Friday, April 12, 2013

The Loch Ness Monster. At Last!

I think I should start this blog by making my position clear. I believe in the Loch Ness monster.  Because I want to. And you canny stop me neither!

Just for MIE, I spent all last Wednesday in sub zero temperatures, peeking through bits of undergrowth on the West side of Loch Ness and trying not to spend any money. This is not as easy as it seems. The human population round the loch is less than 3000 yet Drumnadrochit (pronounced as it looks) receives around 300,000 ­visitors each year bringing in over £30 million. Most of that is overpriced coffee and tiny baked potatoes. Not that I was hungry. Or bitter.

It's nice to believe in some thing that annoys pretentious gits at dinner parties because they can't prove it. I was very content in that lack of proof until I discovered that Nessie (a cryptozoological phenomenon seemingly) and her pals are being used as evidence against evolution. This is being taught as part of the accelerated Christian education. It was my intention to ask her about this when and if I saw her. I was hungry and caffeine depleted, there would be no monster messing with me! No jokes here about her being a doyouthinkshesarous. Plesiosaurous might be more the mark. Or a giant sturgeon. Giant eel? Bird wakes? Seals? Trees? Logs? Submarines? Dogs with sticks? An elephant?  But too many people have been seeing  too much for too long.
                                               Yip, Loch Ness, the natural home of the elephant.

Backdrop to the mystery?  Loch Ness is Scotland's largest freshwater loch by volume. It has 700 sq miles of catchment land. Slight rainfall raises the surface level by two feet but a rise of seven feet is not uncommon. (It rains a lot here!) A rise of a quarter of an inch adds 11,000,000 tons of water to the loch. It never freezes and something weird goes on when the temperature of the air drops (which also happens a lot). When the surface water temperature falls that water sinks, forcing warm water to the top where it steams in the freezing air. Spooky.  The Loch in the winter gives off energy which is equivalent to burning 2 million tons of coal.  It is nearly 23 miles long, less than two miles wide and that causes bow waves from boats to bounce back and forth causing pretty patterns in the middle. It lies along the Great Glen Fault and is one of a series of lochs (Lochy, Oich, Ness.) that are interconnected. Some say that there might be underground passages from one loch to the other. (When I say people, I mean me!) 

The surrounding soil is very high in peat so the water is murky with hardly any visibility. The only loch deeper than Loch Ness is Loch Morar, which by coincidence also has a monster 'Morag'. Or is that Loch Maree. Or is that the name of the monster? It doesn't matter, they know where and who they are and who to avoid.  At its deepest point, it is deeper than the BT tower is high. 

Loch Ness has more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. The bottom of the loch is supposed to be as flat as a putting green and somebody who should get out more worked out that the population of the world can fit into the loch ten times over. Why?

Occasionally there are some non Nessie activities- John Cobb died when trying to break the water speed record when his boat struck a wake in 1952.  On the 31 August 1974, David Munro became the first person in the world to water ski (mono ski) the length of it and back -48 miles in 77 minutes. Brenda Sherratt was the first person to swim the 22.5 miles in 31 hours and 27 minutes in July 1966.  When not being home to Nessie and her pals, it is the lower storage reservoir for the hydroelectric scheme with the electricity generated going onto the national grid.

As a buffet, Nessie could be munching on European eels, pike, three spined stickleback brook lamprey, Eurasian minnows, brown trout, artic char, sea trout, Atlantic salmon, unwary tourists who pronounce the word Lock.

Drumnadrochit's "Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition" examines the natural history and legend of Loch Ness. For a fee. Boat cruises operate from various locations on the loch shore, giving visitors the chance to look for Nessie for a fee. Urqhuart Castle is located on the Western shore and 'they' have grown high hedges round the car park to stop you taking photos like this.  You can walk down, for a fee. Most Nessie sightings are from here but then this is where most folk hang about, waiting in the queue or using the credit card machine.

The first tasty bit of info comes from that well known naturalist St Columba in 565 AD.

 He was wandering about spreading Christianity to the Picts when he came across some locals burying one of their dead - killed by the monster of the loch. The dead man's boat was still in the water so St Columba told one of his followers to swim out and get it. Nessie basically had a nibble at the swimmer, St Columba and Nessie had a 'full and frank exchange of views' ( I believe that is the legal term) and Nessie agreed to go back under the waves. And has stayed there. 

Since the early thirties (and onset of photography for the masses) there has been picture after picture.

This famous photo was a fake of course. English Gynaecologist Robert Wilson took this picture. It was published in the Daily Mail on 21st April 1934. It is a toy submarine from Woolies attached to a wooden head and neck. 

1934 Brother Richard Horan saw Nessie and described a long graceful neck and broad front white stripe. In 1955 the McNab picture was taken, then in 1960 the famous Tim Dinsdale film was recorded. Nobody knows what it shows, NASA, the US navy, nobody...

Here are some interesting images..

Lots of weird things to entice Nessie to the surface go on, like flinging bacon from hot air balloons. But let's look at Dr Robert Rines, President of the Academy of Applied Science, Boston, Massechusetts and VCP (very clever person). When using his specialist sonar equipment on 20th of September 1970 he detected objects doing stuff  in the water. It was caught in his sonar beam, just as the fish were scarpering.  Dr. Rines returned to the Loch with more kit and on August 8th their sonar detected  more big things in the water doing stuff with the fish behaving as fish do when something is viewing the fish buffet The sonar picked out one in particular - as it passed within 20 feet of the sensor at a depth of 45ft. Due to the peat in the water the image is not clear but it shows "the offside hind quarter, flipper and part of the tail of a large animal with a rough textured skin of a greeny-brown colour". Fair enough we might think. The flipper is estimated to be about 8 ft in length. That might make us think again. That is a big beastie.

Folk like the American Smithsonian Institution among others have stated the tail structure resembled the shape of the tail of newts but does not resemble the structure of any known mammalian creature. The British Natural History Museum, in typical British fashion agreed the photograph was genuine and 'the sequence appears to show the passage of a large object'. !!!!!!   The experts agreed that there are large animals in Loch Ness which are at least 20 to 30ft long with 'several segments, body sections or projections such as humps'. 

In 1975 Dr. Rines had a big breakthrough with close-up underwater photographs which show the head and body of one of the creatures in remarkable detail. This was all secret and very scientific, to be talked about by Britain, America, Canada and Europe at a scientific symposium in Edinburgh, The news leaked and it was felt it would be impossible to conduct a proper scientific discussion in such an atmosphere.  In its place a meeting was held in the Grand Committee Room at the Houses of Parliament at the instigation of David James, the MP who had led the Investigation Bureau.   Dr. George Zug, the Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians at the renowned Smithsonian Institution in Washington said in his personal statement: "I believe these data indicate the presence of large animals in Loch Ness, but are insufficient to identify them".

 Is this the best picture? Ok it was taken by George Edwards who has lived around the loch for years, spending more than 60 hours a week on the water. He claims it has been verified by a team of US military.

There is a sonar image taken in Feb 2012 by skipper Marcus Atkinson that shows a  big sausage shaped thing swimming under the boat, and moving much faster than the boat. He won the Best Nessie Sighting of The Year Award. Yes there really is one.

There are nessie hunters who live by the water. Watching. One, Anthony Feltham gave a great quote, “I’m the world champion,” he sighs, “of sitting on a beach and seeing bugger all.”
But then  this happened to wait, my pain was not in vain.....


Caro Loch Ness  MIE Correspondent  April 12th 2013


  1. I assume you had a wee dram or two of the amber liquid to keep you warm! Great story.

  2. Caro, I'm at a loch for words! I feel betrayed by science to learn that famous black & white of Nessie wasn't for real but for reel. I'll stop now before you sic your (adorable) monster hunter on me.

  3. It's a beautiful place. I really liked your piece. Another way for me to travel. And who knows? We don't so Nessie might be laughing at us.

  4. I hope no one ever finds a way to prove Nessie ISN'T there. I prefer the mystery to remain. I've tried Nessie spotting (unsuccessfully) in the past and spent a week in a holiday cottage with a view of Loch Morar - no sign of Morag though the rain was so heavy all week that anything could have been out there!