessie. One could give various answers to this. Steve Feltham gave the straight answer, there are no whales in Loch Ness. It has to be said that some such as Roy Mackal and the recent book by Ken Gerhard have suggested ancient whales as a candidate for the monster, but I am sure they did not have this in mind when they formulated those ideas.

If there was a whale in Loch Ness, we would soon know about it as it blew water into the air and generally splashed about. The recent story of the young Minke Whale which got quite far up the River Thames in London shows that they can travel quite far inland, but to their detriment. Getting through the tighter, shallower River Ness is a different proposition to the huge Thames.

That would settle it, but I added my own geeky kind of answer that long neck sightings are reported all year round, whereas this genital spectacle would be confined to the mating season for whales, which I understand is confined to the colder months of the year, but involves long scale migration to the equator.

So, yes, it is a silly theory which is entirely false and not "mostly false" and we can ignore it. But I know some of you will be asking the question, perhaps it is the male organ of the Loch Ness Monster? Well, that all really depends on what the Loch Ness Monster is, doesn't it? But I somehow doubt that this organ can reach the dimensions we require if it belongs to a thirty foot creature.

What more can one say?

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com