Monday 17 October 2011

Spotting the Loch Ness Monster

You have arrived at Loch Ness. Perhaps you have come to admire the grandeur of Highland scenery, go fishing, visit relatives or are passing by on your way to the next town. Whatever your plans, you now have some time to scan the loch and perhaps see its famous resident.

But what are your chances of seeing Nessie? As it turns out, the probability is quite low of the Loch Ness Monster putting in a special appearance for you.

Various personalities associated with the Monster have had varying degrees of success.

Alex Campbell, who worked as a water bailiff for over forty years at Loch Ness claimed something like 17 sightings.

Winifred Cary who had a house overlooking Urquhart Bay claimed 16 sightings over 59 years.

Famous Nessie hunter Tim Dinsdale had a more meagre harvest of two sightings during his 25 years of searching.

Current resident Steve Feltham has watched the loch for nearly 20 years and has had only one instance of what may be a Nessie encounter.

Ted Holiday (who wrote The Great Orm of Loch Ness) claimed four sightings over 6 years.

And then you have the thousands of claimed sightings by people who perhaps visited the loch once for possibly only minutes but just happened to be the lucky "Nessie Lottery" winners.

The aforementioned Ted Holiday even calculated how long he had to watch the loch in order to see the beast arise. Based on his own logged hours and sightings this amounted to 600 hours of surface watching between sightings.

Applying that logic to Alex Campbell would have required him to have watched the loch for 1 hour per working day for 49 years to achieve his 17 sightings.

For Winifred Cary, it works out as 27 minutes per day for 59 years.

But it is not as simple as that for various factors apart from how long affect the seeing of the Loch Ness Monster.

First is the quality of observation as opposed to the quantity. Ted Holiday was an experienced watcher of Loch Ness. He scanned the visible area of the loch for signs of activity. He would use binoculars to focus on areas of interest. He had learned what was normal and could be ignored through over 1000 hours of observation.

Moreover he was focussed on the task at hand with no distractions (although things could get rather boring and the odd tea break and chat helped). Contrast this with the casual observer who glances at the loch, looks across a narrow range, is distracted by things around them, etc.

Then there is the quality of time itself in terms of when one is watching. Some think that the monster is more likely to be seen at dawn whilst other go for quiet dusk hours.

The place itself may be of importance as plotted sightings tend to congregate around spots such as Urquhart Bay. This is somewhat disputed as more people tend to stop there to view the castle, but certainly sightings are not uniformly spread out across the loch.

Then there is the quality of the environment as some think Nessie is quite noise sensitive and hence they go for the secluded watch spots on the southern shore away from noisy boats, cars and tourists.

So if you want the best chance of seeing Nessie, perhaps you need to rise at 5 am, park yourself on a secluded spot on the south side of the loch but with a decent vista and of course spend the whole day there with your sandwiches, binoculars and hopes ...