Tuesday 2 January 2024

Nessie Review of 2023


Whatever may have come to pass at Loch Ness in 2023, it was always guaranteed to be the year of anniversary as ninety years passed since this story of a strange beast in the loch took off in 1933. Of course, stories had circulated for centuries before and even up to 1930, but this stuck and it has stuck in the public imagination and media attention ever since. 

I recall the events around the 80th anniversary in 2013 as a special symposium (link) was organised in Edinburgh and a commemorative trip was made out to the spot where Aldie Mackay saw her twenty foot double hump creature. However, this 90th anniversary took on a more public persona as the new owners of the Loch Ness Exhibition arrived on the scene and announced a total redesign of the current exhibition. By the 10th June, Continuum Attractions opened their new exhibition to the world, about five weeks after the 90th year since the Inverness Courier newspaper article announced the monster to an unsuspecting world.

A few weeks later, I got my chance to visit the new exhibition and was pleased with the way the story of the Loch Ness Monster had been reimagined and posted a review to that effect. The balance had shifted from a negative view of the idea of a large unknown creature in the loch to one that kept that idea alive as a possibility and encouraged people to watch the loch.

But it did not end there as Continuum Attractions set about organising a weekend observation around the loch involving a crowd of volunteers and a boat with sonar and hydrophone at the disposal of the Loch Ness Exploration group headed by Alan McKenna, who put a lot of effort into fronting this for the media and taking part in the boat trips.

I took part in the proceedings myself as I headed up for that weekend of the 26th August to be met with rain lashing down on the loch. It was a wet forecast which no doubt kept some from the loch but a hardy group turned up to mount the loch side watch and the media were there in force to cover events. It was a pleasure to meet up with some of these fellow monster hunters and also help out Dragonfly Films who were employing some new technology in the search (top picture). Their production should be televised some time in March 2024. My report on those events was documented here and the official report from the Loch Ness Centre can be found here.

The most intriguing sighting from the Quest was by a couple named as Matty and Aga, who had cancelled their trip to the Lake District to take part in the watch. They recorded what looked like a double hump formation in the manner of Aldie Mackay ninety years before. This moved before disappearing and I show a still from the video which can be seen at this link. One does have buoys floating in Dores Bay, but I do not think they come in pairs?

Some other sightings were logged but as you can guess, no one saw the beast close enough to see the white of its eyes and therefore capture conclusive images (if one can keep their cool in that situation). It was a pity the media men with their high quality professional video equipment did not have such an opportunity. However, it was an enjoyable experience to be part of a greater whole and I look forward to a similar quest in 2024.

Later on in the year, the ninety years rolled into the anniversary of the first photograph of the Loch Ness Monster taken by Hugh Gray on the 12th November 1933 which I summarized here. Some articles were written up by the media such as this one for the Washington Post. At this point I will insert the mandatory photograph of the possible head of Nessie whenever this photograph is mentioned.

Inevitably, we are going to roll over into a lot of 90th anniversaries in 2024, starting with the famous Arthur Grant land sighting which falls this coming Friday! So much for anniversaries, what about the other claimed sightings of the Loch Ness Monster in 2023? The Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register at this link documents nine accounts, two includes sketches, one include a video and five include photographs. The site makes no mention of the video taken by Matty and Aga but mentions a video taken by a Richard Story on the 3rd October whose account reads:

Richard Story, visiting from Wigton was on the high walk from Fort Augustus to Invergarry when he reported seeing a creature swim from the bank to the centre of the loch at 10.45am. It then disappeared and  then reappeared. He took some pictures and a video ...

The two stills available from this video are shown below and then overlaid using the single tree top as a merge point into the third composite image. There is some movement consistent with the statement that it moved towards the centre of the loch in the composite, but the error margin in the overlay doesn't make that a certainty. Currently, I have not found any clips from the video and so have to suspend judgment on it.

One of the other photos taken by a Siobhan Janaway on the 27th August during the Quest Weekend is below with the following account.

There was something causing turmoil in the water off Foyers point then it coalesced into a single object moving at speed just under the surface causing at least a 20m white wake" She confirmed that there were no boats near the location.

Now I can give this a non-Nessie explanation as I was there as a resident of the nearby camping site that same morning. As I stated in that trip report:

When I arose on the Sunday morning at Foyers, I looked out to the area where the River Foyers met the loch. The heightened flow of the river was rushing down to meet the loch and there was a lot of disturbance where the two collided. The general flow of the vaster body of the loch water was from the south west up the loch. However, the river water was hitting it at almost a right angle. 

The result was a wall of resistance as the river water tried to merge with the main waters. The dynamics of this interaction led to the river water rotating in the direction of the loch water but also turning back towards the river giving us a sort of whirlpool. I have seen this phenomenon before at this location some years before. It is not very dangerous as the waters are quite shallow there.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is the correct explanation as I have seen it myself in previous visits. An interesting sketch was produced by Sash Lake who recounted this tale from the 7th October 2023:

I was leaving Drumnadrochit on a coach, admiring the view while the coach was driving past the Loch. It started to rain and a light fog rolled in, my view/ vision was partly limited due to the trees alongside the Loch, but something caught my eye for approximately five seconds and made me jump out of my skin, I saw a huge black mass/ hump in the middle of the Loch, roughly the size of a double decker bus. I would say it was around 75-100 yards away from me. I was confused, and in disbelief. I jumped to my feet to get a better look, trees completely blocked my view for about 5-8 seconds, there was a clearing in the trees, and when I looked back to where I saw the black mass/ hump, there was nothing there.

How big is a double decker bus? Over thirty feet long, over seven feet wide and over fifteen feet high. Okay, not all those figures apply, but Mr. Lake was basically saying the size of the object was ... monstrous. A distance of 75-100 yards is good for a sighting but 5-8 seconds is not. The fact the object was not there on the next clear view excludes a variety of objects but it would have helped to know the rough location.

But the photographs which grabbed the attention most in 2023 were actually taken five years earlier in 2018 by Chie Kelly. She sat on them during that time fearing ridicule for her and her family but then said that the publicity associated with the weekend Quest motivated her to release some of the images she had snapped - apparently about sixteen out of over seventy as she employed a lot of rapid shooting as the object made its way out of Dores Bay. I found five of them and typed up a report here

A lot of discussion ensued with theories ranging from the interesting to the idiotic along with the promise of further images and perhaps even an animated sequence constructed from the dozens of pictures taken. Nearly five months on, no further information has been released and it seems we should get to the bottom of what these images are because if they are genuine, they may well contain valuable data. My take is these need to be explained, be they monster, natural, artefact or fake. This remains an ongoing story. 

In other news, there were three documentaries on the Loch Ness Monster which were televised, "Enigma: The Monster of Loch Ness", "Monster - The Mystery of Loch Ness" and "Loch Ness: They Created a Monster" which is pretty good going for one year. On this blog, the historical research continued as we covered some old LNIB reports, the first alleged sonar contact of the monster, the alleged connections to the early monster with the King Kong film of 1933, the Land Sighting of Alistair Dallas and the evolution of a famous diver's tale from the 1880s.

Looking forward and looking back, 2023 added its own images and talking points. The monster was not proven to exist but neither did the sceptics prove it does not exist. Zero progress you might say. Perhaps, but the analysis of 2023 is not yet completed.

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The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com