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Loch Morar Expedition Report 1976


© Loch Ness & Morar Project.
May be used for private research only. All other rights reserved.
Adrian Shine

PATRONS

Norman Collins; The Hon. Simon Fraser, Master of Lovat; The Rt. Hon. Lord Glendevon,
P.C.; David James, M.B.E., D.S.C., M.P.; Sir Robert Mc Ewen, Q.C.;  Sir Peter Scott, C.B.E., D.S.C.

Supported and approved by

The Scientific Exploration Society

COMMITTEE
D. Foakes
M.J. Parsons, F.R.E.S. (Hon. Treasurer)
P. Parsons (Dive Leader)
J. Say
A.J. Shine, F.R.G.S. (Leader)
D. Shirt (Chairman)
A. Stansfeild
T.B. Wicks
The Expedition took place between June 1st and the end of August. Membership consisted
of students of zoology at Royal Holloway College, University of London; Ealing Technical College;
Manchester University and private individuals. We are also most grateful for the assistance of
The Junior Leaders Regiment, Royal Engineers, while they were in the area and to the diving
club of the Royal Marine Commando Training Centre.

MEMBERS

B. Ashton
D. Baggott
R. Baliard
B. Barber
N. Bartlett
M. Beauchamp
J. Bellars
P. Bellars
M. Bower
J. Brock
A. Cappleman
D. Catt
P. Cavell
A. Chapman
J. Coil
S. Craddock
L. Davis
R. Dawson
M. Dornan
T. Dornan
R. Emins
R. Gardiner
D. Grant
M. Hastings
Miss J. Hewitt
P. Hoon
G. Ibetson

A. Jennison
F. Koch
Mrs. L.Koch
T. Leighton
G. Mc Nee
Miss H.Malcolrn
S. Mar
Miss C.Milne
J. Morris
1. Newby
Miss 1. Olejnik
S. Phelan
H. Rai
G. Scrivener
Miss A.Shephard
R. Shephard
J. Simpson
D. Sinclair
A. Smiles
G. Speakman
K. Stokes
G. Stores
R. Thomas
S. Thornborough
D. Todaro
Miss S. Volk
Miss A.Watson
F. Wheeler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C.T.C.R.M. Diving Team
Capt. J. Niven
Lieut. N. Dorkins
Cpl. M. Kochalski
Cpl. T. English
Cpl. M. Williams
Mne. J. Brown
S. Corfield

Loch Morar Expedition Diving Team
P. Parsons
Mrs. P. Colville
R. Pritty
P. Prothero
Miss Y. Sadowy

CONSULTANTS
T.K. Dinsdale, AMIRAeS/Loch Ness Association of Explorers Mrs. E. Montgomery
Campbell, M.J.1. Dr. D. Solomon, B.Sc,, Ph. D. Prof. P.A. Jewel, M.A. Ph. D. 

DONATIONS
We gratefully acknowledge the following donations. in order of receipt)
Mrs. E. Montgomery Campbell £20
Barclays Bank £25
The Loch Ness Investigation £450
N. Witchell Esq. £50
The Rt. Hon. Lord Glendevon £10
M. Prior Esq. £50
Kenneth Wagg Esq. £50
J. Pemberton Esq. £25
Sir R. Mc. Ewen £25
Christopher Headlam £20
Sir Geoffrey Harmsworth £10
Mrs. Gunny £5
Richard Gardiner Esq. £10
Cmmdr. W. Bellars £15 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
We wish to record our appreciation of the invaluable help given to us by the following in equipping and running the expedition:

Stanmore Video Services; Marine Unit Technology; Under­water and Marine Equipment; Akai;
Admiralty Research Laboratory; Autolux Car Batteries; Ocean Outboards; Rochdale Marine Enterprises;
Baron Instruments; Gwelo Manufacturing; Abbas Ropes; Cutty Sark Whisky; ; Swell Foods; R. Pliskin;
Western Battery Company; Walker & Sons; Morar Hotel; Macintyres Marine Engineers; Morar Motors;
Mackellaigs Garage; Hendersons, Boat Builders; MacClains Stores; Simpsons, Ship Chandlers;
Mr. R. Raynor. Mr. A. Harrison; Mr, H. Macinnes; Mr. P. Scoones; Mr. J " Rabin; Mr. M. Borrow;
Mr. M. Humphries; Mr. Hensel; Mr. Cook; Mrs M. Lovell; Miss R. Mindel; Mr. G. Sainsbury;
Mr. P. Harrison; Mr. P. Hayes; Capt. Moore Bick; Mr. D. Grimmett; Mr. C. Gawne;
Mr. A. Dodds; Mr. L.A.Durden. Mr. C.A. Mathews

The Residents of Morar
Particularly to Mr. MacDonell and Mrs. A. Mackellaig who permitted the use of their property at nominal rents.
And to: 

Mr. & Mrs. A.Cameron
Mr. & Mrs. Fergusson
Mrs. Grigor
Mr. J. Henderson
Mrs. M. Juroszek
Mr. & Mrs. A.MacClean
Mr. B. MacClean
Mr. A. Malcolm

Mr. & Mrs. Mc.Cleod
Mr. J. MacDonald
Mr. Macintyre
Mr. Macbeth
Mr. N. O'Donnell
Mr. A. Skea
Miss 1. Stirling





 

 

 

INTRODUCTION
It is now one hundred years since H.M.S. Challenger returned from the world's first deep sea survey,
but not until the turn of the present century was Sir John Murray (a member of that expedition) able to launch the first British freshwater study as a private venture. 

The Bathymetric Survey of the Scottish Lochs was basically a sounding exercise and revealed how vast these lakes are.
The waters of Loch Ness alone would cover an area the size of the County of Surrey to a depth of nearly fifteen feet, while the Eiffel Tower could stand comfortably immersed beneath the surface of Loch Morar.

When a road was built around Loch Ness in 1933 and the English tourist "discovered" that a large animal occasionally surfaced there, the first freshwater biological station had only just been established at Lake Windermere with equipment hardly removed from net and jam jar. 

Investigators attracted to the problem were seldom therefore naturalists, and a crusade developed to publicise the matter. A decade before the invention of the aqualung and confronted by opaque peaty water, they could do little but await the chance surfacings of an aquatic animal. Obviously, it does sometimes surface, as many eye witnesses have testified and a very good film obtained by T.K. Dinsdale in 1960 indicates; but intensive shore surveillance carried out by the Loch Ness Investigation established that it exposed very little of its body to useful photography. In 1972 after a war of attrition against the law of averages longer than the Wars of the Roses, organised British work ceased at Loch Ness. 

In that year underwater work initiated by American investigators culminated in a picture of a fin‑like object obtained by Dr. R. Rines but in general, the intense colloidal peat stain drastically limits the range of underwater photo­graphy and has rendered interpretation of results too difficult to allow scientific conclusions to be drawn. 

Between 1970 and 72 the Loch Morar Survey opened research at Loch Morar and collected sufficient eyewitness evidence to justify them in concluding that the loch did hold a genuine mystery meriting investigation. Work done by the biological section of that group also confirmed that the loch was capable of supporting a population of large animals. It was the findings of these expeditions, which gave us confidence in attempting a new approach to the problem from 1974. 

The basic stalemate reached at Loch Ness resulted from the impenetrability of the creature's basic habitat, which defied exploration, restricting investigators to a position of advocacy aimed at gaining scientific acceptance for a species which could not be described or to urge a scientific search which could not be conducted. This invited confrontation as insistently as a pantomime dame's challenge of "Oh! yes, it is". 

Morar provides an opportunity to break the stalemate, as the clarity of its waters allows a real search to be carried out within the creature's own element. Marine equipment, owing to the stimulus of the offshore oil and fishing indust­ries, has now reached a standard, which, if applied, should solve the problem. Clearly, if there is a large unknown animal present in these lochs, then its identification is a worthwhile British scientific objective; but that's the point, to justify the use of the resources necessary, we must aim to do more than prove the existence of a monster. Evidence merely suggesting the inexplicable can only add to controversy by inviting explanation. 

The objective is thus the identification, rather than verification of the phenomenon leading to a full description of the species. Though we recognise that the subject is still controversial, we feel that this objective will ensure a greater commitment to obtaining evidence, which is not only decisive but truly valuable scientifically. The only true value of "discovering" the creature lies in an understanding of its physiology and behaviour since it clearly represents an anomaly, whatever its group. Also, until a full underwater search has been made, it is only fair to assume a basis for the existing volume of eyewitness and other evidence. 

Since the accent is no longer on advocacy but on study, operational techniques will be valuable only if they pro­duce new information and repeatable results. We are not interested in awaiting a million to one chance, but in estab­lishing a routine system of observation. We have tried to apply chosen methods with sufficient vigour to allow valid conclusions to be drawn, leading to a progressive elimination of various lines of enquiry. 

We need to gain much more information of the creature's anatomy. All we can be at all sure about are the classic hump and what is understood to be a long neck, which are exposed above the waterline. Photography not only stands a greater chance of making contact underwater but should also be able to record for the first time, the full outline and method of propulsion. Though the profiles of aquatic mammals, reptiles and fish may become similar through conver­gence, the method of progression is usually characteristic. Mammals tend to undulate vertically, reptiles and fish laterally. We can also exploit the clarity of the water to make an extensive visual survey in a search for actual organic remains, which would be even more valuable. 

Apart from the overwhelming advantages of good underwater visibility when attempting photography or a search for skeletal remains, it also opens the whole environment to effective exploration by divers, submersibles and other equipment which is desirable in order to shed light upon aspects of behaviour previously open to speculation. This can help in planning the deployment of camera equipment. At present we should be unjustified in assuming our quarry to be of any particular group, and so to decide the tactics used in observing it, our major concern has been to identify the food source. The behaviour of herbivorous, predatory, plankton and detrital feeders varies widely, and since the siting of cameras in such a vast area must be based upon expected behaviour patterns, it is important that this matter be resolved. Our underwater activities have steadily put us in a position to check on the various possibilities. We aim therefore:‑ 

1. To pursue a progressive exploration of the loch in a search for organic remains or other information    relevant to large creatures.

2. To obtain film and still photography of a quality and type designed to be of scientific value in identifying the creature.
We first describe the diving activities, together with a discussion of our observations relating to possible food sources.

DIVING
Twenty divers took part in this year's work and in the course of the expedition over two hundred man dives were made to depths of up to 100ft. In addition to reconnoitring, placing and servicing the underwater camera equipment, they had the following main tasks:-

1. To extend a systematic area search for organic remains to a depth of 100ft in selected locations.

2. To observe the distribution and take samples of rooted plants.

3. To take samples of the silt and to examine it for signs of disturbance.

THE SEARCH FOR ORGANIC REMAINS
There are very few records of unidentified carcasses being found by Scottish lochs. Factors which may account for this are that Lochs Ness and Morar are deep, steep sided and cold (about 5oC below the thermocline). The cold would slow decomposition and allow time for scavengers such as eels to dispose of the remains. Gases, which did result from decomposition, would have their volume and buoyancy reduced by water pressure at depth. One cubic foot of gas at the surface would have a buoyancy of about 621bs but at a depth of only 32ft this would be halved, while at 200ft the buoyancy would amount to only about 8lbs. The bodies of those drowned in Loch Ness are seldom recovered. 

One would not expect the remains of fish living at depth to float. Many animals, which are secondarily aquatic, swallow stones, and it is believed that these may function as ballast. Plesiosaurs did this, as do crocodiles. Sea otters are examples of mammals with the same habit, as are seals, which may contain as much as twenty five pounds of stones. This may well cause a body to become negatively buoyant at depth when the air cavities are compressed. Cmdr. Cousteau has found "graveyards" of elephant seals and these bodies seem to have little tendency to float.

Obviously remains have to be deposited somewhere and we hoped that some may be within the range of aqualung divers. The discovery of such remains was the principal goal of our shallow water survey of 1975 and the diving programme of 76. The areas surveyed were generally to the windward (western) sides of promontories lying across the prevailing wind and surface drift. Diving confirmed that these areas do have the greatest accumulations of debris i.e. tree trunks. Our 1975 blanket coverage of the loch bed within thirty feet of the surface has therefore been extended to 100ft in the areas with the most substantial concentrations of debris without the discovery of unknown organic remains. Of course this still represents a very small proportion of the total area.

PLANTS
Herbivorous animals require a very considerable bulk of food in order to derive sufficient nourishment. Rooted plants in Loch Morar are for the most part limited to water less than 30ft deep (however, some isolated examples of charophytes, commonly stoneworts, were found at a depth of 75ft, which is a tribute to the clarity of the water which, allows a fairly deep photic zone). Other plants include Potamogeton natans, Ranunculus   flammula, Lobelia dortmanna, and Myriophyllum species. We have had the opportunity to observe virtually every rooted plant in the loch during the course of our underwater surveys of 1975 and 76 and have noted their distribution.

Those plants having any bulk at all are concentrated in the first 10ft of water. By far the richest areas for plant life are at the extreme western (inhabited) end of the loch, within the river mouths and at the eastern ends of the shallowest bays; in short, in places where feeding of this kind would be observed.

We can say now, with certainty, that the quantity of rooted plants would be inadequate to support a population of large herbivorous animals. We have also been present during the main growth period and have never seen any signs of disturbance such as would be produced by a grazing animal.

DETRITUS
Detritus consists of the organic material present in silt. Some coarse fish feed upon this directly and many more are benthic, bottom feeders, living upon the invertebrates and insect larvae found immediately on, or within, the substrate. Only the smaller game fish in Loch Morar feed in this way. The eel however, is bottom dwelling and a widespread local theory is that the monster is a very large eel. Another migratory bottom feeder is the sturgeon, which swallows a great deal of silt along with its food, but this is not known to enter the loch. The European loaches and catfish are also absent. However, most of them posses typical whiskers and barbells, and there have been suggestions that the Loch Ness Monster does have these. Much more important is that benthic fish are frequently rather "exhibitionist" ­when they do surface and that their surfacings are associated with weather conditions. This we know is characteristic of the Loch Ness and Morar Monsters. The sturgeon's head, for example, is sometimes completely exposed above the water, the European catfish is known to surface before bad weather, while the pond loach is also known as the weather fish, and was actually kept in bowls to be used as a captive barometer. Carp cruise on the surface on hot calm days.

The mud line begins at about 30ft in Loch Morar. In the course of diving to depths of 120ft., divers have been particularly careful to examine the surface of the silt for signs of the activities of a large animal feeding upon or living near it. We have observed that fine silt is easily disturbed and lack of current at depth means that this remains suspended in a cloud for a long time. If a large creature alarmed by the approach of divers had moved off, it would leave such a cloud.

Samples of the silt have also been taken from various sites which confirm the presence of the highest concentration of organic matter where one would expect it, that is, off the mouths of the main feeder streams and against promontories lying across the prevailing winds. These areas were searched thoroughly, as we considered them to be the places where organic remains would tend to be deposited. Apart from the localized accumulations of vegetable matter, samples had a maximum organic content of 6.5%.

We have now been able to observe the surface of the silt in the areas richest in organic matter to depths of 100ft and have not yet found evidence of detrital or bottom feeding. However, this does remain a definite possibility, and we hope to carry out more work on this subject.

PLANKTON
Both the largest known aquatic mammal, the blue whale and the largest known fish, the whale shark are "plankton" feeders. It must be pointed out however, that freshwater plankton is in no way comparable in size or variety to that found at sea. The "krill" eaten by the blue whale and crab eater seals is really a predatory pelagic crustacean nearly two inches long. There is nothing approaching this in freshwater, nor are there any known freshwater plankton feeders of any great size. Lochs in Scotland with monster traditions are mostly deep and steep‑sided (oligotrophic) and lakes of this type have much lower populations of plankton than shallower more productive lakes elsewhere.

Large plankton feeders also exhibit structural adaptations. The baleen whales have large mouths used to filter their food from a mass of water. The same can be said for the whale and basking sharks. This does not fit in with the long neck and small head reported from Ness and Morar. The feeding pattern of plankton feeders also involves much surface activity, as it is here that the plankton is concentrated. This again is obviously not characteristic of our quarry and we have not observed significant surface activity at night when zooplankton is nearest the surface, having undergone vertical migration.

FISH
Fish remain by far the most likely source of food for a large animal. The biological section of the Loch Morar Survey has confirmed that the numbers of fish present were adequate to support a population of predators. The loch is well known for salmon and sea trout and also contains populations of brown trout, char, eel, stickleback and minnow. The brown "lake" trout are able to reach a good size, as Morar is relatively productive for an oligotrophic lake.

However, the most important factor is that salmon enter the loch only to spawn. They do not feed in fresh water (and sea trout eat little), spending months there before spawning. They could form an important food source independ­ent of the basic productivity of a lake. Only the young parr and smolt are part of the food chain before their migration to the sea.

The behaviour and supposed structure of the animal also suggests a fish predator. It is seen off the river mouths where salmon congregate before moving upstream as the river comes into spate. There is also eyewitness evidence (Loch Morar Survey Reports) suggesting that it follows established beats or patrol lines which is characteristic of predators in general.

The local sightings, which took place during our stay at Morar, were concentrated at the western end of the loch off the mouth of the River Morar, at a time when the fish were known to be entering the loch. Our underwater surveillance equipment operating over two months in six separate locations, frequently recorded the passage of fish, but it would be impossible to draw valid conclusions as to numbers from this.

There are in fact two runs of salmon and sea trout. The first takes place in spring and consists of smaller fish, which spawn in the autumn. The second, in the autumn, consists of larger fish, which remain in the loch to spawn the following spring. So there are numbers of fish present all year round. Insofar as the influx of game fish is seasonal a predator could adapt to this. Most fish can reduce their metabolic activity in winter, whilst the burbot does so in summer. Aquatic reptiles such as the Mississippi alligator and freshwater turtles have low metabolisms and hibernate readily. The snapping turtle hibernates underwater and can sometimes be seen swimming beneath the ice when disturbed. Mammals, by accumulating fat, have no difficulty in fasting for several months; for example, most of the seals fast during their breeding and moulting periods.

UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY
We believe that short of the capture of a specimen or the recovery of organic remains, underwater photography in Loch Morar provides the best chance of providing evidence leading towards identification of the species. In 1974 we began to use manned underwater observation equipment and in 1975 introduced an underwater television system based on the following principles.

One of the main reasons for adopting the underwater approach was that beneath the surface it would be possible to obtain film of the creature's entire profile, which would be truly valuable from a zoological point of view. We had there­fore to overcome some basic difficulties of photography in this medium. These are:‑

1.    A great loss in available light. Light is lost by reflection at the surface, absorption in the water and by the blocking action of suspended particles.

2.    The effect of scattering caused by illumination of and reflection by suspended particles. This causes a loss in contrast, which may be compared to a fog.

3.    A reduction in the angle of coverage of a lens used behind a flat port in an underwater housing. This results from refraction at the water/glass/air interfaces.

These effects militate against the photography of the whole of a large object at both close and long range. Low light levels limit range. When artificial lighting is used to compensate, scatter is aggravated, producing an effect similar to shining headlamps into fog. At close range, refraction and the use of normal lenses make it impossible to cover the entire profile of a large animal. It must be remembered also, that most available underwater cameras are designed for close‑up work. These problems are very evident in photographs taken in Loch Ness.

There is however a very simple principle upon which the whole of our own usage of underwater observation and camera equipment has been based since 1974.

The answer is to direct the camera straight upwards towards the surface. This, because of the much larger amount of light coming from that direction, greatly extends the range, and therefore coverage, of the camera. The coverage increases as to the square of the range. Thus, by increasing our range 5 times our volume of coverage becomes 25 times as great. The effect of scattering is at the same time minimised as the silhouette type of picture provides the best possible contrast. Also, back‑scatter is eliminated, as there is no light being directed upon particles between camera and target. This at a stroke vastly extends the area under surveillance and makes possible full coverage of a target of the expected dimensions.

Lens coverage is further extended by the use of wide-angle lenses, and dome ports on the housings, which eliminate refraction.

It is vitally important to recognise the problems and limitations of underwater photography, as well as its advant­ages, if useful results are to be achieved.

At Loch Ness, the only underwater photographic equipment to be used seriously has consisted of conventional motorised still cameras fitted with strobe lighting. These have either operated blindly on a long time lapse (16‑60 seconds) or by attempts to use sonar systems as a trigger. The negative size has been small due to the need to accom­modate a large amount of film (16mm). Conventional moving film is more or less ruled out by the limited range of floodlights underwater.



However, we believe the most promising underwater technique is the use of underwater television as introduced by our expedition of 1975. The system consists basically of a low light level TV camera mounted underwater and linked to a monitor screen and video tape recorder at the surface. Here, an observer can see precisely what the camera sees, as it sees it. Regardless of the actual deployment (previously discussed) of the camera, this system has the following important technical advantages over any conventional photography when used underwater.

1 .   The system works at longer ranges in the extremely low light levels found underwater without the use of excessive supplementary lighting, which causes back-scatter.

2.   It will produce moving film, which is of more value scientifically.

3.   Surveillance is constant. Time lapse is at best a series of "glimpses".

4.    Spurious and inanimate objects can be seen for what they are in a simultaneously monitored moving film, rather than being frozen out of context in a still picture.

5.    The equipment can easily be set up empirically to ensure optimum results and is much easier to calibrate accurately in the field.
6.   Faults can be detected instantly as they occur, preventing wasted time and uncertainty.

7.    Results can be seen and recorded immediately without the need to process film at a later date. This allows results, or lack of them to be acted upon quickly.

8.    The system is more passive. There is no need (by day) for intense flashes of  light. There is nothing to prevent the use of supplementary lighting at night.

9.   Blank tape can simply be re‑used. Wastage is thus less critical.

10. Most maintenance can be carried out on shore, saving time and effort.

11.  Although there is nothing to prevent the addition of automatic triggering devices, the human observer can always be kept in the system, giving a measure of reliability and flexibility.

The camera used, was a Marine Unit Technology 1 " Silicon Diode Vidicon with a water contact 5.9mm   f1.8 lens having an angle of coverage of 120o. This was mounted on the loch bed or attached to a mooring pointing directly up towards the loch surface. Under ideal conditions (bright sun and calm surface) the range was almost 100ft. A shore station 1000ft. from the camera, contained an Akai monitor screen and VT 120 video tape recorder loaned by Stanmore Video Services. The recorder was kept on standby awaiting a target on the monitor, which could also detect intrusions in the video signal and so trigger the recorder automatically. A hydrophone system lent by the Royal Navy was laid out near the rig to provide, if possible, an early warning of a creature's approach.

The surface station had a crew of three whenever possible who were on duty for 24 hours. Crew, batteries and supplies were replaced daily around midday to avoid disturbance during the critical dawn and dusk periods.

An advanced deep sea 35mm camera was loaned by Underwater and Marine Equipment Ltd. Had targets been detected on the TV system, this would have been locked co‑axially with the television camera to provide good quality still pictures, the monitor screen acting as viewfinder. In the event we used this camera independently to increase our chances of making contact. It operated on the silhouette principle with a trigger line rising to a sub‑surface buoy. We were very pleased with the performance and portability of all the equipment and were able to carry out a satisfactory mobile programme.

The aim was to site the rig on the expected patrol lines of a fish predator. These could reasonably be expected to be fairly close inshore, within the first 50ft of water (where most of the fish find their food) and close to the plant cover; also, within sheltered bays and off the mouths of the main feeder streams, especially during the later months.

Thus we began with the rig operating from the north shore as we expected the fish to be distributed around the lake margins. When we learnt of the surface activity at the western end of the loch, we attempted to cover the passages between the islands, through which the creature would have to pass. At the end of August we moved to a feeder stream at the head of the loch where we were hoping for a build‑up of fish prior to spawning.

The system has now been tested using boats and divers as targets and has proved satisfactory. It is also effective in monitoring fish activity in its immediate area. But one major deficiency of our system this year was our inability to work at night. There would be little difficulty in using underwater lights to allow close‑up photography (10‑20ft) but our backlighting principle for the greater ranges presented difficulties. We hope to overcome this problem by the use of more advanced equipment and a sonar warning system.

 

IMAGE INTENSIFIERS
It has often been suggested, that in common with many other animals, the creature may be more active at night. Certainly the zooplankton are most abundant at the surface at night, and fish tend to be more active, shoaling and moving closer inshore. This could lead to surface activity by a fish predator. There was an account by an angler who saw a hump in one of the bays on the north shore while night fishing, at the end of August. Although previous investiga­tors have made experiments with searchlights, infrared equipment and image intensifiers, these have been on a limited scale. One of our secondary aims was to confirm or eliminate the possibility that surface surveillance at night could produce useful results.

Between the 16th and 27th August two hand held image intensifiers were deployed during the hours of darkness; one at the underwater camera station and a mobile station was placed in a different location every night. Each image intensifier was manned by three men, also equipped with hand bearing compasses and binoculars. A total of 16 sites were used and 112 hours of surveillance carried out. Throughout this period, we had a most exceptional period of hot calm weather. Thus, conditions were most conducive both to surface activity and to good visibility. The equip­ment was tested using an eight-foot inflatable as target, and proved effective at ranges of up to 1/4 mile. There was one indistinct sighting of a hump, several of ripples, and on one occasion a boat engaged in this work was rocked by a wake. Nevertheless, the fact that no conclusive result was obtained would suggest that actual surfacings are not sufficiently frequent to make this a useful line of enquiry in itself. However, there is still a strong possibility that the creature is more active at night.

EYEWITNESS EVIDENCE
Since conversion is no longer the aim of investigation, there is no particular value in publishing sighting reports except insofar as their location and timing may give clues to the creature's behaviour. Adequate material has already been collected by researchers, to justify active investigation and the usual characteristics of the animal at the surface are well known. As there is no tourist road around Loch Morar, many of the eyewitnesses are residents familiar with the loch. They therefore have little desire to have their experiences publicised, since this invites ridicule. But they are frequently most helpful and interested and will give much fuller information on the understanding that publicity will not follow.

We are able to confirm to some extent an observation made by both the Loch Morar Survey and the Loch Ness Investigation, that the creature is more inclined to surface during hot calm weather. These conditions certainly cause an increase in the numbers of people near the loch and aid visibility. Nevertheless, it was striking that seven of the sightings made during our stay occurred within four days of hot calm weather at the beginning of July after an exceptionally wet June. A similar spell of good weather at the beginning of August resulted in three sightings. One of these was by Mr. P. Parsons (Dive Leader) of our own party, who had a momentary sighting of a hump and wake off the islands at the western end of the loch.

CONCLUSION
The theme of our four years work at Morar has been that there still existed within the British Isles unexplored regions of considerable size, from which have come reports of large unknown creatures, the study of which was outside the scope of the usual apparatus of limnology. Exploiting the unique conditions at Loch Morar we have devoted all effort to the development of original techniques of underwater observation and exploration capable of definitive visual contact with this one species. By rigidly concentrating what resources we had upon this narrow front and setting ourselves distant, almost academic, objectives, we hoped to preserve an offensive spirit and achieve a breakthrough. With an expansion of the resulting methods this will surely come.

But as we penetrate the underwater environment and as increasing resources have become available to us, we recognise that we have an opportunity and responsibility to gather other information of general scientific interest. In future therefore, we shall incorporate general biological research as our activities put us in a position to make original contributions.

Our main objective remains unchanged however. If British naturalists through some faith in human testimony from the Scottish lochs pursue a fiction, then at worst we may be embarrassed but if we ignore a fact then we may be given cause to be ashamed.

Adrian J Shine

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Front cover photograph ‑ J. Bellars
Drawings ‑ MJ. Parsons
Copyright Loch Morar Expedition 1976