It is fair to say that no visitor
to Loch Ness passes by without some sense of expectation
and many would hold that a predisposition to see monsters
is, in itself, a sufficient explanation for the controversy
surrounding this enigmatic expanse of water. Indeed, it
was the subject's first author, Rupert
Gould (1934) who discussed what he called "expectant
attention". However, it was to be thirty years before
sightings phenomena were properly investigated. In some
ways this research was to provide verification for some
quite bizarre experiences and to confirm that there was
indeed something special about Loch Ness.
Bearing the foregoing in mind, perhaps the broadest
definition of a "sighting" may
seen at Loch Ness which the observer does not recognise".
Some may seek explanation; others find revelation within
the experience. For some, a sighting may be a life-altering
There are over a thousand recorded
sightings of the Loch Ness Monster. Most fall within
the stereotypes of a multi-humped "sea-serpent"
and the long-necked "plesiosaur". We owe the
record to the collections of authors beginning with Gould
himself, followed by Constance
Whyte (1957), Tim
Dinsdale (1961) and finally to the efforts of
organised research, most notably by the Loch
Ness Investigation (LNI). By the time the LNI
closed down in 1972, after a decade of intensive camera
surveillance, the human testimony was overwhelming.
vigil however, had demonstrated the variety of illusion
that the loch was capable of. As photographic coverage
increased, the staff became aware of sighting reports,
which the expedition observers, with their optical equipment
and increasing experience, were able to explain. Raynor
of eyewitness testimony was still regarded as impressive
and indeed, led to the underwater photography decade of
the seventies and to some extent, even the sonar decade
of the eighties. However, it was now recognised that there
were a number of different categories of sighting report
and that the monster of popular expectation represented
an amalgam of different causes. This helped to focus and
rationalise the expectations of the investigators themselves.
In the nineties, the indirect scientific examination
of the environment brought this process to a culmination,
which even included some field experiments on the psychology
of perception (Shine
The following "Key" does not explain all monster sightings,
particularly some of the early "close encounters" but
it does represent the known background to investigations
in the latter three decades of the 20th century.
Visitors to Loch Ness may find it of interest. The pictures
are mainly from the
"misleading monsters" section, of the Loch Ness
2000 Exhibition in Drumnadrochit. Further illustrations
are from the collection of Richard Carter and other individuals.
very much welcome additions to the Key, based on individual
experiences and any pictures which may illustrate them.
Needless to say, we would be even more interested in sightings
which might not be explained in these ways.