Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

GLEN VAUDREY: The lake monster of Loch Oich

Once while cycling along the Great Glen in Scottish Highlands I stopped along the shores of Loch Oich. The only thing I can remember about that day was that it was raining and I was very wet, and that there wasn’t a great deal to look at apart from the rain.

But that was years ago and since then I have found that there is plenty more to Loch Oich than water falling from the sky. Loch Oich is a fresh water loch that forms part of the Caledonian Canal connected by the Laggan lochs to Loch Lochy; it has also played home to a mystery creature

The story goes that on 13th August 1936 Alderman A.J. Richards along with his son and a friend were boating at the Laggan end of Loch Oich when they saw something rather unusual appear out of the water. A weird looking black creature emerged, at first just two humps likened to the coils of a snake broke the surface just a few yards from the boat, the humps were soon followed by the creature’s head which was like that of dog. Alderman Richards stated that the humps were about three feet in both height and length and also three feet apart from each other with the head of the animal further on.

While they might not have been able to identify the creature the editor of the Northern Chronicle did have a rather clever idea and that was to see if the Fishery Board could arrange the dredging of the loch with their nets, sadly they never took up the suggestion.


Dale Drinnon said...

This is one of the reports from that sighting and Costello's In Search of Lake Monsters has more information that both amplifies this description but also significantly contradicts it by saying it was a six-foot-otter.

For my part I am willing to say it was a large otterlike creature and probably a Master-otter, and what is more it is probably the SAME INDIVIDUAL Master-otter that was seen entering Loch Ness via the River Ness in February 1932: that one was also described as six feet long.

Of course that does NOT mean that one large otterlike creature was the cause of ALL the Loch Ness sightings between 1932 and 1936. The only possible conclusion is that there actually was more than one kind of "Monster" that was being seen during that interval.

Aaron T said...

I'm not sure it helps us to describe one unknown animal in terms of another. There is no animal called a "master otter" - legend or myth yes, specimen, no.
It also takes more imagination than I can muster to interpret Alderman Richards description of " 2 humps 3 feet high, 3 feet long, looking like the coils of a snake" as any kind of otter.

As for Miss K.MacDonald's creature seen in the River Ness (not "entering Loch Ness, please note) only 2 1/2 miles from the sea, it is described in Gould 1934 as "6 to 8 feet in total length, with a very short neck and long, toothed jaws. She spoke of it as a crocodile."

Surely that is close enough to a description of a sturgeon for most people? There are reliable reports of sturgeon caught in the area dating from 1812, c.1835, 1846 & 1871 mentioned in the Inverness Journal & Inverness Courier, the last mentioned being caught in a salmon net at the entrance to the Caledonian Canal at Inverness.

There are otters in the Great Glen lochs, but if the animal was too big to be an otter, could it not have been either of the seal species which are known to visit freshwater? They have been photographed in Loch Ness and could easily progress to Loch Oich.

While we all enjoy a mystery, there is no need to create them without good cause and our subject will benefit from the occasional recognition of probable misidentification. ATN

Dale Drinnon said...

Well, we ARE speaking cryptozoology here and the Master-otter IS supposed to be basically an outsized otter. AND we have KNOWN fossil antecedents for that.

In the case of the Loch Oich creature, the "Outsized Otter" descriptions were the ones thought to be the more trustworthy ones. And the "humps" are very often merely waves in the wake. And we also DO have records of otters-swimming-in-a-line, I have photographs. But it is not necessary to invoke that explanation because the humps are most often merely an illusion of a standing wave action. The doglike head as reported is the most significant part of the Robertson report.

Similar reports of such creatures do estimate the length at 10-20 feet long, although half that is more likely. Please also see Lindsay's blog on Scandinavian creatures where I mentioned that an estimated 10-15 feet in length is typical for such reports of creatures; 6-10 feet is the more reasonable set of estimates.

As far as the creature in the River Ness goes, NO, that would NOT be a sturgeon if it showed TEETH (specified in most retellings of that report).The Master-otter reports in other areas ARE compared to crocodiles (or "furry crocodiles) because of their overall size and shape. Furthermore, there is an indication that the creature might have been amphibious. AND there is no reason why one must assume it did NOT thereafter enter Loch Ness from the river when similar reports ARE from the loch following immediately thereafter, inclusing amphibious appearances of an outsized-otterlike hairy beast ashore.

The sturgeons involved at Loch Ness would be Atlantic Sturgeons, to be precise, and these have a record length of 14 feet. And I did NOT say there were not sturgeons in Loch Nes, what I said was that there was more than one sort of creature being reported as a monster at that time.
The same statement would also cover intrusive seals.

Once again, these are NOT the standard "Loch Ness Monster" reports, they are NOT longnecked and they are otterlike, but much larger. And that agrees with the Master-otter reports from Ireland and similar reports from Scandinavia, Iceland and North America. AND the fossils show that this is a REAL animal, although presumed to be extinct.

If you follow my postings you will see that I am ALSO one of the holdouts for the Plesiosaur theory with the reservation that any such creatures would not be landlocked and would only be there temporarily.

Dale Drinnon said...

BTW, it is not a case of "Enjoying a good mystery" to be offering a possible SOLUTION to that particular mystery. In this case, the giant otter-type reports AS distinguished from the larger, vaguer mass of reports. I am sorry but I fail to see what you meant by that remark in this instance.

And if you have good grounds for suspecting the existance of giant otters from other sources in a nearby geographical region (Ireland in this case) why is it then unreasonable to use that model as an explanation for any similar reports at LOch Ness or Loch Oich. The only real difference is if you attach some mystical significance to those locations as opposed to the rest of the region otherwise.

Aaron T said...

Dale, please don't think I am targeting your comments in particular, but my interest in these stories goes back a wee while now and it is obvious to me that authors have been completely "taken in" by some of the reports. As an example, Costello reports (p 146) "The Loch Oich animal was indeed seen by one Simon Cameron... at Laggan on Sept 19 (1936). Mr Cameron said the animal rose to the surface beside his house and with quick powerful strokes of its forelimbs travelled briskly... The animal was six feet long, with a furry looking body and a dog like head. Asked by a reporter if he thought it might have been an otter, Cameron replied "There is no otter on earth anything like that."

Cameron was doubtless taunting the credulous reporter who failed to recognise the excellent visual description of a seal, and others are apparently failing to remember that otters do not use their forelimbs much for propulsion, while seals certainly do.

May I now gently take you to task for dismissing the observations that do not suit your purpose, demoting superfluous humps to mere waves, and reducing the size by a factor of 2 when it is convenient? If I were to apply the same principle to the whole episode it would never have been remarkable in the first place.

You say "Well, we ARE speaking cryptozoology here and the Master-otter IS supposed to be basically an outsized otter. AND we have KNOWN fossil antecedents for that."

In my philosophy this simply means that I do not rule out the possibility of something strange, but I suggest that we should vigorously explore the known living candidates before trying to raise the dead. Megalenhydris is known from a single very incomplete and undated specimen, and it borders on the incredible to propose that a 6 foot carnivorous terrestrial species has been trotting around the Scottish and Irish countrysides for millennia without being recorded. Occasional outsized otters have doubtless existed, just as unusually large humans like Robert Pershing Wadlow have grown to 8 ft 11 in and a weight of 480 lbs, but that does not mean that races of giants exist. Except perhaps in our imagination?

Miss MacDonald's "crocodile" in the River Ness could easily have been a sturgeon, as one of the most prominent features are the barbels, which could be taken for long teeth.

Finally, for now, you wrote "If you follow my postings you will see that I am ALSO one of the holdouts for the Plesiosaur theory with the reservation that any such creatures would not be landlocked and would only be there temporarily."

Are you seriously suggesting that there are plesiosaurs swimming around in the North Eastern Atlantic, evading capture alive or afterwards by the entire world's fishing fleets, since time immemorial, and then swimming up the 3 foot deep River Ness through the centre of a city... without being noticed? Why would they do that? ATN

Dale Drinnon said...

Hello,Aaron, Unfotunately I did not get notice of your reply and hence I did not know about it until I looked. I must inform you that you are incorrect in several of your asumptions.

As a matter of fact the misinterpretation of waves as humps is a central part of my observations across the board and I am not arbitrarily invoking it in this one instance. Indeed the vast majority of sightings of mere humps are invalidated as being observations of waves AS humps for AT LEAST 3/4 of ALL water-monster reports world-wide and that entirely invalidates at least two entire categories of Heuvelmans' Sea-serpents
Your statement that Cameron was "Taunting a credulous repoprter" calls for an intuitive interpretation of an unrecorded thought process and carries no real weight other than being an intuitive insight. That is on a par with getting your answers by divine inspiration or by a Ouija board.
Now if the complied testimonial evidence in Scotland and Ireland DOES hold together as consistently identifiable such that other sightings can be measured and predicted by them, you then have a fair case for such a creature being at the base of the reports. Megalenhydris is then the logical choice and the fragmentary nature of the fossil means NOTHING toward your argument.Nor does the statememt that a TERRESTRIAL otter would not go unnoticed-we are talking about an AQUATIC animal, and one which very well could have been either marine or freshwater from the nature of the deposits the fossil was found in.We are NOT talking about something which remains only in one place but one which comes and goes upriver and down. Saying "Except in our Imagination?" is a loaded phrase inserted to incite ridicule. Kindly remember that gorillas were not believed in until they were "Discovered".

Miss Mac Donald made two separate descriptions at two different times. Neither one description is a GOOD representation of a sturgeon and either one matches other reports of Master-otters from Ireland (and similar sightings elsewhere)Her first report was of a creature 12-15 feet long with a large round head showing two fangs or tusks: the later report specified 6-8 feet long (on reconsideration) and several teeth (unspecified number) from which Gould agreed it sounded like a crocodile. Having a SHORT neck rules out a sturgeon, which has NO neck at all: sturgeon's barbels are almost never visable from the topside of the head and the description is not a good match. Furthermore the creature WAS reported as swimming upstream, towards Loch Ness.

As for the last, YES, I do indeed seriously intend to say that. AND WHY NOT, if that is what the evidence points to? the observations of Plesiosaur-shaped creatures DO include depictions of specifically Plesiosaurian anatomy including Euryapsid skull openings at the back of the skull and the pattern of bones in the flippers, world-wide and throughout recorded history. PostCretaceous Plesiosaur fossils HAVE been reported, although the matter has been disputed (Which is never a reason to say "There is no such evidence")Such creatures HAVE been seen headed both upstream and down IN the River Ness On SEVERAL OCCASIONS, primarily at dark and when the river is in flood. Dinsdale mentions at least two separate occasions. The draft of such a creature is normally well under three feet and only a very large plesiosaur-shaped creature would have any problems navigating the river at any ordinary depth in any event. Three feet has been reported as the typical body thickness of a "Monster" 25-30 feet long

Aaron T said...

Dale - I accept your criticism. I was working from a logical scientific approach, using known species and phenomena as the most likely candidates.

If you wish to ignore the obvious and propose that mythical monsters are swimming around Great Britain, that's OK. We are obviously engaged in different pursuits.

Good Luck and watch out for the Unicorns - they can be aggressive if startled. I'll leave you to your work.