Monday, 13 March 2023

The Land Sighting of Alistair Dallas

Alleged land sightings of the Loch Ness Monster comes in varying degrees of credibility, some say they have no credibility at all - and I am including people who earnestly believe in the beast! One account which has lurked in the shadows of more famous accounts comes against the background of a mystery in its own right. I am referring to the Alastair Dallas account from 1936 and the sketch which he did and is shown above. Now the background mystery to this was the legendary MacRae film, an alleged film of the Loch Ness Monster taken in the early 1930s which is said to be indisputable evidence of a close up  creature.

You can read a fuller account of that controversy in one of my earlier articles. Today we mainly focus on Dallas' own alleged account. The first mention of this account is in F.W. Holiday's book, "The Great Orm of Loch Ness" published in 1968 and it refers to his meeting with Dallas in 1965. The prime reason for that meeting was to find out if Dallas really was one of the trustees of the film, but at the end of that story Holiday says:

Mr Dallas said that he had seen the Orm for himself, many years ago, during one of his painting trips to the Great Glen. However, due to the almost pathological scepticism the subject engendered, it was a topic he rarely discussed.

And that is all that was intimated as the account took a distant backseat to the MacRae film. Nothing more was said until monster researcher, Alan Wilkins, contacted Dallas in the early 1970s through an intermediary named Tom Skinner. Dallas told Wilkins that the alleged MacRae film of Nessie was actually his own sighting in the same decade. Years later, researcher Mike Dash contacted Wilkins to get more details and he was told that Dallas supplied to Wilkins a quick basic sketch and then a more detailed sketch said to have been done at the time in 1936. Both are shown below.

One would have to admit this is one of the best executed eyewitness sketches produced over the years and apparently done "live" right at the scene of the encounter. Alan Wilkins supplied Mike Dash with the text of Dallas' reply via Skinner back in October 1974:

Only one fly in the ointment. It is my personal knowledge that his [Holiday's] reporting of his conversation with me is almost diametrically opposed to the facts. I was there so I do know about that. There was no suggestion on my part of a second film. The first I heard of that was your information…

The second film he (Holiday) writes of is, I consider, my exposition about my sighting of the Beastie. Holiday was so worked up on the subject of film that he did not find it possible to drag his mind away from this aspect. On reading his book it became clear to me that he had not heard one word of what I had to say about the actual impression made on me by that sighting.

As to the actual sighting by Dallas, Wilkins had back then received some verbal details on the creature seen which he also passed onto Mike Dash:

  • Midday sighting - lasted long enough for Dallas to go and fetch his sketchbook
  • Extremely close quarters - 100 feet
  • Monster approx 32 feet in length, hauled out of the water, apparently sucking weed from stones
  • Round golf ball eyes, ears, distinct neck, distinctive narrow flipper seen
  • Three dorsal fins, like sharks’; thick, fleshy, flabby
  • Tail in water
  • Mangy appearance - tufts of hair or fibre
  • Sketched animal from above in 3/4 side view

The original sketch supplied also had the annotation "Drumnadrochit 1936 Sept." at the top. Finally, some time after Dallas' death in 1983, researcher Dick Raynor contacted the family regarding the film, but also on the land sighting which is detailed at his website. It is likely he was speaking to Alastair Dallas' son, who is also called Alastair. The background to how Dallas came to be at Loch Ness is mentioned:

Mr Dallas was a widely travelled landscape artist with a wide circle of friends. After the "new" road along the north-west shore of Loch Ness had been completed he contacted the main contractors, Carmichaels, with a view to a commission to record the works. Unfortunately, the commission had already been awarded, but due to the original artists preference for sweeping curves over straight lines, Mr Dallas was later invited to the contractors offices and given the commission by the proud builder of the straight roads. It was during this commissioned work that the sketch is believed to have been made. 

Dick displays the 1936 sketch of the beast by Dallas and discusses what he thinks Dallas may or may not have seen. It is not clear to me who first posted the sketch on the Internet, whether it was Mike Dash or Dick Raynor, but I guess it was first posted around the turn of the millennium. Mike Dash adds another detail from Dallas' son, Alastair, whom he spoke to in 1998:

My father was a great teller of tales, not that he was a deliberate liar… he very much liked attention. I never saw any film, nor did my father ever discuss it, which I feel he would have done if [Holiday’s account] was correct… I have no reason to cover up information… So far as I am aware my father never had any friends known as Dr MacRae.

... I honestly think you should end your search here and now. I have already said that my father was a great teller of tales. Need I say more?

Such a statement casts doubt upon his father's account, though the focus here seems to be more on the MacRae film rather than his 1936 sighting, so how do we assess all this? Well, I got an email recently from Thomas, who occasionally sends me items he has found on the Internet. In this case it was a recent interview with Alastair Dallas' son conducted by Hilary Alcock and Flora McDowall for the Regional Ethnology of Scotland Project in July 2018. The original link also has a picture of Alastair Dallas Jr. shown below.

The focus of the interview was recollections of Kirkcudbright artists of whom Alastair Dallas Snr. was one. One part of the summary is interesting to Loch Ness researchers:

Alastair’s father was a keen photographer and took a photo, in 1936 while working for McAlpine, of the Loch Ness monster which proved very popular.

A photograph of the Loch Ness Monster, or even a photograph of the Loch Ness Monster on land? Surely not, as we would have heard of such a thing a long time ago? Fortunately, the website provides a transcript of the interview and we extract and reproduce the Nessie portion of it here. The "HA" and "FM" are the interviewers and "AD" is Alastair Dallas:

HA: And did he go and paint outside or did he - ?

AD: He was a great one for the camera but it was the early days of colour and black and white, there's one he did I've got I've yet to find the plate, but I know I've got it, of the Loch Ness Monster.

HA: Really!

AD: It was on Border Television I think about the year before he died, they paid twenty-five pounds for a print. I printed them off took me half an hour to do two hundred! [Laughter]

FM: Nice work if you can get it!

AD: I literally turned the handle.

FM: And what was his story about the Loch Ness Monster?

AD: It was 1936 he was doing a commission for McAlpine who were doing the new road along the north side of Loch Ness and the previous artist they'd commissioned simply would not paint what was there, he liked swirling curves on a road McAlpine has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds making dead straight! [Laughter]

AD: So McAlpine wanted a picture of what he had done, where these pictures ended up I have no idea, but the old man had a hut assigned to him by McAlpine where he stayed for weeks at a time - this was before he got married of course, this was before the war and the one of the Loch Ness Monster was in his sketchbook, he hadn't painted it or anything like that, and he found it one day and he got it made into a plate and he had me print it off for him 'cause he was too busy doing something else. As I say, Border bought a copy and they did a wee interview with him for twenty-five quid but that was quite a lot o' money in those days.

FM: And he was really convinced he saw the Loch Ness Monster?

AD: This drawing I don't think looks as if it was drawn invented, eh it's too detailed.

FM: It's amazing isn't it?

HA: Yes.

AD: And there was a guy up in Loch - beside - Loch Ness he used to take people around an' ah sent him a copy by email and he did a thing on his website about it, but this loch Ness Monster I think he genuinely saw what it was and he simply didn't take a photograph because he didn't have his camera with him, he'd gone down to the loch-side for somewhere quiet to have a cup o' tea an' a bun!

FM: Well lucky he could draw!

AD: Lucky he could draw. I have some of these prints still - they're not in really good condition because the last few they were running off the ink was beginning to catch where it shouldn't and when I said, will I clean it, an' he said, no two hundred that's enough.

There are two observations to make about this interview. The interview begins with Dallas talking as if it was a photograph that was taken by his father in 1936, but it is clear at the end of the interview that no camera was involved in the sighting and only the sketch was a by-product of this alleged encounter. It seems more likely perhaps that the original sketch was photographed years later for the Border Television interview as requests for copies of the sketch came in. The TV interview is said to have taken place a year before his father death, which would place it in 1982.

The clip may be held in the ITV archives or elsewhere such as here, but that is beyond the scope of this article. The usual issue with these old items is that they may lie in a film canister only to be digitised for a fee and with long lead times. But the second point concerns Alastair Dallas' assessment of his father's account when he says that he thought his father genuinely saw the monster. 

But we were told previously that he thought his father was a teller of tall tales. Is there a contradiction here? Did Dallas Jnr. say his father's story was a fabrication just to get rid of people or did he change his mind about it over the years? The second contradiction is where Holiday states that in 1965 Dallas rarely talked about his own sighting "due to the almost pathological scepticism the subject engendered" but his son related how in 1982 his father willingly talked to the TV station about it and printed off lots of copies of his sketches for public consumption. Some things do not add up here.

But let us at this point take it as a genuine statement that he thought his father's encounter was believable, what can we make of it? It is said to have happened about noon on a day in September 1936. The location is not stated, though his drawing is signed "Drumnadrochit 1936 Sept." which is a slight conundrum as Drumnadrochit is hundreds of metres away from the loch. 

It may suggest the location was a point on the shoreline near the town but that could extend from Temple Pier to the woodlands shore facing Urquhart Bay or closer south to the castle. I do not think it was the woodlands by the bay as he is stated as looking down on the creature and that area is pretty flat which points to the other areas, but there is not enough information to take that further.

My own initial impression of the account was sceptical purely based on the sketch. Quite simply, it does not line up well with the descriptions given in the general corpus of eyewitness reports. The two areas of contention are the triple dorsal fins and the two hanging lobes by the sides of the head. Looking through the sightings database, only two reports mention multiple dorsal fins but both put them apart at such a distance as to suggest more than one creature. 

The Dallas sketch shows two dorsal fins and not three as verbally described, but I assume that the third dorsal fin mentioned is the fin like structure at the end of the tail. However that would be called a caudal fin and not a dorsal fin, but I would put that down to mis-naming anatomical parts rather than mis-numbering.

The hanging side lobes appear nowhere else in the database and that with the triple dorsal fins is an important argument against this account. Now I could be wrong on this, after all most sightings occur at such a distance that such features may be undiscernible. The claimed distance for this was about 100 feet which affords a lot of detail and puts a genuine witness in an important position. However, other close encounters do not mention these unusual features and we have about three dozen claimed sightings within a distance of 50 metres. Some of those should have confirmed what was being described here.

Alternatively, one could say that Dallas misidentified a deer or seal as Dick Raynor suggests in his analysis. At a range of 100 feet that would seem a distant possibility, especially as he claimed to have watched if for quite a long time. One could only begin to consider this if the creature was heavily obscured by vegetation, but there is no suggestion of that situation in the account.

One may even suggest the passage of years had not been kind to his powers of recall, but he asserted that the sketch was done as things unfolded before him. And then there are those two "breasts" hanging down in front of the creature. What is this? The first evidence of a female Nessie? If so, they are in completely the wrong place for the likes of a pinniped or just about anything else. 

So I am putting this account down as dubious which consequently removes another conundrum as it would be unlikely in the extreme that a man who had a land sighting would also be a trustee to an even rarer film. The chances of that exceeds even the word "improbable" because on average there is one claimed land sighting about every three years and if the MacRae film did exist, the odds of crossing the paths of the owner of that film is also very small.

In other words, both cannot be true, but how does the position that this land sighting account is fake reframe the debate about the mysterious MacRae films? In other words, was there anything about the reality of these films that influenced Dallas to introduce a false story? Did Dallas' tale originate in 1965 when he met Holiday rather than 1936 or something else? 

This is where the road ahead forks at various possible junctions. The simple conclusion is that if he lied about that story, he likely lied about everything else - case closed. But wait, Dallas said that Holiday had fabricated what he told him about the films. Was that made up as well? Most would assume that anything that promoted the idea of a monster could only be taken as a lie. This is what we call confirmation bias.

But if that statement concerning Holiday was true, was his immediate statement that the Loch Duich film existed true as well? One thing I do not believe is that Ted Holiday mangled his account that badly. But then again, even if Holiday faithfully reproduced the account, he may have unwittingly reproduced a series of falsehoods. Maybe, perhaps, possibly, but was not Holiday alerted to the films by an independent source at Loch Ness? Do we have to add needless complexity by introducing another liar?

One reason I think Dallas told Holiday pretty much the same tale as he told Wilkins ten years later is because Holiday did not describe to readers what he told him. Why would he do that? Quite simply because Holiday was promoting the idea of a giant invertebrate in the same book and the conical head with eyes, the backbone supported dorsal fins, the tufted hair and dare we say the breasts would have been too much for Ted. I suspect he may not have believed him either.

Here is what I think happened. Back in September 1936, Dallas drew a sketch of the Loch Ness Monster. The reason it is annotated "Drumnadrochit" is because that is where it was drawn and not at the loch side hundreds of yards away. He was up there to draw scenes from Loch Ness, so why not sketch its most famous inhabitant while he was there? In the best tradition of that phrase, "An artist's impression ..." he allowed his artistic imagination to let rip, perhaps encouraged by others over a pint in the pub.

Who knows what the minor details may have been, but when Holiday knocked at his door in Kirkcudbrightshire twenty nine years later, he perhaps saw an opportunity to get some of his old artwork given a public airing. Unfortunately, he should have asked Holiday what his opinion of the Tullimonstrum Gregarium was before he took that step. Holiday did not take the bait, but Dallas got his chance with Border TV another seventeen years on.

But what about the MacRae films? What Holiday tells us of what Dallas described is quite detailed and one doubts that Dallas' artistic imagination could have produced that story from scratch for the visit of this unknown Holiday chap who just turned up at the doorstep. The only way out here is that Holiday fed him a lot of conversational monster information first or somehow the book has telescoped the account and is actually a compression of events such as follow up letters. 

One thing seems clear to me, if there really was a MacRae film and Dallas was a trustee, his joking about with Holiday and his imaginary sketch would surely disqualify him as one of these serious minded trustees. As for the anonymous person who tipped off Holiday at Loch Ness, is it possible that that person had met a young artist in 1936 in Drumnadrochit who boasted about seeing the monster close up and had even taken some photos or even film of it? When investigators began to swarm around the loch in the 1960s, the story came back to him and the rest is a ripping yarn.

But for me, the door on the mysterious MacRae films has closed a little bit more. The door is still slightly ajar regarding this other film taken at Loch Duich. It was always a stretch that one man could have bagged two sensational monster films at two separate lochs in the space of a few years, but perhaps one film can be accommodated, despite its whereabouts being as much a mystery as the creature it claims to have filmed.

Comments can be made at the Loch Ness Mystery Blog Facebook group.

The author can also be contacted at

Tuesday, 14 February 2023

Some Feedback on a recent Hugh Gray Photograph Article

Referring back to an article that was published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration in September 2022, I had written on the 1933 Hugh Gray photograph and went further into my own views on this significant picture . The details of that article are here. Since then Bruce Champagne sent a letter to the journal in reply to my article which I was invited to further reply to. Bruce is known in cryptozoological circles for his work on sea serpents as well as relict hominids and so I read his reply with interest and then composed what I hope was an appropriate response.

Bruce Champagne's letter can be found here and my reply was published in the same issue here. The two main issues revolve around the inevitable interpretation of how such photographs. We are sometimes told that eyewitness reports are subjective while recorded images are objective. Well, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to the multiplicity of "objective" views when it comes to Loch Ness Monster photographs. The other issue concerns eyewitness versus recorded image when they both refer to the same event.

Comments can be made at the Loch Ness Mystery Blog Facebook group.

The author can also be contacted at

Monday, 30 January 2023

The 1880s Diver Incident - Evolution of a Story

What diver Duncan MacDonald saw under the waters of Loch Ness has fascinated researchers for decades since the story came to light in the Nessie "era" (i.e. 1933 to the present day). I have mentioned it before, mainly in the context of some other divers stories and would like to give it a fuller treatment here. Certainly, I would say that alongside land sightings, this genre of sighting is the most intriguing class of eyewitness reports and the rarest of all. I think most fans of the mystery would have been introduced to the story via the pages of Nicholas Witchell's book, "The Loch Ness Story" which related it thusly:

An experience by another MacDonald in 1880 was of an altogether different nature and terrifying in the extreme. As a diver, Duncan MacDonald was sent down to investigate a ship that had sunk in the Caledonian Canal entrance at Fort Augustus. Not long after, he sent urgent signals on his line to be immediately brought back to the surface. 

Shaking and ashen faced, he refused to say what he had seen for several days. When he had sufficiently composed himself, he told the tale of how he had seen a “very odd looking beastie ... like a huge frog” lying on the rock ledge where the wreck was lodged as he examined its hull. He refused to ever dive in the loch again though it would appear this encounter was where Loch Ness ends and the canal begins.

The account has been mentioned in other books, though the rather un-plesiosaurian description of the strange beast perhaps restrained its use in other publications of the time. Furthermore, I see no mention of it in the earlier works of Gould and Whyte, though it is very likely that they knew about it. The story is still repeated in our time such as Paul Harrison's entry for MacDonald in his "Encyclopedia of the Loch Ness Monster" which recounts:

Curious tale of a diving incident said to have taken place in 1880. MacDonald was a diver sent to examine a sunken ship off the Fort Augustus entrance to the Caledonian Canal. He entered the water and was lowered into the murky depths where the wreck lay, but within a few minutes he signalled to his team on the surface to pull him clear. When he reached the surface MacDonald was pulled from the water a ‘gibbering wreck’, his face as white as chalk. His service crew could make no sense of his ramblings, but he eventually told how he had been examining the keel of the ship when he suddenly noticed a large animal lying on the shelf of rock where the ship was lodged. He claimed it was ‘an odd looking beastie’, almost like a huge frog. It is said that MacDonald never dived in Loch Ness again.

Likewise, it has been covered in Malcolm Robinson's "The Monsters of Loch Ness" (2016) and my own book, "The Water Horses of Loch Ness" (2011). But what prompted this article was another recounting of this tale some years before in the letter column to the Fishing Gazette in early 1955. This was written under the pseudonym of "Vera Cruz", which apparently was the name of a popular Burt Lancaster Western film at the time. The relevant section says:

Many years ago I was intrigued by a story that a diver employed by the Caledonian Canal authorities used to tell. He was sent down in Loch Ness to examine the hull of a herring drifter (a wooden boat) that had run on some sunken reefs at a place called "Johnnie's Point," well known to salmon anglers from all over Britain. He came up in double quick time, and when the face-plate of his helmet was removed he was asked what went wrong.

"Wrong?" he said, "I got the fright of my life down there, and won't go back for love or money." Pressed to state exactly what had frightened him he replied: "Well, down there on a ledge just aside where the keel is resting, I saw the most horrible looking beast I ever set eyes on. It glared at me with two wicked-looking eyes, and was yellowish in colour and not unlike a big frog. If you don't believe me," he added, "go down and see for yourself." There were no takers, and that ship lay there for years and rotted away. 

I thought for a time I had found the earliest recounting of this tale, but Karl Shuker's article on this matter in his ShukerNature blog shows that this was not the case. Going back to Witchell, Peter Costello had coincidentally published his book, "In Search of Lake Monsters", about the same time in 1974 and gives an even briefer account of this incident:

An item in the Northern Chronicle on January 31, 1934, claimed that 45 to 50 years before, a diver investigating a small ship which had sunk off Johnnies Point, while down about 30 feet, saw on a ledge “a queer looking beast, which he described as something in the nature of a huge frog”. It was as big as a goat or a wedder, and just stared at him with neither fear nor ferocity. (This story came from the divers grand-nephew, Donald Frazer, lock-keeper at Fort Augustus.)

The oldest account is in that 1934 edition of the Northern Chronicle and cryptozoologist Richard Muirhead had managed to track it down for Karl and publish it online for the first time. This is the primary source and hence the most important document in this analysis. The relevant text is reproduced below.

Some forty-five to fifty years ago a small sailing vessel carrying a cargo of guano, when making the passage through Loch Ness, struck a submerged reef known as "Johnnie's Point," and sank, fortunately without loss of life. The mishap occurred during the night, and when dawn broke it was seen that the tops of the masts were still above water. Realising that the vessel might be raised, a squad of men was quickly on the scene, and chains were passed underneath the hulk.

But ere the job was completed the action of the water suddenly dislodged the craft, and she vanished into the depths. Still hoping to salve the wreck, the owner secured the services of Mr Duncan Macdonald, a noted diving expert, who was at the time employed at the Crinan Canal. Mr Macdonald duly arrived, and it was from the Caledonian Canal Company's diving-barge that he carried out operations.

After having made a descent of thirty feet, Mr Macdonald signalled that he wished to come up, and, on being questioned as to whether there was any sign of the ship, he said there was none. From this it was obvious that further attempts would be useless, so he was undressed, and the party prepared to make for Fort-Augustus, their headquarters. Now one man in the party, having heard stories of a strange creature which was said to live in the loch, began to question the diver. The latter, however, was at first rather diffident about taking any part in the conversation.

Yet, since the others knew that anything he might tell them would be perfectly true, they persisted, and finally the diver said that he saw a strange creature that day. It lay, he said, on a ledge of rock, on the self-same ledge, apparently, on which the keel of the wrecked vessel had rested, about thirty feet down. There, he continued, lay a queer-looking beast, which he described as something in the nature of a huge frog.

It stared at him, but, as it showed neither ferocity nor fear, he did not disturb it. In his own words he "saw that the beast made no effort to interfere with me, and I did not interfere with it." As to size, the diver said the creature was "as big as a goat, or a good wedder [Scots dialect word for a castrated male sheep]." The story, exactly as given, was told by Mr Donald Fraser, lock-keeper, Fort Augustus, who often heard the diver (his own grand-uncle) tell it many years ago.

There is a lot more in this than any other of the subsequent retakes which leads us to the first observation regarding a canard of the sceptical variety. It is often said by those seeking to discredit such reports that writers on the Loch Ness phenomenon, be they journalists, book authors or article writers, had jazzed things up a bit. Indeed, exaggerating things up to the point of grievous bodily harm. 

Now there is truth in that, but not to the degree that is claimed which makes it a half truth. Quite often a half truth can be more damaging that an outright fabrication, if you know half of what is said is true, then why not the rest? But the argument is more nuanced than that and certainly not all writers should be dragged down to the same level, as is the case when all eyewitnesses are also dismissed as ineffective observers.

In fact, the group of writers here can be assembled and analysed to look for what may be called the "evolution" of the story, though it may be more of a devolution. I first attempted this form of "textual criticism" in my booklet on the 1973 Richard Jenkyns story. Basically, you take a set of documents related to a common subject and attempt to create a relational tree with the original event at the top, branching out to the most recent versions.

Now as those familiar with this historical discipline in reconstructing far more older texts will know, changes can be introduced as time goes on and copies are made and copies of the copies are made. At the top lies the so called autograph which is the original account. For our purposes, that would be the retelling of the account by Duncan MacDonald to his grand-nephew, Donald Fraser. That may have been written down near the time of the incident or just orally transmitted, which going by the 1934 newspaper article occurred no earlier than 1884 to 1889.

When did Donald Fraser get to hear about it? One can only make an educated guess, but if he was a grand-nephew, there could be sixty years between their births and if diving required a fit man in his 30s to 40s, then Duncan MacDonald was likely born in the 1850s and so Donald Fraser was born just after the turn of the century and could have begun hearing from his grand-uncle in the 1910s or a thirty year gap.

Then we have a further gap to the Northern Chronicle piece in 1934 when written records begin. Tracking the differences between texts can give us a clearer picture of how the events in different accounts can vary by the deletion, addition or alteration of words and phrases. Similarities between accounts can also indicate from what preceding accounts a newer account may have been most influenced by. Cross comparing accounts led me to create this relational chart.

Compiling a table of similarities and dissimilarites between accounts leads to some deductions. The Northern Chronicle account is the best account as it is said to be "exactly as given" by Donald Fraser. It is still more than likely that some minor errors occurred as the journalist cleaned up the original transcript for publication. Some unintentional misspellings may have slipped in and some items were omitted for the sake of brevity. 

In fact, we see this in Peter Costello's rendering of the account where, even though he must have had the original Northern Chronicle account in front of him, manages to change "Fraser" to "Frazer". I suspect that was an unintentional cultural slip as Frazer is a more common rendition of the name outside Scotland. Otherwise, the only things of note are the inevitable omissions as Costello edits it down to a smaller account. What remains is consistent with the original.

Karl Shuker derives his text direct from the Northern Chronicle and presumably reproduces the entire account verbatim without error as I have not seen the original clipping. However, most of the action is on the other side of the graph beginning with "Vera Cruz". He or she says that that they were intrigued by a story a diver used to tell without saying who told them. Their account differs mainly in the dramatic effect that has been added. The diver now comes up rapidly in a frightened state who won't go back into the loch for love nor money.

Three details are added or changed to the description of the "big frog". One is anthropomorphic as the human attribute of wickedness is used to describe the gaze of the creature. The creature goes from queer looking to most horrible. The more important addition is found nowhere else in which the creature is described as "yellowish". What more can be deduced? How about the fact that the identity of "Vera Cruz"  is none other than the well known monster man and water bailiff, Alex Campbell. This is clear when the anonymous letter says:

I was the person responsible for bringing this strange creature (through the medium of the Press) to light, as it were, away back in May 1933.

This tells us a few things (apart from Alex liking cowboy films). Firstly, that as a resident of Fort Augustus, Campbell would have been well acquainted with Fraser as the local lock keeper and it is a reasonable conclusion that Fraser told the story directly to Campbell. I would guess they would be men of a similar age as well, though one cannot discount entirely that Campbell may have talked to Duncan MacDonald himself, but that depends on when MacDonald passed away.

In that light, it is also a safe assumption that Campbell was the source for Witchell's account. I say that because of the way Witchell diverges from the Northern Chronicle and converges to Campbell. For example, Witchell places the incident in 1880, when the Northern Chronicle places it at least four years later. Witchell also repeats the terrified response of Campbell's account while the Chronicle does not. He also repeats the vow of MacDonald never to go back as does Campbell, while the Chronicle does not. Likewise, the Vera Cruz line of accounts all state he was examining the boat while the Northern Chronicle states the boat was no longer there.

However, Witchell omits the yellowish colour of the Vera Cruz letter. Either Campbell or Witchell could have omitted that detail.  Witchell also contradicts Vera Cruz in saying MacDonald recounted the experience after several days while Vera Cruz says it was immediate. Also, Witchell gets the location completely wrong, it was not at the loch entrance to the canal, it was at Johnnie's Point which is about half a mile up the north shore from Cherry Island and over a mile and a half away from the canal entrance as the crow flies (see map further down).

However, since there was nearly twenty years between the Vera Cruz and Witchell accounts, it is not clear whether Campbell had changed anything or Witchell when they talked. It is likely to be a combination of the two. My own speculation is that if Witchell had said "Johnnie's Point" in the account to a general readership, they would have had no idea where that was. When Witchell asked Campbell where it was and he said near the canal entrance, I suspect a misunderstanding over how far or close "near" was came about.

Whatever happened, Witchell's account became the de facto account for years. As mentioned, future writers such as myself, Malcolm Robinson and Paul Harrison used it. Did that new layer of transmission lead to any further alterations? The answer is yes. Harrison increases the drama of the event by describing MacDonald as a "gibbering wreck" and "his face as white as chalk" and his colleagues "could not make sense of his ramblings". All of this is embellishment for dramatic effect and unlike the more quiet and diffident figure of the Northern Chronicle account.

Malcolm Robinson is truer to the Witchell text and only makes one change when the "several days" of Witchell becomes "seven days". This looks more like a typo than an attempt to pin down the actual number of days. I just looked at the text I transmitted in my own book and it is a basically a requote of Witchell's text.

Where does this leave us? The fact that texts can alter as they are re-expressed in later documents is a given fact of general history and certainly in this story as well. The most noticeable change concerns not the creature but the man himself where there is an increasing dramatisation of his reaction from a near silence to a gibbering wreck. The difference in location is also apparent and there are variations in when he told all. The only real variation in the beast itself is the addition by Campbell of its yellowish colour. It is impossible to tell whether this was told to Campbell by Fraser or was a later embellishment. 

In the light of claims that monster stories get distorted out of all proportion, this would not apply to this account (as was discovered with the Jenkyns account). The real essence of the story across all the documents is pretty much preserved. Namely, that some time in the 1880s, a ship sailing through Loch Ness struck underwater reefs and sank somewhere near Fort Augustus. A diver by the name of Duncan MacDonald was sent down to inspect the vessel. He signaled in a short time that he wished to be brought back up where he then told of seeing a strange looking beast sitting on the ledge beside the vessel. He described it as looking like a huge frog.

That is it and with that in mind, one can begin to look at the account with a greater degree of confidence. The only question that could be raised is the matter of forty five to fifty years. Duncan MacDonald may have passed on his story to his grand-nephew perhaps twenty or so years after the incident. What effect would this time gap have on his powers of recall? Likewise, a similar time may have passed between Fraser receiving the story and passing it on to the Northern Courier. The same question of memory recall can be applied to him.

In regard to Duncan MacDonald, if he did see such a creature underwater, there can be no doubt it would leave a powerful impression upon him, the kind of impact that lays deep tracks in the memory of a man and are not easily forgotten. Think back yourselves to major incidents in your own lives decades ago and how these things linger long in the memory as opposed to mundane events such as what you had for breakfast twenty years ago. In that light, I would expect MacDonald to recall and recount the incident in all its major points, right up to the end of his life or when his faculties began to seriously diminish with age.

But what about Donald Fraser? He would not have been as impacted by the story as he was not down there looking at the beast with all the fears and concerns that such a thing would arouse. Nevertheless, the retelling a such a spooky story to a young person would leave an impression and when it was reinforced with the retelling over the years. In that regard, one would see the link from Donald Fraser to his listeners in the 1930s as the weakest link. The problem is we do not know how weak it may be and it is really down to the reader to form their own opinion on that.

So looking at the account itself, we would mainly focus on the Northern Courier report. The likely location is within the area marked with an ellipse on the map of south Loch Ness. The circle to the left is the area wrongly implied in the accounts springing from the Witchell text. Along this line there are indeed hazardous shallow points where boats can run aground. In fact, the general advice to vessels is not to go within 300 metres of the Loch Ness shoreline. 

I am not aware of any contemporary record of a vessel sinking in that area in the 1880s, though records of others are available, such as the schooner "Margaret Wilson" which sank in 1861 just up the loch at Port Clair with a similar cargo of guano fertilizer worth £1400 (or about £125,000 in today's money). The Merchant Shipping Act of 1854 required all ship losses to be officially recorded, so a deposition by the captain was made and mentioned in the Inverness Courier. There should be a similar record for our boat and a search of the appropriate shipping register may be appropriate to this end.

Now when such diving accounts are found, the first thing that should spring to mind is the viewing conditions underwater. As we know, the peat stained waters of the loch make viewing more difficult. The account states the diver as being at a depth of thirty feet when he encountered the creature. How good is viewing at ten metres down? That depends on a number of factors, such as the diver's eyesight, how far away the creature was, what lighting aids he had, how strong the sun was and how settled the silt was. 

With those factors in mind, I looked around at the various stories of people diving in the loch and I think he could have had visibility up to 20 feet away. That is not much distance between you and a strange looking creature. As to the actual description, there is not a lot to go on. It was lying on the same shelf of rock the boat had been, it was staring at him, it was like a frog in appearance, it appeared to be placid and perhaps motionless, it was as big as a sheep or goat and may have been yellowish in colour.

Run your mind through the classic representations of the Loch Ness Monster and a frog like creature the size of a goat does not readily spring to mind. What was it that made Duncan MacDonald liken it to a frog? Was it the posture, the wide mouth, the colour or the large eyes that we normally associate with a frog? Since the creature was portrayed as lying down rather than sitting up like a frog, we may exclude that.

The colour described as "yellowish" by Alex Campbell does not sound very frog-like. One wonders if the peat stained water which has its own yellowish hue may have contributed to the perception of colour? In fact, the only physical characteristic mentioned are the eyes. If the creature was staring at him, that would suggest the stereoscopic eyes of a predator. The fact that he could see the eyes does not necessarily imply they were as big as a frog. 

Maybe we just go literal and say this was a frog the size of a goat? Well, we know the Goliath Frog can grow up to 12 inches long and even comes in a yellowish colour. Then there was the extinct Devil Frog which may have added another 4 inches to that length. Ordinary frogs or toads have been photographed in Loch Ness, but one cannot quite see how these tropical frogs could make it to the loch let alone reach the size of a goat.

One could speculate that the diver was just looking at the front head of the Loch Ness Monster looking at him but the rest of the long body was lying on the rock shelf and just vanished into the peaty darkness beyond his limited visibility? Perhaps, but Karl Shuker offered one theory that is interesting and suggests that Duncan MacDonald met a Silurus Glanis or Wels Catfish. This is based on the idea that the face of a catfish has a frog like look to it with that wide mouth shown below.

Indeed, as you can see in the picture, some catfish can be leucistic or lacking skin pigmentation to give that yellowish look further accentuated by the aforementioned peaty water. Though this condition is rare in nature, it is possible one left in the dark waters of the loch could lose their pigmentation over time. The eyes are not affected by this and so would appear more pronounced against the lighter skin. Now though I do not think the Loch Ness Monster is a Wels Catfish, that does not preclude the idea that someone dumped one or two in the loch back in Victorian times. I quoted such an instance of British introduction in an older article where a book from 1853 states:

Through the indefatigable exertions of Mr. George D. Berney, of Morton, Norfolk, the silurus was last year introduced into England, and consequently is now included in our Fauna.

However, Loch Ness is too cold for catfish to breed and so the likelihood of a viable breeding population is small. Nevertheless, perhaps the original individual(s) could have lingered for a number of years finally to be seen in their underwater abode by a diver - and before the Loch Ness Monster grabbed them for a snack (lol!). One may think it unlikely that our diver would bump into one or two catfish in a body of water as big as Loch Ness, but perhaps all that lovely guano attracted the fish which have a very well developed sense of smell?

So much for speculation. Was it the Loch Ness Monster, a Wels Catfish, an illusion seen through hazy waters or something else entirely? Whatever the solution, tales of divers encountering large unknown creatures in dark waters has all the ingredients for a visceral tale.

Comments can be made at the Loch Ness Mystery Blog Facebook group.

The author can also be contacted at

Friday, 13 January 2023

Blog Comments Section to End

Just a quick announcement saying that the comments section of each article will end after this piece. As some of you may know, there has been a mirroring of the blog articles on Facebook along with any other posts of interest that are not included here. This started back in February 2022 with a post about the sale of Winifred Cary's house overlooking the loch. 

Almost a year on I think the Facebook group can now stand on its own two feet with 266 members and whoever else visits the page. Various people who comment here are now seen on the Facebook group in what is an easy transition. Being a mirror site, people are not allowed to post their own stuff unless it is of genuine interest or to publicise ongoing work at the loch. Details are at the bottom of this post.

Over the last 12 years of blogging, many a person has commented on this site from the the most gullible believer to the most ardent sceptic. Some have been a pleasure to talk with and others have been a complete pain in the arse. Such is the nature of blog commenting and not a few have assumed anonymous identities to say whatever they want without anyone knowing who they are (or that is what they thought).

The nature of commenting in relation to the blog or the article at hand varied quite a bit. Some would engage with the subject matter in a thoughtful and questioning manner, others asked questions but only to score points while others would joke and post a comment which had absolutely nothing to do with the subject of the article. Others had underlying agendas such as pushing the plesiosaur theory as an argument against evolution while others were plain deceptive (as I will explain in another article).

Then there was the small matter of censorship. In other words, I decide what goes in the comments section and some people did not like that. Inane and wind up comments were regularly deleted. Comments designed to start a flame war were deleted. Comments which asked the same old questions despite being answered in the previous article were deleted. Everyone is innocent in their own eyes and no doubt egos were pricked. I don't particularly care about that to be perfectly honest.

Then there were the trolls. Like every cave in mythology housed a troll, so they inhabit every comment section in the virtual world. But again, no matter, you just delete every comment they post and they will pop up again under another false identity. That is less likely to happen on Facebook, but their comments and presence can still be banished from the group.

If Facebook is not where you want to be and you would rather remain anonymous then that is your choice but my choice is to move on. I will however leave one place for comments to be placed if people do not wish to contact me by email or Facebook and it will be this comment section of this article and a link to it will be left at the end of every article.

I'll see you over on Facebook at the Loch Ness Mystery Blog group which can be accessed at this link.

The author can be contacted at

Sunday, 8 January 2023

Loch Ness Centre Exhibition undergoes changes

A few days back, Steve Feltham announced some impending and exciting news from Loch Ness. I think most of us thought this meant a new sonar contact, photograph or video of the Loch Ness Monster was about to be published and hung on for the breaking news. As it turned out, it was not about the Loch Ness Monster, but then again, maybe it was.

The news came a day later as Continuum Attractions announced they were taking over the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition on a long term lease and revamping  the exhibition for a new tourist experience costing £1.5 million. Continuum Attractions have years of experience managing other tourists experiences in Edinburgh, York, Oxford, Manchester and Portsmouth. Their own website gives more details on their plans for the site, but the focus for me was what they planned to do with the exhibition section and not the retail outlets. I quote some pertinent statements from Continuum, mainly from their CEO Juliana Delaney:

At the end we’re going to ask people to decide – is it real? Is it a possibility? Or is it nonsense? And we’re going to let the visitors decide. But the one thing I want people to do is to leave here and still keep looking out of their car or coach window when they go alongside the loch.

There are sightings every other day which are being recorded by people, there are television crews turning up filming on a regular basis. The Nessie myth and the story of the water of Loch Ness never fade from the public consciousness.

We are award-winning, authentic storytellers, and what a story we have to tell here. The transformation will engage, entertain and inform guests, focusing on telling the globally renowned story behind the legend of Loch Ness, exploring the myths, alongside the scientific research, that has turned Nessie into one of Scotland’s most famous icons.

Continuum tells the real stories in real places about real people – the search for Nessie encapsulates all three.

The exhibition has gone through various changes since its formation in 1980 by businessman Ronnie Bremner and curator Tony Harmsworth which I visited a year or two later. I wrote on the various incarnations the exhibition went through in a previous article, but basically it started off as a pro-monster exhibition with the emphasis on the dominant plesiosaur theory. As we entered the sceptical age of the 1990s onwards, any notion of monsters was removed and replaced by the history of monster hunters as well as the science of the loch from thermoclines to plankton and a final room offering the fig leaf of a sturgeon fish. 

The exhibition had gone from one extreme to another. I don't know if this "denessiefication" led to a proportionate decline in first time or repeat visitors but eventually a balancing section was added which included recordings of eyewitness accounts from the likes of Alastair Boyd and Willie Cameron, if I recall correctly. The question is whether Continuum Attractions are going to further redress the balance back towards the Loch Ness Monster? 

The statements above offer hope that this will be the case, though the phrase "the Nessie myth" does not sound encouraging. However, I think that 2023 is Visit Scotland's themed "Year of the Story" and that means local and folklore tales and so may be a hat tip to Visit Scotland and their support. Steve Feltham assured followers on his Facebook group that:

I'm excited by this news because it will bring a fresh positive view to the subject. Maybe even put back some of the romance of the possibilities. I think it will enhance the visitors experience greatly. I believe it could not be entrusted into safer hands to create a high class 21st century visitor experience either. If you know the Yorvic Viking centre in York, or Mary King's Close in Edinburgh then that will give you an idea of Continuum standards, they are probably the best in the country at what they do. I expect to see a lot more visitors believing in the possibilities relating to Loch Ness this summer. Very exciting.

Continuum Attractions replied to Steve saying:

We feel honoured that we get to be guardians of such a special story. We look forward to working with you and making the destination even more appealing to visitors from across the globe!

I presume from this that Steve will be employed by them in some capacity and I have asked Steve for confirmation of this. If so, it is important that someone who believes there is some mysterious large creature in Loch Ness has some kind of influence in the concepts behind the exhibition. Will current curator Adrian Shine be involved in any capacity? I have also asked him, but for now will speculate that he will step back but be retained as a consultant to some degree as Continuum set about doing things their way.

CGI concept mock ups of some of the exhibition rooms are interesting. The first room appears to be one which is tongue in cheek and does not take itself too seriously. In it I can recognise some newspaper headlines from that worst of media newspapers, the Weekly World News, which is infamous for producing such headlines as "Loch Ness Monster has a Baby!", "Loch Ness Monster is Dead!" and "Loch Ness Monster is Captured!". The seminal eyewitness from 1933, Aldie Mackay is pictured in the centre sitting at  a bar surrounded by persons unknown. A reference to the Arthur Grant land sighting of 1934 is worded on the ceiling and Adrian Shine adorns a portrait to the right.

The purpose of the room seems to be an overview of the media reporting of Nessie over the years. I hope they finally choose examples of newspaper coverage that actually reflect historic reality. A second room called the first Prologue room looks like it introduces customers to the history of the site and some references to the monster itself. I am intrigued to know why there is a blunderbuss propped against some cases to the left. Perhaps Victorian stag baggers taking time off to hunt for those strange water horses (this actually happened - monster hunting goes back nearly two hundred years)?

One can only form opinions based on what is in front of them, the answers will unfold when concept is turned into reality in the months ahead. One thing is for sure, we are not going back to the days when the exhibition was constructed in order to address the statement "Why you should believe in the Loch Ness Monster". It ended up addressing the statement "Why you should not believe in the Loch Ness Monster" but will it now move away from these to the centre ground addressing the statement "We're not going to tell you what to think, experience the story and make your own mind up"?

That is certainly my hope but ask a dozen Nessie believers how the exhibition should shift to that position and you may get a dozen different answers. Most would probably agree on including good eyewitness accounts, maybe a well produced video interview of the witness beside the location where they saw the mystery object. The latest and best sonar contacts would bring things right up to date, though understanding what a sonar image is portraying needs a bit of orientation.

What about alleged photographs of the monster? Now there is a contentious subject but customers visiting and expecting an argument for and against the monster will expect to see them, after all, surely some decent pictures have been taken in the last ninety years? As I argued elsewhere, no monster photos means no monster and I think that will be the way many tourists will approach the debate. How you present such images is also a matter of debate. Do you display some classic photographs only to debunk them in the accompanying visual aid? That is not a neutral approach but listing all the pros and cons on a small area of text would not be easy either.

You can expect one photograph to be on display and that is the Surgeon's Photograph, but that will be there for different reasons. Firstly, It is the iconic image in the public eye and it has its own story to tell, probably deserving of a separate area. And ultimately whatever sceptical and believing people may advise, it is the customer that comes first for private companies such as Continuum and also the customers as they corporately manifest themselves in the ratings of Tripadvisor and so on. The exhibition currently comes in at 3.5 out of 5 from nearly 2,500 reviews on Tripadvisor. Part of that downgrade will be due in part to reviewer comments such as this:

Travelled miles, part of our tour, looking forward to a factual but magical experience. My grandkids were excited to see pics ( so pleased we didn’t bring them) what is the point of us all buying into the legend (and buying your merchandise) to have it destroyed by the visitor centre!

It looks like Continuum Attractions will seek to attract such people back. Continuum plans to spend the next twelve weeks on the transformation which comes on top of the site having required major repairs after flooding damaged properties. So I expect they will open for the Easter Holidays in early April. I normally visit the loch around that time, so I will time that trip to visit the new exhibition and post my review here and on Facebook shortly after.

Comments can also be made at the Loch Ness Mystery Blog Facebook group.

The author can be contacted at

Monday, 2 January 2023

Nessie Review of 2022

The year 2022 has come and gone, so let's go straight into the eyewitness reports for the last twelve months. As ever a visit to Gary Campbell's Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register is required to see what he has logged. When you go to his 2022 page, we find six claimed sightings ranging from March to October. The first was on the 30th March by documentary maker, Jamie Huntley as he was in a car driven by Warren Speed. What he claimed to have seen was a dark dome shaped object which briefly was in sight towards the Foyers Bay area, measuring 15 feet across and 7 feet high. Warren Speed stopped and reversed only to see concentric ripples on the loch surface. which was photographed.

Driving down road past Boleskine cemetery myself as passenger in vehicle, I looked towards cemetery and then large object/creature in the loch caught my eye at first I thought was a big boulder or something as first time to the area I don't know the layout I said to my friend driving, "what's that it's huge!" I could see movement and the water breaking against it so told friend to stop the car where the car stopped trees obscured the view so he reversed and the object/creature was fully gone I had phone out and took pictures of the ripple in water expanding from point the object/creature disappeared down.

The object/creature was reflecting the water so looked wet, almost like a whale skin crossed with a fish skin it was dark in colour darker than the water surrounding it, there were dark grey's, black, browns in colour, it almost looked like how a whale hump might look breaking the surface minus the fin, there was a definite movement but didn't see too much of the movement before trees obscured it, it was a very big size at least 15 foot long, maybe bigger, around the middle of the loch.

There was a small speedboat that came up the loch after my sighting but wasn't anywhere near the spot I seen the object/creature but wouldn't be surprised if they had seen it too in the distance as they started circling around the area, using their speedboat as a reference it was much larger than the boat, as an estimate I'd say the object was around 7 foot height out of the water.

The two men were actually there to film footage for a documentary on the monster. In such a situation, we like nothing better than professional film makers with professional equipment being in the right place at the right time to capture the monster. None of that happened and so it was a case of what might have been if they had passed a minute earlier. The area of disturbed water and the eyewitness sketch are shown below.

The spot was at the cemetery opposite Boleskine House and one can get a good line up with Google maps. I would guess going by the foliage to the left of their photo that the water ripples were just off centre to the right in the google image.

So the object looks mid loch but this can be estimated by noting the flatness of the ellipse that the concentric ripples form to gives an angle of viewing of about 8 degrees. A look at an ordnance survey map places the  cemetery at a height of about 77 meters once we deduct loch level from sea level. This gives the distance between eyewitness and object as about 550 metres which places the object about 400 metres from the shore.

The curious thing was the speedboat they said came to the point of submergence and started circling the area as if they had also seen the object from the pier further south. Perhaps so, but no one has come forward in what would have been a valuable exercise in corroboration. But this seems to have provided a frame of reference to estimate a dome shaped object 15 feet across at the surface and 7 feet high. 

What is described is basically akin to a sphere of radius seven feet half floating in the water. Looking at the historical record of sightings, very few reports describe the object they are seeing as dome-like, perhaps a handful over the decades. So this type of description is rare and this is to be expected if we presume the main body of the creature to be more of an oblate spheroid in shape.

With that in mind it is possible that the eyewitness was looking at the back of the beast along the axis of its spine (if it has such a thing). This would present a degree of foreshortening giving the impression of a hemisphere. Whether the estimated angle of view can facilitate this perspective is unclear. That aside, the dimensions given would indicate a massive creature. If we assume it is a fifteen foot girth then the body alone could be forty feet long. Add in a neck and tail typically believed to be at least as long as the body when their lengths are combined, then this is getting to be a giant. 

So perhaps the torso underwater flattens out to give a smaller size or the size has simply been overestimated given that this was a heavily wooded area and in a moving car, it would have been visible for only seconds. The only way to progress this case would be to find the alleged boat that visited the area within minutes and get their side of the story. 

Looking at the five other reports, back in May we examined a video clip of a wake taken near the castle on the 25th April. That article can be found here and the point of interest was what looked like a double object near the head of the wake (below). At over 400 metres away, it was difficult to evaluate what was being seen in the video. This was somewhat hampered by what may have been a downscaled video for web page use and there were still images taken, but it was not clear if any of those have been published. These may have helped the evaluation and so the whole affair remains inconclusive.

A sighting I was quite impressed with was a couple of weeks before up at the north end of the loch by a local man, Glenn Blevins on the 15th April. Having worked and fished around the loch for the past thirty years without a sight of its famous denizen, he finally got a sight of the mysterious:

I was near Aldourie Castle on Friday 15th April working on the banks of the loch when I saw a large animate object in the water between both banks of the loch at approx 9.30am. It was dark in colour and stayed there for around 20 seconds before sinking into the water. I watched it with binoculars that I’d taken with me in the hope of seeing ospreys that had recently returned to the area. It was difficult to estimate the size but it was definitely larger than a seal and given the angle, there may have been two, one behind the other.

There is no photo, video or even sketch but I would place an account by a local who knows the loch like the back of their hand over and above many a sighting by anyone else. Another wake video was taken on the 27th August at Lochend of which a still is shown below. The video lasted seven minutes but I have had no opportunity to see it and form a better opinion.

Finally, on October 11th, a mother and her daughter took a snap of a distant object:

200 yards off the bank we noticed a long break in the water which was otherwise still and calm. As we watched a black lump appeared out of the water and sat for approximately 30 seconds before disappearing once again under the water. After another 30 seconds the black lump resurfaced for a shorter amount of time before disappearing under the water again. The lump appeared to be boxy in shape and about the size of a football. It did not appear to swim about, rather it just bobbed and then disappeared under the water before resurfacing to do the same a second time.

The photograph is pretty disappointing and makes me wonder if it was really only 200 yards away? It looks further away than that or mobile phone cameras really are that bad at taking decent pictures in these scenarios. So ended the roster of five surface reports and there is one sonar contact to be added from Tom Ingram on the 4th April.

It was on the Spirit of Loch Ness cruise boat which was remembered for its sonar contact by Ronald Mackenzie back in September 2020. This new image was not quite to the same standard as that one and both are reproduced below by way of comparison (Ingram first). Nevertheless, it asks the question as to what we are looking at. It looked like it happened at roughly the same spot as we note the similar depths and speeds for each image. There is a question over calibration here for this and the original image. In other words, what does the strength of the signal signify in terms of possible candidates? 

This allows for a better quantitative analysis of the data. What that means is passing down one or more objects of known size and density to a series of appropriate depths and use what appears on the sonar screen as a series of benchmark measurements. This would normally be a sphere which is either solid or hollow containing gas or liquid. The choice of material such as metal, plastic or glass can also be important. What controls have to be adjusted on the sonar equipment would be a matter for the sonar technician. These are required to advance the assessment of such contacts.

That ended Gary Campbell's register for 2022 and what you may have noticed was absent were any webcam shots. Back at the end of August, the Visit Inverness and Loch Ness tourism website added four webcams which allowed anyone in the world to scan the loch surface by day or night at five locations. I looked at them at the time at this link. This was a big improvement on the solitary webcam stationed above the area of the castle in terms of proximity to the loch, night time infrared capability and the multiple locations.

These should be a valuable resource for monster hunters, but as we know from the annual number of reports, the creature is not an easy beast to pin down and so perseverance will be required on the part of any hunters watching these cameras. However, various claims have been made that evidence has been recorded on these new webcams. None of them are convincing and generally consist of water disturbances and low lying areas of darkness which cannot be distinguished from the usual windrows, shadows and video artefacts. The latter category applies to the camera stationed at Shoreland Lodges which can suffer from these video effects due to what looks like brighter reflections and it is no surprise most of the claims have come from this camera.

That was probably the most important event in terms of facilitating the hunt for the monster worldwide. Not far behind was the formation of the Loch Ness Exploration group or LNE for short set up by Alan McKenna early this year as he mounted the first of a series of monthly watching briefs at the loch with varying numbers of like minded volunteers. I met up with Alan at one of his watches, though the watch turned into a meet up as I introduced him to Adrian Shine for a long chat. I had not long met with Adrian to see some of the old LNI surveillance films.

I wrote up on both of these meetings here and it was appropriate that a discussion on the old LNI group dovetailed into the new LNE. We wish Alan success as he looks to expand operations into 2023 and beyond. On a personal level, I was at the loch several times this year but circumstances did not allow me to spend as much time there as I wanted, though the trail cameras were in operation. The year began with the publication of an e-book entitled "How to Investigate a Loch Ness Monster Sighting" which covered the notable sighting by Richard Jenkyns in 1973.

This was followed in June by the publication of an article on the Hugh Gray photograph in the Journal of Scientific Exploration which expands on the original articles I wrote over the years. I have been asked to contribute to another article for them in 2023 of which I will speak nearer the time. As for the rest of the year in the blog, the subjects included Arthur Grant and his 1934 land sighting, making contact with George Spicer's grandson - Nigel Spicer, examining Frank Searle's most famous photograph, beginning a statistical analysis of monster sightings and the James Gray photographs.

Having said all that, I noticed that I had written only 26 articles this year, the lowest ever at one every two weeks. I plotted the annual numbers since I started in 2010 and got the graph below. Now the number of annual articles actually peaked at 104 back in 2012 and has been declining ever since, apart from an uptick in 2016. 

At this rate, there will be zero articles by 2026! The reasons for the downslope are various. The blog started with a rich seam of material to mine in 2010. All those classic photographs, films and reports from the past seven decades to examine and defend. The rich array of monster hunters, sceptics and others to look back on as well as tales of ancient kelpies and water horses. A lot of that material has been covered but it is not exhausted and there is always the odd new discovery.

There was also the pandemic which slowed down matters and well, I have been busy with other projects unrelated to the Loch Ness Monster. There is as ever a backlog of subjects to write on, though not as long as other years. So, eight hundred and ten articles on, the Loch Ness Mystery blog enters its 14th year. One wonders every January whether the next year will bring that piece of evidence that reproduces the events of 1960 when a young Tim Dinsdale captured a mysterious object ploughing across the loch and triggered more than a decade of investigation.

Nobody knows, though most will bet on the answer being "No". Whatever, I wish all readers a Happy and Prosperous 2023.

Comments can also be made at the Loch Ness Mystery Blog Facebook group.

The author can be contacted at