Unmasking the Topographical Secrets Under the Urquhart Bay

Sightings of the elusive beast of Loch Ness have been reported for hundreds of years. Sonar contacts also point to the existance of large, moving objects in the loch. What causes the large, animate objects inhabiting Loch Ness to occasionally and partially surface? Could these occurances be statistically predictable, habitual or susceptible to stimulation? If so, could photographic monitering equipment be put in the right place at the right time?

A scientific team from the Academy of Applied Science determined to answer these questions by uncovering the unusual bottom topography under Urquhart Bay, the scene of the most frequent large-object sonar and visual sightings. Armed with this information, they hoped to discover the hiding places and patrolling channels of large animals.

The Goal is Definitive Pictures

To get definitive pictures necessary for a break-through discovery, the Academy team employed both the surface cameras of the LNI team and their own Edgerton elapsed-time underwater flash camera.

The Edgerton camera was contributed by Academy Member Professor Harold E. Edgerton of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the renowed inventor of electronic flash stroboscopy and photography, and "Papa Flash" to Jacques Cousteau's many readers.

But where to put the underwater camera, with it's limited range, in the peat-stained water of the Ness? That was the task of sonar, the team's submersible "eyes." The sonar would provide the needed data to build maps of the bay's underwater real estate, giving a clearer idea of where large animate objects might hide, patrol and feed. For example, if these very large beasties do patrol the bay, how can they get into the shallow end where the salmon seek the river mouth, without more frequent detection of their expected surface disturbances? What schedule and routes in and out of the bay do they patrol?

Using the sonar tools at their disposal, the Academy team began to scientifically pin-point high probability underwater sites for future monitoring. Numerous transverse, longitudinal, and criss-cross bottom profiles were recorded, extrapolated, and then plotted. And lo, the mystery of the bay started to unlock! For there, bordering both sides of the bay, were steeply sloping deep ravines that then climbed to more shallow shores. It is along these deep ravines, in parts several hundreds of feet deep, that large creatures could well patrol the bay--even almost to the river mouth, where the team found an unexpected steep drop--and they could frolic in this activity without ever breaking the surface!

The known underwater sonar contacts and the visual sightings could now be referenced to the newly-revealed topgraphy. Understanding bloomed! A photo-recorded surface sighting (McNab) corresponded to a newly-mapped series of relatively shallow ridges extending outward from the location of the Castle. Another visual sighting by Academy members in 1971 corresponded to a relatively shallow promentory, suggesting passage upward and over the promentory, resulting in back exposure. The observed subsequent movement of the hump slightly inward of the bay and its rapid sinking is consistent with coming off the ridge into the deep channel discovered there.

Temperature anomalies were also found in these deep channels at substantial depths--only a degree to three and a half degree (F) variation from surface to 250-feet depths and greater; while corrresonding measurements a short distance out in the loch indicated an eleven to twelve degree drop over the same depth. These warm channels of water are in the very regions where local residents feel the large creatures may rest, further strengthened by the teams factual correlation between these warm channels and both sonar and visual large-object detection.

The result of the teams work set the stage for a higher probability of success in future experiments and monitoring--no longer would they be randomly shooting in the dark.


Our results in consort with others at Loch Ness have been rewarding, though frustrating in view of the limited time we have been able to devote to continued effort, the hostility of the environment, and the problem itself.

Until adequate photographic results or higher definition sonar imaging is evolved, identification of the moving objects under the loch will not be possible.

Even were there not the growing wealth of surface and subsurface pictures and observations by reliable persons, the consistancy of sonar tracking to date removes all doubt as to the continued presence of large, moving underwater animals in Loch Ness.