Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Nailing the latest Nessie Photograph

Okay, so the previous article and the analysis of the photograph's EXIF data led me to conclude this was not a photograph of the Loch Ness Monster. I continued to talk to Steve, the photographer, but that has come to an end as he could not provide the original SD card image. But I was looking for something objective and not just opinions that would seal the deal on this one and it came from Jeriah Houghton who found the above image of a catfish at this site.

As you can see, the spots on the catfish all line up nicely with the spots on our Nessie. So it is beyond doubt that this catfish photo was cut and superimposed on an empty shot of the loch with the colour of the catfish portion being altered in colour. So, nice work, Jeriah!

There is also a nice animated GIF made by "rewyndwilliams" which is here and reproduced below showing the two images sequentially overlaid. The case is closed but I will write a follow up article on photoshopped images as I feel there are some deficiencies in how we approach this subject.

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Saturday, 20 June 2020

Is this a new photo of the Loch Ness Monster?

A week ago on the Facebook group, Anomalous Universe, a photograph purporting to be of a strange object in Loch Ness was posted by a person from the south of England. The group was founded by fellow cryptid believer, Steve Patrick Carrington and the thread that started this can be found here. The person added the comment "Took this in Loch Ness last September but I don't know what kind of fish it is" to this intriguing image. A zoom in on the object raises an eyebrow.

What we see is a large hump like object making its way up the loch past Urquhart Castle. Naturally, people started to ask questions and making comments. The CGI comments came in to which the person said "No it's just a fish but not sure what sort. Love the idea of cgi but I'm not that good at it... Lol". I chipped in and asked him if had taken any other photos in a sequence to which he said yes and I requested to see them. I got those by email four days later as he said he was away from home in Devon looking after his mum. There were two taken before the image with the object and one after as shown below. These extra images also led to another thread.

The photographer added he was on the wall at the castle and the object was only there momentarily and it was a fluke shot. There were "loads of other tourists" there as well as his brother, but he says his brother saw nothing or the tourists. He says the picture was taken on either the 15th or 16th September 2019 and estimated it was 30 feet away and about 8 feet long and could even be a catfish. All in all, the potential for a great photo, but as we have learned in the past, a probation period had to be initiated. So I first found out more about our photographer and discovered on his LinkedIn page that he was a 3D graphical artist and he had a portfolio of images of various constructions such as the one below. To be clear, he earns a living creating CGI - computer generated images.

Naturally, this raised a big red flag and I put it to him that this monster picture would not look out of place in his CGI portfolio, to which he said "I didn't say I didn't do cgi I just said that I'm not that good. The photo is genuine and it was taken at Loch ness last September. Will happily show you the rest of the images when I get home next week". Well, if he makes a living from this, he must have some skill in the matter. So let's get on with some analysis.

I asked him to email me the original images from the SD card and was sent some jpeg images of about 1Mb in size each. That was curious as I expect any half decent camera to deliver images a lot bigger than that for size. I ran a jpeg quality check which came out at 80% which is too low. It should be near 100% for a virgin image. In general, when a jpeg image is opened and saved in an application, this leads to a degradation in quality each time.

Nevertheless, I extracted the EXIF data which is metadata describing parameters such as camera type, aperture, resolution, exposure time, etc. It was taken with a Sigma SD1 Merrill, which is a decent camera which came out about nine years ago. It can take images up to 45Mb in size or as low as 1Mb, but I doubt that was the default setting. However, the EXIF also said the image had been through Adobe Photoshop version 21.1 for the Macintosh. Moreover, the date of the photo was created was January 1st 2011, not September 2019, though this could be explained as the factory reset date if the date was never manually set.

However, there was also a modify date of the 16th June, which was suspicious. So, I raised this matter with him suggesting this image was not the original file. He replied that the image file had been opened by Photoshop and then saved as a jpeg file, the original files were too big to send by email. That being said, a day or so later he sent links to download some larger files in TIFF format which he said were from the original card and were bigger at about 15Mb each.

This presented a problem to me as the specification for the Sigma SD1 Merrill camera does not list TIFF as a native format. It produces images in only one of two formats, raw format or the smaller jpeg format. As an explanation, raw format is a kind of digital equivalent of an undeveloped frame on a silver nitrate film. All the information is there, but it is "raw" and is not processed for human viewing. The jpeg format is there to provide a human viewable image in the camera display, such as one might use for reviewing images for deletion or retention.

In fact, Sigma uses the raw "x3f" format to store its images. I replied to the photographer on the 18th June pointing out this problem and will consider any reply I get on this matter. Meantime, I extracted the EXIF metadata from the TIFF image and compared it against the JPEG metadata. The TIFF data said it had also gone through Photoshop as well, not what is to be expected of an original SD card image. Indeed, the "History Parameter" field of the EXIFs revealed more. The JPEG list was:

History Parameters from image/jpeg to application/vnd.adobe.photoshop, converted from image/jpeg to application/vnd.adobe.photoshop, from application/vnd.adobe.photoshop to image/jpeg, converted from application/vnd.adobe.photoshop to image/jpeg

While the TIFF parameter was:

History Parameters from image/jpeg to application/vnd.adobe.photoshop, converted from image/jpeg to application/vnd.adobe.photoshop, from application/vnd.adobe.photoshop to image/jpeg, converted from application/vnd.adobe.photoshop to image/jpeg, from image/jpeg to image/tiff, converted from image/jpeg to image/tiff

In other words, the TIFF file had the same history but had an extra stage at the end - converted from jpeg to tiff. Other parameters such as "History Software Agent" and "History When" also demonstrated this TIFF image was likely just an upscaled image derived from the JPEG via Photoshop. By upscaling, I mean an image that is converted to a larger file size, but without any additional information being added. Indeed, when the 1Mb JPEG and 15Mb TIFF files are zoomed in, there is no visual difference in the images, suggesting a zero-information upscale as shown below (jpeg first):

I could have performed further analysis, but at this stage, there are discrepancies which need to be answered first and which currently render this photograph unusable as evidence for a large creature in Loch Ness. However, I am in still in communication with the photographer about the issues raised.

The author can be contacted at

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Captain Fraser's Nessie Film

There are three classes of films which allege to show the Loch Ness Monster. The first are the ones which have been published and are still generally accessible to varying degrees. The second are those which have been seen by only a select few with little in the way of stills or clips. The final class are those which are discussed, but no one can even confirm the existences of such items.

Examples of the first group are the Dinsdale, 2nd Irvine, Raynor and Smith films. Those which we could place in the second group are the 1st Irvine film, G.E. Taylor, Beckjord and various LNIB films. Finally, the esoteric third group include the mythical McRae and Currie films. The film taken by Captain James Fraser comes into the second category.

Captain Fraser was part of the first serious surveillance operation mounted by Sir Edward Mountain in the summer of 1934. In fact, Fraser was the man that Mountain put in the charge of the whole operation. From his base near Urquhart Castle, he would coordinate the twenty men employed to watch the loch from various points armed with supplied cameras. At the end of each day, they would log their results with Captain Fraser and his immediate team back at base. The expedition was due to last four weeks, but the poor conditions that prevailed in the second fortnight led to a one week extension. 

The result was over twenty photographs taken of which five were considered of interest. The fact that none were taken in the second fortnight shows how difficult surveying the loch can be. Captain Fraser was invited to continue the watch with a colleague from a vantage point above the castle with a cine camera fitted with a telephoto lens. The entry in Roy Mackal's "The Monsters of Loch Ness" summarizes the taking of the film.

F 4: 0715, September 15, 1934; made by James Fraser and an assistant on Sir Edward Mountain's expedition. No stills published. [positive evidence] The film, 10-20 ft. in length, was made at a distance of about 3/4 mile with a cine Kodak and 6" telephoto lens. It appears that the film has been lost, but when it was viewed by experts in 1934, the consensus was simply that some kind of animal was being observed. 

But going back to the oldest sources, The Scotsman for the 17th September 1934 below is representative of the various clippings I have found for that period. Fraser was about three quarters of a mile from an object he at first thought a boat which was itself half a mile east of Temple Pier and fifty yards from that shoreline. The object was described as fifteen to twenty feet long and about two to three foot out of the water, no head or tail visible and it traveled for about one minute before submerging.

The letter reproduced below adds some more detail, though it was typed decades later for use in a publication. The passage of 30 years or more had led to some fading of memory as he now states he thought he was initially looking at a rock, as opposed to a boat in the 1934 account. Such discrepancies are common when the years have lengthened between event and recall. Unlike the oldest report, Captain Fraser does mention a possible head-neck being seen at the start, but he is not sure it could have been a flipper as well.


Towards the end of June 1934. I was approached by a representative of Sir Edward Mountain who had taken over Beaufort Castle from Lord Loost for the salmon fishing. I was asked if I would like charge of some men he intended to place round Loch Ness with cameras to see if they could find evidence of an unusual animal that had been seen from time to time by locals and visitors. 20 men were engaged and I placed them at strategic points on both sides of the Loch, 14 men on the North side and 6 on the South side. Several snaps had been taken but not sufficient evidence to establish the identity of the animal. The search was continued for about 6 weeks when the men were withdrawn.

Sir Edward then asked me if I would stay on with one man to carry on the search. This I did, which meant that I had to take up residence which I did. in a Bell Tent on the hill above Urquhart Castle.. The procedure I adopted was at dawn I took up my stance at the roadside to the East of the Castle, I had with me a 16mm Cine Camera also a pair of powerful binoculars. I was relieved for meals by my assistant.

On Saturday about midway through August I took my usual stance at dawn. There was that morning a thick haze hanging over the Loch, it afterwards turned out to be a very hot day. I carried out my usual procedure, that was to scan the Loch Westwards then turn to scan the Loch Eastwards; then to my surprise I observed what I thought was a rock about 100 yards from the shore East of the Urquhart Bay. This object which appeared inanimate I had under observation for over a minute then I remembered that there was no rock that far out from the shore. I then took up my camera and trained it on this object and started to film it, when to my surprise the object raised out of the water either its head and neck or a flipper then lowered it, raising quite a volume of water, then it disappeared.

I then phoned Sir Edward Mountain who laid on to take the camera to Inverness and have the film taken out by a competent person and have it carefully packed and sent Registered Parcel Service to Kodak. The train was met in London and the film taken to their Laboratory and developed.

The film was shown to several Scientific Societies in this country and abroad but unfortunately the film did not give sufficient evidence of what the creature might be. Opinions by the experts were divided on what it could be but I had the pleasure of showing the film in-Inverness to interested parties. I regret that my film was not able to identify the animal but only to prove that there is something unusual in Loch Ness. 

Trust you find the foregoing account of interest. Thanking you. 

J.W. Fraser.

And here is a picture of the man himself, taken in the 1960s. So runs the encounter and a rough map of the encounter is added below. The film was dispatched for processing by Kodak in London whereupon it was viewed by various experts at a showing organised by Sir Edward Mountain on the 3rd October at Kodak House. It seems that James Fraser, who lived hundreds of miles away in Ross-shire, was not there and it is not clear if he ever saw the film himself at any time.

Shortly after, the Field magazine for the 13th October 1934 published the various views of some who had attended that showing. From the clipping below we see that W. T. Calman, Keeper of Zoology at the Natural History Museum, offered the opinion that it was likely to be a seal and deems this important evidence in identifying whatever the creature was in the loch.

Mr. Calman also makes reference to a recently taken photo of a dorsal fin-like object in Loch Ness which he attempts to reconcile with his seal interpretation, suggesting the "fin" could be a seal flipper. The photo he is referring to is the James Lee picture published the previous August and which I covered here.

Meantime, David Seth-Miller, Curator of the Zoological Society of London, was also of the seal opinion as was a Mr. A. Ezra; though he did not discount some other creature yet inhabiting the loch. Burgess Barnett, Curator of Reptiles at the same Zoological Society also plumped for large grey seal while Francis Fraser of the Natural History Museum finally joins the ranks with .... a seal ... which makes one wonder if they had all coordinated their responses beforehand. 

Were there any dissenting opinions from the mainstream scientists? Yes there were, as this seal discourse led to some sending in their letters to The Field editor with some contrary comments. A Major Radclyffe of Thurso, who had spent long times observing and hunting seals in the Arctic, suggested the eminent scientists did not know what they were talking about. The text of the major's letter suggests he had also seen the film and he was adamant it was no seal and it was his opinion seals did not swim like that object as they dive and submerge before swimming and do not swim in a wake-like manner. He also quite rightly pointed out that seals would soon be seen in and around the loch if they had taken up residence there.

A Mr. Gilfrid Hartley also chipped in saying in like manner that seals would soon be spotted as well as their predilection to follow boats, as he attested to their behaviour when seen in Loch Awe. He also mentioned a friend who had seen the monster in its four foot long neck aspect and it was no seal. Thus was a similar opinion ventured by a C. M. Hope; who I assume had not seen the film either. The matter of whether a seal was in the loch from May 1933 to September 1934 is unlikely as they would soon be shot as they attacked the salmon stocks. No such seal shooting has been reported from that period.

The film was shown again a few weeks later to the Linnaean Society at Burlington House who specialized in natural history. Famed Nessie author, Rupert T. Gould was there and in the light of the previous meeting, he quoted the editor of the Inverness Courier that some of the London scientists seemed to think the locals were half-witted and did not know a seal when they saw one and rather they probably saw more seals in a month than the scientists saw in a lifetime! The views of the society's members turned out to be more diverse, with two expressing the seal theory, one an otter and another who said he did not know what it was but it certainly was not seal or otter! Sir Edward later opined that it was better that the scientists had just said they did not know what it was.

The final item to consider in this investigation was found in an obscure Loch Ness Monster pull out folder entitled "Orbit reports on the Loch Ness Monster" published by Wiggins Teape in 1969. I bought this back in 2009 and it has largely lain low until I scanned through it for relevant material. I do not consider it as a book, so it didn't make it into my blog article on past books on the phenomenon. But by way of a review, the publication is a folder with four pullout sections which cover three eyewitness reports, three famous photographs (Wilson, Stuart and MacNab), the geography of the loch and various theories to explain the creature.

The three eyewitnesses covered were Alex Campbell, Captain James Fraser and loch keeper, John Cameron and it seemed evident that the publishers had interviewed the three men (or used a proxy). The photo above of Captain Fraser was scanned from the Orbit report. So what was of interest for this case was the facsimile reproduction of two documents which it seems belonged to Captain Fraser. The first was a typed letter from the captain in which he describes the event which largely follows the accounts of older newspapers. The other item is more fascinating and is a letter sent from famed Nessie researcher, Rupert T. Gould to James Fraser. It is dated 3rd December 1934 and is shown below.

Woodfield Lane,


Dear Capt. Fraser

I am exceedingly sorry that, owing to pressure of work, I have not written sooner to thank you for so readily sending me particulars of the posting of your men round Loch Ness. They will be of great value for reference.

I don't know whether you have yet seen the film you secured - I mean, the earlier; I understand you secured two. I saw it a few days before I met you at Urquhart Castle; and I have since seen it exhibited at a meeting of the Linnean Society. The meeting was chiefly remarkable for the diverse views expressed by various zoologists. Mr. Hinton, of the Natural History Museum, stated he was entirely certain that, on the evidence of the film, the "monster" was a seal. Dr. Kemp, of the "Discovery' investigations, who had seen enormous numbers of seal in the Antarctic, said that he had never seen a seal move in such a manner as the film showed. Another, whose name I didn't catch, said that he was absolutely satisfied, on the evidence of the film, that the "monster" was a large otter!

Actually, the best I could make of the film was occasional glimpses of a head and neck, with indications of something which looked like a dorsal fin close behind the head. Here is a very rough sketch of the creature as the film presented itself to me. 

With renewed thanks and all good wishes, believe me sincerely yours, 

Rupert T. Gould

We had already stated that Gould had seen the film and there are three things to take from this letter. The first is that Gould actually saw the film twice and formed the opinion that there was indications of a head-neck with something like a dorsal fin behind the head-neck. An enlargement of his sketch is shown below showing Gould's impression of the head and neck. I presume that the small peak at the far left is Gould's dorsal fin impression. Gould does not explicitly state it is the monster, but he certainly does not side with seal and otter interpretations.

Secondly, Gould talks of a second film by Fraser which seems to have been taken between the first one in mid-September and this December letter. My search of the newspaper archives revealed no mention of this film and so I must conclude it was of an inferior quality to the first and therefore did not gain any significant attention. Thirdly, Gould was at the loch between the two film showings, the only time I was aware he was at the loch was on November 1933 when he was gathering material for his June 1934 book. What information he garnered on this second visit is now long lost along with this film which it seems has now perished.

Which is a great pity as only a select few have ever seen it which brings us to the photograph at the beginning of this article. It appeared in Peter Costello's "In Search of Lake Monsters" back in 1974 when he discussed the Fraser film and reproduced the still as a sketch (presumably because he could not get permission or the cost was too much). However, the image was later reproduced in full in Henry Bauer's "The Enigma of Loch Ness" published twelve years later in 1986. Where did Henry get the picture from? As it turns out, it was taken from a Danish book on the monster entitled "Gaden I Loch Ness" ("Riddle of Loch Ness") written by Palle Vibe in 1970.

So is this a genuine still from the Captain Fraser film? Henry contacted the copyright holders of the photograph in an attempt to find its provenance, but they could not help him. As a result, Henry dubbed it of "extremely dubious provenance". I also attempted to make contact with Palle who actually republished his book last year, without success so far. However, having considered the description of the object made in the previous accounts, it hardly seems likely that this still has anything to do with the film. 

What we see in the still is something that looks very much like a dorsal fin. But if this had been so plainly visible in the film, I doubt anyone would have gone for a seal explanation as seals obviously do not have dorsal fins. Neither do otters and one scientists dismissed cetaceans as an explanation. It seems more likely that this still is a photograph of something like a basking shark, of which we reproduce a picture from the Illustrated London News published only four months before the Fraser film. How Palle Vibe came by this picture is a story for him to tell.

So, this is a film, which from its description, reminds me of the 2007 Gordon Holmes video. But all we have left from this episode are verbal descriptions and a sketch made by Gould. Roy Mackal declared it as positive evidence, despite never seeing even a single image from the film. We can discount the seal interpretations, but are left in a cryptid limbo wondering what this long gone film actually shows. I still hold out hope that Sir Edward Mountain went to the trouble of making some still images from the film which now lie in a dusty box somewhere in some descendants' attic, unrecognizable to their new owners. Only time will tell if that avenue produces any fruit,

The author can be contacted at

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Jeremy Wade and those Loch Ness Eels

Jeremy Wade, the well known presenter and expert on exotic and large fish, is back on TV with a new series entitled "Mysteries of the Deep" which ran its first episode last week on the Loch Ness Monster. As it turned out, it was not a full episode devoted to the subject, but rather a 20 minute slot with two other unrelated stories. The subject itself was familiar and topical enough - could a mutated form of eel grow to gigantic proportions in Loch Ness? The subject was handled well enough as Professor Neil Gemmell who ran the initial eDNA survey suggested that giant eels were the best theory. Or to use his own words, there is possibly a very large eel in Loch Ness. 

Jeremy mentioned some past cases such as Gordon Holmes' video which has been interpreted by some as an eel, while the recent video clip by Rory Cameron of a large water disturbance in the loch was also briefly shown. Among other shots were the plesiosaur skeleton at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, a clip from the 1958 BBC documentary, "Legend of the Loch" and a nice little CGI rendition of the 1933 Spicer sighting (though they added a heat haze to keep the sceptics happy). 

The people brought in to comment on the story all looked unfamiliar to me, but since they were being used to comment on a variety of non-Nessie related sea stories, that was quite understandable. However, what happened to Jeremy's Greenland Shark which he touted as a viable candidate back in 2014? It was never a good theory and I suspect Jeremy knew that. 

So having said all this, it seemed a good point to ask a couple of questions. I covered the pros and cons of giant eels a while back, so this is by way of an appendix. The first is how old is the giant eel theory? A perusal of old newspaper stories from the 1930s shows that the giant eel theory was doing the rounds pretty early on. This clipping from the Dundee Courier dated 16th June 1933 was penned just over a month after the Aldie Mackay article of the 2nd May which kicked off the Nessie sensation. In this piece, we see the giant eel theory being touted alongside the sturgeon theory though with little detail as to why this is a favoured theory.

However, a letter sent to The Scotsman dated 23rd October 1933 from "Old Stratherrick" expands on the theory a bit more. As one who was brought up in the area, he tells us it was common knowledge that "enormous eels" inhabited the loch. He puts that in quotes as if to suggest he was using the words of someone else. He also seems to go left of field when mentioning the old tale that the loch never gives up its dead and it is nothing to do with strong undercurrents. What has that got to do with giant eels? Was he implying the eels scavenged anything that fell into the loch? That would seem to be his implication. After this, he gets to the nub of his argument in postulating that some eels may have settled in the loch rather than head out to the Sargasso Sea from which they evolved at some distant point in time into giants.

Rupert Gould himself examines the theory in his 1934 book "The Loch Ness Monster and Others" but rejects it, opining it is the fodder of letters to various newspapers. And, indeed, one could multiply letters and articles which add giant eels to the list of Loch Ness suspects, but the point is that giant eel theories are as old as Nessie stories and nothing new to the discourse. Indeed, most theories had been played out by the end of 1934. But this naturally leads to the second question. If giant eels are a possibility, then have any huge eels been captured in the area around the loch? Once again, we resort to the newspapers of old in search of an answer. 

As it turns out, the locals may have spoken of giant eels, but no giant eels have ever been caught in the area. At this juncture, one may ask what qualifies as a giant eel? That may be a bit like asking how long is a piece of string. But let us go through some examples of what was found. The first clipping is from the Inverness Courier dated 14th December 1848 and it describes an eel of five foot in length being captured somewhere near the River Ness estuary. Not very big by Nessie standards, so we move on.

The next episode is 11 years later from the Inverness Courier 12th November 1859 and recounts the tale of a seven footer being found in a pool at the Longman, which is again near the mouth of the River Ness. We are told its girth extended to two feet and eight inches which suggests a diameter of about ten inches to give us a more impressive creature but still a long way from a thirty foot Nessie.

There are similar clippings for the Inverness area covering over a hundred years of newspaper but none of them from Loch Ness itself. That doesn't mean no other large eels were caught in that time, perhaps November and December were slow news months. But there was a tale of another capture a little further north, perhaps in the Cromarty Firth, from the Courier dated 13th October 1830.

This was six foot and five inches long but is identified as a Conger eel which makes one suspect the other catches are also Congers and not the Silver eels which inhabit Loch Ness. Indeed, seven feet is the maximum expected length of the Conger which live out at sea and so should not be expected in fresh waters such as Loch Ness while Silver eels would only be caught at sea when they are migrating.

So, the lengths found here do not really add up to anything remarkable and one is left asking what the tales of giant eels at Loch Ness were based on? If any eel up to seven foot long was caught in the loch, we can be sure that if they produced the body, it would have made the newspapers like their marine counterparts. So it seems no eel of unusual size has been caught in Loch Ness.

I say that based on a presumption that if Nessie was a giant eel, there will be a progression of sizes from the usual one or two footers up to Nessie size. I know of no such intermediate eels which have been caught by the many anglers of the loch. That would leave one with the scenario that somehow there are the ordinary eels and then the monstrous ones which no angler is going to catch with their puny fishing lines. Would there be a scenario in which the biggest eels evolve and mid sized ones got naturally selected out a long time ago? However, if we extend our search in time and place then strange tales begin to emerge. Firstly, there is the story from 1747 regarding the eels of Loch Askeg near Fort William:

Eels of a monstrous size are understood still to inhabit some of the largest of the Highland lochs; some of whom are said to be nearly as thick in the body as a horse. In the year 1747, a party of soldiers  having observed a monster in Loch Askeg  near Fort William, they prepared a strong line and hook, on which having  put a sheep for a bait and fixed the line to a tree, they succeeded in  catching an eel nearly as thick as the body of a horse.

Loch Askeg probably refers to the Port of Askaig at the confluence of lochs Eil and Linnhe at the southern end of the Great Glen. Clearly, an eel with the girth of a horse is going to be a head turner. Using the conger statistics above, we are perhaps talking about a length of eleven feet based on fifty inches for a horse's girth. But again, we are in salt and not fresh water suggesting these may again be conger eels. Were conger eels bigger 300 years ago? I have no idea. There is also the story related in MacFarlane's 1767 "Geographical Collections":

Likewise there is abundance of eels, in that Lochediff which the men of the country allege and persuade others that the said eels are also big as a horse with a certain incredible length ...

Like the previous tale, Loch Etive is also a sea loch about thirty miles south of the top end of Loch Eil and Linnhe, once again suggesting conger eels, but of notable proportions. To complete the complement of large eels caught at this southern end of the Great Glen, there is the letter quoted by Ted Holiday in his "Great Orm of Loch Ness":

In a letter to Captain Lionel Leslie, a Mrs Cameron of Corpach, near Fort William, described how workmen killed an animal found in the Corpach canal-locks when these were drained at the end of the last century. She related: 'In appearance it resembled an eel but was much larger than any eel ever seen and it had a long mane. They surmised it had come down from Loch Ness as even then the loch had a sinister reputation.' 

A fresh search of online newspaper archives provided no leads for this story around 1900. But in reference to the long mane mentioned in this story, I finish with a story from the same period related in the July 1961 edition of the Glenurquhart Rural Community Bulletin:

Here I may relate a thing that happened to my late father and the Rev. Mr.McNeill, Church of Scotland Minister, in Invermoriston, who went on many fishing expeditions to Loch Nam Breac Dearg and other hill lochs. One evening on their way home they were fishing in a very deep pool in Aultsigh Burn when Mr. McNeill caught an eel 20” long with a mane of hair right down its back.

It is to be noted that the Aultsigh Burn feeds into Loch Ness. Conger and silver eels do not have long manes and it with some frustration I ask why these two unusual specimens from either end of the Great Glen did not make their way to a zoologist? Did these gentlemen capture a young monster and was it related to the one killed at Corpach? Over a hundred years on, we will never know, but I hope the next time a Loch Ness angler capture a run of the mill eel but with an unusual formation of hair on its back, I hope they do not throw it back in!

Well, that's enough about giant eels for now.

The author can be contacted at

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Revisiting a possible land sighting from 2003

I have been aware of this land sighting for some time, but never really addressed it until now. However, I recently found a recounting of it in an old issue of "Animals and Men" published by the Centre for Fortean Zoology. I will reproduce their take on the matter at the end of this article, but I did not think this would be the only coverage of the story back then. So with that in mind, I went to the National Library of Scotland and looked for the primary sources as I could not find them online. As it turned out, the sighting was reported in the Inverness Courier dated 2nd January 2004 from which I extracted the text from the clipping below using OCR.

Loch Ness monster r-eely does exist 

TWO Canadian visitors and a Scottish friend had a monstrous experience when they saw a giant sized creature on the shores of Loch Ness. However, a Beauly woman to whom they reported their sighting does not believe the three were treated to a close up view of Nessie. She had her own close encounter with strange creature on the loch some years before. The three young women, aged between 19 and 21, saw the creature close to Dores a few weeks ago and reported the sighting to family friend Christina Palmer, who had her own Nessie sighting experience in 1998.

 "They were walking along the shores of Loch Ness when one of them shouted that she had found an 'anaconda'," Mrs Palmer said. "When the others reached the spot, they saw what they described as an enormous eel about 28 to 30 feet long. They thought it was dead to begin with. but it appeared to move its tail as they watched, and all three ran off screaming. They went back to their car and after deciding it was not Nessie and unlikely to harm them, they ventured back to take pictures of the thing, only to find that it had indeed been alive and had slithered back into the loch."

Mrs Palmer said the women were certain they had seen an eel and were definite about the estimated size of the creature. "I said to them that was some length, but they were adamant about it," she said. Eels 10 to 15 feet in length have been seen in the loch and a giant eel was recently suggested as the most plausible explanation for monster sightings In Loch Ness. The Devon-based Centre for Fortean Zoology announced plans this autumn to visit Loch Ness. They hope to find evidence to support their theory that the monster sightings are actually of a eunuch eel - which does not travel to the Sargasso Sea to breed, but remains in freshwater and continues to grow. However. Mrs Palmer rules out this explanation from personal experience. "What I saw was the size of a whale." she said.

Her sighting came during a birthday cruise for her husband aboard the Jacobite Queen "We were going up the loch towards Urquhart Castle", she recalled. "Just after we passed the Clansman Hotel, I was down on the lower deck with my younger sister and a couple of other people. All of a sudden this thing rose in the water in front of us. To all intents and purposes, it looked like the back of a whale. I didn't know which end was front or back, it was just this big thing. "It frightened me and I'm not easily frightened. It was longer than 30 feet, but we never saw a tail or the head. The creature was caught on camera by someone videoing the birthday celebrations. We've shown the film to people, but because it's mainly about the party we don't say anything and just put it on. Everybody notices it."

Loch Ness Monster Fan Club president Gary Campbell said the theory that Nessie could be a giant eel is a valid one. "There's a hypothesis the Loch Ness Monster is a giant eel or number of eels and of all the rational explanations It is the most plausible," he said. "We've had reports from a guy in a 16 foot long fishing boat who saw an eel go past him and it was longer than the boat. He said to us 'If that wasn't the Loch Ness Monster, I don't know what is.' But I would say that if someone saw a 28-foot eel, that has got to be a record".

This seems a topical event, given the talk some months back about eDNA surveys and giant eels. So we have the three witnesses: two Canadians and their Scottish friend plus a local named Christina Palmer, who we are told saw the creature five years before. However, Christina was dubious that they saw Nessie because her sighting was whale-like whilst theirs was eel-like. We also have the curious circumstance where they decided it may not have been Nessie and went back to check it out. What was the thinking behind that? The animal was described like an anaconda which sounds like a fair description as the Green Anaconda can grow to 30 feet long and has a diameter in excess of 12 inches.

I was particularly intrigued by the reporter's matter of fact comment that "eels 10 to 15 feet in length have been seen in the loch". I would like to know more about those creatures, but doubt any such eel has been officially caught in the loch. But we do have the intriguing third account of an eel-like creature longer than an eyewitness' fishing boat. The next installment in this story came on the 13th January when the Inverness Courier quotes local monster hunter, Steve Feltham, on his opinion on the case.

Nessie-hunter explains away 'mystery' creature 

(Steve Feltham with a length of alkathene pipe which he believes was mistaken for a giant eel. )

NESSIE-HUNTER Steve Feltham believes he has solved one mystery of the loch and the identity of a strange beastie found on its shores. The "creature" was discovered on the near Dores by two young Canadian visitors and a Scottish friend. Christina Palmer of Beauly, a family friend of the Scots girl, told The Courier the person in the group who had spotted the creature shouted to her friends she had found an anaconda. On closer inspection, the three young women saw what they described as an enormous eel, 28 to 30 feet in length.

"It appeared to move its tail as they watched it and all three ran off screaming." Mrs Palmer revealed. The three later returned to the spot to take photographs, but the animal had disappeared. Giant eels have been reported in Loch Ness and have been suggested as a possible source of Nessie sightings. though these are usually only half the size of the object seen by the three girls. However. Mr Feltham believes there is a more mundane explanation for the girls' close encounter. "Lengths of alkathene pipe from the nearby fish farm." he declared. 

"It's black and about two to three inches in diameter and comes with an adaptor that looks like a hump. There are great big shards of it about and, when it's flapping about on the shoreline, it looks a lot like a live eel." Mr Feltham, who has lived in a converted van on the shores of Loch Ness since 1991, believes the pipe could easily be mistaken for a living creature. "There was about 60 feet of it in the water along there and great big chunks of it on the beach," he said.

However, Mrs Palmer was adamant the girls had not seen a pipe. "No way — it was definitely mobile," she commented. "They knew what it was. One of them goes fishing on the lakes in Canada with her father and has seen some pretty big fish there. She knows what she has seen. I believe they definitely saw something like that, but whether it was as big. I don't know." Mrs Palmer has been told where the girls had their sighting and intends visiting the scene for a closer look. "I think it was dying because I don't think it would have been on the shore if it was able to move." she added. 

Notice that Christina Palmer has now warmed to the experience compared to the first article and is defending the view that the women saw something alive and unusual. She also seems to be speaking on their behalf, though two of the witnesses were still around. Steve is in the other corner explaining it away as the plastic pipe. Note the diameter of the pipe is substantially smaller than that of an anaconda - 2-3 inches versus up to 12 inches. Mention is made of an adaptor which can look like a hump, but I see no mention of a hump by the witnesses. The final communication was by Christina Palmer  by way of a letter to the Inverness Courier, dated 3rd February 2004.  

Further findings on giant eel 

Sir. For those who are interested in the giant eel that was seen on the Loch Ness shore in November 2003 - the area has now been inspected and measurements taken at the location in the presence of two of the witnesses. The measurements were approximately 22 feet eight inches and judged to be the minimum length of the eel. The student who identified the eel is studying marine biology. One person, not involved, suggested that what the girl saw was some black piping used at a fish farm. As the "sighting" was nowhere near to the fish farm there is no such possibility. 

Yours etc,

Christina M. Palmer. 

Christina now comes out saying the object was a giant eel and here the estimated length drops a few feet to just under 23 feet. One would presume that if one of the witnesses was a marine biology student, they should be able to figure out an eel when they saw one. On the other hand, I do not accept her comment that fish farm pipes could not reach Dores. Another important factor is the time between when they ran away and when they came back. The shorter that time, the less time for an alleged pipe to be washed back into the loch (which I do not think happens that quickly). Finally, the witnesses are not recorded as describing the colour of the object but anacondas are sure not black like these plastic pipes. I believe they are green or yellow.

So what do we make of all this? This land report was mentioned in the comment section of an older article here on this blog and Steve was still sticking to his guns: 

The pipe was at least 20 metres long. It rolled in the waves as they washed onto the beach, as I remember it was there for more than a week before I pulled it out. Came from the fish farm (a mile away up the loch) Lots of this sort of piping used to wash in, along with numerous other bits of "fishfarm'ary" including a cage.. Twice.
A long time ago now, and laughed about at the time.
Hope this helps.

One thought from that comment was that if Steve's bit of pipe lay there for more than a week, then why was the eyewitnesses' alleged pipe gone when they came back? I also managed to track down Christina Palmer who still lives in Beauly and talked to her on the phone about her own sighting as well as the land sighting. Sadly, 17 years on, she had lost contact with the eyewitnesses, though she was also sticking to the eyewitnesses' version of the story. But at the end of the day, it is not protagonists on either side, but the people who actually saw this object on the beach that I would really like to talk to. For now, that objective has not been fulfilled. Anyway, these events happened seven years before this blog started, but this led me to do some further thinking. So I decided to find out what a thick piece of plastic pipe on a beach looks like. What would you think if you stumbled upon this item on your local beach?

Yes, you're right. You would say "Oh look, a piece of plastic pipe". Now transfer this scenario to Loch Ness and apparently this becomes "Oh look, it's a 30 foot long giant eel. Run!". I usually take the view that eyewitnesses are not that stupid, or rather one should not assume it as a first step. Given that at least one was a marine biologist and another (or the same?) was a regular angler, they would seem to be people not so easily fooled. Moreover, a piece of plastic pipe lying on the beach should still be there when they came back as the prevailing south westerly winds push debris to the north of the loch. But then again, why did the girls go back thinking it may not have been the monster? Only they can answer that question.

But, do we have a corroborating report from another eyewitness? In the first newspaper article mentioned above, Gary Campbell, who runs the Loch Ness Monster sightings register had this to say at the end of the clipping:

Mr Campbell added that he had received another report from the Dores area, very similar to the sighting by the three young women. A man walking by the loch had seen an eel-like creature on the shore, which slithered back into the water as he approached. "It stacks up." be said "Eels do travel over land and there is the number of eels in Loch Ness but it's not something people want to hear." 

I asked Gary if he could expand on this report, but 17 years on he could not find it in his files and it is not mentioned on his website chronology, so this is a bit of an outlier. To complete the coverage of that time, here is the article from "Animals and Men" issue 35 authored by Jon Downes. I don't think it adds anything new other than to promote the giant eel theory which would seem to be the main beneficiary of this story if it is indeed accurate.

Over the past year we have been extolling the theory that the Loch Ness monster - and indeed other northern European and North American lake monsters - are giant eels. which have achieved an immense size because they have become sterile due to some unknown chemical agent in the water. This theory was given a boost recently when two Canadian girls, and a Scottish friend - visitors to the loch - saw what they described as an enormous eel, 28 to 30 feet in length. ''it appeared to move its tail as they watched it and all three ran off screaming."

They reported the incident to veteran Loch Ness monster expert Steve Feltham - the man who became famous after featuring in the BBC documentary "Desperately Seeking Nessie''. He has a less exciting explanation for what the girls saw. ''Lengths of alkathene pipe from the nearby fish farm," he declared. "It's black and about two to three inches in diameter and comes with an adaptor that looks like a hump. There are great big shards of it about and, when it's flapping about on the shoreline, it looks a lot like a live eel."

Mr Feltham, who has lived in a converted van on the shores of Loch Ness since 1991, believes the pipe could easily be mistaken for a living creature. "There was about 60 feet of it in the water along there and great big chunks of it on the beach.'' he said.

However, Mrs Palmer - a friend of the three witnesses - was adamant the girls had not seen a pipe. "No way - it was definitely mobile." she commented. ''They knew what it was. One of them goes fishing on the lakes in Canada with her.father and has seen some pretty big fish there. She knows what she has seen. I believe they definitely saw something like that. But whether it was as big, I don 't know." Mrs Palmer has been told where the girls had their sighting and intends visiting the scene for a closer look. ''I think it was dying because I don't think if would have been on the shore if it was able to move", she added.

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Sunday, 3 May 2020

Latest Webcam from Eoin

As far as I know, there has been no lochside reports of the monster yet, and we can largely put that down to the current covid-19 lockdown as tourists (generally) stay away from the loch and locals are restricted in their movements outside of their houses. With all that in mind, it could turn out to be a low year for sightings, perhaps the most in a long time.

So, as more and more people go online to fulfill their needs and wants, the Loch Ness webcam comes more to the fore more than ever before. So, as things stand, we have three reported sightings, all of them on webcam, all of them on one webcam and all from our friend, Eoin O' Faodhagain. The video can be viewed here from its YouTube link and has received over 200,000 as I type:

The video was recorded at 0826 on Wednesday the 22nd April. The Sun newspaper ran the story from which I quote:

A NESSIE enthusiast claims he has spotted the Loch Ness Monster for the third time this year.

Eoin O'Faodhagain says his recording is the biggest ever "confirmed" sighting of the mythical beast. The 55-year-old veteran Nessie watcher believes he saw the legendary creature swimming and splashing about in Urquhart Bay last Wednesday. He describes spotting a 30ft long shape in the water before quickly hitting record on his camera. In the video, a long black shape can be seen floating atop the water.

The mysterious object remains suspended in the water for a few moments, before slowly submerging over the course of two minutes. As the clip ends, the shape disappears without a trace under the tranquil waters of Loch Ness. Mr O'Faodhagain, from Drumdoit, Co Donegal, immediately recognised the creature and submitted his findings to the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register.

The organisation have since "confirmed" the footage, which is thought to be the largest ever seen. The 55-year-old said the mythical beast emerged from the water and stayed motionless. But then “after a few seconds splashing motions can be seen on the video.”

Mr O'Faodhagain explained: ”Then it submerged slowly into the loch disappearing from sight."

“This sighting is also special because there was no boat traffic or wave disturbance in the video and the surface of the loch was calm.”

He believes the pictured Nessie was at least 30 feet long and rose at least 4 to 5 feet high.

He said: “It was amazing to see such a large image caught on video compared to my previous sightings.”

Mr O'Faodhagain is no stranger to Nessie, having caught the first sighting of the decade back in January as well as a further sighting earlier this month on 14 April – as well as four times last year.

Now, as stated before, the quality of the image is diluted by four factors, the distance between camera and object, the quality of the camera, the quality of the screen displaying the feed and the fact that another camera is recording the screen. A normal Loch Ness image only involves the first two factors. But there is not a lot Eoin can do about that. 

Eoin reckons it is his best image yet and I would tend to agree with that and he reckons the extent of what we are looking at is about 30 feet and about 4-5 feet out of the water. The main thing is that the object appears to submerge which is important in excluding various candidates. He also told me it came up out the water, there was nothing there when he began watching, though this happened too quickly to record. A further image he took can be seen below.

He also said there was evidence of splashing around the object, which is a bit harder to see in the video. In this instance, we can't look to visitors to the castle to corroborate as the site is currently closed. So what could it be and what are others saying? Looking around the chat sites, we have suggestions of a tree trunk, a windrow or the monster. The only reasonable "natural" contender is the windrow which is a reflection of the dark hillside amidst more turbulent water. That phenomenon is explained here.

Having seen pictures of windrows, this image looks sharper but that may be due to the increased contrast. However, the main factor in favour of a reflection is to watch the large shadow above it and note how it decreases in darkness and size in sync with the smaller dark patch. This would be enough to suggest to me that it is a form of reflection fading as the sun shines more.

This is demonstrated in the two snapshots below from the beginning and end of the video clip. Note the large reflection on the surface has more than halved in sized while the smaller monster one has completely vanished. This is because they both have a common cause.

On a related note, I contacted Historic Scotland about installing a webcam at Urquhart Castle. They said they had no plans, despite me suggesting it would be great publicity for them to stream the loch with some part of the castle complex in the foreground (after all, you have to prove it was taken at Loch Ness). I suspect this is more a financial issue to them and will pursue it further. Such an installation would cut the distance by a factor of at least 10, depending how close an object was to the camera and root out the false positives from further webcams.

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