Home>Editorial>Mysteries>Sonar and the Loch Ness Monsters: The 1950s to Now

Sonar and the Loch Ness Monsters: The 1950s to Now

You may have seen the recent news about a strange and large “something” caught on sonar in the dark depths of Loch Ness, Scotland. On October 5, the Mail on Sunday newspaper published an article that, in part, stated the following: “A sonar has detected a mystery 30ft long shape 500ft below the surface of Loch Ness – immediately sparking excited speculation from Nessie hunters. The ‘solid and pretty big’ sonar contact was picked up by a boat owned by Cruise Loch Ness.

The mystery creature is likely to feed on trout and eels at the bottom of the loch, which has the largest volume of freshwater in Britain. Director Ronald Mackenzie, 48, said: ‘Who knows what it is, there is quite a lot of fish at the bottom of the loch, there is carnivorous trout and eels. I believe that there is something big living deep down in the Loch, who knows what it can be but I would love to think it’s Nessie. It is something which is feeding on eels or trout. It is quite unusual.’ The mass was picked up around 4pm on Wednesday when Ronald was skippering a boat with technology from two years ago, about six miles from Fort August. The father-of-three added: ‘A sonar expert has looked at it and says it’s genuine. There is definitely something there. I’m going to give the image to the company which made the equipment to look at.”

Nick Redfern October 24, 2020

SonarWith that said, here’s a little bit more about sonar. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says of sonar: “Sonar, short for Sound Navigation and Ranging, is helpful for exploring and mapping the ocean because sound waves travel farther in the water than do radar and light waves. NOAA scientists primarily use sonar to develop nautical charts, locate underwater hazards to navigation, search for and map objects on the seafloor such as shipwrecks, and map the seafloor itself. There are two types of sonar – active and passive. Active sonar transducers emit an acoustic signal or pulse of sound into the water. If an object is in the path of the sound pulse, the sound bounces off the object and returns an ‘echo’ to the sonar transducer. If the transducer is equipped with the ability to receive signals, it measures the strength of the signal. By determining the time between the emission of the sound pulse and its reception, the transducer can determine the range and orientation of the object. Passive sonar systems are used primarily to detect noise from marine objects (such as submarines or ships) and marine animals like whales. Unlike active sonar, passive sonar does not emit its own signal, which is an advantage for military vessels that do not want to be found or for scientific missions that concentrate on quietly ‘listening’ to the ocean. Rather, it only detects sound waves coming towards it. Passive sonar cannot measure the range of an object unless it is used in conjunction with other passive listening devices. Multiple passive sonar devices may allow for triangulation of a sound source.”

Now, it’s worth noting this is not the first time something unidentified has been caught on sonar in Loch Ness. For example, Operation Deepscan was a highly ambitious project put into place in October 1987. It was an effort to seek out the Nessies with sonar and which just may have had some degree of success. No less than two dozen boats were utilized to scan the depths of Loch Ness with echo-sounding equipment. Some of the presumed anomalies recorded were actually nothing stranger than tree-stumps. Others may have been a seal or two, which had wandered into the loch. Nevertheless, there was a moment of excitement when something large and unidentified was tracked near Urquhart Bay and at roughly 600 feet below the surface. It prompted Darrell Lowrance, of Lowrance Electronics – whose echo-sounding equipment was used in Operation Deepscan – to say: “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. I don’t know.”

Going backGoing back even further in time, in December 1954, the crew of the Rival III fishing vessel had a curious encounter on Loch Ness. None of them caught sight of a Nessie – at least not visually. What they did do, however, was to track on their sonar equipment a large, unknown object which shadowed the boat for a distance of around two and a half thousand feet and at a depth of approximately 480 feet. Precisely what it was, was never determined. In light of all the above, it’s likely that the Nessie-sonar issue won’t be going away anytime soon.  Mysterious Universe

An Alternative Way of Trying to Find Monsters: Summoning

Just recently, I highlighted in an article how sonar has played a significant role in the quest to resolve the mystery of Loch Ness, Scotland. Of course, most of the available data comes not from sonar, but from eyewitnesses and those who have been lucky enough to have captured the creatures by filming them. There are, however, other ways to try and find monsters of the deep. And I’m not talking about just Loch Ness. What I am talking about is the matter of summoning. In the summer of 1998, Jon Downes, the head-honcho of the Center for Fortean Zoology, Richard Freeman (a former, head-keeper at England’s Twycross Zoo), and various, sundry members of the CFZ – sought to raise from the seas off the coast of Devon, England, the supernatural form of Morgawr – a legendary sea serpent. The CFZ had received a request from a local television company that was making a documentary on water-based. And, of course, Downes and his crew were pleased to oblige. On the morning in question, Richard took to the shore. He stood with his legs spread wide, impressive in a long black robe and brandishing a fierce-looking sword toward the sea. He chanted an ancient invocation in a mixture of Gaelic and old English in an attempt to summon the ancient sea beast from its lair.  Nick Redfern October 24, 2020

Last minuteThis was no casual, last-minute action on the part of Richard Freeman, who as well as being a zoologist is a fully-fledged ritual-magician. He had prepared well in advance. Four large candles were positioned on the sand – which amazingly stayed alight, despite the rain and a powerful wind. The candles were not merely there for effect, however. A red-colored candle represented fire. A green one, the Earth. The air was portrayed in the form of a yellow candle. And the sea by a blue one. Then, with the time, the setting, and the atmosphere all in alignment, Richard tossed a bunch of elderberries into the water, essentially as a gift to Morgawr, and screamed at the top of his lungs: ‘Come ye out Morgawr; come ye out ancient sea dragon; come ye out great old one!’ The entire CFZ team, as well as the TV crew, turned slowly and apprehensively away from Freeman – whose face briefly became like that of someone deep in the throes of demonic possession – towards the harsh, pounding waves. Unfortunately, Morgawr failed to put in appearance that day. It was worth a try though. Now, let’s take a look at another example.

MonsterIn 1981, the almost legendary magician and monster-raiser Doc Shiels found himself caught up in a strange aspect of the Loch Ness Monster saga. It was a saga that reinforced the paranormal origins of the beast. In the same way that, in 1977, Shiels attempted, and apparently succeeded, in summoning up a creature of the loch, he attempted to do likewise at a number of Irish lakes, some four years later. One of those lakes was Lough Leane, a nineteen square kilometer body of water, situated near Killarney. Shiels had a very good reason for focusing on this particular lake. It is said to be the final resting place of a collection of priceless treasure that belonged to a legendary warrior of old named O’Donoghue. Not only that, the treasure is said to be fiercely guarded by a great, three-headed worm. So, with this in mind, Doc attempted to call forth the wormy monster of Killarney. On this occasion, Shiels was far less successful than he had been at Loch Ness: the monster flatly refused to manifest. Of course, there’s no reason to give up on the chase – even if the “summoning” approach doesn’t always work. Maybe, one day, though, it will prove to be the angle that solves it all.   Mysterious Universe

Makati City Pabakuna

Strange Tales of Even Stranger Bears: Ghostly and Huge

It’s not often that bears feature in the domains of Cryptozoology and the paranormal. Such a thing does happen now and again, however. As you will now see. Neil Arnold, a good friend and author says: “For several decades Clapham Woods in West Sussex, [England] has been the subject of many a dark whisper and wicked rumor. Tales of ghosts, murders and black magic often emerge from the ancient woods. My favorite and certainly, creepiest story pertaining to Sussex, and there are many, concerns a sighting of a truly dreadful creature. This manifestation even made the Littlehampton Gazette, in 1975, around the autumn. Even national radio and the popular, topical BBC program Nationwide, featured the story. At the time the area was caught up in a flap of high strangeness. News-crews, journalists, UFO investigators, and paranormal enthusiasts flocked to the area, but rarely after dark.

“Two dogs had gone missing in the area, and when researchers stumbled across a footprint measuring eight-inches long and almost four-inches wide, but showing four-claw mark indentations (and a fifth claw mark towards the rear of the main pad), it was clear that something bizarre was going on. Twelve inches in front of the print, was another, almost identical print. The investigators were equipped with a Geiger counter, as well as other paraphernalia. Suddenly, the needle of the counter began to act oddly when the counter was swept over the prints, and then, from the darkness a grey pillar of mist appeared. With the main A27 road in ear shot, the researchers decided it best to head for home, but then the monster appeared. The hazy shaft of mist before them took on the form of a great bear-like creature. The apparition then faded within ten seconds. From then on Clapham Woods would become known for its paranormal activity. It was once rumored that a bear cult operated clandestinely in the thickets, and maybe they’d raised some kind of tulpa-like energy forever to haunt the shadows of the ‘birdless grove.’  Nick Redfern October 21, 2020


“Strange symbols, time lapses, animal sacrifice, phantom hounds, secret societies and several obscure cults: Clapham Woods is certainly one of those special places. Blue Bell Hill in Kent, and Cannock Chase in Staffordshire seem to offer similar bouts of high strangeness, whether in the form of strange animal sightings or peculiar activity and folklore. Whether by strange coincidence, the grounds of Verdley Castle, situated also in West Sussex, are supposedly haunted by a giant bear. It is alleged to have been the last bear in England.” Now, let’s take a look at another intriguing story.

In 1899 a decidedly curious creature was encountered in Alaska by a man named Alfred L. Dominy and a colleague named Weyhrich. It was a terrifying, shape-shifting nightmare that became known as the Indian Devil. Adams, a resident of Los Angeles, California, told his story to the press, which was all too keen to publish his saga of the sinister kind. It went like this: “In the spring of 1899 myself and partner were going up the Francis River when we came across an animal which apparently had been drowned and left by high water on a gravel bar. It was about the size and shape of a small bear, would weigh about 300 pounds, snow white, hair about the same length and thickness as a bear’s, short stub tail, heavy neck, head, teeth and ears like a wolf, legs short, not over a foot in length, and feet and claws like a large dog or wolf. Mr. Weyhrich and I examined it thoroughly, but were unable to determine what it was. I am satisfied there are still living specimens of the same animal further to the north.” The mystery was never resolved. Moving onward:

“Nathaniel Neakok, the mighty hunter of polar bears, has quit scoffing at reports about the great Kinik being seen in this northernmost region of North America,” reported the Idaho Falls, Idaho Post-Register, on May 15, 1958. The story continued: “A Kinik is the name Eskimos give to a bear they say is too big to come out of the water. Its size varies with the individual story. But all agree he is a monster of great size and strength and appetite. Several weeks ago, Neakok laughed so loudly when told Raymond Lalayauk had reported seeing a 30-foot bear that is hearty guffaws echoed and re-echoed across the great, frozen polar wastes. But Neakok isn’t laughing anymore. He has seen a Kinik with his very own eyes. This Kinik, Neakok says, was grayish white and only its head was visible as it swam through the water. It was so large he did not attempt to shot it. Neakok said its head alone must have been five or more feet long – and almost as wide. This was not the first time a monster was reported by respected men of the village. Floyd Ahvakana and Roxy Ekownna, elders in the Presbyterian Church and men of undoubted veracity, tell of seeing a tremendous sea monster in 1932 while hunting with a third Eskimo, now deceased. All three thought it was a Kokogiak or 10-legged bear which occupies a prominent role in Eskimo legend.

Elliot O’Donnell, a renowned collector and investigator of ghost stories, told a fascinating story of a strange, ghostly, bear-like monster seen in none other than London, England’s Tower of London. O’Donnell said: “Edmund Lenthal Swifte, appointed in 1814 Keeper of the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London, refers in an article in Notes and Queries, 1860, to various unaccountable phenomena happening in the Tower during his residence there. He says that one night in the Jewel Office, one of the sentries was alarmed by a figure like a huge bear issuing from underneath the Jewel Room door. He thrust at it with his bayonet, which, going right through it, stuck in the doorway, whereupon he dropped in a fit, and was carried senseless to the guard-room. When on the morrow Mr. Swifte saw the soldier in the guard-room, his fellow-sentinel was also there, and the latter testified to having seen his comrade, before the alarm, quiet and active, and in full possession of his faculties. He was now, so Mr. Swifte added, changed almost beyond recognition, and died the following day.

George“Mr. George Offer, in referring to this incident, alludes to queer noises having been heard at the time the figure appeared. Presuming that the sentinel was not the victim of an hallucination, the question arises as to the kind of spirit that he saw. The bear, judging by cases that have been told me, is by no means an uncommon occult phenomenon. The difficulty is how to classify it, since, upon no question appertaining to the psychic, can one dogmatize. To quote from a clever poem that appeared in the January number of the Occult Review, to pretend one knows anything definite about the immaterial world is all ‘swank.’ At the most we – Parsons, Priests, Theosophists, Christian Scientists, Psychical Research Professors – at the most can only speculate. Nothing – nothing whatsoever, beyond the bare fact that there are phenomena, unaccountable by physical laws, has as yet been discovered. All the time and energy and space that have been devoted by scientists to the investigation of spiritualism and to making tests in automatic writing are, in my opinion – and, I believe, I speak for the man in the street—hopelessly futile.

“No one, who has ever really experienced spontaneous ghostly manifestations, could for one moment believe in the genuineness of the phenomena produced at séances. They have never deceived me, and I am of the opinion spirits cannot be convoked to order, either through a so-called medium falling into a so-called trance, through table-turning, automatic writing, or anything else. If a spirit comes, it will come either voluntarily, or in obedience to some Unknown Power—and certainly neither to satisfy the curiosity of a crowd of sensation-loving men and women, nor to be analyzed by some cold, calculating, presumptuous Professor of Physics whose proper sphere is the laboratory. But to proceed. The phenomenon of the big bear, provided again it was really objective, may have been the phantasm of some prehistoric creature whose bones lie interred beneath the Tower; for we know the Valley of the Thames was infested with giant reptiles and quadrupeds of all kinds (I incline to this theory); or it may have been a Vice-Elemental, or – the phantasm of a human being who lived a purely animal life, and whose spirit would naturally take the form most closely resembling it.”
Mysterious Universe