Saturday, 28 December 2013

Nessie Review of 2013

The year two thousand and thirteen draws to a close and it is time to look back and reflect on what has happened in terms of the Loch Ness Monster and events elsewhere which have an eye towards Loch Ness.

ANNIVERSARY

The most important event this year was the year itself as 2013 marked the 80th anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster phenomenon. Though legends and stories of strange creatures go back a lot further than 1933, this was the year that this now worldwide story was birthed and there is no sign of the old girl dying off yet. Not by a long chalk.

Mention Loch Ness to citizens across the world and the first thing they think of is Nessie. The two are inseparable and long may it continue. The Tourist agencies of Scotland may try to disassociate them and point to the other attractions of Loch Ness, but I suggest they cease and desist.

The story started with the sighting of a water disturbance and two humps seen by the Mackays around April 1933. I took a fresh look at this seminal story some months back. The exact date is not clear but the publishing of their story by the Inverness Courier on May 2nd 1933 can be regarded as the date of importance as far as public awareness is concerned.





To mark the event, a special symposium was arranged by Charles Paxton and Gordon Rutter and was held at the Counting House in Edinburgh in April. The event received publicity worldwide and was well attended as various speakers (including myself) held forth on various aspects of the phenomenon.




It was perhaps a sign of the times that the event was more sceptically leaning than the last symposium in 1987, but a show of hands in response to the simple question "Do you believe in the Loch Ness Monster?" was pretty much 50-50. I gave my own thoughts on the event here.

A week later, a special event to mark the Mackay sighting was held at Loch Ness itself and near the spot where Aldie Mackay spotted the double hump coursing its way across the loch. The event was suitably backed up by Birthday Cake and Whisky.

THE MONSTER

But what of the old beast herself this year past? Though there were things to discuss, sightings again were thin on the ground compared to previous years. By thin, I mean they were not reported in the general media as the number of people who believe they have seen something outnumbers those which make it into print. These days, I suspect you will need a video or photograph of some interest to make it into the public view. However, what turned up this year makes me dub this year, the Year of the Wave Like Nessie.

Firstly, the only sighting I am aware of is one I have not written about until now! It appeared on the Facebook page of the cruise company, Cruise Loch Ness. It goes like this: 

Three different people came to the Wheelhouse today to tell me that they had seen something in the Loch on the 2 o clock cruise. They all described a long black thing on the surface behind the 'Royal Scot' it was visible for a few seconds before disappearing. I wish they'd said something when they were watching it, as I was busy looking where we were going and missed it !! 
This happened on April 5th just the day before the aforementioned Edinburgh Symposium. The skipper, Marcus Atkinson, gave me further details:
I was skippering the Royal Scot when this happened, and it was me that posted on Facebook. It is unusual because, over the last few years no-one has ever mentioned seeing anything, then on one trip three different people from different parts of the boat came to the wheelhouse and mentioned seeing something? I remember that it was a flat day with no wind, and everyone pointed to the same spot on the loch.

At the time I didn't think much about it because - they were all pointing to the place on the Loch where the Royal Scot turns around. This off the horseshoe scree and on a windless day the wake from our voyage up will slowly move across the Loch, at times it does look like several humps moving across the water. Because I didn't see it, it's hard to say anything really. Other than I wish someone had pointed it out at the time!

One may suspect it was just a wave if it was not for the independent tourists who came to Marcus. Was it a Nessie-like Wave or a Wave-like Nessie putting in an appearance for it's 80th?

The wave theme continued with a video taken by David Elder in August when he spotted something snake like making its way across the loch near Fort Augustus. This one generated quite a few comments about waves being caused by long gone boats. A pretty convenient explanation I thought since it does not require any proving on the part of the sceptic. A look at the still below shows three distant white boats near the horizon which makes them over nine miles away based on a height above sea level of 62 feet. There are also some boats in another picture on the far south shore making their way towards the observer.




A bit too far away to leave much of a wave for my liking. Accepting the presence of large creatures in Loch Ness as I do, it is inevitable from my point of view that these creatures can put on wave-like appearances. Admittedly, not good enough for the sceptically minded, but one that I take into account.

The wave theme appeared one more time in November with Jonathan Bright's unusual photograph of something appearing behind a Jacobite cruise ship. This might well be the first infra-red picture of the Loch Ness Monster. Again, the wave explanation was offered and was critiqued on this website. It clearly generated a lot of interest as it currently stands as the seventh most accessed article on this blog.

Oh well, perhaps these three Nessie stories was her just giving us a "wave" on her birthday. Jonathan's photograph is an example of how stories can filter through from recent years. Not everything that makes the news need happen in the year of reporting it.

This was also the year that George Edwards came clean on his hump photograph. Thanks to a conversation Steve Feltham had, the fibreglass prop that was actually photographed was presented to the world. Though George confessed, he was not explicit on how the photograph came about.


THE MONEY MONSTER

That little episode brought into relief a conflict of sorts that rumbled through 2013. I speak not of so called "believers" or "non-believers" in Nessie but a conflict between Loch Ness businessmen and Loch Ness businessmen. Whether they believe there is a large monster in Loch Ness (and I doubt it), they certainly profit from it and where there is money to be made, there is potential for conflict.

George Edwards' stunt brought to light a war of words between such people as to how the Loch Ness Monster should be presented to the public. George's "end justifies the means" approach did not sit well with Tony Harmsworth who preferred the scientific approach. When the Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce told Tony to remove negative comments about Edwards from their website, he tendered his resignation.

The wars continued later in the Summer when the two competing exhibition centres at Drumnadrochit got into a tiff over what signs should be shown where. This resulted in one sign being taken and the owner of the Nessieland exhibition being arrested by the police over its theft!


BOOKS

In the world of print, three titles of contrasting nature came out in 2013. The best for me was the biography of famous monster hunter, Tim Dinsdale, titled "The Man Who Hunted Nessie". This was written by his youngest son, Angus. I reviewed this book here. The second book by J.F. Derry called "Loch Ness Monster and other Unexplained Mysteries" was more an anthology of photographs and stories as published by the British newspaper, the Daily Mirror.

In distinction to these was the sceptical tome "Abominable Science" written by Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero. I reviewed their chapter on the Loch Ness Monster or perhaps the better term is panned it. I gave it one star on amazon.com while nearly everyone else was praising it to the skies and the sceptics never forgave me for that! In fact, they focused on that more on than what I said because I was told the rating should be based on the whole book. Well, I have nearly finished the book and I may up it to two stars. But the fact that they complained more about that the exposure of  poor research suggested deflection tactics to me.


REST IN PEACE

This was the year we also said farewell to some people involved in the hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. The most prominent was the now legendary monster hunter, Professor Roy Mackal, who died of heart failure at the age of 88 in September. Roy joined the Loch Ness Phenomenon Investigation Bureau in 1965 and helped put the "Scientific" into "Investigation". You can read tributes to him by Loren Coleman (who broke the sad news), the Chicago Sun Times, Dick Raynor (who worked with him) and myself.



We also say "Rest In Peace" to Ken Wallis who died at the grand old age of 97. He famously employed his one man autogyro to help the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau perform any airborne surveys of Loch Ness - in case Nessie popped up to the surface. The Loch Ness Monster has been spotted from the air on at least one occassion, so the idea had merit. Doubtless, Mackal and Wallis would have met back then in 1970.


THE INVESTIGATION CONTINUES

Meanwhile, the search for the Loch Ness Monster continued in 2013. Aside from the myriads of tourists that hot summer, people such as myself and Gordon Holmes took the high road to Loch Ness in search of Nessie. I posted recently about Gordon's recent work and my own attempts to glimpse the creature. I always am thinking of a new angle to try and catch that elusive piece of evidence. Of course, there is nothing new there. The aforementioned Loch Ness Investigation Bureau brainstormed many a new technique into existence and some of their ideas are still employed today. The one I don't particularly fancy is "nightdrifting" where you drift around in a small boat in the darkest hours ... waiting for something. I would probably freeze to death first.

Back home, discoveries of a different kind were made as old stories came to light after decades of hiding and well known stories were re-examined. The well kent Jennifer Bruce photograph was shown to be more than just a passing seagull and I finished off my series on the Lachlan Stuart photograph. An old tale from the 1880s telling of a diver's encounter with a strange beast was found as was a curious photograph from 1938 which was closely correlated to a known sighting from the time. A recently obtained zoom in does not reveal much more but indicates some water disturbance to the left. In some ways, it is reminiscent of Gordon Holmes' 2007 video.





What will 2014 hold? God willing, I hope to be back at Loch Ness in April. I also plan to give a talk on recent events at Loch Ness in Edinburgh in March. That year will also mark the 80th anniversary of the most famous Nessie image of all, the Surgeon's Photograph, in April. So expect some media coverage around that time.

And again, we await that story or picture which continues to make the Loch Ness Monster a subject that is more than just interesting - it's an intriguing and enduring story.

A good New Year to you all when it comes.




28 comments:

  1. Great work as always Glasgow Boy !! Please keep us all posted through 2014 as there will hopefully be more photographs, video, maybe sonar of the elusive Loch resident - let's hope for clear images or more to feed the inquiring minds !
    The Hugh Ayton sighting is one that always kept me wondering. He said he " will always remember that eye, yellow and jaundiced " . Do you have any more detailed accounts of this ? Also when will we know the results of Dr Paxtons findings ?
    Thanks again for providing the best info and reading about the Loch Ness monster anywhere !!

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  2. bodge from suffolk28 December 2013 12:33

    Fingers crossed & hoping that 2014 will bring some good material & one or two surprises .As ever your blog is the first place to call at for all loch ness news.Just want to add my thanks for all your hard work really superb.

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  3. Hello GB,

    On your "my own attempts to glimpse the creature" link, are you referring to: “Dinsdale, Dashcams and Paint Trays”, “Trail Cameras at Loch Ness”, your series on Monster Hunting basics or what? The link takes you to the Gordon Holmes article. Thanks. Happy monster hunting and Good luck on your next expedition! Happy New Year to everybody.

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  4. I too would like to hear more about Hugh Ayton's encounter with the eye. That is a very stark event in my mind. I was also remembering the effect that Nessie sometimes has on her observers, mostly being sheer terror. The Greta Finlay sighting and the various divers tales comes to mind in that regard and I wonder if there are more. That have had that feeling, I remember in one book I read on Nessie when i was a child, it stated Loch Ness was home to some supernatural events such as a ghost ship that appears from time to time. I've heard of no such Flying Dutchman on the Loch at all but even still all the people I know that visited it's shores have said the place has a presence, a palpable feel to it that is both majestic and also puts one ill at ease. Happy 80th to the old girl and hope she continues on.

    Cheers!

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    1. Perhaps Dick Raynor can answer your questions on Hugh Ayton, for he implicitly accuses him of lying.

      Check this link where I quote Dick: http://www.cryptozoology.com/forum/topic_view_thread.php?tid=5&pid=779999


      "If you managed to watch Silverity's video you would have been impressed by the way Hugh Ayton kept a straight face when describing his chase of the monster."

      Yet five years previously on the same forum when somebody invited Dick to prove Ayton was a hoaxer he says:

      "I would not dream of arguing against the reports you mention"

      LINK: http://www.cryptozoology.com/forum/topic_view_thread.php?tid=5&pid=231054

      What changed between 2005 and 2010 and what proof does Dick have to back up his implicit accusation?


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  5. There is a Coast to Coast a.m. episode with Lee Franks who was a diver helping to place cameras in the Loch in the 70's, this I found on youtube. Sorry but right now I cant find the link, it was an episode with Lee Franks explaining his experiences at Loch Ness including an underwater camera set to activate if anything as large as a bus came into range - and it activated as Lee was positioning it !!
    He also tells of people being horrified with close encounters of Nessie, one example is of a farmer named " Jenkins " who started a tractor near the shore and the monster popped its head out giving this farmer a close up sighting which freaked this farmer out. Red bulbous eyes and a horse like head with a baleen looking mouth.
    The Greta Finlay sighting sounds very, very, interesting ! I first learned of it on this blog. Excellent Nessie research Glasgow boy

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    1. Thanks, it would be interesting to find that Franks link!

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    2. Hi Roland:

      The Lee Frank interview is still on YouTube there are a couple of copies by different posters I found this one right off, listen to it before its yanked, as one other posting is for private viewing only. Alternatively you can search under “The Loch Ness Monster Search & Bigfoot Mystery”. I had heard it before; I never heard of Lee Frank, he must have been a minor player back in the 70s. Dick Raynor might have known him.

      "Worldevent News - The Loch Ness Monster Search & Bigfoot Mystery"

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0_6ZEMYAhU

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  6. On the Coast to Coast am websitehttp://www.coasttocoastam.com/guest/frank-lee/7231 it states Lee Frank was chief diver for the MIT team with Bob Rines in 1972. He was also involved with the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau.

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  7. a google search for Lee Frank reveals that he had a dust up with Frank Searle in the 1970's. then again, didn't Frank Searle have a dust up with EVERYONE in the 1970's?

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    1. Everyone on the other side of the loch involved with the Loch Ness and Morar Project as well as the Official Exhibition Centre by the sounds of it.

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  8. Sweet Mother of Bowie, that Sun-Times obituary for Roy Mackal ends in a quote from my comment in your obituary post! Surprised and chuffed, to say the least; I just choked on thin air.

    And yeah, I'm all for the whole Night Hunt concept, as you know, but floating around in the middle of the loch in total darkness? Bugger THAT! What would be worse-- the frustration of NOT seeing/hearing anything, or the excited terror if you do?

    Happy New Year and all my best wishes to you, Roland, and once again, thank you for your hard work on your awesome blog.

    Cheers,

    Storm

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  9. Fame at last!

    I like the idea of nightdrifting and I do believe the creatures surface more often at night time, but the odds would still be pretty low on bumping into something within a surface area of over 24 square miles!

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  10. I remember from a book or the Internet, I think it was Alex Campbell, the water bailiff, out fishing or looking for poachers on a moonless night, can't remember the details exactly. Anyway, he said he heard the sound of something surfacing and thrashing about close by, then the sound of heavy breathing and snorting much like a horse would do. Apparently Nessie makes sounds. What else could it have been? That would have scared me silly!

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    1. There is a video of Alex Campbell somewhere that I have seen describing this encounter. He said the constable with him was alarmed by this.
      There is also a video of him explaining another encounter where he was in a row boat and Nessie surfaced very close to him and frightened his dog also in the boat. He said " I put my back into rowing away I'm not afraid to say " or something very close to those words.

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    2. The idea of Nessie making loud, air-breathing sounds immediately put me in mind of the "Soay Beast" - a marine creature spotted by fisherman Tex Geddes off the coast of Scotland. Here is his account:

      "When the object appeared to be steaming towards us, we both stood up for a better view. I can't remember exactly how close it was when I heard the breathing, but I could certainly hear it before I could definitely have said that the object was alive. It was not making much speed, maybe 3 or 4 knots. I am afraid we both started in amazement as the object came towards us, for this beast steaming slowly in our direction was like some hellish monster of prehistoric times.

      The head was definitely reptilian, about 2 1/2 feet high with large protruding eyes. There were no visible nasal organs but a large red gash of a mouth which seemed to cut the head in half and which appeared to have distinct lips. There was at least 2ft of clear water behind the neck. I would say we saw 8-10ft of back on the water line.

      The head appeared rather blunt and darker than the rest of the body which seemed to be scaly and the top of its back was surmounted by an immense sawtoothed ridge. It seemed to breathe through its mouth , which opened and shut with great regularity, and once when it turned towards us I could see into its cavernous red maw. I saw no teeth."

      Could "Nessie" be a relative of this unknown marine beast?

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    3. I don't recall encountering the Soay Beast story before. Strikingly similar in details to the Cockrell sighting I brought up a little earlier in this same thread: it approaches the boat, has the large head and apparently short neck, the opening and shutting of the wide, gash-like mouth and its red interior. I don't believe Cockrell heard breathing, but close encounters by others on Loch Ness mention it. The appearance of a dorsal ridge is the main difference, but these are sometimes reported on Nessie as well -- perhaps a bit of sexual dimorphism?

      Many marine sea monster reports don't jibe well with Nessie sightings, but this one does and it occurred just off Scotland too boot -- if that's coincidence it's a large one.

      I think the lack of visible teeth, the protruding eyes, and especially the mouth-breathing are all less suggestive of a reptilian identity, and more suggestive of an amphibious one.





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  11. Thank you for your blog, sir. I check it almost daily. Fantastic book as well for those who have not yet read it. For my part I will stll watch for Nessie on Nessie on the Net. Someday I will visit the Loch itself. Happy New Year!

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  12. H. L. Cockrell's 1958 sighting/encounter came after three all-night canoe drifts. He was sufficiently freaked out by what he saw to stop night drifting after that. Many question his early morning photo, but the testimony of what was witnessed before the photo is quite compelling.

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    1. The firm conviction that I have that Nessie comes out more at night provides me with the same firm conviction that you could never get me out there on a late, moonless night! Again, I'd be on pins and needles and screaming like Margaret (The Easily Startled Lady) at the slightest sound, and either be disappointed that nothing weird happened or completely unglued because something DID. No, O My Brothers (and Sisters? Am I the only woman reading this?), while I support the idea of night hunting/drifting, my support goes out to others braver than I that actually attempt it. I think it would have to yield some interesting results, if you had enough people doing it over enough time and space (typing that made me think of the Zygons! :) Correct me if I'm wrong (especially you, Roland, with both your knowledge of Ness/Nessie's history and your own nighthunting), but it seems like night searches of either a land or water based nature seem to happen both rarely and sporadically? Perhaps a more concerted and concentrated effort, especially in her (supposedly) more active months in the summer?

      When my numbers hit on the Lotto, I promise to fund night hunts! And Roland can retire to Inverness and be my Man in the Field (And Water). THIS I VOW!

      Cheers,

      Storm

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  13. That H. L. Cockrell encounter sounds very interesting, I'm sure that I am not the only person who would like to hear all the details !!

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  14. an interesting theory about the Hugh Gray photo is on the "Loch Ness Monster Giant Salamander" thread within the "Unexplained -Mysteries.com" cryptozoology forum section. the real fun starts on page 4.

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  15. Does anybody remember the National Geographic July 1977 issue titled " Loch Ness, the lake and the legend " ? It is a great article although outdated now. I saw it as young kid and read it over and over again.

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    1. I have a copy, in fact, it is the copy I cut out as a kid! You still see the occassional copies on eBay.

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    2. I had that issue for years, until it was falling apart and lost to the ages. But the first thing I can remember reading about was a cover story in, of all things, the Reader's Digest in either '75 or '76? I remember there was an actual TV ad for that issue, and RD didn't bother to advertise much/often. IIRC, in the ad they claimed that observers had recently seen the loch suddenly "boiling and churning" with fish, trying to get away from something unseen chasing them. My great-grandparents were RD subscribers, and I was staying with them for a while, and I remember bothering them every time the mail arrived; "Is the new Reader's Digest here yet?! The one about the Loch Ness Monster?!" I remember almost nothing about the article itself or whether it was any good (though I do recall thinking later that the NG article was much better), just the anticipation of its arrival.

      Yours in Nessiana,

      Storm

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  16. In the Dec. 2005 issue of NG there is a featured cover story titled "Sea Monsters" with a two page article on the LNM as it relates to Prehistoric sea creatures.I too have the June 1977 issue and value it very highly. As far as I know those are the only two instances of the LNM being mentioned in NG

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