Magazine article Skeptic (Altadena, CA)

The Man Who Mistook a Boat for His Monster: The Tim Dinsdale Story: A Review of the Man Who Filmed Nessie: Tim Dinsdale and the Enigma of Loch Ness, by Angus Dinsdale

Magazine article Skeptic (Altadena, CA)

The Man Who Mistook a Boat for His Monster: The Tim Dinsdale Story: A Review of the Man Who Filmed Nessie: Tim Dinsdale and the Enigma of Loch Ness, by Angus Dinsdale

Article excerpt

Hancock House, Canada, 2013

256 pp. $15.95 paperback.

ISBN-13: 978-0888397270


BY THE MID-1950S THE LOCH NESS Monster was almost forgotten. This creature of the mass media had faded away two decades earlier in much the same way as that other British animal sensation of the same period, Gef the talking mongoose. Just two people brought Nessie back from the dead. The first was author Constance Whyte, whose 1957 book More Than a Legend introduced more recent eyewitness testimony and a stunning new photograph of a three-humped monster. Whyte argued that a proper investigation of the loch was long overdue. Her call for action seemed all the more urgent when in April 1960 a monster hunter named Tim Dinsdale filmed a large, unidentifiable object moving across the loch opposite the village of Foyers. The 65 second Dinsdale film has had almost as much impact on the legend of the monster as the Patterson-Gimlin film has had on Bigfoot.

Tim Dinsdale is arguably the single most important figure in the 80-yearlong Nessie saga. He had three sightings of the monster, took what is commonly regarded as the best piece of film evidence, collaborated with other investigators, wrote several books on the subject, and energetically promoted the monster in the media and on lecture tours. In the long and colorful Loch Ness saga he has one other claim to fame. Nessie has in the past been described as possessing features comparable to those of a camel and of a kangaroo. Dinsdale is the only witness to report that the monster displayed features similar to the back of an African buffalo.

But behind the famous cryptozoologist was a family man, and The Man Who Filmed Nessie, written by Dinsdale's youngest son, is an affectionate memoir of an eccentric but deadly serious monster-hunting father. It's a handsomely produced book, with a generous collection of photographs, mostly in color. Some are familiar, but many have never been published before. Angus Dinsdale writes well and his book provides a useful sketch of his father's sometimes adventurous life and travels in the 35 years before he first became interested in the Loch Ness Monster. In 20 pages he describes his father's childhood in China, attendance at a private school in Britain, military service in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and early married life in Canada.

After 1960 the Dinsdale family lived under the shadow of Nessie. Tim's long-suffering but supportive wife Wendy was obliged to go out to work to support her husband's newfound interest, and family finances became fragile. Dinsdale spent significant amounts of time away from their home in Reading, outside London. Some marriages would have crumbled in such circumstances but the Dinsdale family held together. We learn of the comic side to the accumulation of Nessie-hunting equipment in the confines of a modest suburban home, but also of happy holidays at the loch.

None of Dinsdale's four children inherited his burning interest in the Loch Ness mystery but Angus seems to have been the closest to him in this respect. He writes movingly of his last trip to the loch with his father in 1986. By the 1980s Dinsdale had started to cut a slightly forlorn figure. The large scale investigations of the 1960s and early 1970s had ended. A new figure, Adrian Shine, emerged on the scene, and he eventually replaced Dinsdale as the leading crypto-zoological expert at Loch Ness. Under Shine the focus of investigation shifted to underwater exploration and a much more rigorous, comprehensive and scientifically credible study of the loch's physical environment. Surface surveillance, derided as "monster spotting" was suddenly out of fashion. But Dinsdale doggedly stuck to loch-watching and to his dream of obtaining the final proof of the monster's existence in the form of close-up movie film. When he died at the age of 63 in 1987 the Loch Ness monster mystery had consumed much of the last 27 years of his life. …

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