A Fiery Meteor at Loch Ness
An unusual phenomenon at Loch Ness; plus the man who discovered its monster
In December 1842, an unusual phenomenon was observed at Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. This was the year in which palaeontologist Richard Owen first invented the term “dinosaur”. But this strange event had nothing to do with Loch Ness’s not-yet-famous monster — or did it? This account is from the Inverness Courier:
On Friday morning last, about a quarter of an hour before four o'clock, a fiery meteor was observed in the air, between Urquhart and Abriachan, in the direction from east to west. It was of considerable magnitude (about the size of a 32lb Congreve rocket, as one intelligent eye-witness described it to us) and it emitted sparks of a blue and green tinge as it descended. The light was not glaring, yet it completely illuminated the neighbourhood. The meteor dissolved near the ground with an immense report like a cannon shot, which reverberated for several minutes among the rocks by Loch Ness. This phenomenon was also observed, travelling westwards, by the fishermen at Bunchrew, who say it had the appearance of a gun spouting out fire as it went along.
The man on watch on the Rob Roy steamer, then lying at Corpach (at the western extremity of the Great Glen, or line of the Caledonian Canal) states that shortly before four o'clock, there was a great effusion of sheet lightning: he counted nine different flashes, so large and vivid, that he could distinctly see Fort-William and Ben Nevis, though two miles distant from the former. When the lightning ceased there was a low rumbling noise, as of distant thunder. The night had been excessively dark, and this illumination (which altogether occupied two or three minutes) struck him the more forcibly.
Small meteorites hit the Earth every day, but large meteor strikes are rare. There have been very few recorded meteorite falls in Scotland. Sheet lightning and low rumbling thunder are fairly common. It is the combination of these phenomena that makes this event so very unusual. And, of course, there is the location. Loch Ness is a mysterious place. A mischievous writer might suggest the events of 1842 and the legend of the Loch Ness Monster could be linked. Did the meteor strike unleash the monster from the deep, or perhaps transport it here from another planet? Almost certainly not. Almost certainly not. ⬧
On the subject of the Loch Ness Monster, allow me to suggest one of my own articles in this weeks Recommended section:
The Fisherman Who Discovered the Loch Ness Monster
Sandy Gray was a bus driver from the village of Foyers on the shore of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. He was an accomplished fisherman who spent much of his time in a boat on the loch. Since he was a young boy, he had been aware there was something strange in the water. He had several encounters with what the locals believed was a sea-serpent. In 1933, he reported a sighting to a newspaper. For the first time, Scotland learned about a mysterious creature that the newspaper christened the “Loch Ness Monster.”
Then Sandy set out to catch the monster, with a special tackle consisting of barrels, strong wire, and heavy-duty hooks baited with dog-fish and skate. He didn’t get the monster, but he did — with the help of his brother Hugh — get a photograph. This led to a lifelong obsession and ultimately ended with an unexplained tragedy. Sandy has been largely forgotten as the Loch Ness Monster legend has become a global phenomenon. So I was please to tell his story for Narratively. Here’s a taster:
It was late May 1933, and Loch Ness was experiencing an early glimmer of summer, with lilac heather blooming across the craggy hillsides, the fresh scent of Scots pine hanging crisp in the air, and the warm sun casting a shimmering glow on the loch. Sandy was driving his bus along the shore road when he saw a large dark shape moving across the water’s surface. He tried to gauge its considerable speed as he jammed on the accelerator to match the object’s course along the loch, but he said he was “unable to overtake it.”
Sandy’s sighting was the first to be reported in newspapers beyond Inverness. The Aberdeen Press and Journal, in its headline on May 23, christened the mysterious creature the “Loch Ness ‘Monster’” — which would become its enduring name. And the newspaper’s report, along with others in the Scottish press, noted something else. Sandy Gray had not only seen the Loch Ness Monster: He was going to attempt to catch it.
You can read the full story over at Narratively. There’s also an audio version on that site.
While I’m recommending my own stuff, it’s been remiss of me not to mention my most recent book:
The Ruhleben Football Association
In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, several of Britain’s greatest footballers were interned in a brutal prison camp at Ruhleben, near Berlin. Among them was Steve Bloomer, the prolific England striker widely regarded as the best player of his generation. Surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards, living in squalor and on meagre rations, and with their families and freedom far out of reach, Bloomer and the others found salvation in what they knew best – football. The Ruhleben Football Association tells the true story of how the prisoners used the game of football to survive, and how some of them used it to escape.
The Sports Journalists’ Association calls the book “The real Escape to Victory”, which was nice of them. You can read more about the book, meet the main characters, and see some photos — plus a brief film — on the book’s website. It’s available at all good bookshops (and some rubbish ones etc). You can find it on our bookshelves at Linktree. And you can read an edited extract over at Medium’s Soccer Stories.
As always, thanks for reading, subscribing and sharing.
Time for a break. Have a great summer.