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Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Most Exceptional Loch Ness Land Sighting by Torquil MacLeod

The climax of all the land sightings was Torquil MacLeod's sighting in February of 1960, with the ceature partially ashore but with its tail end trailing off in the water. This was in many ways the most exceptional of the land sightings because it was the lagest creature ever reported ashore, out of the largest series of "Creature" reports in the Loch in any sense, and one of the best-observed to make out the most of the creature's shape. Subsequent collectors of the reports have tended to take an attitude of feigned stupidity in order to question the witness' specific statements made in his report.

I shall start with the summary given by Darren Naish on his blog about land sightings at Loch Ness, primarily because it has been referenced here recently otherwise.

"Rather better, perhaps, is Torquil Macleod's 1960 account where a gigantic creature (perhaps 60 ft long) with squarish flippers was watched through binoculars for as long as nine minutes at a distance of about a mile. It was big and grey and had a projection that Macleod described as being like a large elephant trunk. The creature was apparently half ashore, and at the end of the sighting it curved into a U shape and flopped back into the water, apparently without much of a splash (is that even possible for an animal this size?) (Witchell 1975) [artistic version of Macleod's sighting shown modified from Witchell(1975) back to reflect original source in Dinsdale (1960)]

Macleod produced a sketch of his sighting, but it has been argued that there is no way he could have seen what he claimed to with the binoculars he had, given his position on the opposite shore (Binns 1983). Binns also drew attention to the fact that Macleod wasn't a neutral observer, but a fervent believer who longed for a sighting. Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean anything either way (or does it?)."

Torquil MacLeod's sketch done after the sighting "I Think the LNM Looks like THIS", from Dinsdale's Loch Ness Monster, p 144

Binns' objection is exceptionally peculiar. He argues that it would have been impossible to see such an object through McLeod's Highpower binoculars BUT he assumes that what he had seen was a man in a boat, the same explanation he gives for Dinsdale's film. Thus he expects the object MacLeod saw to have been one-third to one-fourth the length of what MacLeod actually REPORTED. It is therefore not reasonable for him to assert that the witness could not have seen the much larger object with his binoculars. The thing was as big as a house.

MacLeod's account as printed in Dinsdale's book includes these paragraphs:

Upon turning my glasses on the moving object, I saw a large grey-black mass (I am inclined to think the skin was wet and dry in patches) and in the front there was what looked like an outsize in Elephant's trunks Paddles were visable at both sides but only at what I presumed was the rear end, and it was this end (remote from the "trunk") which tapered off into the water. The animal was on a steep slope, and taking its backbone as an approximate straight line, was inclined about 15-20 degrees out of my line of sight: the "trunk" being at the top and to the left and the tail being at the bottom, in the water, to the right...
For about 8 or 9 minutes the animal remained quite still, but for its "trunk" (I assume neck although I could see no head as such) which occasionally moved from side to side with a slight up and down motion-just like a snake about to strike; but quite slowly. It was, to my mind, obviously scanning the shores of the Loch in each direction.
In the end it made a half-jump, half-lurch to the left, its "trunk" coming right round until it was facing me, then it flopped in the water and apparently went straight down: so it must be very deep close inshore at that point [Dinsdale's footnote affirms this] As it turned I saw a large squarish-ended [rhomboid] flipper foreward of the big rear paddles-or flippers...[and appends overall reconstruction sketch at the end]

Dinsdale's book also contains four of the position sketches, all quite clear, and none of them exactly matches whe two wash-drawings reproduced in Witchell and at Naish's site. The versions at the start of this posting are my modifications of the wash drawings in attempting to make them match MacLeod's originals more closely.

A lot of the confusion over this sighting arises from Roy Mackal's The Monsters of Loch Ness which seems to be the most common source for most later retellings. In making his remarks about this case, Mackal states:

"Witness seems unclear as to whether he observed head-neck or tail end. He definitely saw a pair of appendages and he believes they were at the rear: however when his sketches are examined, it is obvious they could equally well be at the front of the animal. Later, as the the animal changed its orientation prior to flopping into the water, he saw the third, square-ended flipper foreward of the big rear paddles; he shows it in the same anatomical location that the Spicers observed something flopping up and down. In another context...he reverses his earlier position and says there were only 'two very short forelegs or flippers clearly seen' This does seem to fit better with the["my"] overall impression of his drawings."

Mackal is being disingenuous. It is clear from his statement that the witness took the end on land to be the head end, that it was scanning the banks and that the head end took the lead in diving back into the water. There would be no sensible reason for the tail end to curl over and lead the rest of the body on a return to the water. The description throughout says the creature is viewed tail end on with the head end on shore. That is not an ambiguous statement about whether the head end or the tail end was being observed it was a description of his vantage point in the sighting. The fact that Mackal transparently and very clumsily attempts to force the appearance that there actually is an ambiguity as to whether the tail end or the head end seen on land stands out from the start of his comment to the end. And MacLeod's statement to David James does indicate a change in his story: at that time he had come to believe he actually had seen both foreflippers, on land and free of the water, while the rear flippers were inthe water and partially obscured.

Basically, Mackal has misrepreseneted the entire account and all authors following after him and quoting him are using a badly distorted version of the story. Using the version as printed by Dinsdale is much preferable. Mackal did have an ax to grind as to the matter of "The witness did not know if he was looking at the head end or the tail end" and onhis table of the usual sightings of Loch Ness creatures he has only ONE column to hold descriptions of both ends. This is not really usually a problem since most witnesses (such as tin this case) have a pretty good idea of which end is front and which one is back from the way the creature is acting. Mackal has said there was a problem in that area and because of that he must needs force ALL of the reports to have that same problem.

Dinsdale did make the suggestion that there was one creature living in the Loch of really unusual size and that Torquil's sighting was of it. Another instance of the same individual's passage was supposed to have been on P.T. MacNab's 1955 photo of the Loch Ness Monster near Uruquart castle (which is 50 feet high). Binns allows that it represents a real object, which he says is a wave. I am all for sightings of monsters turning out to be standing waves but this photo does not have any of the characteristics of such waves. Perhaps it is the one fullgrown Longnecked Seaserpent in the Loch, and we can trace its appearances between 1955 and 1965 fairly well. IT could have lived for decades in the Loch and grown to its full size there, but more than likely it was a separate individual intrusion into the Loch, especially since Dinsdale also logged a couple of fullsized "Monster" reports as travelling up and down the River Ness in flood, and in different years.

Dinsdale,Tim Loch Ness Monster,Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961, London

Mackal,Roy The Monsters of Loch Ness, Swallow Press, 1976, Chicago

Binns, R. 1984. The Loch Ness Mystery Solved. W. H. Allen & Co, London.

Costello, Peter. 1975. In Search of Lake Monsters. Panther Books, St. Albans.

Witchell, Nicholas. 1975. The Loch Ness Story. Penguins Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex.


  1. There is perhaps asome importance to the fact that several commentators are struck by similarities between Torqil MacLeod's sighting and the much earlier land sighting by the Spicers, despite the very different orientation of the bodies. Mackal points this out in the passage above and other commentators have pointed out that both reports feature a waving "Elephant's trunk" at the front end.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  2. Another PS: I just noticed that the quote from Darren Naish's blog which starts off this blog entry says the creature "flopped back into the water, apparently without much of a splash (is that even possible for an animal this size?)"

    Well, actually the original does not even say that. That would be an interpretation of the story added after the original statement, what MacLeod had said was that it went straight down (Indicating that the underwater wall of the Loch was very steep at that point)

    So it IS always best to go and seek out the original sources after all.
    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  3. Dale wrote "Perhaps it is the one fullgrown Longnecked Seaserpent in the Loch..."

    Perhaps it is the right arm of a wake left by two trawlers passing left to right - you can see the prop wash and left arm further up in the photo. Also, as Raynor asks on his website, why did he descend the hill before taking the photo? To hide the boats behind the castle, of course.

    The depictions of MacLeod's object are also entirely misleading; a 45 foot object at 1700 yards will take up just 1/15 of the field of view in 7x50 bincoulars. As Raynor again points out, there was a herd of feral goats resident in that area and he himself was startled to see a huge multicoloured object at the foot of the Horseshoe Scree when he was a boat skipper at Fort Augustus. As he got closer it resolved itself into a number of variously coloured goats, browsing along the shore. This must be a more likely explanation that a half/wet half dry 60 ft monster viewed through drizzle late on a February afternoon at a range of almost a mile.

  4. Well, NO, that would not be an adequate explanation, EITHER.

    In order to match the description, the boat wake has to be partly on the beach, then there would be no beach. Then you have the front part of your supposed wake not only hanging over the beach like a pole, but it is making lateral sweeps as the description says the "Trunk" was surveying the shore. You would then have your supposed wake coming from a boat scooting sideways over a wide arc while all the time moving foreward to generate such a thing as the wake itself. And at the end you have this floating wake turning over against itself and giving the appearance of a large body diving under water. You would need a sudden convenient whirlpoool to do that.

    YES, the wash depictions of the sighting are misleading. They are redrawn from the originals. I have no problem with the width of the object taking up 1/5 of the viewing field (that is an appreciably good view, BTW)-in Dinsdale's book the figures measure out at about a quarter of the width, which is allowable as a small enhancemennt to make the illustration clearer. (In illustrations you shall often see parts of a picture disproportionately enlarged so that they can be made out: say for example a Gambler in the old West is being shot when he is dicovered cheating at cards. Very often the cards will be drawn disproportionately large so that you can see he was holding four aces, three of them aces of spades)

    And the possibility that it IS a partially dried sea monster halfway out on shore IS what we are discusssing: if you gainsay the possibility of that saying "There has got to be some other explanation", well then you're already out of the discussion. Other descriptions of Sea Serpents in general mention the partially dried hide when the creature has had its back out of the water for a while: the same thing may be observed on seals (Ivan T. Sanderson remarks on this in his forward to THAT edituion of Dinsdale's Loch Ness Monster)

    Basically, when you get to the point that you say "I won't have it" we have reached the end of any negotriations. And then your opinion is noted as your opinion but that's as much weight as it carries, sorry to say. At this point you have not advanced a useful or rational suggestion, you have made a nonsensical one. If that is what you wish to believe, then so be it and it won't be held against you.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

    BTW, If you will please notice, I did NOT say that said individual creature was living there since the 1930s or that it is living there today. Quite the reverse. I don't find good evidence for monster sightings in that range any further than the mid-1970s and it may well have died by then. Possibly it escaped down the River in flood: the point is, I seriously doubt if it was around for long and I seriously doubt that it lives there NOW.

  5. I am sorry if my English was unclear. The boat wake referrred to is the 1955 photo by Peter A. MacNab, as reproduced in your post. The goat observations relate to the Horseshoe Scree incident.

    Dale wrote "And the possibility that it IS a partially dried sea monster halfway out on shore IS what we are discusssing: if you gainsay the possibility of that saying "There has got to be some other explanation", well then you're already out of the discussion."

    Then I apologise again for taking up your time. ATN

  6. I AM sorry if I did not understand your unclear English since we WERE talking under a heading speaking of Torquil MacLeod's sighting. Frankly I could not see how you expected to make such a curious assertion work. And yes my point was that if you already had your mind made up at the onset and were not going to be discussing the matter from a reasonable point of view in any event. Then of course you WERE wasting your time and yours because I would not consider that a statement arising from a predetermined prejudice against any consideration of the subject's possibility is a valid point of view, on any topic, much less a Scientific one. ANY discussion where one party enters in with a fully closed mind is doomed to failure in any case. In order to have any sort of a dialogue it must be understood that both speakers are attempting to meet on neutral ground.

    And NO, I don't think the McNab's photo is a boat wake either: that would have to be one hellaciously large boat going at outrageous speed to raise a wave that high.

  7. "that would have to be one hellaciously large boat going at outrageous speed to raise a wave that high."

    You may be unaware that Mr MacNab did his own developing and printing. The photo is a joke photo manipulation that got out of hand. The Loch Ness monster was a joke from the start, and fair game for anyone to have a go at. It is amazing that so many people still get taken in.

  8. I can do my own developing and printing, too. Would you therefore then tell me that any photo of the Loch Ness Monbster I might take is then necessarily a fake or "An obvious joke from the start?"
    I would be very much insulted if you would say so, personally.
    I am not saying the photo is necessarily geniune, I am saying that I don't go for your explanations of it at all. Since we're both free to hold our own opinions, I hold the possibility that the photo is genuine open. The photo does look good on the cover of business documents and such.

    BTW, if it does represent a large and longnecked creature, the head end would be far ahead of the hump, cutting water and undrewter. That would be the reason why the wake seems to start out in front of the hump.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  9. Did Macleod research other reports of nessie before his own sighting (or before he reported it?) This would likely reduce the reliability of his testimony.

  10. Unless he specifically said so in some document we could find, I don't think there's any way that we could know that any more at this point in time. That WAS 50 years ago.


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