Wednesday, 13 October 2021

An Interesting Video from 1992

 


It was back in August 1992, that the British ITN news network channel ran an item on their late news program. It was the latest piece of video taken of a strange looking object in Loch Ness. To be more precise, in Urquhart Bay. The item caused a bit of a flurry at the time, but as with most pieces of monster evidence, it soon faded from view. 

Unfortunately, back in those days, if you didn't see it at the time, you were not likely to see it at all. At the time, I was working for a software company just outside London. My preferred channel for getting the news was the BBC, so I missed it. There was no Internet of any substance to publicize the event, no YouTube to rerun the video, and were there any discussion groups to tell others about it? There was email, but how many had email addresses in 1992?

Furthermore, my own interest in the Loch Ness Monster was at a low ebb as I concentrated on my career and had not been at the loch for about eight years, Also, the 1990s was generally not a great decade for positive discussions about large creatures in the loch (the top book of that decade was the expose of the Surgeon's Photograph). If I had been still subscribing to Rip Hepple's Nessletter, I would have eventually learnt of it in his January 1993 edition (No.111).

Finding sources 29 years on will always prove difficult without specific details. Internet archives tend to have a blind spot around the 1990s in my experience. It is just before media began to go online and the paper to digital archiving services seem to be busier with earlier decades. Thankfully, we have another contemporary source and that is Malcolm Robinson's Enigmas newsletter which was published under the banner of his Strange Phenomena Investigations organisation or SPI. The Nov-Dec 1992 issue ran an article on the video which we shall refer to later. Malcolm is known in Nessie circles for his 2016 book, The Monsters of Loch Ness.

As to the actual footage, it has been preserved for us via Nessie documentaries of the time with one preserved in YouTube at this link about 14:40 minutes in. It was fellow Nessie enthusiast, Alan McKenna, who contacted me about this old camcorder footage, and I thank him for also creating the clip of the video below. As you can see, the footage begins with part of the ruins of Castle Urquhart, but the eyewitness' attention is soon drawn to something out in the waters of the bay. 



Alan also improved the video clip to introduce a degree of stabilization to help us analyse the sequence more readily. This is shown below.



But, having initially thought any newspaper story on this was beyond reach, Steve Feltham came to the rescue with a clipping from the Sun newspaper dated August 17th, which he had kept since that day and which he sent to me. The story is reproduced below.



Amateur snapper may have filmed monster

By ALAN MUIR 

AN amateur cameraman may have filmed the Loch Ness Monster by mistake - while telly newsman Nicholas Witchell splashed out a fortune trying to find it.

Nessie experts - who admit the film shows a large water-living animal — have used hi-tech gear to enhance the pictures. You can see the result for yourself when the clip is shown on all of today's ITN's news programmes and STV and Grampian bulletins. The cameraman - who doesn't want to be named - thought he was filming a diver splashing about in the water. He trained his £400 camera on it for a few seconds before getting on with the rest of his summer holiday. But when he played the tape back at home in Balornock, Glasgow, he realised it was something much more exciting. He said: "At first I thought it was a man pushing something in front of him but then realised it was too big to be a diver. I don't believe in monsters myself and want to remain nameless so I don't become the butt of jokes in the pub."

But two mates who were on holiday with him have backed up the Nessie claims. Ian Hay and Arthur Alcorn are convinced their pictures prove the monster does exist. The startling piece of film shows a dark-coloured object thrashing about in the loch around 300 yards from shore. It has now been passed on to a team of university boffins in Glasgow. They used the latest electronic gear to try and solve the riddle and say it's definitely a living creature.

Team chief Peter Meadows - Glasgow University's senior zoology lecturer - said; "I was extremely sceptical when I first looked at the film. But I have now studied it and I'm amazed. There is definitely some form of water-living creature there." Two weeks ago we revealed a huge object tracked by newsreader Witchell may have been a 20 year-old model. The fake Nessie was made as an April Fool Joke by prankster students. It sank as soon as it with launched. 


Ian Hay and Arthur Alcorn

As to the question of how the video ends, it looks like the video simply ended when the owner concluded it was a diver and stopped or panned away. That was not an explanation proffered by anyone, but the owner discounted it himself later. I would agree it does not look like a person swimming. The phrase "a few seconds" also suggests there is little in the way of unseen footage. 

However, there are a couple of unknowns. There is a statement that "Nessie experts" used technology to enhance the pictures. Of this, we know next to nothing. Was the video seen on ITN enhanced or was it the original? I suspect they are just referring to video player equipment which can host a camcorder tape and has slow motion play, etc. The second unknown are pictures taken by his friends, Ian Hay and Arthur Alcorn. These may prove valuable in analyzing the object as a camera image will be more stable and of better resolution.

Getting to see such pictures is usually a difficult endeavor after such a long time. A look at the statutory records shows an Arthur Alcorn died at the age of 61 in Glasgow in 2009. This would appear to be one of our photographers and so the task becomes finding his next of kin. Ian Hay is a more common name and so more difficult to find him on the Internet. A resolution of this problem will have to be left to another day.

The quoted expert is Professor Peter Meadows who seems convinced of the film, but no other expert is quoted despite them being mentioned in the plural, it seems he was the "team chief" of the experts. So having perhaps viewed the video yourself, we will go onto those opinions as Malcolm Robinson hit the phones for his article.

First was the previously mentioned Professor Peter Meadows of Glasgow University stated as the senior lecturer in marine biology there.Again, he said he was initially sceptical of the film, but the more he watched it, the more it did not match anything he had ever seen before. He suggested the monster could be a warm blooded fresh water animal in the range of four and twelve feet in length. He ruled out seals, logs or waves and was very impressed by the video. I note that Professor Meadows was involved in the 1960s sonar work at Loch Ness.

Next up in the telephone directory was Professor Archie Roy of the Astronomy Department of the same university. He had seen the video on the news and was also of the opinion it was no wave but was not prepared to speculate further. This led to phone calls to two people who took a different view of affairs and are well known to Nessie researchers.

First was Steuart Campbell, who had published his sceptical book on the monster a few years before. Steuart was convinced that what we had here was "a rare interference effect between wakes". Since the video shows the wakes of previously passing boats, a scenario arises where these waves meet and constructively interfere results in a bulge of travelling water where the white portion is breaking waters. Steuart also stated a steep sided loch helps in these matters and he believes this is the first time such an effect has been filmed at the loch.

To complete the roster came Adrian Shine. He agreed with Steuart that a wave effect had been seen. However, unlike Steuart's observation that such effects were rare, Adrian said he saw such a thing a few weeks before. He also thought the poor contrast of the film added to the illusion of a solid object. Interestingly, Adrian said he was told by ITN that the original video had been mistakenly destroyed when being analysed! At this point in time, perhaps Adrian could be described as sceptically undecided on what the monster may be. 

So, we had two for and two against. Malcolm cast the deciding vote and went with Campbell and Shine. The other source mentioned before was Rip Hepple's Nessletter. Rip confessed he had not seen the ITN piece but subscribers wrote to him with the unanimous opinion it was yet again a wave effect and nothing more was said about it.

So now let us take a look at this video nearly three decades on. I will confess first that I have seen the video before Alan contacted me. I don't know where and when, but at the time I also put it down as a wave effect and moved swiftly on. Now I am not so dismissive of this clip. However, we do lack some context here. There may be some missing video, so some vital piece of information may be missing, but the quality of the video is likely inferior to the original.

So all we really have are the clips above which I played over a number of times with certain things in my mind. The idea of constructively interfering boat wakes to produce unexpectedly large waves is a perfectly valid theory. However, my thinking is that something is missing. In the video we can see two wakes above and below the water disturbance. Steuart's explanation of wakes interacting and interfering obviously begs the question of where are these interacting waves?

If you look closer, you can see typical boat wakes around but well beyond this object. This water disturbance has a very solitary look to it with nothing around it to suggest waves coming together. In fact, I cannot see anything indicating this is the product of constructively interfering wakes. Therefore, in my opinion, this interpretation of what is in the video should be dropped.

Where does this leave us? Actually, still stuck in the domain of general wave effects, as Adrian Shine more cautiously put it. One could add windrows, cats paws and wind devils, but I do not think anyone is suggesting these. That leaves one more proposed theory and that is soliton waves. These are an unusual phenomenon where the bow of a vessel can under certain circumstances generate a standing wave which can travel for long distances without deformation or diminution. 

They are generated when a boat reaches what is called the Froude Height, which can be calculated for certain bodies of water. This basically equates to the speed of the bow waves in that water. That speed is given by the equation below where V is the speed of the wave, g is the acceleration due to gravity and h is the depth of the water below.


If this water disturbance in the loch is a soliton wave and since it is very deep at that point out in the loch, I estimate about 100m deep, then the speed comes out at about 31 metres per second or about 70mph or 60 knots. It is fair to say that the object in this video is not going at anywhere like that speed. Though I suppose one may argue that it is a soliton in its death throes.


The next equation is the Froude Depth and when this number reaches 1, a soliton wave is produced. Or to put is more simply, when the boat catches up with its own bow wave, the soliton takes shape. That will happen when the boat speed equals the wave speed. As we saw, this was about 70mph on that part of the loch. Needless to say, no regular boats do that kind of speed on the loch. The usual cruisers don't go much above 11 knots and even the fast RIB boats only go up to the 40 knots. Even if they did reach such speeds, it is doubtful that the loch is narrow enough to allow solitons.

That does not mean soliton waves are impossible at the loch but they are more likely to occur at shallower depths around the narrower rivers and canals. Assuming a depth of about 3-4 metres in those parts, soliton waves could theoretically be produced. In fact, the first soliton wave was observed in the Union Canal in Edinburgh by John Scott Russell in 1834.

If a boat was at its Froude Depth as it entered the loch from the north or south waterways, it is conceivable that in some circumstances, a soliton wave could enter the loch. But how it would look and behave as it entered deeper waters is a matter of speculation. One would also expect it to be quite close to the originating boat unless the boat stopped or dropped speed when docking. I am no expert in wave dynamics, but that is the way I see it.

Of course, some other wave theory could be brought to the fore, I invite comments to that effect. Meantime, what is to be made of what we see minus the water effects? If I could describe some abstract object to explain what I was looking at, it was like one of those dumbbells you see in old strongmen pictures - except they are buoyant and bobbing along but also rotating about each other, one sphere submerging while other bobs up. A bit strange, but the best I could sum it up.



Alan thinks he can see a long dark neck at about 40 seconds in the second enhanced video but I am not sure if it is shadow or solid. Could these two "dumbbells" be construed as humps? Perhaps, though I am trying to think of another eyewitness report which describes two humps moving in this mutually "orbital" fashion. I do recall some reports from the 1930s where one hump would go round in circles, but not two. If it was alive, one would think two creatures were involved. It is a hard image to interpret in biological terms, though just defaulting to our wonderful shape shifting water seems too simplistic and lazy to me.

Double hump sightings form a good proportion of the total reports, indeed, the Aldie Mackay report which began the modern trend was such a sighting (below). It is not always clear whether one or two creatures are involved, it partly depends on how far apart they are. The video "humps" seem too far apart to be connected, but this is something one cannot be sure about.




As to size, there is a lack of frame of reference to make an estimate, though if it is as far out in the bay as it looks, it is likely as big as one of the boats that regularly traverse the loch. The white water breakers can be as much at home breaking against a solid object as they are part of a bigger water formation. Perhaps there is more to this footage than meets the eye, but whether we can take this further forward may be down to an erudite comment from a reader or two.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Friday, 24 September 2021

Loch Ness Monster caught by Drone Camera?

 


A new image from Loch Ness with a new twist appeared in the media yesterday. By  a new twist I mean a drone video of something allegedly in the waters below. Now I use my drone at Loch Ness in the hope that I will catch footage of something interesting just below the surface, but invisible to those watching from the shore. In that light, I was very curious to see this footage. You can go this link and fast forward to about 3:45 to see something that appears to be just below the water moving towards the shore.

The media story can be found here. I found it to be an impressive looking video, so it was time to ask the owner of the video some questions and I posted it on the Zombie Plesiosaur Society Facebook group to generate views and discussion. This is where the path from impressive to not so impressive began its journey. I first made contact with Richard Mavor who posted the video and asked him some questions. The first was the important one. Could I see the original video file from the drone? His answer on the messenger box is below.




This raised a red flag right away, as will be explained later, but I am a drone user too and have plenty of 4K files from way back. In this day of terabyte storage, why would someone extract a few seconds clip and throw away the record of an important and memorable trip? It didn't make sense to me. But I dutifully asked the other questions and then put a scenario to him.



Okay, perhaps they saw nothing, but this creature was practically within biting distance. The ante was upped when it was mentioned on Facebook that two clips from the video showed the same scene, but one without the creature, the other clip being at 1:44. This was demonstrated in this comparison image with thanks to Henry Baker and James Kitwood. It may be a bit hard to see as the image is just appearing, so compare on the actual video if you prefer.



I thought one could also produce a similar split image with no creature in either frame as it was just about to appear giving us split second timing in how to begin each sequence. However, that is just my opinion and for me more was required. That led to the thought that Richard claimed he did not see it at the time and struggled to see it even now (as he said in the YouTube comments). But for me, the creature appearing out of the depths just as this random clip began without the editor knowing about it was just too much of a coincidence.

The next and biggest nail in the coffin was the fact that someone else (Jonathan  Falcone on Steve Feltham's group) mentioned it looked just like the famous Robert Rines 1975 underwater picture of a bulbous body and long neck. Here is the comparison and suggests to me the Rines photo was the template for this one and ironic that one underwater picture leads to another underwater one. It also has to be said that if you observe the rock to the left of the creature's "head", water is clearly lapping over the rock, suggesting the depth where the "head" is must be only inches!

 


Another and better comparison is by Sam Shearon who thinks the template is a picture of a plesiosaur which is shown below. This looks a good fit, so make your choice as to which was used, either way it's not looking good for this video.




I think that pushes us beyond the realms of coincidence and hence push this video beyond the realms of acceptable. The object moving towards the shore would seem to be a plus against inanimate object theories, but I looked hard to see any movement within the creature itself, I concluded whatever the motion of a Nessie may or may not be, we should expect some flipper, neck or tail articulation. The more unpalatable truth is the Rines photo was the basis for this hoax.

Going back to the lack of original drone files, the deletion argument is not an acceptable answer and comes straight out of the hoaxer play book. Readers may recall the previous hoaxes perpetrated by Ricky Philips and Steve Challice. When both of these people were asked for the original images, they either claimed it was deleted or something which was clearly not the raw image file was sent. The implication being the original files would give the game away. The same applies here.

Also Richard saying he and his colleagues saw nothing when this "creature" was practically upon them is not credible. So taking all these observations into account, we have to once again file this one under "fake". It was suggested Richard would eventually come clean. Perhaps he will, but the hoaxer play book again suggests he won't. Philips and Challice never confessed and my last message to Richard suggests he will not either:



I guess even though they see it as a harmless prank, they don't want to self-incriminate and be put on the record as liars as it may end up on their CVs. After all, how many people plead "not guilty" in court? The TV detective series where the criminal confesses to all at the dramatic end rarely happens in real life. All in all, these hoaxes just create problems for serious researchers. If I produce drone footage next summer with a plesiosaur looking beast moving along, sceptics will point to this video and say "Nah, another CGI!". That raises the bar of proof, but I hope people who know me would treat me differently.

Once again, we ask the question has easy digital image manipulation rendered video-still image evidence worthless? I think the answer is no, but it is clear that the vetting of such images and their owners must be thorough and use all the tools at our disposal. Fortunately, this one took less than a day to expose, so the perfect but fake image would seem to be a project beyond many. But I say that hoping not to tempt fate!

 

 

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

 




Tuesday, 21 September 2021

A Poacher's Frightening Encounter

 


Intrepid Aussie cryptozoologist, Paul Cropper, recently sent me some old clippings he had and this one certainly raised an eyebrow. It is a letter anonymously sent to the Scottish paper, The Sunday Post, dated 12th August 1979. Based on the letter, the actual incident is dated to about 30th July 1979. The clipping can be read above, but here is the text of the encounter below.


A Poacher's Frightening Encounter At Loch Ness

On Wednesday, a remarkable letter reached The Sunday Post. It came from an Edinburgh man who could not give his name, as he admits to being a salmon poacher for 25 years. Two weeks ago he was driving north with a friend to poach the River Conon near Bonar Bridge. At about 1:30am, they were on the A82 by the side of Loch Ness near Drumnadrochit. They pulled in at the side of the loch where, using infrared night-glasses, they confirmed salmon were jumping. The Edinburgh man got into his wetsuit and took his fishing net from the boot of his car.

The net, 100 metres long by 30-feet deep was brand new. While his mate held one end on the shore, he swam out into the loch with the other end. then began to pull the net round to a circle to trap the salmon. At that moment the net started to move up the loch of its own accord! Then he felt something brush against the side of his legs. As he became tangled in the net, he reached down to try to free himself - and felt his his hand touch a rough, horny skin! By this time, he was being dragged up the loch at a fantastic rate. His mate was also in the water, jerked off the shore by the lurch, as whatever they'd caught suddenly swam away.

Then the net snagged on a rock at the side of the loch. As it did so, the creature burst through the net, threshed the water to foam, and was gone. The poacher got out of the water as fast as he could, shaking with fear. The two men waited till dawn broke, then went back to recover the net. They found a hole in it, 20 foot long by 15 feet deep. A half-inch, lead-cored rope was burst in two places.

Eleven salmon were still caught in the net - enough to pay for the trip. "What I've written," he says "is absolutely true. I can assure you there is a creature in the loch - and there is no way I am ever going back, even in daylight".

So runs the tale and clearly, it is up to the reader whether to believe it or not as there is no corroboration of any kind. One can understand the person wishing to remain anonymous though. The precise location of the incident can only be inferred but points to near the mouth of either the River Enrick or Coiltie which empty into Urquhart Bay beside the village of Drumnadrochit. It may be that they parked near the castle grounds and scrambled downhill with their net or perhaps walked through the woods covering the bay. Either way, their net was not sufficient for the task that night.

What happened next goes one or more levels beyond what eyewitnesses normally experience. Something large brushes past you under the water, you feel rough, horny skin with your hand and the net pulls away threatening to drag you into the deeps of the dark loch. Finally, the shredded net is revealed the next morning. It sounds like something from one of those fictional Nessie movies!

The net used was likely a gill net which catches fish by their gills. Such a net may stop salmon, but it is unlikely to pose any problems to a four tonne, thirty foot carnivore with a decent set of teeth moving at speed. It would seem this monster was busy feeding on the salmon making their way to or from the bay and did not take kindly to someone else sharing. If this story is true, this man had a lucky escape.



This account has two features I had only heard of once before in other accounts. It was some months back that one could not find an account of anyone ever claiming to have touched the Loch Ness Monster. A second hand account dating back to 1922 came in to us last November which I published here. This is our first first hand account and describes a skin consistent with the rough appearance described by those close enough to see such detail.

It is also to be noted that only one story suggestive of a monster being snared in fish nets at the loch had been found prior to this and that was a story from Sandy Gray dating back to 1893 which is in this article. It is not clear if that was a first or second hand account. In that instance, the entire net was hauled out into the depths, never to be found again. Like this account, nothing large was clearly visible.

No one has ever claimed to been dragged into the loch by the monster. Clearly it is a unique account and if it is true, it is no surprise the fellow felt compelled to tell someone about it. Perhaps somewhere in Edinburgh today, in a shed or in an attic lies an old net, only used once because there is a gaping hole in it. One would be very interested to see such an item which may be located only miles from my own house.

But perhaps there is some corroboration of a sort. I checked the sightings database for anything happening at that time. The date was around 30th July 1979. As it turns out, Alistair Boyd, noted Nessie Hunter, had his only sighting of the beast on the same day in the same area of Urquhart Bay, either hours before or after this incident. His was a 20 foot long black hump, was it the same creature (below)?



Furthermore, we also learn from Rip Hepple's Nessletter No.36 from October 1979 of another sighting the next day by a Mrs. Clark and Mrs. MacLeod who saw a large snake like head from the same point at Temple Pier, moving into the bay. It seems one of the creatures was minded to stay in this area for the dates of 30th to 31st July 1979. 

Forty three years on, there is probably not much more to add to this story. The persons involved may still be alive but probably still unwilling to come out into the open. We live in hope. Either way, thanks to Paul Cropper for this fascinating story.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com



Thursday, 16 September 2021

Another Audio Interview

 


Hot on the heels of the podcast I did recently, Steve Ward, host of the High Strangeness Factor show, contacted me to do another interview for him. I was happy to do that and the audio can be found here. Steve's show has a more paranormal bent to it and I reckoned I would take a different route to the previous talk which was more wide ranging and generic.

Therefore, this podcast focuses on the paranormal, supernatural and mythical aspects of the Loch Ness Monster, from its days as a Celtic water spirit to the notorious Water Horse of the Highlanders and onto the modern thoughts on how these may apply to the current cryptid. Naturally people like Ted Holiday, Tim Dinsdale, Erik Beckjord and so will be mentioned.

Click on and enjoy the talk, comment welcome below.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Sunday, 29 August 2021

The Latest Audio Interview

 


I was invited to speak on the Loch Ness Monster from the guys at the Controversial Science website last week and spent over an hour answering questions and comparing-contrasting the various cryptozoological disciplines and the common themes we see from scepticism in these areas. You can click on the video below or find the talk at this link.




The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Hunting Nessie in Wigtown


I am not long back from the small town of Wigtown in the Scottish county of Dumfries and Galloway in the south west of Scotland. Back in 1998 it was designated the National Book Town of Scotland and no wonder as it hosts over a dozen well stocked second hand bookshops around its small green square shown above. Around 1998, I had visited that other book town, Hay-on-Wye on the English-Welsh border and came home with several boxes of books.

This time I was more circumspect and selective as my collection has dropped from thousands down to less then a thousand (I think having not actually counted them). I had some tightly defined subjects on my shopping list and the Loch Ness Monster was one of them. Admittedly, I own about 68 of the 70 titles ever published (excluding kids books and fiction), so I did not expect to fill the box this time.

So over the weekend, I toured the bookshops with these subjects in mind, but it proved to be a disappointing exercise and the results were as follows. Only about a third of the shops had any Nessie books and those were the shops with the biggest stocks. The first one visited produced the best selection as shown below. Those were "The Loch Ness Story" by Nicholas Witchell, "Nessie, Seven Years in Search of the Monster" by Frank Searle and "The Loch Ness Monster - The Evidence" by Steuart Campbell.



Witchell's book was the hardback first edition and was a snip at only five pounds, but I already owned it. As it turned out, I only bought Searle's book for one pound. Why buy that one by a proven faker? Well, actually, I was looking for such a copy, even though I also owned this, as I plan to write an article on Frank Searle and wanted to scan some text from his book. The trouble is scanning this book which is a thin glued spine could split it if forced flat onto a scanner bed. The solution is to buy another on the cheap and pull it apart!

Actually, for a man who claimed to have watched the loch more than anyone else, he does not have a lot to say compared to other monster hunters' books. It is a thin volume which was more likely written up quickly to cash in on the Nessie fever of the 1970s and probably also before the 1976 expose of Searle fully finished him off. How much of it is plagiarism is a matter of discussion. After that, it was onto the next book shop and that had two Nessie books in its Highlands section. One was a later paperback version of Witchell's book and the small tourist booklet produced by the Fort Augustus Abbey monks called "Loch Ness and its Monster", in this case, the 1967 reprint.



All the books so far were reasonably priced, probably cheaper than you will get on eBay and elsewhere. All the Nessie books were in the "Highlands" section and were in good condition. It was then onto the next bookshop which had the smallest stock of them all and their sole Nessie book was under the Folklore and Forteana section. It was the paperback version of Ronald Binns' first book from the 1980s. It was the most expensive book coming in at six pounds, I declined the offer and will say no more. It was then off to the bookshop which claimed to be the biggest secondhand bookshop in Scotland.



I had visited another large secondhand bookshop some months before, namely Leakey's of Inverness which is also a substantial bookshop. I compared the two in my mind's eye and thought that this one just shaded it for the title. Nevertheless, a search of the shelves revealed not one single title on the Loch Ness Monster in any form. Somewhat disappointed I enquired as to any titles out of sight. The response came up with the best one of all - "The Loch Ness Monster and Others" by Rupert T. Gould.



Unlike the picture above, the one he produced for me had no dustjacket and the listed price was a cool two hundred pounds. That is actually cheaper than some I have seen on eBay. The one I own cost about fifty pounds but that was purchased about twenty years ago. There was a reprint published in the 1970s which is a cheaper alternative for monster fans. However, this book had one particular claim to fame as it was owned by the author, Gavin Maxwell.

Maxwell authored the famous "Ring of Bright Water" but was also a fan of the Loch Ness Monster and indeed claimed a sighting of it back in 1945 as I recounted in this article. Indeed, his brother Eustace was directly involved in the hunt back in the 1960s. It then came to me later that Gavin Maxwell had actually been brought up in the area around Wigtown and some of his relatives still live in the Monreith area to this day. It would seem that some of them had sold off some of his collection to this book dealer. It would be natural to assume that having seen his monster in 1945, Maxwell bought the only available book on it at the time written by Gould.

I checked for anything unique, such as annotations by Maxwell and then handed back the book and that more or less ended the hunt. Five titles and nothing after the 1990s. Whether these titles are any less or more likely to be found than a random title with a similar publishing run is hard to say. I did not see anything published in recent years and I noted that there was not really anything else of a Fortean nature (e.g. UFOs or Bigfoot). 

I left with Searle's book plus a 1930s Ordnance Survey map of the loch and a couple of booklets on the Great Glen. It was an enjoyable weekend browsing all those titles and I would recommend a trip to the town for any lovers of long shelves of old books.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Monday, 9 August 2021

Tim Dinsdale and the Oxbridge Students

 


Fellow Nessie fan, Gary, sent me a Youtube link to an old newsreel item entitled "Look at Life" which the Rank Organisation churned out for British cinemas in the 1960s. This one was called "Out for a Catch" and featured the man himself, Tim Dinsdale. The video is below and though it mainly is concerned with British angling, for some reason it begins and ends at Loch Ness.



The scene opens with Tim surveying the loch from his deckchair at a spot I think is on Foyers beach, beside the small island on the right I have before dubbed "Dinsdale Island". During the mid-1960s, Tim used this river inlet as a base of operation for a while, setting up a hide for observation. This is all downhill from where he took his famous film in April 1960. As you can see, he uses those small binoculars he was well known for as he looks for a sight of his quarry, the Loch Ness Monster.




The scene switches to Tim helping out a group of young people, examining a map of sightings and pointing this way and that as they also survey the loch. The narrator tells us they are Cambridge University students and that pretty much sums up these short segments. The question is when was this film footage shot? A look at the Wikipedia entry for "Look at Life" says this particular reel was shot in 1960, so who were these university students? 



The answer is they were one of the first expeditions to the loch in the frenetic era that spanned 1960 to 1980. A search of the newspaper archives gives us more details. For example, the clipping below from the Birmingham Post dated 12th July 1960, tells us they were a group of students from Britain's top two universities, Oxford and Cambridge on a camera surveillance trip led by Dr. Richard Tucker, formerly of the British Museum.



Interestingly, two weeks later, the Sunday Pictoral for the 24th July offers more information by stating that they had been there the past month and they numbered more than a dozen students. However, they are stated as being led by twenty three year old Peter Baker and not Richard Tucker. The only theme this lightweight article can focus on is the menace of the biting midges. Now I wondered who this Richard Tucker was who was formerly of the British Museum?



There is the controversial Dr. Denys Tucker who was sacked around this time for declaring his belief in the monster after seeing a hump moving across the loch during a visit. This led to his sacking by the Natural History Museum (though the alternate explanation was his eccentric behaviour). But then again it could more credibly be Dr. Dennis Tucker, another zoologist from the Natural History Museum, who did sonar work at the loch in the 1960s. Or is there a third Tucker called Richard? It is all a bit confusing and readers are invited to offer an explanation as to who Richard Tucker may or may not be.

What is not confusing is the fact that this newsreel was filmed only two or three months after Tim Dinsdale shot his hump film. One could argue this is the earliest footage of a young looking Tim Dinsdale and is an important part of the record of the Loch Ness hunt (I think he was forty years old).

That year was a busy one as another former employee of the Natural History Museum was there in June. His name was Maurice Burton who was on the cusp of becoming a Loch Ness Monster sceptic and would head south to his home in England to write the first sceptical book on the monster. It was titled "The Elusive Monster" and was published the following year as Tim published his very pro-Nessie book, "Loch Ness Monster".

This was all a prelude to the formation of the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau which would mount annual expeditions to the loch from 1962 and for the next ten years. An era which is receding in the rear view mirror as its participants pass away and we look to more complex techniques to finally solve this mystery.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com





Sunday, 1 August 2021

Scott Mardis - Monster Hunter


I had gone up to Loch Ness a couple of weeks ago with a new mobile phone with better reception and more data. I will pass on how the previous phone was accidentally dropped down the toilet, never to recover. But this allowed me during those warm evenings in the tent to listen to the podcasts of "The Haunted Sea" by Scott Mardis to which I directed others on my last blog. 

Scott picked up on that and messaged me last Sunday about 2am his time to tell me he had touched base with Marty Klein of those 1970s expeditions, hoping to get him on one of his shows. That would have been a great podcast I thought and I replied but never heard from Scott again. Unknown to me, he passed away three days later at the age of 57. I have written one or two tributes to people who have died, such as Roy Mackal, who were well advanced in years, but I did not expect to be typing this in 2021 concerning Scott.

Loren Coleman has laid out the sad circumstances of Scott's untimely death, I will add my own tribute to Scott here. I got to know Scott back in 2014 when I joined his growing Facebook group, the Zombie Plesiosaur Society (ZPS), dedicated to large creatures of lake and sea, be they extinct, cryptid or relevant in some way to that pursuit. I became a co-administrator some time back, but we all knew this was Scott's baby from the start.

Pretty soon we were pinging messages between each other about Nessie, Champ and other hard to get beasts. Scott's enthusiasm for aquatic cryptids was evident through these and his posts on the ZPS. He later branched out into other groups dedicated to his chief quarry, the Lake Champlain Monster. Being convinced that some of these animals may be survivor plesiosaurs (hence the group title), he also branched out into paleontology to expand his understanding of the creature and even worked as a volunteer in the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences' Department of Vertebrate Paleontology.



But what keeps a monster hunter's enthusiasm and drive going? Like Dinsdale, Holiday and others before him, Scott saw his monster back in 1994 about a couple of years into his personal quest. I quote from Dale Drinnon's blog:

The date I believe was July 9, 1994 and I was at the waterfront park called Battery Park in Burlington, Vermont on Lake Champlain, purposely watching the water for something with my binoculars (I did not own a camera at the time and could not afford one, as I had recently spent most of my money relocating to Burlington to investigate the "monster"). I had been watching the lake for weeks on a regular basis from this park as it was easy to access and had a wide view of one of the deepest parts of the lake. The park was sparsely occupied at the time and I was sitting on one of the benches facing the water. Around 11 a.m., a large object bobbed to the surface and remained stationary for a few seconds. It was very far out into the water but I had a good view of it with my binoculars. I later estimated it’s size by comparing it with a boat I saw afterward. I believe it was about 15 feet long and about 4 feet high.

It was a large mound-like object with a smaller mound-like object rising up out of the middle of it. It kept this configuration for a few seconds, then turned to the right, with the smaller mound-like object taking on a different profile and then oriented on the right side of the larger mound (as pictured below). The full object began to swim or move to the right, with the smaller object making a rocking motion as this was happening. The smaller object could be interpreted as an appendage of some sort, possibly a head on a short neck or a flipper. The whole thing briefly swam a few yards to the right, then promptly sank vertically and I did not see it again. The entire incident may have lasted something like 30 seconds, if that. I did have a very good view of it through the binoculars. The object was a greenish-black, "garbage bag" color, reminiscent of a leatherback turtle.





When you go out seeking to hook the monster of Lake Champlain or Loch Ness and see one, it actually hooks you and reels you in. What kept the likes of Scott, Dinsdale and Holiday going? They saw something they couldn't explain and they were determined to get more. I have a desire but also a fear of seeing the monster. Not because I expect it to attack me, but what effect it would have on my lifestyle. Would I become more determined to find out more or would it become an obsession that takes control? I hope more of the former as Scott did. He upped the ante and kept going back every year to find the clinching evidence for Champ.

In that respect, Scott taught me a few things. I am pretty much a landlubber when it comes to Loch Ness, but Scott ploughed into the waters will all manner of schemes and devices. Boats, sonar, hydrophones, underwater cameras, underwater speakers and diving. In fact, I am pretty sure that is not an exhaustive list, and I have not even added the land based stuff. Some interesting acoustic and sonar hits were made to add to the panoply of evidence, but like Nessie, Champ remains a stubborn target to pin down.

Back in November 2019, I flew over to Orlando in Florida for a holiday. Yes, we did the usual Disney World stuff and so on but Scott lived over on the west coast in Bradenton and I reckoned this may be my only chance to meet up with him. So we did the two hour drive over and followed Scott's directions into Bradenton. To my surprise, we turned into a mobile home park and Scott directed us into the parking bay by his modest caravan-type home. I guess I am just not used to seeing such a thing in Scotland.

He lived there with his wife, cat and dog in humble surroundings that actually made me admire him all the more given his obvious lack of resources. We went out to a Chinese restaurant and talked monsters and I still have the toy Champ he gave me as a souvenir of our visit. It sits between some Nessie books in my study. The visit ended as we needed to get back to Orlando for nightfall and I said my goodbyes to Scott. As it turned out, it was not my one chance to see Scott, but my last chance.

Four months later, the coronavirus pandemic swept across the world, shutting down non-essential travel across countries and continents. I had taken my chance and seen Scott before his untimely death. So, Scott, thanks for the chat, the interviews with you on your podcasts, the information and insights you gave me and the friendship.

Rest in Peace, Scott Mardis.



The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com








Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Up at the Loch again


About six weeks after my day trip to Loch Ness, it was time for a longer visit to Britain's largest stretch of freshwater. We pitched up at the Foyers campsite where we have been going for a number of years now and always found a great place to stay. That site is up for sale and we wish Donald and Lyn Forbes well in their retirement and hope the good work continues under new ownership.

Now I do not normally go up north in July as I anticipate a surge of tourism crowds and it is generally hotter for moving around. As it turned out the crowds did not turn up and it looked more like May than July to me. Well, a lot of foreign tourists did not make the trip this year and the staycation people may have gone abroad in bigger numbers than I thought. 

As usual, I took a walk along Foyers beach to take in the views but also this year with a task in mind; as will be explained later. Back in the tent as the sun descended, I read my usual chapter from Ted Holiday's 1968 book, "The Great Orm of Loch Ness". The chapter was "Foyers at Sunrise" which describes Holiday's first trip to the loch in August 1962, a spartan affair in an old van with fishing rods and frying pans which ended with Holiday catching his first sight of the creature from Upper Foyers. 

The "orm" was down below in a small estuary beside the old aluminium works, but today I wondered if there was any chance of recreating that view due to the surge in growth of the intervening trees and other foliage. That depends where Holiday was standing, but the loch is not as accessible as it was sixty years ago.

One thing to check on this initial walk was that curious depressed area of grass I had found almost exactly a year before. The first photo shows what this large area looked like then and the second what it looks like now. Clearly some large weight had laid upon it a year ago and at some point it recovered its normal position. Actually, it looked a bit threadbare compared to last year. No worries, I jokingly mused, Nessie's toxic slime must have killed them off.




The following day, the hot and humid conditions continued as we took a leisurely drive up to Inverness, stopping at various points to watch the loch and consuming Pot Noodle for lunch. This was what is traditionally considered, "Nessie Weather", though how much of this is due to monsters or humans is unclear. More people are looking at the loch in good weather and the surface conditions are far less choppy, though there was a cooling breeze travelling up the loch.

In Inverness, we visited some bookshops and took in the reopened Museum. It has to be said that books on the Loch Ness Monster are hard to find in the largest centre of population just eight miles from the loch - apart from the usual kids' books. Even a visit to the well stocked Leakey's Secondhand bookshop had nothing. No Holiday, no Dinsdale, no Whyte or Gould (though their Abebooks account did have two Whyte books). But go online and you will find everything you need.

The next day we did a circuit of the entire loch from Foyers, through Fort Augustus, Drumnadrochit and back down via Dores. Stopping at Kilchuimen for supplies, I had one task which involved walking along the River Oich. There is a path you can take which lies tight between the river and the petrol station. Just remember to bring a machete at this time of year. Once the towering but derelict bridge arch came into view, I remembered Ricky Phillips.

I wondered if the branch he had photographed about two and a half years ago and palmed off as the monster was still there? Yes, it was as the photo below demonstrates. It is right in the centre and the zoom in shows it more clearly. As it turned out, the focus of this trip was all about famous hoax pictures.




Once we were back at base, there was work to be done. The waders were donned and the Garrett Ace 250 metal detector was taken out of the car boot. What has this to do with the Loch Ness Monster you may ask? The answer is the Surgeon's Photograph and the alleged toy submarine employed by Marmaduke Wetherell. Back in March, I had written an article suggesting that the site for this hoax was the western end of the beach at Foyers which I had walked along many a time. 

There was therefore two questions to answer. Did Wetherell leave any pieces of the toy sub when he crushed it underfoot and how detectable would such fragments be today, eighty seven years on? My assumption was that it was a long shot that anything would be found, but there was only one way to find out and start metal detecting.

Since I was searching in the waters of the loch, there was no need to seek the permission of the owner of the beach. Fortunately, the Garrett detector is waterproof up to the control unit at the top. That gave me a couple of feet of water to work with. Since Ian Wetherell stated that his father had stepped on the sub as the water bailiff approached, it did not sound like too deep a waters.

I must admit I felt like that chap, Gary Drayton, from one of my favourite programmes, "The Curse of Oak Island". Would I manage that "top pocket find" and draw the curtain on the infamous picture? As I kicked off and swept the coil above the submerged rocks, the detector began buzzing almost right away. The rocks underfoot are quite big on this beach, going up to a foot across, so it was more about moving rocks than digging.

I reached down into the now cloudy waters and moved the rocks, retried the coil, gathering up handfuls of gravel for testing until I pulled up a very rusty sliding bolt latch. This was followed by hits on some metal bars, a door hinge and a fly tackle. The Gary Drayton effect had moved more onto what some of these objects were. They would send them off to a specialist blacksmith, I had to make my own educated guesses.




I suspect some of this was related to farming equipment, as the fields above used to be farmland. Fragments may have made their way down the hill from the fields above and kids just picked them up and threw them into the loch over the years and decades. How old the items were was not clear. But their thickness certainly helped preserve them over the years. What was also surprising was that they were buried under quite large rocks. I just expected those rocks to not move and things to lie on top.

So nothing related to the Wetherell hoax found, but I did not cover all the possible areas. After such a long time, my expectation was that perhaps the wind up motor unit would survive the longest, but of course, we do not know what was left behind as the Wetherells headed back to London. But all in all, it was a worthwhile exercise.

The next day, everything was packed up and we slowly headed back south. The weather was brilliant throughout, I had also done some reconnaissance on where to place trap cameras on our next visit and the metal detector as a device performed beyond my expectation, though what else one could employ it for in Loch Ness research is not so clear. Any ideas are invited.

As an aside, I listened to some of Scott Mardis' "Haunted Sea" chats on the "Monster X" podcasts in my tent in the evening. I would recommend his interview with veteran Nessie hunter, Henry Bauer and his chat with Ken Gerhard here. All good stuff.



The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com



Monday, 28 June 2021

A Sighting from 1987

 


Here is an sighting which I came across on the Unexplained Mysteries Forum which had been there for nine years - I wish I had found it earlier. The original link is here and I pull together the posts of the witness, who appears to be named Catherine Ross.

I've joined this forum to share (and hopefully receive explanatory feedback) on a sighting myself and my then husband had of something in Loch Ness in the late summer of 1987. At the time, we were both baffled and perplexed by what we saw, and acknowledged that it was something neither of us could identify rationally. Of course, we were familiar with the legendary 'monster', but the creature we viewed didn't really conform to what I've ever expected 'Nessie' to look like - it certainly did not look like a plesiosaur with a long, thin neck. Anyway, we were holidaying in Inverness and took a trip to the Loch purely for its beautiful, highland views. We were walking long a road which runs alongside the Loch in the vicinity of Dores, where we stopped at a little layby which overlooked the Loch (there was no beach, just a steep incline to the water). It was, if I recall correctly, about four o'clock in the afternoon (although it might have been earlier) and the weather was fine and dry. We were watching the water and looking across the Loch for about ten minutes when we spotted what I took to be a horse swimming off to the right. My first response was panic/worry that a horse would be out in deep water (I thought about 100ft out, although I'm awful with distances). We observed for a while, trying to work out what we were seeing, which is as follows:

A big horse's or camel's head on a thick neck sticking up out of the water with a rounded hump a little behind. The colouring looked black or very, very dark and, like a horse, there was some fuzzy, mane-like stuff sticking up and running down its back. It was moving forward, from the right of our vision to the left, fairly rapidly. We couldn't distinguish facial features or the like. After a minute or so, the head curved downwards into the water (as though diving) and a black, tube-like body followed it, as though the neck just kept going. A few seconds later a fluke-like appendage emerged and then quickly sank down, in a way that reminded me of a whale's tail going under. There was a far amount of spray and disturbed water. Whatever it was did not look like a dinosaur or plesiosaur, and was rather slimy and unpleasant looking.

As you can imagine, this experience was all very confusing, and we mentioned it to the people we were staying with in Inverness, who seemed interested but didn't take it too seriously. They thought perhaps we'd seen a deer. We never reported the sighting to anyone official (heck, we'd have had no idea how to do so) and it's just been a fairly interesting anecdote we've told family and friends whenever a programme about Loch Ness popped up on TV. We had a camera with us at the time, but, stupidly in retrospect, the moment we noticed the creature and stared (both trying to work out what we were seeing) and the moment it went under the water, all happened so quickly that it didn't cross our minds that it was something possibly connected with the mystery and worth photographing. Has anyone else ever had a similar sighting? Is there a natural explanation for this horsey creature? Any thoughts or opinions are warmly welcomed.

So perhaps August or September 1987 and Catherine is recounting events 25 years later in 2012. Naturally, some details will be less sharp when recalled after so long. My first question was where this exactly happened - near Dores, a layby with no beach below a steep incline. There is a layby with a steep incline just south of Dores, but there is a pebble beach below. If one goes any further south, grass fields begin to impose between the road and shoreline.

I wondered if she had misremembered this or foliage prevented her seeing a beach? Perhaps some local can clarify here. The replies came as others chipped in with questions and comments. In the absence of a sketch, she posted some animal photos best describing what she saw: "If anything, these pictures look closest to what we saw"






We have had a good number of eyewitnesses describe this merhorse kind of event, albeit, one should imagine these animals in the photos without ears to get a better sense of what was seen and a thinner head. She goes on to say:

Everyone we spoke with at the time was sure we'd seen a swimming deer, but even at the time I recall being convinced that wasn't what it had been. Another problem is scale - I'm not good at judging that kind of thing at the best of times, but when there was nothing else in the water, the thing could have been anything from 5ft to 10ft to 30ft - I couldn't hazard a guess. The thing I thought looked like a fluke could have been a flipper or anything - it definitely appeared at the back part of the submerging animal for a few seconds, though. I should be frank, it was an experience which at the time was perplexing and interesting, but we didn't 'do' anything about it, and I've never really thought about it that much (the trip being replete with other very natural fond memories!). It's only after reading about other people's experiences I started to think 'hey. I saw something strange back then - but it wasn't anything like what other folk have seen!'. Perhaps we did spot a monster back then, and there's a plethora of completely different looking beasties out there!

Catherine initially suggested a distance of 100 feet out, which is very close for a monster sighting. This should make length estimates easier, but what length is being described? That which is out of the water or a composite length based on parts seen throughout the event? Apart from deer, one could tentatively suggest a grey seal which has a more pronounced snout than the harbour seal, though she discounts a seal explanation further down. Some posted a drawing of an artist's impression of the cryptid cadborosaurus which reminded her of the creature, that picture is at the top of this article. 





I should also add, that nothing I've come across (and I've spent - or wasted - some time today looking this up) in terms of reported sightings of the Loch Ness monster seem to match or come close to whatever we saw. Similarly, nothing on any TV shows I've seen over the years ever sounded like it. It was nothing like a plesiosaur, or sturgeon, or whale, or dinosaur, or otter and there was no graceful swan-neck or flippers. In fact, a 'swimming deer' probably comes closer than all those things, without being right. For all intents and purposes, what we both saw and said at the time (and what I still remember) looked like nothing so much as a slimy horse, way out of its depth and with fishy bits.

On another note, I've spoken to my ex (on the subject of the Scottish trip my friends are taking) and raised the subject. From what he recalls (without my prompting), he saw a horsey head on an big eel with a fish-tail. The fish-tail is, I suppose, as similar as one can get to my memory of the whale's tail. The eel part I've never thought about, as I'm not in any way familiar with eels. Perhaps others can let us know if there are big eels with anatomy like the thing I've described (a horse shaped head and fish or whale tail).

A horse like head on an elongated eel like body with a fluke tail at the end. Again, our monster defies easy correlation with known species of aquatic animals, no matter how much we inflate their sizes to bring them up to Loch Ness Monster proportions. But what resemblance does this have to the long neck sightings which describe a head which is almost no head but rather a continuation of the neck? Indeed, some sightings are almost just like poles sticking out of the water. Are those a different part of the animal or a different stage in development of the creature? Your guess is as good as mine.

if the animal was a horse (or deer) swimming (and it would have to have been been a fairly large specimen of either), it would have to be very dark and very dead afterwards (as we watched for some time after the thing submerged and nothing reappeared in the vicinity). The picture of the swimming horse with the dolphin following was very interesting, however - as this at least captured the sense of movement, which I would describe as wormy (if that makes sense). Is it possible a horse could have been swimming and dragged down by a big eel or some other big fish with a fluke or fish-tail? As I've also said, there were no ears that I can recall either seeing or mentioning at the time. If it was a seal, it would have to have had a long, thick neck which continued to a similar, tubular body.


Catherine posted some sketches of what she saw, but unfortunately nine years on, the site hosting these images has gone AWOL and they are no longer visible. Since she has not posted for nine years and moved on, it would probably require her to do another search for the monster to perhaps find this site and then email me those sketches. But all in all, an interesting sighting by two eyewitnesses which is thought provoking and adds to the merhorse genre.



The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com




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