Loch Ness and Morar Project Report
Loch Ness & Morar Project.
May be used for private research only.
All other rights reserved.
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 McEWEN Q.C.
SIR PETE R SCOTT C.B.E. D.S.C.
Supported and Approved by The Scientific
Adrian J. Shine F.R.G.S.
FIELD MEMBERS 1980:
Adrian Shine ‑ Leader
Adrian Shine ‑
Rob Shepherd ‑ Deputy Leader
We would like to express our thanks and
appreciation to Mr. & Mrs. H. Ayton.
Balachladaich Farm, Dores and Mr, A. Volk,
Manchester for their help and assistance.
We would also like to thank those Project
Members who visited us in the field as it
was a great encouragement to Field Members.
LOCH NESS AND MORAR PROJECT REPORT
Project has now been open to subscription
for over a year and we have had to recognise
reluctantly that it is unlikely that funds
significant enough to make much of a contribution
to field work will be raised from this source.
However, we are pleased to say that the
contributions of field members are now such
as to meet most of the running costs of
Project shall not resort to regressive methods
such as surface watching in a pretence at
continuing the search. One of the reasons
why obtaining a sponsor for a scientific
search is difficult, is the widespread impression
that intensive research has already been
conducted with negative results. This has
resulted from sympathetic media over‑statement
of the efforts so far mounted and the position
can only be worsened by further ineffectual
sallies which can only contribute to mounting
scepticism. The Project itself does not
claim to have done any valid "monster
hunting" since 1977. We believe we
know what needs to be done, what we need
to do it with and how much it will cost.
present duty therefore, is to maintain Project
resources and manpower in a state of readiness
to utilise funds derived from sponsorship
when available. We are able to do this by
devoting our field expeditions to the pursuit
of rather more conventional, and less demanding,
scientific objectives, which will provide
in themselves objective justification of
members investments so far. In addition,
many of these "more mundane" pursuits
are in fact fundamental to the construction
of the hypothesis on which a search for
large creatures would be based, Finally,
these exercises, by the very nature of the
environment, make demands both material
and human which stimulate our tradition
of invention, extend the water borne experience
of our members and perhaps more importantly
bring more of them into contact with the
year, between 26th July and 20th August,
the Project made its first large scale visit
to Loch Ness for the main purpose of establishing
a base camp and depot at Balacladaich near
Dores. Other objectives included the construction
of surface craft, sonar trials, depth survey
and the acquisition of cores from the loch
bed which should shed light upon its post
glacial history. In short, we have provided
a base form which a respectable operation
can be mounted.
prime requirement in our selection of a
base at Loch Ness is that of securing a
sheltered beach from which vessels may work.
Other requirements, are sheltered, flat
ground for tents, road access and electricity.
These conditions are met very well at Balacladaich
Farm near Dores and we are most grateful
to Mr & Mrs Ayton for the very warm
welcome extended to us.
of the special problems of working on the
larger Scottish lochs, is that though the
depths and surface conditions resemble those
found at sea; they are (with the exception
of Loch Ness) land locked, making it difficult
to place vessels of a suitable type on them.
Limnological work such as sampling has to
be conducted much deeper than is customary
in fresh water research. For anything even
more ambitious, such as underwater television
or sonar search equipment, which may have
to be deployed at short notice, the problem
is even more acute.
operation at Loch Ness can be any cheaper
than its surface craft, which if of a suitable
size would be prohibitively expensive to
buy. If chartered they would act as a drain
upon Project resources, against our policy
of accumulating our own material assets
for the majority of our outlay. Chartered
vessels are also difficult to adapt to our
needs even with the owners consent, since
modification may well include such things
as holes in the bottom!
Ness can be dangerous for boats owing to
the proximity of steep rocky shores with
few beaches, making things difficult for
a conventional vessel with engine failure.
Ordinary vessels owned by the Project would
require winter mooring and maintenance,
causing administrative and manpower problems.
Finally, some of the Projects methods are
to require sailing vessels in the interest
of economy and for silent sonar patrols.
all the above reasons, a requirement arose
for a surface vessel system adaptable to
any and every experiment likely to be mounted,
capable of transport between Loch Ness and
Loch Morar, safe in confined waters, requiring
a minimum of maintenance and to be as cheap
requirement has been met with the design
of 18ft. inflatable pontoon units. Each
basic unit is constructed of conventional
boat materials and is sub‑divided
into two compartments for safety. The unit
supports a load of over 1,0001bs., and when
deflated forms one man load. The units can
be linked in any configuration by deckings
constructed on site. The deckings can be
built of relatively cheap materials and
can be adapted quickly to most needs.
prototype units have now seen service at
both Ness and Morar and have survived all
tests from being fitted with square sailing
rigs for sonar runs to 35hp., engines for
fast communications. They have also mounted
cabins for instrumentation and one version
has been successfully despatched over a
waterfall! Deflation tests suggest a high
standard of reserve buoyancy
is envisaged that deckings shall be depoted
at both Ness and Morar and only the inflatable
units transported. The system has the advantage
that additional units can be purchased piecemeal
as funds allow.
In addition to the 18ft. units, it is proposed that two vessels incorporating
40ft., pontoons in a catamaran configuration,
be commissioned at Loch Ness. One is already
under construction and shall have a cabin,
engines and a square rig to enable silent
and economic operation as a sonar patrol
In brief, the Project has now developed a system from which vessels of
any size may be constructed at short notice.
At present we need two 40ft. and three 18ft.
vessels, plus a reserve of units for special
purposes. These shall form the basis of
"The Ness Flotilla".
are still anxious to confirm the existence
of depths in excess of 750ft., as reported
by the Vickers Oceanics submersible 'Pisces",
during her freshwater trials in 1969. It
may be remembered that a visit for this
purpose was made in 1979 with negative results.
It was then suggested that greater depths
might be found to the north of the area
we covered in detail.
year we used a Kelvin Hughes MS44 echo sounder,
calibrated and tested as usual. A series
of six transects were made from Urquhart
Castle to the northern limit of the bay.
Two runs were then made at right angles.
have yet to find depths in excess of 720ft.
We can only assume for the present, that
there is a possibility of very localised
holes and perhaps dunes, which are not registered
by an echo sounder due to shallower returns
recorded by the outer parts of the sound
trials were made with underwater cameras
to ascertain the amount of light needed
for photography under Loch Ness conditions.
of the fundamental elements of any "monster"
hypothesis must be the explanation of how
the species could have invaded the lochs
in the first place, assuming that a population
is resident. There has never been any question
of Loch Less being an evolutionary cul‑de‑sac,
in which "prehistoric animals"
could have survived, since it was subjected
to glaciation during successive ice ages.
this period, the valleys were deepened by
the glaciers moving through them, to form
the deepest depressions in the British Isles.
To find a depth of equal to that of Loch
Morar (1018ft) it would be necessary to
go beyond the continental shelf west of
St. Kilda. When the ice retreated for the
last tine, approximately 10,000 years ago,
the sea level rose a little due to the melting
and for a time some of the lochs were open
to the sea. Subsequently, relieved of the
weight of ice, the land rose slowly and
Lochs Ness and Morar now lie at 52ft., and
30ft., above sea level respectively. The
evidence for higher sea levels can be seen
in raised beaches at both lochs.
we assume the overland migration of a species
of the expected size, from freshwaters elsewhere,
to be most unlikely and since most of the
known species in the lochs are those capable
of migration via the sea, we might also
expect any unknown animals to have been
marine originally. The invasion of the lochs
by marine species would be facilitated if
the lochs in question were actually arms
to the sea. Entry would have been easy and
there would have been a slow change to fresh
water. Both Lochs Ness and Morar, are still
open "to the sea" by way of the
short rivers which drain them.
The problem with raised beaches as evidence, is that we cannot be sure
that they do not refer to an inter‑glacial
period when the loch would have been opened
to the sea only to be subjected to a further
glaciation. The sequence as understood at
present, indicates the last Ice Age proper,
ending approximately 12,000 years ago. This
would have had the probable effect of opening
both lochs to the sea after which the land
would have risen. A brief local event, known
as the Loch Lomond Re‑advance, would
have resulted in further glaciation, after
which the lochs may or may not have been
open to the sea. This is the crucial period.
of our tasks has been to establish whether
the lochs were open to the sea after this
last short ice age. Sediments accumulating
on a lake bed, provide a history of events.
The differing materials range from glacial
clays, from the time when the ice melted,
to darker organic lake sediments since.
Sediments can be dated by 14C
methods for organic material and sometimes,
when an undisturbed sequence is available,
by comparing the alignments of magnetic
particles (paleomagnetism). Pollen grains
are almost indestructible and when found
in the sediments, provide a history of the
surrounding vegetation of interest in its
own right to the paleobotanist. The silica
cases of microscopic plants (diatoms), also
endure, locked in the sediments and by examining
these, it is possible to see whether marine
species were present and at what time.
is desirable to obtain cores from the deeper
parts of a lake in order to reach less disturbed
material than would be found nearer the
shores, which would be under the local influence
of wave action and streams. The sloping
walls of a loch also encourage slumping
and disturbance of the sediments. Deeper
down, there are also less creatures living
in the sediment and disturbing it by burrowing
coring at depths of up to 1,000ft.(equivalent
to the height of the Eiffel Tower), presents
technical problems, especially with difficult
surface conditions. None of the existing
coring equipment for lakes was really suitable
for the depths encountered. Only oceanographic
devices could do the job but these require
specialised vessels with heavy winching
facilities at quite prohibitive cost.
there are two types of corer available.
The first is the gravity corer. This consists
of a weighted tube, which is lowered into
the sediment. Generally there is a one way
valve in the top of the tube to allow water
to escape on being displaced by material
entering the bottom and to close on withdrawal,
thus retaining the core within the tube.
second type in the Makereth corer, of which
there are only a few in the country. They
are more costly (about £10,000) and work
on another principle. First an anchor drum
sucks its way into the silt, by having water
withdrawn from it. When a firm purchase
has been made, the core tube is forced down
from within an outer cylinder by means of
compressed air. The coring tube moves past
an inner piston, which retains the core.
Much greater lengths of core are obtainable
using this piston, as without it ( as in
the case of the gravity corer) the sediment
only rises a limited distance within the
tube, before compacting and locking, no
matter how far the tube is driven into the
types of corer, even if obtainable, are
unsuited to work in very deep water. In
the case of the weighted gravity corer,
it is necessary to hold good station in
order that the tube shall enter the sediment
perpendicularly. Once the corer begins to
penetrate, it is necessary to exercise a
fine control of the line or the weights
will overbalance the apparatus, which will
fall over sideways. Finally, the whole corer
with weights must be laboriously raised
to the surface. In the case of the Makereth
corer, the boat must first be anchored,
as lengths of hose have to be kept attached
to control the operation of the corer. Clearly,
it is also expensive to provide 1,000ft.
of grouped hoses. Operation of the corer
at depth also requires much greater amounts
of compressed air.
own coring programme began in 1978. In January
of that year an operation was mounted at
Loch Morar using a gravity corer from the
Dept of Geology, Edinburgh University and
with the support of 75 Engineer Regiment.
A raft was successfully located over the
deep area and the corer lowered and raised
twice. No core was retained however, due
to the problems already listed and the exercise
was called off since the Edinburgh staff
were unable to continue.
the summer, a gravity corer of our own design
had been developed. This was a free fall
device incorporating fins for stability
and with discharging ballast. Several cores
were obtained including four from the deep
5in. core obtained from 300ft., at the western
end of the loch, had penetrated to glacial
clay. When analysed by Dr. Birks of Cambridge
University, it was found to contain cysts
of marine algae. This is good evidence that
the loch was connected to the sea, possibly
as recently as 6,000 years ago. The deep-water
cores were not long enough (14in.) to penetrate
to the clays and consist of later lake sediments.
These are deposited with the Freshwater
Biological Association, the British Museum
and Cambridge University.
1980 two major modifications were made to
our corer design. As the result of experiment,
it was found that the resistance of a tube
entering sediment, is not primarily due
to the pressure on its mouth, but to the
increasing friction upon its walls. The
same can be said of sediment rising within.
Therefore, instead of sharpening the end
of the tube we attach a collar or shoulder
to its mouth, which pushes the sediment
clear of the walls. This invention allows
a breakthrough in the length of core obtainable
by gravity coring especially when a similar
collar slightly smaller than the tube is
attached within. This has the effect of
producing a core with a slight tolerance,
which rises loosely to a much greater height
within the tube.
second modification consists of a steel
chamber containing air at atmospheric pressure,
placed above the core tube from which it
is isolated by a valve. As the corer arrives
at the loch bed, this valve opens and water
pressure creates an effect of suction similar
to the piston principle.
system was used this year at Loch Morar
and later at Loch Ness, where we have obtained
cores up to 12ft. long. These cores are
being analysed at Edinburgh University by
Mr. Richard Grinvalds, whose work is partly
supported by the Project. It is not yet
known whether the quality of the core obtained
by this method is adequate for paleomagnetic
work but stratification is very evident
and we should know whether or not a marine
transgression occurred post-glacially.
November, Mr. Grinvalds was able to obtain
a Makereth corer from the Department of
geophysics, Edinburgh University, and two
15ft. cores were obtained from the western
end of Loch Morar. These should reveal a
very precise sequence of events.
have therefore, established that Loch Morar
was connected to the sea post-glacially.
The case for Loch Ness is still subjudice.