06 Sep 2019

Eels in Loch Ness, and how that feels.

Six weeks ago I was told by

06 Sep 2019

Six weeks ago I was told by a film crew all the details of professor Gemmells DNA analysis of Loch Ness.

On that day I signed a ‘non disclosure contract’ barring me from talking about what I knew until after the press conference.

The press conference was this morning, I was there, and my vocal embargo was lifted.

I can now share with you a short piece that I wrote back then, a month and a half ago. It reflects how I felt when I learnt of what was to be announced.

I make no apology for my trigger reaction swearing…. . 

Well this is certainly turning into a day full of surprises. 

First unusual occurrence was my alarm clock going off at precisely eight AM. That very rarely happens, normally I allow myself the luxury of waking when my body and mind tell me it’s time to wake. I tend to find that what my mind and body like most is to wake gently sometime around nine or ten. Wake too early and the whole day can be ruined, I loose concentration by mid afternoon, and by early evening I just want to lie down. Better that I just obey the decisions my mind and body make for me. 

The reason for the change in my routine today was that I had a film crew from Discovery channel arriving at 9AM. Obviously they wouldn’t arrive until nearer to 10AM, being a film crew they universally plan to be late, but I need quite a run up at being fully awake nowadays, so their tardyness is fine…Forced start at 8am,coffee followed by another coffee, should be capable of stringing together short sentences by ten. 

That was unusual event number one.

Second unexpected thing happened at about 8.45am. i noticed the announcer on the radio saying today’s date….my ears pricked up, 

’18th july’

Hang on, 18th July rings a bell, wasn’t that the day I arrived here to begin this great adventure 28 years ago? Luckily for me I had well and truly documented my arrival in my original video diary, “desperately seeking nessie” pulling up in my van, applying the handbrake, turning to camera,…..

“And I am home for the first time”

I remembered that in my very first piece to camera as Britain’s one and only full time hunter of nessie I had clearly stated the date and even the time as I stood on the shore at Fort augustus, elated at it being the first hour of the first day of what is now slowly turning into my life long hunt. 

“18th July, 9am in the morning…”

Today is precisely 28 years later, 9am is the exact same time as when I arrived. Pure chance that I happened to catch the date on the news, I could easily have not noticed until a day or two later, which is what often happens with my anniversary .

Not this time, this time I am alerted to this exact time and place at exactly the right time and place.  

True to form the film crew turned up three quarters of an hour later than arranged, late but not impressively late. They are here to make a documentary about this new Zealand professor Gemmells findings. He’s the guy that has taken hundreds of water samples from throughout the loch and has promised to identify all the living creatures that currently inhabit the loch, just by analysing his water samples, identifying each animal by finding their DNA in his buckets…. Clever. 

He’s been drip feeding the media ever since he embarked upon this mission, he’s still holding back on announceing his results until September, partly due to him desperately seeking to get a TV channel to document his work.

My frustration is mostly that he’s been creating column inches in the press by repeatedly saying, 

“if they think there’s a dinosaur in loch Ness then I will find dinosaurs dna, which is a banner headline that the media obviously love. 
He’s had some success, at least in getting a film crew on board, because look, here comes Discovery Channel.

Tom the director introduces himself, 

“Hi I’m Tom….. The director , I don’t know how much you know about Prof gennells work and his findings…. “

I look suitably non commital hoping that by acting like I might already know all the results, Tom might give me a tiny insight into the findings, 

” so, I don’t know if you know but he’s dismissed dinosaurs completely…. “

” well I could have told him that and saved him the trouble of transporting all those buckets of water back to New Zealand “

“…. And catfish….. (damn! That’s what I had my money on)……. And sturgeon… (horray)” 

“but he’s found evidence for………

“Drum roll……

Bit more drum roll…..

Really build up the anticipation…… …….. 



“f###off what?! “

Gut trigger reaction there, sorry about the swearing, no wait, I’m not sorry about my swearing at all, I’ve dedicated 28 years and forty six minutes of my life to this mystery and your telling me this? ” eels?…… Is that his discovery? “

” yes, eels, they could be giant eels I s’pose “

” are you kidding me? Any child that ever cast a fishing rod in here could tell you there’s bloody eels in here” (I’m the one swearing in case your losing track of who’s speaking, 

“f’in eels? “

” f’in eels”

that time it was Tom the director speaking, but I think he only swore out of solidarity with my obvious disappointment. 

“#### off! ” that was me, maybe a bit gratuitous, maybe, but I was in the moment, you had to be there.

That conversation happened precisely 46 minutes into my 29th year. 
So here I am now, 28 years and six hours on from when I first arrived way back in the last century, wide eyed and raring to go, a young lad, ironically then aged 28, looking for adventure, wanting with all my heart to solve one of the world’s last great mysteries , and now some new Zealand boffin tells me that I’ve been searching for eels all this time?… Eels! 

I knew for sure that there are eels in loch Ness back in 1975. Back when, on a family boating holiday my brother caught one whilst fishing from the old pier at inverfaragaig, horrible wriggly thing that even after we both cut its head off, would still continue to wryth for what seemed like ages. 

That experience told me conclusively that there are Eels in loch Ness… I was 12.

A twelve year old knows that there are Eels in loch Ness. Unkillable eels yes, but their no monsters. That’s not a revelation, that’s not a discovery, that is merely stating the bleedin obvious. That’s like saying

“we can now prove, catagorically that there are fish in loch Ness.”

Case closed pack up your van, put away your binoculars and head off back wherever it was you came from, mystery solved, nothing but Eels to see here. I think not. 

No dinosaurs, fine, I could have told him that. 

No sturgeon? I agree. 

Catfish? Hmm, OK I will take your word for that. 

What about the spaceship on the bottom of the Loch theory? That leaves no DNA. What about the gazillions of people that are willing to swear on their great aunt betsies life that what they saw was the back of a large, living creature coursing through the loch? Are you telling them that all they saw was an eel?

Are you telling the chief inspector of Inverness police, a lifelong fisherman, that what he and his pal watched one evening back in nineteen oatcake for 45 minutes, moving along the surface of the Loch was an eel?…. OK, he dead now so you won’t suffer his wrath. But Eels? he would have kicked your arse if you tried to palm him off with that explanation.

Seals? Did you mean seals?

we get seals in the loch, not every year, maybe once every three or four years one will come up the river Ness chasing after the salmon that are returning to their breeding grounds, but we do get seals in the loch.

They get disorientated once they enter the loch. Due to the massive volume of water in here they find it incredibly hard, if not impossible to find their way back to the head of the river Ness and from there back down to the sea. Instead they remain in here, living on a healthy diet of fresh salmon for maybe a couple of months. I spot them, the boys that work on the fish farm spot them, and the people that crew the various tour boats will likely spot them. 

I’ve always been amazed that when we know there is a seal in the loch tourists don’t come rushing along to me saying, 

“hah, look I photographed your monster, it’s a flipping seal”

People don’t spot these large and very inquisitive creatures, which surprises me.

In fact I’ve filmed a seal as far inland as fort augustus, 37 miles from salt water, the film is permanently used by the loch Ness exhibition centre in Drumnadrochit to demonstrate one of the possible false alarms for Nessie sightings, so ironically I have contributed a piece of evidence to this mystery. I’ve photographed other seals in here over the years, but they never hang around for long. 

A couple of months spent happily taking one bite out of every salmon that passes by, does tend to bring them some unwanted attention.

They tend to position themselves at the mouth of one of the seven rivers that flow into loch Ness, great life, no worries, fish literally swimming up to them. 

Unbeknownst to them the atmosphere is decidedly different further up river, where after a short while the keepers and Gillies who lease out the fishing on these salmon rivers, especially the Morriston, notice that something has changed. people pay a fair few pounds for a days fishing on that river, they soon notice when people stop catching fish, and they know where to look first for a culprit

Unsurprisingly the happy seal generally finds himself unceremoniously shot in the head by a keen eyed water bailiff, who, due to the seal never having obtained a licence to fish for salmon, consider them to be ‘marauders’ in their words.  

But, and here’s my big but,

they don’t live in the loch, and chances are fancy pants professor gemmell will not be able to find any DNa of one in all his buckets of water. 

So….. does this mean that my various photos and bits of film of seals in the loch are fake? 

If Gemmell hasn’t got its DNA then it cant exist in loch ness? And the thing that I hate the most about this revelation is that the media will have a feeding frenzy. No dinosaur Dna no dinosaur, no dinosaur no Nessie. 

Twenty eight years to the day I get this bomb shell.

Well I’m not packing up just yet, let’s wait and see what happens .

I look at this whole mystery, and all the various possible explanations like I am watching a horse race, the grand national springs to mind….

Imagine that every horse represents a different possible explanation, a different theory.

The starting gun is fired, the horses set off…..

Out in front are the four favourites,



Wels catfish

And eels,

Suddenly, out of nowhere (new Zealand ) professor Niel Gemmell steps out in front of the pack….

He aims , he fires, he shoots three if the favourites. Down goes the plesiasaur, the catfish collides into him, the sturgeon careers into the fence.

For those three the race is over.

Gemmell falls to his knees, arms outstretched, he has achieved what he set out to do, he will go down in history as the bloke that tried DNA analysis at loch ness….

But he hasn’t considered all the other horses, the other theories, the rank outsiders and the frankly implausible….

They trample right over the top of him and the race charges on.

Which theory crosses the finish line as the final explanation is currently anyones guess, but an explanation will be found one day, too many honest people have seen something for there to be nothing.

So I will sit and watch, content in my contemplation of this wonderful mystery.

Watch and wait to see what happens next. Because if I have learnt one thing in nearly three decades it is this….

Loch ness will relentlessly keep throwing up the most wonderful of unexpected twists and turns in the unpredictable adventure that it is.

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