Sunday, 24 January 2021

The Nessie Turtle Theory

My fellow Nessie believer, Henry Bauer, has been in the news recently as his latest views on what the Loch Ness Monster could be has gained some attention. Henry has moved away from the popular plesiosaur theory to consider whether the monster could be an ancient, unknown species of the giant turtle. Henry actually published this theory as a paper back in March 2020 for the Journal of Scientific Exploration and you can read his original paper here

Now as to the actual theory, the idea that Nessie could be some large form of sea-going turtle has been going around since the very first year of 1933 (see link). When Hugh Gray's famous photograph was published in the Scottish Daily Record, a Major Meikle wrote to the 8th December 1933 edition of the paper commenting on how much the hump and the head to the right of the picture looked like a "leathery or green turtle". He differed from Henry in that he thought a known species of turtle was sufficient to explain the new story from Loch Ness.

Now one could imagine that the head in the Gray picture (below) could resemble a turtle's head, though my own preference is fish like. However, the tail to the left is much longer than any known species of turtles swimming the seas just now. Nevertheless, it is an unknown species of turtle with some adaptions over the vast ages that Henry has more in mind.

Back in 2013, I also wrote on a TV documentary entitled "The Loch Ness Monster Revealed" from the Discovery Channel which speculated upon a possible variant of turtle that was dubbed the plesio-turtle which sounded more like Henry's speculated beast. They produced the theoretical image below with the outstretched neck which did not look that different from some known species such as the snake necked turtle (below). One has to be reminded that though such species have Nessie like features, they are significantly smaller than our denizen of the loch.

Other factors in this hypothetical turtle's favour are the long times they can spend underwater, even absorbing oxygen from the surrounding water and controlling their metabolism to even hibernating underwater. The high oxygen content of the loch also favour creatures who employ such biological devices. The fact that we do have very large turtles in the fossil record also confirms that no unrealistic gigantism is required as we see applied to other theories. This is demonstrated in the photograph at the top of the page which shows a fossil skeleton of the extinct species Archelon which grew to at least fifteen feet long.

However, like all theories (including sceptical ones), there are drawbacks. Turtles lay eggs and go ashore to lay them in often large numbers. No such activity has ever been witnessed of the Loch Ness Monster. Indeed, it is doubtful that any that could be construed as reproductive has ever been observed with any certainty.

Obviously, no eggs have been found or the mystery would have been solved by now. It could be counter proposed that such a cryptid turtle gives birth to live young but since all known turtles lay eggs, this would seem a drastic departure. It may be suggested, like our snake necked turtle above, that it could lay eggs in the waters of the loch. The problem here is that the snake necked turtle lives in the warm waters of Australia. It is unlikely a developing egg could survive in the cold waters of Loch Ness.

The other issue is that the recent eDNA study by Professor Neil Gemmell revealed no reptile DNA, let alone turtle DNA. Henry takes hope in the 25% of DNA samples that were not readily identified with any species from the genome database. That may be true, though the fact that less samples were taken at the lowest depths of 200 metres may be a better explanation.

One could go on further about shape changing humps, long necks with non-turtle heads and three toed limbs but the truth of the matter is that no theory fully explains all the features described. The turtle theory is at no disadvantage there compared to other theories and doubtless is ahead of others. But we have a eyewitness database which will contain misidentifications and hoaxes which only muddy the waters. To that we can add those genuine eyewitnesses to a genuine monster which imperfectly describe what they see. How that is handled is entirely down to each investigator and their own combination of skill and bias.

I certainly prefer the giant turtle theory to the giant eel theory but still have my doubts when I compare it to the AAA sightings. For example, our last article on the John MacLean sighting, would a giant turtle fit all that went on there? My thinking is that it would not.

The author can be contacted at

Monday, 11 January 2021

Further Thoughts on the John MacLean Sighting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Nessie Review of 2020


Looking back on 2020 can only leave one with a sense of good riddance to a bad year from just about every perspective. As the coronavirus swept across the world, vast swathes of the population hunkered down and battened down the hatches. Social distancing became the norm and many of the places we love to visit became off limits. Some levity was required as a debate ensued as to whether UFOs, Bigfoot or Nessie was the time honoured champion of social distancing as we only too well know.

You can make your own mind up on that, though in the year past, we did have one story from 1922 where Nessie and eyewitness seemed to break that two metre distance and even touched. That story may never be corroborrated but looking back on the Nessie highlights of the year, we first look at the claimed sightings from the last twelve months.

A look at Gary Campbell's Loch Ness sightings register has Gary reckoning on twelve reports this year. Five of these were from the webcam positioned high above Urquhart Castle, Those occupied the first half of the year when the loch was either quiet due to winter or due to the coronavirus lockdown which forbad any non-locals coming to the loch for anything but essential reasons. My opinion on webcam reports has been stated before. They may or may not show the monster, but they are too far away to make any difference and we await the day when a camera is installed somewhere near the shore to provide greater clarity (and I suspect fewer claims).

Next up was a smartphone recording by Ross MacAulay on the 8th July of which the best frame I could see is shown below.  This shows a white water disturbance in the centre of the loch described as twelve feet in extent and four foot wide. It had appeared near some kayakers nearer to the shore and the progressed to the centre where it was filmed.

Unfortunately, the witness was about a mile away from the object and so the recording is of little value in determining what it was. No doubt what he saw with the naked eye was better than what was recorded but herein lies the problem with surveillance. Having a high vista of multiple square miles of loch surface may improve the chances of seeing something but what you see is going to occupy a very small part of a smartphone's field of view. Conversely, getting closer to the shore brings the object into closer relief but less surface to survey.

Another image shown below was taken on the 29th August by Mr Van Scheurbeck from Point Clair. I was wondering if this object was a buoy to warn boaters of shallow waters. On enlarging what is a low resolution image, it did not appear that the object could be seen against the trees in the background on the opposite shore, which suggests it is not very tall as one sees in long necked sightings. 

The following month led to more pictures of a water disturbance taken from Bunloit Farmhouse which again were inconclusive. A video of an object in Dores bay by Trevor Ross in October was nothing more than a bobbing log though the large hump seen by Corey Sturrock in the same area sounded more genuine to me. 

Moving into November and another indistinct object was photographed by Karen Scott on the 24th which is shown below. On the original picture, you would not know where to look to find the object as it is so small, so the triangular object is not big, and as we know, size matters when it comes to Nessie. I covered a similar picture back in July when I was emailed a photo by Jeremy taken from the same vantage point of the Grant Tower at Urquhart Castle. If it did submerge and reappear further on then that does not suggest debris such as logs. Birds obviously submerge and resurface, but the witnesses claim it was not a bird. If you wish to see anything monstrous in this photo, you would be confining yourself to a small part of its anatomy.

Now even as I was typing this article, another report came in as reported by the Sun newspaper concerning yet another water disturbance filmed by local lady Louise Power some days before near Drumnadrochit. In the words of the Sun:

Louise, a school clerical assistant, said they saw “something strange” in the water less than half-a-mile away. She said: “There was a wake after it and it just kept moving slowly. Then it turned and just went under the water and disappeared. It was big and whitish grey. I did believe there was something unexplained in the loch — now I know there is!”

Again, being about half a mile away, we are not going to get much detail from a smartphone camera and mark this interesting but inconclusive. So not a great selection of images but that all changed on the 30th September when Ronald Mackenzie got this sonar image from his cruise boat at a point near the Horseshoe Scree opposite the village of Invermoriston. The object is at a depth of about 570 feet below and about 43 feet off the bottom of the loch. Monster Hunter Steve Feltham persuaded Ronald to go public and we are glad he did. I estimated the object was eleven feet thick in the vertical axis. The horizontal axis on the sonar display is time, but the manufacturers of the equipment estimated the length of the object was 15-20 feet. 

This excellent image was certainly covered in this blog, initially here and here where we suggest from Adrian Shine's own mouth that this is the kind of convincing image he was looking for in Operation Deepscan in 1987! We then dismissed theories about floating organic debris here. A few other sonar images turned up after this were publicised and the impression I certainly got was that the panoply of unexplained sonar hits that boats had picked up over the years are more likely to be large creatures than people are letting on.

So far to date, the sceptics have said very little about this image and would love it to just go away. They are quite happy with distant pictures of water disturbances, but not this. But what is the next step for sonar? Let us see what 2021 brings. 

As for me, the coronavirus restrictions meant I was limited in my trips to Loch Ness this year. But once the lockdown was eased in June, I headed off asap to the area. It was a good trip and as far as water disturbances are concerned, my game cameras caught their own version. What it was I am not making any assessment of.

What was more tantalizing was the large thirty foot depression I found at the estuary of the River Foyers. What had caused it? Canoes, wild campers or something else? The possibilities are considered in my trip report.

In terms of other research, the lockdowns must have had their effect as 2020 was the lowest count for blog postings in this its tenth year. I had published only 41 times (including this article). That compared with 104 in 2012 and the lowest ever of 33 in 2010, but 2010 posts began in July. However, there were one or two gems in that 41 including a video interview with Harry Finlay who had one of the most famous sightings of the monster with his mother, Greta Finlay, in 1952. That post is here and this is a sketch of the creature he saw at a distance of about twenty to thirty feet. Harry is not just a believer, he is a knower!

I also had the pleasure of talking to Arthur Kopit who had a land sighting back in 1961 which was related here. If you scroll down to the right of this page you will see the Blog Archive and you can click on the arrows to unpack various date ranges to see all the articles for this year and others.

So what will 2021 portend? Will one of those game cameras of mine snap something up close and personal? Will more exciting sonar hits aggravate the sceptics even more? Will some very lucky eyewitness get close enough to one of these shy creatures with a decent camera to snap something to rival or even exceed the photos of the past? 

I don't know, but I look forward to being back up at the loch no earlier than April this year ... coronaviruses allowing.

The author can be contacted at

Friday, 18 December 2020

An Article on Sandy and Hugh Gray


Nessie enthusiasts will know about the first photograph of the Loch Ness Monster taken by Hugh Gray in November 1933. This blog has also covered the sightings claimed by his brother, Sandy Gray. But a fuller account of Sandy Gray and events mainly around the Foyers area of Loch Ness has been written by journalist and author, Paul Brown.

I helped Paul with a few questions regarding his article and I commend his article to readers interested in Sandy Gray and various events that surrounded Loch Ness in those late months of 1933. You can access his article here. There you can also find a "Listen" button if you prefer audio.

The author can be contacted at

Sunday, 13 December 2020

A Monster Tale from 1981

I received an email some days back from a Pete Sylvester who had a tale to tell from nearly forty years ago. He was helping out with a school trip to Loch Ness and was aged thirty nine back then. He recorded the details of the event at the time and so it come to us with a recall much better than perhaps something retold from memory four decades on. I quote his story in full.

Once upon a time...I always have to start this way for if I told you the truth - as truth - you wouldn't believe me. So - once upon a time - long ago - (it was May 31st 1981 - at two minute past nine) - we were on the banks of Loch Ness. 

We were a school party of fifteen to sixteen year old pupils finishing our Natural History Projects on heather, bugs, insects and - oh yes - water voles - though our experience of these was restricted to slides. Fifteen of our seventeen had gone to a nearby village (and as rough young teenagers God knows what they could be up to). So Dave Simpson and I (he the Biology teacher - me the helpful other) and the two remaining lads - were travelling along the road - in sight of the Loch - looking for our missing pupils. Dave was driving us in the minibus - a task he cordially hated. As always he was driving astride the central white line when - on an instant - he screamed to a halt. 

We immediately turned our eyes this way and that. Had Dave hit a cow? (Surely we'd have felt it). Forced another car into the ditch? (No sound and looking back we could see no car). Hit a walker? (aaarrrggghhh!) Or maybe seen a watervole (no - don't be silly). Meanwhile - in the middle of the road - he was gazing with rapt attention at the Loch. Now the Loch was a hundred feet below us and perhaps three hundred yards away but Dave was looking way out across the water to the other side. The distance was at least a mile. But what he saw - when we focused on it - we saw too! A visible V wave - nothing at the point - was weaving along the Loch on the far side. 

We watched for a couple of minutes and then it vanished. "What on earth was that?" asked Dave. "Sir - I bet it was the Loch Ness Monster," said one of the lads and to my surprise Dave replied "I don't know - but it could have been." Hmm - daft sod! We were about to clamber back aboard the minibus when the other lad cried out excitedly "There it is again, sir - in the middle!" We looked where he pointed and sure enough something the size of a football was making a V wave towards us. What it was I couldn't see - but the light was clear enough for me to identify boats and even birds on the far Loch's side. We watched as it came nearer - nothing stirred and not a sound could be heard. Then suddenly a cow bellowed. At least that is what I took it to be - but nevertheless we all jumped! 

"Ok - let's get back in the bus," said Dave - but at that moment I had a better idea - and though we were a hundred feet above the Loch and three hundred yards from the water's edge - I shouted "Come with me!" And leapt over the stone wall. When they saw what I landed in - they remained on the tarmac. It was a bog. I sank to my ankles in the mud and having got wetter than a porter's pint - and seeing no easy way to return - I ploughed on. Getting more determined and wetter I continued on my unfortunate descent to the Loch. it was a slow journey! 

And about half way down I had a sudden decision to make. As I drew towards the Loch I got lower and the trees on the water's edge got taller. What should I do? Staying where I was I was one hundred yards from the water and whatever was approaching I couldn't properly observe - yet if I descended then for perhaps a minute I would lose sight of it and it might vanish!

After a moment I thought - it had crossed the Loch for some five minutes - what the hell - I'd trust it to be there for another sixty seconds. So I went on. At last and I was on the shore - and to my surprise there was a slight water mist over the Loch - just enough to make what I was looking at not quite as clear as it should be - but it was obviously large and approaching fairly rapidly. Without thinking I waded into the Loch - water sloshing over my boots. I was truly excited and wanted IT to come nearer. What was coming I couldn't tell - but it was emerging and I knew it could be the .......

Then - at a distance of perhaps sixty yards - a motorboat started up and the object simply turned and sped away. I assumed the two things were one and the same. I was furious! It had been bloody motor boat! And I had travelled down three hundred yards of soaking bog! Idiot! I got on to dry land and looked back - already knowing what I had seen I gave it little more than a brief, disgusted glance and turned away. I trudged wearily back up the hill to the minibus. 

"Rotten blooming motorboat!" I intoned - curbing the language I would have liked to use if the youngsters hadn't been there. "Yes" they all said. "it scared the monster off!" "Don't be silly" I snapped "That was the motorboat!" Dave put a restraining hand on my shoulder. "No Pete - that boat started a quarter of a mile away - over there. So that - that - thing took off." I was startled. They were unanimous.

Oh my good God! I thought back to what I had seen - a man leaning over the front of the boat and a man hunched in the back. And then things began to click in my mind ...... How long had it taken the object to cover, say, half a mile of Loch? Eight, maybe ten minutes - probably less. And then the motorboat started up  ..... but there had been no engine noise before - nor any sign of paddles or oars - nothing to indicate any sign of propulsion. And the thing had turned from the size of a football to the size of what I what I took to be a boat. I thought back to what I had heard - a sudden sound of the engine and my immediate thought - the swine - they've made a fool of me. 

I played the scene back in my mind - the figure leaning forwards over the bow - the man hunched in the rear. And suddenly I could not picture the boat. The two figure shapes - yes - but what they should have been perched on - no, I could not see. Damn me for being wet, tired and stupidly turning away. There was something - and I had blown it. Immediately - without further discussion - we found some paper and wrote it all down. The three accounts were remarkably similar. Three of them used the word monster - no underlining no inverted commas, no apology for the identification. 

Hmmm. Hmmm. 

What had I seen on that misty but still light evening - so long ago? But then the glorious news - we had been saved. While I had been at the Loch side Dave had taken forty seconds of cine film of the monster. When we returned to Birmingham we ploughed through thirty four minutes of Loch Ness stuff - to discover  

...... forty seconds of blank screen - with flashes of light across it - as proof it was perfectly useless! It seems as though Dave had left the cover on the cine - or maybe at that distance it had been too dark (no - it was light - it was nine o'clock on a summer's evening) so whatever - we had failed. And so in truth my story ends.

Once upon a time - a long time ago - there could have been ......

So ends Pete's tale. Obviously it is left to readers to form their own opinion. It is one of those few accounts that takes place in a real monster like setting. Ancient castle towers over a mist laden scene as a large shadowy shape approaches the eyewitness only to turn at the last second. All we needed was a full moon shining above. However, sunset at that time of year was still an hour away. Mist forms when warm air encounters cooler air at the surface of the loch. The water droplets in the warm air condense to form a visible layer of condensation. 

So were the two presumed men Pete saw actually a long neck and hump? We will never know for sure, but thanks for the story, Pete.

The author can be contacted at

Friday, 4 December 2020

Some sightings of the Monster from locals


I was alerted by Michael Alberty that there were some stories of the Loch Ness Monster by residents of the loch published in a local newsletter back in 2004. This was the Boleskine Bulletin which ran from 1997 to 2014. A letter was published in the Spring issue requesting any readers to write in with their own sightings of the monster. A few brave souls were prepared to put their heads above the parapets. The first letter ran the request and note the writer adds the postscript that they may have seen the beast themselves from the Foyers Hotel.

The Loch Ness Monster seems to make a tantalising appearance on occasion. By all accounts quite a few people in the area have seen it. These sightings would make an interesting article for the next BB. Please contact Buddy MacDougall, Coach House, Foyers, Tel. 01456 486366. P.S. My late husband, Stewart and I were sure we saw something (through binoculars) back in the 70's from Foyers Hotel.

The next issue details a clutch of reports numbering five in all:

Following my letter in the last B.B. asking for sightings of the Loch Ness Monster, there has been some response. The objects vary considerably. Our sighting was from the Foyers Hotel and could be seen out in the middle of the loch. We watched with two hotel guests and passing binoculars around we saw a strange object the size and shape of an upturned cabin cruiser. It was a dark grey shiny colour and you could see little waves lapping against it. It submerged for a few minutes and then came up again for a time before submerging again and disappearing completely.

A friend from Inverness, Elma Kay, saw, along with a group of friends, a long neck topped by a small head emerging from the loch at Dores Bay. 

Buddy MacDougall


Travelling from Ardachy back into Fort Augustus, at Borlum Bay, I spotted what appeared to be a black long neck of some creature about 4 to 5 feet out of the water which at the time was flat calm. I stopped the car and it remained in view for several seconds; it then went down leaving behind ripples on the surface.

Gordon McDonald


Within a few days of the above sighting, Ana and I were in the car at Borlum Bay and clearly saw a shiny black semi-circular hump probably about a quarter of a mile to the North. By transit observation on the far shore, we established that this hump was moving in a north-easterly direction. At this distance it is difficult to estimate size but would think that the hump had a length of about 5 feet and stood some 3 feet out of the water. We can only conclude that what we saw was some form of sinuous creature.

Ana & Peter Arrowsmith


In the early 1980's, I was with a friend having a picnic by the ferry pier at Foyers when I saw three distinct shiny black humps followed about six feet behind by two further similar humps moving through the water towards Dores and about 30 feet from the shoreline. Shortly afterwards, the humps submerged at which point I turned to my friend enquiring if she had seen what I saw - she confirmed that she had. I wondered at the time if I had witnessed Mother Nessie being followed by her offspring.

Muriel Lees, Inverness


Finally, the Autumn issue had another three sightings, including one from the pre-Nessie era of 1916:

I write this in reply to your request for Monster sightings - with some reluctance for I have only discussed these matters with my family and close friends. My father, whilst on leave from the Lovat Scouts in 1916 had a sighting near Urquhart Castle.

Then 30 odd years ago, en route to Inverness, my sister, nephew and I saw a black shape with a long neck and head with a considerable wash behind it in Urquhart Bay. But when we reached a lay-by, we could see nothing.

Then on a sunny morning in July 1979 when the loch was flat calm, I was rowing on the other side with my husband. When we were in mid loch, I suddenly saw what appeared to be an upturned boat just beyond Foyers Point. I handed the binoculars to my husband who said he was looking at a black shape like an upturned canoe and handed the glasses back to me. Shortly after the object submerged and we both agreed we had not been looking at a freak wave but the back of a living creature. And so we agreed with the late Sir Peter Scott and the naturalist Gerald Durrell that there may be a small breeding herd of these creatures which has survived for centuries in the loch.

Kay McGee, 36 Scarba Drive, Glasgow


This small number of accounts is doubtless the tip of the iceberg of encounters that will go unreported and never go beyond the family or perhaps even the eyewitness themselves. I suspect there are overall more unreported accounts than those reported to the media and other publications. 

As far as I can tell, these eight accounts do not appear on the database I use and can be classified as single hump (3), long neck (2), multi-humps (1),  back plus neck (1) and unclassified (1). Two sightings involved binoculars.

Of course, some locals will go their entire lives by the loch never seeing anything unusual which makes me wonder what proportion of the population have seen the beast? I would guess the proportion has been going down over the decades as people live more hurried lives and spend less time looking at the loch, but I am speculating.

Copies of the newsletter can be viewed here.

The author can be contacted at

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Bobby the Sea Serpent of Loch Ness


On my usual strolling through the Internet in search of Loch Ness Monster curiosities, I came upon this item for sale on eBay. It was a copy of the Chicago Sunday Times dated 18th March 1934. The item can be found here. You can zoom into the article and read it for yourself, though the seller has only put the first page of the article on display.

By then, the Loch Ness Monster phenomenon was about ten months old and news of this Highland creature was now a worldwide topic of discussion. However, the memory of sea serpent tales from last century lingered in the American mind as the journalist presumed this to be an ocean going monster which had somehow got stranded in the loch. This was a line of thinking which has persisted in some form to this day.

The catalyst for the article was the recent offer of a reward of £20,000 by circus owner Bertram Mills for the capture of the monster with that famous cage to hold her in shown. This equates to £1,440,000 in today's money. The article says this was equivalent to $100,000. What are the odds of getting five US dollars to the pound any time soon? 

Fifty one sightings are referred to, relying on Rupert Gould's compilation researched a few months before. George Spicer's famous land sighting is given not a few words and Arthur Grant and W. Goodbody's sightings are given some publicity too. Spicer's sighting is stated as happening at 4pm.

With reference to its sea serpent characteristics, mention is also made of two sea serpent accounts. The first being the 1915 account of the U-28 submarine commander, Baron Von Forstner, followed by the 1918 account by another submarine commander, Captain Werner Loedisch. Finally, the only photograph of the monster to that point, taking by Hugh Gray, is discussed. 

The other fact of interest is the sentence "What is it which has affectionately has been christened 'Bobby'?". This is a name of the monster which has long been lost to the mists of time as the public coverage of the creature evolved. The origin of this name is likewise a bit of a mystery and even Loch Ness historian, Nicholas Witchell, admitted in his book, "The Loch Ness Story", that he did not know where it came from. 

I have seen the name used of the creature before, but its use is rather fleeting. After all, "Bobby" seems a ridiculous name to use for the monster and this is enough to explain why it faded from view. One clue as to its origin comes from the contemporary sea serpent researcher, .A. C. Oudemans, who says the name was given to the beast by the Daily Mail newspaper on the 12th December 1933. I have not seen the original source, but it nicely ties up with the expedition to the loch by Marmaduke Wetherell which was sponsored by the Daily Mail.

In fact, newspapers of the time stated that Wetherell was to leave London for the loch on the 16th, a few days later. I would therefore speculate that the Daily Mail felt they had to christen the monster which they thought they were about to shed light on - but never did. The name "Bobby" never got past 1934 but what about its better known name of "Nessie"?

Oudemans makes a similar claim for the Daily Mail, saying they first used this name in their Sunday edition dated June 24th 1934. Again, I have no sight of that edition, but further research showed this not to be the case. The oldest reference I found to "Nessie" was from the Edinburgh Evening News dated 9th January 1934, over six months before which discusses the then recent film taken by Malcolm Irvine. In those days, there were no YouTube clips to view, it had to be at the cinema or private cine reel showings.

Looking at the old newspaper archives suggests the name began in Scottish publications and slowly percolated down south to other British newspapers over the years. But I found no 1933 references to the name "Nessie" which makes me wonder if this was a Scottish response to the London Daily Mail's insipid attempt to use "Bobby" only weeks before? This further report from the English Tamworth Herald dated 31st March 1934 shows the name heading south.

Here is a tale of a group of Scottish rugby fans down for the Scotland-England match towing a model monster named "Nessie". Having said this, the Inverness Courier continued to use the appellation "The Loch Ness Monster" or simply "The Monster" since it had come up with this original formulation which has stuck to this day. But what did Loch Ness Monster researchers think of the name "Nessie"?

Rupert T. Gould as far as I can tell, makes no mention of the name "Nessie" is his June 1934 book "The Loch Ness Monster and Others" preferring the term "Loch Ness Monster" which he attributes to the Inverness Courier. It is possible he had not heard of the term from his London base or perhaps he thought it a term too vulgar to use in serious research.

Twenty years later in her book "More than a Legend", Constance Whyte associates it as a name beloved of press reports but regards it as "undignified" preferring again "The Monster" or "The Loch Ness Monster" . However, she thinks it transliterates well with the local Gaelic name for the beast "An Niseag". This aloofness seems to continue with Tim Dinsdale in his first edition book who only mentions "Nessie" once in quote marks in reference to a letter from an eyewitness.

Ted Holiday is more contemptuous of the word when he also mentions it only once in his 1968 "The Great Orm of Loch Ness" when putting it in the context of comic tourist postcards. In fact, Holiday preferred the term "Orm" or "Dragon" on line with his more exotic views. It seems that least in the 1950s and 1960s, the word "Nessie" was not regarded as a label for the monster to be associated with serious research.

Doubtless, other monster hunters have and had their own preferences for how they mixed their monster terms. I myself prefer "Loch Ness Monster" but will also use "Nessie". Thank goodness "Bobby" never caught on,

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