Important Information Please Read First All sighting and photographic references on this page are documented and can be verified through various publications.
A Closer Look at Loch Ness
In the Beginning
Loch Ness is part of the Great Glen or Glen Mor in Gaelic, a scar like fault line which runs over 60 miles from Inverness in the north to Fort William in the south. It is made up of 3 lochs, Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness, with Loch Ness being by far the largest. The loch is a tectonic lake resulting from a movement in the earths crust. Around 500 million years ago tremors opened up the crack that is now Loch Ness as the land to the north moved around 65 miles south westerly. During the last ice age, which ended about 10 to 12 thousand years ago, the whole area was covered in 4 thousand feet of ice. In fact the only land mark would have been Ben Nevis to the south. It was this ice which gauged out the trough that loch ness lies in. Tremors can still be felt around the loch, the last one in December 1997. The hills surrounding the loch are still rising by 1mm per year.
Facts about Loch Ness
Loch Ness is the largest body of fresh water in Britain. (1) There is more water in Loch Ness than all the other lakes in England, Scotland and Wales put together. (2) It is around twenty two and a half miles long and between one and one and a half miles wide, a depth of 754 feet with the bottom of the loch being as flat as a bowling green. (3) It holds 263 thousand million cubic feet of water which is around 16 million 430 thousand million gallons of water with a surface area of 14000 acres and could hold the population of the world 10 times over. (4) It is fed by 7 major rivers the Oich, Tarff, Enrich, Coiltie, Moriston, Foyers and Farigaig plus numerous burns, with only one outlet the River Ness which flows 7 miles through Inverness into the Moray Firth 52 feet below the loch surface. (5) During a heavy rainfall the lochs level has been known to rise by as much as 7 feet and a rise of 2 feet is common place. (6) The rain catchment area for Loch Ness is so large that a rainfall of just quarter of an adds 11.000.000 tons of water to the loch. (7) It is said that the loch never freezes and this is true. (8) Because of the great amount of water in the loch a thermocline lies at around 100 feet down in the loch.The top 100 feet of water alters temperature depending on the weather conditions but below the thermocline the temperature never alters from 44 degrees Fahrenheit. So as the surface water cools in winter and nears freezing point it sinks and is replaced by the warmer water from below. This can cause the loch to steam on very cold days, in fact it as been estimated that the heat given off by the loch in a winter is the equivalent to burning 2 million tons of coal.
Nessie - The Beginning
Most people think that the Loch Ness monster first appeared in the 1930s and it is certainly from this time that Nessie became famous but sightings of something unusual in the loch date back much further than this. It is said that the residents around the loch used to tell their children stories of the kelpie to keep them away from the dark dangerous waters of the loch. The story was of a fearsome beast who lived in the loch and when hungrywould leave its watery home and transform itself into a beautiful horse which would wait for some unlucky traveller to climb on its back then it would gallop straight into the loch and feed on its victim. I can see how this would discourage children from playing near the loch but it never stopped the locals from fishing the loch for salmon.
The first recorded sighting of the creature dates back to 565 by Saint Columba. The Saint was an Irish priest who was touring the Highlands teaching Christianity to the Picts. One day while travelling along the side of the loch he came upon a group of locals burying one of their friends who had swum out into the loch to retrieve a boat that had come loose from its moorings and been savaged by a great beast. Columba asked one of his followers to swim out and retrieve the boat and when he did the beast rose from the loch with a mighty roar and went to attack the man. At this point St Columba held up his cross and shouted "Stop go thou no further nor touch the man ". Upon hearing this the beast returned to the depths of the loch seemingly never to roar again.
Next we jump to around 1650. At this time the English army were trying to gain more control over the Highland clans and to help with this a large ship was built at Inverness then moved to the loch using rollers. The idea of the ship was to transport supplies and men around the loch to quell any trouble before it became serious. On board the ship was a writer called Richard Franck who was part of Oliver Cromwell's (Lord Protector of England) army. He wrote about the famous Loch Ness well known for its floating islands. Franck explained the floating islands as mats of vegetation moving around the loch but because of the peat content in the water very littlevegetation grows near its shores as the sunlight can only penetrate a few feet below the surface. Other reports of strange things seen in the loch can be found from the 18th and 19th centuries but it was 1933 which heralded the start of the Loch Ness monster as we know it.
In April 1933 Mr&Mrs Mackay were driving down the lochside from Inverness to their home in Drumnadrochit when Mrs Mackay saw a disturbance in the loch which she at first thought was ducks fighting but as she watched she saw a large beast in the middle of the loch rolling and plunging in the water causing a great disturbance.The sighting was reported to Alex Campbell, a local game keeper and a reporter for the Inverness Courier (Campbell claims to have seen the monster on no less than 18 occasions). The story appeared in the paperon 2nd of May 1933 and the Loch Ness monster as we know it today was born.
This is the first picture taken which claims to show the Loch Ness monster. It was taken on the 12th of November 1933 by Hugh Gray at Foyers. Mr Gray was returning from church and was walking near to where the River Foyers meets the loch.He saw an object of considerable dimensions rise out of the flat calm waters of the loch to what he estimated was a height of about 3 feet. He immediately got his camera ready and took a series of 5 photos before the loch had returned to being flat calm again. Mr Gray thought he had missed anything of interest so the film stayed in the camera for the next three weeks until his brother had it developed but only one of the pictures came out andthis is now one of the classic pictures of the Loch Ness monster .The picture has been studied by four photographic experts and all have found it to be without trace of tampering.Dr Maurice Burton a zoologist believed it to show an otter in the act of diving but F. W. Holiday, a well known fishing writer, thought it was some kind of giant marine worm. Interest in the monster soared so the Daily Mail newspaper decided to send a team to the loch to look for evidence. It was headed by Marmaduke Wetherall, a famous big game hunter who turned up at the lochand hired a boat to search for the beast. He intended to use his tracking skills to hunt the monster to its lair.Daily reports appeared in the paper and after only two days at the loch the headlines shouted the story of Wetheralls find of footprints on the shore of the loch. Plaster casts were taken and sent to the British Museum of Natural history to be examined. The footprints were soon discovered to have been made by a stuffed hippopotamus foot so with heads bowed low the Daily Mail left the loch to find other news stories with which to tempt its readers.
The next big event at the loch and probably the one which has had most impact over the last 66 years is the photo taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson on the 19 of April 1934. Better known as the Surgeons photo it must be one of the most easily recognisable photos in the world. Wilson and a friend were in the Highlands wild fowl shooting and when travelling down the side of the loch pulled their car over to stretch their legs near to Invermoriston. As they stood looking at the loch they noticed a considerable commotion on the surface about 200 yards away and as they watched they saw something break the surface and his friend shouted "my god ,its the monster ". Wilson ran the few yards back to his car and retrieved his camera and ran back down to his friend near the loch. He focused the camera on the object and took four pictures of it. By the time he had taken the photos the object had disappeared back into the loch. Wilson thought he might have something on film.When he had the photos developed only two came out the best one being the now famous head and neck shots which he sold to the Daily Mail newspaper. When questioned over what he had seen in the loch that day Wilson said he was too busy setting up the camera to take notice of what it was and he had just seen something strange in the loch.
The first big organised attempt to find the monster started in July 1934.Sir Edward Mountain, owner of the Eagle Star insurance company, had been following the news at Loch Ness and while staying in the area decided to organise a search for the monster. He hired captain James Fraser to run the expedition for him with the help of 20 men from the Inverness labour exchange who were signed up to be"watchers for the monster". They were all supplied with binoculars and cameras and each day a bus would take them around the loch and pick them up at the end of the day. Each man was paid £2 a week but they had the added incentive of a bonus of 10 guineas for a good picture of the monster. Over the next 5 weeks a total of five photos were taken but 4 of these could be seen to be made by boat wakes but the fifth one shows an isolated area of disturbance with spray being thrown up which does not look like it was made by water birds. The best results from the expedition came after the 20 men had finished the search. Captain Fraser and an assistant were standing below the road just north of Urquhart Castle on the morning of 15 of September when they noticed something in the loch about three quarters of a mile away. He looked at it through his binoculars and he could see a dark object in the water which looked like an upturned boat. He started to film it which he did for about 2 minutes until with a plume of spray it disappeared. The 16mm film was sent to London for developing but nothing much could be seen on it as the distance had been too great.
Many sightings were still reported from the loch but the next classic photo was taken in 1951 by a local wood cutter. Lachlan Stuart lived in a croft at Whitefield on the shores of the loch across from Urquhart Castle. On the morning of 14th of July at around 6.30 am he came out of his croft to milk his cow when he looked at the loch and saw what at first he thought was a speed boat coming down the loch but soon realized that it was moving too fast to be a boat. He called to his wife and a friend who was staying with them to come down to the waters edge and bring their camera. He watched as three humps rose out of the water and when his wife with Taylor Hay arrived he took one photo before his camera jammed. On the photo you can see three large humps and Lachlan claims that just out of shot was a long thin neck which bobbed up and down in the water. Again the film was checked and no proof of tampering could be found.
Peter Macnab a Scottish bank manager was returning from a holiday in the Highlands in July 1955 when he pulled up his car just above Urquhart Castle and prepared his camera to take a picture of the castle ruins.But as he prepared his camera he noticed a large dark object rise above the surface of the calm loch and start to move across the bay. He rushed to fit his main camera with a 150 mm lens and was able to take one shot with this and another shot with an instant camera. When he had the photos developed both showed a large dark object moving across the bay but when he showed the photo to his friend all he received was skepticism and much leg pulling. So much so that he threw the negative of the second photo away. What the photo shows is of great interest because the size can be guessed as we know the tower of the castle is 64 feet high so the largest of the two humps can be estimated at around 50 feet in length.
R H Cockerell was a fish farmer from Fort William who had a keen interest in the Loch Ness monster. His expedition in the autumn of 1958 consisted of him paddling around the loch in his canoe at night with a specially designed camera fitted to his helmet. On the last night of his expedition just before dawn he was in themiddle of the loch just out from Invermoriston when the breeze dropped and he was sitting on a mirror calm surface. He noticed about 50 yards away something which seemed to be swimming steadily towards him.He thought it looked like a very large flat head 4 or 5 feet long with what looked like another line just behind it .He was convinced that he was looking at the head and neck of some very large creature and with some great effort decided to move nearer to it. He was somewhat shocked to see that it appeared to move towards him with some speed so he took a shot with his camera while he had the chance. As he continued to move nearer a light breeze moved across the loch and the object seemed to sink but when the breeze passed he could still seesome thing on the surface. As he reached it all he found on the lochs surface was a long stick about 1 inch thick. He left the loch and returned home thinking he had just seen and filmed a stick until he had the film developed and saw that the object he had filmed was very large and did have a wash on an other wise flat calm surface.
What was and still is classed as the greatest piece of evidence for the Loch Ness monster was taken in 1960 by Tim Dinsdale. After reading Constance Whytes book he became interested in the monster and for the next few months read everything he could find on the subject which convinced him that some kind of unknown creature lived in Loch Ness. He decided to man a one man expedition to the loch in April 1960 with a pair of binoculars and aborrowed 16 mm cine camera. He spent 5 days at the loch rising at dawn and spending all day scanning the loch for signs of the monster but with no luck until the last day of his search he was returning to his hotel for breakfast. It was the 23rd of April at around 9 am as he drove down into Foyers and as the loch came into viewhe noticed a dark object about half way across the loch and as he studied it through his binocularsit started to move away from him across the loch. He started to film it with the 16mm Bolex cine camera with long bursts as it moved across the lochthen turned parallel to the far shore and headed down the loch in the direction of Fort Augustus.He noticed he was running out of film so decided to rush down to the lochs shore with the hope of the object turning back across the loch so he put down the camera and raced down the narrow winding road at break neck speed until he reached the shore but to his dismay the object had returned to the depths of the loch leaving no sign of itself. On his return home the film was developed and instantly became the conclusive proof that some large unknown animal lives in the depths of the loch. This roll of 16mm film became and still is the basis for more peoples belief in the Loch Ness monster than any other evidence. This was strengthened in 1966 when the RAF studied the film and came to the conclusion that it wasnot a surface vessel or submarine but some animate object in Loch Ness. It was partly due to this film that saw the formation of "The Bureau for Investigating the Loch Ness Phenomena Ltd " or the LNI as it became known as. It was formed by MP Sir David James, Constance Whyte ( whose book Tim had read and was published in1958 ) and naturalists Sir Peter Scott and Richard Fitter. Its first expeditions to the loch lasted only two weeks using volunteers but later ran them formonths at a time. The expeditions ran for ten years and their main study was surface watching using manned camera stations either fixed or mobile around the loch. It was one of these mobile units which gave them one of their best pieces of photographic evidence. Dick Raynor was on a expedition with the LNI in June 1967 and on the 13th he noticed a white wakeline on the opposite side of the loch near Dores Bay. Through his binoculars he could see a dark object at the head of the line so he started to film it with a 16mm cine camera. As he was filmingt he Scott ll pleasure boat came into view about half a mile from the object he was filming. Again the film was studied by the RAF film unit JARIC ( Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre)and they stated that the object at the head of the wake was a solid object which measured 7 feetlong. This was good news for the LNI as nothing of that size is known to live in the loch. During their ten years at the loch the LNI tried many ways with which they hoped to spot the monster from playing search lights on the lochs surface to manned submarines fitted with sonar they even used an autogyro that was used in a James Bond film but at the end of their days at the loch they still did not have the proof they wanted to show the loch ness monster was a real life creature. Many one man searchers carried on at the loch and some are still there to this day and the only organized team at the loch now is the Loch Ness project which studies the loch from a more scientific basis which in the end may give us the answers to the mystery of the loch.
The next question we should be asking is what could it be in the loch that people are seeing even to this day. Well many theories have been put forward for what lives in the loch but none of then really explainall the sightings.
The most exciting theory put forward is that the Loch Ness monster is in fact a plesiosaur. Very little is known about their life style or breeding habits but still the theory goes on.
The surgeons photo did more to add to this as it showed what could be a plesiosaur rising from the loch.
Around 70 million years ago a group of primitive reptiles gave rise to several different off shoots two of which became successful lines. One was the pliosaurs which had large heads and short necks and the other being the plesiosaur withits small head and long neck. It is thought the plesiosaurs were always marine animals (lived in the sea ) but we know this can be overcome as crocodiles turtles and dolphins are known to survive in both fresh and salt water. It is still not known if the plesiosaur was warm or cold blooded and this would make the difference as to whether they could live in the loch or not. Cold blooded animals must live in warm climates to keep active, whereas warm blooded animals like ourselves generate heat themselves from the food we eat. If the plesiosaur was warm blooded then they may have found their way up the River Ness into the loch and still be there today. So if plesiosaurs do live in the loch the next question would be is there enough food for them to live on.
Studies done on the food chain in the loch give estimates from 1 to 27 tonnes and we are told this is not enough to feed a population of plesiosaurs on.The only answer we can think of to this is are all the migratory salmon which pour into the loch included in these figures and what about the unknown amount of eels which live at all levels of theloch?
There have been several sightings of a long necked creature seen eating fish in the loch like the one from John Maclean who in 1938 while standing near the loch shore at Invermoriston saw a monsters head and neck 20 yards away which looked to be swallowing food by opening and closing its mouth several times then tossing its head backwards. When the monster dived he saw two distinct humps and the entire length of the tail. It came up again a few yards further out and lay there for 2 or 3 minutes. He described it as around 20 feet long with the tail being around 6 feet long the neck was rather thin and several feet long. The common eel anguilla anguilla starts its life 1000 feet down in the Sargasso Sea in the Gulf of Mexico. After drifting with the gulf stream for around 3 years they turn up on our shores in there thousands to find there way into our rivers and lakes to live for around 10 years before making the journey back to the Sargossa Sea to breed. It has been noted from studies done by the Freshwater Biological Association in Lakes Windermere and Ullswater that some stay in fresh water all there lives and those that do grow to sizes larger than would be expected.
The rod caught record for Britain is 11lb 2oz but much larger ones have been caught in nets. There have been reports of eels weighing up to 50lbs being caught and this would be at least 6 feetlong. In a body of water as large as Loch Ness it could be possible for them to grow much larger than this.I have spoken to people at loch ness who say they have seen eels as large as 15 feet in the loch. No real studies have been done into the eel population in Loch Ness but it is known that they can live at all levels of the loch from the many bays to the bottom were they are only seen by the underwater cameras that are sent down to look for the monster.
Another thing in the eels favour is the fact that they can leave the water and move across land for great distances this could explain some of the many land sightings that have been seen over theyears. If an eel could grow up to say 20 feet with a body width of 3 feet then this could explain many of the single hump sightings.
The European catfish or wells was introduced into this country at the end of the last century inlarge houses as a source of food. The wells which derives from German to wallow lives in lakes or the deeper parts of rivers.They feed mainly from the bottom with the use of 2 long feelers on the top of their jaws and 4 small barbules underneath. Their food mainly consists of carrion but they will take fish and have been known to take water fowl. The largest rod caught catfish is 202lb taken from the Banude and took 5 hours to land but in Russia specimens of up to 660lbs have been caught with a body length of 16 feet.
Warm windless weather is the best time to catch them usually during early morning or late evening.This is also the same conditions and times a large number of nessie sightings are made. Many specimens are now caught in this country over the 50lb mark and one caught in Essex was 97lb. It may be possible that one of the large houses around the loch or in one of the glens stocked catfish in there private lake only for one or two to escape and enter the loch and be seen today by people and reported as a sighting of the monster. Who would know that the large hump they had just seen was a 16 foot catfish.
The sturgeon is a true prehistoric fish that has not changed for millions of years.They are known to appear around our coast and in 1833 a specimen weighing 203lb and 8 foot 6 inchlong was caught at Findhorn which is only 15 miles up the moray firth from Loch Ness. A report from the Inverness Courier in the 1930s say one was seen heading up the River Ness towards the loch. The heaviest to be taken in British waters is 460lb from a net and they can grow up to 11 feet long and be as wide as 4 feet.
Again as with the catfish who would realise that the hump they had just seen belongs to a fish that has been around for the last few million years. We must remember that not all of the reported sightings are of the Loch Ness monster. Some of them are genuine mistakes by people who do not know the loch and its moods. Seals are sometimes seen in the loch and people who do not know what they look or behave like will think they have seen the monster. It is only recently that seals have been filmed in the loch and until then some people, even those who have studied the loch, thought that seals could not or would not enter the loch but in reality they do so several times a year, entering the loch from the River Ness. Several photos and video have been taken of what people thought was the monster only to show when examined to be nothing more than a seal in the loch. Strange waves can be seen on the loch most days and some of them look very much like lines of humps twisting across the loch surface. Logs can be seen floating on the lochs surface which can look like a large hump and the lochs birdlife can sometimes look like strange beasts which suddenly dive below the surface. After taking all these explanations away, there are still people, both tourists and locals, who see things onthe loch that they can not explain.
People who have lived at the loch all their lives and seen nothing suddenly see something in the loch which should not be there. The only thing we can do is to keep looking at the loch, keep listening to the people who see things that should not be there, examine the photos that are taken at the loch every year and hopefully one day the one piece of evidence that we need to prove to the world that the Loch Ness monster is a real living thing will finally appear.
If you think you have seen something strange at the loch or taken a photo at the loch that you think may be important please let us know as all the evidence needs to be examined if we are to ever solve the mystery. Your sighting and photos will be examined under the strictest confidence and only used by us with your approval.