Monday, 11 January 2021

Further Thoughts on the John MacLean Sighting



It is one of the classic Loch Ness Monster accounts from the 1930s involving Inverness man and angler, John MacLean. This sighting was covered on this blog back in 2015 and you can read that to get the basic facts. John himself stated that he was fishing from the shore near the mouth of the Altsigh Burn when the monster surfaced about twenty yards from him. It appeared to be in the act of swallowing something which he presumed was one of the abundant fish from that area.

The creature resurfaced further west displaying itself from tail to head as in the contemporary sketch above from The Scotsman newspaper from July 1938. The six minute sighting ended with the foremost hump inflating in an extraordinary manner before it submerged for the final time. All in all, a super sighting which surely would leave the sceptics scratching their collective heads?

Well, the answer to that is no as there is apparently no sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, no matter how close or detailed that cannot have a mundane, ordinary explanation arbitrarily assigned to it. To this end, one leading sceptic told me personally it was clear that MacLean saw a mere otter. This "fact" was communicated to me when I knew that another leading sceptic had assured us all that the sighting was nothing more than a group of cormorants. That opinion was presumably formed on the tenuous grounds that MacLean had stated that the creature swallowed like a cormorant. It seems we have a choice of what John MacLean "really" saw.

To get to the main point, when it was pointed out that John MacLean estimated the length of the creature to be eighteen to twenty feet while otters and cormorants are an unspectacular three feet long, I was told he had got his estimates wrong because he was looking across a very foreshortened loch due to him being right on the shore and not from an elevated position. Now there is a grain of truth in that and this is the danger of sceptical interpretations - part of it is based on something people would admit to be sensible. However, the devil is in the details. I took this picture near where John MacLean was to demonstrate the foreshortening effect. It is actually taken at the back of the youth hostel looking across the loch from the beach.



Would one have trouble trying to estimate the length of that stick out in the water? You might, but I would not have as I was there. The foreshortening problem comes if such an object is located further away towards the opposite shore a mile away. Looking at the water in the vertical axis, there is more nearby water visible in the bottom three quarters of water than there is of distant water in the top quarter.

The conclusion is obvious, the problem of estimating distance and therefore size is proportional to how far away the object is. It is not a binary solution. If the object is close to the observer, foreshortening is a minor issue. If it is three quarters of a mile away, the margin of error increases greatly. So the question is how far away MacLean's creature was? The sceptic says it was a long way off, despite MacLean's experience by the loch. 

The problem was recently resolved by an e-clipping sent in by Gary, a regular reader. He emailed to me an image from the Radio Times from 1938, just weeks after John MacLean's sighting. The BBC had sent a team out in their radio van to investigate the phenomenon of the Loch Ness Monster which included interviewing local experts and eyewitnesses. Now there is a program I would love to hear. That page gives us our first look at John MacLean alongside the BBC interviewer.



It is always good to get a contemporary photograph of an eyewitness, especially at the site in question, but that is not the only reason why this picture is helpful. Look at the direction he is pointing in and its orientation to the loch behind him. Since we know he was fishing by the mouth of the Altsigh Burn, we can project a line of sight onto a map of the area. The 20 metre scale at the bottom right of the map is roughly the same as 20 yards and gives you an idea of the arc along which the creature may have appeared.



John MacLean was not looking out over to the far side of the loch, he was looking across the mouth of the river where he was casting his line. A look at my stock of trip photographs gave me a shot of the view across the estuary where I stood close to where John did. The nearest headland point is about thirty yards away and the more distant one over a hundred yards away. The creature he saw lay in between these points, but it is more likely to have been closer to the nearest headland.



The proximity of the headland you can see which was opposite from John MacLean excludes any chance of observational errors due to foreshortening. There are multiple frames of references from which to deduce distances as John's eyes darted between monster and locality. Twenty yards puts us about halfway out where the river meets the loch, a perfect vantage point. 

So, a main plank of sceptical objections is removed. The beast sketched below at that time was no otter and no cormorant. Unless one wishes to pursue the view that John MacLean was an outright liar, you've got yourself an excellent view of the Loch Ness Monster seen by an experienced witness at close range.




The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


70 comments:

  1. Looks like the John Gillies head and neck, the one off his video.

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  2. And please ...no comments about how remarkably this looks like a giant eel! John MacLean's creature looks nothing like an eel.

    I mentioned how sceptics try to hammer square otter/cormorant pegs into round monster holes. I think sometimes this happens with monster candidates.

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    1. Well, let's see. Doesn't look like a sturgeon, catfish, eel, salamander, turtle, snake, otter, comorant, or plesiosaur. I give up, what is it?

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    2. Why? I think it does look eelish.

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    3. I didn't realise an eel's head could do an right angle turn at the neck joint like this one ...

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    4. Its only a drawing, will not be accurate,and yes im sure you would be suprised what certain creatures could do.

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    5. Why die hards John Alvarado?

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    6. It's only a drawing? That is like saying it is only an eyewitness account. A drawing is a representation of an eyewitness account.

      To dismiss the accuracy of the drawing just because it does not fit our preconceived theories is the playground of the sceptics - we should avoid that.

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    7. A drawing is still not accurate. I dont see how you can say this cant be a huge eel, it does resemble one.

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    8. Die hards in that there are some who lean too much on the side that the LNM is possibly an eel or expecting an eel to behave or do things that do not fit the LNM eyewitness model. Some may wish that Nessies are eels or plesiosaurs, I think that is the easy and lazy way out. And it's a good thing that we have this discourse of what ifs, but believe me, we are no way near knowing for sure what a Nessie is. And that is my two cents opinion.

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    9. I'm with Roland. The sketch doesn't resemble that of an eel at all, but does push the idea that this thing is an unknown species -- a fascinating thought in its own right.

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    10. A die hard would say its a huge eel not possibly a huge eel.Sorry guys i think a huge eel could pass for this sighting when you look at this drawing and thats my opinion, and i am entitled to it.

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  3. Looks sorta like that elusive long neck seal!

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  4. I think writers live to write a last paragraph like that. In the States, we call it a slam dunk.

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  5. Is the top pic going from left to right or vice versa?

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  6. I believe the head is on the right, with raised tail on the left. If that's what you mean.

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  7. Some sighting interviews, including John MacLean, conducted by Ted Holliday. The MacLean sighting starts at 15:18

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1wv2glPu2UxllGC1mABVKtgxtaOMuOrus/view

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    1. Wonder if he saw that Great Orm of Holiday?

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  8. Intrestin account.. I find it intrestin in his full account he says the bottom of the creature was straw coloured.. Ted Holiday said the same bout his sighting! Maclean also said it was a dark brown colour like a horse..a couple of people I have spoke to that claim to have seen the monster described the same colour!! Great story from a long time ago.. ..cheers

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  9. While going through my regular trawl of the Internet for Loch Ness related items came across a photo which I've never seen before. Its remarkable for its similarity to whats described by the witness in this article (without the head and neck). Long ,dark,sinewy humps above the surface. The far shore is very visible and its quite a clear photo. My very limited knowledge of the loch doesn't allow me to say where it was taken. Apparently taken in 1938,same year as this McLean sighting.
    The reference to a much brighter underside is interesting as this is mentioned also in the Taylor film which was also taken in 1938. I could be completely wrong about the photo and perhaps its just me not having seen it before. I'm sure Roland has and might reproduce it for opinion.
    There are wakes in the photo but there's no doubt about something out of the ordinary.

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    1. Where would this 1938 photo be?

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    2. Yes, please post it! Sounds very interesting. Just when you thought you've seen every photo! Hope it's not fake or hoaxed!

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    3. I did a screenshot of it so I can email to Roland. I'd be amazed if its hoaxed. Just can't see how that could be done. I can't reproduce it here.

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    4. Well, okay. I don't think they had Photoshop in 1938. LOL

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    5. Pheonix Man's photo is one of the pictures taken by the Edward Mountain expedition in 1934. You can find one image of it here (first image):

      https://lochnessmystery.blogspot.com/2016/05/an-old-nessie-article-from-1934.html

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    6. Yes, there is a clearly visible line ahead of the object extending for hundreds of feet - it's clear that the humps are water roiled up from a just out of camera view boat. Clearly the men promised a bonus to snap the monster, in the depths of the Great Depression, had an incentive to submit anything that might gain them xtra money. I think there is an unknown animal of substantial size in the loch, but I fear this pic isn't it.

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    7. Hmm... Oh well, what were the chances of finding an old unpublished photo in this day and age on the Internet. Wonder if there are any stashed away in some forgotten chest in some attic. "Well, grandma says it is the Loch Ness Monster. We just laughed at her and threw them in there"

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    8. One day, we will get the Sidney Wignall photos / videos from Loch Morar, that should be a game changer....One day (maybe..)

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    9. never heard of those, what is the story?

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    10. http://lochnessmystery.blogspot.com/2018/07/a-follow-up-to-aircraft-monster-film.html

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    11. Thanks! Giant seal or Eel?

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  10. Think the LNM could be a giant turtle? Well your not the only one. This theory from a noted Nessie proponent.

    https://www.coasttocoastam.com/article/could-the-loch-ness-monster-be-an-ancient-sea-turtle/

    https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/loch-ness-monster-ancient-sea-23336709

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    1. Interesting idea. I read somewhere else, forget where, that one theory is that Nessie comes for air a lot more often than we think, the busy nature of the Loch (waves, wakes etc) hides the shorter visits to the surface.

      That being said, it opens the possibilities right up. Could even be the hollywood ending and find a Plesiosaur/elasmosaur descendent(s) in there. (That would be amazing)

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    2. well, there are reports from 19th century of ships meeting ocean turtles as large as 40 feet long, one of those monsters in Loch ness?

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    3. Just posted today!
      https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2021/01/scientist-claims-loch-ness-monster-is-actually-an-ancient-sea-turtle/

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  11. The ancient giant turtle is an intrestin one.. Ticks a lot of boxes.. Defo a match for the eywitness descriptions plus they can live in cold water and some turtles can hold their breath for hours on end and sum have even developed other ways of breathing. If they were nocturnal they cud breathe at night when active then no need to breathe again during the day as they don't move about. But there are a few problems for nessie bin a turtle... Turtles lay eggs on land and this activity wud sure to be seen. Plus there was no reptile Edna found on Edna testing found at the Loch ....well if we believe what we are told to believe . Cheers... Roy

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    1. Turtles also do not swim at the high speeds that witnesses have reported.

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    2. Thought though that about 25 % of the dna could not be identified?

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    3. Nope, nope, nope! A giant turtle will just not work for me. Agree with the laying of eggs Roy. Giant sea turtles would be frequently seen on land, who could miss them! Turtles being turtles would still follow turtle instinct, no matter how big they were. Now, there's this little problem of multiple, or shape shifting humps as reported by witnesses. Can a hard shell turtle do that?

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    4. Agreed, Nessie is not a giant turtle or eel.

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    5. I mean, just look again at this MacLean sighting, how does that hump raise if it is solid shell?

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    6. Fossils of ancient turtles found in China in 2018 had no shell.
      Eoin O Faodhagain.

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    7. My money though still on really large eel!

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    8. How much? 10 cents or 1000 dollars? :)

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    9. Some turtles lay their eggs in the water and they just happen to have long necks...
      http://archive-srel.uga.edu/outreach/ecoviews/ecoview080706.htm

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    10. Olrik... great find.. Thanks for sharing! It's amazing how creatures have adapted over the years and nothing more remarkable than a turtle..considering they are a reptile they can live happily in cold water plus they have adapted to hold their breath for hours on end! Maybe Mr Bauer theory is not so daft after all... Cheers

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    11. Would a 15-20 Ft Turtle be exotic enough for you who see nessie as a real animal though?

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    12. Any 15-20 ft animal in loch ness would be wonderful.

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    13. Well actually, 15-20 ft isn't really all that big. I'll settle for a 100 ft turtle and call it a deal.

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    14. Alternatively, such a turtle-like creature could lay eggs in burrows under the edge of the loch or in underground caverns that have an atmosphere. Some people believe the Lake Champlain monster, which also is reported as having a long neck, wide body and flippers, breeds in swamps adjacent to the lake, but I am told Loch Ness does not have this...

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    15. Think they have vocal recordings from Camp, and say that they seem to be like a whale or dolphin family!

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    16. Champ echolocation rense.com audio archives 2003 NOV.

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  12. Anything 15- 20 ft in loch ness would be amazing, whatever it turned out to be, and it would proove people have indeed seen big things in the loch over the years and that sonar has indeed picked them up.

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    1. Assuming that there is no supernatural aspects to Nessie!

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  13. I'm pretty much in the giant newt camp if there was a gun to my head. Fits a good chunk of descriptions. Newts actually live all over Scotland. Kinda fits the Morar sightings too. Would live underwater but capable of surfacing. Yes, on the face of it it's a mental proposition but it's all a bit mental isn't it?

    Giant eel is an outside chance though doesn't really work. All the others are a stretch for me. It's not a dinosaur unless it's an undiscovered species.

    All just opinion until Mr Burns drains the Loch and we know for sure.

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    1. Newt= giant salamander?

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    2. That was one of tghe earliest guesses as to what Nessie is!

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