Thursday, 13 June 2019

A new Loch Ness Video .. Quickly Identified


The Daily Record put out this video today by tourist couple Gloria and Ian Davison. I watched it, I sighed, I looked up my archive of recent photographs and moved on. You can watch the video yourself and then compare this screen grab against the picture of this log I took in 2017 which is evidently still there and is at the same spot.









They are the same thing, so no point in taking this further. However, the tourist is quoted as saying "It disappeared after a minute beneath the water". Now unless this log briefly submerged under a passing wave, somebody is lying. The witness or the reporter? I have my suspicion, but will leave it at that.

Nothing to see here, move on!


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com




Friday, 31 May 2019

Loch Ness eDNA results to be published in September


The iNews website has published an article today claiming that Professor Neil Gemmell's eDNA study of the loch has almost completed and the results will be revealed in July but possibly pushed out to September. One or two surprises are in the offing though one should not begin to superimpose one's own guesses and just wait and see what will come of this. However, the failure to sell this as a documentary may or may not eliminate "sensational" results. After all, what kind of DNA would elicit such a scenario?

It is a bit surprising no TV company picked up on this though, considering the lack of novel research they so often come up with - banal retellings of the Surgeon's Photograph, CGI shots of plesiosaurs and the same old faces going on about waves and birds. Perhaps the price of novelty was too high. I would also note that the comparison eDNA studies from other lochs may well be worth a watch. Was Loch Ness or even Loch Morar different to others?

UPDATE: It's always worth checking out the original source, especially when the Press get a bit over-excited. Neil Gemmell's own twitter account states it will be September rather than July for any announcements and this will take the form of a conference at Loch Ness. Likewise, he plays down (a bit) any idea he has discovered Nessie. Likewise, the delay in announcing turns out to be mainly due to classifying nearly 3000 micro organisms and bacteria (and this works still has not finished).

To quote two of his tweets:

Gosh this is quite the headline, but not quite what I said. Just to clarify, at this point, we can't rule out one of the common theories used to explain the monster myth. A full announcement of our findings will be made at Loch Ness, likely in early September. 

Some sensational headlines about our eDNA hunt at Loch Ness have come across my social media today. For the record, we are still investigating the data. Most popular hypotheses seem unsupported; one cannot yet be excluded. An alternative and more accurate headline.



Loch Ness monster study set to reveal ‘surprising’ findings

Researchers took samples of water from the loch with the hope of capturing Nessie's DNA

A scientific trawl of the waters of Loch Ness by researchers hoping to uncover the truth behind the myth of the famous monster has made a “surprising” finding. Professor Neil Gemmell of the University of Otago in New Zealand, who led the study, told i that his team had managed to test most of the main theories about the Loch Ness monster.

While he declined to reveal exactly what they had found until the results had been fully analysed, he hinted that the Nessie myth was likely to endure. Professor Gemmell is preparing to announce the full results of his research almost a year after taking a series of water samples from the loch with the hope of catching the monster’s DNA. His team was using a new technique that can pick up traces left behind by passing animals in miniscule amounts of fur, skin, scales, faeces or urine.

Having been extracted in the lab, the DNA has been sequenced and compared against known species, creating near-definitive list of everything in the loch for the first time. The results of the study were supposed to be published in January, but cataloguing the extensive range of micro-organisms and bacteria has taken longer than expected. The team has found around 15 different species of fish and up to 3,000 species of bacteria, some of which will have been deposited in Loch Ness by animals using connecting rivers.

Professor Gemmell said he hoped to announce the full findings of the study at a press conference in Scotland in July, but the date may yet be pushed back until September. “Is there anything deeply mysterious? Hmm. It depends what you believe,” he said. “Is there anything startling? There are a few things that are a bit surprising. “What we’ll have achieved is what we set out to do, which is document the biodiversity of Loch Ness in June 2018 is some level of detail.

“We’ve tested each one of the main monster hypotheses, and three of them we can probably say aren’t right and one of them might be. “We’ll never disprove that there’s a monster, as we said at the beginning. If we find no evidence of the monster, that doesn’t prove anything. All we can do is describe what we’ve found.” Professor Gemmell also admitted that part of the reason for the delay in the publication of the results was due to a series of failed attempts to film a television documentary. He and his team had hoped to use any money generated from the project to fund further research, but negotiations with a series of production companies ended without a deal.

“There’s been an ongoing tension between wanting to tell people what we’ve found and wanting to maximise the vehicle through which we tell them,” he added. “To be fair, I think a TV documentary would’ve been a wonderful way to document the search and what we found, and put it into the context of other studies of Loch Ness. “It’s been something I’ve worked on pretty hard. I haven’t pushed things as hard as I could have with my collaborators because I was working on the production deals.”


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com



 


Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Finlay's Monster and Cobb's Speedboat




After speaking to Harry Finlay and reliving his famous encounter with the Loch Ness Monster in 1952, I thought I would do some follow up. These days, people can sit in the comfort of their armchairs and access many a resource online. In this case, that was not an option as not all newspaper year ranges are digitally online. In this case it was off to the local library to examine the microfilm rolls for the Inverness Courier and Northern Chronicle in August 1952.

As it turned out, there wasn't much to add to the story as the Inverness Courier from August 22nd 1952 gave a rather terse account below while the Northern Chronicle had nothing to say. My expectation was that the sighting by Dores school kids a few hours later may have appeared with further details, but alas, the clipping below does not add much to what was already known.




One thought that did pass my mind was whether the creature in question was actually entering the loch when it was seen by the Finlays. I say that because the entrance to the River Ness at Bona Narrows was less than a mile away and the creature gives the impression that it is making its way at speed from that point into the loch.

Of course, I cannot prove that but you will go on to read that John Cobb and his speedboat team were on the eve of arriving at the loch and the monster's spectacular appearance seemed almost portentous as John Cobb was to die in his speedboat accident on the 29th September, just over 5 weeks later.




Seasoned Loch Ness fans will know about the valiant but fatal attempt at the water speed record at Loch Ness by John Cobb. I have written about it before on this blog but it had not then twigged with me the proximity of the Finlay and Cobb events. Was the creature seen by Greta and Harry Finlay responsible for the death of John Cobb? The accepted explanation was that the Crusader had hit a wave caused by the support boat, the Maureen combined with a known weakness in the forward planing shoe of the boat (note the possible waves in the picture below).




The sequence of events is taken from this website:

When the morning of the 29th arrived conditions were far from perfect, slight ripples on the surface of the water .By almost 9.30 am conditions had worsened, then events took a turn for the better in that surface conditions had improved dramatically.  At 11.25 am 'Crusader' was again put in the water at Temple Pier and the official observers boat 'Maureen' set off to land the timekeepers at the Drumnadrochit end of the Loch. The 'Maureen' had reported the timekeeper were ashore at 11.50 am. At 11.55 am 'Crusader's' engine was started and she catapulted out at an angle from Urquhart Bay. Cobb came round to his starting point and revved his engine up to full power. 'Crusader' rose in the water and the attempt was under way, the time was almost 12 noon.

With a slight burst of spray in front and a trail of white foam behind she skimmed over the course and reached the second marker. As 'Crusader' reached 200 mph eyewitness accounts say she was hardly touching the water when she came out of the measured mile. Then 'Crusader' started to decelerate to make the second run but hit a wave causing her to bounce twice, she recovered for a second but the next moment the horrified spectators saw the boat plunge in a whirl of spray and foam, flaked with flying wreckage. There was no audible explosion but the boat gave the appearance of bursting apart. Hopes for Cobb's safety was roused when the yellow light attached to his safety apparatus bobbed to the surface. The 'Maureen' made her way to the floating debris and lowered a small boat which reported Cobb had been found. The news brought an immediate call over the radio for a doctor and ambulance, but later it became clear Cobb was dead, probably killed instantly.

Another site states that Cobb was "furious" with the late arrival of the Maureen and any residual waves left behind but pressed on regardless. One presumes from this that he did not regard it as a serious concern but the main theory of how this ended in disaster remains. However, for me, the sighting of a twenty foot plus creature entering the loch some weeks before should have put the brakes on this project from the start.

Of course, John Cobb and his team did not believe this and the Inverness Courier piece on the Finlay sighting was not taking it seriously enough to advise a cancellation. Indeed, another clipping from the time had some people convinced a series of wakes observed during the Crusader trials were monster related, but they were assured these were again just support vehicles. Were people that undiscerning?

On examining the story again, I tried to visualise the sequence of events. The "Maureen" pulled in at the "Drumnadrochit end of the loch" which to me was likely by the Castle, not far from where the Crusader took off from Temple Pier. So, the Crusader took off and headed south one mile to the marker. It then decelerated to turn round and run the second mile back when the accident happened.

So, the question for me was why the Crusader did not hit the Maureen's wake when it was at its strongest closer to the Castle at the beginning of the run? Perhaps because the boat had not picked up speed? But a mile down the water it was dissipating and indeed, it has to be surmised that it was a reflection from the sides of the loch that was encountered, not the original wake. For me, that is a weak explanation as reflections from the loch are not as strong as some make out.

Of course, even if the boat wake theory is proven inadequate, that does not mean it was the Loch Ness Monster as a freak gust of wind could have been enough. Over sixty years on, no further water speed records have been attempted and long may that continue while a large creature continues to move beneath the surface of Loch Ness.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com




 




Saturday, 11 May 2019

Loch Ness Monster seen from the Air?



This letter appeared in the Letters section of the Daily Telegraph dated 10th May 2019 regarding a strange object seen by an RAF training instructor by the name of Dave Henderson as he flew above Loch Ness. No date is given but it is now added to the list of airborne sightings previously discussed in this article.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com
                              


Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Update on the Ricky Phillips Picture




I was back at the loch a few weeks back and managed to do an onsite visit at the spot where Ricky Phillips took his photograph. I will get onto those in a minute but first the picture below was sent to me by a person by the name of "yeezy man" who also commented "Here's the full version of Ricky's purported 'Loch Ness Monster' photograph. As you can see, he clearly just cropped a bit of log sticking out of the water."

However, it is a tiny 13kb in size and so is not the expected full multi-megabyte image, so I would ask him, if he has it,  to send the full EXIF image so a proper analysis can be done and also explain how he or she came by this image. Ricky Phillips is, of course, invited to offer his comments on this image, but he has already told me it "looks a bit fake". Either "yeezy man" is lying or Ricky is lying, it is as simple as that.



The image above was taken under the disused stone railway bridge at Fort Augustus rather than near the disused wooden bridge further along. As an update, the second photograph was emailed to me and expands everything out with a comment by Ricky himself. No need to say much more and it's good to have an Internet which allows such communications. However, and as ever, Ricky has the right of reply right here.




And here is a third photo sent by Ricky himself of a log at the same spot which does bear some resemblance to the object, though Ricky was not saying if it was his object!




It is probably a bit moot now, but I visited the site as mentioned and took some pictures from the spot Ricky identified. The map of that location as well as the direction of the sun at that time is shown as a yellow line.



I talked to the anglers you can see in the picture and it turned out they were regulars at this spot and so I showed them the photo and they were unanimous in saying it was just a branch. Okay, fair enough, but when I asked if any believed there was a large creature in the loch they all said "No". 



They said the depth of the river reached up to eight feet depending on rainfall and they pointed me to some branches that had washed up on the shore which I pictured below, though they they didn't bear much resemblance to the object in the picture and so were not of much use as regards an assessment. Needless to say, looking for anything from the time Ricky took his photo was a futile venture.




So things may have moved along or just got muddier. Therefore, comments are welcome, but especially from "yeezy man" and Ricky.



The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Friday, 26 April 2019

The Sometimes Unloveable Media



There is a report doing the rounds in the media just now that is being hyped along the lines of  "Study suggests Loch Ness monster was mass delusion triggered by discovery of dinosaurs". So ran the headline of the Daily Telegraph as it spoke to Charles Paxton who co-authored a paper on sea serpent sightings and parallel discoveries of marine megafauna fossils.

The actual paper is entitled " Did nineteenth century marine vertebrate fossil discoveries influence sea serpent reports?" and is published in the latest Earth Sciences History Journal. Charles Paxton says a bit about it on his university's website. I recall being at a talk on this subject given by Charles last year in Edinburgh but defer any critique of this paper - mainly because I do not have it and regard myself as no expert in sea serpent reports.

But let us just put things right here and say that this study has essentially little or nothing to do with the Loch Ness Monster. Back in the 19th century when various monster fossils were being unearthed, the Monster was a local story confined to the Highlands and camouflaged with the veneer of the Water Horse and Kelpie culture.

Now cryptozoologists' view of the media can be a love-hate thing. They continue to publish sightings, videos and photos (though a lot are at best inconclusive). That is good and generally keeps the monster in the limelight. But when they get a hold of stuff like this, they have an almost obsessive urge to link any aquatic monster story to the Loch Ness Monster.

The simple reason is that Nessie is clickbait, sea serpents are far less so. So you have to take the rough with the smooth and hope people who actually read it see the inconsistency between headline and paper. 


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

 

 



Sunday, 21 April 2019

A Look at a Recent Nessie Video




The videos and photos are beginning to come in as human activity increases around the loch, be it tourists or those servicing the local and tourist economy. The Scottish Sun relates this event that happened on Thursday 11th April.

AN INVERNESS man has spotted the Loch Ness Monster "going at speed" across the famous loch - fifty years after his grandad's own sighting. Rory Cameron, 36, spied the strange movement in the water last week after visiting his pal nearby. And his video footage has stumped everyone who's taken a look. He said:

"I was coming from a friend's house near the top of the loch last week when I saw something in the water. It was going at some speed, I've never seen anything like it before in my life. I've lived in the area for 20 years and I've driven on the A82 every day of that time. I've never spotted anything like this. And nobody can work out what it is, it's really strange."

Rory, who's MD of Cobbs Bakery in Drumnadrochit, isn't the first member of his family to have an encounter with the elusive Nessie. He revealed that his grandad, who was a member of the police, saw something in the 1960s. He said: 

"You know, I do believe there's something out there. My grandad spotted something back in 1962 I think it was. He couldn't identify what it was back then and I'm the same now. My clip isn't like a lot of sightings, this thing was really moving fast. And it looks tiny too, compared to some of the boats on the loch. It was definitely going somewhere".

So runs the story and one may feel inclined to look and move on as the subject is not exactly close at hand. The witness was up in the hills near Drumnadrochit, so the map below gives a rough range. Where he was exactly is not clear, but he was up in the hills overlooking the bay outside of Drumnadrochit, so I would guesstimate the apex of the triangle below. One line points to Urquhart Castle which is seen to the right in the video and the object is at the end of the second line near mid-loch.


Looking at the video, a horizontal line can be drawn from the object to the castle area which suggests the object and castle are both roughly the same distance from the observer, which I place at just over a mile away. Clearly, at that distance, not much in the way of detail can be ascertained or ever produce a game changing image. But because the castle is in the video, we can use it as a ruler to make some estimates since its dimensions are known.

The height of the castle keep is about fifty feet and from this we can calculate the width of the tower to be about thirty feet. From the still from the video below, we note an area of disturbance comprising two main areas which cover a distance of about sixty feet based on the castle in the picture. Each area of "white water" disturbance are at least fifteen feet in extent.


We can further make some estimates regarding the speed of the object from the various stills. By noting the change in distance between the object(s) and a fixed point (the castle) between frames, the speed relative to the observer can be made. So, firstly, the two frames below were captured at 5.0 and 7.0 seconds on the Sun video (obviously with no break in between). Based on the change in distance in that time, the object(s) were travelling at an average speed of 15 feet per second or just over 10mph.



Applying the same approach to the two stills below captured at 13.0 and 19.0 seconds, the speed has dropped dramatically to two feet per second or under 1.5mph. Note the white blob by the castle which is a boat and by its movement, it is heading in the same direction as the the object(s) but is markedly different to the object of interest.


What might these metrics say about the object under discussion? One theory might be that these are two or more birds chasing each other as they run and flap along the surface of the water. I can see such a group dropping from 10mph to 1.5mph but I am not sure about them creating areas of disturbance at least 15 feet in extent. A group may do this and as they subside to float on the surface, this may appear as a "submergence" if they are not discernible at a mile away. One would really need to see a known disturbance made by birds to compare and contrast to make an informed decision.

From this I am pretty sure it is not a wave formation, but again the object(s) is too far away to be sure absolutely what it is but at least on this occasion we have a "ruler" to make some measurements to help.



The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Revisiting the Margaret Munro Site




I have returned from a recent trip to Loch Ness on which I shall speak more fully some other time, but there was enough going on to split off some of those activities into several articles. I will begin with a trip we made to Borlum Bay on the southern extremity of the loch. To those well versed in Loch Ness Monster lore, this spot will be indelibly linked with the land sighting of Margaret Munro on June 3rd 1934, when at about 6am she watched a huge creature moving on the shore close to Glendoe. My main article on this can be read here.




Before I headed north, a fellow Nessie enthusiast, Doug, referred me to the above map which featured in a 1936 newsreel produced by Scottish Film Productions entitled "Things That Happen". It shows a map of what it calls recent sightings, although they are somewhat selective in only including three land sightings. We have Arthur Grant's late night monster from January 1934 at the top right, Margaret Munro at the bottom left and, well, another land sighting which is pinpointed at Inverfarigaig. 

Now one presumes the newsreel is referring to the Spicers land sighting of July 1933, but this had been placed nearer to Whitefield, four miles further north on the same road by researcher Rupert Gould. It could refer to another land sighting, perhaps that of Mrs. T. MacLennan or Mrs. Reid from August and December 1933 respectively, but why give these priority over the most famous land sighting of all? Perhaps George Spicer finally settled on the shore near Inverfarigaig, we may never know.

But zooming in on the Munro area, the map maker got it right as they place the event, not on the shore nearest to Kilchumein Lodge, where Ms. Munro was, but further north near the Alt Na Dubhair stream. That may have been the end of this particular observation, but things have changed at Loch Ness allowing a re-investigation. This became apparent when we arrived at Borlum Bay to do some drone work.

I will get to the drone footage at the end, but a look to the right of Borlum Bay revealed a new tourist path built by authorities to complete a walk up to Loch Tarff (details here). This meant I could finally access by foot the spot on the beach where the monster hauled itself ashore. By that I do not mean I know the exact spot, but you could be sure you had walked past it.



The first obvious thing to do was to locate the Alt Na Dubhair stream which was easy enough as we came upon it in a short time and the two photos below show it above the path and below the path as it empties into the loch. At that time, it was not much more than a trickle as the rainfall had not been abundant over the last few days.



The beach width varied between mainly narrow and sometimes wide as the path was walked to the end of the beach and one could imagine the creature landing at any point though the wider points seemed more likely to me. My favoured spot was where the stream entered the loch as the beach widened out a bit there (as you can see in the above photograph). There was quite a bit of tree coverage along the way and I imagined it was probably similar 85 years ago, if not more given it was further into the growth season.

This suggested to me that Margaret Munro was right in her assertion that the beast was partially out of the water as any further into the beach would result in it being obscured by the bushes and trees. Indeed, a partial landing may have only been possible for such a large creature due to trees obstructing its way. This also made me think of the unsatisfactory seal explanation as a smaller seal could easily push further in and be lost to view.


Having surveyed the now accessible area, it was back to the main shoreline for some drone work. The main task was to fly the drone at a height of several hundred feet and point its 4K camera down at the surface of the loch looking for any unusual activity. The video below shows the general panorama as the drone panned 360 degrees above the bay and then onto the main work of recording the surface water below looking for signs of unusual activity just below the surface.





Nothing was noted on this occasion though twice the drone was troubled. Firstly, several seagulls flew near the drone, perhaps thinking it was one of them or an intruder. To avoid a collision, a quick drone ascent was required until the birds flew on. The second incident was more troubling still as I manoeuvred the drone over the trees where Margaret Munro saw her monster and then I looked down at the streaming video app on the remote control. 

On looking back up, the drone had disappeared from view and the remote control had lost contact! Now at that distance, it was rather dot-like to begin with, so had I just not focused properly or had it dropped below the tree line, perhaps catastrophically? There was only one thing to do and that was to hit the RTH button.

I had never used the "Return To Home" button which records the drone's take off coordinates via GPS and returns there on this button being activated. I pressed it and waited for perhaps ten seconds before a whirring noise came over my head and there was the drone hovering above me! No large creatures were seen swimming below the surface, but at least I will return another day with the drone to try again.

It has to be noted that drone surveillance is quite energy intensive as the drone carries a brick like battery that gives no more than 30 minutes flight time. One wonders how much energy is required just to carry the battery up that high! I have two batteries giving one hour of flight time per day of operation. I hope to ramp up flight times during the next trip, but the main issue is finding a safe place with good landing spots. When I was at the bay, a young family paused nearby before going up the new path. I had to cease operations while the kids played on the beach.

Finally, I pointed out last year that the house from which Margaret Munro watched her creature had been demolished. Gone is Kilchumein Lodge and its history. On this return visit, you can see the new house nearing completion. I wonder what sightings of the Loch Ness Monster will come to pass from this new location?



The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com



Saturday, 6 April 2019

Harry Finlay and the Loch Ness Monster




The picture above will be familiar enough to Nessie fans being a sketch of what Greta Finlay and her son, Harry, saw back on August 20th 1952 from Aldourie Pier during a caravan holiday. I wrote on this seminal sighting back in March 2011 with a follow up the next month. Greta Finlay was interviewed by Nessie researchers Constance Whyte and Tim Dinsdale for their respective books in 1957 and 1961 but Harry Finlay was not quoted, mainly because he was thirteen years old at the time. The above sketch was his creation for Whyte's book while the one below from Dinsdale's book was likely based on it.




That is until now, when I managed to track down eighty year old Harry and telephoned him for a conversation back on the 3rd April. I was wondering how the conversation would go. Would it be a Harry who didn't want to talk about it or who would reveal it was all blown out of proportion or something else? Well, it turned out to be the something else as Harry told me he had indeed seen the monster close up, swimming past him on Aldourie Pier to the astonishment of himself and his mother.

Sixty six years on he was sticking to his story as he recounted to me how he recalled the events of that Wednesday lunchtime. It began innocently enough with Harry fishing on the pier with a recently acquired rod (photos of area taken by myself a year ago). Meantime, his mother was by the caravan parked just before the pier. Presently he heard what sounded like a boat approaching to his right, not the sound of an engine but the breaking of waters associated with its motion.





Turning his eyes to the "boat" revealed an astonishing "jet black" creature cruising past him until it was in line with the pier 25 to 30 feet away and then off south towards the main body of the loch before submerging in a "heavy surge of water" that broke upon the shore. It was a big, long necked affair with two humps each three feet long and three feet apart with two curious projections on a head not much wider than the neck. He reckons the neck was 4 to 5 feet high and the total length was about 20 feet but there was no discernible features one would call a mouth, nostrils or eyes on the "head".

He told me he called to his mother, who had also heard the water commotion, and rushed to see the sight which he said left them "rooted to the spot". I dare say I would have become statuesque as well. During the minute or two of this spectacle, they snapped out of it and raced for the box camera in the caravan. Harry said he got to the camera first while his mother watched and it was one of those old cameras which required you to look down into a viewfinder to bring the subject into view before snapping

He told me he was struggling to do this in his excitement and his mother took over the camera but by then it was too late as the creature was seen to submerge back into the dark depths. I asked how it went down and it was a curious affair as he said it went down without any new positioning from the head, neck or humps. They all went down in fixed unison and that was the end of that as a final surge of water broke upon the shore.

Afterwards, they told their story to his Dad, who was working in Inverness, and he was the one who reported it to the newspapers. Apparently, some unspecified time afterwards, Sir Peter Scott, the naturalist and Nessie advocate, offered to send some TV cameras to their house to interview them about the story in their front garden. But this was declined as they didn't want any further publicity.

He didn't know when this was, but my own thought was that this may have been for the 1957 BBC documentary, "The Legend of the Loch" which did include interviews with other eyewitnesses. They may have approached them based on the inclusion of the account in Constance Whyte's "More than a Legend".

Thereafter, Harry visited the loch a few more times but never saw the creature again. He grew up, did his National Service for the RAF and moved to Perth to work for the Royal Mail. Greta Finlay died around 1990 and Harry now tells his tale to his grandchildren. I suspect Harry is currently the witness to the oldest monster sighting on record who is still alive, though he wonders himself if the monster is still alive to this day as he doesn't hear much about his type of sighting. I suspect the particular monster he saw is no longer alive, but he can be assured that there have been other close up sightings of the beasts since 1952.

Now in assessing the whole affair with him, I brought to his attention the sceptic, Maurice Burton, who in 1961, suggested Harry and his mother had only seen a deer swimming past. He didn't know who Burton was and his reaction to this explanation consisted of "Nothing like that!", "Piffle!" and "No question" that is was not a deer. He said he knew what a deer was and that this was no deer. I could hardly agree more. Why can't these people accept what people are telling them? Especially from a range of twenty five feet.

The main reason sceptics pick up on the deer explanation is due to the "horns" Harry saw. He didn't actually know what these were and any similar word such as projections, tufts or stalks would have been just as suitable.  I wrote a previous article on this peculiar feature of the monster and there are not many such reports. I would point out the above drawings may give the impression that the creature had stopped to look at the Finlays but that is not true. It swimmed on past them and presented a side profile to them as indicated by the arrow on the map below. Also note that the original account from his mother put her at twenty yards from the creature and not Harry's 25-30 feet, but his shorter distance was from the front of the pier and not the caravan where she was.




Harry has, not surprisingly, been ridiculed for his story but he doesn't mind what people think. It is not so much a case of he believes he saw the monster but he knows he saw the monster. He does recount how his mother found it a frightening experience though when the literature says this made him give up fishing, he admits that he had barely taken it up anyway!

Now some allowances have to be made for the passage of sixty six years on the finer details of the account, but that does not take away from the reality that a large creature passed by them on that day. But Harry did also tell me that several hours later, a group of school children had reported seeing the monster in Dores Bay just about a mile and a half away down the coastline. This was another report I was not aware of.

A perusal of the online newspaper archives proved Harry's memory was perfectly intact on this matter as this report from the Dundee Courier from August 22nd below confirms. So are we to believe an outsized jet black deer decided to go on a swimming tour of Loch Ness, occasionally swimming underwater when the mood took it? Of course not and I am grateful to Harry Finlay for allowing this important account of the Loch Ness Monster to be revitalised, reconfirmed and brought back to public attention.





The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com









Tuesday, 2 April 2019

The 19th Century Monster

On this blog, we don't just look forward to the latest reports of strange creatures in Loch Ness but also like to look back at what has gone before. In fact, way back before anyone alive today. I am pretty sure the 1880s qualifies in that respect. To put that decade in context, Queen Victoria was sovereign of a British Empire at its peak, the first Boer War occurred, Krakatoa exploded killing thousands, electric lighting was beginning to appear in towns and the first automobile was created. There was also rumours of a strange creature in a Highland loch south of Inverness as this clipping from the Daily Mail of 1st May 1934 exemplifies.




LOCH NESS MONSTER'S AGE PROBLEM
BRIDLINGTON MAN'S RECOLLECTIONS 

Recent reports that the mystery monster of Loch Ness may be quite 50 years of age are fully believed by Mr Arthur B. Browne, of St. Andrew's, Bridlington, who lived near Loch Ness over 50 years ago. Mr Browne told a "Mail" reporter that in 1881, when he was 25 years of age, reports were frequently heard of a grotesque creature's presence in the loch. Mr Browne added: "Although I made no special effort to see the creature others commented upon its existence.

RECALLED IN LETTER FROM CANNES

"Since then the thing has apparently been lying dormant, but only last week I had confirmation of a strange creature's existence in the loch 50 years ago, In a letter which I received from a lady living in Cannes, and who in 1881 was in Inverness. "I was at the loch two and four years ago, but then there was no mention of the creature. In the appearance of the present monster, the most significant thing which strikes me is the imprint of its track. l cannot commit myself in a description of the creature of 50 years ago because, although I visited the loch at the time, I did not personally see it." Mr Goodbody, of Invergarry, who with his two daughters, has seen the monster longer than any other eye-witnesses, is a personal friend of Mr Browne.

So we have claims from two people who were at the loch in the 1880s that reports of a strange creature were being promulgated amongst the locals. Neither person claimed to have seen it and one seemed to have been impressed by tracks found at the loch recently. I presume these were the hippo tracks "found" by Marmaduke Wetherell six months previously. Why she was struck by this is not stated, why would this be "most significant" above other reported features?

Perhaps she had experiences of strange tracks at Loch Ness before? It is to be noted that there was one land sighting of the creature reported from that period in 1880 by an E.H. Bright in the estuary of Urquhart Bay. This involved three toed tracks being left behind and one speculates whether the Wetherell story triggered memories of such stories fifty years before?

Either way, I add this story to the panoply of Victorian anecdotes. It takes its place amongst what was a busy decade for monster stories. We have the story of diver James Honeyman and his underwater encounter as well as the better known story of diver Duncan MacDonald's "huge frog" seen by a wreck. There was also the tale of Calum MacLean and the aforementioned E.H. Bright.

We can further add the tales of the Benedictine Nuns and that of historian David Murray Rose and 1885. H.J. Craig claimed to have seen it in 1889 and we can finally add the claims of Roderick Matheson and Alexander MacDonald with his giant "salamander". But whatever one may make of monster stories in the 1880s, my search of online newspapers for that decade produced nothing in the way of such claims.

Yes, there were one or two tales of the Loch Ness Water Horse legend, but I am not minded to discard the testimony of multiple claimants just because the newspapers either were not told or did not bother going into print with them. But I have discussed the reticence of such newspapers during that time elsewhere. Perhaps Murray Rose has been vindicated in his assertion that the 1880s were a busy time for the monster?

One may also add that back in the 1930s when most of these people came forward, we were pushing back the limits of living memory as anyone of adult age in the 1880s would be in their 70s or more in the 1930s. To wit, there may well have been as much activity in the 1860s or 1870s, but there were few living from those days to say as much. Such people are now long gone and any chance to investigate such stories with them. In that regard, we have the likes of Rupert T. Gould to thank for recording their testimonies and putting them down in paper for future generations.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com



Sunday, 17 March 2019

Hugh Gray, his Brother and Jaws




To start with, I recently limbered up for a chat with fellow cryptozoologist, Andy McGrath, by watching the classic but not so cryptozoological monster film "Jaws". It was then that a bit of synchronicity turned up while I considered the content of this latest article. First up was a scene with a labrador dog swimming with a stick in its mouth, which I immediately snapped with my mobile phone and show above. To tell you the truth, it looks nothing like the supposed dog in the Hugh Gray photo.



But then again, someone else has decided it is no longer a dog, but a swan whilst another has recently gone for a rowing boat. The clarity and consensus is less than impressive. On the very same subject of this picture, I recently reviewed an old article from the Aberdeen Press and Journal dated the 7th December 1933, which I show in the large below. Hugh Gray's photo was the centre of attention and controversy as experts of all shades chipped in with their opinions. The lesser rorqual whale came in for some discussion as the general morphology of this strange creature was compared and contrasted against the whale.



But it was a particular excerpt that caught my attention and which I zoom into below. The text talks about what appears to be a strange, whale-like mouth which is clearly visible.There is no doubt in my mind that they are talking about the fish like head that is visible to the right and which I reproduce further below.



Now when you mention this image to critics of this picture, their confirmation bias just refuses to acknowledge it. They can quite happily tell you how they can see a dog, swan, otter, boat or other in the picture, but this one is forbidden territory because it challenges them. It is much better to ignore it and hope it goes away. But it won't and those who had access to better photographic prints back in 1933 bear witness against their obstinacy.

A final word on this photograph concerns the Wikipedia entry for it which I quote below.

Hugh Gray's photograph taken near Foyers on 12 November 1933 was the first photograph alleged to depict the monster. It was slightly blurred, and it has been noted that if one looks closely the head of a dog can be seen. Gray had taken his Labrador for a walk that day, and it is suspected that the photograph depicts his dog fetching a stick from the loch. Others have suggested the photograph depicts an otter or a swan. The original negative was lost. However, in 1963 Maurice Burton came into "possession of two lantern slides, contact positives from th[e] original negative" and when projected on screen it revealed an "otter rolling at the surface in characteristic fashion."


As you can see, there is a bit of emphasis on the dog explanation, but whoever composed this text has decided to add an untruth. Namely, that Hugh Gray took his labrador for a walk that day. There is no record anywhere of Hugh Gray owning a labrador dog, let alone walking it that day. I stand to be corrected if anyone cares to provide the original source for this, but until then, it is a fabrication. 

Sadly, Wikipedia is a hotbed for this wrong type of scepticism. In fact, the page seems to have undergone a re-edit and a certain sceptic's number of mentions comes out on top ahead of all others. At the same time, somebody had removed a mention of the fish like head in the picture. Shameful but unsurprising.


HUGH GRAY'S BROTHER

It was some years back that I was in conversation with a local Foyers man as I made enquiries about Hugh Gray. I was told that he had a brother called Sandy who had drowned in the loch. I noted that in the back of my mind and moved onto other things. But that little fact came back to me when I reread an old piece from the Inverness Courier dated 30th May 1933 shown below.




Here we read of an A. Gray of Foyers who attempted to lure the monster with a floating hook and bait setup. It was not successful, though it had merit and the bait technique was repeated in various forms in the years to come. Since Sandy is a nickname for Alexander, we can be pretty sure this A. Gray was Alexander Gray, brother of Hugh. Quite unaware of this fraternal connection, sceptic Ronald Binns in his book, "The Loch Ness Mystery Solved", tries to make out that this A. Gray was in fact H. Gray.

Binns then makes out that this bait and hook experiment was not a serious endeavour but a staged joke. The "logic" is clear enough. You try to implicate Hugh Gray in a joke and therefore anything else he does as regards monsters is also a joke. Nice try, but no cigar. It was also interesting that the aforementioned "Jaws" used the very same scene when two men try to capture the shark with a hook and meat joint attached to a floating tyre (below). It seems to be a tried and true method for capturing big fish. In their case, half the pier went from under them as the fish took the bait.




But it seems that like his brother Hugh, Sandy also had multiple sightings of the monster. The first reference is in the early weeks and months of the Nessie phenomenon in 1933. It comes from the Australian Sunday Times dated 3rd December 1933, though I suspect it occurred closer to June 1933.



When I find the primary Scottish newspaper source for this story, I will add it, but I suspect this is the same bus driver mentioned by a William McCulloch in Nicholas Witchell's "The Loch Ness Story":

The Spicers continued on their way and met a cyclist. This man's name was William McCulloch, a native of Foyers who when he heard their story was, according to Mr. Spicer, "astounded - not frightened, just incredulous. He added that he was glad we had seen it because people were laughing at a bus driver friend of his in the village who had reported seeing it."

However, his best sighting appears to have been in 1935 as this report from The Scotsman dated 21st June 1935 details.
 



LOCH NESS MONSTER

Angler has a Close-up View

LURCHING MOVEMENT

It was learned in Inverness yesterday that Mr A. J. Gray, chauffeur, Foyers, while out fishing on Loch Ness at Foyers on Wednesday night, had an excellent view of the monster. Mr Gray, in an interview, said he saw the monster moving about the loch for more than 25 minutes. Other three people whom he summoned also had a view for a good part of that time. These were Mrs Cameron, Post Office, Foyers; Mr J. Batchen, gardener, Boleskine, and a friend. "I was about 20 yards out in the loch." said Mr Gray, "when I suddenly saw a big black object rise in the water, about 100 yards farther out, In the deeper part of the loch.

It was the back of the monster. Shortly after the head and neck appeared, rising from eighteen inches to two feet out of the water. Behind I saw quite plainly a series of what appeared to be small ridges, seven in number, apparently belonging to the tail of the creature, which now and again caused much commotion in the water. The head was like a horse's, but not as large as that of a horse. It was rather small in relation to the huge body, which was of a slatey black colour. From the way the creature moved in the water I have not the slightest doubt that it was extremely heavy. In moving it gave a sort of lurch forward, which seemed to carry it about four yards at a time.

THREE OTHER SPECTATORS

"As I watched it the monster started to go across the loch. I got out of the water with all the haste I could in heavy waders, and then walked along to the Post Office, about 900 yards distant and informed Mrs Cameron. who, along with the gardener and a friend hurried to the lochside. We all saw the monster further out in the loch, but its head and tail were no longer visible. The monster, which had gone out to near the middle of the loch, then turned and came towards the shore again. It came within two hundred yards of where we were standing before it set off in the direction of Invermoriston, where it passed out of sight." Mr Gray added that he had seen the monster on four previous occasions. He had never obtained such a clear view of the monster as on this occasion. 

This has the hallmarks of a triple A Nessie sighting. It involves a close up sighting at 100 yards, it lasted 25 minutes in the view of an experienced witness along with other multiple witnesses. What's not to like (apart from no one having a camera)? If you're a dyed in the wool pseudo-sceptic, you'll be looking around trying to conjure up the mythical seal which infallibly turns up on these occasions. That sounds like a great explanation apart from the minor problem that this looks nothing like a seal.

Or just press the emergency "imperfect witness" button and all is well again as we are told these people couldn't possibly have described what they saw properly. After all, there is no Loch Ness Monster, right? What blows that already dying theory out of the water is the fact that Alexander Gray is a top class witness. As I looked around for references to Mr. Gray, I found out that he was quite an avid Loch Ness angler as you will note from the various stories posted here. Like other angling witnesses such as John McLean, Roland O'Brien, Tim Richardson, Ala MacGruer, J. Harper Smith and, of course, monster author, Ted Holiday, these people should not be so easily dismissed by critics, they are the best class of witnesses around and it is arrogance to discard them without serious enquiry.

As this regular Scotsman angling column from the 15th February 1938 shows, Alexander Gray was an angler who would sometimes make it into their column with a notable catch of fish from the loch. The clipping below tells us of his catching of a 19lb salmon from what appears to be his favourite angling spot off Foyers.  As an aside, eagled eyed readers may note the mention of a Mr. J. MacLean who landed a 12 pounder. There is little doubt in my mind that this is the aforementioned John McLean who would four months later go onto have one of the clearest views of the monster - another experienced angler whose experience of loch conditions and wildlife should not be so easily dismissed.


A further newspaper item from the Scotsman 29th December 1933 reveals some information about two curious events at Loch Ness prior to the 1933 "reveal" of Nessie. 



The 1914 account refers to a classic single hump which forms the most common type of sighting. Does the Loch Ness Monster weigh 15 tons as he estimated from six feet of back showing on the surface? I myself would think this is an over estimate going for something below 4 tonnes, though it does depend on what overall length one assumes from six feet of back. The final account from 1893 involves no sight of any creature but is indicative of something powerful. If we speculate that a seal was in the loch (unlikely from a statistical point of view), could it have forced a salmon net from the grasp of at least three men? Probably not, but without a visual confirmation of the object, we can only speculate on this one.

But time catches up with all of us and Alex Gray passed away on the 23rd February 1949 as related below by the Dundee Courier the following day. His untimely death appears to have been caused by his boat capsizing in a storm and I am surprised he was caught out by these conditions after decades of fishing experience. Since I would expect a body to sink into the deep upon death, I would surmise his boat capsized in shallower waters as he tried to row back to shore.



For those of a sleuth like nature, a reporter from one of these clippings has made an error that does not harmonise with another clipping. But I will leave it as an exercise for others to find his mistake. It doesn't change the fact that Sandy Gray claimed several sightings of the Loch Ness Monster and as an angler with experience of the loch, its waves, its wildlife, its weather and its occasionally deceptive features, you have two choices. He is either lying or he is telling the truth. You decide.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com




Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Midnight in the Desert talk now available






As stated yesterday, I did my Internet Radio chat with Midnight In The Desert, though my host for the night turned out to be cryptid lover, Shannon LeGro. It was a good chat covering a wide range of questions. Now the talk took place at 6am my time - before sun up. This would normally be a time of day I would say "no" to interviews, but I roused myself and was quite okay.

 You can listen to the talk at this link.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com