By: Warren Gray

Copyright © 2023

“Many a man has been hanged on less evidence

than there is for the Loch Ness monster.”

— Gilbert Keith Chesterton, noted English

journalist and writer, 1874-1936

Scientific evidence…“Left no further doubt…

that large animals exist in Loch Ness.”

— World Wildlife Fund, 1975

Loch (Lake) Ness, in the Scottish Highlands, named for the River Ness (meaning “roaring one” in old Celtic) that flows out from the northern end, was created by a tectonic shift about 500 million years ago. The lake itself is approximately 10,000 years old, in existence since the last Ice Age, and it’s the largest body of fresh water (two cubic miles) in the United Kingdom, larger than all other lakes combined! The lake is 22.5 miles long by 1.5 miles wide, and averages 433 feet deep (maximum depth is 812 feet), with a flat bottom, and 25 feet of sediment over a hard, clay base. It is fed by seven major rivers, but has only one outlet, the River Ness, which is seven miles long.

There is a thermocline, a zone of rapid temperature change, at a depth of about 100 feet. The water above this level changes temperature, but below the thermocline, the water temperature is always 44 degrees Fahrenheit. There is still 80-percent oxygen saturation down deep, because nutrients are already low in the upper layer, and do not decay on the way down. So, the loch can support animal life very deep. The water is quite murky, with exceptionally low visibility, due to a high peat content in the surrounding soil.

Native fish species include Atlantic salmon, Brown trout, Sea trout, European eel, Atlantic char, and European sea sturgeon up to 6.6 feet long (and very rarely, 11.5 feet), so the largest fish ever seen are typically less than seven feet long.

Urquhart Castle (pronounced “Erkert”), five stories tall, was an ancient Pictish settlement site. It was built on Strone Point in the 1200s by Alan Durward, captured in 1296 by King Edward I of England, and then by Robert Bruce of Scotland. King David II stayed there in 1342, and the castle was raided frequently over the next 200 years. It was empty by 1647 and was destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by Jacobite forces. By the 1770s, the roof was gone. It became the property of the British government in 1913, and a new visitor center was built in 1994. The castle is typically visited by about 320,000 people per year.

The first sighting of an unusually large, aquatic creature was in 565 A.D., when Saint Columba (521 to 597 A.D.), a Gaelic-Irish missionary monk, saw a lake creature, a “water beast,” attacking a man in the water, and “raised his holy hand…invoking the name of God…and commanded the ferocious monster…‘Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man. Go back with all speed.’ Then…the monster was terrified, and fled more quickly than as if it had been pulled back with ropes.”

Land-based sightings of an enormous creature took place in 1527, 1879 through 1900, then quite a few in 1933 and 1934, with recent sightings in 2022. Water-based sightings are far more common, beginning in 1871 and running through the present day. There were sonar contacts starting in December 1954, in which sonar readings were taken by the fishing boat Rival III. Its crew noted a large object keeping pace with the vessel at a depth of 479 feet, detected for about 2,600 feet of travel before contact was lost and regained. Since then, there have been many positive contacts for large, underwater creatures in April 1968, August 1968, June to August 1969, September to October 1969, August to November 1970, August 1972, 1992, 1993, and February 2012.

Recorded, film evidence took place in 1933 through 1938, throughout the 1960s, a few in the 1970s, then from 1983 to 2012 and beyond, until the present day. In fact, there have been well over 11,000 sightings of very large, strange creatures since 1933!

One early sighting, in particular, took place in 1880, as recounted in The Water Horses of Loch Ness in 2011: “As a diver, Duncan MacDonald was sent down to investigate a ship that had sunk in the Caledonian Canal entrance at Fort Augustus. Not long after, he sent urgent signals on his line to be immediately brought back to the surface. Shaking and ashen-faced, he refused to say what he had seen for several days. When he had sufficiently composed himself, he told the tale of how he had seen a ‘very odd-looking beastie…like a huge frog,’ lying on the rock ledge where the wreck was lodged as he examined its hull. He refused to ever dive in the loch again.”

On April 14, 1933, Mrs. Aldie MacKay, an Inverness resident and university graduate, was driving with her husband near Aldourie Pier, when she saw a huge water “beast” about 100 yards from shore, “rolling and plunging for fully a minute.” Then it disappeared into a “mass of foam,” and a huge wake was visible. 450 yards away, two bluish-black humps emerged from the lake, moving forward. After several seconds, the humps dove away into the lake.

In June 1933, Mr. and Mrs. MacLennan observed a very long sea creature 400 yards from their rowboat, just off Temple Pier at Drumnadrochit, with a head, a long neck, and two humps, much like the MacKay sighting two months earlier.

On July 22, 1933, Mr. and Mrs. George Spicer saw a horizontal, undulating, gray creature at least 25 feet long and four to five feet in width cross the road near the south shore of Loch Ness at 2:30 PM: “I saw the nearest approach to a dragon or prehistoric animal that I have ever seen.” Hugh Gray took a black-and-white photograph of an unusual object in the water in 1933, and modern image-enhancement techniques revealed an apparent body hump, a tail, appendages, and a wave and splashes around it.

On January 5, 1934, motorcyclist Arthur Grant had a close encounter with a similar, large, mottled, grayish creature crossing the road near Abriachan at about 1:00 AM, in the moonlight. Grant, a veterinary student, described it as a cross between a seal and a plesiosaur. Later in 1934, a local girl saw a large sea creature on land near Fort Augustus.

Sometime in the 1930s, a Scottish police chief, concerned that someone might try to harpoon the creature, stated, “That there is some strange creature in Loch Ness   seems now beyond doubt, but that the police have any power to protect it is very doubtful.”

Then came the most-famous image of all, the fabled “Surgeon’s Photograph,” taken on April 19, 1934, by Doctor/Colonel Robert Kenneth Wilson, a highly respected London gynecologist. This was the first clear photo of the head and neck of some type of unknown creature in the waters of Loch Ness. In 1975, it was alleged to be a hoax, perpetrated by Loch Ness investigator Marmaduke Wetherell in revenge for being fired from the Daily Mail newspaper, but many experts still believe that the photo is genuine, and the hoax story was seriously flawed. This remains a very controversial photograph, even today.

In May 1934, Alexander Campbell saw a dark-gray creature that was at least 30 feet long, with its head sticking six feet out of the water. He had a clear view from land for several minutes. South African tourist G.E. Taylor filmed a strange, moving creature for three minutes on May 29, 1938, using his 16mm movie camera. Since the 1940s, the Loch Ness creature has been affectionately nicknamed “Nessie.”

In 1952, Mrs. Creta Findlay of Inverness had the following encounter: “I heard a continual splashing in the water…not the usual wash from a boat…To my surprise, I saw what I believe to be the Loch Ness Monster…Although I was terrified, we stood and watched until it submerged, which it did very quickly, causing waves to break on the shore. We had an excellent view, as it was so close to the shore. Its skin was dark in color and looked very tough. The neck was long and held erect. The head was about the same width as the neck. There were two projections from it, each with a blob on the end. This was not a pleasant experience. I certainly never want to see the monster again.”

Peter A. MacNab filmed a very long creature in 1955, as it passed just offshore from Urquhart Castle. Five years later, aeronautical engineer Tim Dinsdale filmed a dark object near Foyers on April 23, 1960. Analysis by the RAF Joint Air Reconnaissance Center (JARIC) in 1966 revealed that the object was moving briskly at 10 miles per hour, and was at least 12 to 16 feet long by 5.5 feet wide, and “probably animate.” It was believed by some to be a boat under bad lighting conditions, except that the object submerged!

In 1993, Discovery Communications produced a documentary, Loch Ness Discovered, with a digital enhancement of the Dinsdale film. The person who enhanced the film and overlaid frames found what appeared to be the rear body of a creature underwater: “Before I saw the film, I thought the Loch Ness Monster was a load of rubbish. Having done the enhancement, I’m not so sure.”

Also in 1960, Torquil MacLeod saw a giant, gray, 60-foot creature through binoculars from one mile away for nine minutes. It had squarish flippers, and was half ashore, then it flopped back into the water without much of a splash.

From 1970 through 1972, the Loss Ness Phenomenon Investigation Bureau (LNPIB) conducted numerous investigations in and around the lake, using vehicle-mounted, 35mm cameras, and even an ultralight aircraft.

In August 1972 (and again in 1975), Doctor Robert H. Rines, President of the Academy of Applied Science in Boston, Massachusetts, used Raytheon sonar and Edgerton stroboscopic, underwater cameras at Loch, and the results were amazing! One very noteworthy, close-up photo in Urquhart Bay shows a huge flipper only 20 feet from the camera, at a depth of 45 feet.

This breathtaking image was analyzed by experts from the Smithsonian Institution, the New England Aquarium, and the British Natural History Museum, who all determined the fin was six to eight feet long and did not resemble the structure of any known mammalian creature. Computer-enhancement of the image by Professor Alan Gillespie at the University of Washington also confirmed that “it had flippers of some sort.” The sonar chart recorded the passage of several creatures, and these organizations determined that there are, in fact, large, aquatic animals in Loch Ness, measuring at least 20 to 30 feet in length.

Detailed analysis of the Raytheon DE-725C sonar images by Marty Klein (the inventor of the side-scan radar used in Loch Ness) of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Klein Associates, determined that, “the animal(s) has (have) a dimensional extent of approximately 20 to 30 feet…from the length of the echo…about 30 feet…with projections or humps…real…large…moving… there are at least TWO large things moving.” Mr. Klein asserted in 2012 that he still had not changed his mind about these extraordinary findings.

In October 1972, U.S. Army Captain Frank Searle took amazing photos of a very large sea creature in Loch Ness, with a long neck and two humps on its back.

In June 1975, Doctor Robert Rines was back in the news again with an incredible underwater photograph, taken by an Edgerton stroboscopic, underwater camera in Loch Ness. It stunningly revealed the head, long neck, and full body of a huge, underwater creature in great detail. Doctor George Zug, Curator of Reptile and Amphibians at the Smithsonian Institution, stated that, “I believe these data indicate the presence of large animals in Loch Ness, but are insufficient to identify them.”

As a result of Doctor Rines’ dramatic discoveries, the Royal Ontario Museum concluded that, “There is an unexplained phenomenon of considerable interest in Loch Ness…large, aquatic animals.” Likewise, the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology assessed that this evidence was, “Sufficiently suggestive of a large, aquatic animal…in Loch Ness.” And the World Wildlife Fund agreed that the striking images, “Left no further doubt…that large animals exist in Loch Ness.”

Advanced Imaging Techniques applied to the 1975 Rines photo in 2010 by Clifford Paiva of BSM Research Associates concluded that, “The results of that analysis revealed an elasmosaur-type animal reacting to the strong flash…the animal in Loch Ness…is…a short-necked plesiosaur.”

In 1976, Marty Klein used Raytheon sonar to image a 23-foot-long creature in Loch Ness. This could not possibly be any type of fish!

Similar, very-large, sea creatures have been seen and photographed in many other locations around the world, aside from Loch Ness. A “Cornish Sea Serpent” was photographed off the southwestern coast of England in 1976, in Loch Morar, Scotland, Lake Windermere, England, in 2011, and in the English Channel near Dover in 2009. Additional sightings and photographs were made in the Bahamas in 1969, Lake Okanagan, Canada, in 1976 and many other occasions, Cameron Lake, Canada, in 2009, and with many more sightings in Australia, China, Japan, Sweden, Vietnam, California, Florida, New York State, Idaho, Vermont, and Virginia.

On February 27, 1985, a common harbor seal was photographed in Loch Ness. They don’t live there naturally, but occasionally slip in from the sea near Inverness at an average of one seal every two years. They grow up to six feet long and 370 pounds maximum, so this does not account for creatures 20 to 30 feet long.

On October 9, 1987, Operation Deepscan was the largest and most intensive search of Loch Ness to find lake creatures. Twenty-four boats in a line were all using Laurence X-16 sonar units. They received  three solid, sonar contacts on moving creatures at a depth of 600 feet, larger than sharks but smaller than whales, and certainly larger than any known fish in the loch. Sonar expert Darrell Lowrance, founder of Lowrance Electronics, donated a number of echosounder units used in the operation. He noted that, “There’s something here that we don’t understand, and there’s something here that’s larger than a fish, maybe some species that hasn’t been detected before.”

Then, on November 30, 1989, Chief Loch Ness Coastguard Officer George Edwards was involved in a Coastguard exercise on the lake near Urquhart Castle, when his sonar discovered a deep anomaly at 812 feet, 62 feet deeper than the normal lake bottom in that area, and the deepest depth ever recorded in Loch Ness to date. The spot was later nicknamed “Edwards’ Deep,” and The New York Times later called this area “Nessie’s Cave,” or “Nessie’s Den.”

10 years later, on June 5 and 7, 1999, Mike and Nora Jones, a Texas couple watching the Loch Ness webcam from Galveston, recorded the first-ever internet sighting of Nessie. They saw “a fast-moving, black object making its way through the deserted water…We saw a head and neck appear in front of the castle, and it was travelling fairly fast, with a V-shaped wake behind it…Then, on June 7th, we followed a wave from the hedges…a large, white hump surfaced…I saw it just like I saw the head and neck on the 5th…I saw what I saw with my own two eyes, and it is real,” Nora confirmed.

In May 2001, James Gray and Peter Levings were fishing near Invermoriston at 6:00 AM, when they took a surprising photograph: “It was about six feet out of the water…This was certainly no seal. It had a long, black neck almost like a conger eel, but I couldn’t see a head. It didn’t seem to bend very much, but as it went under, it sort of arched and disappeared. We circled for 20 minutes, but found nothing.”

Professor John Gillies and his wife and daughter filmed a creature in the lake near Urquhart Castle in April 2002, with a visible head that looked like that of a dinosaur. On August 31 of that same year, Roy Johnston filmed a very long-necked creature in the water: “I thought I was going mad…it was about seven or eight feet out of the water, and it was obvious that there was more of it underneath the surface. It was a black, grayish color…It didn’t make any noise…Janet said I was talking rubbish…It wasn’t until we got home and had the pictures developed that she finally believed me.”

Similar photos were taken by additional tourists in 2005, 2006, and particularly by laboratory technician Gordon Holmes in May 2007, when he filmed a 45-foot-long creature swimming fairly quickly on the surface of the lake, and CBS News aired his remarkable footage. Adrian Shine, a marine biologist at the Loch Ness 2000 Centre in Drumnadrochit, described the footage as among “the best footage (he had) ever seen.”

More stunning photographs were made at Loch Ness in July 2008 and 2009, prompting an exploration of the lake by mini-submarines and divers. On August 24, 2011, a large underwater creature followed Marcus Atkinson’s boat, and he captured a stunning, sonar image of a swimming object five feet wide in Urquhart Bay at a depth of 75 feet, winning the “Best Nessie Sighting of the Year Award.” Atkinson said that, “At Urquhart Castle…looked at the sonar and saw this image had appeared…There is nothing that big in the loch…it looked like a big serpent, it’s amazing. You can’t fake a sonar image…this is the clearest image yet. Undoubtedly, there is something in the loch.”

In mid-October 2011, Scotland’s largest loch-based cruise ship, the French-built, 81-foot-long, Jacobite Warrior, costing $1.65 million, was launched in Loch Ness. Operated by Jacobite Cruises, this unique catamaran vessel holds 250 passengers, carrying 1,500 per day, sailing from the Clansman Hotel’s harbor, near the visitor center.

Jacobite Warrior vessel on Loch Ness, May 6, 2014. Photo by author

On May 6, 2014, this author was aboard the Jacobite Warrior in Loch
Ness, and asked the ship’s first officer, Keith Stewart, if he’d ever had any unusual experiences out on the lake. Stewart replied that only two weeks previously, in late April 2014, he was driving to work at 5:30 AM, and saw a six-foot-long head and neck rising out of the loch. There was a big splash, and then it disappeared. Stewart was later promoted to captain of the vessel.

I took a photograph of the water of the lake just ahead of the bow of the vessel at 10:45 AM that morning, in 652 feet of water, according to the sonar readings, with a forward speed of just 12 knots (14 mph.). At the top of the photo, in the center, is an unexplained, triangular shape, which I did not notice at the time, breaking the surface of the lake and rising about eight inches out of the water, beside a small, shiny, black bump. I have no explanation for the image.

Author’s full-color photo of Loch Ness water, May 6, 2014.

On August 27, 2013, tourist David Elder filmed a 15-foot, “solid-black object” just below the surface of Loch Ness, near Fort Augustus, for five minutes: “Out of the corner of my right eye, I caught sight of a black area of water about 15 feet long, which developed into a kind of bow wave. I’m convinced this was caused by a solid, black object under the water. The water was very still at the time, and there were no ripples coming off the wave, and no other activity on the water.”

A March 2014 photograph showed a long, enormous creature just beginning to breach the surface of the water. Then, on April 29, 2014, a Jacobite Queen sonar image near Urquhart Castle by the ship’s skipper, John Askew, displayed four moving, echo images about 30 feet in size, in 753 feet of water, and swimming at a depth of 522 feet: “This image certainly grabbed our attention…this reading is the most unusual we have seen for quite some time. It’s impossible to tell what we’ve picked up here.”

On May 11, 2014, Kurt Burchfiel explained the “Rogue Nessie Theory”: “(Let’s) hypothesize that the creature in Loch Ness is a rogue…perhaps only five or six feet long  (as a juvenile)…the animal follows the salmon up-river. Once in Loch Ness, the animal finds plenty to eat…grows to maturity, finds it either impossible or undesirable to leave…If these animals possess a life expectancy of 100 years or more, and this seems reasonable given their reported size, then the animal in the loch today could well be the same animal responsible for the rash of sightings in the 1930s, the same animal…photographed by Robert Rines in 1972 and 1975…several animals could be in the loch at the same time…if a male and female rogue of similar maturity were in the loch at the same time, chances are probably good that they would find each other…It would be logical to assume that they would be capable of entering other lochs as well, where a navigable link to the sea exists.

“Conclusions: While the loch may not have enough food for an entire herd of Nessies, it surely has enough for one or two animals…one animal or perhaps a loosely associated collection of individuals could surely keep themselves fairly well-hidden…Perhaps others like it are in similar situations elsewhere around the world. The reluctance of mainstream science to engage in so-called fringe research like monster hunting is perhaps Nessie’s best defense against human detection.”

In 2016, Captain Keith Stewart, age 43, of the Jacobite Warrior vessel discovered a long, previously unknown trench in the bottom of Loch Ness by using state-of-the-art, sonar equipment nine miles down the loch, southeast of Inverness. This trench is at least 77 feet deeper than the deepest-known depth of the loch, with its bottom at 889 feet. His colleagues at Jacobite Cruises have dubbed the discovery “Keith’s Abyss.”

Stewart told the Daily Mail newspaper that, “I wasn’t really a believer of the monster beforehand. But two weeks ago, I got a sonar image of what looked like a long object with a hump lying at the bottom. It wasn’t there when I scanned the loch bed later. That intrigued me, and then I found this dark shape about halfway between the Clansman Hotel and Drumnadrochit, which transpired to be a crevice or trench. I measured it with our state-of-the-art, 3D (sonar) equipment at 889 feet, which is 77 feet deeper than the previous-recorded, deepest point called Edwards’ Deep…Obviously, it will need more research. But it is an intriguing prospect.”

Natasha Heidlage of Dallas, Texas, won £1,000 ($1,322) in January 2017 for her May 1, 2016, photo of something very large just beneath the surface of Loch Ness, which was selected as the “Best Nessie Sighting of 2016.”

In September 2019, at Loch Ness, Professor Neil Gemmell from University of Otago in New Zealand led scientists investigating DNA sampling of the lake to categorize every creature that swims in it. They found no DNA evidence of sharks, sturgeon (known to live there), large fish, or plesiosaurs. But, “There is a very significant amount of eel DNA…We can’t discount the possibility that there may be giant eels in Loch Ness…what people see and believe…might be a giant eel.”

This was an interesting theory, but a large eel was a very early suggestion for what the creature was. Eels are found in Loch Ness, and an unusually large one would explain many sightings. But veteran researchers Tim Dinsdale, Peter Scott, and Roy Mackal readily dismissed the hypothesis, because eels undulate from side to side like snakes, and the Loch Ness creature does not do this.

A new photograph taken later that same month in Loch Ness very clearly shows a large, grayish creature with a mottled back, swimming quickly through the lake and leaving a wake behind it. The photo remains unexplained. The Official Loch Ness Monster Sighting Register records 18 sightings in 2019 (a 25-year high), 13 more in 2020, and an additional 16 sightings in 2021, and just six more in 2022. One photograph, taken from a distance on January 11, 2021, at 11:52 AM, depicts a very long, moving creature in the water. And amazingly, drone footage from September 2021 shows a long, underwater creature near a beach.

Since 1975, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, the World Wildlife Fund, the Smithsonian Institution, and an expert from MIT have all unanimously agreed that, “There is an unexplained phenomenon of considerable interest in Loch Ness…large, aquatic animals.” So, modern science has already accepted them as genuine for nearly the past half-century, and while this startling fact has definitely not received the widespread publicity that it clearly deserves, it is nonetheless true. The only remaining question, really, is what, exactly, are they? As Doctor Albert Einstein stated in 1930, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”

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The author at Loch Ness, Scotland, 2014.

Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism. He served in Europe and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author, historian (also investigating historical mysteries), and hunter. You may visit his website at: