Saturday, 21 April 2012

Nessie Goes North?

We are currently researching the 'Deepdale monster', an eerily prehistoric looking carcass washed up at Holm in 1942. The discovery prompted a flurry of expert analysis and more frivolous newspaper articles.

Put down what you are eating/drinking now as I am about to show you a picture of the remains, groooooo!

There was a lot of scepticism in Orkney as there have been several claimed sightings of sea serpents and monsters of the deep in Orcadian waters which have not been verified. Many thought that this beast may just be two dead seals in an advanced state of decomposition.

The above image was published in The Orkney Blast of 13th February 1942 and was drawn by the Provost of Stromness, Mr J. G.Marwick who went to examine the remains and described what he saw:

"The outstanding features of this monster were it's small head, long neck, massive hump, long sinuous back parts and the queer, rudder-like appendage, which one could describe, perhaps, as a fin and which projected from its lower side some distance from the tail."

Remind you of anything?

One of the theories at the time was that the Loch Ness Monster had popped up to Orkney for a holiday. As the Orkney Blast of 30th January 1942 stated, "it is plausible for the creature to have escaped from Loch Ness and to have found its way to the waters off the Orkney mainland."
The Scotsman of the same date also pointed out that "the famous inhabitant of Loch Ness has not been seen for many months..."

Sadly, more sensible people stepped in at this point and Dr A. C. Stephen, Keeper of the Natural History Department of the Royal Scottish Museum said " I have examined the sketches and it seems to me, there is no doubt that the remains are those of a shark." (Orkney Blast, 6th February 1942) He suggested that the creature was a basking shark due to it's large size (25 to 28 feet).

Boo, how dull.


  1. The Receiver of Wreck from Kirkwall sent a description, accompanied by photographs to the Natural History Museum, West Kensington, London. Probably on 14th February he got an answer: "Large body is that of a basking shark".

    It is known that the skull and some other parts of the shark were sent from Provost Marwick to Edinburgh Museum. So Dr. Stephen now with "hard evidence" at hand acknowledged his opinion in an answer to Marwick (published in the Orcadian). A methodically search for the skull in 1962 through the whole museum ended with no success and so it seems the remains had been lost maybe as some contents of the museum moved during the war.

    In August 2009 I found by chance the above long-lost and forgotten photograph - in a uncropped version - published as an accompanying illustration on the website of a major German daily newspaper:

  2. Thank you Markus! (All the staff here wept a little at this comment as the thought of archives going missing causes us physical pain...)

  3. I don't know how to tell you... There's a little mistake in the text: Mr. J. W. Jones and Mr. W. Thorpe Catton refer to the second 'monster' (also a basking shark) which was reported from Hunda in course of the 'Deepdale monster'.


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