Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The Return of Mr. Binns




It is the age of the sceptic and don't we know it as they attempt to impose their way of thinking on the rest of us in not only the domain of cryptozoology but matters far and wide where they think theirs is the superior intellect.

However, one name I thought had retired to his armchair with his slippers and pipe is Ronald Binns. Nessie fans will know him well for his less than satisfactory book from 1983, "The Loch Ness Mystery Solved", which failed to live up to its title as it descended into a diatribe of exaggerations, misrepresentations and dubious interpretations.

I have covered the flaws in that book on several occasions on this blog with respect to the classic Mackay sighting and his treatment of the late Alex Campbell. The question is whether this new book is going to be cold scepticism reheated which will be as bad for you as a bowl of reheated rice?

Whether he intends to bring anything new to the table remains to be seen. Whether he will correct the errors of his previous book or continue to libel cryptid advocates also remains to be seen. As you can tell from the tone of this post, the mode is less than receptive based on past experience.

However, this latest book in a line of recent sceptical works will be released on the 8th August. That line includes Loxton and Prothero's "Abominable Science" (reviewed here), Tony Harmsworth's "Loch Ness Understood" (reviewed here) and Darren Naish's "Hunting Monsters" (reviewed here). That will be four sceptical books in seven years, too frequent in my opinion.

I am not sure how pleased they were with my reviews ...

They have all so far pretty much said the same thing and rehashed the old arguments but added more ridiculous ones such as the swan interpretation of the Hugh Gray photograph. So what Binns has to say is as yet unclear (and Amazon currently has no product description). I wait to be surprised and will post a review in due course (though that may unfortunately involve buying the book).


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com



Thursday, 20 July 2017

Captain Munro, Monster Hunter




In the ranks of Nessie hunters, you would have heard of Tim Dinsdale, Ted Holiday and Roy Mackal, but perhaps not a man by the name of Munro. He is not a figure that dominates in the annals of Loch Ness Monster hunting, but he had a part to play in the early days of the mystery. In fact, his appearance is rather bright and fleeting, but it could all have been so different.

Captain Donald J. Munro, C.M.G, R.N. (Retired) came to the attention of the national media in June 1938 when he proposed a more rigorous scheme for obtaining conclusive evidence for the Loch Ness Monster. The earliest newspaper e-clipping I have on this is from The Scotsman dated 11th June 1938 and is reproduced below.




Previously, Munro had been one of the first advocates of modern harbour defences and in 1912 implemented boom defences at Portsmouth and later at Scapa Flow, where he was King's Harbour master. Indeed, in his pre-Nessie book, "Convoys, Blockades and Mystery Towers", he elaborates on the testing of mines at Loch Ness:




But, to summarise monster matters, Munro saw no profit in such tactics as aeroplanes, airships, boats or submarines as he saw the creature as being sensitive to noise. To him that meant immovable observation posts with "observers and instruments always ready for action" with the early morning being the best time. In support of this, his 45 years on steamships convinced him that fish and aquatic mammals were afraid of vibrations set up by propellers.

The instruments in question would be a camera with a long-range telephoto lens, range finder, cine-camera, stop watch, light meter and powerful binoculars. These would be employed by experienced observers, one being a naval officer and another trained observer and two other volunteers. These people would man the stations from daylight to twilight on two man shifts. One such platform could even be fixed on the surface of the water to get closer to the target.

The London Times took up the story on the 14th June as shown below. Though the Captain had no doubt as to the creature's existence, the source of its food mystified him as he speculated on unknown food stocks. I don't think he had to think too hard about that, but the biggest unknown was getting this project off the ground.








The Northern Chronicle took up the story further on the 15th June (below) stating that Munro had no idea what the identity of the creature could be, being unable to reconcile its observed behaviour with what he knew about from his maritime adventures. To him, it was all about obtaining those conclusive photographs which would be submitted before a panel of experts for assessment.

Of course, the thing is we hear no more of Captain Munro's proposals. We read in Ted Holiday's 1968 "The Great Orm of Loch Ness" on how the young Holiday contacted him and Munro sending him his proposal pamphlet entitled "Loch Ness Mystery" but no further details. Indeed, this pamphlet is one of the rarest of Loch Ness items as I have never seen a copy of it at any time in any place. It is not even in the National Library of Scotland which prides itself in being the main repository of Scottish literature. Perhaps one day ... one wonders where Holiday's copy ended up.





So, the idea never got off the ground. The aforementioned pamphlet actually doubled as a prospectus for the one and only Nessie IPO as shares priced at one shilling each were suggested as a means of financing the entire endeavour. Since the three camera stations proposed were priced at £500 each, that meant an initial offering of 30,000 shares.  The total cost of £1500 would be about £93,000 in today's money and so perhaps we see the problem Munro had in raising the readies.

How far Captain Munro actually got in this fund raising campaign is not known, finding the equivalent of £93,000 obviously was too much, but 1938 was not a great year for funding monster hunting either. By then, we were five years down the monster line and interest was waning, especially in the light of events surrounding Nazi Germany.

And, after all, even the insurance magnate, Edward Mountain had spent far, far less on his expedition back in the more halcyon days of 1934. So, it seems even rich men were averse to throwing too much money at this problem. 

However, Munro was somewhat vindicated twenty four years later with the formation of the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau which did implement fixed stations with cine cameras fitted with long range telephoto lenses and multiple teams. The results were mixed but never conclusive and one wonders what the Captain would have made of it all and what suggestions he may have offered.

As it turns out, Donald Munro had died ten years previously in 1952 at his home in Crieff, Perthshire, aged 87. It was a pity he never saw the realisation of his ideas at the loch, but we should stand back here and acknowledge the foresight of this man in proposing these techniques those long years before.



The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Thursday, 13 July 2017

What Tim said next to Herman




I previously posted a letter written by Tim Dinsdale to Herman Cockrell, the owner of the fascinating photograph previously analysed here. Another letter, dated the 7th February 1961, soon followed after Herman had sent material to Tim and which is reproduced below.

Now, unlike the last letter, this one is handwritten rather than typed and so is more difficult to read. The art of handwritten letters is largely a minority sport these days as emails rule the roost as well as letters typed out on Microsoft Word. Perhaps I would have found this easier to read if I had lived fifty years previously, presuming everyone was well versed in the art of deciphering such scribbles in those days. 

Tim's comment on the coming notches on the "totem pole" turned out to be premature for the curious reason that the classic photos of the 1950s did not give way to anything equitable after Tim's book, despite the heightened monster attention giving every incentive to every wannabee monster hoaxer. Anyway, here goes and the original letter is shown at the end.



Dear Mr. Cockrell,

Many thanks for your fascinating letter and cuttings - we really must fix a meeting. I shall be up at the loch for a week starting Easter week end - any chance of a visit? 

I am of course delighted with the photo and the Weekly Scotsman articles, but in order to conform to the routine of the book I have endeavoured to treat your account - on the part most important to me, briefly and concisely in the manner I have treated all the others.

If you could give me the O.K. on this as soon as ever you can (alter it if you wish of course) - it will get into the book which is now at the printers. I have sent the top copy to the publishers pending your clearance. Could you wire? Sorry about the rush but I do want you, and your account registered on the 'pioneers' totem pole, because pretty soon there will be so many notches on it that the marks of the few who really contributed something at a time when ridicule was the order of the day, will be obliterated.

I think, and hope, the book will be a success, and it may help to solve this problem. I believe the animals are resident myself, but we must discuss your underground river concept. I am all for intelligent second opinions and I have learnt never to be too serious about anything or any one of my own theories in this extraordinary business.

In compensation for your kind assistance may I send you a copy of the book when it comes out? - though I realise this might be construed as a threat! However, it's all good clean fun, and represent the most intense 2 years of study I have ever put into anything in my life.

By the way - do I have to clear copyright with the 'Weekly Scotsman', ? or can you give me a clean bill of health ? on the photo and its excerpt from article number 6?

Sincerely,

Tim Dinsdale.

P.S. Let us dispense with formality - my name is Tim.


 






Monday, 3 July 2017

Further Thoughts on an Itinerant Nessie

Further to the last article, people had expressed doubts about large creatures getting in and out of the loch, or at least in such a manner as to not go unnoticed. Now, I would say that one such situation giving the opportunity of "escape" (or whatever motivates these creatures) is after or during periods of rain which flow into Loch Ness from the main tributaries feeding into it and then flowing downhill via the River Ness into the sea.

Do these raised water levels present a monster's opportunity to migrate or emigrate? I would say so, indeed two of the accounts from the previous article state that the river was in spate. The most interesting account for me was the George McGill sighting which took place right in the centre of the town of Inverness. I quote from page 173 of Holiday's "The Great Orm of Loch Ness":

During August 1965, there was a period of heavy rain lasting for several days. The loch rose and the River Ness was in spate. A salesman, Mr George McGill, had business in the Y.M.C.A. building, Bank Street, Inverness. At 11.45 a.m. the rain was so heavy that Mr McGill stood in the doorway with a friend, watching it.

Mr McGill wrote to me: 'Just as we got to the door I looked across the River Ness. What I saw was a large, thick, ridged neck looping out of the water. The height of the neck above the water would be about four feet six inches and it was about eight inches in diameter. There was a disturbance where the neck re-entered the water and another disturbance some distance to the rear. What it was I cannot say but it was not a fish. It was very unusual and I have never seen anything like it before. I'll try to draw what I saw.'

Mr McGill's drawing shows what appears to be the neck of a smallish Orm which seems to be going down-river on the flood water. The surprising feature of this sighting is that it took place near the middle of Inverness.


As to the objection that the creature should have been seen by more people, one should take into account the heavy rain that took place during the sighting. Such conditions are going to drive people indoors and away from the river, not towards it. That does not preclude others seeing it and not reporting it (some people seem to think witnesses will always come forward, they don't). A further investigation of the archives of the time may reveal more, but that is for another time.

However, if you want to know about the "mother of all spates", this happened on January 1849 and saw devastation across the areas the river flowed through. The water levels of Loch Ness rose by an amazing fourteen feet and the Caledonian Canal and River Ness merged into one channel at some points. The report on those troubling times are shown in the contemporary clipping from the Inverness Courier below.




Now whether our favourite monster took advantage of this inundation is unknown. The sightings record for that period of time is sparse to say the least. Furthermore, one should not presume that the migrant or emigrant is somehow waiting patiently at the top of the loch or at the estuary of the river for the next spate in order to make its move. It's all about chance and opportunity, not every spate leads to monster movements and perhaps the majority just happen during normal weather. 



The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

New Photo from Loch Ness

A picture, purportedly of the Loch Ness Monster was published today in some main newspaper websites. Taken at about 1720 on the 22nd June by Australian, Peter Jackson, about four miles south of Urquhart Castle, it is certainly a curious photograph.

The account is reproduced below from the Daily Mail and is also covered by The Sun. The object was estimated at being 150 yards away and was described as moving fast northwards. The articles states that photographs in the plural were taken, but it looks like only one is visible online. Access to the sequence would obviously confirm the movement and possibly even velocity of the object.




A look at the picture suggests the classic long neck looking back towards two humps. But the zoom in below makes you think more of a swimmer with arm upraised. Again, access to the picture sequence would confirm or deny that. For now, I assume the object maintained roughly the same configuration throughout. The most noticeable item is the appendage which has a very evident "kink" in it which suggests it is an un-Nessie like feature.




Indeed, the object is so lacking in uniformity, that one would begin to think it is a large piece of tree debris (though I cannot recall if tree debris goes out that far). Again, if one could see the complete sequence, some theories may come to the fore more than others.

UPDATE

I hve now found a second photograph at this link and shown below. The position of the foreground foliage confirms it is another picture, presumably taken a little earlier and it is clear that this is no swimmer as the "arm" is still stuck up in the air. Zooming in on picture (further below) does not fill me with confidence either that it is a sail boat. I say that because I see no peson sitting up in either picture.

Note there is what might be a lighter area, perhaps a reflection off the surface of the object which may be obscuring part of the objet and giving the impression it is less than it is. Let's just say I am liking this picture more, the only sceptical interpretation that can be entertained is a weird piece of tree debris. Considering it was making its way towards Urquhart Castle, it should be no problem to find this, photograph it and post it on the usual forums. Then again, maybe not.






Holidaymakers on the trip of lifetime have taken a mysterious photograph of a fast-moving large object - leading to claims that it could be the Loch Ness Monster.

Peter Jackson and Phillippa Wearne, of Sydney, Australia, were driving alongside Loch Ness in the Highlands when they saw something big gliding through the water.

Retired engineer Mr Jackson, 64, and former lawyer Ms Weare, 60, said they were stunned by what was only the second claimed sighting of the monster this year.

Ms Wearne said: 'I really was just stunned and I thought, "what is it?" It was pretty big even from 150 yards or more offshore. I didn't know what to think. 

'We took photos and showed them to people at a B&B and (then) on a cruise. Skipper for the Loch Ness Project, Ali Matheson, said he had not seen anything like it.

'It seemed to be moving fast but in the direction of the current. We just figured if he's worked on here for years and not seen anything like it, then it must be something.'

Mr Jackson added: 'We were dumbfounded but excited. We just thought 'wow, what is it?' It has been a childhood dream to come here.

'We were just driving along when we spotted it. We stopped the car and ran back along the road to get the shots.'

The couple noticed the object moving at 5.18pm on June 22 about four miles south of Urquhart Castle, while driving north on the A82 on the west side of Loch Ness.

They safely stopped, ran back to find a clearing in the trees and took out their smartphones to take pictures.

Mr Jackson said: 'I know I saw something and I know it was large so I am keeping an open mind.'
And Ms Wearne added: 'We had a lovely feeling between ourselves watching it until it disappeared.'

Gary Campbell, registrar of sightings at Loch Ness, said: 'It's great that once again smartphone technology has allowed visitors to the area to snap something unusual at the loch.

'This makes it much easier to identify known creatures which has led to a drop in recorded sightings over the past few years.

'This is only the second sighting of 2017 to make it on to the official register and we're already halfway through the year, so we're delighted that Nessie appears to have popped up again.

'With regard to Peter's pictures, as with pretty much all Nessie photos, they are just that little bit indistinct. 

'However, the report that he has submitted gives much more detail on the distances and time frames and from this, there is really no clear explanation as to what the family caught on camera.'

He is appealing for anyone else who may have been in the area and seen anything similar on June 22 to get in touch.

The couple arrived in the UK on June 1 and will continue on their travels until returning home to Sydney on June 30.

Ms Wearne said: 'It has always been a wish of ours to explore Scotland - we have Campbell and Cameron blood apparently.' 


 The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Itinerant Monster

It was back in 1999 that Kurt Burchfiel published an article entitled "Rogue Nessie" for the Strange Magazine espousing the view that the Loch Ness Monster was not a species indigenous to the loch, but a visitor that made its way there as a juvenile growing to the proportions we read about today. Like all theories, it has its pros and cons, but since that article over 17 years ago, little has been said further on the subject.

The theory itself was not new back in 1999. Rupert T. Gould, in his 1934 book, "The Loch Ness Monster and Others", speculated that the creature was an errant sea serpent and this was echoed by his contemporary, Antoon C. Oudemans, in his pamphlet, "The Loch Ness Animal". Indeed, such a theory was regularly discussed in the newspapers of 1933 and 1934 and whenever sightings seemed to dip, the speculation was whether the creature had returned back to the sea.

After that, the popular view of the monster as part of a permanent, breeding population took hold and has generally held sway to this day. But, for me, the itinerant theory has always had some merit for reasons I will explain further down.

PROS AND CONS

The rogue or itinerant Nessie theory claims to address some faults in the indigenous Nessie theory. The first is that there is not enough food or genetic diversity to support an indigenous population. I don't agree with this view and have laid out my views on this before. However, even if the loch does provide enough sustenance for such a population, that does not automatically exclude the idea of a rogue monster.

The second argument proposed in favour of this theory is that there is a lack of evidence for multiple animals in the loch, thus strengthening the case for a single animal that lost its way. I covered the issue of multiple animal sightings in an article written back in 2014. It was discovered that less than 2% of the sightings database involved what could be two or more creatures. The conclusion of that study was that the Loch Ness Monster was more a tiger than a lion in having no herd instinct.

Nevertheless, that two percent does speak somewhat against a rogue Nessie viewpoint, though at a mere two percent, the door is still left open for a rouge Nessie viewpoint (as explained further on). Unfortunately, because of this, Burchfiel sacrifices the supposed multiple monster Lachlan Stuart photograph of 1951 on the Rogue Nessie altar, citing the Richard Frere untruth.


THE RIVER NESS MONSTER

Finally, and perhaps more importantly, are the eyewitness testimonies of creatures being seen in the waterways between Loch Ness and the open sea. After all, if the creature is to travel from sea to loch, there is a chance it may be spotted. Kurt cites four cases to this end, but only two of these can really be used. These are Columba's 565AD story, Kathleen MacDonald's 1932 account and the McGill story from 1965 recounted in Holiday's Great Orm book. He also recounts the almost apocryphal tale from 1900 concerning the strange animal found dead in the Corpach Lock near Fort William. 

I would personally discount the Columba and Corpach accounts as the first, though I accept it as indicative of a monster in Loch Ness, does not qualify as an eyewitness account. The second incident did not happen at Loch Ness, but rather 25 miles south of Fort Augustus. That leaves two accounts which may or may not be deemed a sufficient amount.

However, since reading that account, a look at the sightings database reveals a number of other reports of strange creatures seen between Loch Ness and the Moray Firth bringing us up to a grand total of eight. I tabulate these below as well as a rough map of where these sightings occurred (denoted as the black numbers).







Click on the table to enlarge. The eighth case occurred right at the confluence of the River Ness and the Inverness Firth, one may class that as either Loch Ness Monster or Sea Serpent, I include it in both categories.

The obvious question as to all these reports is, what do they mean? The usual sceptical reply will be that they are an assorted collection of misidentifications and lies. Certainly, in the case of the 1932 MacDonald case, one wonders what exactly that was. However, if the sightings are as indicative of a large, unidentified creature as the ones reported from Loch Ness are, then they appear to signify a behaviour which compels the creature to leave the loch as well as reside in it.

One further question is what direction was the creature seen to move in for each case? Towards the loch or towards the sea? Reading over the accounts, we have 4 accounts stating the creature was heading seawards, 2 stating lochwards and 2 giving no indication either way. Note most of the reports hail from the busy 1930s period but then dry up after the mid 1960s.

Does this suggest the creature(s) was regularly leaving and entering the loch in the 1930s before ceasing this pattern before a brief uptick thirty years later? And why has no one reported a single instance of the creature in the river waterways in these intervening fifty years? Surely even supposed misidentifications would still generate reports? This remains a conundrum.


THE MULTI LOCH MONSTER

However, there are other waterways aside from the River Ness where one may presume the creatures go. And so there is the small matter of strange creatures reported in lochs connected to Loch Ness along the Great Glen waterway, such as Loch Oich, Loch Lochy and Loch Linnhe. In fact, when I wrote an article on Loch Oich in 2012, citing reports from the 1870s, 1936 and 1998, I suspected these were indeed itinerant Nessies.

To that you can add claimed eyewitness account of strange beasts from Loch Lochy and Linnhe in 1929, 1930, 1960, 1975, 1996 and the 1940s, 1954, 1964, 1967 respectively. One could also add Loch Leven beside Loch Linnhe which had its cryptid moment back in 1934.

So, are these creatures totally unrelated to the Loch Ness Monster or are they one and the same? To get from Loch Ness to Loch Oich, you have the five mile swim along the River Oich. You can forget about getting there via the Caledonian Canal, be it the north or south of Loch Ness.

At the southern tip of Loch Oich, any aquatic creature would then have a short trip down the Caledonian Canal before encountering the Laggan Locks at the entrance to Loch Lochy. This may pose too much of a problem to get past as it is a two flight lock system, so one wonders if any cryptids reported in Loch Lochy have actually made their way there from the south?

As we progress in that southerly direction and pass through Loch Lochy, the end of that loch is met with the continuation of the canal and the appearance of the River Lochy. These two eventually empty into the Loch Eil-Linnhe water complex which then opens into the sea. If a creature took the canal route, they would again hit the problem of the multi lock system of Neptune's Staircase in the Corpach area. Any sensible creature will take the river route, but apparently the creature caught in the Corpach lock in 1900 did not.

So, if the Loch Lochy and Loch Ness monsters are related, it would be more via a common ocean route than via the intermediate Loch Oich. I would surmise that the creatures that are seen in Loch Linnhe have more to do with Loch Lochy than the ones in Loch Oich and Ness. Which brings us to the final thoughts on the sea serpents that are reported around the Scottish coastline.


THE LOCH NESS SEA SERPENT
 
Once our itinerant Nessie reaches the sea, it becomes a sea serpent. Can the distribution of sea serpent sightings around the Scottish coastline tell us anything about the Itinerant Nessie theory? Thanks to sea serpent researcher, Charles Paxton, I obtained his list of about 70 Scottish eyewitness reports to which I added a further sixteen reports I had found during my own research. Not all reports were specific enough to pinpoint on a map, but the results are shown on the map below.




As you can see, the distribution of reports is not uniform across the coastline. There is a degree of grouping going on in areas such as the southern entrance to the Great Glen water way, around the Loch Duich and Skye area and in the western part of the Moray Firth area.

The problem, as with mapping Loch Ness Monster sightings, is that there is a human element to this configuration. In other words, sea serpent sightings are more likely in areas where humans tend to congregate more. For Loch Ness, that would be places near the castle and population centres such as Fort Augustus.

In the case of sea serpents, similar tourist hot spots will statistically produce more sightings, assuming all other things remain equal. So it is perhaps not too surprising that such areas do have clusters, but on the other hand, one should not assume it is the only reason. For example, I see little correlation between ferry routes and sea serpent reports (although one must remember these sightings go back to the 19th century and routes may have changed).

However, if aquatic cryptids are making their way in and out of the Great Glen lochs from the sea, the clustering we see at each end of the fault line looks consistent with that. Why the Skye area should cluster from a sea serpent point of view leads to one interesting theory, but that is for another day.


CONCLUSIONS

Is the Loch Ness Monster more likely to be a manifestation of the more ubiquitous West Highland Monster? I think the creatures that have been reported in the River Ness are the same creatures reported in Loch Ness. I would say the creatures reported in the other Great Glen fault lochs are the same. The other creatures reported around the Scottish coastline won't all be those creatures, but I would say that a proportion of them are.  To think that the cryptids swimming in nearby seas and loch are totally divorced from those in Loch Ness goes too far for me.

That does leave the door open to some speculations. For example, could Loch Ness host more than one species of cryptid from the vast Atlantic Ocean from time to time which then retreat back? How alien as opposed to indigenous would any given sighting of the Loch Ness Monster be? How true were the 1930s speculations about Nessie being a visitor trying to get back to the sea? How many creatures stay to breed and see out their days in Loch Ness?

The answer to me lies between fully indigenous and fully itinerant. Whether Loch Ness may at sundry times be devoid of creatures is not something I adhere to myself, but the population could see some interesting swings over the centuries. So what is the current situation with regard to this theory? Is the population at a low cycle as some have discussed and is this due to some having left years past or others not being replaced?

And, finally, perhaps by way of appeal, you may have noticed the paucity of reports from the River Ness and around the Scottish coastline from the 1970s onwards. Strangely, out of over seventy sea serpent reports, only two come from the 1970s and one solitary case in the last forty years! Have all the sea serpents vacated the seas around Scotland? I think not, but the problem has some facets to it.

First, the enthusiasm of cryptid believers produced various books on these creatures prior to the 1980s and that helped catalogue old reports from varied sources. There may well be primary sources for Scottish sea serpent reports from the 1980s onwards, but I am not sure the research to collate them has been done, and I don't expect the current crop of sceptical researchers to be as motivated in finding them.

Secondly, it may well be that the media is not publishing as many of these reports as they used to. Finally, there will be reports in various books scattered abroad, these will be difficult to find, but not impossible.

Whether the drying up of reports from the River Ness since the 1960s suffers the same problem is not clear since this is a more watched and compact region. Perhaps it does reflect a decrease in cryptid activity. Be that as it may, if anyone knows of sea serpents and River Ness reports from the 1970s onwards, i would appreciate an email or comment below.



The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Saturday, 17 June 2017

At Loch Ness (May 2017)




Once again, it was off to the shores of Loch Ness as another drive up the A9 road was undertaken a couple of weeks ago. But even miles from the loch on the A9, passing the Slochd summit and looking aside to the location of General Wade's military road, one was reminded of the old tales of the Loch Ness Kelpie which used to tarry by the wayside of the Pass waiting for its tired victims to chance upon its inviting saddle, only to be plunged to their deaths in Loch Ness with supernatural speed.

Such a fate is hardly expected these days as we finally drew up at the campsite near Foyers, though those mini-monsters known as "midges" were certainly out in force to take a piece out of you if you were to unwarily walk into a cloud of them. Nevertheless, the view from the tent more than made up for that.



Having had to deal with various situations prior to leaving, there had not been as much time to prepare as normal, but everything seemed to come together as I undertook my usual night ride at 3am along "Monster Alley" between Foyers and Dores. When I do this in August/September, it is usually quite dark, but with only a few weeks to the Summer Solstice, it never seems to get totally dark this far north.

So, with the dashcam attached, recording conditions were better for anything that may loom out of the twilight into the view of the camera. As stated before, this stretch of Loch Ness road has the highest historical incidence of land reports of the monster. However, the odds are still great against seeing any such thing, so I also do the run to record anything else of interest that aids further study.

That includes sightings of deer which some claim are land sighting misidentifications. I now have enough data to challenge that in a future article. As it happened, I did not bump into any cryptids, but I did collide with an unfortunate deer. I didn't actually see it as it came out from the lochside (to the left) only about two feet in front of the moving car.

The result was predictable as I felt a thud but, perhaps fortunately for the deer, I didn't go over it with my wheels. I think the car, which was doing about 20-25mph, hit it almost side on and bounced it back into the loch. Going back to the area revealed no dead/injured deer on the road or anything to the side, so I suspect it may have tumbled to the shore or eventually staggered off. An examination of the dashcam recordings revealed it was indeed a deer that collided, but I won't put it up here in deference to more sensitive readers.

The car did not seem to suffer any damage and the next day a visit to Urquhart bay was made in an attempt to investigate the picture taken by Hayley Johnston back in May. Having walked from the cemetery at Drumnadrochit, through Urquhart Woods to the bay, it was not difficult to find the location and size up the situation which I shall speak on later.

On the way back to the car, there is the Drumnadrochit Cemetery. I have visited most of these sites around Loch Ness in my almost morbid curiosity to locate the graves of well known people in the Loch Ness Monster saga. I was not to be disappointed as I came across the grave of Alex Ross, piermaster at Temple Pier, Urquhart bay in the 1930s.




Now a name on a grave may not necessarily be the person one has on their mind, but here the headstone identifies him as the Piermaster of Glen Urquhart. Alex Ross was one of that exclusive band who claimed to have seen the Loch Ness Monster on more than a dozen occasions. You can read more about him in Nicholas Witchell's "The Loch Ness Story". According to the gravestone, he died in 1936. Below is a photograph of him on the left taken in October 1934.



Unlike the other high count witnesses such as Alex Campbell and Winifred Cary, we don't know much at all about Alex's sightings and probably never will, apart from one sighting of his which dates back to 1914. How many more lie undiscovered from that time?


PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION

The next day, it was now time to do something I had not done for years - visit what used to be called "The Original Loch Ness Exhibition". I say "used to" because it is now more quaintly called "Nessieland Castle" after a dispute with what used to be called "The Official Loch Ness Exhibition Centre" which is now called "The Loch Ness Centre" after a legal wrangle over who had the naming rights.

If you hadn't guessed by now, the argument between the owners was not over who got to tell the truth about the Loch Ness Monster, but good old profits and how each others bank accounts were being affected by people going to the other exhibition. The last spat these two had over raking it in was back in 2013 as explained here. I wrote generally on Nessie exhibitions here.

Leaving aside that aspect of the Nessie phenomenon, I arrived at Nessieland to be greeted by three Nessies. Finally, a land sighting of not one but three of the cryptids (below)! Anyway, it was six pounds to get in which seemed cheaper than I recall for the other exhibition. I went in and took some photos which I show below.




Now when I last visited the exhibition, it was no more than a couple of sparse corridors with panels of various photographs with explanatory notes. It also gave plenty of space to Frank Searle's photographs despite them being discredited years before. But now there was a more jolly feel to the place as I entered in to be greeted by yet another plastic monster.




It was certainly an exhibition which had a more family oriented approach than the austere re-education facility down the road which was once Nessie oriented, but is now thoroughly denessiefied. Moreover, the various photo and text displays were informative and more neutral in their approach




Having said that, some of the information was of a dubious nature such as the Daniel Parker picture of 2013. How they would handle the discredited George Edwards picture was also of interest since he is listed as a local expert. The picture was displayed with no mention of Steve Feltham's find, but further on in the exhibition, I did find a panel putting forward Steve's fibreglass prop. I suspected that the exhibition has grown in a chronological manner around the corner and it was added in that manner.

As I progressed through the exhibition, I could hear the dulcet tones of monster hunter, Gary Campbell in the distance. Eventually I arrived at a door leading to a small cinema type room where I took my seat near the Doc Shiels photo to watch a presentation on the Loch Ness Monster narrated by Gary.




During the presentation, I finally got to see the Bobbie Pollock video (below) which seems to be as elusive as the monster it purports to show. That was good as were the photos taken by Richard White nearly twenty years ago. I must admit I was less impressed by the mention of the "latest research" into quartz deposits, wormholes and Nessies!



There was one final surprise I noticed at the end of the tour. It was a graph showing the number of sightings versus photographic images taken of the creature since the Nessie phenomenon began in 1933.




In fact, the graph looked very familiar and then I realised it was a creation of my own which I had made for an article on sightings and mobile phone cameras I wrote in October 2015! I say surprised because I had not given permission to use it. Oh well, only to happy to help Mr. Skinner without any due acknowledgement.






But having said that, I think this is a more family oriented exhibition than the one up the road. Any disdain aimed at plastic monsters should be weighed in that respect. I also think they are closer to being even handed in the assessment of evidence. I say that emphasising that neither are 100% even handed. The Loch Ness Centre is too dismissive of alleged evidence for the Loch Ness Monster and Nessieland is too accepting of said evidence.

Perhaps that is the best solution, if one were to visit both exhibitions, you get two sides to the argument rather than one and from that the visitor can make their own minds up. After all, this subject is about opinions and not about dogma, despite what you may read from others.

I shall be back up at the loch sometime in September.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com