Friday 24 August 2018

The "Legend of the Loch" BBC Documentary

I wrote a while back on the various productions made by the BBC over the years that referenced the Loch Ness Monster. Without a doubt the one I would most like to see is their 1958 documentary, "The Legend of the Loch" which was hosted by that famous BBC presenter Raymond Baxter of "Tomorrow's World" fame. I believe they still have it in their vast warehouse, but the BBC Archive is not exactly like Netflix or any other modern VOD service.

As it turns out a copy of the Radio Times dated the 9th May 1958 came up on eBay with a picture of one page promoting that documentary. I certainly recall Lachlan Stuart was interviewed on it, but who else I do not know, though I imagine Nessie expert of the time, Maurice Burton would have appeared. This was in the days before Tim Dinsdale's film and everything was pretty quiet. What prompted the BBC to make this programme may well have been inspired by the photographs taken by Lachlan Stuart, Peter Macnab and Herman Cockrell in that decade. The page and text are reprodcued below.

In Search of the Loch Ness Monster
BBC Television will pay a visit to the Loch on Thursday for a Scientific Investigation

TWENTY-FIVE years ago, on May 22, 1933, the Loch Ness Monster hit the headlines. Before then its existence had been an accepted fact in the area for many years, and legends of a "water horse " had been handed down for centuries. Since then many reputable people from Britain, and tourists from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere have claimed to have seen a strange creature on the surface of this loch. Some of these sightings can probably be accounted for by unusual wave formations, water-fowl chicks learning to fly, otters playing and other ordinary events. Some can not. If the people have seen and heard what they have claimed, then some large creature (or creatures) of a species or size at present unknown to science lives in this extremely deep loch.

Many theories about its identity have been advanced. Some people think that from the descriptions it is a plesiosaurus, but this beast is thought to have become extinct about seventy million years ago. Some think it is a giant eel or form of oar-fish. Some think the whole thing a hoax or a hallucination. What is the truth? Recently people in Inverness have been pressing for a thorough scientific investigation into the subject and the matter has been raised in the House of Commons. They argue that it is no use relying on chance photographs or film of the beast on the rare occasions when the loch is still enough for these to be taken. They point out that the photographic evidence which already exists is looked upon with great suspicion anyway. They claim that underwater television and echo-sounding equipment are the keys to the problem.

The aim of Thursday evening's programme, The Legend of the Loch, is not to "Hunt the Monster" but to find out how far modem equipment can, in fact, penetrate the secrets of a loch some twenty-three miles long, the maximum depth of which is 754 feet, the water of which, stained brown by peat, is only penetrated by the sun's rays to a depth of forty feet, and the banks of which are reported by divers to contain great caves. On Thursday, after a review of the facts concerning the mystery and an air survey of the loch and surrounding countryside, viewers can come under water with BBC television, hear from a frogman, and see what it like to go down into these black depths.

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Tuesday 21 August 2018

Loch Ness Monster Sighting Last Week?

I was messaged by a resident local to Loch Ness with a possible sighting made only last week on Wednesday August 16th at about 2pm.  The location was the woodlands walk behind the Dores beach and although the witness reckons the creature was forty feet from the shore, they were no less than 100 metres from the beach. The creature was also witnessed by a friend who was visiting at the time.  The local began telling me about their encounter:

Whilst walking along the woodland behind Dores beach myself and a friend witnessed movement in the water which seemed sizeable, as we walked further away and stood looking down towards the Loch from the woodland path we were shocked to see an angled head come out of the water, nether of us could believe what we saw. It was the wrong shape for a seal, dolphin or otter. I would say the head was dolphin in size .... That's a big eel! I live locally ... and I'm a very practical person, down to earth. I can't explain what I saw. ... For about 7 minutes prior to seeing the shape out of the water we saw movement and what could have been a dolphin or something surfacing but then when there was a long neck I couldn't believe my eyes to be honest.

Piqued by these initial statements, I asked for further details as regards the appearance of the creature, but they were too far away to see any detail, it was just a dark but not black shape that came out of the water and submerged again after a few seconds as it "sort of sunk down slowly but moved forward at the same time". I asked for a sketch of what they saw and got the picture you see above.

Things got more interesting when I acquired further information from the second witness who saw the creature for longer and confirmed the neck was longer than that of a seal. The second witness thought the neck was slimmer, was not a seal and the head was more "bent over". In their words:

The head came up and then went back under water. It was a very dark grey then I saw like a big snake figure swimming. Definitely not a seal as head was bent over and neck was very long and thin.

The second witness' sketch is shown below. There are some differences as witness sketches are never exactly the same but I think this is also down to at what point in the creature's motion they placed their drawings.

Now in assessing this report, one may ask if a seal was encountered here? There are two species of seal that occasionally get into Loch Ness and those are the harbor or common seal and the grey seal. Two things that dictate against a seal is the way it moved forward while sinking slowly. This is behaviour that sounds distinctly unseal like. Secondly, the muzzle described looks too elongated for a common seal but there is a question mark over the grey seal. The first picture is of a common seal while the next is of a grey seal.

I sent pictures of these two seals to the first witness who thought the gray seal was a possibility. However, the second witness' sketch would appear to exclude seals altogether and especially the form they saw just under the surface. Now if one pursued the seal interpretation further the obvious question to ask is whether anyone has seen seals in the loch recently. I have been asking questions on forums and emailing those who use the waters in that area who may know and the best I have so far is a possible seal seen in Dochfour loch in May about three months ago.

What I do not want to do is invoke the seal explanation in a knee jerk manner without some attempt to actually verify if anyone else has seen one. After all, seals are not indigenous to Loch Ness. They are in the loch far less often than they are not and so should not be used as an explanation in such a lazy manner. 

Having said all this, the witness requests anonymity for the all too common reason that "I haven't told anyone else because I don't want to look stupid." which is a reason I can sympathise with given the way eyewitness reports are treated by people. I would rather let the eyewitness speak for themselves rather than them being told what to believe.

So, is this the famous Loch Ness Monster or just a seal? I will keep an eye out for any genuine seal reports but even as I was typing up this report another sighting report just two days later on the Friday was published by the Sun newspaper today with a photograph taken by twelve year old Charlotte Robinson near Invermoriston. That picture is shown below and bears some resemblance to the eyewitness sketches. I am now wondering if she snapped the very same creature our witnesses saw two day before further up the loch?

Let us see if further images and reports are forthcoming and I thank the witnesses for coming forward and adding to the mystery of this week. Now isn't this more interesting than fruitless discussions over distant waves?

The author can be contacted at

Monday 20 August 2018

The Loch Ness Kelpie in 1856

That age old denizen of the murky Loch Ness waters surfaced again in the newspapers of old as found in the Nairnshire Telegraph of the 13th August 1856. The Loch Ness Kelpie or Each Uisge as the Loch Ness Monster was known back then got a mention as our Victorian correspondent of 162 years ago (and 77 years before the Nessie era) exalted the progress of the Highlanders as the age of steam and progress marched on through the lands of Northern Britain. 

I say Northern Britain as that was a name favoured for Scotland by English people after the summary defeat of the Jacobites in 1745. That man of literature and anti-Jacobite, Samuel Johnson receives a mention as his famous tour of the Highlands with Boswell receives some short shrift as the correspondent wonders how Johnson would react to the modern Glasgow steamers upon Loch Ness and muses that he may mistake them for the Loch Ness Kelpie! Johnson had recounted the tale of the Water Horse of Raasay, though he made no mention of any similar entity in Loch Ness. 

Here is Johnson's tale to complete the picture.

He [their guide] said, there was a wild beast in [Loch na Mna], a sea-horse, which came and devoured a man’s daughter; upon which the man lighted a great fire, and had a sow roasted on it, the smell of which attracted the monster. In the fire was put a spit. The man lay concealed behind a low wall of loose stones, which extended from the fire over the summit of the hill, till it reached the side of the loch. The monster came, and the man with a red hot spit destroyed it. Malcolm (the guide) showed me the little hiding place, and the row of stones. He did not laugh when he told me this story.

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