Monday, 23 April 2018

A Photograph from 2006




Last year a reader informed me of a previously unreported eyewitness account  that had been posted on the Internet. I contacted the witness and discussed the case with him before agreeing to republish the account here. What was not published back then was the photograph that he said was taken by his girlfriend due to loss of contact with her. I am now happy to say he has obtained her consent and the photo is now included in this article. I reprise the account as told by the boyfriend that day over eleven years ago.


I am writing this under a pseudonym. I am an American working in a field involving considerable professional scrutiny. The one time I discussed this, at a family holiday party after a few drinks, I was laughed at and ribbed for the next few years, so I can only imagine how my present employers might react!

In March of 2006, I visited Loch Ness with my then girlfriend. It was the last week of the month (either the 28th or 29th). We were at Inverness for business purposes, hers not mine. We decided to visit the famous castle on the water and as we drove from Inverness we saw something in the water. 

The time was late afternoon, I would say between four and five. We'd been day drinking which made driving on the other side of the car even more interesting than it already was! It also somewhat compromises the specific details such as precise location and time.

 When my girlfriend began exclaiming that "there's something in the water," I laughed and said she was joking. Finally I realised she was being serious and pulled off to a lay by somewhere near the Clansman hotel (I remember because we went in afterwards to the gift shop to tell everyone what we had seen). As soon as I pulled over, my girlfriend was pointing at the water and I saw it. 

I can't really judge size on water, its not my speciality, but it was HUGE. It looked like a whale. I would say it was grey like an elephant with a neck that was swinging side to side over the water. That was really what it looked like, an elephant waving its trunk. There was a huge commotion in the water behind it. The thing was just massive. It was swimming back toward Inverness the way we came. 

My girlfriend was fumbling to get her camera out of luggage in the back seat before the monster was gone. She was tipsy and we were both shaking. She finally got it out of her bag and took a picture through the car window. We were so shaken up that neither of us thought to roll down the window. She tried to take another snap but her memory card was full, and as she fumbled to delete sightseeing pictures to make more room, it was gone. It just sort of went down while it continued swimming toward Inverness. 

In retrospect I wish we had taken photos of the water afterward which was quite disturbed, but it wasn't until I began reading up on the subject that I realised it might have been of value. We took the picture to the gift shop and the lady at the counter told us to go the exhibition centre to show it, but we got cold feet and just went back to the hotel at Inverness and drank some more. When we got back to the States, we put it on the computer and pretty much never looked at it again or even talked about the experience. It was almost like we felt guilty. 

My girlfriend and I long ago broke up and I have since married, and the one time I told my wife (it was the holiday party at her family's house), the response was so embarrassing that whenever she jokes about "that time Justin saw Nessie," I just sort of laugh it off.

 I just found the picture last week on a CD rom containing files I removed from my ex's computer before I moved out following the breakup. It was in a folder with 90s alternative rock mp3s! I hadn't looked at it in years and while the quality isn't great considering it was just a point and shoot she'd owned for a couple years, it still made my heart skip a beat. Seeing it again caused me a sleepless night because I am sure I saw something that isn't supposed to exist, and over the years I sort of talked myself out of it (too much beer that day, etc). Now its all back again, and I feel a little shaky.

It wasn't a pleasant experience, even though there was no threat of physical harm. 

I am not a Loch Ness Monster enthusiast and know as much as the average person. I didn't care about it and certainly wasn't looking for it. Same with my ex. All I have is the photo, taken through the passengers side window (slight camera reflection) showing a dark body and neck low over the water.
 
Based on that photograph, I make some observations. Firstly, I have confirmed the location of the photo as the Clansman Hotel area. Secondly, There is no EXIF data with the image, so I cannot confirm the date it was recorded. I have been to the area twice and took some comparison shots, which I outline below. I would add that the photo, going by the difference in the distant houses in the original and comparison shots was likely at a point south of the Clansman Hotel.

The object is blurred as if to indicate motion. This is indicated by the fact that the background hills and foreground bushes show less blurring. The presumed neck is more blurred than the bulk of the body, which is consistent with his description of the neck moving from side to side. There is a strong wake behind the object which indicates said motion and also that it is rapid. 

The image size is about 320kb, so closer inspection of the object is not possible. Access to the original Mb image would be useful (as well as for the exif data). Detecting image manipulation would required the original image, but I see no indications of image manipulation. The camera taking the picture is reflected in the image indicating the car window was rolled up as testified.

I then indulged in some speculations. The only object of comparison would be a dark boat. Most boats are light in colour or multicoloured. Either way, other unorthodox objects need to be considered and eliminated as required - jet skis, speedboats, windsurfers, yachts. None seem to fit the shape of this object unless they assumed some strange "instant in time" contortions. 

The object is basically blackish which is curious since I also did a calculation as to the sun's position at the stated time and date. The sun would have been behind the observers and slightly to their right. The conditions look overcast in the picture, so there may not have been much reflection. All this would indicate an intrinsically dark object. 

The object is hundreds of yards away so details are confined to gross morphology. Comparison shots which included a Jacobite cruiser and a cruise boat were taken by myself days ago and is shown below. The previous article used an older comparison shot, but the recent ones are better. The witness photograph was then overlaid onto this picture, aligning the background hill contours as carefully as possible.

 


The picture I think again shows the Jacobite Warrior cruise boat. Its beam or width is 8 meters and measuring the relative image sizes of the two, an estimate of monster size can be made as follows based on measurements I made with a ruler on the computer screen display. 

Jacobite Warrior beam/width = 8m 
Width on screen =20mm
Width of object "body" = 10mm maps to 4m (13ft) 
Width of whole object = 18mm maps to 7.2m (23.5ft)

This tallies with my previous Jacobite comparison which estimated 21 feet for the black object. In the cruiser boat shot, I measured the boat at 24mm and the creature at 28mm though here the distance between creature and boat looks farther and so estimating the size is more difficult but these boats can vary between 30 and 40 feet long.

So the "monster" is over 20 feet long including what we presume to be the neck, which was a little more difficult to estimate due to motion blur. Again, this is consistent with the witness' description of the object being "huge". 

There are some caveats. The "monster" is a bit further out for the Jacobite comparison and so is actually bigger in terms of perspective. The boat front is at a slight angle to us and so the apparent foreshortening makes its measured length a little less than 8m. These two observations probably cancel each other out to a certain extent.  

Based on this, I am pretty sure that is not a bird like a swan or cormorant taking off as it disturbs the water with its feet. The object in the picture is uniformly dark and swans are white. Given the sun was behind the photographer, I would not expect a white swan to turn out black. I also note an absence of anything I would call wings in the picture which would surely appear in a picture of a rapidly moving bird.

Cormorants are darker, but the "body" in the picture looks larger in proportion to the "neck" than for cormorants which have quite big necks/heads. Besides, I again think this object is further out than that. There is a line below the object which is most likely a boat wake, so we are out there with the boats. 

As an aside, the witness took a considerable bit of flak on another forum when he refused to publish the picture. Part of that would be the usual sceptic disdain, but some of it I suspect was an attempt to goad the witness into publishing, which he resolutely refused to do. Whatever the mix of intentions, witnesses with a story to tell may be deterred from coming forward when they see exchanges such as this. That is very sad, but in the end the picture can finally be published for discussion, though we can expect attempts to debunk it which will likely focus on the usual photoshopping tricks.
 

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Rumour of New Sighting and Photograph




Well known cryptozoologist, Loren Coleman, has heard something on the grapevine about an event at Fort Augustus. I checked with the local cruise company at Fort Augustus, but they know nothing about it, so we will just have to wait and see what transpires. The only other time I can recall someone fainting at the sight of the creature was the 1916 James Cameron story when a large hump reared up near his boat and he passed out!

It is to be noted that even when a newspaper has the rights to print a photograph, they can dither and defer, depending on what the news of the day is to fill their pages. This was the case with the Kate Powell fin photograph which took a few days to appear


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com



Sunday, 8 April 2018

Monster Hunting Raw and Undefiled




I reached Fort Augustus, after a two-day drive from my home in West Wales, with the bare minimum of equipment and no fixed plan of action. Unlike Dinsdale, I intended to sleep on the shores of the loch. This was partly to avoid hotel routine, which interferes with field work, and partly because I believed that most forms of wildlife are active early in the morning and late in the evening. If anything happened I wanted to be on the spot, not in an hotel bedroom. 

My hunting-cabin was a light van and the accommodation was pretty spartan. Two Army mattresses covered the floor and were covered by a tartan blanket. A box held provisions and cooking-gear. By the rear doors was a cylinder of cooking-gas. Two fly-rods and some fishing tackle were tucked into a net strung below the roof. A terylene sleeping-bag, blankets and spare clothing along with a few books made up the balance of the living-quarters equipment. The rest of the outfit was equally down to the bone - a pair of 10 x binoculars, a Rolleiflex camera, a few filters and a light-meter. It was a sort of do-it-yourself expedition kit.

F. W. Holiday, 1968

As I stood at six in the morning on the beach besides the River Foyers this Saturday past, I was reminded of two men of renown in the pursuit of Loch Ness' most famous inhabitant. These were Ted Holiday and Tim Dinsdale. The two came to my mind for different but similar reasons as I was in the middle of one of my trips to the loch.

In what has become something of a habit now, I am minded to read some of Ted Holiday when I sojourn here. Certainly, one chapter entitled "Foyers at Sunrise" from his work, "The Great Orm of Loch Ness" has become required reading for me as it connects me with what gone before. Here we find the memoirs of a true solo monster hunter and Dinsdale's first book is not far behind in this regard.

I quote above from that chapter to relate the rawness of the search going back to August 22nd 1962 when he drove up from Wales. I was not even born then and Holiday would have been aged about 41 years. A light van, spartan accommodation, two Army mattresses and various other basics. Unlike Dinsdale, who had stayed in a hotel when he filmed his 1960 film, Holiday's austerity stretched to sleeping by the shore in his modest vehicle.

No defilement of the comfortable hotel bed for Ted as he explained that wildlife tended to be busiest around dawn or dusk, and he intended to sacrifice comfort for proximity if any action happened his way on the shore. Whatever you may make of such strictures, days later at almost the same spot as Dinsdale's film, Holiday found himself staring at the "Great Orm" of Loch Ness.

The time he saw it was about the same time I arrived near the inlet where his monster had appeared. I had not slept in a van, but as usual, had pitched my tent at the local campsite. Like Holiday, I resorted to a gas stove, unlike him, I bought my food rather than catch it from the loch. I wondered how much my approach to monster hunting was as raw and undefiled as his.

Loch Ness was not a far flung lake akin to a Lost World, but compared to today, it was very much underdeveloped when Dinsdale and Holiday scanned the waters between 1960 and 1962. The Clansman Hotel had just been built, but the choice of accommodation was far less than today. Tourists shops were less in number and Urquhart Castle was a ruin you could just walk into.

Those in pursuit of a profit have probably always outnumbered those in pursuit of monsters. There is nothing wrong with that per se,  but I sense the whole thing has gone beyond saturation point. I note that one campsite by Fort Augustus is building chalets for the monied tourists to rent. After all, why charge pennies for tent pitches when you can charge pounds for chalets?

That is a trend I have seen elsewhere. Perhaps one day I will end up parking my vehicle along the lochside like Holiday as tents and caravans are swept aside in the name of bigger profits? I assume the local authorities will note this in the various planning applications. Then again, perhaps all they are interested in is the tourist pound as well?  Time will tell.

The tourist shops likewise are shrines to tat and piffle. I would expect no less, but any kind of informed hat tipping towards the reason everyone comes is evident by its absence. There is next to nothing in the way of pro-cryptid literature and even the sceptical literature is barely visible. I guess they don't sell as well as Nessie shortbread or tartan monsters.

Going back 55 years to that raw and undefiled monster hunting, when Loch Ness seemed like a wilderness compared to the tourist mania of today, Britain was not long out of post-war austerity. Perhaps that was reflected in those monster hunters habits as I found myself standing at 6am on Dinsdale Island, scanning the loch before me.

Well, that is not actually its name. It is the small triangular island that bestrides the bifurcation of the River Foyers. We are told that Cherry Island is the only island of Loch Ness, but perhaps this is one as well? I suppose that depends, as it is not always separate from the mainland.

As it turned out, the water levels at the mouth of the river were at the lowest levels I could recall in years of coming here. The sandbar had been exposed and that meant I could walk over it unhindered to the island. Meantime, the River Foyers was almost becoming Loch Foyers as it was nigh cut off from Loch Ness (below).



A fellow enthusiast, by the name of Doug (pm me btw) reminded me that this used to be a haunt of Tim Dinsdale's back in the early days. He would be ferried over from the world of the Highland inhabitants to the raw and undefiled aloneness of the hunt. Once again raw, as Dinsdale lived off the basics he could bring over and the undefiledness of solitude. Not loneliness, but an apartness from the world around him. Just him and the Monster.

I believe Tim built a kind of hide to watch out for the creature. Whether Nessie would be fooled by such a contraption I cannot say. What I can say is that my almost unrelenting watch of the loch relented. Holiday alluded to this in his aforementioned book, the distractibility of water watching. It is not easy to stare at the waters of the loch once the initial enthusiasm ebbs away. 

I am no good at it, but had a remedy when I was there later in the day, I plugged a portable radio into my ears and listened to the commentary on the Scottish football. Monster hunting suddenly became a lot easier, especially when your team was winning. By coincidence, Holiday's book mentioned the temptation to flick on the radio!

So I explored the island, and when the waters began to rise again after some rain, I crossed in my wellington boots for my own bit of raw solitude. This time, however, I also brought a very un-1960s quadcopter; more on that in another piece. Doug had suggested I indulge in some crypto-archaeology if I ever got to the island. You mean, dig up a plesiosaur perhaps?

No, not at all. I was told that Dinsdale, in his book, had said he had buried an old pair of boots there. That was interesting. What should I do if I found them? Keep them as a souvenir of the great man or just leave them to moulder in their grave? I think the lie of the land answered those questions for me. Although small, the islet was still up to 200 feet long by 100 feet wide. 

A reconnaissance of the area was performed in the hope that an old boot lace may be seen to emerge from the ground like the proverbial morning worm. Alas, I think Dinsdale did a good job of burying his boots as nothing obvious was seen. I did find a shed antler to add to the deer skull I found last year, so all was not in vain, However, I think Tim's boots, of which I would suggest none of us are fit to fill, will nevertheless remain filled with soil.

Walking back to mainland about 7am, I had a Holiday moment as I met an angler about to push his boat out into the loch. Ted Holiday wrote about a similar episode when he chanced on an angler about to do the same early morning thing.

I had a brief chat with the man who was from Inverness and had a boat moored there. He was off to catch some salmon, but he had never seen the "Orm" as Holiday called Nessie and did not believe in it. In contrast, Holiday's angler matter of factly stated he had seen the creature twice and just accepted it was part of the loch.

In conclusion, Holiday and Dinsdale died in 1979 and 1987 respectively. Less worthy men stepped into the void and began to dismantle all that these two giants had worked for since those early 1960s. If both were alive today, they would be aged about 97 years old. I am glad they are not here to see the anodyne mess the whole thing has become.

Monster hunting, raw and undefiled. Old vans, gas stoves, grubby old boots and demob mattresses. Dinsdale and Holiday arrived with old style cameras and binoculars. I arrived with drone technology, digital SLRs, laptop, thermal imagers and image intensification hardware. In a fast changing world, I would like to think some of the old traditions are maintained by those who have not turned their back on the monster hunt, but continue the search to this day.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com







Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Did Nessie pass under their Boat?

By accident, I came across this letter to "The National" newspaper dated the 6th March this year. It was in response to an article on the beast's truly iconic nature, but this time it was something of a more solid nature. I reproduce the text of the letter here (original link here).

I AM intrigued by Pat Kane’s piece on a new ten pence coin bearing an image of Nessie (Here’s to Nessie! Why we’re all in thrall to Scotland’s mystic monster, The National, March 3). 

While not putting forward any theory, I did have a strange experience on Loch Ness. We were spending a holiday weekend with friends in Turriff, and were invited to visit another friend who had a cabin cruiser, the Rubicon, on Loch Ness. 

It was a lovely day and we cruised down the loch to Drumnadrochit, where we had lunch. In the late afternoon we cruised back and just off Foyers the boat’s owner, Jim Hunter suddenly said: “We’re running out of water!”. He switched the depth sounder from fathoms to feet and it was as if we were approaching the shore, but we were in the middle of Loch Ness! 

The ladies came out of the cabin to see what all the excitement was about, and we watched the depth sounder coming up and sticking until there was only eight feet under the keel. There were six adults, four of whom have since died, and three boys – I am talking at least 30 years ago. 

In any event the eight feet depth lasted probably about five minutes, then the echo sounder went back to no recorded depth; as soon as this happened Jim opened the throttle and we departed the scene, sharpish. We saw nothing, we heard nothing, and we discussed what had happened. My Turriff friend finally said: “There was something big underneath the boat.” 

I sent a letter to the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau in Foyers recounting this experience but I did not receive an acknowledgement; I know I have a copy somewhere in my loft as I came across it some years ago – I am not in the habit of throwing things out, as my wife continually reminds me.

Jim Lynch, Edinburgh.

There may be some small inaccuracies in the letter (the LNIB were not based at Foyers) but the drama of that day is I am sure etched onto his mind. However, it would be great to see the original letter which would carry more details for us to ponder. So if Jim Lynch is reading this, let me know if you have anything further to say.

This actually gives me some greater anticipation as regards the use of a drone. Whether the 4K video recorder could register anything definitive eight feet under the surface of the loch, I am not certain. However one wonders how often the creature drifts towards the surface but no one is any the wiser as to its presence?


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Sunday, 1 April 2018

Any Other Dumb Nessie Stories Today?




In the past we have had a dead "Nessie" stopped by police from being taken out of Scotland. It turned out not to be Nessie. Then we had the medieval Nessie story which more evil than medi. And people have always wondered if the infamous Surgeon's Photo was made on April 1st. Not forgetting even Adolf Hitler got in on the joke. Anyway, here's something along the same lines, had to do a double take before I realised the date.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Thoughts on the Alfred Cruickshank Land Sighting




As part of the promotion for my new book on land sightings of the Loch Ness Monster, I thought I would cover the curious case of Alfred Cruickshank and his encounter on a lonely road during an April night in 1923. Before I proceed, may I ask readers who have bought the book to consider posting a review to amazon.co.uk or amazon.com?

But what of that event 95 years ago and the closest we have to primary sources? Alfred Cruickshank of Buckie, Banffshire near Loch Ness wrote a letter to famous monster hunter, Tim Dinsdale on the 9th January 1961 regarding his curious encounter. That communication made it into Tim's first book, "Loch Ness Monster", which I reproduce verbatim here:

I thank you for your letter about our famous `Nessie'. I usually went from Buckie to Speanbridge to meet a train from Glasgow at 8 a.m. This meant leaving home about 3 a.m. as the roads at this time were very narrow and rough, 112 miles. The car I had was a Model T Ford and the headlamps were off the low tension magneto. The faster your engine ran the better the lights, so that when you slowed down at a corner (there were hundreds of them) your lamps faded.

I have done this journey hundreds of times but I have had only one view of the Monster, and I believe I was the first to see it, but I never told anybody (bar my wife) what I had seen (also my boss). If I remember rightly it was on a Monday morning in April, 1923, when I was going to Speanbridge, that I had the encounter with the Monster, of which I got a very good view as it crossed the road in front of me; but as I was nearing a corner of the road I was slowing up and the headlamps dimmed. I can still show you the place although the road has all been remade and widened.

If the road had been wider I would have turned the car for a further look but it was too narrow. My view of the Monster was: Body 10-12 ft. long, 5 ft. 6 in.-7 ft. in height, tail 10-12 ft. Colour, green-khaki resembling a frog, with cream coloured belly which, trailed on the ground. It had four legs thick like an elephant's and had large webbed feet, in reality it looked like' an enormous hippo, but arched back and long trailing tail which was on the same level as the belly, as you will see in my rough drawing. It gave out a sharp bark, like a dog, as it disappeared over the road into the water.

I think this is all the information I can give you. I wrote the B.B.C. about the Monster when they put down divers to photograph under Loch Ness for the Monster, for one bite of its large mouth would have halved any man, but they never replied. Hoping I have been of some assistance to you ...

A second source comes from the chapter on land sightings in Nicholas Witchell's "The Loch Ness Story", published 13 years later in 1974 which is reproduced below. Since I believe Mr. Cruickshank lived about 60 miles from Loch Ness in Buckie at the time, this looks a visit from Nicholas Witchell rather than a letter.

It was still dark and Mr Cruickshank's route was being illuminated by the car's rather primitive headlamps as he bumped and wound his way along the deserted road. About two miles north of Invermoriston he crested a small hill and his headlamps picked out a large object on the outside of a bend in the road about 50 yards ahead of him. "I could see something moving - it had a large humped body standing about six feet high with its belly trailing on the ground and about 12 feet long, to which was attached a long thick tail which was ten to 12 feet in length. It was moving slowly, sort of waddling away from the road on two legs which I could see on the near side.

I saw the outline of what appeared to be the head which was big and pug-nosed and was set right on the body — in other words it didn't seem to have much of a neck. I was slowing down to go round the corner so the lamps faded but as I went round the corner 1 heard a grunting noise from where it was. I stopped the car once I was round the corner but I couldn't turn the car round and I certainly wasn't going back on foot." Mr Cruickshank described the colour as dark olive to khaki and lighter underneath although obviously in the poor light it was difficult to determine colour clearly.

When Mr Cruickshank arrived at Speanbridge station and met his employer, the latter apparently asked him what was wrong since he was looking very pale. "He thought I must have had an accident," recalled Mr Cruickshank, "but I told him what had happened and he said I must have been dreaming. A couple of other friends who I told about the sighting said I must have been drunk. Apart from them I just told my wife and then kept quiet about it all." 

So what are we to make of this extraordinary account of a huge beast upwards of 25 feet crawling across a dark Highlands road during the inter-war years? The sceptics will of course dismiss it out of hand and we shall come to their theories later. However, even those who accepted there was a large beast in the loch were a bit non-plussed by the account as it did not include the obligatory long neck of Nessie lore.

Be that as it may, as researchers, Dinsdale and Witchell were honest enough not to sweep it under the carpet and both published the account for the world to read. What disappoints me is that we do not have any sketch to accompany either account. From the above, we know Cruickshank sent Dinsdale a sketch which, rather than printing, describes as:

a squat and bulbous creature with a large doglike head, little or no neck, four stumpy legs with flipperlike endings with fingers or claws, and a huge tail ...

I contacted the Dinsdale family regarding the possibility of this sketch still being in their father's archives, but nothing was found. But gone is the small head perched upon the long slender neck and to summarise the statistics:
  • larged humped body 10 to 12 feet long and 5.5 to 7 feet high
  • tail about 10 to 12 feet long
  • big, pug nosed head
  • little or no neck
  • four thick legs like and elephant with webbed feet 
  • belly and tail trailed along ground
  • emitted bark or grunting noise
  • colour dark olive to khaki with lighter cream coloured underbelly

What are the mitigating factors that may compromise this description? The first is that the event (according to Witchell) happened about 0500. The specific day in April is not given, and so we can only surmise that sunrise occurred between 0643 and 0529. A mid-April date gives a sunrise of 0605 which suggests there was not much natural light around and Mr. Cruickshank was largely dependent on his headlights.

As stated above, the headlights were driven by the engine in a manner similar to wind up torches today. As Mr. Cruickshank initially saw the creature fifty yards ahead of him, he was not about to take a corner and so the headlights were at normal brightness for his given speed. However, I am pretty sure a combination of seeing this hulking beast and knowing he was about to reach a familiar corner was sufficient for him to start applying the brakes. So, though Alfred says he had "a very good view" of it, this would have only lasted for seconds.

I say seconds because we are told he regularly undertook a 112 mile journey in 5 hours for an average speed of 22.4 mph. At an initial distance of 50 yards from the creature, he would be upon it no sooner than five seconds. In terms of movement, our creature had to move its 25 foot length across a road probably 15 feet wide in about the same time which gives a probable speed of five feet per second or about 3.4 miles per hour to avoid a collision. As a comparison, bull elephants seals can comfortably manage such a speed.

Apart from brevity and light levels, there is also the memory question as Alfred Cruickshank's letter to Tim Dinsdale was 38 years after the event happened. As stated before, whatever the eyewitness testimony, the passage of decades is going to have some effect on the powers of recall. I say that asking the reader what events they can recall from 38 years ago in 1980?

And herein lies the rub, the vast majority of what we saw in 1980 is long gone and beyond recall, but what is memorable, exciting or traumatic is not so easily eroded. Seeing a large form filling the road in front of you on a lonely road is what I would call "traumatic" and is more permanently encoded onto those ancient memory paths which carry those things which had to be recalled for the purposes of survival and preservation of life and limb. That he arrived at Spean Bridge looking like a sick man sums it up.

I think a large, unknown monster fits that bill nicely and note that the two accounts given about 13 years apart do not differ greatly in detail. Having said that, even this will not be subject to perfect recall in regards to exact details as I note that the two accounts differ in who Alfred Cruickshank told his story to (but note details omitted in one account do not constitute a contradiction). One also describes the noise emitted by the creature as a "grunt" but the other says a "bark".

One may think I am using brevity, light and memory factors to wriggle out of this lack of a long neck, but the Witchell account states that he only saw the "outline" of a head which suggests the full beam of the headlights was concentrated on the middle portion of the creature and weakened towards the sides of the road putting the "head" in relative darkness.

Thus, Nicholas Witchell asked whether the neck may have already progressed out of view into the trees or perhaps the neck had turned to look at the approaching car to give the impression of no neck. Mr. Cruickshank did not think so and thus some Nessie researchers are left with an incongruity. Others are not, such as advocates of a giant salamander like creature or those who think the creature is not resident in the loch but is actually several differing cryptids that occasionally find their way into the loch over the centuries.

But where did this all happen? I made some provisional deductions and visited the potential site back in April 2015 when I was investigating the nearby John MacLean sighting of 1938. As Alfred Cruickshank rightly pointed out, the road has been remade and widened since 1923 and so comparing his account to the current road is not a good idea. However, the incident is said to have occurred about two miles north of Invermoriston and happened near a cornering of the road. Using a pre-1933 Ordnance Survey map of the area will help narrow down the options as shown below.



As you can see, there is not much in the way of bending roads closer to Invermoriston (out of view to the bottom left). Also, as the road heads south to Invermoriston the road rises away from the loch and provides less of a comfortable route for the kind of creature described unless it was into high board diving. With that in mind, my gaze turned to Altsigh which is about 2.5-2.9 miles from Invermoriston, depending from where you start your measurements.

At Altsigh, we find a bending of the road which is not so much pronounced on today's A82 road (as suggested by Cruickshank). Zooming in gives us this view of the road below and I would suggest the event occurred at the first northernmost bend above the "A" of "Alltsigh" on the map. I say that because the witness stated that the creature became visible on the "outside bend" of the road which suggests a bend pointing towards the loch rather than away from it (as we see over the Altsigh burn).




Actually, this location is very near the spot where the old Half Way House hotel was located which later became a Youth Hostel. It is not visible on this old map nor the later 1921-1930 "Popular" OS map series, so I suspect it was built to take advantage of the later improved road. That would suggest this was a much lonelier road in 1923, though the credibility of the case hardly hinges on this.

With that location in mind, I did a reconnaissance of the area to see what lay beyond the road, mindful that topology may have changed somewhat between 1923, 1933 and today. Below is the road looking south as Alfred would have travelled, just before the now renamed Hostel (just out of sight to the left).




The outside bend you see is where I speculate the older dog leg bend once existed and the creature would have crossed ahead of it. To the right are some houses and I had an interesting conversation with one of the owners at the time concerning frightening events. To the left was the loch and I made my way down to the general view of the shingle beach shown below. It was a short trudge down from the road, perfectly consistent with the kind of quick escape route back to the loch that our favourite cryptid likes.




Looking back to the road from the beach I inspected the rising hillside back to the road. My first impression was that this would be an easy enough incline for a beast to slide down, but it was unclear how scalable it was in the opposite direction. But then again, I have no idea what the elevation of the road was like in 1923 or where the sweet spot for ascending/descending was. That particular answer is now lost in the mists of time.



 
OPINIONS
 
Given the knowns and unknowns, I was quite comfortable with this as a possible location. But let us get back to the varying views on this curious event. First, there is the matter of the greenish colour of the beast. Admittedly, it is a departure from the usual darker shades of the monster, and this led Tim Dinsdale into the speculation that the car's ancient magneto lights as they faded gave the creature a green tint.

That sounds reasonable but I emailed the owner of a Model T Ford enthusiast's website and asked if the colour of a magneto headlight emitted any colour in full or fading luminance. His reply was this:

"The bulb was a typical light bulb of the time. It was bright white at full brilliance but turned a bit yellowier as the engine slowed down. Looking at it, it just dimmed ... a color change was not too evident."
 
That doesn't totally exclude this as an explanation, but for me it is not likely to turn a grey/brown creature into a khaki green one. Looking back at the sightings record, I can find only three other explicitly green skinned events - the Lowrie family (August 1960), Christie (May 1962) and Kennedy (November 1974). So they do happen, but very infrequently. 

How much this colour variation is an issue partly depends on one's bias in the subject. Sceptics want multi-coloured Nessies to bolster their case against a single variant creature. The other extreme is to liken the Loch Ness Monster to a chameleon, which is going to far in the opposite direction. But these are both missing the point.

The vast majority of sightings are dark brown/grey/black and one cannot not always be sure how many grey-blacks are due to shadow rather than skin colour. So the green (and yellow) variants are a very small percentage which hardly swings the case. If 25% were green, 25% brown, 25% black and 25% yellow, that would constitute a bigger problem. These green outliers suggest to me a variant in monster morphology that does not happen very often. 

Meantime, sceptical interpretations are a bit thin on the ground. Steuart Campbell slots this case into the "otter like" category without explaining how an otter can fill the road or appear green. Unfortunately for the sceptics, otters in a heat haze cannot be wheeled out here! One could try and invoke larger creatures such as deer or seals, I leave the defense of such shaky theories to their protagonists, though I don't recall a seal ever being reported on a road by Loch Ness or ever out of the loch (and of course seals are not 25 feet long - unless a very large walrus got into the loch).

Perhaps an admission that this case is not amenable to natural explanations is found in Ulrich Magin's sceptical analysis of pre-1933 cases done for Fortean Studies Volume 7. He suggests that the whole thing was just a joke by Alfred Cruickshank based on the less than compelling observation that the month of the event was April and hence may be an April Fool's joke. A look at the calendar for 1923 shows that none of the Mondays in April fell on the 1st.

CONCLUSION

Otter, seal, hoax or monster? Make up your own mind. If Mr. Cruickshank did want to fabricate a report, you would have thought he would have played safe and gone for the standard grey, long necked beast. Seals and otters are far too small which leaves little room for any other explanation.

Alfred Cruickshank died in 1978 and so I leave the final word to Alfred Cruickshank's grandson who I tracked down to the same town of Buckie and had a phone conversation with a few years back. He acknowledged he knew of the story bit didn't have much to add. But he reminisced with me how his grandad often used to sit him on his knee and tell him the tale of how he once met the Loch Ness Monster on a dark, lonely road.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com






Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Entering the Thermal Dimension





As my first visit of the year to Loch Ness approaches, I mentioned my previous plan to use a drone to scout the waters just below the surface of the loch. I have now added a thermal imaging device to the repertoire of scientific devices as the hunt for data on the creature steps up. To be more precise, I will be taking up a Flir TS24-Pro imaging device shown above.

You may have seen devices similar to this in use by the popular series "Finding Bigfoot" and I have always wanted to acquire one for the Nessie hunt.  The device works on the principle of constructing images from heat and not light. This is demonstrated in the two images below which shows an optical image taken at night and the corresponding Flir image built on the heat emitted by the deer and surrounding foliage, etc.




This is in contrast to another data collecting device I use which is the Yukon Ranger Pro night vision binoculars which work on the principle of intensifying the low level of ambient light into a monochrome image. An example of the use of this device can be viewed in this previous article. One advantage the TS24-Pro has over the Yukon is that it has an SD card feature to allow video or still image recording while on the move. The Yukon video stream can only be recorded by attaching its composite video output to a cumbersome device like a laptop running video processing software.
Nevertheless, each device has its own particular domain of use. In the case of the Flir, if I am fortunate enough to record a heat image of the Loch Ness Monster, then that could be used to determine to what degree the animal is endothermic or exothermic by comparing its heat signature to other animals. Mind you, getting any heat image of the beast would be a bonus. Clearly, this is a device that is suited to the night environment where things invisible to the naked eye cannot escape the gaze of the thermal imaging device.

How and where the Flir will be used is still in the planning. I may employ it on the dawn night run alongside the optical dashcam or just use it on beach patrols. One possible problem I envisage is that having gazed at the bright thermal images through the eyepiece, it will take a while for the eye to re-adjust to the surrounding low light levels of the night.

By coincidence, I was recently watching a documentary on the Lake Champlain Monster and noted a couple who had taken the hunt to a small island on the lake with a similar device looking out for Champ on land by night. I can relate to that tactic, firm in the belief that Nessie also has nocturnal habits.

Wish me luck.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com