Saturday, 21 January 2012

Classic Sightings - Robert Badger

Date: August 8th 1971
Time: afternoon
Location: Temple Pier, Urquhart Bay
Witnesses: Robert Badger
Type of sighting: Underwater

Continuing our classic sightings series, we come to a most unusual encounter. Surface sightings of Nessie are rare, land sightings are even rarer but the rarest encounter of all are those experienced by those under the waters of Loch Ness. Looking back over the history of the loch, perhaps there are three claimed encounters in the last 130 years or so.

The first was in 1880 and (quoting from the book "The Water Horses of Loch Ness"):

An experience by another MacDonald in 1880 was of an altogether different nature and terrifying in the extreme. As a diver, Duncan MacDonald was sent down to investigate a ship that had sunk in the Caledonian Canal entrance at Fort Augustus. Not long after, he sent urgent signals on his line to be immediately brought back to the surface. Shaking and ashen faced, he refused to say what he had seen for several days. When he had sufficiently composed himself, he told the tale of how he had seen a “very odd looking beastie ... like a huge frog” lying on the rock ledge where the wreck was lodged as he examined its hull.

He refused to ever dive in the loch again though it would appear this encounter was where Loch Ness ends and the canal begins.

The other encounter is one I would like to know more on as my information is sketchy and concerns a diver who saw a large serpent like creature slinking away amongst the underwater rocks.

And going further afield there is the famous story from The Scotsman of 25th October 1933 and the divers in Loch Treig who

"came up with terrible stories of the weird creatures they had seen in the underwater caves"


But our main story concerns Robert "Brock" Badger who had an encounter with the Loch Ness Monster whilst swimming in Urquhart Bay on Sunday 8th August 1971. My attention to this exceedingly rare encounter was brought by an old story from the Glasgow Herald (dated 8th March 1999). It was recounting recent events at Loch Ness but Robert's story received the most attention. Intrigued to find out more, I managed to track down Robert and engage in an email conversation which he has kindly given permission to reproduce here today.

THE ENCOUNTER

I first mentioned the Herald article which claimed he had seen and touched the skin of the Loch Ness Monster. His first reply was that he had indeed encountered the beast underwater but

"... the Herald article is nonsense, I certainly did not touch anything. ... The only totally correct story was by dear old Alex Campbell, the water bailiff, in the Inverness Courier on Friday 13th August 1971."

It always pays to talk to the original source where possible and clear up any media hype. We are also gratified to see that only the late Alex Campbell faithfully and honestly recorded the event for the Courier. I say this against the background of those who claim he exaggerated his reports to the Courier at other times.

In fact, I went to the National Library of Scotland to get that article and reproduce it here for your edification.



However, I asked Robert to retell the story (albeit after the passage of forty years) and this is what he said:

Narwhal was to be moored in Urquhart bay. A lump of concrete with a mooring ring was acquired together with a galvanised mooring buoy and chain to attach them together. A group of us took the gear in one of the vans down to Temple Pier from Achnahannet, and as there were no changing facilities at the pier, I travelled kitted out in a wetsuit.

We did the job of placing the mooring, and as the others loaded the tools and dinghy back into the van, I did a bit of snorkelling so the wetsuit did not get ripped on the gear. I swam out from the small floating jetty which was there in those days. A hundred yards or so from the jetty, the floor of the bay suddenly nose-dives into deep water. I had just passed this point and was about 10 or 15 feet below the surface, but was now in deep water and was thinking that I should turn and go back when I saw an object in front of me.

The water is of course full of peat and is like thick tea. As I got closer I could see a top and bottom to the object, but it extended left and right out of my vision. The surface of the object was rough textured and rounded in cross-section. I saw no protuberances in the part I could see. I'm not sure how far from the object I was, maybe 15-20 feet. It was moving from my right to my left, that is towards the main loch. This sounds like a long drawn-out sighting, but in reality it occupied only a couple of seconds. I realised what I was looking at, and decided that I should not be there. I have size 13 feet and my swim flippers are large and strong. I surfaced quickly and made for the pier as fast as I could.

Simon Dinsdale's eye was caught by me surfacing, and he said I was moving so fast that I was aquaplaning on my chest. As I made my way in, I was terrified that I was being chased, but I noticed Mr Menzies' nephews playing in a boat tied to the pier, and his black labrador coming into the water to meet me, so I risked a look back and realised that I was alone.

Simon and the others asked what had happened, and I told them that I had seen something. Later at Achnahannet, I sat down with Tim Dinsdale and completed a sighting report form and he interviewed me on tape. He and David James decided to make the story public, and the press came to Achnahannet and did the interview. This resulted in as many different versions of the story as there were newspapers represented.

A lot of people said that I was too shallow to have seen anything, but when we discussed it, we realised that this is exactly where Nessie would look for fish, as close to the shallows as possible, but still in deep water.

THE ANALYSIS

The Courier account adds that the estimated diameter of the object was about six feet. The Simon Dinsdale mentioned is the son of the famous monster hunter Tim Dinsdale who subsequently interviewed Robert. What Tim Dinsdale said about this encounter also adds some weight to the truth of this testimony as he recounts the tale in a later edition of his book "Loch Ness Monster". His conclusions about the now subdued and troubled Robert were that:

He had made no attempt to publicize his experience, even among the expedition people. At the time he had merely said ‘I thought I saw something underwater’, adding that he ‘wouldn't go back in the water’. As he was in no more than 15-20 feet of water at the time, some felt it was too shallow for the Monster, but I did not consider this to be the case. I was absolutely convinced of Brock’s sincerity, and his ability to describe his experience objectively.

It was later found by sonar that the loch side shelves precipitously at that point and so the beast could patrol close to the shore and yet be in deep water. It is to be noted that the salmon and trout entering and leaving Loch Ness tend to move close to the sides of the loch.

So what can we say about Robert's encounter? Sceptics suggest that he merely saw a tree trunk floating past him. I put this possible explanation to him to which Robert replied:

"As for the idea that I saw a log, well I'm not familiar with six foot diameter logs in GlenUrquhart."

Which we consider a good answer. I would like to read the LNI sighting report and listen to the audio tape interview. In that respect, I ask the current owner(s) of the LNI material how I may achieve this.

Robert could not see the entire length of the creature as its huge size filled his goggles' field of view but based on the six feet diameter and a standard 6 to 7 ratio of total length to diameter gives us a suggested head to tail length of 36 to 42 feet. In other words, a considerable beast and no surprise that Robert beat a hasty retreat back to shore.

However, whether Nessie would have made quick work of Robert is unlikely. The old Water Horses in Loch Ness were certainly labelled as man-eaters and livestock-stealers but the modern Loch Ness Monster has no record of attacking anyone we know of and even if she did, there is no way of proving that a person's disapperance is connected in that way. Mind you, that is easy to say when you are in front of a PC rather than in front of a 40-foot lake monster.

AN IDEA

Quite topically, the recent sonar contact made by Marcus Atkinson (see story) was also made near the spot where Robert had his encounter but at a deeper depth of about 70 feet.

Now since this blog believes the Loch Ness Monster is mainly a benthic/littoral resident (i.e. it frequents the sides and bottom of Loch Ness and not open water) then such encounters come as no surprise. In fact, this is why the road blasting operations of the 1930s and the dumping of debris down the sides of the loch forced the creatures off the sides and bottom into the relative safety of open waters and led to the highest per annum sightings of all time.

It is also ironic that if the creature does stick close to the sides of the loch then it is more difficult to detect with sonar. Perhaps this form of Nessie hunting is not as effective as made out.

Indeed, if it also stays close to the surface (another difficult area for some forms of sonar), we have the somewhat unsettling situation that the creatures could be coasting a mere 10 to 20 feet below the surface and along the sides in opaque peaty water with no one just above being any the wiser to their presence.

As I understand, most divers stick close to the shore of Loch Ness and do not tend to swim out to the hundred yards extent that Robert did. So a suggestion as to a new avenue of monster hunting:

Employ a team of scuba divers to swim and patrol out to 100-200 metres from shore at a depth of 3-7 metres over deep water. Supply them with radio devices back to surface boats so as to maintain a narrative. Arm them with cameras and biopsy darts to collect any samples and then patrol the area looking out for any strange forty foot objects looming at them out of the darkness. Note that biopsy darts/harpoons are not a new idea at Loch Ness. Roy Mackal designed one for attachment to a submarine, but I understand they were never called into action.

So when the creature comes into view, shoot with the biopsy harpoon and head back to the shore ... as fast as you can.

A bit toungue in cheek and I must admit I would not volunteer for all the tea in China, but in theory the idea has some merit. Some might have done the odd foray into the loch but clearly in a loch this size, one would need a lot more than that as the beast could pass 40 feet past you and you would have no idea it was there.

Such is the darkness and mystery that is Loch Ness as Robert Badger found out on that day forty years ago.


POSTSCRIPT

A little extra information on other divers' experiences at Loch Ness. I had completely forgotten about the famous "Beppo the Clown" case in 1959. Beppo aka Jon Newbold was monster hunting as part of a publicity stunt by circus ower Bernard Mills when he was brought up after 10 minutes semi-concious. What he said after hospitalisation has entered the apocryphal (or from his circus' media machine) as tales of bright eyes staring at him from the depths or even a tentacle grabbing him have been mentioned. Betrand Russell in his book "Fact and Fiction" gives us this summary:

John Newhold, aged 31, of Stafford, known as Beppo, the clown; was detained in hospital yesterday alter diving into Loch Ness in a frogman's outfit to try to get evidence about the ‘monster’.

He made a dive lasting ten minutes and surfaced in a semi-concious state. He was taken aboard a yacht belonging to Mr Bernard Mills, the circus proprietor, and recovered partly ater artificial respiration had been applied. Mr Newbold, who was unable to say what had happened while he was underwater, is an experienced high diver and swimmer - he had made several practise dives to a depth of more than 20 feet before yesterday‘s attempt. The water is several hundred feet deep at this part of the loch.

While the Milwaukee Sentinel of 15th August 1959 (these stories get around you know) printed this:



On the matter of the other diver seeing a huge eel-like creature, it seems the diver's name was Michael MacRae and this also may have happened in the 1970s. For now, I know nothing more. Any help here would be appreciated.



RECENT BLOG POSTS:

More information on last year's sonar contact
New witness corroborates 2011 sighting






20 comments:

  1. Excellent work, my friend! Not only a fascinating sighting, but follow up with the witness himself. And so good to hear Mr. Campbell put in a good and accurate light after the way Binns treats him. Great stuff!!

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  2. What an interesting article! Thanks for posting it. Divers and encounters like this in the Loch must be given credibility. I would be hesitant to swim there. Regards.

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  3. Great article with fantastic follow-up and suggestions! I must admit that I have lost a lot of interest in Nessie as lack of sighting, misidentified objects and hoaxes have made me look away, but I have never heard of this sighting and your theories are very intriguing! I think you are right, we have been going about Nessie Hunting all wrong!!!

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  4. Thanks, I added a postscript on the "Beppo" incident.

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  5. an enjoyable read, and it certainly had my pulse racing, however ... I'm a diver in California, and when visibility is 5 feet or less, you literally cannot see beyond 5 feet. Good visibility is 15 feet and that is quite acceptable for viewing, a *huge* difference versus 5 feet (a 15 foot visibility dive is quite enjoyable - a 5 foot visibility dive is awful). Does it ever get to 15 foot visibility in Loch Ness? Even he states the water is "full of peat and is like thick tea" which is how I've heard it described. That doesn't sound like 15 foot visibility - he really should have mentioned that due to it being summer - warm, calm (?) - the visibility was a spectacular (for Loch Ness) 15 feet. Personally, had I been in Loch Ness and saw something large and moving at the very limit of my visibility - heart attack.

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  6. Visibility depends on various factors such as depth and as you say the sun.

    Dick Raynor has performed diving operations in Loch Ness and posted some comments and underwater videos which give an idea of visibility at this link:

    http://www.lochnessinvestigation.com/UWvizLochNess.htm

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  7. Hello GB!

    Your post is only the second time I've encountered an account of the 1880 underwater sighting, which seems to have been largely overlooked in the literature on the subject. I've been going through all my books trying to re-locate the passage I originally saw many years ago, but haven't stumbled back into it yet... perhaps it was in F.W. Holiday's "Great Orm"?

    I'm keen on comparing the texts because, if I recall correctly, in the version I first read MacDonald was quoted as saying "like a huge tadpole" rather than "like a huge frog". Perhaps I'm remembering it wrong, or perhaps the sources disagree?

    Looking forward to getting your book very soon -- from the extracts on the blog I already know it will be a great read.

    Regards,
    Steve

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  8. Steve,

    Henry Bauer's comprehensive sightings log has the 1880 encounter as sourced from Witchell's "Loch Ness Story" and Costello's "In Search of Lake Monsters" but I cannot see it in my PB version of Costello.

    My 1974 HB version of Witchell (which describes it as "frog like) has it and a cursory look at other classic books makes no mention of it. So, I would guess that Witchell picked it up as a local story either from Constance Whyte or another source.

    Where did you find the "tadpole" description?

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    1. Ah - found it! The 1975 paperback of Witchell, pages 17 and 18. But my memory went astray, as it indeed says "frog" and agrees with your text. It does have an additional line that says Duncan's account began: "he had been examining the keel of the ship when he saw a large animal lying on the rock shelf" followed by the "odd looking beastie" and "huge frog" remarks.

      Either way the comparison is to an amphibian, and the slightly earlier surface sightings Witchell mentions call it a salamander, or "great salamander".

      It seems amphibians were the earliest contenders for an identification of the animal, but weren't much discussed again until Mackal came to the same conclusion almost 100 years later.

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    2. Yes, I also believe Gould was into newts! But then the plesiosaur arrived to swallow all contenders. I think the amphibian theory has a lot of merit but it would be unlike any amphibian science knows about.

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    3. So many extinct amphibian candidates though. For example, flip the jpg of this beastie 180 degress: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balanerpeton. Then put it next to the zoomed-in Heron-Allen version of the Hugh Gray photo. Amazing similarity (except for the buggy frog eyes of course). But then Nessie's eyes might well have atrophied for lack of use in the dark waters of Loch Ness. By the way, I'm still assimilating your intriguing analysis of the Gray photo, and the revelation the head was there all the time - great stuff!

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    4. nessie looks like a frog but bessie and no name look like a giant tadpole-trust ive done my research with my friends at school

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  9. Hi Everyone, great to read about Beppo the Clown from Stafford uk. He is my Dad who sadly died in 1993.

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    1. No problem, did your Dad add anything else to this story?

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  10. I still don't believe that this monster exists. The Loch Ness is a wonderful place for holidays, though. It offers great landscapes and opportunities for adventurous activities.

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    1. you are crazy if you dont think they are real-i might be 10 but they are real

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  11. great work , i just came across this and love these sightings. im from niagara falls and spent 10 days on loch ness two years back. i met adrian shine and a nessie eye witness named dave monroe of foyers, steve feltham was away. keep the good work coming !! cheers ! jordan

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  12. Well, I have now come to the conclusion that a giant, long-necked, neotenous amphibian would probably be the best candidate, for the Loch Ness Monster. However, there is still just one problem, for the amphibian theory. And that is the fact that amphibians cannot live in saltwater. And the first Loch Ness Monsters must have swam into Loch Ness, back when it was still an arm of the ocean, during the last Ice Age.

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    1. How about an amphibious type fish?

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  13. In my opinion, one of the many eye-witness accounts that can't be debunked! Quite a terrifying encounter actually and I bet his sleep was troubled for some time afterwards as a result.

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