Thursday, 17 June 2021

Old Posters from the 1970s


I spotted this Nessie poster on eBay last week and bought it for about a fiver. I think people are more likely to call them infographics these days, but I had never seen it before and so it joins the Loch Ness Monster memorabilia collection that has grown in size over the decades. It is entitled "The Eigh-Uisge of Loch Ness" which is a reference to the old Gaelic for "Water Horse".

The text of the poster looks like it has the influence of famed monster hunter, Tim Dinsdale, all over it as he is quoted on the mystery, two frames from his 1960 film and the artist's impression of the creature looks like it is taken from his works. The 1972 flipper photo and sonar graphics are included but not the subsequent pictures taken by Robert Rines and the AAS from 1975. To that we can add the classic MacNab, Wilson and Lowrie pictures.

In answer to the question, "Where is your scientific evidence?", Dinsdale tells us it was a question no one would bother asking by 1973. Unfortunately, he did not see what would come to pass as the sceptical era ensued within a decade. What exactly Tim was thinking prior to his death in 1987 was probably more sanguine, albeit still positive towards there being a monster in the loch. 

Everything you see in this poster has been panned by the sceptics, I agree with some of it, but not all. The poster is a product of its time and would look a lot different today. But where did this poster come from? The answer came from noting that the copyright lay with Canon Records. A quick Internet search revealed this poster was an insert for a vinyl LP record pressed in 1975 entitled "Come to Scotland".

This was a collection of traditional and popular songs from Scotland which was a promotional tourist item. Yet alongside "I Love a Lassie" and "Flower of Scotland" was a poster about the Loch Ness Monster. Well, it was something designed to get people to visit Scotland, but it seems a suitable song about the monster was harder to find. The LP is described at this link.

On the general theme of Loch Ness posters, the classic one for me is still "The Facts about Loch Ness and the Monster" first published in 1977. The folded product unfolds into a nice 3-D map of the Loch Ness basin surrounded by various images and text boxes. 

Around the same time the first poster was produced was another which I have owned since 1975 and that was simply titled "The Loch Ness Monster" published by Phoebus. This expanded into a large poster of Sir Peter Scott's well known "Courtship at Loch Ness" painting. It also included the Wilson and Flipper photos and two of Frank Searle's productions.

Finally, we have another item called "Loch Ness - An Illustrated Guide" which is a simpler item and has more to say about the loch and its sight with a section for the monster. This has no sensational photos of the creature and I would date it to around 1970. If you know of any other poster products from the 1970s or any other time, let me know.

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Monday, 7 June 2021

Day Trip to Loch Ness


Things had to be shorter this time around at Loch Ness, so I resolved to jump in the car and head up north about 8am, arriving at Inverfarigaig just over three hours later. The Scottish Government had lifted the coronavirus lockdown a few weeks before allowing travel across the mainland for most everyone. The weather was overall pretty good, considering more rain was forecast.

The first and main task was to pick up the various trap cameras that had been surveying the loch since September. Now is generally a good time to take them back home before the tourist season gets in full swing and various kids and so on begin to explore the fringes of the lochside. When I got back and reviewed them, it was evident that one problem had been solved.and that was the issue of high trigger wave events.

Basically, trap cameras were not made for looking at shorelines, they were made for viewing trees and fields.  Any decent incoming wave can trigger the camera and this can go on for days, taking hundreds of pictures a day until the memory card is filled up in a few weeks and the camera shuts down with five months of surveillance still left.

The only viable solution was to set the interval period between triggers much higher. This is the period of time when the camera turns off monitoring for the specified time. This used to be one minute, but it is now set to sixty minutes. That means a maximum of about 36 pictures per day (three per trigger) or 7500 over seven months. As it turned out, the most was about 2,000 on one SD card, since a lot of days are quiet with no triggers.

Of course, this means a compromise or trade-off as the creature could swan past during one of those sixty minute intervals and we would be none the wiser. However, I think that is better than 10,000 pictures of waves over four weeks and then nothing. As it turned out, the multitude of images checked revealed nothing of a cryptid nature, another blank drawn this season past. But this should not be a surprise.

Again, consider the odds we are fighting against. The cameras can trigger on boats, canoes and surfers up to 20 metres away. An arc of sensitivity of about 120 degrees gives us an sweep area of  about 420 square metres. But how big is the surface area of Loch Ness? The answer is about 56,000,000 square metres. So if we say the creature randomly surfaces once a day (an average 12 hour period of daylight), the odds of it surfacing in our arc of detection is 133,333 to 1 against. 

Let us say this single per day surfacing proceeds over six months of surveillance or 182 days. The odds then drop to a mere 732 to 1 against. In other words,you still don't bet the house on it. If you have five cameras on the lochside simultaneously, then the odds drop further to 146 to 1 against. The overall impression you may get is that in 146 years, you will finally get the clinching photographs. Clearly, I am not going to wait around that long.

So, you either massively increase the camera count or be more strategic in where you place the cameras. Increasing cameras is a task proportional to the number of cameras. There comes a point where it becomes too cumbersome, but there is no reason not to increase them by some reasonable amount. Strategic placements may prove a more valuable tactic.

For example, where the cameras currently get placed may be less conducive to monster surfacings if they are over too shallow waters. Perhaps it is more likely to snap the creature over an area where it shelves more rapidly. Or perhaps beside the mouths of rivers where fish congregate and the monsters have long been held to seek out such prey? There are various possibilities, but for now I was limited to snapping passing objects such as these below. You can see from the height of the person that a ten foot hump would occupy a very desirable quarter or more of the horizontal line of the image.

Having collected all cameras safely, I indulged in some good old fashioned monster hunting by watching the loch for that disturbing of the water that could signify something large and alive was stirring. I then drove over to Foyers Power Station to walk around that area, taking in the old Frank Searle site, the 5 Megawatt Power Station and the discharge of water from it that creates a swirl of colliding water as it enters the loch further along. A walk nearby on the spit of land at Foyers Estuary allowed some beach combing and thinking ahead to the next visit. 

After this I drove up to Dores and walked along the southward beach again watching, musing and scouring as the sun came out to shine upon us. I stumbled upon some anglers and chatted as I watched them land a decent sized brown trout. Looks like dinner was sorted out. I asked jokingly if they had tried to land anything of monstrous proportions. Hmm, nothing like that! But no fishermen stories of the big ones that got away, no outsized eels either.

I then walked up the beach to say hello to Steve Feltham at his home on the beach. I complimented him on getting that big story on the sonar contact into the media and we discussed that and its implications for a while. Despite the obvious drawbacks of Covid-19 on the area, it had actually been a good year for Steve in that the area was a lot more peaceful. I could understand that right away as some mopeds drove to within a few feet of us, you could hardly hear yourself think!

I would point out that Steve must be almost at his thirtieth year at the loch since he arrived in 1991. So well done to him on the continued search at the loch. With that, I had a spot of dinner at the Dores Inn and then motored back down south to Edinburgh. I hope to be back at the loch no later than August and for longer than just a day trip.

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Friday, 28 May 2021

Charles Wyckoff on the Loch Ness Monster

Long time Nessie fans will be aware of Charles Wyckoff and his association with the Loch Ness hunt in the 1970s along with his friend, Harold Edgerton. Charles was best known for his work on high speed photography from the 1950s onwards and had worked with Edgerton on various projects such as photographing the Pacific atomic bomb tests.

However, it was in the 1970s that Edgerton brought him in to help out with the 1975 Academy of Applied Science led by Robert Rines. Edgerton had expertise in stroboscopic and sonar work and wanted Wyckoff to help integrate underwater photography with this into a complete sonar triggered set up at Loch Ness. The results were of course controversial and misinterpreted in part, but the technical contribution of Wyckoff could be less criticized. For example, it was Wyckoff who, using the light levels in various photos, estimated that the 1975 AAS "body" pictures was 25 feet away.

In this interview with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1995,  he talks about his involvement with the AAS, though a large portion of the talk focuses on the work to get two dolphins trained to take cameras down into the loch. That project never bore fruit when one of the dolphins died. Wyckoff himself died a few years later in 1998.

The link to the interview can be found at this link and the ten minute portion on the Monster begins about forty and a half minutes in. Thanks to Thomas Eitler who pointed me to the video.

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Monday, 17 May 2021

The Lancashire Policeman who saw the Monster


Here is a sighting report that is new to me which recently appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post (link). It dipped into its archives to retrieve this account from 86 years ago and from which the illustration above was taken. I reproduce the text below.

Lancashire police chief spotted the Loch Ness Monster

Officer on holiday when he saw a creature in the Scottish loch

In August 1935, when the holiday season was at its height, one of Preston’s most prominent citizens journeyed to Scotland and returned to town with an astonishing tale. At that time the policing of Preston was carried out by the Preston Borough Police Force, under the guidance of the Chief Constable J P Ker Watson, who had been in charge for 20 years. That summer Watson packed his suitcase and headed for Scotland, in particular the area around Inverness.

During his vacation he drove along the road from Fort Augustus to Inverness and halted at the 13 miles to Inverness sign post, near to a castle on the shore of the famous Loch Ness. What he observed from his vantage point was to make the following headline in the Lancashire Evening Post - ‘The ‘Monster’ Of Loch Ness - Appears before Preston’s Chief Constable’. At that period of time the search for the Loch Ness Monster was a frenzied one with innumerable sightings and the Chief Constable had been told to look out for the creature as he ventured into Loch Ness territory.

He was keen to tell a Post reporter how he had seen a head and humps moving above the water, almost a mile from the shore. He estimated the length of the creature as between 25 and 30 feet with a relatively small head and very large bumps. Keen to record his sighting, he had done a rough sketch which the Post cartoonist Furnival happily reproduced for inclusion in the newspaper. He told the reporter he felt it was not unreasonable that a creature could survive in the deep waters, with vegetation in abundance on the bottom of the lake.

The Chief Constable then relating how many of the locals were convinced the monster did exist and thought it quite conceivable that such a creature could have come up into the loch and stayed there. With hundreds continually flocking to Loch Ness, hoping to catch a sight of the creature, it had boosted tourism in Inverness, but he felt the locals did not have any ulterior motive for publicising their monster’s existence. It seems Preston’s senior policeman was not the only Chief Constable who believed in the existence of ‘Nessie’, because in 1938 the Chief Constable of Inverness penned a letter stating that it was beyond doubt that the monster existed. He was at the time concerned over reports that a hunting party were about to descend on Loch Ness armed with harpoon guns and were determined to catch the creature ‘dead or alive’.

Sporadic sightings continued for some 30 years and in 1963 a film of the creature was taken on the loch – but from some five kilometres distance it was of poor quality. Some of the most infamous photos of the monster were taken by Lancashire man Frank Searle, who moved to Loch Ness in 1969 living in a tent looking for definitive proof of its existence. When his photos were published in 1972 it caused a worldwide sensation, before they were eventually exposed as fakes. Searle moved back to Fleetwood and lived out his years in relative anonymity in the port.

Now I have no idea whether this 13 miles signpost still exists. I would hazard a guess with the use of Google maps that the place he saw the beast was perhaps a mile north of the entrance to Temple Pier, which is on the opposite side of Urquhart Bay from the Castle. The object was a mile away from him and the fact that the improvised map in the illustration suggests it was between the castle and the distant monastery at Fort Augustus means he was more or less looking south down the loch.

Of course, Fort Augustus Abbey is not visible from Urquhart Bay and the map is rather idealized. You would think, looking at the map, that the monastery was on the other side of the loch from the Castle. Now as to the sketch of the monster, there are some issues which point to artistic licence. For example, no one is going to make out those eyes at one mile distance. But then again, for those who may suggest he saw a bird, I don't think birds are very visible at all at that distance.

The statement that there is an abundance of vegetation at the bottom of the loch is a wild guess and false. There is nothing but silt at the dark floor of the loch. Quite why the police officer thought the beast did not rather live off fish is a bit of a puzzle. However, the idea that the beast may have been a visitor who decided to stay in the loch had more merit. The estimate of 25 to 30 feet is a pretty standard monster size, though when such statements are made, one is never quite certain if the eyewitness is trying to include any invisible features such as a tail.

So, another sighting for the record, albeit a bit lacking in detail. The original article can be found on the British Newspaper Archive. If I renew my subscription, I will update this article.

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Wednesday, 12 May 2021

One of the Silliest Nessie Theories

I was recently contacted by Sean Murphy from the Scottish newspaper, the Daily Record, regarding a "novel" theory about what the Loch Ness Monster may be. Was it giant eels or some new variant of the plesiosaur or something new to excite debate and discussion? Well, if you think whale penises can generate discussion, you have your answer. The article from the paper says:

'Loch Ness Monster just a Whale Penis' theory is 'mostly false' says internet fact-checking site

A recent article by looked at one of the strangest theories over what Nessie could be.

Over the years, sightings and photographs of the Loch Ness Monster have been attributed to everything from toy submarines and floating logs to giant eels or even a surviving prehistoric plesiosaur. However, one of the latest theories to emerge on the internet might be the most bizarre one yet, even prompting the fact-checking website to investigate in a bid to clear things up.

A post on the popular site headlined "Is the Loch Ness Monster Just a Whale Penis?", added that the strange online theory is "more plausible than it might appear". Focusing on the famous Surgeon's photograph, reportedly taken by surgeon Robert Kenneth Wilson in the 1930s, the theory, which appeared online earlier this year, compares the pic with another one taken of a similarly shaped whale penis rising from the water.

The bizarre theory is based on a study by a team of researchers, which was published in a paper in the Archives of Natural History and speculated that many accounts of large mysterious sea creatures with a “serpent-like tail” were actually a large baleen whale and its “snake-like penis”. They added that other accounts could be attributed to the male members of certain whale species which can be at least 1.8 metres long and are sometimes spotted rising from the water during mating.

However, Snopes stated that the famous photo of Nessie couldn't be, as it was a confirmed hoax, but added that it's possible that other sea serpent and Nessie sightings throughout history may have been misidentified whale penises. The team at Snopes summarised: "While the famous picture of the Loch Ness Monster certainly wasn’t a case of mistaken whale-penis identity, and while whale-penis sightings probably can’t explain every sea serpent sighting throughout history, it is plausible that some of these 'sea serpents' were attached to the bottom of a whale."

Considering the fact that Loch Ness is technically landlocked, fresh water and the biggest mammals regularly spotted there are seals, it seems the whale theory cannot be applied to Nessie. Famous Nessie Hunter Steve Feltham is happy to rule out the theory that whales could have been mistaken for the famous Scottish monster, he said: "I have lived on the shoreline of Loch Ness for over 30 years, watching and waiting for for a glimpse of one of the animals that are reported to live in here.

"I have never seen a whale in Loch Ness, and one hundred percent believe that I never will.

"One thing that I can do after all these years of investigation is cross whales off the list of possible explanations."

While author Roland Watson, who runs the Loch Ness Mystery blog, added that even if whales did make an appearance in Loch Ness then long necks emerging from the water would only be seen during the whale mating season, however, sightings of long necks are reported all year round.

Now it is apparent that this theory was originally suggested for cases of sea serpent sightings and we could give some credence to that, but inevitably it got linked with Nessie. One could give various answers to this. Steve Feltham gave the straight answer, there are no whales in Loch Ness. It has to be said that some such as Roy Mackal and the recent book by Ken Gerhard have suggested ancient whales as a candidate for the monster, but I am sure they did not have this in mind when they formulated those ideas.

If there was a whale in Loch Ness, we would soon know about it as it blew water into the air and generally splashed about. The recent story of the young Minke Whale which got quite far up the River Thames in London shows that they can travel quite far inland, but to their detriment. Getting through the tighter, shallower River Ness is a different proposition to the huge Thames.

That would settle it, but I added my own geeky kind of answer that long neck sightings are reported all year round, whereas this genital spectacle would be confined to the mating season for whales, which I understand is confined to the colder months of the year, but involves long scale migration to the equator.

So, yes, it is a silly theory which is entirely false and not "mostly false" and we can ignore it. But I know some of you will be asking the question, perhaps it is the male organ of the Loch Ness Monster? Well, that all really depends on what the Loch Ness Monster is, doesn't it? But I somehow doubt that this organ can reach the dimensions we require if it belongs to a thirty foot creature.

What more can one say?

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Monday, 3 May 2021

More on Giant Eel Stories

It is back to giant eels as I went through my research material and found a few stories of interest. Now I myself do not think the Loch Ness Monster is a giant eel, but that doesn't mean that opinion is false and various theories regarding the beast will continue to be blogged for the benefit of discussion. Of course, if a thirty foot eel is found at the loch, I would have to accept that the monster has been found and some explanation for the non-eel type sightings will be required. That has not happened and so we now continue with some letters from the Fortean Times magazine dated July 2006 (No.212). The first letter is from well known Fortean researcher, Mike Dash:

Loch Ness Eels 

I was very interested to read Jim Currie's letter (FT208:74) concerning rumours that apparently circulated in Glasgow shipyards during the 1960s of an underwater sighting of the Loch Ness Monster. According to Currie, a story went around that a car had careered off the road and into the loch and that when a diver was sent into the water to search for it, he found the vehicle perched on a ledge 80ft (24m) down and surfaced babbling about "giant eels, the size of a man's body, hundreds of them!" In one version of the account, Currie adds, the diver's hair went white and he was rendered insane by the experience.

This tale, which while undated seems to refer to an incident occurring in the latter half of the 20th century, is readily identifiable as a variant on a supposedly much older account first published in the first edition of Nicholas Witchell's The Loch Ness Story (1974) p.29. "There is an interesting story," Witchell writes, "of a diver, Duncan MacDonald, who was sent to examine a sunken ship off the Fort Augustus entrance to the Caledonian Canal in 1880. MacDonald was lowered into the water and shortly afterwards the men on the surface received frantic signals from him to be pulled up.

When he did surface it is said his face was like chalk and he was trembling violently. It was several days before he would talk about the incident, but eventually he described how he had been examining the keel of the ship when he saw a large animal lying on the shelf of rock on which the wreck was lodged. 'It was a very odd looking beast,' he said, `like a huge frog.' He refused to dive in the loch again."

The first point to make is that Witchell's account of the MacDonald sighting is unreferenced and no primary source has ever been found for it (see Ulrich Magin, "Waves Without Wind and a Floating Island: Historical Accounts of the Loch Ness Monster" in Fortean Studies 7 (2001) p.102). Thus, if Mr Currie's memory of dates is correct, his apparently later version, involving cars and eels, may actually predate the MacDonald story. The second is that neither account is at all likely to be true.

Aside from the obviously folkloric elements featured in both tales (hair turning white, refusal to dive again), numerous underwater surveys of Loch Ness, conducted with sonar and echo sounder apparatus, have failed to reveal the various subsurface features so often featured in popular accounts: underwater ledges, caves and even tunnels leading to the sea. Finally, as is fairly well known, underwater visibility at Loch Ness is negligible - of the order of a few feet once one ventures to any depth below the surface - thanks to the heavy concentration of silt particles washed into the loch from the surrounding hills. The reported observations of Duncan MacDonald and of Jim Currie's diver would simply not have been physically possible.

Mike Dash


That letter from issue 208 of Fortean Times is short and reproduced below:

When I worked in the Clyde shipyards in the 1960s, a story went round about Loch Ness. It was said a car had careered off the road into the loch and a diver was sent to investigate the insurance claim. Apparently the car had landed on a kind of ledge only about 80ft (24m) down. When the diver broke surface after investigating, he was heard to be babbling about "giant eels, the size of a man's body, hundreds of them!" In one version of the tale, the diver's hair turned white, while in another he became a babbling wreck confined to a lunatic asylum. Has anyone else heard this story? 

Jim Currie

Baillieston, Glasgow 

First off, Mike compares this underwater encounter with the better known story of Duncan MacDonald from 1880 described in Nicholas Witchell's "The Loch Ness Story". Though it is described as a "variant", the two tales are undoubtedly unconnected. It is correct to say Witchell's tale is unreferenced and it is my opinion, it was one of those stories related by locals to the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau team in their years at the loch during the 1960s and 1970s. The local was probably known to Witchell but requested anonymity.

At this point we can also include the stories of Robert Badger (link), James Honeyman (link) and an unnamed diver (link). So you can see we have a growing line of such stories. Now as to folkloric elements,  if Robert Badger in 1971 said he would never dive in the loch again, that would be understandable, not folkloric. We can quite readily assume it for any other diver after such an event. What is not clear is whether they vowed never to dive in Loch Ness again or anywhere at all.

The reference to hair whitening is indeed not true in the sense of happening overnight. However, extreme stress could trigger an autoimmune response which renders further hair growth a lighter colour, but that is speculation as such a condition has not even been recorded in Death Row. The only defense is that it is a figure of speech and not to be taken literally.

The two points about the nature of the loch itself take a rather binary view of the situation. The Duncan MacDonald account actually says "the rock ledge" and not "the shelf of rock". A rock ledge can mean several things. In the case of the loch, the land underwater can gently incline before one reaches a precipice which takes us over the edge into the deeper parts of the loch. Or it could simply be a ledge with a small drop and nothing more. It is my opinion that when ledges are spoken of in these reports, we are talking about these initial shallows and it is no surprise that boats end up there.

The other point about poor visibility underwater is taken, but in both cases discussed, the distance between diver and animal is not given, so how do we know it is a problem? Robert Badger states the creature he saw was about 15 to 20 feet away from him. The answer here is depth, once you get to a certain depth at say about seventy feet, then all light is lost. I would suggest these divers were at lower depths and/or the creature was as close as Robert Badger's incident. So visibility, though poor, is not a blocker.

However, Mr. Currie's diver's comments about hundreds of eels does not sound literally true if visibility is out to twenty feet, unless he had a good flashlight or he employed a metaphor to signify a lot of eels. One final thought I would add is that Jim Currie reminds me of the apocryphal James Currie, who was an alleged banker from the 1930s, who held a sensational film of the monster, but held it back until the public took it more seriously (link).  Does that suggest this person's name is not real and is taking us for a ride? With that we move onto the second letter by James Kitwood:

Jim Currie makes reference to a story about a giant eel seen in Loch Ness. He asks if anybody else has heard a similar story. It is said that during the construction of the hydroelectric plant at Foyers on the shore of Loch Ness, a lorry that had been dumping soil into the loch reversed too far and slid into the water. During the salvage operation. divers came up in a hurry and refused to go back as they had seen huge. hairy eels. In a related story about the Foyers power station, there was a rumour of giant eels that had been trapped against the metal grilles on the entrance to the water intake pipes. (Ness Information Service Newsletter 84, Oct 1987) In 1998 I wrote to Scottish Hydro Electric and received a letter from a man who had worked there since its commission in 1975. He said that the story about the lorry was unsubstantiated and the issue of large eels getting into the water-cooling system was a physical impossibility.

He did, however, relate a story he heard as a child about a diver who was lowered into Loch Lomond. When he resurfaced not only was he badly shaken, but his hair had turned grey. It seems this story is not unique to Loch Ness. Another Loch Ness eel story that may yet be possible to verify concerns a minesweeper travelling through the loch at the end of World War I. Apparently, the crew thought it would be a good idea to try and blow up the creature. They released a depth charge and after the explosion the bodies of two eels floated to the surface. One was 11ft (3.4m) long and one was 9ft (2.7m) long- but this was just the tail end of it! (Ness Information Service Newsletter 116, April 1993)

James Kitwood

Calverley, West Yorkshire 

Since James mentions his sources as Rip Hepple's Nessletters, we can have a look at them in more detail. The first being number 84 from October 1987 which I quote below. Rip had contacted a Mr. Hancock on updates for the then Operation Deepscan. He worked for the company which distributed Lowrance sonar systems in Britain and he relayed the story:

One evening after the days operation and evening meal they were relaxing in the hotel when a local man approached them and told them of a big eel. Foyers hydro-electric station is one of the water storage type, pumping water from Loch Ness up to Loch Mhor when there is spare electricity, then using it to generate power during peak periods. The water intakes have metal grids over them, to protect fish being sucked in. This local told them that some time ago staff noted that water pressure was falling and when they investigated, the grid on one of the intakes was clogged up with eels among them a real giant of around 18 to 20 feet long and some 2/3 feet in diameter. I do not really know what to make of this story, Mr Hancock said the man seemed sincere.

One point that came to me later was the question of how could the grid be seen, the intakes must be some distance below the surface, well out of sight unless there are observation ports of some kind built into the installation. To clear the grids of debris the usual practice is to stop the turbines and allow the water to back-flush the system.

I remember that another giant eel story did the rounds when the power station was being built. A wagon driver was dumping soil in the loch when he got too close to the edge and managed .to lose the wagon into the water as well . The story was that divers went down to attach lifting gear, but they came· up in a hurry and refused to go back down, claiming they had seen huge, hairy eels. Attempts were made to locate the divers later, but failed and the story remained hearsay. Perhaps the account told to Mr Hancock will remain in the same category. 

This story has been remarked on before in less detail and it presents a few questions. The first is the obvious one as to why finding the remains of a 20 foot eel did not lead to sensational headlines and a carcass ending up at the Natural History Museum? Since the grid has to stop all manner of fish, the meshing must be quite fine which makes one ask how a powerful large eel could get stuck there? The answer to that may be the ability of the pump storage devices to suck up 160 tonnes of water per second! 

Nevertheless, why no body parts? I thought perhaps this was a pre-Nessie event before 1933 since a hydro-power station has been in operation since 1895 when it supplied power to the now derelict aluminium smelting plant. Perhaps so, but that was a low powered setup and it was not until 1976 that the present 300MW plant came into operation, so I suspect the tale is from that year onward. 

Or we could speculate they failed to obtain any physical evidence because, as Rip says above, the pumps were turned off and the back-flush drove the eels back into the deep. Or perhaps they couldn't get samples. If any of these critters were still alive, no diver would go near one, even for a ton of gold. We also have James Kitwood's letter above in which he states he wrote to a worker at the power plant who could not confirm the story and thought it was a physical impossibility anyway. Which turns us back to 1987 and who on earth was this chap who walked into that hotel and related the story? We may never know and move on.

Rip's second tale about the dump truck falling into the loch is also tantalizing and the hairiness of the eels reminds us of the mane seen on the monster. If this were true, it would suggest these are not the species of European eel that inhabit the loch. But once again we are frustrated by the lack of a first hand testimony by one of these divers. The second account from Mr. Kitwood regarding the depth charging of Loch Ness is from Nessletter 116 dated January 1994 and relates a story told by an angling correspondent for the "Salmon, Trout & Sea-Trout" magazine called "Viking". It is dated February 1993 and Viking is quoted first:

At the end of the first world war, a mine-sweeper was on her way through from Fort William in the west to the Beauly Firth in the east, by the Caledonian Canal that connects the great lochs to the sea. On her way down Loch Ness she passed over the depths below Urquhart Castle which are a favourite of the 'Beastie'. The crew had been celebrating peace all the way and still had depth charges ready to launch. Some one had the bright idea of having a go for the monster, so they set off a charge and up came two gigantic eels. One was 11ft long and the other 9ft, but that was only the tail-end!

Rip Hepple then adds his thoughts:

Viking said that is a true story. I wonder how, after seventy years such facts could be checked? Lobbing live depth charges into Scottish lochs would hardly be legal, even in celebratory high spirits, so I doubt if any official record would have been kept. However he does go on with an account of an incident which happened to him. Saying, 'An old friend of mine, now long gone to the 'fishers tryst', was trapping salmon for the hatchery on the River Garry at the top of Loch Ness. The fish he trapped were kept in a long iron tank until they were ready to be stripped of their eggs. The water supply was piped from the tail-race of the small hydro-electric generating station a short distance upstream, where the blades in the Francis turbine could chop up migrating eels. A chunk of eel had blocked the pipe which was 5 inches in diameter. it must have come from an eel at least 10 feet long.' 

One does not doubt that minesweepers passed through Loch Ness and it is possible they indulged in this foolish behaviour. However, the incident is dated to 1918 and the Loch Ness Monster did not become a national phenomenon for another 15 years. It was however a well known local legend, but since a Royal Navy vessel would contain a crew from all over the United Kingdom, they were unlikely to have any regard to this.

Depth charges were developed to take out German submarines and could be preset to detonates at depths of up to 300 feet. In this instance two dead giant eels were observed coming to the surface. One presumes they were forced to the surface by the explosion and then promptly sunk again in the normal manner. To achieve this, the charge must have detonated at a depth a lot less than 300 feet. Viking says this is a true story and, 28 years on, perhaps he is still alive to state who his source was? To that we can add nothing more, you either believe it or you don't.

Viking's final tale about finding a five inch diameter chunk of eel is interesting and probably the most credible to the bulk of readers. He suggests this scales up to an eel at least ten feet long. My own scaling measurements based on a good picture of an adult European eel suggests a length of eight feet. Nevertheless, that is a substantial eel as all eels caught in Loch Ness will be less than three feet and would raise some serious questions. Note a thirty foot eel would scale up to a diameter of  about one and a half feet, unless you ascribe to Roy Mackal's thick bodied eel theory.

So there we have several tales of giant eels in Loch Ness, all at best second hand tales. Where does it take us? Not very far, but it will be of value to some more than others.

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Friday, 16 April 2021

Prince Philip and the Loch Ness Monster

As the day of the funeral of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh approaches, it would not be out of place to mention in the various and numerous articles and documentaries, that he had an interest in the mysteries of life.

In listening to the various tributes to the Duke of Edinburgh, I learnt he had amassed a total of over ten thousand books in his library at Buckingham Palace. These would have covered a vast array of subjects to satiate his inquiring mind. Naval, historical, equine, theological and others filled the shelves and apparently also his keen interest in UFOs after one allegedly landed on the estate of his uncle, Lord Mountbatten (see link).

That interest looked to have persisted as we are told that only in 2019, he was reading a book on the Rendlesham Forest UFO incident in Suffolk. Apparently he amassed a sizable number of books on that subject. But what about the other mystery swimming in the depths of Loch Ness? How many books did he possess on that subject? I suspect more than a handful.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, it would seem he was well connected enough on the subject through his association with Sir Peter Scott (both below). Their shared love of ornithology and conservation work led to a lasting friendship. Scott's work with the Loch Ness Monster is well known. In fact. in the same year that he was inviting Prince Philip to be the first President of the World Wildlife Fund, he was also setting up another organisation, the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau.

It was unlikely that he would invite the Prince to patronise such an organisation in the same manner, especially after the embarrassing episode the year before of Scott using his Royal connections to persuade the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to be amongst the first viewers of Tim Dinsdale's film and to discuss the creature being dubbed "Elizabethia Nessiae" in her honour (further details here).

However, it is fairly certain that Sir Peter Scott kept the Duke abreast of developments at the loch, especially when they tended to sit together at WWF board meetings. One suspects, though, that prudence kept him from recording any such private conversations. A better source is from David Clarke's book, "Britain's X-traordinary Files". In it he mentions how another of the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau's founders, David James, got involved.

We learn that James had a conversation with Prince Philip regarding his plans for the Bureau at the loch and how to fund it after their second expedition there. I'll wager Peter Scott brought the two together. The Prince's reply was that he contact Solly Zuckerman, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Ministry of Defense. The lending of sonar equipment and expertise was discussed, but the MoD did not think it prudent to be seen using military resources in the pursuit of a monster. David also point out on his blog another instance where the Duke was involved:

Indeed when sightings began again after the war, the Duke of Edinburgh suggested calling in the Royal Navy to solve the mystery.

It seems this suggestion did not get very far either. The Duke of Edinburgh evidently had a love of mysteries, but we are left with the unanswered question which he is no longer here to answer - what did he think the Monster was? I suspect that answer would have depended what year you asked him. 

Perhaps his last answer would have been "a load of bloody nonsense" which seemed a phrase attributed to him. But then again, I would like to think he visited this blog and other like minded ones at least once or twice ....

Rest In Peace, Prince Philip. A reading taken from his funeral, Ecclesiasticus 43:23-25

By His wisdom he calmed the great oceans
and placed the islands there.
Sailors tell about the dangers of the sea,
and we listen to their tales in amazement.
In the sea are strange and marvellous creatures:
huge monsters and all kinds of living things.

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