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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

LINDSAY SELBY: Lough Fadda Horse Eel?

Lough Fadda in Ireland is known for its salmon and trout-fishing, and also reports of an unknown creature seen in the lake. For generations the locals of the Connemara area spoke of strange creatures called Horse Eels that inhabited the surrounding bog waters and children were warned to stay away from the loughs as Horse Eels dwelt there. In the 20th Century a lot of people dismissed it as folklore. Then there was a sighting in 1954. Four members of the local Clifden community saw the creature and two were reported to be very disturbed by the experience, so much so that when they returned to Clifden they insisted men armed with rifles be sent to the scene.

In June 1954 Georgina Carberry and three friends cycled down to Lough Fadda. They took a boat owned by the Clifden Angling Association and set out to fish. Later in the afternoon they decided to set the boat ashore along a finger of land that almost splits the lake in half to have some refreshments. They were sitting down with their tea when one of the group pointed out an object moving from 'an island', which she assumed was a man swimming. The object was approaching them and as it got closer it was obviously too big to be a human swimming. They began to get concerned and when it reached within twenty yards (18 metres) Georgina made the first move and jumped back; the others followed and moved away from the water's edge. The movement must have disturbed the creature and it swung right around a rock near the shore and dived. In two minutes it was up to the island again where they were watching and reappeared. When the creature came close to the group on shore it opened its "huge great mouth". Two big humps were noticed sticking above the water behind its head. Georgina said she spotted a forked tail when it swung around the rock. (Another witness, Ann, didn't recall seeing one, when interviewed later). Georgina likened the creature’s mouth to a shark's and described the animal's skin as "wormy" or "creepy". (She explained to F. W. Holiday when interviewed that the "body seemed to have movement all over it all the time.") 'Ann' recalled later on being interviewed that it had prominent eyes to the front of the head. 'Ann' (one of the two surviving members of the group) was interviewed in 2001 by a local historian and the details of the sighting she told him matched the details from nearly 50 years previously, it was still so clear in her mind.

The Loch Ness Investigation Bureau came to search the lough in 1965. The team included Captain Lionel Leslie, Dr Roy P. Mackal and David James, founder of the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau. Captain Leslie set off 5 lbs of explosive along the shore of Lough Fadda in an attempt to lure the creature out. A similar thing had been tried at Loch Ness in an attempt to imitate the 1933 road blasting to lure out Nessie. The police at Inverness, however, made them stop. It was recorded that about ten seconds after the blast a long black object broke the surface and began violently thrashing about. Cameras were on hand but apparently failed to capture any footage. The creature thrashed so wildly no identification or conclusions could be made of the brief sighting. Nets were left across the lough but no further evidence was obtained.

There was apparently an earlier sighting of some sort by two men in a boat during the 1940s but no details have been forthcoming and a search was conducted in Lough Fadda during the early 1980s that was mentioned in the local newspaper but again, no details have been forthcoming about what was found.

So, a candidate for the giant eels theory? I think it sounds very like many other sightings and could well have been an enormous eel. It may have been protecting it’s territory or moved to that lough because it was hungry. Sadly, the blast may have killed it or it may have moved on because of it, as there seems to have been no sightings since.


Dale Drinnon said...

I have always felt this was an eel or at least NOT a mammal: the inside pof the mouth was pale. In nearly all other instances, including Loch Ness, the water monster has a distinctly red interior to the moth, even if it is supposed to be a reptile (Such as the Soay beast/turtle)

I also thought that the "forked tail" was due to the appearance of the wake and the "Wormy" appearance was in reply to a very badly leading question by Holliday, who was pushing that idea at the time.

Aaron T said...

May I offer a different view to Dale Drinnon's ?

Horse eel stories are interesting because they seem to lack the obvious explanations of those from Loch Ness and elsewhere. I for one regard Miss Carberry's testimony as completely sincere. Nevertheless, a parsimonious assessment of her statements does point towards an encounter with a seal. The inside of a seal's mouth is pinkish - i.e. lighter than the outer fur; seals can and do travel along watercourses, and L.Fadda - this L.Fadda at least - is only about one mile from the sea. The forked tail observed by one witness is entirely consistent with the seal's hind limbs, and the diving and surfacing behaviour is also correct with the report of the animal diving close to them and then resurfacing <2 minutes later "practically up to the island" i.e. 150 - 200 metres away being typical of a startled seal. They are also "big" when up close.

Eels are bottom dwelling fish rarely exceeding 1 kg or 1 metre in length and are nowhere near as good a fit with the observed data.

Any policeman will confirm the unreliability of "eyewitness testimony" in general but in my opinion there are sufficient key elements in this particular story to say "the seal dunnit".

BTW Lindsay opens the post with " Lough Fadda in Ireland is known for its salmon and trout-fishing..."

Lough Fadda is not a unique placename - there are several of them. "Fadda" means "long" in Gaelic and while some other L.Faddas may have salmon the one just south of Clifden does not. It is described by the Clifden Area Angling Club as having "Brown trout. Good stock of medium sized fish (0.25 - 1 lb.). Boat available. ..."

Tabitca said...

When you read any of Holiday's books he always asks leading questions. I put it down to inexperience and wanting to prove his theory. I hope that these days most people have basic training in how to interview without leading the witness on. If not may be we ought to set up a CFZ course online or a workshop for the weird weekend. What do you think Jon?
I like the stuff you write Dale, you obviously think deeply about it before you post.

Tabitca said...

Hi Aaron T. The salmon thing- I was told that there is now a fish farm (Fisherie? not sure of the term) in Lough Fadda and I presumed it was farming salmon. It may of course be trout but it was listed under salmon fisheries. Maybe someone can enlighten us?

Aaron T said...

Tabitca - I'd appreciate a ref for the salmon fishery you mention. A "fishery" is usually an area of water under localised control where fish of listed species may be taken subject to certain rules.
The GoogleEarth image of L.Fadda (S of Clifden) dated Feb 2006 shows a few circular fish cages at the waters edge at the north end, and a 40 metre pontoon not far away. These may be fish cages where they raise very small salmon to the "smolt" stage at which point they are transferred to the sea, or perhaps for some other species. This would normally be termed a fish farm rather than a fishery. The only "fishery" I can find reference to there is the brown trout, controlled by the CAAC.

I think there is / was a salmon fishery on the L Fadda in Co Kerry which was closed along with many others a couple of years ago when stocks collapsed. Aaron

Tabitca said...

I didn’t take a note of it as it wasn’t important, just background information. But you will find them mentioned here:

states that hovering above the island of the 1954 sighting is a fish farm

states fish farms, plural, in Lough Fadda Journal article title: A Summer Survey of Otter Sign on Roundstone Bog, South Connemara, by Mary J. Kyne, Michael J. Kyne and J. S. Fairley © 1990 Irish Naturalists' Journal Ltd.

I am sure if you google it you will find it, it was under some official document about salmon fisheries.

Aaron T said...

Tabitca - Thank you for the links. It seems there were smolt farms at L Fadda and at nearby L Beaghacauneen in 1979, but by the time the GE image was taken in 2006 the Fadda site was disused, with the 5 pens pulled ashore. Active pens can be recognised in GE images by the paler tops which are bird nets, placed to discourage cormorants, gulls etc from eating the fish. The chemical changes in the water may also affect horse-eels. Have there been any sightings since '79?

Tabitca said...

I have not heard of any but that doesn't mean there haven't been any. People may not have reported it plus I am just an interested amateur here not an expert.I was a psychologist/ social science researcher by trade. Maybe that is a question you could throw out to the CFZ community ? Someone from the area may know more.

Dale Drinnon said...

Sorry, I have been away, I had not noticed people carrying on in my absence.

As far as I can see, NO, there is no friggin' way the inside of a seal's mouth would be described as "White" that is a distinctively cold-blooded sort of appearance and characteristically "Fishy"-it is diostinctively NOT the description of the inside of the mouth of a warm-blooded animal.

Point number two and by far the more importanyt one, this colouration is distinctively different to nearly ALL other water monsters as described. That part is also important.

IMHO this classifies the creature as most likely of a fishy nature and possibly an amphibian secondarily. I also notice no commentary on the leading statements about the "Wormy" movement or the possibility that the appearance of the forked tail is due to the wake.

In sum, there is not a fit reason given why I should modify my original statement in any way.