History of the Search for the Loch Ness Monster Part 2

About the search for the Loch Ness monster in Scotland, history and clues about the creature in the Scottish lake.


On Nov. 13, Hugh Gray of the British Aluminum Company took the first picture of the monster, purporting to show a curved neck and torso. A few months later, R.K. Wilson of the Royal College of Surgeons snapped his classic photograph, apparently of the snakelike head. In 1934 R.T. Gould wrote the first book dealing with the evidence, and some modest expeditions were organized to observe the loch. As sightings and photographs (including several feet of film) accumulated, "Nessie's" portrait began to be filled in, with occasionally conflicting details: gray, brown, green, or yellow in color; 2 to 6 humps; 2 or 4 flippers; hairy mane or dorsal fin; slimy or warted; with or without hornlike protuberances; can travel up to 24 knots.

The incredulous scientific community hypothesized seals, otters, sharks, rotting tree stumps, waterlogged peat, and mass hallucination, but did not investigate. There were, after all, no remains or specimens to examine. Recurrent hoaxes and false sightings, when exposed, made those who took the matter seriously appear foolish.

The years from W.W. II until the late fifties saw diminished interest in the monster, though sightings continued. In 1954 a fishing boat picked up outlines of a large animal in the loch on its echo sounder. This breakthrough went largely unnoticed, the skipper's wife subsequently complaining of the ridicule the story earned them. However, in 1957 Constance Whyte's book More Than a Legend, reviewing the evidence for the first time in 23 years, provided renewed inspiration for the search.

The Search

The turning point came in 1960. Tim Dinsdale, an English aeronautical engineer investigating independently, filmed an unidentified moving object in the loch at a distance of 1,300 to 1,800 yd. and then filmed a boat from the same location for comparison. RAF experts examining the film estimated an animal 12--15 ft. long and not less than 6 ft. wide. Shown on British television, the film generated intense interest.

As a result of the Dinsdale film, David James, a member of Parliament, and two naturalists, Sir Peter Scott and Richard Fitter, organized the privately supported Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau in 1961. The bureau, manned by volunteers, stationed cameras at strategic locations around the loch, served as a clearing-house for sightings, and assisted groups and individuals studying Loch Ness.

An American, Dr. Roy Mackal, joined the bureau as a director in 1966, after viewing the Dinsdale film. Mackal, professor of biochemistry at the University of Chicago, brought scientific expertise and fund-raising ability to the organization. Staking his reputation on his belief that Loch Ness was a subject suitable for scientific inquiry, Mackal awakened the interest of American scientists through lectures and seminars and enlisted the financial support of the distinguished Adventurers' Club of Chicago and Field Enterprises, publishers of World Book Encyclopedia.

In 1968 D. G. Tucker, chairman of electronics and engineering at the University of Birmingham, England, initiated a sonar project. The sonar beam made contact with "large moving objects" reaching speeds of 10 knots and changing depths at 5 mph; it recorded diving patterns that apparently ruled out air breathers. The following year a mobile sonar device operated by Robert Love, an American electronics expert, corroborated these findings. Two submarines searched the loch in 1969, seeing nothing--visibility underwater is about 12 in.--but making additional sonar contact.

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