23rd April 2000

A day, and a man, remembered.


                         Tim Dinsdale, self portrait, 23rd April 1960.

On April 23rd 2000, while I was out on the first cruise of the year for the the new "Nessie Hunter", and attempting to photograph mergansers near the "Cobb Milepost", a few people may have heard the distant chimes of the clock of history.

It was exactly forty years since Tim Dinsdale took his famous film. As "Nessie Hunter" went on its maiden cruise, Hugh Rowand had, forty years earlier, just returned from the filming of the "comparison" sequences.

Much of what is happening at Loch Ness today stems directly from the events of 23rd April 1960.

There are still people here trying to discover the truth. We may be outnumbered, but we are still here!

Those of us who were privileged to work with him can imagine his comment and infectious laugh today..." Ha! Forty years? Was it really forty years ago? You know, apart from everything else, it has been tremendous fun, hasn't it?  Ha!"

It has, and he is missed by his friends. He should have been out on the loch with us today. Perhaps he was.

The photograph above was taken on the last day of his first expedition, 40 years ago today. I have scanned it from his first book "Loch Ness Monster", Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961, which cost me all my pocket money. I don't think he will mind.

Postscript, April 2002

When I first wrote this page I said "much of what is happening at Loch Ness today stems directly from the events of 23rd April 1960." Perhaps I should explain why this is so. In the late 1950's there were a few people in the scientific community, (notably Dr Denys Tucker, a leading authority on eels at the British Museum [Natural History]) who were making a  case for a thorough  scientific investigation at Loch Ness. It was in this environment that the new investigations began.

The first large-scale attempt of the 1960's, the "Oxford & Cambridge Expedition" led by Peter Baker, arrived at the loch at the end of June 1960, just two weeks after Tim's film had first been revealed in the Press and shown on the BBC "Panorama" programme on 13th June.  Following the showing of his film, interest in the subject grew, and early in 1962 the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau was set up. This was to act as a focus for investigative effort for the next ten years, drawing expertise from around the world, and giving logistical support to the first few years of work by the Academy of Applied Science, and also British investigations by the Loch Morar Survey and its precursor Morarscan.

When the baton was handed on to the Loch Ness and Morar Project, led by Adrian Shine, in the early 1970's, a continuity was maintained which persists to this day.  Photographs and records of the work were put on display at the Loch Ness Investigation headquarters at Achnahannet, which in 1972 attracted over 50,000 visitors to its wooden display hut - designed and built by Rip Hepple - and this obviously demonstrated the demand for information which now sustains two large visitor centres in Drumnadrochit, and a desire to get out on Loch Ness which sustains eight vessels providing boat trips and numerous boat hire companies.

Not a bad legacy.


Postscript October 2003

The development of new technologies has an interesting effect on "monster" sightings. The weaker the original material, the longer it survives. While some students of this subject prefer to analyse the eye-witness reports, attempting to divine new information from ancient texts, I prefer to study the objective evidence - the photographs, films and videotapes. Tim's film was taken over 40 years ago, and was studied using standard methods of the day. The JARIC Report published by the LNPIB was based on optical enlargement of the original 16mm film frames. Few people had access to video recording equipment, and we all relied on the JARIC Report as the source of our information. Times have changed, and the film has been shown frequently on television. In the 1980's Adrian Shine and others noticed some previously unseen detail in the film, when viewed in video form. In a review of Ronald Binns' 1983 book "The Loch Ness Mystery Solved", published in "Cryptozoology", Vol 4, 1985, he quoted Binns statement "(Dr Maurice) Burton was undoubtedly wrong in identifying the mystery object in Dinsdale's film as a local fishing boat" , and then adds the comment "A little contrast adjustment as the "wake" passes across the field of view is all that is required to determine whether Burton was right".


Adrian Shine and other members of the Loch Ness & Morar Project had noticed a pale blob, recurring in many frames, consistent with the position a helmsman would take up when in a typical angler's boat. If the film did show the wake of a submerged object, then there should be no object consistently visible 3 or 4 feet above the water surface, about 10 feet behind the head of the wake. This persuaded him that the object filmed had indeed been a boat. The video was viewed on a normal domestic television, and photographs were taken of the screen with the vcr paused.

He has kindly supplied me with three screen shots, and given permission for me to reproduce them here. I have overlayed a white "V" pointing down to the blob in each of the frames, and invite readers to come to their own conclusions.

As mentioned above, JARIC's study of the film was made using optical enlargement, but the resulting image was viewed using the "Mark I eyeball", and contrast variation is not one of its features. At the time, neither Tim Dinsdale, nor JARIC, nor anyone else involved in studying Loch Ness phenomena could have been expected to notice this blob. Today, however, no serious student should miss it.

This observation in no way detracts from Tim's tremendous contribution to the Loch Ness monster story. He was loved and respected by all who knew him, and inspired many, myself included, to follow his guiding principle - the search for the Truth.