THE MONSTER 'OSCARS' - THE BEST AND WORST OF WHAT'S BEEN SEEN
First a bit of history and then our take on the best and worst of the 1000+ sightings that have been recorded at the loch.
The first recorded sighting of a 'monster' at Loch Ness was when St Columba travelled north in 565AD to convert the wild and pagan Picts to Christianity. The story goes that a monster had attacked and killed a local man at the River Ness. When it tried to attack another, this time St Columba’s assistant, it retired to the waters of the loch suitably chastised having been "told to stop" by the Christian missionary!
Nothing substantial was then recorded until 1527 when a Duncan Campbell saw a "terrible beast" on the loch shore. Again there was a period with very few sightings until 1879, when a group of children saw a "small head on a long neck" on the north shore. From this time onwards regular sightings were reported of the water kelpie (water horse) but all of them were written in a manner that the kelpie was expected to be there, as in it wasn't a surprise that she existed. However it was in the 1930's that media (and with it world-wide) interest started to grow.
The first modern newspaper report of a monster was in the Northern Chronicle of 27 August 1930 which told of fishermen in a boat on Loch Ness being "disturbed" by a 6m long creature. The report, however, which started the legend as we know it today appeared in the Inverness Courier of 2 May 1933. This reported that a Mr and Mrs MacKay of the village of Drumnadrochit saw something strange in the waters of the loch near Abriachan. Following on from this local report, national papers and the then fledgling BBC took up the story and publicised it to the world. Subsequent to this, the Inverness Courier coined the term 'Loch Ness Monster', giving the water kelpies that had lived in the loch since at least 565AD a new name
The one item that was missing was photographic evidence, but it was not long before Nessie was 'captured' on film. On 12 November 1933 Hugh Gray, a local man, took the first picture of what could be the Loch Ness Monster close to the mouth of the River Foyers. This picture appeared in the Daily Sketch of 6 December 1933 accompanied by a notice from Kodak that the negative had not been tampered with in any way. At this time in late 1933 the first movie pictures of something in Loch Ness were also filmed. Malcolm Irvine of Scottish Film Productions filmed an object opposite Urquhart Castle moving at about 16kph for one minute.
It was however, the photograph by R.K. Wilson taken in April 1934 of "an object moving in Loch Ness", which seemed to show a head and neck, that catapulted the Loch Ness Monster into the position of fame it knows to this day. This photograph, universally known as the 'Surgeon's photo', was published in the Daily Mail.
It is fair to say that this activity in the early 1930's sparked the modern interest in the Loch Ness Monster which has carried on until the present day. Notable sightings since have been those by Lachlan Stuart in July 1951 who photographed three humps early one morning and the 1955 photo by P. A. MacNab which shows a long object close to Urquhart Castle. A famous sighting on movie film was made by Tim Dinsdale when he took a piece of 16mm film footage of a large hump travelling through the water at speed in 1960.
More recent developments have been contacts by sonar and echo sounder around the loch which have left large contacts unexplained. One such contact was made off Urquhart Castle by the Loch Ness and Loch Morar Project which they followed for 68 seconds as it dived from 69m to lllm in depth. This contact has no explanation other than it behaved in a way one large animate object would in similar circumstances.
Here's our take on the most famous or best sightings:
Most Famous - it's got to be St Columba in 565AD. The sighting started the ball rolling and was so memorable, it made it into the good saint's biography written 100 years later.
Most effect - this time the sighting by Mr & Mrs MacKay that the Inverness Courier recorded in May 1933 has to lead the charge. It was from this that the modern day 'Nessie' story erupted.
Most Controversial - 'The Surgeon's photo' sighting of 1934 is the winner here as it is still debated today. It appears to have been faked but unfortunately, the only man who really knows is the photographer himself.
The Longest - This jointly goes to Ian Cameron's 1960s sighting and Bobbie Pollock's later video. A member of the local constabulary, Ian Cameron watched Nessie frolick in the loch while he was out fishing. What he saw was corroborated by a group of tourists on the opposite side of the loch. Bobbie's sighing was videoed in 2000, albeit from quite a distance - the video lasts about 18 minutes in total making it virtually a feature film of Nessie
The Best Picture - in our minds, Richard White's March 1997 pictures of Nessie are the best, and most inexplicable, to date. When the news broke, for example, the world's media was so entralled that Richard was flown to Canada to give a personal account of what he saw.
The Best Film - as noted above, it's got to be Bobbie Pollock's year 2000 film. Nobody has yet been able to identify what he filmed swimming around Invermoriston Bay. Along with that, Tim Dinsdale's 1960 film still causes upset today - many think it is a boat, but the jury is still very much out and Tim's film reignited interest in Nessie at that time.
The Most Bizarre - Robert Badger's 1970's encounter wins this - he's the only man who has actually touched Nessie.
The Worst Fake - there's probably too many to go over here but special mention must go to George Edwards 2013 confession - he really thought he'd got away with it! Also, Lachlan Stuart's 'three humps' turned out to be hay bales - not surprising when you look at the photo and see the middle 'hump' has floated slightly out of line with the others. Here's a link to some more