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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  1. Intrestin account again GB..I remember seeing Mrs palmer on a nessie programme and showed the video of the back end of her sighting.. I must admit I thought it was a boat wake but again only saw the very end of it. On to the eel story... I'm not sure sumone cud mistake an eel for a bit of pipe but if it was flapping like Mr Feltham said then it's possible it cud look like a living thing.. The important question for me is how big was the biggest piece of pipe on land? If it was the pipe then it must of bin pretty big to pass for 28ft!!.i wonder if Mr Feltham can remember how big the biggest piece was or is it too long ago to remember... Great account though... Cheers

    1. Well, the length of pipe Steve is holding in the picture looks pretty long. It's not so much the length as the width for me. That is why I would like to talk to the eyewitnesses.

  2. Could there be a multiple of animals people keep seeing? Giant eels, Otters, big fish, seals etc? If Nessie is a really big eel, not exotic enough for some?

    1. I would be quite happy with a 30 foot eel!

  3. If there are giant eels with thick bodies that can swim with their head a bit above water, like some snakes, this could be a candidate...

    1. Aren't there stories with giant eels , some up to 30 feet long, in various locations around Loch ness past few centuries?

    2. Eels populated the loch by their millions in decades past before the population crashed by over 90%. Whether a mutant form (as per Jeremy Wade last night) developed is a good hypothesis though obviously hard to prove. But the biggest eel caught in the loch could not have been more than seven feet in centuries past - but who knows? Remember ordinary fishing lines may not haul in such a beast though the salmon nets once upon a time deployed may have.

  4. Interesting story. I had heard about animals called "Horse Eels" that supposedly lived in lakes. I Google searched these animals, and interestenly enough, they matched a great deal of Nessie sightings. They had two horn like protubences, and were able to hold their heads above water. Could this be our monster?

    1. Sounds like the evolved seals of the In search of lake monsters author!

  5. I have always been intrigued by this supposed sighting since I first came across it in 2005 and have commented about it elsewhere on this blog. There are some discrepancies, so it may not be the same incident. Supposedly the sighting occurred on 18th December 2004. Here is the transcript of the story verbatim as it appeared on the web at the time and which I have preserved as a printout:

    The path by the edge of Loch Ness where two tourists swear they saw an enormous creature 18th December 2004, the night before. We were waiting to get rides from some girls we met, but they never showed. We were forced to walk home...and that's when we saw it!” Massive track marks, 4 inches deep and frozen over, were embedded near the water. The brush by the water's edge was crushed behind a huge weight. The deepest part of the animal track looked like it was over 6 feet wide! The track led back into the water. The tracks were covered in heavy slime. The investigator reported a nasty, fishy smell. There were no human footprints around. The eyewitnesses refused to take a closer look. A view of the entire tracks. A view from the road, where the two tourists saw the creature before it fled. It was massive, as big as a lorry, and it got away with a huge splash!” It looked and moved sort of like a giant serpent! You'll never catch me near Loch Ness again!”

    The article was accompanied by pics of the tracks and a video clip. As I have mentioned, there are some discrepancies, if it's the same incident in question! If the girls were telling the truth, then I am of the opinion that what they indeed saw was a large eel and that Feltham's explanation is too simplistic. But, to describe the size of the eel as big as a lorry, leaving a track 6 feet wide and making a huge splash, is ridiculous on it's face. A bit of exaggeration, me thinks.

    1. This sounds like the story from near Invermoriston investigated by William MacDonald, its a different event.

    2. Well strikingly similar, but different events then. Like I said, very confusing. To me at least. And Alten had engaged MacDonald to conduct research at Loch Ness. Publicity stunt? Anyone can draw their own conclusions.

  6. These giant eels from New Zealand seem to get around with little water...

  7. I would like to share this story which happened in 2003 in Muckross lake in Co Kerry in southern Ireland, which is part of the National Park in Killarney. It maybe relevant to your story on Giant Eels. Lough Muckross is one of the deepest glacial lakes in Ireland with a recorded depth of 274 feet deep. It contains species of artic char ,salmon, trout , pike etc.Scientists were doing an underwater survey of fish populations in the lake in 2003, when they were baffled by an image they found in 80 foot of water of an snake like thing, which measured 27 feet long.They were using hydro acoustic equipment at the time.Maybe Nessie and this thing is one of the same species, that is not just present in Loch Ness, but also present in other lakes around the world, like lake Champlain in Vermont America. It could also be linked with the other Irish lake Lough Ree, which is part of the Shannon, which has been reporting monster sightings for years.Lough Muckross has similarities to Loch Ness ,its a deep glacial lake, with species of artic char and salmon.Eoin O Faodhagain.

    1. Thanks, the thing about a 27 foot sonar trace is that you cannot identify what the species is from it, be it eel or otherwise.

    2. Thats true Roland, you cant say what species the 27 ft "Thing" is, but I found it very interesting, and the scientists likewise, that something of the length mentioned was moving about at a depth of 80 feet, out of a total depth of 274 feet, which is totally unexpected.The scientists said more research is needed to identify the species, so they came to a conclusion that what they witnessed on their hydro acoustic equipment, it was a species of some sort and not a tree stump.

  8. I think a huge eel could explain a lot of nessie sightings..more than other mentioned known creatures ie Otters.. Catfish and sturgeon. Otters are too small and the latter two don't resemble nessie sightings plus I doubt catfish have ever bin in Loch Ness. The big question is could an eel grow that big? Olriks video is a video I shared on another post.. Eel in new Zealand.. I do think a larger one moving like that could make people think they had seen a monster.I just watched a clip of Jeremy wade's new Loch Ness programme and he keeps saying about a 45 ft eel as described by Gordon Holmes on his sighting but I'm sure Gordon said he thought it was between 4 and 5 ft and this was heard wrong thus the 45ft claim.. I may be wrong. Jeremy claims a big eel cud be the answer but not 45 ft.. I wud of hoped people got their sizes right before putting it out for the public on TV... Cheers Roy

    1. The main question for me is something that looks like an anaconda does not fit the usual nessie morphology - that is why Christina Palmer was initially sceptical. Assuming what they saw was alive, you have three alternatives:

      1. There is more than one giant cryptid that has visited the loch over the centuries.
      2. The differences represent life cycle changes.
      3. The differences represent an attribute of the monster - e.g. it can swell its midrift in the same manner as a pufferfish or gulper eel.

    2. I disagree GB.. If there was a handful of giant eels in Loch Ness they could all look different depending on size age and sex! For example a big 50 year old eel could look a lot wider midrift than say a 25 year old big eel..they cud also be a shade different in colour! Take a look on YouTube and look at 'eels-national aquarium of New Zealand.. I was surprised how the bigger ones gave off a different look and also managed to arch parts of their body hump like plus move up giving off a slight look that could give off a head neck from a distance! I've bin lookin into the giant eel thing and changed my mind slightly... Of course the big question is cud eels grow to gigantic sizes... I'm not so sure myself in cold waters.. Cheers

    3. Theres 4 options in total roland.
      The pipe which was three quarters of the way along the beach,was rolling in the surf. It had been there for some days but due to its size nobody had attempted to remove it as we normally do. Back then the fish farm had not heard of the concept of a bin, every single bit of waste produced was just dropped into the loch, plastic, syringes, alcothyne pipe and even chunks of the actual cages, which used to be wooden. Several times I drove along to their site and dumped bin bags full of their waste at their gate.
      This type of pipe was nothing unusual at all.
      The group saw it flex in the winter surf, and ran away. When they returned they didn't go far enough along the beach to spot it again.
      When the piece appeared in the courier I went along to investigate, it was still there, I removed it.
      Reading some of the comments here does make me laugh,
      "If it was the pipe then it must of bin pretty big to pass for 28ft!!"
      I've taken out many bits longer than 28feet, one bit stretched from my van to the door of the pub.
      Mrs Macintosh palmer (to give her her full name) was correct in her first assumption that this was not a sighting of nessie. At the time she was in the habit of extremely frequently writing letters to the courier on many many different subjects, they were always entertaining to read.
      So, the fourth possibility is that this whole story related to the piece of pipe that I removed from the location of the 'sighting'.

      "Assuming what they saw was alive..." good luck with that.

    4. Roy, Steve is laughing at you now for saying the pipe must of bin big for 28 foot.I thought it was a decent query myself.He does not stop short of abusing anyone does he?

    5. I don't know, I think one would have to be an extra special version of "stupid" to mistake a thin piece of plastic pipe for a 30ft anaconda-like beast. After all, some of the witnesses are stated as being regular angler and a marine biologist. Do you not think these should be factored in?

      I would also ask how you know the exact spot where they claimed to have seen it? Did they take you to the spot? If not, how do you know the location of the pipe and the "creature" are the same?

  9. Replies
    1. My thoughts exactly Martin.

    2. It's certainly not a pipe. To think that the ultra sceptic ,who is trying to peddle this, trys to pretend to be some sort of a researcher - a very hardened and committed sceptic is the reality.
      I enjoy Roy's contributions but calling for "Mr.Felthams" opinion stretches all credibility. Has Roy not noticed the barely disguised vitriol directed against Roland on many occasions? Why on earth would anyone listen to Mr.Feltham?
      He's trying to denigrate people from his lofty "expert" sceptic stance.
      With reluctance I'll withdraw all future contribution s to this blog but will retain an active interest.
      I'll correspond privately with GB to avoid the hardened,nasty sceptics who wait to pounce here every day.
      I spent some time at the loch last year and have a very detailed sighting account from 1967.... respecting people's privacy has turned out to be a big issue....but I'm getting there.
      I've also met a relative of the lady who was with the south African tourist who filmed the creature in colour way back in 1938.
      All will be forwarded to Roland.
      Let's see "Mr.Feltham" and Mr.Raynors reaction in the not too distant future.

  10. Could a giant (and we're talking a really, REALLY giant) eel, explain Eoin's screen capture (if that was indeed our mystery Loch inhabitant)? Could it also explain the mystery animal at the end of "in Search Of...Loch Ness Monster".

    Given the multiple different types of sightings, is it possible there could be a myriad of unusual or hitherto unknown marine animals visiting or residing in Loch Ness? Would a giant eel show as the large underwater sensor echos that are recorded (one was featured on the "In Search of..." program as well.)

    Another great post GB, thanks.

    1. There is not enough information in webcam footage to talk about species identification.

    2. Appreciate that, I guess what I meant was that if what was captured on the webcam was indeed (one of) our mystery inhabitant(s), then surely that would have to be some size of eel to be seen as 'clearly' as that from that distance.

  11. The women say it looked like an anaconda.I doubt they have seen an anaconda before so i find that a bit strange.

  12. Things are hotting up! Phoenix man is questioning Roy for sticking up for Steve Feltham but Steve Feltham has just laughed at Roy for asking about the size of the pipe.I look forward to the reply of Roy.

  13. Phoenix man I'm glad u enjoy my contributions lol and to answer ur question on Mr Feltham is I called his opinion cus he has 30 odd years experience on this mystery.. Two sides to the coin an all that.. It doesn't mean to say i agree with everything he says but his opinion is of interest in my humble!! Gezza...if Mr Feltham laughed at my question then thats up to him.. My thinking was I'd be surprised at large pipe littering such a beautiful tourist area(hence the question) but obvs I was wrong cus Mr Feltham says there is..a genuine question from me but a stupid one in his opinion... Two different people with two differen opinions.. This is why I just said his experience is valuable cus he knows the area better than most and certainly better than me!, no harm done.... Cheers