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Nessie and Loch Ness Anecdotes, Stories of Loch Ness and its Monster or the Personalities Involved

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1. Bolt From The Blue

2. One Of Our Flippers Is Missing

3. The Invisible Ronnie Reagan

4. The Notting Hill Factor.

5. The Case Of The Disappearing Dinghy.

6. Why Do They Put Salt On The Road?

7. Adrian Shine. Still watching every day?

1. Bolt From The Blue

I count among my fond memories the fact that I had the privilege of meeting Harold "Doc" Edgerton of Jacques Cousteau fame on a number of occasions while he was visiting the loch with Doctor Robert Rines.

On one of those occasions I was seated beside him during an excellent dinner party staged by Dr Rines at Tychat SATPIC 14 above Urquhart Bay. Doc was in his eighties then, but so vibrant and alive.

I took the opportunity to ask him exactly how he invented the strobe flash and his answer was just mesmerising.

He told me how he was having trouble with electric motors which got up to a certain number of revolutions per minute and then shattered. He couldn't figure out what the problem was and he tried many ways to resolve it. Eventually he decided to set up a spark beside the motor which would be generated every time the motor did a single revolution. Then he dimmed the lights and gradually increased the motor's speed.

As the spark was synchronised with the motor's revolution, it always illuminated the exact same area of the motor. In effect the motor appeared stationary. As the motor reached the point at which it failed he could actually see the cause of the failure and went on to develop far superior motors.

During one of these tests a colleague came into the laboratory and came around and looked over his shoulder at what he was doing. Doc Edgerton explained that the motor was revolving at X thousand revs and that it only appeared stationary because of the brightness of the spark, its short duration and the fact that the room lights were dimmed.

"Have you thought of photographing it?", asked the colleague and the rest is history.

Bullet through the apple

Today Harold Edgerton's work can be seen all over the world from the frozen image of a splashing milk drop used as a logo by the British Milk Marketing board to the famous bullet through and apple shot which he actually performed for me live at MIT when I visited his lab in 1979. He was the inventor of the electronic flash, the strobe light, airport runway lights and many more techniques which involved high speed photography. During the fifties his firm E. G & G photographed nuclear explosions and young photographic specialists like the late Charlie Wyckoff worked with him.

However, he went on to tell us that he had travelled to the National Photographic Centre in Bradford to give a talk and, accompanied by the mayor, he arrived at the exhibition centre only to find posters claiming that there was to be a talk by "Doctor Harold Edgerton of MIT, Inventor of the Electronic Flash". He leaned over to the mayor and said, "But I didn't invent the flash". Horrified at some protocol blunder, the mayor asked who did.

I imagine Doc had the same twinkle in his eye when he answered the mayor as he did when he recounted the story to us.

"Why, of course,", the Great Man said, "the lightning flash was invented by God Almighty long before me!"

It is not often one has the opportunity to meet a man of true genius and I shall always treasure the memory of that evening at Dr Rines' house above Loch Ness when I had dinner with one of the greatest inventors of the twentieth century.

2. One Of Our Flippers Is Missing

How can you lose an eight foot (2.5m) long flipper? Well we did.

In 1979, after spending some time in the States, visiting Edgerton in his lab at MIT, meeting film developer Charlie Wyckoff and working through the Academy of Applied Science's files in Concord, New Hampshire it was time to return to Drumnadrochit with material for the exhibition I was staging there.  I met up with my colleague, Ronnie Bremner, who had "relations" in New York and had left me very much to work alone in Concord and Boston.  We were to fly back together from Boston to Prestwickflipper and Dr Robert Rines, President of the Academy of Applied Science, had kindly given us a model of a flipper which had been made by students at MIT.

It had been constructed based upon the flipper picture (right) which is now known to be an artist's impression, not an actual photograph.  It is a mystery why Dr Robert Rines allowed the model to be based upon a picture he knew not to be real, but that is irrelevant to the story I am recounting.

Ronnie and I, both in the kilt, piled into a taxi with this huge fibreglass flipper poking out of one window and headed through the madcap Boston traffic across to the airport.  At the Northwest Orient desk we discovered that the flight was quite quiet and we hoped that the flipper could be strapped across seats in the Jumbo, but they wouldn't allow this for safety reasons and it was whisked away to the cargo hold.  As I had arranged for a horde of press to meet us at Prestwick I had requested that the item be one of the first off the plane when it arrived.

What a flight!  This was by far the worst flight I have ever experienced in my life.  As we were approaching Glasgow the captain advised us that there were storm force winds at Prestwick and we were being diverted to Copenhagen.  We discovered later that the roof of Prestwick airport was blown off in this storm which was one of the worst on record.

As the plane approached Copenhagen it was tossed about like a feather and even the wings of the Jumbo were flapping.  Ronnie had made good use of the bar ... he was always a very nervous traveller ... and so it was going to be up to me to look after the transfers.

At Copenhagen we were kept on the ground in the plane for some time while it was ascertained whether or not we would be flying on to Prestwick.  Eventually we were told that we would be split into two smaller planes going into Glasgow Airport which had shorter runways.  Ronnie and I were in the second plane operated by SAS, but by this time we had no idea which plane the flipper was on and, anyway, the press would have been long gone from Prestwick.

As we were approaching Glasgow airport we were told that the storm was now causing problems there and we were taken into Prestwick by the SAS plane.  Unfortunately, when we disembarked we learned that all of the luggage had been on the other plane which had landed at Glasgow.  This necessitated a bus journey to the other airport.

Eventually, after a considerable time at Glasgow Airport, we got our cases, but no flipper.  Ronnie was a little the worse for wear so I had to fill in the lost property forms.  What does one write?  What had we lost?  "The flipper of the Loch Ness Monster.", I put on the forms then I thought that I had better elaborate so I added a sketch  and further descriptions that it was like "a giant rhomboidal surf board"; "a huge greenish brown spearhead"; "a solid sail"; "a whale's fin" etc.

Next we had to board a BA Viscount, yes the one with propellers, for the short flight to Inverness.  There was still a huge storm raging and I remember sitting in the rear seats of the Viscount waiting to taxi.  A steward was standing beside us.  Suddenly there was a roar and we saw a jet screaming into the sky out of the porthole and Ronnie said nervously, "Well that one got off OK".  The steward said, "Actually that was an aborted attempt to land.", which did nothing for our confidence and the bar wasn't open yet either.  We both had to wait for our double gin and tonics this time.

When we finally did get into the air, I remember the plane falling like a stone and the wings swinging wildly, but soon we were above the clouds and on our way to the north.

The flipper never did turn up and I often wonder if it is sitting somewhere in a warehouse in Denmark, Glasgow, Prestwick or Iceland, but we'll never know.  Northwest Orient eventually compensated us with £200 for an exhibit which had to have been worth thousands.

We had another flipper made but it was never a patch on the original.

3. The Invisible Ronnie Reagan

Back in the late eighties, while I was still the director of the Loch Ness Centre, we had a visit from the Good Morning America team of which Ronnie Reagan Junior was a member.

As part of the assistance the Centre was providing I had agreed to attempt to keep the press away from him as, from past experience, he had had serious problems carrying out his work because of intrusion by the media wanting to interview him about his father.

On almost the first day of their visit, I am standing in the middle of the entrance to the Centre's busy car park talking to some of the Good Morning America team when a car arrives bristling with local press including photographers and journalists, all of whom I recognise.

Squealing to a halt beside us the window of the car comes down and Jim Love, now editor of the Inverness Courier, says, "Tony, where are they?"

"Who?", I ask innocently while bending down, leaning into the car window and trying to think what to do.

"Reagan and the TV crew", says Jim.

"Oh, I think they've gone to Aberdeen.", says I.

"Oh no. When did they go and what were they driving?", asks Jim also expressing a few colourful words of mild disappointment.

"I don't know, perhaps twenty minutes ago in a maroon Sierra estate car", I say quick as a flash, trusting that the lie was justified in the circumstances.

"Thanks, Tony.", says Jim and the car spins around and shoots off in the Aberdeen direction.

The tall dark haired man standing beside me in the car park during all of this looks down at me and says, "I don't believe you pulled that off."

"All in a day's work Mr Reagan.", I say, and we all walk off for a cup of coffee in the Drumnadrochit Hotel.

It's a long time ago and I hope my friends in the press forgive me. I'd inadvertently employed an old magician's trick ... by bending down to their level and keeping their gaze on me as I leaned into the car, they never even saw Ronnie Reagan, all six feet two inches of him and easily recognisable, standing right beside me.

4. The Notting Hill Factor

In common, I am sure, with many other readers, I thoroughly enjoyed the Notting Hill romantic comedy.

When the video came out I decided to buy the version which came with a copy of the script and some background on the making of the film. There was a most interesting article by the writer Richard Curtis.

He describes how a friend of his who knew Madonna and happened to mention that he was possibly going to call round with her. This, of course, had the effects of him and his wife tidying the house and themselves ready for a visit of a famous personality which never actually occurred. It was this incident which inspired, for my money the best part of the film, when William Thacker (Hugh Grant) arrives at his kid sister's birthday dinner without mentioning that he was bringing world famous actress Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) as his date. The surprise of the couple hosting the dinner and the other friends is simply a charming piece of theatre, but, of course, there is someone there who did not realise that this was the Anna Scott and that contrived situation and dialogue was simply superb.

What this has to do with Loch Ness will now become clear, for something similar happened to us just after Deepscan.

The West 57th team were at the loch obtaining some film for the new series hosted by stunning Selina Scott (interesting that the surname is the same as the fictitious character in Notting Hill). They had been staying at the Loch Ness Lodge Hotel and as Wendy and I were throwing a barbecue for a number of the Deepscan helpers and Lowrance staff, we decided to invite the West 57th crew.

Because Selina Scott had a filthy cold we did not expect her to come and had not even mentioned the possibility to our regular friends who were at the barbecue. Nevertheless she did arrive and a great evening was had by all.

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As people started to drift away and we began to tidy up I wandered into the lounge to pick up glasses and plates and found Selina Scott, extremely famous at the time in Britain through her involvement in the early days of Breakfast TV, deep in conversation with my mother who was then about 76 years old. She was asking her about her childhood in an orphanage in Preston Pans (near Edinburgh) after the first world war and my mother was telling of the dreadful times she experienced in the home.

Suddenly she looked at Selina Scott more carefully and said that she seemed familiar. Selina said that she was a television journalist. My mother did the most wonderful double-take and said "not the Selina Scott?"

I remember this very fondly and still have the picture I took for my mother that night. Interestingly Selina Scott told me it was wonderful that my mother did not know who she was because that made her "open up" about her childhood. My mother, of course, like Bernie in Notting Hill, felt a bit of a fool for a moment, but obviously enjoyed the encounter immensely.

5. The Case of the Disappearing Dinghy

One of the lovely aspects of being involved in the world's greatest mystery is that you meet, in addition to the cranks and nutters, some really nice people who then become friends.

One of those, a great character in his own right, is Ivor Newby, an ex-businessman and part time actor from the Midlands who has been involved in the search here since the Loch Ness Phenomenon Investigation Bureau days of the sixties.

Over the years Ivor has imparted dozens of stories to me.  The one which most closely relates to the monster is the occasion when he was moored on the western side of Urquhart Bay in his cabin cruiser.

One night, after he'd retired for the evening, he was awoken by a sudden movement of the boat and a sound as if something had brushed against it.

Hauling himself out of bed he donned his dressing gown and went up on deck only to see the dark shape of his rubber dinghy drifting slowly away across the bay towards Temple Pier.  Obviously he'd not tied it up properly.

Cursing under his breath he went below deck to get properly dressed before starting the engine and heading off to collect the dinghy before it could get into the shallows.

A minute or two later he came out on deck, was just about to start the motor and suddenly noticed that the dinghy was securely tied up to the other side of the boat.

What had disturbed the boat? What was the dark humped shape that he had seen drifting away across the bay? In his forty years of watching Loch Ness, had this been his encounter with Nessie?

6. Why do they put salt on the road?

The loch in the snow

On a cold frosty day (13th December 2001) in Urquhart Castle's car park, a South African lady on my Loch Ness Tour asked, "Why do they put salt on the road?"

I couldn't resist the answer, "It makes it taste better when you slip and fall flat on your face."

In fact, of course, salt is put on the roads to help prevent ice forming. Salt water has a lower freezing temperature than freshwater.

Loch Ness is, of course, freshwater. It was once thought that the sea may have entered the loch after the last ice age, but so far all evidence suggests that although the loch may have been closer to the sea at one time, salinity never entered. This is borne out by the lack of marine diatoms in the sediments of the loch.

7. Adrian Shine, still watching every day?

Those who have been on my tour or who have visited Adrian Shine's Loch Ness 2000 presentation, will know that Adrian has dismissed "monsters" for some time. He does, however, believe that local people have seen "something".

As part of his on-going work he set up with my tour and the BBC Science Unit to perform an experiment on the loch-side. On 2nd August 2002 he was observing my loch-side presentation in order to work out the best position for an object to be made to emerge from the loch as part of the experiment.

That day I was also training a second guide to work with myself and Alison Cameron. This trainee guide noticed Adrian sitting on the shore some way from the group, for all the world looking as if he was waiting for the monster to surface. He asked me, "Does he sit there every day?".

When I told Adrian Shine he almost collapsed with laughter.

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