Location: Temple Pier, Urquhart Bay
Witnesses: Robert Badger
Type of sighting: Underwater
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
RECENT BLOG POSTS:
More information on last year's sonar contact
New witness corroborates 2011 sighting