Believers in Nessie join forces with sceptics to study mysteries as part of Loch Ness Exploration (LNE)
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As a teenager visiting Loch Ness for the first time, Alan McKenna had a frightening experience which was to have a lasting impact.
During a trip to Urquhart Castle, young Alan went down to the shoreline and walked blithely into the water there, unaware there was a deep drop off – and subsequently ended up under the water.
“My dad got me out and I just got a big fright,” he recalled looking back on the incident.
The experience left him with a phobia of deep water but the visit also conversely sparked an enduring fascination with the loch and its mysteries, including the Loch Ness Monster.
The 35-year-old social worker has now created a new group, Loch Ness Exploration (LNE), which brings together similarly fascinated volunteers for a series of observations once or twice a month at different spots and elevations along the loch side.
It includes believers in the Loch Ness Monster as well as sceptics who travel from across the UK to get involved.
“We record, study and analyse all manner of natural behaviour and behaviour that may be more challenging to explain,” said Alan, who lives with his wife in Midlothian.
“It joins up sceptics and believers who don’t have to sit in two camps.
“You can work quite comfortably and have that respect.”
Alan is a believer but insists he is level headed in his approach.
“I believe there is something but I don’t know what,” he said.
“I love the history, the geology, the marine biology, the eco-system of the loch – that fascinates me as much as the Nessie mystery.”
Throughout his teenage years, he tried to get as much material on the Loch Ness Monster as possible but as he matured, he started to take a more factual approach.
“Like everyone else I assumed there was a 30ft plesiosaurus,” he said. When I started lining up the dots, I realised that becomes very unlikely.”
LNE, which has completed 10 observations since being set up a year ago, shares information on its Facebook page which has attracted more than 500 supporters.
It has been set up in the spirit of the original Loch Ness Investigation Bureau (LNIB) which was established by a group of enthusiasts back in the 1960s and swapped findings with information previously gathered by naturalist and Loch Ness Project leader Adrian Shine and his old colleague Dick Raynor.
Steve Feltham, who has been searching for Nessie from a converted mobile library at Dores beach since 1991, has also given his backing.
Alan also praised Gary Campbell who keeps the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register but said it was different to the work undertaken by LNE.
“Adrian Shine and Dick Raynor have helped me build up my knowledge of natural behaviour and natural elements on the loch and how illusions can come about,” he said.
“We are very level-headed. We don’t treat every ripple as being the monster.
“Most sightings and reports can be explained. Some cannot be explained – and that is the fishing line and hook for me.”
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LNE members who regularly join the monthly observations include a group nicknamed the Falkirk Boys while another enthusiast, Simon Dawes, travels from Blackpool.
As well as watching and waiting, the group also uses modern technology such as drones and hydrophones.
Alan’s favourite spots around the loch include Urquhart Castle as well as Foyers where he was involved in carrying out a hydrophone test which threw up nothing out of the ordinary.
As a believer in Nessie he acknowledged he is still waiting for that sighting of the elusive creature.
“I am still waiting to be chosen and wondering when I am going to be enlightened!” he said. “I hope to get that experience. I think it is very much about being in the right place at the right time.”