Loch Morar, located just seventy miles from the more famous Loch Ness, was created by glacial moment during the last ice age and is the British Isles deepest loch with a maximum depth of over 1000 feet. Unlike other Scottish lochs which have been stained a murky brown color over time by peat, the waters of Loch Morar remain crystal clear, protected by the sheer rock cliffs which surround the loch. What Loch Morar does have in common with Loch Ness are sightings of a large unknown marine animal often described as resembling a plesiosaur, that oh so familiar, long necked, prehistoric reptile thought to have died out millions of years ago.
Sightings of the creature, dubbed Morag by the locals, go as far back as the mid 1800’s when residents of the region began referring to the undulating humps, which they saw slipping in and out of the water, as funeral boats. Sightings of these humps were considered by those who lived in this pre industrialized environment to be the ominous warning of death.
Folklorist R. Macdonald Robertson collected the following undated sighting from Alexander MacDonnell:
Some years ago, we were proceeding one morning down the loch in the estate motor launch from Meoble or Morar pier with some school children and other persons on board. As we were passing Bracanna Point, on the north side, some of the children excited shouted out, “Oh look! What is that big thing on the bank over there?” The beast would be about the size of a full grown Indian elephant, and it plunged off the rocks into the water with a terrific splash.
In September 1931 Sir John Hope, who as Lord Glendevon would go on to become a privy councilor and undersecretary of state for Scotland, had a curious experience which, while it involved no direct sighting, clearly suggested the existence of a large creature living in the loch. He, his brother, a friend and a local guide went out on a boat to fish in a deep part of Loch Morar. Hope, using a trout rod, felt something take hold of his line and drag it directly downwards at a rapid rate of speed. After a few seconds the whole line, including the baking, was gone and the end of the rode broken off.
One of the most well known encounters with Morag occurred on August 16, 1969, when two local men, Duncan McDonnell and William Simpson, were on their way back from a fishing trip at the north end of the loch. It was just after 9 pm, the sun had already gone down but there was still plenty of light, when the men heard a splash behind them. McDonnell, who was at the wheel, turned the boat around to investigate the cause. To his astonishment it turned out to be a large creature coming directly at them at an estimated speed of 20 to 30 mph.
Within seconds of spotting the creature it struck the side of the boat and stopped. McDonnell got the impression that the collision had been an accident, but still feared the creature’s sheer bulk could easily capsize his boat. He grabbed an oar and tried to push the creature way, while Simpson rushed into the cabin to turn off the gas and grab his rifle. He fired a single shot at the beast; it seemed unaffected by the blast and slowly moved away and submerged out of site.
When interviewed by representatives from the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau, the two agreed that the creature had been roughly 25 to 30 feet long, with rough, dirty brown skin. Three humps, about 18 inches high, stood out of the water, and at on point McDonnell spotted the animal’s snake like head just above the surface, he described it as about one foot wide, the encounter lasted roughly 5 minutes.
In 1970 and 1971 the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau conducted research on Morag during what they called the Loch Morar Survey. During a July 14, 1970 expedition to the loch team member and marine biologist Neil Bass claimed to have spotted a hump shaped black object moving in the water. In 1974 two members of the survey, Elizabeth Montgomery Campbell and David Solomon, published a well regarded book entitled The Search for Morag. While researching the book Campbell learned of a persistent tradition of hideous hairy eel like creatures that were pulled up by fisherman long ago and thrown back into the loch because they were so repulsive.
Also in the 1970’s, noted Scottish Naturalist and Loch Ness Project leader, Adrian Shine, led a small expedition to the loch in hopes of gathering evidence supporting the existence of Morag. Using a submersible that he created himself, Shine hoped to take advantage of Loch Morar’s clear water to observe a large animal silhouetted above his vehicle, his efforts bore no conclusive evidence.
On April 3, 1971, Ewen Gillies, a lifelong resident of Loch Morar, whose house over looked the water, saw the creature for the first time. Alerted by his 12 year old son John, who noticed the creature while walking down a road near the shore, Gillies stepped outside and looked out on the water. It was a clear, sunny morning, around 11 o’clock, as he looked out he saw a huge animal in the water not quite half a mile away. Gilles described the creature as having a head barely distinguishable from its three to four foot long neck, two or three humps ran along its back and moved slowly in the water. The skin was black and its entire length was estimated to be about 30 feet.
While there is no doubt that Loch Morar possesses an adequate food supply to support a population of large animals, it is unclear exactly what the creature might be. The majority of sightings describe a creature bearing an undeniable resemblance to the long extinct plesiosaur, but if such animals where to have survived they would have had to adapt to far colder water temperatures than their ancestors are thought to have been able to handle. Biologist Roy P. Mackal has suggested that Morag, the Loch Ness Monster and the other so called monster sighted around Scotland are zeuglodons, a primitive snake like whale believed to have gone extinct over 20 million years ago. Other theories which have been put forth to explain Morag sightings include sharks, seals, eels and even mats of vegetation.
There is currently no evidence to suggest that a creature the size of Morag dwells in the depths of Loch Morar.
On August 16, 1969, two local men, Duncan McDonnell and William Simpson, were on their way back from a fishing trip at the north end of the loch when a 30 foot long creature ran into their boat.
During a July 14, 1970 expedition to the loch marine biologist Neil Bass claimed to have spotted a hump shaped black object moving in the water.
On April 3, 1971, Ewen Gillies, a lifelong resident of Loch Morar, whose house over looked the water, saw the creature for the first time.
The Stats – (Where applicable)
• Classification: Lake Monster
• Size: 25 – 30 feet
• Weight: Unknown
• Diet: Carnivorous
• Location: Loch Morar, Scotland
• Movement: Swimming
• Environment: Glacial formed lake