Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Loch Ness Monster Sighting Last Week?

I was messaged by a resident local to Loch Ness with a possible sighting made only last week on Wednesday August 16th at about 2pm.  The location was the woodlands walk behind the Dores beach and although the witness reckons the creature was forty feet from the shore, they were no less than 100 metres from the beach. The creature was also witnessed by a friend who was visiting at the time.  The local began telling me about their encounter:

Whilst walking along the woodland behind Dores beach myself and a friend witnessed movement in the water which seemed sizeable, as we walked further away and stood looking down towards the Loch from the woodland path we were shocked to see an angled head come out of the water, nether of us could believe what we saw. It was the wrong shape for a seal, dolphin or otter. I would say the head was dolphin in size .... That's a big eel! I live locally ... and I'm a very practical person, down to earth. I can't explain what I saw. ... For about 7 minutes prior to seeing the shape out of the water we saw movement and what could have been a dolphin or something surfacing but then when there was a long neck I couldn't believe my eyes to be honest.

Piqued by these initial statements, I asked for further details as regards the appearance of the creature, but they were too far away to see any detail, it was just a dark but not black shape that came out of the water and submerged again after a few seconds as it "sort of sunk down slowly but moved forward at the same time". I asked for a sketch of what they saw and got the picture you see above.

Things got more interesting when I acquired further information from the second witness who saw the creature for longer and confirmed the neck was longer than that of a seal. The second witness thought the neck was slimmer, was not a seal and the head was more "bent over". In their words:

The head came up and then went back under water. It was a very dark grey then I saw like a big snake figure swimming. Definitely not a seal as head was bent over and neck was very long and thin.

The second witness' sketch is shown below. There are some differences as witness sketches are never exactly the same but I think this is also down to at what point in the creature's motion they placed their drawings.

Now in assessing this report, one may ask if a seal was encountered here? There are two species of seal that occasionally get into Loch Ness and those are the harbor or common seal and the grey seal. Two things that dictate against a seal is the way it moved forward while sinking slowly. This is behaviour that sounds distinctly unseal like. Secondly, the muzzle described looks too elongated for a common seal but there is a question mark over the grey seal. The first picture is of a common seal while the next is of a grey seal.

I sent pictures of these two seals to the first witness who thought the gray seal was a possibility. However, the second witness' sketch would appear to exclude seals altogether and especially the form they saw just under the surface. Now if one pursued the seal interpretation further the obvious question to ask is whether anyone has seen seals in the loch recently. I have been asking questions on forums and emailing those who use the waters in that area who may know and the best I have so far is a possible seal seen in Dochfour loch in May about three months ago.

What I do not want to do is invoke the seal explanation in a knee jerk manner without some attempt to actually verify if anyone else has seen one. After all, seals are not indigenous to Loch Ness. They are in the loch far less often than they are not and so should not be used as an explanation in such a lazy manner. 

Having said all this, the witness requests anonymity for the all too common reason that "I haven't told anyone else because I don't want to look stupid." which is a reason I can sympathise with given the way eyewitness reports are treated by people. I would rather let the eyewitness speak for themselves rather than them being told what to believe.

So, is this the famous Loch Ness Monster or just a seal? I will keep an eye out for any genuine seal reports but even as I was typing up this report another sighting report just two days later on the Friday was published by the Sun newspaper today with a photograph taken by twelve year old Charlotte Robinson near Invermoriston. That picture is shown below and bears some resemblance to the eyewitness sketches. I am now wondering if she snapped the very same creature our witnesses saw two day before further up the loch?

Let us see if further images and reports are forthcoming and I thank the witnesses for coming forward and adding to the mystery of this week. Now isn't this more interesting than fruitless discussions over distant waves?

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Monday, 20 August 2018

The Loch Ness Kelpie in 1856

That age old denizen of the murky Loch Ness waters surfaced again in the newspapers of old as found in the Nairnshire Telegraph of the 13th August 1856. The Loch Ness Kelpie or Each Uisge as the Loch Ness Monster was known back then got a mention as our Victorian correspondent of 162 years ago (and 77 years before the Nessie era) exalted the progress of the Highlanders as the age of steam and progress marched on through the lands of Northern Britain. 

I say Northern Britain as that was a name favoured for Scotland by English people after the summary defeat of the Jacobites in 1745. That man of literature and anti-Jacobite, Samuel Johnson receives a mention as his famous tour of the Highlands with Boswell receives some short shrift as the correspondent wonders how Johnson would react to the modern Glasgow steamers upon Loch Ness and muses that he may mistake them for the Loch Ness Kelpie! Johnson had recounted the tale of the Water Horse of Raasay, though he made no mention of any similar entity in Loch Ness. 

Here is Johnson's tale to complete the picture.

He [their guide] said, there was a wild beast in [Loch na Mna], a sea-horse, which came and devoured a man’s daughter; upon which the man lighted a great fire, and had a sow roasted on it, the smell of which attracted the monster. In the fire was put a spit. The man lay concealed behind a low wall of loose stones, which extended from the fire over the summit of the hill, till it reached the side of the loch. The monster came, and the man with a red hot spit destroyed it. Malcolm (the guide) showed me the little hiding place, and the row of stones. He did not laugh when he told me this story.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Diving with the Pisces Submarine (1969 article)

I am currently busy with my next Loch Ness Monster book, so blog postings have been a bit less frequent. But it is time to delve into the archives and surface with one of those interesting articles that I occasionally encounter during my searches at virtual and real libraries. This article from Diver Magazine of September to October 1969 details an excursion into the depths of Loch Ness with the Vickers Pisces submarine. We know about Dan Taylor's yellow Viperfish, but the Pisces was also there at the loch during those busy year of 1969. Readers may wish to speculate on what they struck during the dive and those interesting craters and I refer them to this previous article.

(Pisces on the surface of the Loch, with a diver securing the lifting tackle. The author in the pilot's position.)


Arthur Bourne, chairman of the Exploration Group of the Ocean Resources Conservation Association, describes his journeying into the depths of Loch Ness in the Vickers' submersible, Pisces. The monster did not appear, but a mystery did develop.

The veil of mystery that has covered Loch Ness is beginning to lift. The Loch which is part of that great Caledonian fault which effectively divides Scotland into two and gives that characteristic shape to the Highlands has for a long time remained something of an enigma. It has been variously described as bottomless, having deep holes connecting with the sea, and even of being so deep that there is air at the bottom in which people are living in the sort of "Brigadoon" world. If we ignore the persistent belief in a somewhat ambiguous monster and the current burst of enthusiasm for Loch Ness monster hunting, there has been little attempt to get to grips with its mysteries.

Apart from some echo soundings and sporadic sampling of the Loch bottom with grabs, little has been done to explore its depths and to see what is down there. The fortunate choice of the Loch by Vickers Oceanics as the site for the demonstration trials of their submersible Vickers-Pisces has enabled some information on the structure and contents of the Loch to be built up. In fact, Pisces has proved beyond any doubt the point that there is no substitute for man when it comes to exploring the bottom of the sea or as in this case the bottom of a deep Loch. The automation leaves much to be desired. The bottom of the Loch seems to be generally covered with a deep layer of extremely fine sediment. So fine is it that when the skids of the sub touch it they plough in, and it billows up obscuring the view from the ports.

The tiny particles of matter reflect the light from the two 1000 watt quartz iodine lamps. In the area we examined the undisturbed sediment covered what appeared to be a wide level plain with very clear ripple marks on its surface, not unlike the sand at the ocean's edge, the difference being that this was at 800 ft and in fresh water. As one would expect there is very little life at this depth. However we did see some very small white eels, and one of the members of the crew during a previous dive had seen an odd little creature seemingly jetting itself along the bottom.

A great many more dives will need to be made and a systematic bottom survey carried out to get any real picture of the Loch's bed, but at around £1000 per day this is not likely to happen just yet. Another feature of this plain is a number of horseshoe-like craters. the walls of which were quite high. The sediment covered what could be described as the leeside with gentle slopes; those on the "windward" as expected were steep. This and the ripple marks quite clearly indicate a current of sorts at this depth and a moment with the motors switched off soon verified this observation, because the machine would slew round and drift broadside on to the current — at about two knots.

During one excursion we examined one of the horseshoe craters. We entered the open end and examined the walls of sediment that surrounded us. Then we attempted to raise ourselves gradually over the lip. It was higher than we thought, we kept hitting it and disturbing the sediment each time. We explored its contours and then when the echo sounder was registering 10 ft of clear water beneath the craft, we hit something, with a resounding crash, that reverberated through the sphere. It seemed as if we had hit a metal object. Carefully the sub was manoeuvred so that we could examine the water just below us, but we could find nothing. I thought that we had hit the lip of the crater and the arm had gone through the sediment (which for some reason was not picked up by the sonar) and hit the rocky ridge which, presumably, these craters must have.

Later, on the surface, we found in the working parts of the arm pieces of shattered sedimentary rock similar to sandstone which are now being examined by geologists. This does not explain why we registered clear water beneath us and the peculiar nature of the sound. When you hit rock you know it for the dull thud it gives, but this was a definite metallic crash. Not only did the sonar register nothing beneath or around us, but we could not see anything either, even with very careful manoeuvring and using our high-powered lights. We could have picked up the sandstone when we ploughed through the sediment earlier. We will probably never know what we hit. Throughout all the trials this was the only time that Pisces struck with anything like this kind of force.

Other crews have reported something hitting the vessel during previous dives which couldn't be explained. It is not impossible that tree trunks floating at great depths may be encountered and be sucked towards and bump into a craft during its descent. In fact tree trunks were found on the bottom. But it must be admitted that they couldn't have caused the jolt that we experienced. Loch Ness like other lochs, lakes and even the seabed seems to have been used as a dumping ground for anyone's unwanted rubbish from old Morris engines to muskets of the '45. Also there was a wreck of an old sailing collier with its mast still standing. Like most lochs this one does not have a great deal of life in it. It is far too deep and with too small a surface area, though there are fish and plankton in the surface waters.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

But beyond 15 to 20 feet, where there is no light, very few fish are encountered and the very few bottom living eels described above would hardly provide enough food for any reasonable sized animal. Even a filer feeding mammal like a whale, or a fish like the basking shark could not live for long on the plankton of Loch Ness. A fish-eating mammal, reptile or fish of the size generally credited to the Loch Ness monster would soon find itself out of business. The dives of Pisces have proved that the submarine is capable of very neatly controlled movements and is able with its hydraulic arm to pick up specimens from the Loch bed. It is ideally suited for explorations of this sort. Its two 3hp motors are more than adequate to cope with bottom currents of up to 3 knots, while at the same time giving the pilot a high degree of manoeuvrability.

The buoyancy and trim controls are also very sensitive, in fact one tends to fly this machine rather than drive it. It is beautifully designed for hovering lust above the bottom, especially when one is trying to examine a rock structure or some other object. In this position one can use the hydraulic arm to lift a rock, examine some debris or with a suitable sampler to take specimens of sediment. The total impression that one gets when riding in this machine is of complete safety and freedom. This is a very unusual quality in a submersible. Particularly those in which the crew's quarters are housed in a steel sphere as they are in Pisces.

Here, any scientist, even if he hasn't been in a submersible before, can feel quite relaxed and thereby concentrate his efforts on recording his observations and carrying out his experiments. My own explorations, short though they were, were carried out with this complete feeling of security which was engendered by my faith in the machine and confidence in my companions. Vickers have a very highly trained unit comprising pilots, observers, engineers and divers. And equipped with these machines they will be able to perform almost any task at continental shelf depths and even beyond. 

Friday, 3 August 2018

Tricks of the Sceptics

This blog has been running now for eight years and published over 600 items in that time. During that period I would like to think I have gotten a good handle on the debating tactics of that class of Nessie naysayers commonly known as "sceptics". Quite likely you will hear them before you see them as they loudly go forth proclaiming the inerrancy of their ways and the perfections of their thoughts.

Like a crowd of wannabe Spocks they practise the raising of the right eyebrow and the parting of the fingers, but they have no desire that your monster theories will live long and prosper. I long ago grew used to this logical posturing and the shallowness of much of their argumentation. Today I would like to present to you some of the tactics they use in the pursuit of doing whatever it takes to rid themselves and the world of these meddlesome monsters.
1. Eyewitness accounts useless ... unless they support pet theories

You've heard it many a time from sceptics, eyewitnesses are poor "recording devices". Not only do the fail to perceive what they are seeing at the time, but are pathetic at recalling the details later on. Well, that is unless what they describe supports your agenda, in which case the clouds of poor memory suddenly depart. The perception of the eyewitnesses becomes lucid and their descriptions are now as sharp as a tack.

This duplicity came to my attention when the matter of the sturgeon came to the fore. Instead of the usual rejection of certain eyewitness reports, a number of reports were deemed accurate to support the sturgeon theory; namely K.MacDonald(1932), J.McLeod(c.1900s), and M.MacDonald(1993). Go to this link and search for "sturgeon". Adrian Shine admitted that "anyone, of course, can assemble sighting reports to support a pet theory", so why bother with this? All that being said, I take this as a positive as the sceptics are admitting witnesses can accurately describe what they are seeing. 

2. Devise unfalsifiable theories

The obvious one being "If it is not a misidentification, then it is a hoax" allied with "If it is not a hoax, then it is a misidentification". A piece of circular reasoning specifically devised to exclude genuine monster reports.

3. Cherry picking accepted theories

In other words, promote only those theories which advance your agenda. This even includes parts of theories such as the false memory theory but ignoring the inconvenient theory that dramatic events stay longer in the memory.

4. Devise explanations to explain reports without testing

 A common tactic wherein sceptics put forward seemingly plausible explanations as to how a witness was wrong, but they never actually test if it is a viable explanation in the field. Of course, not every theory can be tested, but the sceptics are quite happy with that arrangement.

5. A lazy over reliance on the "least fantastical" approach to theorising

This is the "improbable" versus "impossible" theories and is a straw man argument. You construct an albeit unlikely scenario but use common everyday objects to soften the implausibility. This is then propped up against a monster theory and the audience is deceptively asked "which one looks more likely to you?". An example would be, "What is more likely to you? A line of otters in a heat haze or a plesiosaur crossing the road?". The correct answer from a neutral or sceptical audience should be "The first, but both look unlikely, so we are no further forward."

6. Objectification of subjective data

Sceptics often berate believers for going over monster pictures with a fine toothcomb for minor details that are at best inconclusive and at worst wishful thinking. However, sceptics are guilty of this when we are assuredly told that there are wires present in the Surgeon's photograph, a canoe's rudder point in the O'Connor photograph and a forward wake in the MacNab photograph. Like the believers they put down, they are merely seeing what their confirmation bias wishes them to see!

7. Inconsistency in accepting eyewitness testimony that suits their agenda

Eyewitnesses to monster sightings are categorised as inadequate (unless it involves sturgeons) but people who come forward to offer juicy information to debunk sightings are star witnesses who cannot possibly be wrong. In this list we include Richard Frere who claimed to have information to debunk the Lachlan Stuart photograph and likewise Alec Menzies on Arthur Grant. One is not inclined to judge whether these people lied or misinterpreted an event, but the sceptics make no attempt to assess the weight of their testimonies. 

8. Ad Hominem tactics 

A somewhat baser form of tactic which gets personal. For instance, I heard one sceptic state that eyewitness testimonies from anyone at Fort Augustus Abbey should be discounted in the light of the recent child abuse scandal there. Not much logic there I am afraid. Also, we are told to discount Arthur Grant's testimony because known faker Marmaduke Wetherell visited the site while he was at Loch Ness. The old "guilt by association" tactic. Finally, the monks get it in the neck again when some of their eyewitness testimonies should be discarded because "they like their whisky". Yeah, sure.

9. Overuse of tentative or false theories

Be it discredited theories such as vegetable mats, earthquakes or uncatchable sturgeon, some theories just seem to go on well past their sell by dates. But f they deflect attention away from inconvenient monsters, what's not to like?

10. Mistakes in use of eyewitness reports

The classic here was Ronald Binns' conflation of the Margaret Munro and Torquil MacLeod land sightings. The intended or unintended synthesis of these two accounts resulted in inconsistencies which Binns then exploited to discredit the MacLeod account. I am not making this up, folks! 

11. The psychological use of hyperbolic language 

Or to use an old phrase, "Argument weak here, shout louder!". Do you want your faltering arguments to carry more weight with your audience? Simple, just attach such words as "damning", "amazing" or "very telling" to arguments which are nothing of the sort. This one comes straight out of the politician's playbook.

12. Deflection

You may have noticed when debating a sceptic that the topic under discussion actually has nothing to do with the original question. This is called deflection and usually involves the sceptic going off as a tangent so long as the direction is away from the original awkward question. Another tactic taken from the politician's playbook.

So there you have it. No doubt Mr. Spock would have replied "Fascinating!". The next time a sceptic beams down and starts pontificating to you on the matter of lake cryptids, get out this list and check how many of these tricks they are trying to pull off. Perhaps we should start an annual award for the worst offender. We could call it the Cryptozoological BS Award, where of course BS stands for Bogus Spocks.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Should Inverness Airport be renamed Inverness Loch Ness Airport?

Cast your vote at this link! Twitter poll closes today.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Nessieland up for Sale

Do you fancy owning your own Loch Ness Monster exhibition at Loch Ness? Then your chance has finally arrived as the Nessieland exhibition in the village of Drumnadrochit goes up for sale. Details of the sale are available here

I have only visited the exhibition a few times over the years I have been at the loch, but on my last visit there had been a revamp and I posted my thoughts on it in a previous article. Of course, any prospective buyer has to take into account the fact that there is a competing exhibition about 100 yards up the road which has resulted in friction between the two as they both compete for the tourists pounds.

That competing exhibition is the Loch Ness Centre and the friction was evident in the charging of Nessieland's owner, Donald Skinner, over the theft of a Loch Ness Centre sign back in 2013. This followed a lawsuit some years before when the Loch Ness Centre owner, Robbie Bremner, sued over the names of the two centres.

The Loch Ness Centre was called "The Official Loch Ness Monster Exhibition" whilst Nessieland was called "The Original Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Centre". This proximity in naming led Bremner to claim he was losing over a £1 million in revenues. The outcome was both centres agreeing to change their names to "Nessieland" and "The Loch Ness Centre".

My own thought was that the "Loch Ness Centre" suited sceptics better as it really did not have much for those who believed in the Loch Ness Monster (though an eyewitness testimony section has improved that). The "Nessieland" exhibition would suit monster believers more, though it was more family and kid oriented rather than dedicated to serious researchers.

So, in terms of balance, two exhibition centres would be best, but there is no need for them to be 100 yards apart as the history shows. I did think one in Fort Augustus would be better, though where to site it is is not clear to me and the town did have two exhibitions in decades past which have now closed down. Has the time come for another one?

There was chat about a community buyout of Nessieland, though that seems to imply a total revamp of the building into something more for the benefit of the locals than tourists. The trouble is Donald Skinner will be looking for a price which assumes it continues as a Nessie attraction with the commensurate revenues. Whether a community buyout can bypass that problem, I do not know.

Watch this space, I guess, but I am sure the Loch Ness Centre would want to see the end of the place, the end of a competing exhibition and therefore more tourist pounds coming their way. That is of course no surprise. Business owners are all for competition and free enterprise except when it comes to their own business, whatever the sector!

For me, the idea of a pro-monster exhibition is a must for the area. If Nessieland goes, the space needs to be filled and not left to an exhibition that has no belief in the thing that attracts people to the area in the first place. A pro-monster exhibition, properly done, could attract more visitors, especially if the recent idea of erecting sightings plaques around the loch takes off.

A brief history of exhibitions around the loch can be found here.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Saturday, 21 July 2018

A Follow up to the Aircraft Monster Film

The mystery concerning the film taken of a possible large creature in Loch Ness has been solved. It was indeed taken in September 1981 by explorer Sydney Wignall but at Loch Morar and not Loch Ness. Here is a newspaper clipping from the Daily Star of February 5th 1982.

PRINCE Charles has joined the great Scottish monster hunt. He has asked to see a film made last year that is said to "prove conclusively" that there are monsters in some Scottish lochs. And monster-hunter Sidney Wignall said last night: "By the time he's finished watching It, the Prince will no longer be in any doubt that these creatures are real and not just a figment of people's imagination."

Sidney. 59, shot the seven-minute cine film from a powered hang glider last September at Loch Morar in the Western Highlands. He claims it shows Morag, a relative of the Loch Ness Monster. "Part of the film shows two creatures leaving wakes behind them In the otherwise still water." he said. "Another part shows a 1,000 yard wake similar to a torpedo's.

"But the most frightening bit shows a creature - or something - lying perfectly still at the side or the loch. "Whenever I get to that bit, my hair stands on end - and I'm sure it will do the same to the Prince."

Sidney. of Old Colwyn, North Wales. has spent £4,000 on his hunt for the monsters, and he has sent several reports on his activities to Prince Charles. The film, which was shot over a period of five weeks, will be rushed to the Prince as soon as it is returned from Japan, where it is being studied at the moment.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said last night: "The Prince has said he is interested in seeing the film. But no date has been fixed yet. "I don't want to say too much - or well be deluged with Loch Ness monster things from now on."

However, this was not how I found the provenance of this film. A visit to the library to examine multitudes of online newspapers failed and no mention appeared in any crytpid book I perused. Then I thought to consult Rip Hepple's newsletter for 1981 and the answer was soon forthcoming as Rip wrote about watching the cine film himself on the ITN news in early November 1981. Since I carry that newsletter on this very blog in the Rip Hepple Nessletter archive, the answer was under my very nose in Nessletter No.49 which I would have read back then, but completely forgotten.

Sydney Wignall (above) was an explorer who undertook aerial surveys of the lochs reputed to have large unknown creatures and passed over Loch Morar as one of them. The main part of Rip's description is:

The piece of film was shown, and while it was very short it was most impressive. It was not stated which stretch of water it was, but from the glimpse of shoreline we had it did not seem to be Loch Ness. I thought it may have been one of the tree covered islands at Loch Morar, the very clear water seemed to support this. But what was on the film? It was as close as anyone could wish, to being a silhouette of a plesiosaur.

There was no real scale to judge size, but taking the small waves on the surface as a guide I would say the animal was some 25 to 30 feet long. The dark shape showed a fairly long pointed tail, it thickened considerably where it joined the body, which was oval shaped and had three flippers, that we could see, two rear and one front. Presumably there was a fourth one we could not see. The neck was long but not very long, thick at the base narrowing towards the head, which was distinct from the neck.

The animal was close to the surface and twisting to one side, showing movement as the aircraft passed over. The flippers were pointed, definately diamond shaped, in fact just what you would expect of Nessiteras Rhombopteryx, or perhaps Morariteras. Strangely this novel idea and the results it produced did not receive a mention in the press, also there seems to have been no follow up.

You can view a scan of the original page 1 here. Rip contacted Sidney and got a reply published in Nessletter 50 (Feb 1982). Sidney told him it was to be shown on the BBC children's programme, Blue Peter on Monday February 22nd (as one person has already said here). It was not an RAF helicopter but a four seater Rallye low wing monoplane fitted with floats (below) and he further spoke on how to get closer to such animals. There was another communication in Nessletter 51 (Apr 1982) in which Sidney laid out some plans for another expedition in 1982 as well as more about his previous work as well as a surface sighting at Loch Morar.

A fuller account was given by Wignall himself to the now defunct Pursuit Newsletter dated Second Quarter 1982:
In late September, overflying Morar, we saw something very strange lying on the loch bed in about three meters of water in an area we had covered a few days before and which on the earlier occasion showed nothing unusual. The "thing" appeared to be about six meters in length and had what could be fins or paddles, but not the four I expected to see. (I was being subjective and not objective, hoping to see a plesiosaur.) A cine-record was made from heights of between 500 and 200 feet.

A low pass at 50 feet nearly put us into the water when we hit a "sink" area. Climbing away, I took several still monochrome photographs. Then I saw about 30 meters away from the "thing," another "thing." Only this time, Thing No. 2 was most definitely moving slowly, about a meter under the surface. I managed one 35mm still frame of it, then it descended into deeper water, out of sight. A polarizing filter had almost completely eliminated surface glare.

It could not counteract the small surface chop that distorted the resulting photographic image, which appeared to be of an object 7 to 8 meters long, moving to the northwest at possibly one or two knots. It appeared to have a neck and a tail but only two fins could be seen, and these were on either side just forward of amidships. I managed only one dive in the area after that, and in one bay I came across a log which did not appear to relate either to Thing No.1 or Thing No.2. What had I seen? I very much doubt if No.1 was an animate object. Its shape wasn't quite right. No.2 was the real thing, but what it is I cannot say, if a plesiosaur, why not four fins? If a zeuglodon, wasn't the neck too long?

However, no further communications were received by Rip and I saw no further mention of Mr. Wignall in the next four years of Nessletters. One presumes they either did not take place or nothing of note happened. And so the entire mattered faded into obscurity until this week.

Sidney Wignall died in 2012 after leading a life of adventure. Now I know what you are asking - where is the film now and I suspect a familiar feeling of deja vu will roll over you when I tell you I don't know. Yes, it appears to have gone down the same plughole as the Irvine, Fraser, Taylor, LNIB and Beckjord films. Unlike some of these films, I don't even have a still image. That is not to imply that all these films are genuine cryptid films, but researchers will not get the chance to analyse them and come to any form of conclusion.

Neither does it imply this and other films are destroyed and gone for good. I suspect the film is lying around somewhere, forgotten and unloved. The resolution may yet lie with Wignall's next of kin or some Google warrior who uncovers some footage online.

What did Sydney Wignall see? Rip Hepple classed it as an impressive piece of footage though Wignall was not entirely convinced one of the objects was animate. However, his quotes in the Daily Star article are more bullish concerning it being two creatures. Will we ever have the chance to make that assessment ourselves? Well, I will see how far I can get with this.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Upcoming Interview on the Loch Ness Monster

I will be a guest on the Paraversal Universe radio show tomorrow discussing you know what. Details are below.

Join Paraversal Universe this Friday, July 20th (2018) in North America at 2pm pst/3pm mst/4pm cst/5pm est, in Europe at 10pm gmt/11pm cet, & in Australia (Sat) at 8am aest on the Late Night In The Midlands Radio Network (LNMRadionetwork.com) as we talk to Cryptozoologist & Author Roland Watson about his research into the Loch Ness Monster. We'll discuss his books "When Monsters Come Ashore" & "The Water Horses Of Loch Ness". Join us live in the chat room to ask questions & make comments at LNMradionetwork.com. Listen live from your phone at (701)-719-9704. Check out our archives at Paraversal Universe Show Archives.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Arthur Grant gets his own Plaque

It was with some satisfaction that I read Wednesday's Inverness Courier and a plan by local businessman, Willie Cameron to place plaques around the loch giving information on famous Nessie sightings. First I reproduce the story here from the original link:

Businessman pushes for 'Monster Trail' to show Nessie at her best

Written by Val Sweeney

Willie Cameron hopes a new plaque installed at The Clansman Hotel will set a trend around Loch Ness.

BUSINESSES around Loch Ness are being urged to help create a new monster trail by sponsoring special plaques relating stories and anecdotes about the area’s most famous resident.

Despite countless reported sightings of Nessie – as well as several infamous hoaxes – little information is available at locations around the 23-mile long stretch of water.

Drumnadrochit company Cobbs has now seized the initiative by installing an engraved plaque at its lochside Clansman Hotel, relating the 1934 sighting by motorcyclist Arthur Grant who reported seeing a long-necked creature in the water on a January night.

Company director Willie Cameron is now urging other businesses and organisations to sponsor plaques relating to more tales of Nessie through the years.

"The majority of people who come to Loch Ness come here for one reason – the Loch Ness Monster," he said. "Yet when you go round the loch, there is very little indication relating to the mystery."

He envisages the installation of plaques at 25 different locations, depending on permission from agencies including Highland Council, Bear Scotland and landowners.

The ultimate aim is to develop an app which would contain further details as well as information about any sponsors.

"It is good for business and it is excellent for exceeding customer expectations relative to the sense of place," he said.

"I have driven around the loch and not found anything other than in the Loch Ness Visitor Centre.

"What signs there are tend to be negative – no camping, no litter, no parking, no this, no that. These signs would put out a positive message."

I say all this because back in April, when I was conducting a guided tour of the loch for a client, we began at the Clansman Hotel discussing the Arthur Grant land sighting of 1934. My own research had indicated that Grant more likely saw the creature that moonlit night close to the hotel rather than a mile up the road at Abriachan. That reasoning is laid out in my latest book on land sightings.

However, I noted that the hotel displays a large model of the Loch Ness Monster by one of the streams feeding into the loch and it struck me that this "Nessie" on land was a great reminder of the Nessie on land seen by Grant possibly just yards away from it.

So, after the tour, I emailed Willie Cameron recounting this and suggesting it would be a good idea to erect a plaque by the model to remind visitors of that monstrous event. Good for Nessie, good for the hotel. I am glad to say Willie took me up on the idea and we now have the plaque installed.

However, being the local businessman he is, Willie has seen the opportunity to expand the idea to the whole loch with up to 25 such plaques being placed at sites. I think it is a great idea and gets away from the sceptical idea that we need to concentrate tourism on other aspects of the loch and push the monster as far away as possible from the tourist eye.

If the various tourist enterprises with their Nessie oriented items is anything to go by, they completely disagree with that notion. Sorry. but Loch Ness is all about the Loch Ness Monster and anything that promotes that ancient link is fine by me.

It's early days and we may not see something looking like the proposed Nessie Trail until next summer. It may well have its issues such as famous sites which are hard to get to (e.g. Hugh Gray), some locals may object to plaques being sited near their homes and will sceptics fight it all the way?

My one hope is that these plaques do not include sceptical disavowments as a general rule. A plaque which says "so-and-so saw a six foot neck and ten foot hump here ... but it was actually just a line of ducks" is a pure anti-climax. Adding that so-and-so claimed to have seen this is okay, but we don't want a series of plaques which tries to debunk away the area's most famous resident.

Now don't get me wrong, you are going to get a spectrum of opinions from Nessie believers on what is and is not a true sighting. The point is one group's agenda should not be imposed on this. I don't think the Surgeon's Photo is real but I still think a plaque should be placed at Altsigh to mention it.   However, I assume a map or some form of literature will accompany the trail and that should point out that these sightings, photographs or films generate controversy and some accept them and some don't; let everyone make up their own mind.

Just let the original people tell their story without any revisionism. As Willie says. we want "to put out a positive message"!

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Loch Ness Monster Filmed from Air?

A reader of my blog just drew my attention to a comment made by a "William Smith" some months back on a Nessie video clip. What he said sounds astounding but I myself have no recollection of such a TV event back in 1981. To quote his words:

I was in the US Air Force in England circa 1981. The BBC used to broadcast the news at 9pm. They would always run a teaser just before 9 at the end of whatever program that was on before that. We lived in a dorm on base and there'd always be TV's on while we did whatever we were doing. One night, there were 4 or 5 people in my room and the TV was on.

It was also on in our dayroom, which was a communal relaxing room on the floor. ANYWAY,,,,,the teaser for the news came on. It totally blew us away. There in front of us on the TV was footage,,,,not video,,but film,,,taken from inside an RAF helicopter over a shallow area of Loch Ness. The guys in the copter were yelling and the camera was pointing below them. You could see the wash from the propeller on the water and in the middle of it was a creature. It looked like a small dinosaur,,,it had four flippers, a long neck and a somewhat short tail. It was thrashing about in a panic under the helicopter. The footage was real. They didn't have CGI back then, the inside of the copter was real,,,the men were yelling, the noise was loud,,,and the scene on the water was real.

The announcer was saying something to the effect that the RAF had found Nessie and details would follow at 9. Of course we all freaked out. We watched at 9 and absolutely nothing was said. We were completely perplexed. Many people saw the clip,,,I know of at least two of my superiors who contacted the BBC and the RAF and no one seemed to know anything.

We'd all seen it. I met locals who saw it as well. There was no internet then,,,no phones to text with,,,,so word couldn't get around like we can do today. I talked to people about it for weeks and many people saw it. The story faded away and one can only wonder what the hell happened. But for me,,,,the creature,,whatever it is, exists.

By some coincidence, a seperate facebook post from yesterday stated this:

I have not been able to find it again but I saw a video a few years ago taken from a helicopter hovering over Loch Ness and a sturgeon, from 20-25 feet long, was just under the surface of the water. Parts of its back were above the water. It is a perfect candidate (use Occam's Razor) for the Loch Ness "monster." It settled the matter for me.

It sounds like they are referring to the same video but with a differing interpretation. But anything 20-25 feet long filmed in the loch is a must see, sturgeon or not. So there are two questions here. Does anyone remember seeing this alleged clip back then and if it really was recorded, where is it now and why was it pulled?

Let's see how far we can go with this and see what turns up. I blogged on some airborne sightings a few months back.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Sunday, 15 July 2018

No, Dr Burton!

For your interest, I publish yet another article on the Loch Ness Monster from decades past. This one was published in May 1962 by The Scots Magazine and the author was no less than Alex Campbell, water bailiff at Loch Ness, multiple witness to the creature and an expert on the lore of the monster.

The title is a pointed reply to the writings of the monster's first major sceptic, Maurice Burton. He had just published the first sceptical book on the subject entitled "The Elusive Monster" and was active in pushing his views in various publications. It was Burton's predilection for vegetable mats that particularly drew Campbell's objections and to which he relates his own experience.

Campbell covers other topics such as pre-1933 reports which later made their way into Nicholas Witchell's 1974 "The Loch Ness Story". Giant eels also get a mention as well as a night time sighting from 1938. I am not sure if Campbell wrote any other magazine articles, if so let me know.

Depending on your browser, click on each image below to expand it and also expand it further by right clicking to "view image" on Firefox or "control-+" to zoom in for MS Edge.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Monday, 9 July 2018

Who is Mickey Weatherly?

I now quote an article from the Adventure Club of Europe.

This letter from Mickey Weatherly was written in 1940, but was handed over to the members of the Adventure Club of Europe in 1994.

Dear friends and colleagues of the ACE,

I would like to apologize to you all with all my heart. When you will get this letter, then my secret is probably somehow betrayed. Yes, I falsified the photograph of the creature in Loch Ness. But, to my soul, I would like to say heartily that I have personally seen this being and proved its existence. In 1932 the great goal of my life was fulfilled, I found the evidence of a being in Loch Ness. I had risked my life there several times in dives since the difficult tectonics under water, the sharp-edged stone slabs and an opaque arrangement of caves make the superficially quiet lake a subterranean labyrinth.

Loch Ness is dark waters and I meant not only the color. The lake holds a secret. It is deep, gloomy, and unyielding, like the sea itself. I don’t have to tell you how much this mystery kept pushing me into the highlands of Scotland, is it not an incentive for all of us to curb these secrets of the world? On one of my dives on 21.08.1932 a white plate shone through the dirty, gloomy water. I tried to grab this plate, but it was heavy, very firm and unusually furrowed. Nevertheless, I could grab it, and from the entanglement of mud, algae and the tribulation of the lake a huge egg-shell appeared. Yes, my dear colleagues, a bowl of ice about 1 meter long.

I noticed how the wave movements in the water grew stronger, as the pressure changed, and in the cloudy a still more turbid being swam towards me. I swear to God, I looked the dam straight into the eyes. My lungs were filling with water, dirty, muddy water. I wanted to spit. On a sharp edge my air hose had blended. I would not give this egg for my life, but I had to get to the surface. The wave movements made the orientation difficult for me, and the egg shell I held were pushed repeatedly, as if this Loch Ness creature would want to prevent the proof of its existence at all costs.

I lost consciousness when I saw the sunbeams of Scotland in front of my eyes. When I woke up and was still alive, I also had the egg next to me. Heureka! But my euphoria was suddenly quenched by the reactions from the presumed research. But what kind of researchers are these, what servants of the truth are they, who accused me of lying? They claimed that my lack of oxygen had dampened my senses, that my craving for attention had invented the piece of evidence, and that my relic, the egg, whose battle I had almost lost my life for, was a simple stone showing its age.

I went for diving several times at the place where I found the egg, but could never again look into the dark eyes of the Loch Ness. This disgrace, this disappointment and then this rage. They drove me to this. Yes, I displayed the photo some months later and today I feel ashamed about it. But at that time, I wanted to give the research, what they returned to me only with mockery. It would give me some peace of mind, if Nessi’s egg, would get exposed at an exhibition venue here in the Adventure Club of Europe, where it would be taken more seriously by real adventurers.

Your ACE friend,

Mickey Weatherly

Quite a story you may think albeit with various errors. Just in case you think we have a Nessie egg in a similar fashion to "The Water Horse" film, it is all just a fiction. The Adventure Club of Europe is a new addition to a German theme park, so you can go along and see the egg for yourself if you are nearby.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Two Nessie Talks

Firstly, I had a telephone interview with Richard Syrett of the website "Conspiracy Unlimited". You can click on this link to hear our chat on the Loch Ness Monster which covers a range of topics over about half and hour.

Meantime, I am also pencilled in for yet another talk at the Edinburgh Fortean Society on Tuesday July 10th of which details can be had here. I will be looking back on the year past with an emphasis on a few subjects of recent note such as the eDNA search.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Sunday, 1 July 2018

A Loch Ness Monster Article from 1967

I have an old copy of the Readers Digest dated February 1967 in my possession which carries an article on the search for the Loch Ness Monster entitled "Closing In on the Loch Ness Monster" authored by a David Scott. The article is actually based on an earlier article dated November 1966 from the journal "Popular Science" of whom David Scott was the European Editor.

You can find that original article here, and it is interesting to see an article on the creature embedded amongst other features on space exploration, car technology, practical devices and electronics. Back then the Loch Ness Monster had more respect amongst scientific thinkers, partly driven by such items as the Dinsdale film, the O'Connor photograph and the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau.

The JARIC report on the Dinsdale film had been published earlier in 1966 and this seems to have also added grist to the mill as people began to focus more on the mystery of Loch Ness.  The optimistic title of the article laid out the various tactics and technologies that were in use and hoped to be used in what was seen as the final and definitive search for the monster.

To be more precise, it was the first and inconclusive search for the monster. Sure, we had people scanning the loch in the early 1930s and there was the brief Mountain Expedition, but nobody had seriously undertaken any kind of search as advocated by the likes of Donald Munro in the 1930s.

Then came the Whyte book, "More Than A Legend", the Dinsdale film and things began to gather pace with the formation of the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau in 1962. They had been at the loch for four years when David Scott visited them, but still no film or photograph of any substance had been produced.

The article images follow below and you can click on them for enlarged views, but what of that oft used phrase connected with the LNIB that the more the loch was watched, the less the monster was seen? Yes, people outside of the LNIB continued to see the creature, but nothing came within range for the LNIB. This is seen as a disproof of the monster's existence or is it?

I say that because despite this being one of the biggest undertakings of the hunt, there is surprisingly little written in retrospect about the operations of the LNIB that allows one to evaluate the sum of the parts. We have various members of the organisation still alive and around today, but nobody has seen fit to write a detailed history of the organisation - warts and all.

Rip Hepple would occasionally refer to the workings of the group in his Nessletters, others incidentally referred to its operations such as Ted Holiday in his book, "The Great Orm of Loch Ness", so what we do have are some annual reports published by the Bureau which were sent to members far and wide. Someday we'll get greater clarity on the "eyes on the loch" in those days, in the meantime, enjoy an article from more optimistic times.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Friday, 22 June 2018

An Unsettling Incident from Loch Ness

It was back in February that I gave a talk on the monster to the SSPR, a society founded by Glasgow University's Emeritus Professor of Astronomy, Archie Roy. Coincidentally, he taught me the mathematical delights of Celestial Mechanics many moons ago.  After the talk, I made my acquaintance with Sandy, a monster believer for years and one with a story to tell. He recounted his experience to me and was happy to email it to me for general dissemination. Without further ado, I present his story here.

My wife and I were staying at a B&B in Dores (The Pottery House) for the weekend in mid October 2010. I arranged to borrow a local residents canoe and, after a late start, we set off in perfectly calm weather to paddle a straight line from Dores village to Urquhart Bay. We have our own canoe in Glasgow so are quite experienced and the kind donor gave us life jackets etc.

We reached Urquhart Bay about 3:00pm and stopped for a rest and lunch. After exploring the area around the mouth of the river Enrick we decided to head back. At this point I realised that it would be dark before we reached our destination but, since the weather was perfect with hardly any breeze, we set off. 

It was a little cloudy but after we reached the middle of the loch it began raining and the sun had set. We carried on with me in the rear of the canoe and my wife in front. The rain stopped and the clouds broke up a bit. You could see the reflections of them in the water and it was quite beautiful.

About half way back I noticed a lighter patch in the water which I took for cloud reflection. My wife had stopped paddling to tell me about a difficult incident she had experienced in the past and was mid-story when I saw the light patch. We were passing close by the light patch soon after I spotted it. 

When I realised it was a fairly large thing right at the surface I was absolutely petrified; we were half a mile from the shore in the dark, slowly passing a large strange object in Loch Ness. I paddled like mad trying to get past it and away but it was too late to do anything but go right by it with only a couple of meters between it and the canoe. 

It was pale creamy white, round or oval in shape, domed, about 4 metres across and lying motionless right at the surface. It looked like a king size duvet without a cover seemingly with patches or stains and with an irregular edge that vanished into out of sight beneath the surface. It hardly broke the surface at all but just affected the water immediately above it, as though it was only submerged about 2cm.

It didn't move as we shot past as fast as possible and continued going as quickly as I could paddle so that my muscles were sore for days afterwards! I couldn't tell my wife as her story telling was the only thing keeping me going. As soon as we got back to dry land an hour or more later I told her about it.

Since Sandy is an accomplished artist, I asked him for a sketch of what he saw. I have no answer yet from him and so I publish the verbal account and may republish with the drawing as and when. Now, if only I had my quadcopter drone hovering over that scene! It would have provided some very nice footage that may have helped explain what Sandy saw.

There may be alternate explanations and doubtless people may suggest things such as algae bloom (in an oligotrophic lake?), mass suspension of pollen, floating garbage and so on. Though to me it sounds like Sandy was convinced it was more like something he did not want to go and explore. Having said that, a pale, creamy white Nessie is off the beaten track. I checked the record and perhaps five reports over 85 years could be described as some shade of white.

I include in that list the Hugh Gray and Richard Preston photographs, the latter being more suspect that the former. How would one explain a pale Nessie? Undoubtedly species change their colour according to age, season, situation and so on. How would the species known as the Loch Ness Monster fit into that list? Five reports is not enough to detect a meaningful pattern over such a long time span and so we will just have to leave this one to the vicissitudes of speculation.

I put one of Sandy's drawings at the top of the article to demonstrate an extreme example of what an unsettling incident at Loch Ness would look like. Here is some more of his artwork below.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Another Land Sighting from Days of Yore

It was while I was finishing off an article on the Alfred Cruickshank land sighting, I was reminded by someone of another such story related by Mr. Cruickshank himself. It comes from Nicholas Witchell's book, "The Loch Ness Story", and it comes after he finishes relating the Cruickshank case with this brief note about another possible land sighting:

Mr Cruickshank also recalled that towards the end of the 1920s, he spoke to a girl working in a baker's shop in Fort Augustus who told him that she had once seen a large animal hauled up onto a beach near Fort Augustus. "She said that she was coming down the hill east of the village on her bicycle when she saw a big animal lying on the beach below her. She was so frightened she jumped off her bicycle and ran the rest of the way home."

Now when I read this again, I was reminded of the Margaret Munro land sighting of 1934, for this short account surely happened on the same beach as her famous account. The girl is described as cycling downhill east of Fort Augustus when the creature came into view. Now where the creature may have been in this story is a matter of some speculation, but a guess will be made.

Certainly, until recently, as you drove down the B862 road to Fort Augustus, Borlum Bay did not come into view until you were nearly at the bottom of the hill. The trees covering the hill prohibited an earlier view, but recent forestry work has cleared the trees to bring us a magnificent view of the loch.

As to the state of this treeline in the late 1920s, I am not sure and so we will assume the bay only came into view for her near the bottom of the hill. Now, I am just looking at this from the point of view of how people react to traumatising situations, but I doubt I would be dismounting a bike and running until such an unsettling sight was behind me rather than before me.

Also, as I explained in my Munro article, most of the beach would not be visible from the road level as it flattened out from the hill. So, I would suggest the creature came into view when she was higher up, just as the bay below came into view and just before the road levelled off. In that light, I place a "B" at the point where she claimed to have seen it and I place an "A" where I think the Munro creature was.

People can feel free to speculate, but the stretch of beach upon which this creature is said to have been on is shown below.

One can imagine Alfred Cruickshank, having been shocked by the sight of that strange creature crossing the road in front of him in 1923, becoming interested in anything anyone else had to say about strange creatures about the loch. With perhaps a combined sense of reticence but also a great curiosity to learn more, he may have asked the locals to keep him informed of events. And when this girl came forward with her tale, it would have naturally resonated with Alfred and stuck in his mind until interviewed by Nicholas Witchell in the 1970s.

It was a pity the story was not followed up as the girl may well have still been in the area by the time Witchell spoke to Cruickshank in the early 1970s, being (I suppose) in her 60s. But then again, going by my own experience and without a name, such investigations can often just run into dead ends.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com