Last updated on November 21st, 2015
Four men, old enough and with enough experience of life to be able to look after themselves, have gone missing in Loch Awe. Two have been found dead and the search is still on. This of course is tragic, but I can well understand their situation.
When I was 16, I went on a “Colony Holiday” as it was called, run by the ‘Council for Colony Holidays for Schoolchildren’ (CCHS). It’s got a new name now… This holiday was at Inverliever Lodge, some log cabins a short way above Loch Awe, facing south. It’s a wonderful, verdant, fresh place in summer. The mosses and lichens grow to immense size on the rocks, oaks and birches in the little river valley close by. The river flows into the loch with a little alluvial fan (see map) made of small flat stones, a few inches across.
On a fine warm day, in with a group of others, I was plodging around the water in the loch on this alluvial fan. The water was lovely and warm. On venturing further out into the loch, and when the water reached my thighs, suddenly the stones on which I was standing gave way – as if on the edge of a cliff. I fell backwards in the same way as when going down a rock scree or sand dune.
I then became shockingly aware of this deeply unbearable, penetrating cold…
The water below about 80 – 100 cm is absolutely freezing, so I very quickly had to swim to the shallow as I realised the water was very cold and very deep.
Later, on checking the Ordnance Survey 1″ map, I found that the water only half a football pitch’s distance away was well over 100 feet deep! It’s a classic case of an alluvial fan emptying into a glacially over-deepened valley, in this case, full of freshwater.
Men in Boat
The chaps in the loch, venturing out in a small boat, at night, before the equinox, in a Scottish Loch, in fog….? If the boat tipped or because of some bravado, foolhardiness or accident they ended in the water, I can well imagine the shock they felt in the freezing darkness. The water is of almost Arctic coldness, and being fresh not salt, it is not as buoyant as the sea so swimming in clothing is even more difficult. It’s truly awful, and yet so close to shore, as the loch isn’t that wide.
Yoga, Leeches and More
- When I emerged, freezing, from the lake, a leech was stuck to my leg. I pulled it off, stuck it in a jar and took it home as a pet – it lasted about six months. Not knowing much about leeches, I gave it bits of meat, which rotted and stank.
- Colony Holidays are still going under the ATE.org banner, Chris Green (tubby the tuba) retiring a few years ago, he told me.
- The lodge (somewhat changed), is used for various activities.
This yoga group describes it as, ‘… a new Yoga retreat Centre based on the principles of environmental awareness and the ability to source our energy and inspiration from the natural world. On the South facing banks of Loch Awe, surrounded by cascading waterfalls and forests, Inverliever Lodge is a place of high resonant energy, morning sun and glorious peace.’
The EcoYoga webcam picture at the right gives a more realistic view of March weather which is wholly different to the summer weather I’ve witnessed, on such sites or seen in the Liever valley shot. Something like this, but at night, is what the men ventured out into…
Postscript 7 Sep 2009
The two missing men were found over two months later. Chief Inspector Andy Mosley said afterwards: “We believe at this stage that these two men may have been trapped under the water for some time. Remains in these circumstances often resurface after a period of time due to a number of factors, including water temperature and movement on the surface of the water. This process can also take longer in cold water lochs due to the extreme low water temperature. We are satisfied that our search has been as extensive as possible.”
I can certainly vouch for the cold. It’s awful.