The above pictures do not show a screw wake but see below: Tim Dinsdale’s picture of what he thought was Nessie. It shows a motor boat, not a large vessel, displaying both Kelvin wakes and a screw wake..
Such an explanation has been postulated for Ogopogo, the phenomenon of Lake Okanagan in Canada. In calm conditions a wake may travel a great distance. In fact there is a type of wave called a soliton that travels great distances without losing much energy; it was first noticed on a canal near Edinburgh when a barge stopped suddenly.
When a water wave reaches shallow water, it breaks when the bottom of the energy system is forced up by the shelving bottom. A large vessel can cause a deep wave disturbance that may not be visible until it is forced to break in shallows. Then a sudden upheaval may occur. Conditions for such upheavals exist at both ends of Loch Ness and in Urquhart Bay.
One of the major causes of Nessie-like wakes on Loch Ness was British Waterways’ converted ice-breaker tug Scot II, which operated on the Caledonian Canal from 1931. From 1960 to 1991 it carried tourists on cruises according to a strict timetable. It is no longer on the Canal.
There are many reports of ‘standing waves’ (I use inverted commas because this term has a different meaning in physics). On 24 June 1933, a squad of workmen engaged on blasting operations near Abriachan on the north shore of Loch Ness were startled to see what they took to be the ‘monster’ going up the centre of the lake in the wake of a passing drifter. They said it had an ‘enormous head and a large heavy body’.
Alex Campbell, the man who started the Nessie legend, was out rowing in his boat opposite the Horseshoe (Scree) on a ‘beautiful’ (calm?) summer day in 1955 or 1956 when the boat suddenly started to heave underneath him. He was terrified. The boat seemed to rise and then stagger back almost immediately.
In 1926, Simon Cameron was watching two gulls skimming the surface near Cherry Island when the gulls suddenly rose screaming into the air. Then something like a large upturned boat rose from the depths with water cascading down its sides. Just as suddenly, it sank out of sight. At about 8.15 p.m. on 22 July 1930, three young anglers (one was Ian Milne who later kept a gunsmith's shop in Inverness) were fishing in a dead calm of Tor Point near Dores when they heard a great noise and saw much commotion in the water about 600 metres away down the lake (southwards). This commotion, throwing spray up into the air, advanced to within 300 metres of their boat and then seemed to turn aside into the bay above Dores. Their boat rocked violently as a 75 cm-high wave passed. They claimed that, although they detected a wriggling motion, the wash hid the ‘creature’ from view. Milne stated that the object travelled at a speed of 7 metres per second with an undulating motion; he compared it to an enormous conger eel and was sure that it was neither a seal nor an otter.
Colonel Patrick Grant was driving north out of Fort Augustus, past Cherry Island, at about midday on 13 November 1951, when he saw a great disturbance in the water about 150 metres from the shore. About 2 metres of some black object was showing about 30 centimetres out of the water, but as he looked, it disappeared only to reappear a moment later at least 100 metres away and nearer the shore. The speed of movement was very great.
Just before his retirement, Alex Campbell claimed to have seen Nessie as he was passing Cherry Island. He saw just one hump about 2.4 metres long and half as high that ‘shot off’ to the other side of the lake at a great speed, leaving a large wash.
On 31 August 1979, Muriel Clark and Isobel MacLeod were passing Temple Pier when they noticed a man studying the water through binoculars. On looking across to the Bay, they saw a large disturbance on the surface; huge waves were crashing towards the road. As they stopped the car and got out, they saw ‘a huge head’ and what looked like the coil of a snake, and, below the waterline, the outline of a huge body. They thought that the ‘head’ was flat and parallel to the water, large and snake-like. In only a few seconds, the phenomenon disappeared, going down ‘like a sub-marine'. This was about 4 pm.
Complications set in when two wakes intersect; even though the individual wakes may not have been very obvious, when they cross constructive interference can cause an obvious hump of water that will move in a direction different from that of either wake, appearing to make its own wake. Such a hump, after appearing to remain stationary for some time, can suddenly leap forward across the water, giving the impression of a bow wave and following wake. Very impressive ‘monsters’ with one or more humps can be formed and the effect can occur up to half an hour after a boat had passed. In spite of regular traffic through Loch Ness, it was rare enough to take even the most experienced observers by surprise.
British Waterways’ Chief Engineer in Scotland (R B Davenport) had seen Nessie-like
wave interference effects on Loch Ness. He noticed that an ‘eruption of humps’ occurred when the outgoing wake of a craft intersected the return wake when the craft turned. It could also occur when the wakes of two different craft, travelling in opposite directions, met. A vessel’s stern wave also causes a ‘trail of obedient humps which seem to be towed by the vessel’. Where the shore of Loch Ness is steep, an incoming wake can he reflected back out again, perhaps modulating an incoming wake, ‘carving it up in a smooth and regular manner’. Two reflections from each shore can converge a long way behind a boat to form ‘what looks for all the world like the disturbance caused by a partially submerged creature swimming in a straight line’. He also noted that a similar effect was produced close inshore when the shore-reflected bow waves intersects with the incoming stern wave from a large boat. They may be stationary or moving, and they may not appear until the vessel that caused them is out of sight. On one occasion, he saw a steamer’s wash, when it reached the opposite shore, produce an animal-like brown and glistening hump with foam at one end like a lashing tail.
D Mackenzie of Balnain recalled how, when he was on a rock above Abriachan in October of 1871 or 1872, he saw what he took to be a log of wood coming across the lake. The water was very calm. Instead of going towards the river, as he expected, in the middle it suddenly came to life, looking exactly like an upturned boat, and went at great speed, wriggling and churning up the water, towards Urquhart Castle. He was sure that it was an animal of some sort.
On 24 June 1933, a squad of workmen engaged on blasting operations near Abriachan were startled to see Nessie going up the centre of the lake in the wake of a passing drifter. It had an ‘enormous head’ and a large heavy body.
On 24 August 1933, three witnesses on the Foyers–Dores road noticed a disturbance on the surface of a very calm Loch Ness just opposite them and a little over half-way across. The disturbance was some 500 metres astern of a drifter steaming towards Inverness. However, since there was calm water between the drifter and the disturbance, they concluded that it could not be the wake. There were several humps in line, rising and falling with a slightly undulating motion, suggesting a caterpillar. The number of humps and their relative size varied, but they maintained the same speed as that drifter. The humps appeared to create their own wake. Later, because they thought they saw it going in the opposite direction, the witnesses concluded that Nessie had turned around underwater. The drifter was later identified as the Grant Hay, none of whose crew saw the disturbance.
On 20 October that same year, in calm, Scot II was towing, about 73 metres astern, a big steel barge (Muriel) from Fort Augustus to Inverness. About 5 kilometres up Loch Ness, when they were travelling at about 5 metres per second, engineer Robert MacConnell noticed a wave-like mound of water moving out from the side of the lake until it came in line behind Muriel. It then followed the boats until MacConnell shouted to the men on Muriel, when it sheared away and disappeared. The ‘mound’ was estimated to be about 2.5 metres long and half a metres high.
About 30 August 1938, on a calm L Ness, the steam tug Arrow was on her maiden voyage from Leith to Manchester when the captain (Brodie) and mate (Rich) noticed a huge black ‘animal’ rather like a hump-backed whale emerge on the surface and keep pace with the ship at some distance. The object had two distinct humps, one behind the other, but after a brief disappearance it reappeared with seven humps or coils and tore past the tug ‘at a terrific speed’, leaving large waves.
At 3.15 pm. on 13 August 1960, the Revd W L Dobb and his family had just finished a late lunch at an unknown location beside Loch Ness when they saw large waves moving along on a dead calm surface. It was just as if a motorboat was ploughing through the water, but no boat could be seen. A few seconds later, they all saw a large black hump in the middle of the waves, but it quickly disappeared, only to be replaced by two humps.
On the evening of 22 June 1993 near Dores, a ‘long neck and head’ was seen moving about in the water. Edna MacInnes (25) was with her friend David Mackay and her 16-month-old son Arron on the A82 near Abriachan on the other side of the lake. After watching it for about 10 minutes, they drove around to Dores to get a better look. To their surprise the object was still there. ‘We followed it for about 300 feet [91 m]. There was a terrific wake behind it, then suddenly it dived deep with such a splash and disturbance to the calm waters that we had to jump back from the shore to stop getting soaked by its wake’. The object was also seen by James Macintosh and his 13-year-old son James, already at Dores.
This report is similar to that made by …… Cameron, reported by Andy Owens on 7 November in The Skeptic. On that occasion, there would have been a ship or boat
movement further down the lake, probably unseen by Mr Cameron and his companion. The water surface must have been calm.
The seminary report of a monster in Loch Ness appears to have had the same cause. In March 1933, John Mackay and wife, then tenants of the Drumnadrochit Hotel, were driving along the old narrow road near the seven-mile stone, opposite Aldourie Castle at the very northern tip of the lake. Suddenly, Mrs Mackay shouted to her husband to stop and look at an enormous black body rolling up and down. By the time he had stopped the car, all he could see were ripples, but he knew that something ‘big’ was out there, ‘about a mile and a half [2.5 km] away’ (in fact at that point the lake is only about 1 km wide). Mrs Mackay caught sight of a violent commotion in the mirror-like surface (sic) about 100 m from the shore. The commotion subsided and a big wake became visible, apparently caused by something large moving along just below the surface. This wake went away across the water towards Aldourie Pier. Then, about half way (some 450 m), the cause of the wake emerged, showing as two black humps moving in line, the rear one somewhat larger. They moved forward in a rolling motion like whales or porpoises, but no fins were visible. They rose and sank in an undulating manner. After some time, the object turned sharply to port and, after describing a half circle, sank suddenly with considerable commotion.
This report was reported by water bailiff Alex Campbell to the local Inverness Courier where the editor coined the word ‘monster’ to describe it and the myth was born.
There are even some photographs which appear to show this phenomenon. On 23 October 1958, The Weekly Scotsman, published a photograph (see below) and an account sent in by Peter A MacNab, an Ayrshire councillor and bank manager. He took the picture on 29 July 1955 and explained the delay as being due to ‘diffidence and fear of ridicule’. He wrote:
I was returning from a holiday in the north with my son and pulled the car up on the road just above Urquhart Castle. It was a calm, warm hazy afternoon. I was all ready to take a shot of Urquhart Castle when my attention was held by a movement in the calm water over to the left. Naturally I thought of the ‘Monster’ and hurriedly changed over the standard lens of my Exacta (127) camera to a six-inch [150 mm] telephoto. As I was doing so, a quick glance showed that some black or dark enormous water creature was cruising on the surface. Without a tripod and in a great hurry, I took the shot. I also took a very quick shot with another camera, a fixed-focus Kodak, before the creature submerged. My son was busy under the bonnet of the car at the time and when he looked in response to my shouts, there were just ripples on the water. Several cars and a bus stopped, but they could see nothing and listened to my description with patent disbelief.
The likely cause was British Waterways’ converted ice-breaker tug Scot II. It always travelled from Inverness to Drumnadrochit and turned in Urquhart Bay.
Urquhart Bay about 4:15 pm on 30 July 1979. The view is from above Temple Pier.
Evidence , last published in 2002 by Birlinn. It is now out-of-print but some copies are
available on the internet.