Tim Dinsdale is the most famous of all monster hunters undertaking a search that went from 1960 to his untimely death in 1987 having mounted dozens of expeditions to the loch, ran operations for the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau, numerous lectures promoting the mystery and writing five books on the subject.
I stumbled upon this Pathe newsreel clip of Tim recounting some of his sightings and suspected I was not fully familiar with the full roster. With that in mind, I pulled out my copy of Tim's "Monster Hunt" which was the revised version of his "The Leviathans" produced for the American market and was published in 1972. Now I knew of his second 1971 encounter, but the other reports had slipped my mind. I count four sightings which I now quote and examine below.
Of course, Tim is best known for the hump he filmed from Foyers village on the 23rd April 1960. This established him as a monster hunter and put the monster back on the map after the war and though the 1950s did produce some memorable pictures, Tim's film was the catalyst for years of increased scrutiny at the loch by professionals and amateurs alike. Since this article is more focused on his other sightings, I will do no more than reproduce the sketch from his first book and leave aside controversies about boats, JARIC and so on.
This is taken from "Monster Hunt" page 211, no date is given but it would appear to have happened in 1969.
On two occasions during the course of this splendid and erratic expedition, when we had all been living aboard, we had seen water disturbances which were inexplicable, and once when driving along the north shore road shortly after sunset Mr. Smith, my wife, and all four children had seen a large humped object moving through the water just offshore, creating a wash. I stopped the car, jumped out, and ran back to where the trees no longer obscured the view, at the sighting place - only to find that the object had disappeared.
This would appear to be the lowest key of these sightings. I suspect Tim had some uncertainty about it due to the simple fact that he may not have made any visual contact with the object. It would appear that, as the driver of the car, he was concentrating on the road ahead.
This and the other sightings occurred at a time of high activity at the loch in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Loch Ness Investigation Bureau in 1967 had received a donation of $20,000 from an American organisation plus another £1000 which would add up to nearly £150,000 in today's money. This led to much activity and eyes on the loch, including the eyes of Tim Dinsdale.
On August 30th, while out drifting at the mouth of Urquhart Bay late one afternoon, I spotted a tall, fat `telegraph pole' sticking up from the water, perhaps half a mile distant. I shouted 'look at that' to my eldest son and Murray Stuart, another experienced monster hunter, who were standing in the cockpit, as I dived into the cabin for my binoculars.
It was choppy at the time, and equipment was safely cushioned on the seats. I heard both comment excitedly . . . 'My God, look at it go. ' In a matter of seconds the object had streaked across the water, disappearing behind a promontory near Urquhart Castle. It was such a brief experience - and there had been no time to focus cameras - but it had been entirely real. Starting the motor, we plunged through the choppy water but found no evidence of anything on the surface. Discussing the sighting, we concluded it must have been the head and neck of one of the larger animals.
It must have stood ten feet at least out of the water. My son's eyesight was exceptional, and Murray sketched the object he had seen which he declared thickened near the water, curving slightly at an angle when moving fast. My own view was momentary; and since I did not see the movement or the curvature, I believed the neck was moving away from us when first sighted. Then it must have turned to the right just as I went into the cabin. In ten years it was only my second physical sighting, but again, it was no figment of the imagination. Three of us stood witness to the fact.
Certainly, this was a more substantial report as Tim did see this pole like object in Urquhart Bay. The half a mile distance does not make for a high grade sighting though and he saw it only briefly. However, the other two witnesses had a better view, though I do not think the sketch by Murray Stuart has ever been seen in any publication. It looks like they would have had the Castle as a frame of reference hence aiding their estimation of the ten foot length of the presumed neck. I have discussed pole like sightings in a previous article, to which we now add this account.
This appears to have been Tim's final sighting on the 6th September 1971 at Foyers Point on the south shore. It is quoted from "Monster Hunt" page 263 and looks like his best sighting.
Under motor power in WATER HORSE I was moving through rough water near Foyers, about mid-afternoon. Noise from the hydro works there was considerable, and the weather stormy - quite the wrong conditions for observation. Standing at the wheel I glanced to starboard and instantly recognised a shape I had seen so often in a photograph - the famous 'Surgeon's Photograph' of 1934 - but it was alive and muscular!
Incredulous, I stood for a moment without moving. All I could do was stare. Then I saw the neck-like object whip back underwater, only to reappear briefly, then go down in a boil of white foam. There was a battery of five cameras within inches of my right hand, but I made no move towards them. The surprise of the encounter immobilised me and so upset my balance I ran the boat onto the shingle of Foyers Point. Angrily, I cursed my own stupidity and shook off the paralysis.
I put on my life jacket and dropped anchor, then switched on the tape recorder to capture details of the experience, before I forgot them. The day following I checked distances and the size of waterbirds. There had been seagulls floating close to the head and neck, and my estimate of range could not have been mistaken. It was 200 yards away - perhaps a little more - and the neck extended four feet or so vertically.
There was no freshwater animal in Britain which looked like it - that was absolutely certain. It had the 'Surgeon's Photograph' shape precisely, but was a little more thick set, and the head, or extremity, was curiously rounded. I had not seen a recognisable head, but the object could not have been a tail because of its behaviour and the direction of movement. To have been a tail it would have been going backwards!
No, I had seen the foremost parts of the Beast, and the experience proved to me that at close quarters it would be necessary to train a camera like a sub-machine gun - to shoot instantly and directionally. It was possible to do this, and the technique would obviate the need to obscure one's vision. It would be almost impossible at close quarters not to stare, and stare, with both eyes open. This explained why excited witnesses from shore had failed to take photographs.
They could not bring themselves to interrupt vision. We had several witnesses arrive at Achnahannet who had actually been holding cameras at the time of a sighting. The tape I had recorded proved to be convincing, and it was broadcast nationally on 'New Worlds,' a BBC scientific programme, and was reported in the press. The Guardian covered it, and as this newspaper in Britain has a reputation equivalent to that of the London Times, I felt we had made some progress.
Tim's sketch of the creature appeared in his other book "Loch Ness Monster" and is shown below. This encounter appeared to last only seconds but was his closest encounter at a distance of 200 yards. Sceptics may dismiss this as nothing more than a bird (as they may aver for the third sighting) but this needlessly ignores Tim's 11 years of experience recognising and discounting the various phenomena on the loch which can deceive. Not all eyewitnesses are equal in ability and discernment.
Others have accused Tim of being desperate to see the monster and this high expectation would have led to self-deception. Again, apart from having no proof for this assertion, it unfairly discounts years of experience and one must ask, if he was so desperate to see the monster, why did it take so long for conditions and psychology to provide such an opportunity after eleven years?
I would also point out the condition that has been postulated on this blog before and is here affirmed by Tim Dinsdale himself. I refer to the "shock and awe" syndrome where eyewitnesses see the monster and are literally rooted to the spot transfixed by the sight, even if their cameras are lying right beside them. Sceptics have scoffed at this and brush it aside as an excuse to explain why not enough eyewitnesses produce more close up pictures. If it can happen to Tim Dinsdale, it can happen to anyone.
So, as far as I can tell, that was his last sighting in the sixteen years before his death. The monster is indeed an elusive beast, though statistically speaking, the hundreds of hours put into actual eyes on the loch should be proportionally rewarded with an admitted dash of luck for good measure. Ted Holiday suggested an average of 400 hours of watching before one got their sight of the creature. As one can guess, not everyone has seen out that benefit.
But there were other encounters at the loch which don't quite qualify as sightings but do register in the strange category. Tim has already mentioned the multiple water disturbances which he described as "inexplicable" but we also have this story from 1970 taken from "Monster Hunt" page 231.
One curious incident, however, had both intrigued and frightened us. We were lowering the hydrophone overboard in the immediate vicinity of the 700 foot trench where the big blip had been recorded. After paying out only a couple of hundred feet of wire, the hydrophone appeared to strike some underwater object and bounce along it before continuing its descent. This produced some loud rasping noises through the speaker on the boat which made us jump. There seemed no rational explanation for this, other than a submerged log drifting deep beneath the surface; or alternatively the Monster which we had recorded on sonar coming up to investigate. It was a real experience, and in a small 16 foot overloaded boat a disturbing one.
Do logs float under the water at depths of 200 feet? They may sink below the 200 foot mark as they progress to the bottom, but no one can be sure what Tim experienced that day fifty years ago. One can look over these reports and come to the conclusion that getting a close and sustained view of the Loch Ness Monster is a task that is not worth the effort.
Many have invested much in time and money to get such experiences, but not enough to fulfill the mission statement. They got their personal stories, but no more than that. For modern hunters like me, I will watch the loch when I can, but won't be taking months off work, let alone giving up the day job. The way forward for me is automatic trap cameras, watching the loch while we get on with the rest of life.
The heroic efforts of those believers who put in the hard graft on boats and land, directing operations for long hours each day without little break, straining family relations and so on is acknowledged and honoured. Whether we will see their likes again is a matter for debate.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org