The first expedition to study Loch Ness was that of Sir John Murray in 1901.
This saw the first use of thermistors to measure temperatures in a loch or lake. The expedition discovered temperature layers, although, interestingly, deeper than those detected in recent years. Operations were carried out from the boat house at Fort Augustus Abbey SATPIC 28. It was around this time that one of the monks used a diving suit to pay a visit to the foundations of Cherry Island SATPIC 29, which is a man-made crannog in Inchnacardoch Bay.
1911 saw Murray back again with Pullar. Using a wire sounding device a comprehensive survey was undertaken and the deepest point SATPIC 41 recorded as 754 feet, 230 metres. The measurements taken then are still accurate today although the very deepest point has silted up somewhat.
Marmaduke Wetherell arrived at the loch in December 1933 with his photographer, Gustave Pauli and Mr Memory, the Daily Mail journalist.
Wetherell became infamous for discovering footprints on the loch side which turned out to have been made by a hippopotamus foot ashtray which is still owned by his family.
His most famous hoax, however, was to lie hidden for over sixty years. He was the man behind the world's greatest and most famous hoax - the so-called Surgeon's picture.
During his time at the loch, following the footprint discovery, the Times ran a spoof expedition which claimed to have found earmarks on ferns at the roadside!
Wetherell, no doubt was a great hoaxer, but he also did a great disservice to the people who genuinely claimed to have seen unusual objects in the loch. Nevertheless he can be credited with giving tourism at Loch Ness a huge boost.
This expedition in 1934, was probably the first serious attempt to get to the bottom of the monster legend at the loch. The picture shown here is one of those obtained, but it is difficult to make out any detail. The only thing in its favour is that it fits the pattern of local sightings of a large fish or an upturned boat appearing at the surface.
Twenty men were paid £2 per week to sit by the loch-side with box cameras. As they were on a bonus of £10.50 for a successful picture of the monster it is not unexpected that a number of spurious photographs were obtained.
The expedition was led by Captain James Fraser of Inverness who is the only local person to my knowledge to have actually led a major, and serious, expedition to the loch not prompted by any desire for notoriety or personal gain.
Originally to be headed by Dr Tucker of the British Museum of Natural History, this 1960 expedition had to be led by Peter Baker, a Cambridge graduate, after Tucker was dismissed from the Museum who probably disapproved of his interest in the mystery at Loch Ness.
A number of cameras and an echo sounder were deployed by the expedition. A number of sonar contacts were obtained, but these can probably now be explained away in the light of more recent sonar work which has found large numbers of causes for error with echo sounders and scanning sonar.
This 1961 expedition was quite a comprehensive expedition compared with what had gone before.
Salinity was checked as was acidity, light penetration and oxygen content. Considerable echo sounder work was undertaken and scattering layers observed in the past confirmed. It also detected the thermocline which we know so much more about today.
In addition trawling for plankton and bottom dredging was undertaken which increased our knowledge of the fauna of the loch.
The Cambridge expedition of 1962 observed the surface for three weeks in addition to carrying out sonar and dredging work.
The conclusions reached from the biological part of the study were disappointing for monster hunters as they had shown insufficient biomass for a colony of large predators. In fact this conclusion was premature as has been the case with many early expeditions' results. [Coming up with the right conclusion for the wrong reasons is little better science than coming up with the wrong conclusions through wishful thinking.]
The Loch Ness Bureau or LNI operated through the sixties and until 1972. It was established by Richard Fitter, Sir Peter Scott, David James MP and the author of More Than A Legend, Constance Whyte.
Following expeditions by Birmingham and Cambridge universities and taking into account the various surface photographs which had been obtained by individuals, the large number of eye witnesses who had come forward and the Dinsdale film, it seemed logical and worthwhile to pursue surface observation.
This was undertaken in a methodical way with giant telephoto lensed 35mm motion picture cameras mounted at the base camp at Achnahannet SATPIC 20 as well as on vehicles which would take up additional locations during the long daylight hours of summer months. This was not the only form of expedition undertaken by the Loch Ness Bureau who also used sonar, fish lures, underwater sonic experiments, a Loch Ness submarine and later, with the Academy of Applied Science, underwater strobe photography. The Loch Ness Submarine was Viperfish and was brought to the loch by Dan Taylor in 1969. A second Loch Ness submarine used in the same year was Vickers Oceanics' Pisces which hoaxed a deepest point of 975ft in order to get publicity. Dan Taylor was planning to return with a new submarine but died a few years ago while it was still under construction.
Considering the intensive surface surveillance which was undertaken during the Loch Ness Bureau years, the results obtained were disappointing. Film obtained, with only one exception, could easily be explained away by windrows or water birds. Only the Raynor film has stood the test of time and, today, Dick Raynor feels that what he filmed was probably nothing more than ducks on the surface. It is, however, an interesting sequence and measurements put the object at the surface at around six feet long, almost two metres.
The Loch Ness Bureau also collected about a thousand eye witness accounts during their time at the loch, although we do know that a number of them were somewhat dubious owing to the activities of a certain Mr Muir who used to point out disturbances on the loch to tourists and then get them to report them to the Loch Ness Bureau. His motives were purely devilment.
The Loch Ness Bureau was well organised and reasonably well disciplined. It eliminated many of the causes of error and showed that if Loch Ness Monsters behaved in the way that the classic pictures depicted then they no longer existed. In effect, the Loch Ness Bureau had proven, beyond reasonable doubt, that the classic pictures were not real yet no-one appeared able to draw that conclusion until the time of the Loch Ness Project in the seventies.
Initially, in 1972, the Academy joined up with the Loch Ness Bureau and so the results of that expedition are credited equally to each organisation.
In particular a sonar machine was set up beaming outwards into the loch past underwater time-lapse cameras loaned to the Academy by Harold Edgerton of MIT. The results were quite spectacular, or, rather, the comment on the results and what happened to the photographic images was spectacular.
After obtaining the flipper photographs (see Underwater Photography page) and the "gargoyle head" picture, Sir Peter Scott drew this impression of what the monsters may look like. He also gave it a scientific name - Nessiteras rhombopteryx. Crossword fanatics quickly pointed out that this name formed an anagram of "Monster hoax by Sir Peter S." During a radio programme I did with Sir Peter and Alex Campbell, he was challenged with this anagram by the presenter and said, "Do you not think that if I was going to do such a thing, that I could have incorporated the C O T T of Scott?". There is no answer to that.
Sir Peter Scott almost certainly did not intend the anagram and it must be said that when he made the drawing he was under the impression that the flipper pictures were real and that the "gargoyle head" picture was taken by a camera in mid-water. Neither was the case.
Further expeditions took place, driven onward by the commitment and enthusiasm of Dr Rines, the president of the Academy. In 1976 boats were replaced by a permanent raft moored in about 100 feet, 30 metres, of water.
In the early eighties sonar-triggered cameras were also deployed and the webmaster assisted in a small way with some of that work.
Expeditions still continue to this day and the ageing Dr Rines' interest is being taken up by his son Justice.
The Loch Ness Project was formed by Adrian Shine FRGS who took his first expedition to Loch Morar in the hope that the clear water there coupled with the similar monster tradition could allow them to solve the mystery at a stroke.
Searches were carried out with a glass bottomed boat, named Pequod, close into shore looking for remains and a mini submersible called Machan (Indian for "Hide") was lowered to the limit of visibility and used to look upwards in the hope of seeing or photographing the silhouette of any large predator which may be present.
From very early days Mr Shine managed to attract universities to work with the project and a study of the lochs' biology was begun.
Since those early days the Loch Ness Project has followed two distinct paths. One was the "monster hunt" and the other was the study of the lochs as environments.
The environmental study is ongoing, but the "monster hunt" has really been concluded in the Project's view.
However, everything the Loch Ness Project has undertaken has been logically and carefully thought through. The clear water of Loch Morar brought no results. Investigations into old evidence opened numerous cans of worms. They returned to Loch Ness to use sonar in its deep uniform trench-like basin. Sonar contacts from mobile patrols were obtained. Stationery sonar watches obtained fewer and less spectacular contacts. Operation Deepscan was conceived to eliminate stationery objects which could have caused the contacts obtained by mobile patrols.
I was quite proud of the fact that I coined the name "Operation Deepscan" for Adrian Shine's ambitious 1988 expedition to eliminate the sonar errors caused by artefacts which were tethered to the bottom of the loch. However, in March 2011, at a dinner party with Bob and Olivia Kass I discovered that it was not me, but Bob who come up with the name as a throwaway suggestion during a meeting. It must have registered somewhere in my mind and then at a later meeting with the researchers and sponsors I dug it up and proposed. Apologies, Bob. Let this set the record straight.
It became apparent from the moment that Lowrance Electronics involved a major British PR company that the objectives of Operation Deepscan were going to be hijacked. Adrian Shine was not too bothered about this as long as it gave him the opportunity to carry out the expedition.
He needed to create a sonar curtain which he could drag up and down the loch locating any contacts which were stationary. New Atlantis followed the main fleet fixing the position of each of the contacts obtained allowing them to be revisited later and identified.
The hoards of press, however, wanted more than a scientific experiment of elimination, they wanted a monster. In fact, Operation Deepscan's objectives were blown out of all proportion by the PR company involved and it began to be described as the ultimate expedition to prove Nessie's existence. Something which was never intended nor was it capable of doing.
Many stationary objects were found in the loch by Operation Deepscan, but only three of the contacts actually appeared to move. Adrian's and the Project's opinion of these contacts were that they appeared to be stronger and deeper than the known fish, but not that much stronger. The media, however, wanted monsters, not large pike or ferrox trout.
The result was that the media seemed to take Operation Deepscan as having proven that there was no monster when that was not the case at all. Those sonar enigmas discovered by the fleet have never been adequately explained away, but neither are they likely to be two ton plesiosaurs.
Through all of this time the Loch Ness Project has gradually exposed all of the classic pictures including those obtained by the Academy of Applied Science.
What we seem to be left with is the sightings of single humps in the water. The Loch Ness Project believes that even these are cases of mistaken identity. The webmaster, in common with many others, however, does not believe his sighting was mistaken identity and this leaves the whole matter open.
This comprised a multi-beam sonar expedition and an attempt to trap a specimen. A full description can be found here.
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