Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nessie Review of 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.

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.

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.


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!


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 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.


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.


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.

No comments:

Post a Comment