Friday 22 June 2018

An Unsettling Incident from Loch Ness

It was back in February that I gave a talk on the monster to the SSPR, a society founded by Glasgow University's Emeritus Professor of Astronomy, Archie Roy. Coincidentally, he taught me the mathematical delights of Celestial Mechanics many moons ago.  After the talk, I made my acquaintance with Sandy, a monster believer for years and one with a story to tell. He recounted his experience to me and was happy to email it to me for general dissemination. Without further ado, I present his story here.

My wife and I were staying at a B&B in Dores (The Pottery House) for the weekend in mid October 2010. I arranged to borrow a local residents canoe and, after a late start, we set off in perfectly calm weather to paddle a straight line from Dores village to Urquhart Bay. We have our own canoe in Glasgow so are quite experienced and the kind donor gave us life jackets etc.

We reached Urquhart Bay about 3:00pm and stopped for a rest and lunch. After exploring the area around the mouth of the river Enrick we decided to head back. At this point I realised that it would be dark before we reached our destination but, since the weather was perfect with hardly any breeze, we set off. 

It was a little cloudy but after we reached the middle of the loch it began raining and the sun had set. We carried on with me in the rear of the canoe and my wife in front. The rain stopped and the clouds broke up a bit. You could see the reflections of them in the water and it was quite beautiful.

About half way back I noticed a lighter patch in the water which I took for cloud reflection. My wife had stopped paddling to tell me about a difficult incident she had experienced in the past and was mid-story when I saw the light patch. We were passing close by the light patch soon after I spotted it. 

When I realised it was a fairly large thing right at the surface I was absolutely petrified; we were half a mile from the shore in the dark, slowly passing a large strange object in Loch Ness. I paddled like mad trying to get past it and away but it was too late to do anything but go right by it with only a couple of meters between it and the canoe. 

It was pale creamy white, round or oval in shape, domed, about 4 metres across and lying motionless right at the surface. It looked like a king size duvet without a cover seemingly with patches or stains and with an irregular edge that vanished into out of sight beneath the surface. It hardly broke the surface at all but just affected the water immediately above it, as though it was only submerged about 2cm.

It didn't move as we shot past as fast as possible and continued going as quickly as I could paddle so that my muscles were sore for days afterwards! I couldn't tell my wife as her story telling was the only thing keeping me going. As soon as we got back to dry land an hour or more later I told her about it.

Since Sandy is an accomplished artist, I asked him for a sketch of what he saw. I have no answer yet from him and so I publish the verbal account and may republish with the drawing as and when. Now, if only I had my quadcopter drone hovering over that scene! It would have provided some very nice footage that may have helped explain what Sandy saw.

There may be alternate explanations and doubtless people may suggest things such as algae bloom (in an oligotrophic lake?), mass suspension of pollen, floating garbage and so on. Though to me it sounds like Sandy was convinced it was more like something he did not want to go and explore. Having said that, a pale, creamy white Nessie is off the beaten track. I checked the record and perhaps five reports over 85 years could be described as some shade of white.

I include in that list the Hugh Gray and Richard Preston photographs, the latter being more suspect that the former. How would one explain a pale Nessie? Undoubtedly species change their colour according to age, season, situation and so on. How would the species known as the Loch Ness Monster fit into that list? Five reports is not enough to detect a meaningful pattern over such a long time span and so we will just have to leave this one to the vicissitudes of speculation.

I put one of Sandy's drawings at the top of the article to demonstrate an extreme example of what an unsettling incident at Loch Ness would look like. Here is some more of his artwork below.

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Sunday 17 June 2018

Another Land Sighting from Days of Yore

It was while I was finishing off an article on the Alfred Cruickshank land sighting, I was reminded by someone of another such story related by Mr. Cruickshank himself. It comes from Nicholas Witchell's book, "The Loch Ness Story", and it comes after he finishes relating the Cruickshank case with this brief note about another possible land sighting:

Mr Cruickshank also recalled that towards the end of the 1920s, he spoke to a girl working in a baker's shop in Fort Augustus who told him that she had once seen a large animal hauled up onto a beach near Fort Augustus. "She said that she was coming down the hill east of the village on her bicycle when she saw a big animal lying on the beach below her. She was so frightened she jumped off her bicycle and ran the rest of the way home."

Now when I read this again, I was reminded of the Margaret Munro land sighting of 1934, for this short account surely happened on the same beach as her famous account. The girl is described as cycling downhill east of Fort Augustus when the creature came into view. Now where the creature may have been in this story is a matter of some speculation, but a guess will be made.

Certainly, until recently, as you drove down the B862 road to Fort Augustus, Borlum Bay did not come into view until you were nearly at the bottom of the hill. The trees covering the hill prohibited an earlier view, but recent forestry work has cleared the trees to bring us a magnificent view of the loch.

As to the state of this treeline in the late 1920s, I am not sure and so we will assume the bay only came into view for her near the bottom of the hill. Now, I am just looking at this from the point of view of how people react to traumatising situations, but I doubt I would be dismounting a bike and running until such an unsettling sight was behind me rather than before me.

Also, as I explained in my Munro article, most of the beach would not be visible from the road level as it flattened out from the hill. So, I would suggest the creature came into view when she was higher up, just as the bay below came into view and just before the road levelled off. In that light, I place a "B" at the point where she claimed to have seen it and I place an "A" where I think the Munro creature was.

People can feel free to speculate, but the stretch of beach upon which this creature is said to have been on is shown below.

One can imagine Alfred Cruickshank, having been shocked by the sight of that strange creature crossing the road in front of him in 1923, becoming interested in anything anyone else had to say about strange creatures about the loch. With perhaps a combined sense of reticence but also a great curiosity to learn more, he may have asked the locals to keep him informed of events. And when this girl came forward with her tale, it would have naturally resonated with Alfred and stuck in his mind until interviewed by Nicholas Witchell in the 1970s.

It was a pity the story was not followed up as the girl may well have still been in the area by the time Witchell spoke to Cruickshank in the early 1970s, being (I suppose) in her 60s. But then again, going by my own experience and without a name, such investigations can often just run into dead ends.

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