Friday, 27 May 2016

From the Shoreline (Part 2)

I awoke to a dull kind of day this morning, stirred by the sound of caravan doors shutting, cars moving on and people on the go. Having been refreshed by coffee and Alpen, the weather began to improve until by mid afternoon, the sun was shining strongly and the occasional breeze gave some relief. It was a good day for Nessie hunting.

The first activity of the day was to take a walk around the shoreline of Foyers. That took us to the old Aluminium works which once employed about 500 people in the village and turned into a vibrant centre of community and commerce for several generations. That has all gone now, apart from some brick buildings and a rather disused playing field with rickety goalposts which must have once staged many an event under the Loch Ness sunshine.

Walking along from there takes one to the Tail Leat which is a river that feeds in the loch. It was here that Ted Holiday watched a dome like object through binoculars from somewhere near Foyers village in 1962. The object submerged vertically leaving a large concentric wave spreading out from where it once occupied. The photo below shows that area from the river looking out to the loch.

After that, it was but a short walk to the place where I visited Frank Searle's caravan exhibition in 1983. It is, of course, gone now, and I was not sure which of two sites it once occupied. Anyway, the photos below shows my favoured site and there is even groove marks there, which I doubt belonged to Searle's caravan; but it was interesting to muse on that theory.

Loch Ness lore suggests that when Searle left in 1984, some local lads decided to tip his caravan into the loch. That seemed an eminently feasible project as there was a nice sloping slip path right beside the caravan site leading right down to a mini pier for a caravan to take a flying take off into those deep, peaty waters. The photos below show that "runway" as well as the murky waters which presumably hold the remains of a caravan out of sight. They have used sonar to detect planes and monster props, but one thinks that no one is in a hurry to refind this particular aspect of Nessie archaeology!

After this, it was off to find the camera I had left on watch by the loch since early April. Having found it safe and sound, unstolen by tourists and ungnawed by Nessies, I plan to check its SD memory card later tonight. Whether I will leave it over June, July and August is debatable as the volume of people walking and canoeing past the spot will increase multiple times, and, yes, I do not trust them all to leave them alone!

After a combined lunch and monster watch, it was off to Dores to see if Steve Feltham was at home. He was not, and so that particular trip was reduced to a walk along Dores beach; which has its fair share of flies (not midges I would add). After that, I took a whim to revisit the site of the famous Lachlan Stuart photograph. A thought had seized my mind as we drove in which the sceptics' star witness, Richard Frere, had claimed that Stuart had shown him the alleged hay bales behind some bushes at the site.

I have already raised doubts about Frere's testimony in other articles, but I always thought this idea of the hay bales being hid behind bushes was questionable. The problem being that I don't think the foliage along this shore is thick enough to hide three or four bales of hay. A sample picture is shown below.

I walked for several hundred metres either side of where I took the path down to the loch. During that time I tried to imagine three bales of hays being hid from sight. Others may have an opinion, but for me, the bushes were too thin for the task and there is not much breadth of bush since there is a high gradient of grassland rising promptly from the pebble beach. And I say this, knowing that journalists from the Express came to investigate the site, as did Constance Whyte and Maurice Burton. No indication of any such objects are mentioned in their writings. For me, this is an indication Frere was wrong.

Anyway, a night investigation will ensue later tonight. I hope I can stay awake.

The author can be contacted at

Thursday, 26 May 2016

From The Shoreline

For a change, I will type my visit to Loch Ness from the shore itself, rather than write it up after I have returned. Well, actually, I am not quite sitting on the pebbled shore watching the wave lap up at my feet. I am rather at the campsite looking out their window onto the loch. 

The camera sits at my side, ready to be called into action, as occasional glances intersperse this communication to you. The loch is calm, the sun is setting on what has been a good day. All it needs is a large, black hump to break the surface as well as the calm of this situation.

The journey was easy enough from Edinburgh as I drove past Highland splendour on the way up the main road to Inverness and then onto the back roads that lead to the small village of Foyers on the south side of the loch.

Turning into the Loch Ness Shores camp site has now become a familiar routine as I greeted the Forbes who run the site. The site looked busy for school term and indeed it transpired that business is on the up. I can see why looking around, I just wonder how much the Loch Ness Monster has to do with people's holiday decisions? As you can see below, a new thing greeted my eyes as I walked around. Perhaps those holiday decisions are more Nessie oriented that I thought.

Having erected the tent and disgorged the contents of the car into the tent, I went for my first look at the loch. Strolling along Foyers beach towards where Hugh Gray took his famous photograph in 1933 was a pleasant stroll. The sun was beginning to dip and causing glare to reflect off the loch surface. Averting my gaze, I noted two canoes making their way up the loch, as you can see in my photograph below. As usual, the camera failed to capture the experience of the human eye and lacked the detail I was taking in with my own two eyes.

I would guess they were about 100 metres away and their entire boat length would be commensurate with the large back of a monster. One wonders how convincing even such a photo would be to the disbelieving world.

It was a good place to reflect upon, for after all, Dinsdale filmed a hump across the very narrow stretch of water I now surveyed. I considered the fact that Tim Dinsdale had only claimed two or three sightings of the monster in nearly 28 years of expeditions and loch surveys. I then thought of Ted Holiday, who claimed four sightings in the space of about 18 years.

Not very good returns on investments, you may suggest. I would agree. The Loch Ness Monster is a beast that rarely surfaces, let alone present itself obligingly to the camera. I had a look at Holiday's book, "The Great Orm of Loch Ness", to compare my preparations with his.

Holiday drove up to Loch Ness for the first time in August 1962 - I was not even born yet. His was a spartan van, floored with a couple of army mattresses, tartan blanket, terylene sleeping bag, provisions, cooking gear, books, fishing rods, and, of course, camera and binoculars.

His van was his hotel room and he parked wherever he thought appropriate on the same side of the loch as I find myself. One of the stops he describes sounds like the beach from where Lachlan Stuart had taken his three humped picture, eleven years before. Whether that was on his mind, I know not.

After coffee, bacon and a bit of fly fishing, he decided to leave darkening Loch Ness to itself. Within days, he had his first sighting of the Loch Ness Monster at about 6am, not half a mile away from where I type. Dinsdale and Holiday had the good fortune to see the creature on their first visits. Some would claim this beginner's luck is too fortunate.

I have had no such luck, though I am not inclined to survey the loch at such lonely times. Perhaps I would be better advantaged if I did. Snapping out of that fifty odd year flashback, there is now laptops and wi-fi to report current events to you.

I will report further tomorrow.

The author can be contacted at

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

An Old Nessie Article from 1934

I recently bought this single page online as I thought it captured some of the mood of those crazy days back in 1933 when the world was suddenly swept along in the wake of a strange creature currently being sighted in a Scottish Highland loch that one suspects the majority had never heard of. By the time 1933 and 1934 had rolled on, they certainly knew about Loch Ness and its now legendary monster. I don't know the name of the periodical or when it was published, but its words are as follows. I would suggest that the top photograph is one taken by the Edward Mountain expedition of 1934 and is not of our favourite cryptid, but most likely a pattern of interacting boat wakes as betrayed by the sequence of fading waves panning to the left of the picture.

Tourists with field-glasses and telescopes came from all over the country in the summer of 1933, to look for a monster that was said to be swimming in the waters of Loch Ness. Hotels at Inverness filled up with visitors drawn to the best holiday attraction in the Scottish Highlands. Regularly every week came stories that the monster had been seen. Photographs like the one above were taken to prove the existence of a creature which had, said witnesses, two or three humps. Seaside artists gave their impressions of the Loch Ness Monster in the sand (below); it was a music-hall joke, a "silly-season" topic. Bertram Mills offered £20,000 to anybody who could capture it alive and deliver it to his circus - but nobody got the £20,000.


Thursday, 19 May 2016

Deer Swimming in River near Loch Ness

Filmed recently at Inverness. But if it had been at Loch Ness? Sorry, but those ears (or is it horns?) ain't fooling anyone. Shown at BBC website here.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

A Tale of the Sjo-Troll

I had an unexpected surprise when I was recently perusing one of my copies of "More Than a Legend" by Constance Whyte. Once you get to the index, that is normally that, but one of the previous owners had written a curious account in the final blank pages. The front pages of the book had the name of a Mr. Mather of Wigan written on it. It may be that he was the author of the notes.

The story was lifted from the book "Hampton on Pike Fishing" published in 1947. However, when I consulted the book at the National Library of Scotland, it turned out that this story had been further lifted from the first volume of an earlier work entitled "Scandanavian Adventures" by Llewelyn Lloyd, published in 1854. The book is no longer in copyright and can be accessed here. The quote below is taken from that earlier book:

"My brother, Captain Axel Westfeldt, Lieutenant J. Lekander, and the fisherman Modin," writes a friend, on whose word I place every reliance, "were one day fishing with Lang-ref, that is a line of great length, with several hundred hooks attached - of which more presently - in a large lake in Fryksdal, in Wermeland. When they had proceeded a considerable distance from the land, Modin suddenly pulled the boat right round, and in evident alarm commenced rowing with all his might towards the shore. One of the party asked the man what he meant by this strange conduct? 'The Sjo-troll, or water-sprite, is here again,' replied he, at the same time pointing with his finger far to seaward.

Every one in the boat then saw in the distance something greatly resembling the horns of an elk, or a rein-deer, progressing rapidly on the surface of the water. 'Row towards it,' exclaimed Lekander; 'the deuce take me if I don't give the Sjo-troll a shot; I am not afraid of it.' It was with great difficulty, however, that Modin could be prevailed upon once more to alter the course of the boat, and to make for the apparition. But at length the man's fears were partially allayed, and the chase commenced in good earnest. When they had neared the object sufficiently, Lekander, who was standing, gun in hand, in the bow of the boat, fired, and fortunately with deadly effect. On taking possession of the prize, it was found to be a huge pike, to whose back the skeleton of an eagle was attached. This fish, or rather the bones of the bird, had been seen by numbers for several years together, and universally went under the above designation of Sjo-troll.

The later Hampton book suggests that algae would have covered the skeleton, adding to the dramatic effect. They base this on other stories of birds meeting untimely ends when taking on pike. So, not quite a monster and not quite your standard misidentification explanation either. I don't anticipate this one being trotted out to debunk Nessie sightings.

As an aside, Lloyd goes on to discuss the Silurus Glanis, the catfish that was recently the focus of Nessie debates. Regarding its introduction to British waters, he says:

Through the indefatigable exertions of Mr. George D. Berney, of Morton, Norfolk, the silurus was last year introduced into England, and consequently is now included in our Fauna.

So the Wels Catfish was introduced into English waters in 1853. Sadly, no reference to Loch Ness or Scotland is made in this regard.

The author can be contacted at


Friday, 13 May 2016

The Sceptics Call Time on Nessie (again)

 An article appeared recently on the sceptical blogosphere by Sharon Hill. You can read it here, but suffice to say the summary of it was that the Loch Ness Monster mystery has been solved and why keep looking for a mythical monster when science and logic has laid this to rest? This was followed by the retort that people couldn't give up on monsters because:

"Several of those who have pursued these topics are so invested – monetarily and emotionally – that they can’t be objective and see the reality"

Is that true or is this another of those overstated articles by sceptics that I have read too often over the years? Well, let me first of all state that going by the response of various sceptics since this blog started in 2010, I would not agree that emotion is the monopoly of the "believers". In fact, if insults and pejoratives are the outward expression of an inward emotion, the sceptics take the gold medal every time. 

To put it mildly, the kind of scepticism one comes across is far removed from the Mr. Spock genre where the eyebrow is raised and the word "Fascinating" is uttered before we are told "Captain, the odds of the Loch Ness Monster existing is 132691.2 to 1 against.".

Of course, emotion plays it part and that is to be expected when it comes to people - on both sides of the debate. As to the accusation of being over-invested, perhaps Sharon ought to name names so we can put her assertion to a proper test?

Is the mystery solved? Is Sharon familiar with the critiques of her own and others' critiques? After all, when sceptics dictate suggest that two people who saw a 15 foot, two humped, grey creature from only 20 yards away that was "hideous" and "not a pleasant experience", only saw a common deer, you will forgive me for not taking them seriously.

Or when another sceptic decrees speculates that an experienced angler who claimed to have seen a thirty foot animal at a similar distance, only saw a cormorant; again if this is how sceptics go about "solving" the Loch Ness mystery, may I suggest they are the ones who are over invested in their theories so much they can't be objective!

There are, of course, other such cases I could call upon which leave sceptics floundering like a landed sturgeon or catfish. They could just say everyone is lying, but where is the fun in that? As for the other reasons Sharon gives for why no one could ever have possibly seen a large, unknown creature in Loch Ness:

"Sparse food supplies"? Yes, that has been covered (one sceptic rubbished this, but strangely never came back when I asked him to explain why). 

"Does not breathe air"? Just exactly why does it have to be an air breather, Sharon?

"Doesn't die"? Can you quote me on who exactly says this?

"Doesn't have babies"? I think Sharon is now letting emotion rather than logic drive the keyboard! Again, who is saying this?

"Avoid detection during thorough scans of the water body"? Excuse me while I take this one with a pinch of salt. They only recently found the similar sized Sherlock Holmes prop monster after 45 years. So tell me how these "thorough scans" managed to miss this? Even when interesting sonar scans are produced, the experts have no idea what they are looking at and one leading sceptic even declared that sonar is useless in establishing the presence of large animals in Loch Ness due to its ambiguities.

Which brings us to the main point of the article. Basically, we are being told that Nessie should have been found by now. We are told that science has probed the world of the subatomic and found planets beyond the Solar System. Surely establishing the presence of such an animal in Loch Ness is not rocket science?

Sadly, this is another non-sequitur. The particle smashing Large Hadron Collider project only cost $6.4 billion while the planet finding Kepler telescope was a snip at $600 million. Yes, Sharon, science works when enough money is thrown at it. Remind me how much has been spent on investigating the Loch Ness Monster with state of the art technology?

To assert that a Nessie should have been found by now is, of course, a subjective statement. How was this deduction arrived at? Because someone has found a quark or an exoplanet, they should have found Nessie?

As Mr. Spock would say, "That is illogical, Captain".

The author can be contacted at

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

New Picture of Nessie?

Gary Campbell, on his register of Loch Ness Monster sightings publishes a photograph taken on May 1st this year by a tourist. The account runs thusly:

1 May 2016 - a visitor from Texas took pictures of a dark creature just under the surface following the boat she was on. The sighting was at approximately 1330 hours and lasted 30 seconds. She said that she initially thought it was a shadow but then realised that there was nothing behind her that could cause such a reflection.

Now I must admit, I am struggling to see what is in the picture. I can see a shadowy form, but it is too inconclusive to form an opinion. Others may be able to see something I cannot.

By the way, congratulations to Gary Campbell on the 20th anniversary of his sightings register. That milestone is covered in a Daily Record article today. Gary had his own sighting of something like a "mini-whale" with a "black shiny back". Clearly he thought it was no seal (which always seem to turn up at Loch Ness when an explanation is required), and this prompted him to start his register.

The author can be contacted at