Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Arthur Grant meets a Wall of Scepticism

 


I have to say that Arthur Grant is one of my favourite accounts of the Loch Ness Monster. A giant creature lurching across a lonely road under a full moon before a befuddled motor cyclist? What's not to like? Of course, the dramatic story line makes some think it is just that - a made up story. I cover this account in my book, When Monsters Come Ashore, and will no more than quickly reproduce some words from the time to bring you up to speed. The event happened in the early hours of the 5th January 1934.

"It was," said Mr. Grant, "a bright moonlight night after rain had fallen. When almost forty yards away under the shadow of the hills, a short distance from the part of the reconstructed Glasgow-Inverness road near Abriachan, I observed what appeared to be a large black object on the opposite side of the road. I was almost on it when it turned what I thought was a small head on a long neck, and the creature, apparently taking fright, made two great bounds  across the road and plunged into the loch.

"I had a splendid view of the object; in fact, I almost struck it with my motor cycle. It had a long neck with an eel-like head and large oval-shaped eyes, just on the top of the small head. The body was very hefty, and I distinctly saw two front flippers. There were other two flippers, which seemed to be webbed behind, and there was a tail, which I estimate would be from five to six feet long. The curious thing about the tail was that it did not, so far as I could see, come to a point, but was rounded off. The total length of the animal would be from 15 to 20 feet.

"Knowing something about natural history, I can say that I have never seen anything in my life like the animal I saw. It looked like a hybrid. 

"I jumped off my cycle," said Mr. Grant, "but the animal with great speed had rushed into the loch, splashing the surface violently and making away."




Having written the chapter on this event, it is never wise to close the book as things always turn up for further discussion and insight. For example, news of a three toed cast found back then came to light after I wrote the book (see link). Today, the focus is on addressing another attempt to discredit this account by sceptics. In this case, pictures of the then newly developed Glasgow to Inverness have been posted with what is claimed to be an important feature - walls. One is shown at the top and another below and they were part of the completed construction of the new road running for miles.


If you wonder what walls have to do with this case, then the implication is that if there was a wall in front of the alleged Nessie, it would not have got over it. Ergo, Grant lied and the sceptics can remove another famous case from their hit list (though I suspect they think they have done that already). Now by my estimate, these walls could be up to two or three feet high as they seem to vary. It is not clear if there was a consistent height depending on the situation or risk at that point by the shoreline. One can still see them today in various states, some missing stones or covered in vegetation and so on.

The first question to ask is whether our creature could hurdle such an obstacle? That depends entirely on what kind of species the animal is and so we could go off in different directions speculating on our own favoured beast. Could a mammal such as a long necked version of a seal get over such a wall? I would say yes going by this video clip of a much smaller seal negotiating an imposing rock of similar height to the walls by Loch Ness. One would think a larger pinniped would have less trouble getting over.

Could a plesiosaur negotiate it? Now you're asking a question. Are you talking about the ones preserved in the fossil record or the evolved one popular in the 1970s? When a plesiosaur is proposed to have evolved, there is no end to the adaptive qualities one may add to achieve ones ends. Well, I see no reason why it couldn't, but I am not being authoritative on that matter. And so we may go through the list of candidates.

But one may cut through this and say if the creature managed to get out of the loch, get on to the road and over it then surely it can retrace its route in reverse with similar skill? One can see the logic there, though another may retort that it may have disembarked at an easier point further away. Such is the cut and thrust when information is lacking. But another observation may come to our aid. As explained in my book, the location of the Arthur Grant encounter is almost certainly along the stretch of road now occupied by the Clansman Hotel. The Google image below shows the hotel and note the green Nessie statue to the left conveniently reminding us of the event nearly ninety years before.



A look around shows a lack of walls such as this shot where the only visible wall bridges over a stream. Obviously, the metal barriers are a modern addition. The second image is looking the opposite direction towards the south and you can see the entrance to the pier where various vessels such as the Jacobite tourist cruisers pick up passengers. One would surmise that a brick wall is less likely to be found at a pier as it would hinder access for vehicles and if a boat had to be towed onto land.




A look at contemporary ordnance survey maps may help us here. The first is the one inch per mile (1:63360) "Popular" edition published from 1921-1930. You can see the pier clearly marked and note that the red road is delineated by either solid black line or dotted black line. According to the symbols of the time, the solid line with a red road indicates a main route between towns but if it changes to dotted line then it is an unfenced boundary. The road goes from solid to dotted as the pier approaches and for a distance after before going solid again. We can take it that this means any wall disappears to accommodate access to the pier. This stretch of unfenced boundary is where I think Grant encountered his monster.



However, this map was published in 1929 and Grant himself refers to the reconstructed road in the account above five years later. Did that result in a wall being constructed near the pier? A look at another map from 1940 says not. It is a military map at at scale of 1:25000 and the broken/unbroken lines follow much the same pattern. So no wall along the shore and I think we can dispose of this sceptical objection.





Of course, other objections to the Arthur Grant land sighting have been made over the years. The arrival of Marmaduke Wetherell at the scene gave sceptics the opportunity to play the guilt by association card. However, an expedition led by Mr. A. F. Hay, a Fellow of the Zoological Society of Scotland, visited the site and their report was published by the Scotsman newspaper. They had examined the road and beach and proposed a walrus was the best candidate. Curiously, they did not mention anything about walls getting in the way and I have no reason to doubt this was because there was no wall there.


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The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com






21 comments:

  1. Very interesting. These land sightings are among my favourite accounts.

    I'm not entirely sure on own my conclusion as each account differs. It's interesting that Arthur mentioned the 'great speed' of the creature within this account. I can't remember of the top of my head but I'm positive there's another land account where the creature took its time to cross the road, several minutes perhaps? I may be mistaken of course.

    I'll be at Loch Ness on Sunday for a few hours (personal purpose) and then returning on the 11th for our next observation. I am desperate to get up there again in the coming months to do a night patrol by foot and possibly cover the areas where these land sightings have occurred.

    Great read as usual Roland! Hope you're keeping well.

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  2. A remarkable account for sure! I remember watching a programme on nessie when they used a boat to proove ya cudnt get up the river by Lochend.. Didn't wash with me as I feel creatures have better more natural ways of getting through obstacles! They have strong appendages and adapt superbly!! I hope one of these creatures decides to cross the path im on on a hire bicycle in a few weeks time haha... Cheers Roy x

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  3. Interesting that he stated eel like head, with a long neck, that would indeed seem to support an unknown very large and long necked seal!

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  4. Great tale. But the creature he's describing is pretty much a plesiosaur. Which it can't as we'd have caught a large air breather in about 7 minutes of looking. If I was a gambling man (and I am) I'd say he's at it. But, like I say, wonderful tale.

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    1. They could breathe like some turtles do, just exposing the tip of their nose out of the water...

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    2. I don't think we can conclude too much at this point about what the LNM is. If it's an occasional visitor to the loch it could be an air breather, and maybe wouldn't be spotted too often.
      (According to the skeptics seals visit all the time, especially when there's an LNM sighting haha ;))

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  5. Another description of an eel like head and as eel's do travel on land maybe he saw a very large eel.

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    1. You think the artist impression above looks like an eel?

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    2. Things always look different especially in the dark and if in shock! A huge eel lurching across the road could easily look more humped than it actually is. If this story is true then i think thats what he saw.

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    3. well. a giant eel would cover many of the nessie sightings over the years!

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  6. Why would a creature want to come out of the Loch in that area in the first place when it can stay reasonably in it's own environment by moving up any amount of rivers and tributaries that flow into Loch Ness. The 2nd question why would it want to leave the sanctuary of it's home to go anywhere else, unless it is a breeding ritual of some kind, which would not be a good thing to embark on in today's world.

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    1. There is a stream right beside the Clansman Hotel. Whatever the reason for these brief trips on land, they are exceedingly rare events, suggesting it is not normal behaviour.

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    2. a very large seal of eel would be able to travel cross the road

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    3. When I hear people talking Plesiosaur looking animal It reminds me of the term convergent evolution. There is a very Hedgehog like animal called a Tenrec in Madagascar of which some variations of the species are almost identical in appearance. The Tenrec however is totally unrelated to Hedgehogs, having been cut off from the rest of the world for an estimated 60 odd million years and is just one example of many such creatures all over the world. This would probably answer the Plesiosaur like appearance of the creature if such an animal needed certain traits for survival. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convergent_evolution

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  7. I have to say that I don't particularly like single witness encounters, including the McLean sighting. If this account is true
    I don't see why it couldn't be a large eel like creature. We know eels move on land. We also know they can contort their shape. They are also renowned for slime and have been described as every colour from black to brownish to grey and having white under bellies. While the sketch doesn't resemble an eel as such if we take Mr.Grant as genuine then then plesiosaur as described falls into the minority of reports describing a classic small head and neck.
    I understand less than 20% of all sightings report this. Which leaves us wondering what was it that multiple witnesses saw when no neck was mentioned ? People like Mrs,Cary and family and friends for example. Humps, fast movement, upturned boat appearance etc. Why no head and neck? If we accept Grant and other witnesses as legit then there has to be more than one unidentified species masquerading as the LNM,whether permanent resident or transient via the River Ness.

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    1. I've always thought in the cases with no neck and head visible the animal was swimming with these held horizontally under the water...

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    2. That is why favor many creatures being seen over the decades , as really large eels, sturgeon, seals, unusually fish etc!

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    3. No, I think there is an animal with a large body and a long thin neck with a head, but sometimes it swims without raising the neck out of the water ie. the neck stretched out straight in front, and this accounts for the overturned boat-like sitings, etc.

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  8. What a pity that the EXACT location for these encounters is always never established, somewhere between two points, roughly a mile from a stream, opposite Dores, near Aldourie pier, more understandable if the sighting is in the loch, but for a land sighting on the A82 , Grant should have marked the spot [ i know, no GPS back then ] and at least the precise location would be available for future researchers like GB to find and work out the terrain and obstacles a large creature would have to overcome to get onto the road, and back to the loch. I've long wondered about the walls lining the road, many are still there, the builders used the rubble from the blasting to construct 3 foot tall retaining walls.
    It's a feature of the Loch Ness-side road that isn't replicated in other road builnoticedding areas of the 1920/30s, in Glencoe, nor the old A9 Perth to Inverness road.

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  9. On our last trip up Simon and I stopped at several locations where it would be extremely difficult for any animal to safely scale and retreat but there's also many locations that are suitable. The land accounts are fascinating but they definitely raise more questions rather than producing answers...that's not a negative.

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  10. The military road has many more points where the loch is not far from the road and the slope up to the road is reasonably angled.

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