Friday, 8 November 2013

The Gordon Holmes Expeditions

Those familiar with the Loch Ness Monster scene will have heard of Gordon Holmes. Back in 2007, his two minute footage of something strange and eel like in Loch Ness caught the imagination of the world's media. I covered some stills from that day here.

But Gordon wasn't there on a tourist jaunt, for that was his fifth trip to the loch in a series of expeditions to hunt down the Monster of Loch Ness. I have been in touch with Gordon since I met him for the first time at the Edinburgh Symposium in April. Having brought me up to date on his activities, I now detail them here.

The summary of his trips is shown below to give you the overview of what Gordon has been up to in the last ten years.
2003 -2004: Search the loch using binoculars and camcorder
2005–2007: Underwater search using Hydrophone & tape recorder.    
26th May 2007: Captured two minutes video footage of 2 creatures.    
2008–2010: Radio controlled sonar and hydrophone boats
2011: Radio controlled boat with cam and sonar.
2012: Underwater Cam towed by Radio Control boat.
2013: Helium Balloons lifts cam 80 ft above loch

Gordon says the results have been mixed. Unusual dark shapes were seen in the first two years though he puts that down to windrows and similar phenomena. As Gordon told me:

Visual results (apart from the 2007 sighting) were difficult to interpret due to the distances involved and the general fuzzy shapes etc due to waves, lighting conditions, unpredictable winds and tourist boat wakes.

Some sounds were recorded from the hydrophone experiments. The image below shows the hydrophone signature of a tourist boat. Although his self-built hydrophones performed well, the main problem became apparent. In his own words:

However, the problem was the noise pollution from the tourist boats' propellers and their sonar. Plus a low frequency hum from the Power Station at Foyers. After about 5 years, I gave up on this research since any animate sounds would be virtually indiscernible due to the background noise pollution. The only solution to this would be to monitor in the middle of the night and record around the corner of Urquhart Bay away from the power station low-frequency hum.

Two images are further shown from the sonar experiments Gordon conducted over 2008-2011. Gordon stated:

The sonar results (based on my equipment) were very encouraging with several unusual yet solid contacts obtained. Also, I received permission from a few boat owners to monitor their sonar displays and once again I obtained a few convincing solid contacts.

Obtaining these images is, of course, only half the job - interpreting them is the other task. He quotes Dick Raynor as suggesting the second image seen at 65 feet is that of poacher's net support. When I asked him if he had the chance to go back and inspect this area again, he did, but his boat broke down and he had to abandon the operation!

But let us move onto Gordon's novel approach for his expedition this year.  The modus operandi was to attach a spy pen and suspend it over the loch with helium filled balloons. The Aberdeen Press and Journal publicised this in an article dated September 9th and you can see Gordon showing the small spycam he used for the experiments.

Here is the "SKYNESS" project in Gordon's own words.

Hovering about 80 foot above Loch Ness, a tiny camcorder monitors signs of water disturbances. Like a Golden Eagle, the spy in the sky is carried aloft by 10 helium filled foil balloons. This is the latest project by Loch Ness Investigator, Gordon Holmes from Shipley, West Yorkshire. On paper the idea sounds crazy but, surprisingly the results have been amazing. During the last ten years, Mr Holmes has visited the loch armed with sonar, hydrophones, underwater and surface cameras mounted on radio controlled boats. His intention is to record any unusual activities or obtain proof of unknown creatures. 

Originally, I had hoped to drag the cluster of balloons plus cam around the loch using a radio controlled boat, but the winds are so unpredictable. Within minutes, the wind direction can change by 180 degrees. During my first launch attempt, two balloons exploded when blown onto the local sharp rocks. However, by the third attempt on the final day the conditions were perfect to launch. The spy in the sky cam produced better results than previously expected. Duration of the flight was 40 minutes although, the camcorder is capable of 90 minutes recording time.

The main difficulty is turbulent wind causing the SkyNess system to swirl, thus blurring the images obtained. As long as wind-levels remain below 3 knots, the system is capable of discerning any creature surfacing, obviously to observe the strange cluster of balloons. As far as I am aware, this is the first attempt to search for Nessie using the principle of a kite, involving helium filled balloons and a miniaturised cam. Now the system has proved itself, hopefully, future missions will record any unusual activity on the Loch. 

Gordon would like to thank Borlum Farm, Drumnadrochit, for providing access to their loch ness shore side property for his research during the past few years. The first picture shows the balloon rig while the second picture is a picture of Urquhart Bay below taken by the cam from 80 feet up.

The next picture is a view from the cam back down to the jetty from where it was launched.

The setup was working well and it was down to Nessie to put in an appearance. That part is pretty much beyond the control of any monster hunter but Gordon sent me one picture to show what the elevated camcorder was capable of. The image below is taken over water which has a depth of 3 to 12 feet and the objects you can see are sunken driftwood and other rubbish. 

This at least demonstrates that objects can be seen below the water surface though (in my opinion), any monster would have to be swimming quite close to the surface to emerge from the opacity of the peat stained water.

So that is Gordon's monster hunting results to date and I am sure monster hunters everywhere will wish him the best of luck as he embarks on future expeditions in the pursuit of the Loch Ness Monster.


  1. You forgot to mention his tenacious quest for the Cottingley Fairies.

    1. This is a Loch Ness Monster blog - not a Fairy blog. But Gordon is welcome to add his comment.

    2. This blog posting was written to highlight the efforts of his mission. However, his overall goals extend beyond Loch Ness, and are worth mentioning if we're to take him seriously as a researcher.

    3. Why the negativity? Fairies are irrelevant to this debate. I say good for Gordon Holmes. A one man expedition. Monster hunting on a shoestring budget, the simple approach. Maybe he'll succeed where all the other big name hunters of the past have failed!

    4. They weren't Fairies but were actually moths distorted by an infamous heat haze. Could've fooled anybody, really.

    5. you forgot to say crack pot control?.....he could have done same with his so-called video .....I keep away from folks that are more into their cryto-fame then serious research

    6. Slander is very unbecoming anon,9:20.what have you done to contribute to nessie research other than insult and sit on the couch all day growing your bum?

  2. Well never mind Fairies or his past exploits, it's what he's doing now that counts. Seems pretty serious to me, not the casual tourist/sightseer hoping to glimpse a fleeting view of Nessie.

  3. The footage obtained by Gordon in 2007 is quite amazing and once more it proves there are large unidentified animals in Loch Ness. I wish him good luck.

  4. Unfortunately there is bound to be some ridicule directed towards LNM investigators but as long as they receive the support they deserve, as is the case on this blog, I'm sure they will continue with the good work and maybe find the smoking gun that has eluded so many for so long. I wish Gordon all the best.

  5. Its quite common when looking at research like this to mention the researchers "CV". It helps reviewers add credibility (or not) to what's presented. So even though its a Loch Ness blog and not about fairies, mentioning the fairies research would help us get a feel for who is doing the research. Of course, if the other research was commonly open to ridicule, this might make reviewers a bit more sceptical about the researchers other work.

    It is GB's blog so he is free to include or exclude what he wishes, the suggestion that the fairies research is mentioned is basically a call for proper unbiased presenting of the information, including any relevant information,and this is where we need to remember that's not what this blog is about.

    1. Well, I don't see how his view on fairies has influenced the modus operandi of his Loch Ness work. His experiments could have been conceived by anyone who hsa some enthusiasm for the hunt and a bit of lateral thinking.

      I would also add that Dinsdale believed in ghosts and bigfoot but how that makes one re-evaluate him as a Loch Ness Monster researcher is not clear.

    2. Thanks, Les. Hammer, meet nail's head.

  6. GB, just wondered if you knew why the video is cropped is this very unusually way. Its common to crop photographs, but not so much video. e could really be looking at anything there. I would be good to see the full frame for context

    1. The jpegs I showed were produced by Bill Appleton, so that's a question for him. The original video certainly has a wider field of view.

  7. Hello.

    This blog is always interesting. I have two items I would like glasgowboy to field in upcoming blogs.

    a)--carcasses in Loch Ness. I just happened to be over visiting Dale Drinnon's blog the other day, and in April 2013 he had a posting about a potential "formation" found in 2001 on the bottom near the castle; I wonder if you could find out if anyone attempted to find it subsequently, and what did they learn? Was the "formation" animal matter, or something else? Has there been any other potential sightings of carcasses?

    b)--In Angus Dinsdale's recently published volume, he has a chapter that in part is devoted to Brock Badger's underwater sighting (while he was putting down an anchor, if memory serves) while he was in SCUBA gear. If Mr. Badger is still alive, could you contact him and get him to talk about exactly what he had seen? How close was his sighting? Etc. Or you can write a blog about this--seeing animals unknown to science from underwater--in this case, Loch Ness...

    1. I covered Brock's story here:

      An article on carcasses is already in semi-draft form!

  8. I would also like to echo GBs sentiments. Tim Dinsdale, I read somewhere, had an interest in the paranormal, this before he went on his quest at Loch Ness. Ted Holiday at one time believed in a paranormal Nessie, yet he was considered a serious and well regarded researcher. Roy Mackal finished his work at Loch Ness, seemingly washing his hands of that exploit, then went off in search of the “mythical” Mokele-Mbembe, did that negate his serious work at Loch Ness? His work still stands as one of the most complete analysis of the phenomenon. As to the matter of Nessie carcasses, the belief in dead Nessies littering the loch floor is as old as the Nessie enigma, the reason one has never washed ashore, unless one believes in one sole Methuselah Nessie. There is no known instance of a “body” ever having been found; otherwise the mystery would have been solved long ago. The MonsterQuest program did a story, “Death of Loch Ness” featuring the late Robert Rines on his last monster hunt, using an ROV to search for possible carcasses. One object was found, which by the way, eerily looks like a plesiosaur in form, long neck and all. They took samples of different suspect formations, but no conclusive proof of animal tissue. Holmes is also featured, billed as “amateur researcher”. In the video shown of his sighting he zooms in and out showing the far shore and actually shows two “somethings” travelling parallel to one another! Gordon Holmes may seem a bit unorthodox and unconventional, an unlikely monster hunter, but at least he’s doing something and thinking outside the box.

  9. I am glad to hear it.

    I did read your very interesting article on sub-surface Nessie sightings, although I don't recall this, so I will ask you: Did Robert tell you whether he could distinguish color? Or perhaps a color scheme pattern on the part that he saw? Apparently he didn't see any flippers...

    I also think that a "frog" being seen in Loch Ness of super large size wasn't what was meant--it may have been meant something of a tadpole (like a commentator above stated)--that was in transition--as in, large blobby bulbous body, and some legs sticking out of it, but still not quite frog-like...that makes more logical sense than a humoungous frog...

    RE: Carcasses. The Dale Drinnon blog post (April 2013) was so provocative to me, that I contacted him (for those that haven't visited his blog, you should--a lot of very thought-provoking materials about Nessie as well as other cryptological creatures). The video stills (which, if my memory serves, was from a Rines expedition, from 2001), and the "formation" was very (I would say exceptionally) evocative of a carcass--as in, I have never seen a mud pile look like that, with an alleged "long neck," "head," "torso," "tail" and was apparently found right off the area of Urquhart castle. Dale informed me (now this isn't a direct quote, and while I am recollecting extemporaneously his e-mail to me)--in response to my query whether anyone went back to take samples from this "formation" on the bottom--that a search was done in that area to rediscover it (exact date or timeframe not mentioned), but all that was found was mud in the general area. Apparently that the "formation" was not re-found....

    So I am hoping that you will provide more details, better details...
    as well as what happened, and what took place subsequently.

    This calls out for an actual grid-like phtoographic recording of strategic parts of the Loch Ness bottom....

  10. Hi there

    This is not related to the original post, but have you seen the Nessie article in the latest issue of Fortean Times? There is an absolutely fascinating photo of the monster which was taken in 2011 by Jonathan Bright. I can't find the photo on the net, so you might have to buy a copy of the magazine. It's an absolutely intriguing photo!

    1. Thanks for the heads up, Mike. I have contacted the owner of the picture and it is indeed a great looking picture. I don't think I culd show it just now, so buy Fortean Times basically.


    you can change "big" with "lil" and "fast" with "slow"

    hey Gordon, thanks for using my stabilizations!

    this is a 15 foot eel

  12. Adrian shines ridiculous wind hitting the loch prooves he just wont accept anything. Ive spent 40 years on loch ness and never seen anything like what holmes videoed. Yes the wind can slightly resemble what he filmed but anyone with half a brain can see it is a moving creature. Maybe a fish maybe an otter maybe something bigger but definetley not wind storms lol