Showing posts sorted by relevance for query caves. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query caves. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, 3 May 2021

More on Giant Eel Stories


It is back to giant eels as I went through my research material and found a few stories of interest. Now I myself do not think the Loch Ness Monster is a giant eel, but that doesn't mean that opinion is false and various theories regarding the beast will continue to be blogged for the benefit of discussion. Of course, if a thirty foot eel is found at the loch, I would have to accept that the monster has been found and some explanation for the non-eel type sightings will be required. That has not happened and so we now continue with some letters from the Fortean Times magazine dated July 2006 (No.212). The first letter is from well known Fortean researcher, Mike Dash:

Loch Ness Eels 

I was very interested to read Jim Currie's letter (FT208:74) concerning rumours that apparently circulated in Glasgow shipyards during the 1960s of an underwater sighting of the Loch Ness Monster. According to Currie, a story went around that a car had careered off the road and into the loch and that when a diver was sent into the water to search for it, he found the vehicle perched on a ledge 80ft (24m) down and surfaced babbling about "giant eels, the size of a man's body, hundreds of them!" In one version of the account, Currie adds, the diver's hair went white and he was rendered insane by the experience.

This tale, which while undated seems to refer to an incident occurring in the latter half of the 20th century, is readily identifiable as a variant on a supposedly much older account first published in the first edition of Nicholas Witchell's The Loch Ness Story (1974) p.29. "There is an interesting story," Witchell writes, "of a diver, Duncan MacDonald, who was sent to examine a sunken ship off the Fort Augustus entrance to the Caledonian Canal in 1880. MacDonald was lowered into the water and shortly afterwards the men on the surface received frantic signals from him to be pulled up.

When he did surface it is said his face was like chalk and he was trembling violently. It was several days before he would talk about the incident, but eventually he described how he had been examining the keel of the ship when he saw a large animal lying on the shelf of rock on which the wreck was lodged. 'It was a very odd looking beast,' he said, `like a huge frog.' He refused to dive in the loch again."

The first point to make is that Witchell's account of the MacDonald sighting is unreferenced and no primary source has ever been found for it (see Ulrich Magin, "Waves Without Wind and a Floating Island: Historical Accounts of the Loch Ness Monster" in Fortean Studies 7 (2001) p.102). Thus, if Mr Currie's memory of dates is correct, his apparently later version, involving cars and eels, may actually predate the MacDonald story. The second is that neither account is at all likely to be true.

Aside from the obviously folkloric elements featured in both tales (hair turning white, refusal to dive again), numerous underwater surveys of Loch Ness, conducted with sonar and echo sounder apparatus, have failed to reveal the various subsurface features so often featured in popular accounts: underwater ledges, caves and even tunnels leading to the sea. Finally, as is fairly well known, underwater visibility at Loch Ness is negligible - of the order of a few feet once one ventures to any depth below the surface - thanks to the heavy concentration of silt particles washed into the loch from the surrounding hills. The reported observations of Duncan MacDonald and of Jim Currie's diver would simply not have been physically possible.

Mike Dash

London

That letter from issue 208 of Fortean Times is short and reproduced below:

When I worked in the Clyde shipyards in the 1960s, a story went round about Loch Ness. It was said a car had careered off the road into the loch and a diver was sent to investigate the insurance claim. Apparently the car had landed on a kind of ledge only about 80ft (24m) down. When the diver broke surface after investigating, he was heard to be babbling about "giant eels, the size of a man's body, hundreds of them!" In one version of the tale, the diver's hair turned white, while in another he became a babbling wreck confined to a lunatic asylum. Has anyone else heard this story? 

Jim Currie

Baillieston, Glasgow 


First off, Mike compares this underwater encounter with the better known story of Duncan MacDonald from 1880 described in Nicholas Witchell's "The Loch Ness Story". Though it is described as a "variant", the two tales are undoubtedly unconnected. It is correct to say Witchell's tale is unreferenced and it is my opinion, it was one of those stories related by locals to the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau team in their years at the loch during the 1960s and 1970s. The local was probably known to Witchell but requested anonymity.

At this point we can also include the stories of Robert Badger (link), James Honeyman (link) and an unnamed diver (link). So you can see we have a growing line of such stories. Now as to folkloric elements,  if Robert Badger in 1971 said he would never dive in the loch again, that would be understandable, not folkloric. We can quite readily assume it for any other diver after such an event. What is not clear is whether they vowed never to dive in Loch Ness again or anywhere at all.

The reference to hair whitening is indeed not true in the sense of happening overnight. However, extreme stress could trigger an autoimmune response which renders further hair growth a lighter colour, but that is speculation as such a condition has not even been recorded in Death Row. The only defense is that it is a figure of speech and not to be taken literally.

The two points about the nature of the loch itself take a rather binary view of the situation. The Duncan MacDonald account actually says "the rock ledge" and not "the shelf of rock". A rock ledge can mean several things. In the case of the loch, the land underwater can gently incline before one reaches a precipice which takes us over the edge into the deeper parts of the loch. Or it could simply be a ledge with a small drop and nothing more. It is my opinion that when ledges are spoken of in these reports, we are talking about these initial shallows and it is no surprise that boats end up there.

The other point about poor visibility underwater is taken, but in both cases discussed, the distance between diver and animal is not given, so how do we know it is a problem? Robert Badger states the creature he saw was about 15 to 20 feet away from him. The answer here is depth, once you get to a certain depth at say about seventy feet, then all light is lost. I would suggest these divers were at lower depths and/or the creature was as close as Robert Badger's incident. So visibility, though poor, is not a blocker.

However, Mr. Currie's diver's comments about hundreds of eels does not sound literally true if visibility is out to twenty feet, unless he had a good flashlight or he employed a metaphor to signify a lot of eels. One final thought I would add is that Jim Currie reminds me of the apocryphal James Currie, who was an alleged banker from the 1930s, who held a sensational film of the monster, but held it back until the public took it more seriously (link).  Does that suggest this person's name is not real and is taking us for a ride? With that we move onto the second letter by James Kitwood:


Jim Currie makes reference to a story about a giant eel seen in Loch Ness. He asks if anybody else has heard a similar story. It is said that during the construction of the hydroelectric plant at Foyers on the shore of Loch Ness, a lorry that had been dumping soil into the loch reversed too far and slid into the water. During the salvage operation. divers came up in a hurry and refused to go back as they had seen huge. hairy eels. In a related story about the Foyers power station, there was a rumour of giant eels that had been trapped against the metal grilles on the entrance to the water intake pipes. (Ness Information Service Newsletter 84, Oct 1987) In 1998 I wrote to Scottish Hydro Electric and received a letter from a man who had worked there since its commission in 1975. He said that the story about the lorry was unsubstantiated and the issue of large eels getting into the water-cooling system was a physical impossibility.

He did, however, relate a story he heard as a child about a diver who was lowered into Loch Lomond. When he resurfaced not only was he badly shaken, but his hair had turned grey. It seems this story is not unique to Loch Ness. Another Loch Ness eel story that may yet be possible to verify concerns a minesweeper travelling through the loch at the end of World War I. Apparently, the crew thought it would be a good idea to try and blow up the creature. They released a depth charge and after the explosion the bodies of two eels floated to the surface. One was 11ft (3.4m) long and one was 9ft (2.7m) long- but this was just the tail end of it! (Ness Information Service Newsletter 116, April 1993)

James Kitwood

Calverley, West Yorkshire 


Since James mentions his sources as Rip Hepple's Nessletters, we can have a look at them in more detail. The first being number 84 from October 1987 which I quote below. Rip had contacted a Mr. Hancock on updates for the then Operation Deepscan. He worked for the company which distributed Lowrance sonar systems in Britain and he relayed the story:

One evening after the days operation and evening meal they were relaxing in the hotel when a local man approached them and told them of a big eel. Foyers hydro-electric station is one of the water storage type, pumping water from Loch Ness up to Loch Mhor when there is spare electricity, then using it to generate power during peak periods. The water intakes have metal grids over them, to protect fish being sucked in. This local told them that some time ago staff noted that water pressure was falling and when they investigated, the grid on one of the intakes was clogged up with eels among them a real giant of around 18 to 20 feet long and some 2/3 feet in diameter. I do not really know what to make of this story, Mr Hancock said the man seemed sincere.

One point that came to me later was the question of how could the grid be seen, the intakes must be some distance below the surface, well out of sight unless there are observation ports of some kind built into the installation. To clear the grids of debris the usual practice is to stop the turbines and allow the water to back-flush the system.

I remember that another giant eel story did the rounds when the power station was being built. A wagon driver was dumping soil in the loch when he got too close to the edge and managed .to lose the wagon into the water as well . The story was that divers went down to attach lifting gear, but they came· up in a hurry and refused to go back down, claiming they had seen huge, hairy eels. Attempts were made to locate the divers later, but failed and the story remained hearsay. Perhaps the account told to Mr Hancock will remain in the same category. 


This story has been remarked on before in less detail and it presents a few questions. The first is the obvious one as to why finding the remains of a 20 foot eel did not lead to sensational headlines and a carcass ending up at the Natural History Museum? Since the grid has to stop all manner of fish, the meshing must be quite fine which makes one ask how a powerful large eel could get stuck there? The answer to that may be the ability of the pump storage devices to suck up 160 tonnes of water per second! 

Nevertheless, why no body parts? I thought perhaps this was a pre-Nessie event before 1933 since a hydro-power station has been in operation since 1895 when it supplied power to the now derelict aluminium smelting plant. Perhaps so, but that was a low powered setup and it was not until 1976 that the present 300MW plant came into operation, so I suspect the tale is from that year onward. 

Or we could speculate they failed to obtain any physical evidence because, as Rip says above, the pumps were turned off and the back-flush drove the eels back into the deep. Or perhaps they couldn't get samples. If any of these critters were still alive, no diver would go near one, even for a ton of gold. We also have James Kitwood's letter above in which he states he wrote to a worker at the power plant who could not confirm the story and thought it was a physical impossibility anyway. Which turns us back to 1987 and who on earth was this chap who walked into that hotel and related the story? We may never know and move on.

Rip's second tale about the dump truck falling into the loch is also tantalizing and the hairiness of the eels reminds us of the mane seen on the monster. If this were true, it would suggest these are not the species of European eel that inhabit the loch. But once again we are frustrated by the lack of a first hand testimony by one of these divers. The second account from Mr. Kitwood regarding the depth charging of Loch Ness is from Nessletter 116 dated January 1994 and relates a story told by an angling correspondent for the "Salmon, Trout & Sea-Trout" magazine called "Viking". It is dated February 1993 and Viking is quoted first:

At the end of the first world war, a mine-sweeper was on her way through from Fort William in the west to the Beauly Firth in the east, by the Caledonian Canal that connects the great lochs to the sea. On her way down Loch Ness she passed over the depths below Urquhart Castle which are a favourite of the 'Beastie'. The crew had been celebrating peace all the way and still had depth charges ready to launch. Some one had the bright idea of having a go for the monster, so they set off a charge and up came two gigantic eels. One was 11ft long and the other 9ft, but that was only the tail-end!

Rip Hepple then adds his thoughts:

Viking said that is a true story. I wonder how, after seventy years such facts could be checked? Lobbing live depth charges into Scottish lochs would hardly be legal, even in celebratory high spirits, so I doubt if any official record would have been kept. However he does go on with an account of an incident which happened to him. Saying, 'An old friend of mine, now long gone to the 'fishers tryst', was trapping salmon for the hatchery on the River Garry at the top of Loch Ness. The fish he trapped were kept in a long iron tank until they were ready to be stripped of their eggs. The water supply was piped from the tail-race of the small hydro-electric generating station a short distance upstream, where the blades in the Francis turbine could chop up migrating eels. A chunk of eel had blocked the pipe which was 5 inches in diameter. it must have come from an eel at least 10 feet long.' 

One does not doubt that minesweepers passed through Loch Ness and it is possible they indulged in this foolish behaviour. However, the incident is dated to 1918 and the Loch Ness Monster did not become a national phenomenon for another 15 years. It was however a well known local legend, but since a Royal Navy vessel would contain a crew from all over the United Kingdom, they were unlikely to have any regard to this.

Depth charges were developed to take out German submarines and could be preset to detonates at depths of up to 300 feet. In this instance two dead giant eels were observed coming to the surface. One presumes they were forced to the surface by the explosion and then promptly sunk again in the normal manner. To achieve this, the charge must have detonated at a depth a lot less than 300 feet. Viking says this is a true story and, 28 years on, perhaps he is still alive to state who his source was? To that we can add nothing more, you either believe it or you don't.

Viking's final tale about finding a five inch diameter chunk of eel is interesting and probably the most credible to the bulk of readers. He suggests this scales up to an eel at least ten feet long. My own scaling measurements based on a good picture of an adult European eel suggests a length of eight feet. Nevertheless, that is a substantial eel as all eels caught in Loch Ness will be less than three feet and would raise some serious questions. Note a thirty foot eel would scale up to a diameter of  about one and a half feet, unless you ascribe to Roy Mackal's thick bodied eel theory.

So there we have several tales of giant eels in Loch Ness, all at best second hand tales. Where does it take us? Not very far, but it will be of value to some more than others.



The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Monday, 9 July 2018

Who is Mickey Weatherly?





I now quote an article from the Adventure Club of Europe.



This letter from Mickey Weatherly was written in 1940, but was handed over to the members of the Adventure Club of Europe in 1994.


Dear friends and colleagues of the ACE,

I would like to apologize to you all with all my heart. When you will get this letter, then my secret is probably somehow betrayed. Yes, I falsified the photograph of the creature in Loch Ness. But, to my soul, I would like to say heartily that I have personally seen this being and proved its existence. In 1932 the great goal of my life was fulfilled, I found the evidence of a being in Loch Ness. I had risked my life there several times in dives since the difficult tectonics under water, the sharp-edged stone slabs and an opaque arrangement of caves make the superficially quiet lake a subterranean labyrinth.

Loch Ness is dark waters and I meant not only the color. The lake holds a secret. It is deep, gloomy, and unyielding, like the sea itself. I don’t have to tell you how much this mystery kept pushing me into the highlands of Scotland, is it not an incentive for all of us to curb these secrets of the world? On one of my dives on 21.08.1932 a white plate shone through the dirty, gloomy water. I tried to grab this plate, but it was heavy, very firm and unusually furrowed. Nevertheless, I could grab it, and from the entanglement of mud, algae and the tribulation of the lake a huge egg-shell appeared. Yes, my dear colleagues, a bowl of ice about 1 meter long.

I noticed how the wave movements in the water grew stronger, as the pressure changed, and in the cloudy a still more turbid being swam towards me. I swear to God, I looked the dam straight into the eyes. My lungs were filling with water, dirty, muddy water. I wanted to spit. On a sharp edge my air hose had blended. I would not give this egg for my life, but I had to get to the surface. The wave movements made the orientation difficult for me, and the egg shell I held were pushed repeatedly, as if this Loch Ness creature would want to prevent the proof of its existence at all costs.

I lost consciousness when I saw the sunbeams of Scotland in front of my eyes. When I woke up and was still alive, I also had the egg next to me. Heureka! But my euphoria was suddenly quenched by the reactions from the presumed research. But what kind of researchers are these, what servants of the truth are they, who accused me of lying? They claimed that my lack of oxygen had dampened my senses, that my craving for attention had invented the piece of evidence, and that my relic, the egg, whose battle I had almost lost my life for, was a simple stone showing its age.

I went for diving several times at the place where I found the egg, but could never again look into the dark eyes of the Loch Ness. This disgrace, this disappointment and then this rage. They drove me to this. Yes, I displayed the photo some months later and today I feel ashamed about it. But at that time, I wanted to give the research, what they returned to me only with mockery. It would give me some peace of mind, if Nessi’s egg, would get exposed at an exhibition venue here in the Adventure Club of Europe, where it would be taken more seriously by real adventurers.

Your ACE friend,

Mickey Weatherly

Quite a story you may think albeit with various errors. Just in case you think we have a Nessie egg in a similar fashion to "The Water Horse" film, it is all just a fiction. The Adventure Club of Europe is a new addition to a German theme park, so you can go along and see the egg for yourself if you are nearby.







The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com





Saturday, 22 January 2022

The Monster of Lago Di Garda

 


A recent photograph has circulated on social media purporting to be the legendary beast of Lake Garda in Italy. Now this is a cryptid tale I am not familiar with but I had a look into it for this piece. The actual posts on the picture were in Italian and so a translation was required. From the Italian:

Ciao a Tutti Fatto questa foto a Manerba sul Lago dl Garda queste estate! Prova a aprire la foto Forse sono solo lo che vedo qualcosa di strano o anche voi? 


Ho fatto delle elaborazioni della immagine del lago di Garda . immagine piu chiara e definita. SI vedono le pinne sotto il pelo dell'acqua i sole che si riflette su parte della testa e sulla parte del corpo esposta al sole (macchie bianche). Per la lunghezza se qualcuno puo elaborarla avendo come punti di riferimento la barca, a occhio non piu di 5/8 metri. Lascio a voi un giudizio.

We get this through Google Translate:

Hello everyone Made this photo in Manerba on Lake Garda this summer! Try to open the photo Maybe I'm just seeing something strange or you too?

I did some elaborations of the image of Lake Garda. clearer and more defined image. You can see the fins under the surface of the water the sun reflecting on part of the head and on the part of the body exposed to the sun (white spots). For the length if someone can process it having as reference points the boat, to the eye no more than 5/8 meters. I leave a judgment to you.

I know, it is a bit terse when you use Google Translate, but we get the gist of the text and that the poster is the taker of the image. His brief post suggests he was no aware of anything in the picture until he examined it more closely. Here is the wider photograph of the lake with the object of interest to the bottom left. After this is a processed image by the owner, whose identity we do not know yet as it has been edited out.





As a digression, Lago Di Garda does indeed have a monster tradition as this text from a tour cruise website summarizes:

Aside from many historical legends about the towns surrounding its shores, with its castles, kings, princesses, princes, and battles, Lake Garda also has a myth about a creature that inhabits its abyss. According to some, inside Lake Garda there may be a prehistoric monster called Bennie, that may even be related to the well-known Nessie, the monster of Loch Ness, in Scotland.

The hypothetical presence of a beast of colossal size in the placid waters of Lake Garda has ancient roots. Since the middle ages there have been sightings of sea monsters that terrified fishermen, local inhabitants, and monks of the monastery on Garda Island. But the legend of the monster of Lake Garda began in the 20th century. The most renowned sighting dates back to the 17th of August 1965 near Mermaid Bay (Baia delle Sirene) on the eastern coast of the lake, not far from the town of Garda.

It was here that a group of about 10 tourists claims to have seen a huge 10 metre long sea creature with a shape similar to a snake rise from the water, and then plunge back into the underwater caves of Garda Island, where it may live shrouded in darkness. The event was reported by many national newspapers and immediately became one of the most intriguing mysteries of Lake Garda.

Garda isn’t the only Italian lake to have its own monster. Even Lake Como has its own legend that talks about a monster roaming its waters called Lariosauro (Lariosaurus). The presence of fish monsters has become one of the main Garda related news in the past few years.

Over the decades, the sightings became more and more frequent, especially from the year 2000 forward. There are about 15 sightings or so, and the “monster” of Garda Lake earned the nickname “Bennie”, in honour of Lake Garda’s ancient name: Benaco. In 2001 a diver claims to have seen Bennie near Gargnano, a later sighting was reported by a hotel owner in the area of Manerba, and in 2013, once again in the area of Mermaid Bay, which seems to be the most mysterious part of the lake, a family claims to have seen a creature over 15 metres in height, with the scary mixed appearance of a snake and a whale.

The last sightings of the Lake Garda monster date back to 2016 and 2018, and Bennie’s international fame has in recent years brought to the origin of many lake tours dedicated to him, as well as many souvenirs and gadgets.

Bennie, named like this by Armando Bellelli, native to Desenzano and expert in mystery stories, is considered to be a “good” monster who has never attacked anyone, and is, in the collective imagination of the locals, depicted as a good fellow, a timid guardian of the lake, who protects it from pollution and excessive exploitation from men.

The mystery of Bennie and its presence in Lake Garda has aroused great interest not only among those passionate about mysteries and legends, but also among the media, like in the TV show “Mistero” (Mystery), on air on Italia Uno, and scientists, like biologist Jeremy Wade, director of the BBC show dedicated to mysterious sea creatures called “River Monsters”.

During an episode dedicated to Lake Garda, that went on air in August 2019, Jeremy Wade has actually caught a giant torpedo catfish over 120kg in weight and 2m in length, but this doesn’t seem enough to describe the mystery of the Garda Lake Monster.

It is in fact believed that in recent years the number of catfish in Lake Garda has been on the rise, with the fishing of some specimen around 80kg in weight, but sightings of the innocuous Bennie continue. To go “hunt” Bennie there have been explorative missions with robots and sonars to scan the depths of the lake, but the mystery, just like with Loch Ness, has yet to be resolved...

Lake Garda itself is located in the North of Italy, about 100 km east of Milan and a similar distance to the west where the sea is. It is about 44 km long and varies between 2 and 10 km wide, so it is of a similar size to Loch Ness. So it has a monster tradition and of a size big enough to harbour one. But what about the photograph? A YouTube reference to the picture was dated to September 2017, so it is over four years old. A quick look at Lake Garda and comparing the picture with satellite coastline gives the location of the picture and confirming it as near the town of Manerba.





Not that this tells us nothing about the genuineness of the photograph. The poster refers to the white boat to the left of the object and I would guess is at least 15 foot long, making the object at least twice as long at thirty feet long - a typical Nessie length. However, that would make the boat a mere sixty feet from the object, which naturally raises the question - did the boat occupants see this object? 




The boat is moving away from the object, if it is moving at all as I cannot see any wake. I see no one on board but that is a hunch. I get the impression it is shallow water, but again this is something I cannot be dogmatic on. There is also a pier to the left at a similar distance with buildings and there are other boats further out - how did no one see this and get some superb pictures? To a lesser extent, why did he not see it at the time?

Which brings us to the main point. It is easy to produce such a picture using image manipulation software - as we saw with the recent so called drone footage of Nessie. In fact, the ease of production and the ready availability of people ready to hoax has made many take the default position that any such picture will be a hoax until proven otherwise. It's really a case of guilty until proven innocent in the world of cryptid images and proving your "innocence" is no easy matter.

So the first task is to find a plesiosaur image of similar posture on the Internet which may have been overlaid into the original photograph or find the original photograph minus a monster. On my own searches of the first few hundred plesiosaur images on Google, I saw nothing which matched well and a look at tourist pictures of the bay did not show up the bay with the same boat in position but with no "Bennie". 

Of course, my search was not exhaustive and the bay photo may have been a picture taken by the poster but I invite others to have a look around. So, as I said, it is guilty until proven innocent these days and time must be allowed to make progress on finding the two incriminating pictures I mentioned before further comments are made.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com



Wednesday, 21 September 2016

In The Dead of the Night






"As darkness settled over the Great Glen I began to realise what a strange place I had come into. After sunset, Loch Ness is not a water by which to linger. The feeling is hard to define and impossible to explain. But there are reasons for all things and it is true that the soul of man was not forged in a day. Our genes have come down over a million years, from hutments and lake-dwellings, from dark gorges and cold caves. The seat of man's deepest instincts was planted sometime before the Pleistoscene; our subconcious has accumulated many strange impressions and none of these can be gainsaid. After dark I felt that Loch Ness was better left alone."

So said Ted Holiday in his book, "The Great Orm of Loch Ness", over a generation ago in regard to his first expedition to the loch. I was not even born when Holiday arrived there in 1962. But this week I stood along the same stretch of lonely road fifty four years later and took the picture above as a nearly full moon shone upon the loch's wavering waters.

However, the troubled thoughts Ted Holiday had concerning a dark Loch Ness did not really impact me as I stood there at about five thirty in the morning near the end of one of my regular night runs between Inverfarigaig and Dores. The road's official designation is the B852 but I nickname it "Monster Alley" due to its high proportion of reports of Nessie on land.

Of course, when one is on their own in moonlit darkness by the side of a loch with a monstrous reputation, they might feel some unease. There is the evil that lingers from Boleskine House just about a mile away plus nearby stories of necromancers and ghouls assaulting monster hunters. But, I think I was more inclined towards serenity as I scanned the peaceful scene before me and the waves lapping against the stones below what is called "The Wall".

With the dashcam camera attached to the car windscreen, I recorded the whole trip and anything of interest that happened along the way. This nine mile stretch of road just before dawn is the best situation for witnessing a land sighting, though the odds are still very much against anyone being party to such an extraordinary prospect. It is a mystery within a mystery as to why these creatures make these rarest of rare appearances.

The basics of such cases were laid out in this article, but since 1960 there has been only thirteen claimed land reports. That is about one every four years for the entire perimeter of the loch. Clearly, one should not bet the house on having such an experience even with the best intentions and preparation.

That said, the raison d'etre behind these night runs is not just monstrous. I have been conducting deer studies as I plow these dark miles and now have a better understanding of the behaviour of deer in regard to the sceptical use of them in such monster cases. I will use these in future articles.

A video of the same scene is below (though the uploaded video is never as good a quality as the original). More on my recent trip to Loch Ness will follow.




The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com




Monday, 7 August 2017

The Mythology of the Hambro Tragedy




It is a story woven into the tapestry of the Loch Ness saga, but whether it has anything to do with the monster of said loch has been a matter of debate and speculation. In its own right it is a story worthy of publication - famous sporting wife of rich banking husband dies in a boat explosion on Loch Ness. Four people survive and one does not. Searches were made for the body and divers were sent down into the inky depths of the loch to find and recover the body, but no body was ever found.



Winifred Hambro is shown above and the basic story can be read from a contemporary account in the Yorkshire Post of the 31st August 1932. Mr. Hambro's final act was to erect a memorial to his wife which stands above Glendoe to this day.




Other contemporary sources of the time tell us that the Hambros were likely regular visitors to Loch Ness as an older report from the Inverness Courier (12th August 1930) describes the first trials of a 60mph speedboat by Mr. Hambro. As to the actual search for the body a few days later, we are told of how the Scott II was involved but the search was postponed for a week as stormy weather threw water into the boat's wheelhouse. Ultimately, the search was given up when soundings showed that the depth of the loch 12 feet from the shore was a remarkable 342 feet.

However, after this, more sinister stories began to weave themselves around the tragedy. We're talking about tales of divers being confronted by great cavernous underwater caves and ashen faced divers racing to the surface after being terrified by giant eels. Moreover, there was the question of why Mrs Hambro, an accomplished swimmer, simply disappeared from view? Was she taken by the monster and dragged down to a grisly death?

Heady stuff, but what is fact and what is fiction?



BANKER'S WIFE DROWNED 

Speedboat Tragedy on Loch Ness 

MRS. R. O. HAMBRO

Lost After Leap from Burning Craft

The body of Mrs. Hambro, wife of Mr. R. O. Hambro, the banker, who lost her life after a speedboat burst into flames on Loch Ness, Inverness-shire, on Sunday, had not been recovered last evening.

Mrs. Hambro and her husband, their two sons and a governess set out for a trip down the Loch in beautiful weather, with Mr. Hambro at the wheel of the speedboat, which was of the most modern type. When they were six miles down the Loch, where it is over 100 feet deep, and when the speedboat was over 40 yards away from shore, there was a loud explosion and the boat burst into flames.

Mr. and Mrs. Hambro, both excellent swimmers and their two sons jumped into the water. The nurse, although a swimmer, decided to stay in the burning boat, which began to drift slowly towards the shore. Mr. Hambro, looked after the two boys and kept them afloat, and he soon swam the 40 yards to the shore.

Mrs Hambro was swimming strongly behind, but before reaching the shore she disappeared. The governess was still in the burning vessel, but when it went near the shore she leaped into the water and ultimately reached the edge. The tragedy was seen from the Inverness-shire side of the Loch, over a mile distant, and Mr. J. M. Kydd. son of Mr. Kydd, of the Invermoriston Hotel, set out in a fast motor-boat to the scene. When he arrived Mr. Hambro, his sons and the governess had reached the shore, but no trace of Mrs. Hambro could be found.

Mr Hambro has been Chairman of Hambros Bank since March 31 last, and is also Managing Director. Mrs. Hambro, was formerly Miss Winifred Martin Smith, a prominent woman golfer. In 1919 she won the Ladies' Parliamentary Handicap, and, with Miss Wethered the "Eve" foursome in 1923. The same year she represented England in the international matches against Scotland. In 1929 she won the Sussex Women's Championship at Cooden Reach. Mrs. Hambro was a member of several well known golf clubs, including Ashdown Forest Ladies' Club, of which she had been captain.





To this we may also attach the report from the Scotsman for August 30th 1932 (the Colonel Lane mentioned just happened to become the author of the first book on the monster):

Details of a speedboat accident which occurred on Loch Ness on Sunday afternoon reached Inverness yesterday. Mrs Hambro, wife of Mr R. O. Hambro, of Glendoe, a shooting lodge above Fort Augustus, was drowned, and her husband, two young sons, and a governess, had a miraculous escape with their lives. 

As the afternoon was sunny, the party left for a run down Loch Ness, which was as placid as a lake. Mr Hambro steered the boat, and when it was speeding along about three miles down the loch, just opposite Invermoriston, there was a loud explosion, and the boat became enveloped in flames. 

Mr Hambro and Mrs Hambro, who were both good swimmers, decided to abandon the boat and swim ashore, a distance of over 100 yards, and at a very deep part of the loch they tied a life belt round the two boys, who were aged 6 and 13 years. Miss Calvert, the governess, decided to remain on the burning vessel. Mr and Mrs Hambro leapt into the water with the two boys, and Mr Hambro, pushing the boys in front of him, was successful in reaching the shore. Mrs Hambro, who was swimming strongly behind, before reaching safety suddenly collapsed and disappeared. 

The boys' governess was still in the boat, which after a bit drifted towards the shore. When the hull got near the rocks she left it, and was able to get to the land. 

The accident was observed on the opposite side of the loch by Lt.-Colonel Lane, Invermoriston, who raised the alarm. Another eye-witness, Mr Ian Kydd, son of the hotel-keeper at Invermoriston, set out in his father's motor boat, but by the time he reached the scene of the tragedy the occupants had reached the shore, all but Mrs Hambro. A search was made, but no trace of her could be found. 

The survivors were later taken aboard Mr Kydd's motor boat, and it recrossed the loch to the Invermoriston side, where the party were quickly conveyed to the hotel. Other boats arrived on the scene. Up till last night a search was being made for Mrs Hambro's body, but without success. The depth of the water where the accident took place is from 150 to 200 feet.

The tragedy has created much pain in the Fort Augustus district, where Mrs Hambro was very popular, and had, when North at the shooting season, taken a keen interest in local activities. She was at a flower show held in Fort Augustus on Saturday.


SPECULATIONS

In his book, "The Loch Ness Monster and Others", Rupert Gould picks up on the story two years later addressing the issue of underwater caverns. It seems the Press had publicised comments from divers claiming they had seen such structures, but Gould pooh-poohs the story suspecting the story "emanated from persons who knew very little about diving". One such media story came from a letter by Harold Frere to the Inverness Courier (20th October 1933) in which he states "the divers who looked for Mrs Hambro's body reported that they discovered an overhanging shelf deep down under the loch surface." and it seems this soon became rather more cavernous.

However, the matter is not too difficult to resolve as Paul Harrison tells us in his "The Encyclopaedia of the Loch Ness Monster" that the diver employed by Hambro went down to a depth of 150 feet in pursuit of the body. Since visibility at that depth is virtually nil, it is highly unlikely anything of a cavernous nature would be visible. Of course, one could say that the diver may have inferred the presence of such a gaping maw by feeling his way around. However, tracing out a huge cavern by foot and hand sounds a major task. Nevertheless, the door is left slightly ajar.

Subsequent sonar investigations have not found such caverns, though it is possible the diver did indeed encounter rocky outcrops or overhangs and decided (without going further in) that there was a void beyond. Note that Gould makes no mention of rumours of giant eels, since in 1932 such stories were still in the womb of the yet to be born Nessie story.

Such was the story and rumours in 1934 and the Hambro episode disappeared from view for thirty years as other stories dominated the lore of the loch. By 1969, the story took a new twist when David Cooke in his "The Great Monster Hunt", took up the tale of the Hambros once again.

Cooke had done the rounds of the loch in preparation for his book, picking up stories and collating them for publication. He recounts the tragedy (getting some things wrong such as stating Mrs. Hambro was the only swimmer) and tells us that divers had been sent down by an insurance company to recover not only the body but also valuable pearls Mr. Hambro said his wife was wearing and wished to put a claim against.

Cooke then tells us of divers going down once but coming up with whitened hair refusing to dive again and babbling of giant eels and treacherous currents. Cooke, having tantalised, dismisses the talk about whitened divers and giant eels by again referring to the blackened depths as well as the disorienting effects of not knowing which way is up. He also refers to long ribbons of "clinging slime" at such depths, as if to suggest this could simulate the effect of giant eels brushing past you.

The source of these stories seems clear enough as Cooke says "some people tell that" which suggests he had picked up these from either locals or LNIB people. Nicholas Witchell is his 1974 work, "The Loch Ness Story", says pretty much the same thing but excludes references to giant eels.

A year later, Tim Dinsdale wrote of the Hambro story in his book, "Project Water Horse" and acknowledged the wild swings in this story, citing a dozen variations he was aware of. Tim had got in contact with an elderly Highlander who had a relative that was in service at the Glendoe Lodge  when the Hambros were living there and recounted a story similar to the one quoted from the Yorkshire Post above. He added that Mrs. Hambro "just disappeared, suddenly and without sound or splashing".

However (unlike Tim's musings about the death of speed boater John Cobb), he ascribes no cryptozoological suspicions to this, citing the icy cold water as that which dragged her down. The story of the unnerved divers is again ascribed to the blackness of the darkness that surprised them.

Now quite where the story of giant eels came from is not seen in any primary source and I will assume for now it was more likely the speculations of 1960s monster hunters rather than any direct report from divers.

CONCLUSION

But what about the idea that Mrs. Hambro herself was the victim of a large, unknown animal? I don't see that quoted or discussed in the list of books I consulted (though that does not preclude it lying in the corner of some book somewhere) and wonder if it is more the product of the Internet age, finding its origin in some article or discussion forum?

Be that as it may, is there any merit to this idea? Clearly, there is no direct evidence of such a thing but, on examining the original reports for the first time, several questions were raised in my mind. Firstly, Mrs. Hambro was evidently an athletic woman and a capable swimmer. How did she not manage to swim the forty yards to shore? Indeed it seems she was only a few yards from shore when she sank.

Tim Dinsdale above talks of her succumbing to the cold waters and I accept that finding yourself in the loch is a life threatening situation if you do not get yourself out within 30 minutes (as attested to in this modern report of a rescue). But in that case how did her six and thirteen year old sons and Mr. Hambro escape this predicament?

Also, if she did get into trouble, she was near her family swimming as a group towards shore, how did they not manage to come to her aid? After all, people do not simply sink like a stone.

Moreover, what was it the governess, Miss Calvert, saw that made her decide the better option was to stay on a burning boat rather than swim to shore (she is also described as a swimmer)? Surely an odd choice given the circumstances. If only one could talk to Miss Calvert today and clear up this matter as I regard her as the main witness to these unfortunate events (perhaps a coroner's report exists somewhere).

Of course, none of this proves a large creature was involved and we may rather speculate that Mrs. Hambro suffered a heart attack due to a cold shock which would seal her fate. That seems unlikely given her youth and athleticism, but again, one would say that this is less unlikely than being dragged underwater to your death by a thirty foot predator.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com











Sunday, 7 August 2016

A Review of Darren Naish's "Hunting Monsters"




It appears that the latter end of this year will have more than its fair share of book reviews as several books on the Loch Ness Monster make their way to the publishers. In that light, I thought I would get one review out of the way that has lain in the form of written notes for some months now.

I refer to Darren Naish's "Hunting Monsters: Cryptozoology and the Reality Behind the Myths" which was published in Kindle format back in January this year. As you can guess from the title, the mode is very much debunking the "myth" and presenting the sceptical view of "reality".

Darren's ebook comes after a similar publication from 2012 entitled "Abominable Science!" by Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero. That book was praised to the skies by the sceptics but when a closer look was taken by those who did not have a vested interest in the book, things began to fall apart. My review of that book can be found here.

Is this book any better? I would say it is, though the presented "reality" against the "myth" of the Loch Ness Monster is again far from conclusive. Compared to "Abominable Science!", there is more attempts to be original in the thinking behind sceptical interpretations of Nessie cases. However, it has to be said, that a lot of that thinking seemed to originate from sources other than Darren. 

The book begins with an assertion that the diversity of creatures described points more to human imagination than actual animals awaiting discovery. The book seems to present us with an either/or choice here, but it is not as simple as that. My alternative opinion is that differences in monsters described is down to various factors.

Firstly, witnesses do not always get the details right. Even though they may have seen something large and alive, the finer the detail described, the greater the room for error. This is especially so at greater distances and other conditions which disturb a clear view. Also, it is clear that some of the 1800 or so accounts will be tall tales. If you have someone fabricating their account, then they could describe almost anything that muddies the waters and corrupts the database. 

Roy Mackal, in his book, "The Monsters of Loch Ness", took the position that 90% of all sightings were fake or misinterpretation. I do not personally think the percentage is that high, but if it was that close, it is no surprise that non-monster accounts contribute to an unclear picture.

Again, the King Kong film is raised as an influence. I covered this in my review of "Abominable Science!". Suffice to say it is not a convincing theory. Some mistakes began to surface as I read through the book. For example, in "showing how things were afoot at the loch at the time" before the famous Spicer report, Darren mentions the 1932 Fordyce land sighting. However, that story was not made public until 1990 and had nothing to do with the mood "at the time".

The aforementioned Spicer story is examined and I wish to point out an example of exaggerated narrative from Darren. Of this sighting he says:

Over the years, the description became increasingly sensational. It started out as 2– 2.5 m in length but gradually increased to 9m.

Unfortunately, this is the kind of subliminal language that implants the wrong kind of impression into the mind of the reader. Darren appears to be trying to demonstrate that monster stories grow with the telling. However, he is completely wrong. The first account from the 4th August 1933 does indeed state the size of the creature as being 6 to 8 feet. However, the "gradual" part is not true.

The truth rather lies in Rupert T. Gould's book, "The Loch Ness Monster and Others", published about 10 months after the Spicer event. Gould quotes a letter to him from George Spicer which states:

After having ascertained the width of the road, and giving the matter mature thought in every way, I afterwards came to the conclusion that the creature I saw must have been at least 25 feet in length.

It's as simple as that. George Spicer re-evaluated based on the width of the "ruler" the monster had been seen crossing over - the road. Why Darren Naish omitted this detail is not clear. After all, he quotes Gould in regard to this case. In the context of such inaccuracies, I noticed one withering reviewer of this book on Amazon declare this:

"Anyone who actually believes in the Loch Ness monster ... should read this - it would help them to grow up.

Now I don't know if this reviewer could even find Loch Ness on a map, but one gets the impression that such reviewers have a picture of "believers" running to their caves in fear of such cutting sceptical books exposing their so-called psychological deficiencies. The truth is that a lot of these reviewers know little about Loch Ness and its Monster and assume these like-minded authors speak with unerring accuracy on Loch Ness matters. They don't. Period.

Whereas Loxton and Prothero seemed to not go beyond 1994 in sceptical Nessie thinking, Darren presents more modern interpretations - such as the famous Hugh Gray and Peter O'Connor photographs. He suggests Hugh Gray photographed a swan and Peter O'Connor used his canoe to fake the well known hump picture. 

Well, I looked at the Gray and O'Connor theories and put a bullet through them here and here. Advocates of a large, exotic species in Loch Ness need have no fear of such theorising by sceptics. In fact, I enjoy dismantling their weak theories and this book was no exception.

Now I mentioned that Darren was not the actual source of these swan and canoe theories. That honour goes to long time Nessie sceptic, Dick Raynor. How much of Darren's treatise on the Loch Ness Monster is actually his own or others such as Dick Raynor is hard to ascertain, but these easily challenged theories were known to me well before Darren's book.

Another place where Naish relies on Raynor is the aforementioned Fordyce land sighting. We are told that, in fact, what Mr. Fordyce saw that day was a donkey carrying a dead deer bagged by some hunting party. Here is a picture of a horse carrying a bagged stag compared to the animal that Lt. Cmd. Fordyce claimed to have seen.





 
Yes, I can see what they are driving at here ... not. Some of the interpretations of the sceptic baffle me. I admit the Fordyce creature is strange - even by Loch Ness Monster standards. But, even allowing for memory lapses on the part of Fordyce, nobody should accept such a weak explanation. Better to say nothing and take a neutral position.

I could go on with the problems with this Nessie section of Darren's book. His handling of the folklore of the Loch Ness Water Horse is unsatisfactory. You can read my introduction to this theme here. His dismissal of pre-1933 accounts is, of course, vital to the framework of the sceptical theory since it relies on Nessie being a creation of the Great Depression years.

Moreover, his description of Richard Franck's 17th century "floating island" at Loch Ness, as a man-made raft runs completely counter to what even Franck theorised about this strange object from 1658.

A thought did cross my mind as to whether Dick was grooming Darren as his successor. After all, Dick is now moving into his late sixties, as is Adrian Shine. Despite our best intentions, old age will eventually put a stop to any argument or debate one may wish to engage in and the question of succession seems to be a serious question for Loch Ness sceptics.

As I survey the online and published domains, I see no clear and worthy successors. Perhaps Darren is seen as "The One", but in my view, once Dick and Adrian get out their slippers and pipe, Loch Ness scepticism will go down the plug hole.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com








Tuesday, 19 January 2016

New Record Depth for Loch Ness?

Has a new depth of 889 feet been recorded in Loch Ness, beating the established record of 754 feet by 135 feet? New sonar readings suggest so, but some third party verification may be required here. You may remember "Edward's Deep" of 812 feet which failed to stand up to verification, so some caution is required when side echoes from the loch all can "muddy" the waters.

What more interested me was this line, though I doubt we will hear more about it:

But two weeks ago, I got a sonar image of what looked like a long object with a hump lying at the bottom. It wasn't there when I scanned the loch bed later. 
 
Link to original story here and also here.






It has evaded capture for years, with dozens of alleged sightings and endless speculation about its whereabouts. 

But the hunt for the Loch Ness monster has just become even more arduous, after a retired fisherman used sonar equipment to show that it could be hiding at previously undiscovered depths. 
Tourist sightseeing boat skipper Keith Stewart, 43, claims to have found a crevice large enough for the phantom beast to be hiding in, about nine miles east of Inverness. 

Britain's deepest loch is Loch Morar, allegedly home to another elusive “water kelpie” Morag at 1017 feet. 
Loch Ness is the UK’s second largest, with an official maximum depth previously recorded at 754 feet. However, Mr Stewart says that his newly discovered crevice measures 889 feet deep, according to his state of the art sonar equipment. 

His colleagues at Jacobite Cruises, which operates sightseeing cruises down Loch Ness from Inverness, have labelled it “Keith's Abyss”. 

"I wasn't really a believer of the monster beforehand,” Mr Stewart said. 

“But two weeks ago, I got a sonar image of what looked like a long object with a hump lying at the bottom. It wasn't there when I scanned the loch bed later. 

"That intrigued me and then I found this dark shape about half way between the Clansman Hotel and Drumnadrochit which transpired to be a crevice or trench. 

“I measured it with our state of the art 3D equipment at 889 feet. I have gone back several times over the abyss and I have verified my measurements. 

"It is only about a few hundred yards offshore whereas previous sonar searches have traditionally been down the middle of the loch. 

"Searches of the monster have also been in those areas as well as Urquhart Bay so maybe the local legends of underwater caves connecting Loch Ness to other lochs and perhaps even the waters of the east and west coast are true.” 

Mr Stewart conceded that his discovery will “need more research” adding: “It is possible that an underwater earthquake has opened this up in recent times because the Great Glen lies in a well known fault in the earth's crust and tremors have been felt along it.” 

Adrian Shine, leader of the scientific research organisation The Loch Ness Project, said that he and his colleagues “may well take a look at the area” identified by Mr Stewart. 

However, he urged caution about sonar readings taken close to the edge of the loch. 

“I would be cautious [about Mr Stewart’s findings] because there is an anomaly which occurs with sonar readings taken close to the side walls called lobe echos, which can give misleading results about the depth. 

“It doesn’t matter how sophisticated your sonar equipment is, you can still get this anomaly.” 

Gary Campbell, president of Loch Ness Monster Fan Club and Registrar of Sightings said that Mr Stewart’s discovery “adds another dimension” to the search for the phantom beast. 

“We thought the loch was 810 feet deep and just had a 20 foot diameter hole at the bottom,” he said.

“Now we've discovered a whole trench that makes the loch nearly 900 feet deep which is twice the depth of the North Sea. There could be more trenches which make it deeper. 

"Loch Ness is part of a huge earthquake fault line that runs from Canada to Norway. In 2013, there was a 2.4 magnitude quake in the loch - this was when Nessie disappeared for a whole year for the first time since 1925.” 








Friday, 24 August 2018

The "Legend of the Loch" BBC Documentary





I wrote a while back on the various productions made by the BBC over the years that referenced the Loch Ness Monster. Without a doubt the one I would most like to see is their 1958 documentary, "The Legend of the Loch" which was hosted by that famous BBC presenter Raymond Baxter of "Tomorrow's World" fame. I believe they still have it in their vast warehouse, but the BBC Archive is not exactly like Netflix or any other modern VOD service.

As it turns out a copy of the Radio Times dated the 9th May 1958 came up on eBay with a picture of one page promoting that documentary. I certainly recall Lachlan Stuart was interviewed on it, but who else I do not know, though I imagine Nessie expert of the time, Maurice Burton would have appeared. This was in the days before Tim Dinsdale's film and everything was pretty quiet. What prompted the BBC to make this programme may well have been inspired by the photographs taken by Lachlan Stuart, Peter Macnab and Herman Cockrell in that decade. The page and text are reprodcued below.






In Search of the Loch Ness Monster
BBC Television will pay a visit to the Loch on Thursday for a Scientific Investigation
 

TWENTY-FIVE years ago, on May 22, 1933, the Loch Ness Monster hit the headlines. Before then its existence had been an accepted fact in the area for many years, and legends of a "water horse " had been handed down for centuries. Since then many reputable people from Britain, and tourists from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere have claimed to have seen a strange creature on the surface of this loch. Some of these sightings can probably be accounted for by unusual wave formations, water-fowl chicks learning to fly, otters playing and other ordinary events. Some can not. If the people have seen and heard what they have claimed, then some large creature (or creatures) of a species or size at present unknown to science lives in this extremely deep loch.

Many theories about its identity have been advanced. Some people think that from the descriptions it is a plesiosaurus, but this beast is thought to have become extinct about seventy million years ago. Some think it is a giant eel or form of oar-fish. Some think the whole thing a hoax or a hallucination. What is the truth? Recently people in Inverness have been pressing for a thorough scientific investigation into the subject and the matter has been raised in the House of Commons. They argue that it is no use relying on chance photographs or film of the beast on the rare occasions when the loch is still enough for these to be taken. They point out that the photographic evidence which already exists is looked upon with great suspicion anyway. They claim that underwater television and echo-sounding equipment are the keys to the problem.

The aim of Thursday evening's programme, The Legend of the Loch, is not to "Hunt the Monster" but to find out how far modem equipment can, in fact, penetrate the secrets of a loch some twenty-three miles long, the maximum depth of which is 754 feet, the water of which, stained brown by peat, is only penetrated by the sun's rays to a depth of forty feet, and the banks of which are reported by divers to contain great caves. On Thursday, after a review of the facts concerning the mystery and an air survey of the loch and surrounding countryside, viewers can come under water with BBC television, hear from a frogman, and see what it like to go down into these black depths.
 



The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Classic Sightings - Robert Badger

Date: August 8th 1971
Time: afternoon
Location: Temple Pier, Urquhart Bay
Witnesses: Robert Badger
Type of sighting: Underwater

Continuing our classic sightings series, we come to a most unusual encounter. Surface sightings of Nessie are rare, land sightings are even rarer but the rarest encounter of all are those experienced by those under the waters of Loch Ness. Looking back over the history of the loch, perhaps there are three claimed encounters in the last 130 years or so.

The first was in 1880 and (quoting from the book "The Water Horses of Loch Ness"):

An experience by another MacDonald in 1880 was of an altogether different nature and terrifying in the extreme. As a diver, Duncan MacDonald was sent down to investigate a ship that had sunk in the Caledonian Canal entrance at Fort Augustus. Not long after, he sent urgent signals on his line to be immediately brought back to the surface. Shaking and ashen faced, he refused to say what he had seen for several days. When he had sufficiently composed himself, he told the tale of how he had seen a “very odd looking beastie ... like a huge frog” lying on the rock ledge where the wreck was lodged as he examined its hull.

He refused to ever dive in the loch again though it would appear this encounter was where Loch Ness ends and the canal begins.

The other encounter is one I would like to know more on as my information is sketchy and concerns a diver who saw a large serpent like creature slinking away amongst the underwater rocks.

And going further afield there is the famous story from The Scotsman of 25th October 1933 and the divers in Loch Treig who

"came up with terrible stories of the weird creatures they had seen in the underwater caves"


But our main story concerns Robert "Brock" Badger who had an encounter with the Loch Ness Monster whilst swimming in Urquhart Bay on Sunday 8th August 1971. My attention to this exceedingly rare encounter was brought by an old story from the Glasgow Herald (dated 8th March 1999). It was recounting recent events at Loch Ness but Robert's story received the most attention. Intrigued to find out more, I managed to track down Robert and engage in an email conversation which he has kindly given permission to reproduce here today.

THE ENCOUNTER

I first mentioned the Herald article which claimed he had seen and touched the skin of the Loch Ness Monster. His first reply was that he had indeed encountered the beast underwater but

"... the Herald article is nonsense, I certainly did not touch anything. ... The only totally correct story was by dear old Alex Campbell, the water bailiff, in the Inverness Courier on Friday 13th August 1971."

It always pays to talk to the original source where possible and clear up any media hype. We are also gratified to see that only the late Alex Campbell faithfully and honestly recorded the event for the Courier. I say this against the background of those who claim he exaggerated his reports to the Courier at other times.

In fact, I went to the National Library of Scotland to get that article and reproduce it here for your edification.



However, I asked Robert to retell the story (albeit after the passage of forty years) and this is what he said:

Narwhal was to be moored in Urquhart bay. A lump of concrete with a mooring ring was acquired together with a galvanised mooring buoy and chain to attach them together. A group of us took the gear in one of the vans down to Temple Pier from Achnahannet, and as there were no changing facilities at the pier, I travelled kitted out in a wetsuit.

We did the job of placing the mooring, and as the others loaded the tools and dinghy back into the van, I did a bit of snorkelling so the wetsuit did not get ripped on the gear. I swam out from the small floating jetty which was there in those days. A hundred yards or so from the jetty, the floor of the bay suddenly nose-dives into deep water. I had just passed this point and was about 10 or 15 feet below the surface, but was now in deep water and was thinking that I should turn and go back when I saw an object in front of me.

The water is of course full of peat and is like thick tea. As I got closer I could see a top and bottom to the object, but it extended left and right out of my vision. The surface of the object was rough textured and rounded in cross-section. I saw no protuberances in the part I could see. I'm not sure how far from the object I was, maybe 15-20 feet. It was moving from my right to my left, that is towards the main loch. This sounds like a long drawn-out sighting, but in reality it occupied only a couple of seconds. I realised what I was looking at, and decided that I should not be there. I have size 13 feet and my swim flippers are large and strong. I surfaced quickly and made for the pier as fast as I could.

Simon Dinsdale's eye was caught by me surfacing, and he said I was moving so fast that I was aquaplaning on my chest. As I made my way in, I was terrified that I was being chased, but I noticed Mr Menzies' nephews playing in a boat tied to the pier, and his black labrador coming into the water to meet me, so I risked a look back and realised that I was alone.

Simon and the others asked what had happened, and I told them that I had seen something. Later at Achnahannet, I sat down with Tim Dinsdale and completed a sighting report form and he interviewed me on tape. He and David James decided to make the story public, and the press came to Achnahannet and did the interview. This resulted in as many different versions of the story as there were newspapers represented.

A lot of people said that I was too shallow to have seen anything, but when we discussed it, we realised that this is exactly where Nessie would look for fish, as close to the shallows as possible, but still in deep water.

THE ANALYSIS

The Courier account adds that the estimated diameter of the object was about six feet. The Simon Dinsdale mentioned is the son of the famous monster hunter Tim Dinsdale who subsequently interviewed Robert. What Tim Dinsdale said about this encounter also adds some weight to the truth of this testimony as he recounts the tale in a later edition of his book "Loch Ness Monster". His conclusions about the now subdued and troubled Robert were that:

He had made no attempt to publicize his experience, even among the expedition people. At the time he had merely said ‘I thought I saw something underwater’, adding that he ‘wouldn't go back in the water’. As he was in no more than 15-20 feet of water at the time, some felt it was too shallow for the Monster, but I did not consider this to be the case. I was absolutely convinced of Brock’s sincerity, and his ability to describe his experience objectively.

It was later found by sonar that the loch side shelves precipitously at that point and so the beast could patrol close to the shore and yet be in deep water. It is to be noted that the salmon and trout entering and leaving Loch Ness tend to move close to the sides of the loch.

So what can we say about Robert's encounter? Sceptics suggest that he merely saw a tree trunk floating past him. I put this possible explanation to him to which Robert replied:

"As for the idea that I saw a log, well I'm not familiar with six foot diameter logs in GlenUrquhart."

Which we consider a good answer. I would like to read the LNI sighting report and listen to the audio tape interview. In that respect, I ask the current owner(s) of the LNI material how I may achieve this.

Robert could not see the entire length of the creature as its huge size filled his goggles' field of view but based on the six feet diameter and a standard 6 to 7 ratio of total length to diameter gives us a suggested head to tail length of 36 to 42 feet. In other words, a considerable beast and no surprise that Robert beat a hasty retreat back to shore.

However, whether Nessie would have made quick work of Robert is unlikely. The old Water Horses in Loch Ness were certainly labelled as man-eaters and livestock-stealers but the modern Loch Ness Monster has no record of attacking anyone we know of and even if she did, there is no way of proving that a person's disapperance is connected in that way. Mind you, that is easy to say when you are in front of a PC rather than in front of a 40-foot lake monster.

AN IDEA

Quite topically, the recent sonar contact made by Marcus Atkinson (see story) was also made near the spot where Robert had his encounter but at a deeper depth of about 70 feet.

Now since this blog believes the Loch Ness Monster is mainly a benthic/littoral resident (i.e. it frequents the sides and bottom of Loch Ness and not open water) then such encounters come as no surprise. In fact, this is why the road blasting operations of the 1930s and the dumping of debris down the sides of the loch forced the creatures off the sides and bottom into the relative safety of open waters and led to the highest per annum sightings of all time.

It is also ironic that if the creature does stick close to the sides of the loch then it is more difficult to detect with sonar. Perhaps this form of Nessie hunting is not as effective as made out.

Indeed, if it also stays close to the surface (another difficult area for some forms of sonar), we have the somewhat unsettling situation that the creatures could be coasting a mere 10 to 20 feet below the surface and along the sides in opaque peaty water with no one just above being any the wiser to their presence.

As I understand, most divers stick close to the shore of Loch Ness and do not tend to swim out to the hundred yards extent that Robert did. So a suggestion as to a new avenue of monster hunting:

Employ a team of scuba divers to swim and patrol out to 100-200 metres from shore at a depth of 3-7 metres over deep water. Supply them with radio devices back to surface boats so as to maintain a narrative. Arm them with cameras and biopsy darts to collect any samples and then patrol the area looking out for any strange forty foot objects looming at them out of the darkness. Note that biopsy darts/harpoons are not a new idea at Loch Ness. Roy Mackal designed one for attachment to a submarine, but I understand they were never called into action.

So when the creature comes into view, shoot with the biopsy harpoon and head back to the shore ... as fast as you can.

A bit toungue in cheek and I must admit I would not volunteer for all the tea in China, but in theory the idea has some merit. Some might have done the odd foray into the loch but clearly in a loch this size, one would need a lot more than that as the beast could pass 40 feet past you and you would have no idea it was there.

Such is the darkness and mystery that is Loch Ness as Robert Badger found out on that day forty years ago.


POSTSCRIPT

A little extra information on other divers' experiences at Loch Ness. I had completely forgotten about the famous "Beppo the Clown" case in 1959. Beppo aka Jon Newbold was monster hunting as part of a publicity stunt by circus ower Bernard Mills when he was brought up after 10 minutes semi-concious. What he said after hospitalisation has entered the apocryphal (or from his circus' media machine) as tales of bright eyes staring at him from the depths or even a tentacle grabbing him have been mentioned. Betrand Russell in his book "Fact and Fiction" gives us this summary:

John Newhold, aged 31, of Stafford, known as Beppo, the clown; was detained in hospital yesterday alter diving into Loch Ness in a frogman's outfit to try to get evidence about the ‘monster’.

He made a dive lasting ten minutes and surfaced in a semi-concious state. He was taken aboard a yacht belonging to Mr Bernard Mills, the circus proprietor, and recovered partly ater artificial respiration had been applied. Mr Newbold, who was unable to say what had happened while he was underwater, is an experienced high diver and swimmer - he had made several practise dives to a depth of more than 20 feet before yesterday‘s attempt. The water is several hundred feet deep at this part of the loch.

While the Milwaukee Sentinel of 15th August 1959 (these stories get around you know) printed this:



On the matter of the other diver seeing a huge eel-like creature, it seems the diver's name was Michael MacRae and this also may have happened in the 1970s. For now, I know nothing more. Any help here would be appreciated.



RECENT BLOG POSTS:

More information on last year's sonar contact
New witness corroborates 2011 sighting