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 lochnesskelpie@gmail.com