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PICTURES and VIDEO: Sunk at sea after madcap bid to sail treacherous Pentland Firth on flimsy eco-raft


By David G Scott

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A group of London filmmakers were left floundering in Dunnet Bay on their eco-raft during a search for mythical monsters in the Pentland Firth.

ECHT, an independent film crew from London with Dutch roots, comprises George Alting, Dan Nash, James Doherty and Alston D’Souza who have been making videos full-time since October 2021.

ECHT filmmakers are from left, George Alting, Alston D’Souza, James Doherty and Dan Nash at Dunnet beach. Picture: DGS
ECHT filmmakers are from left, George Alting, Alston D’Souza, James Doherty and Dan Nash at Dunnet beach. Picture: DGS
Creating the raft from found materials at Dunnet beach with some help from Caithness Beach Cleans. Picture: DGS
Creating the raft from found materials at Dunnet beach with some help from Caithness Beach Cleans. Picture: DGS

Dan and George were presenting the documentary film ‘Searching For Sea Monsters’ and had journeyed up to the far north Caithness coastline to build an eco-raft from found plastics and other debris they recovered from Dunnet beach. They were filmed by James and Alston as they searched for the mythical sea monster known as the Kraken – which they hoped to encounter in the choppy waters of the Pentland Firth.

A last meal before they set off on their mission to find monsters. Picture: DGS
A last meal before they set off on their mission to find monsters. Picture: DGS
Dan and George get ready to set off while Alston stands by with his camera. Picture: DGS
Dan and George get ready to set off while Alston stands by with his camera. Picture: DGS
Alston films Dan and George as they set off. Picture: DGS
Alston films Dan and George as they set off. Picture: DGS

Dan explained the team’s mission to explore the mythical creatures that inhabit the seas and inland waters of the UK. “We’re on a mission to travel the length and breadth of the UK in search of mythical creatures such as the Morgawr, the Loch Ness Monster and now we’re up here to investigate the Kraken,” he said.

“In modern understanding, it was like a huge octopus that attacked ships. We’re building a raft with the aim of getting to the Shetland Islands where the Kraken was seen in the 1800s by Scottish sailors.”

Vintage engraving of the Kraken. The ECHT team were going in search of the legendary sea monster. Picture: AdobeStock
Vintage engraving of the Kraken. The ECHT team were going in search of the legendary sea monster. Picture: AdobeStock
The Kraken has a fearsome reputation and could pull ships to the depths of the North Sea. How far would the raft get with this monster on the prowl? Picture: AdobeStock
The Kraken has a fearsome reputation and could pull ships to the depths of the North Sea. How far would the raft get with this monster on the prowl? Picture: AdobeStock

In order to complete this mission, ECHT partnered up with Octopus Energy and Vauxhall, who gave them an electric car to complete the trip with the condition that they keep the trip as “eco-friendly as possible”.

“We used the Electroverse chargers across the country, no problem, but when it came to our final leg of the journey, we had a problem,” said the team in a joint press statement.

“We wanted to travel from John O’Groats to the Shetland Islands, to finish our investigation into the Kraken but we were unable to cross the sea in a diesel-powered ferry.”

The filmmakers then came across a local environmental group helping rid the Caithness coast of plastic and other discarded rubbish. Dorcas and Allan Sinclair from Caithness Beach Cleans aided the team members in recovering materials washed up at Dunnet that they could use for making a bespoke eco-raft.

Dorcas Sinclair from Caithness Beach Cleans was happy to help the filmmakers. Picture: DGS
Dorcas Sinclair from Caithness Beach Cleans was happy to help the filmmakers. Picture: DGS

“It’s an interesting project and I think it will make a serious statement,” said Dorcas, who added that the beach cleaners have removed 63 tons from the Caithness coast since starting in 2019.

“I wouldn’t say it is getting worse but when there’s a storm blowing stuff onto the shore it can be bad. There’s still a bit of historic waste and a lot of fishing stuff. Anything that fishermen can do to stop discarding ghost fishing tackle would be great.”

Alston operates a drone and utilises a special headset to operate it. Picture: DGS
Alston operates a drone and utilises a special headset to operate it. Picture: DGS
Heading out to sea. Picture: DGS
Heading out to sea. Picture: DGS
And they're afloat and off on their mission to find the Kraken. Picture: DGS
And they're afloat and off on their mission to find the Kraken. Picture: DGS

The team stuck to their guns and with a little help from the beach cleaners put together the raft composed of plastic bottles, wooden pallets, and ghost fishing gear that was cobbled together with bits of nylon rope and had a plastic tablecloth as a sail – all found materials from around the county’s coastline.

Dan said: “If a blue whale went extinct due to plastic pollution we would probably refer to it as a monster. We have a safety boat with us, thanks to Andy from Dwarick, and want to see how far we get with what’s washed up on the shore here.”

The filmmakers sent out a debt of gratitude to Dorcas and her husband for helping them in their mission. “We found a small community of locals who are making a big difference, spending their own free time and resources to keep the beaches clean of trash.

The raft started out well and all seemed fine to begin with. Picture: ECHT
The raft started out well and all seemed fine to begin with. Picture: ECHT
Dan and George struggle against the waves. Picture: ECHT
Dan and George struggle against the waves. Picture: ECHT
Encountering choppy waters. Picture: DGS
Encountering choppy waters. Picture: DGS
The two are toppled from their raft. Picture: ECHT
The two are toppled from their raft. Picture: ECHT

“We were so impressed at their ingenuity – recycling old rope into doormats and creating sharing stations for dog-walkers looking for balls to throw. Their attitude of responsibility and stewardship was inspiring and it’s something we hope to take back to London with us.”

And it was bon voyage as Dan and George set off on the rickety raft at Dunnet beach in what appeared to be a doomed mission. After shoving and pushing the raft through the tide it was suddenly afloat and they were finally able to mount the structure.

Going down! Luckily the rescue craft is at hand. Picture: ECHT
Going down! Luckily the rescue craft is at hand. Picture: ECHT

Within a couple of hundred yards off the shoreline, however, they were swamped by waves that saw the raft capsize at one point and both wannabe sailors consigned to the waters of Dunnet Bay.

The safety vessel came into operation and helped them right the structure but it proved fruitless after numerous attempts to get going and the venture was terminated.

Dan and George are truly scuppered. Picture: ECHT
Dan and George are truly scuppered. Picture: ECHT
Onboard camera captures the moment the raft starts to sink. Picture: ECHT
Onboard camera captures the moment the raft starts to sink. Picture: ECHT
Returning to the beach after their short voyage. Picture: DGS
Returning to the beach after their short voyage. Picture: DGS

A bedraggled Dan and George exited the waters but would not admit defeat. “Overall, I’m really happy and humbled. There’s no proof that the Kraken doesn’t exist and we’ll leave it at that,” said Dan.

“Personally, I feel in awe of nature. We’re from London and it’s not the most natural place in the world. It’s funny for us city boys to come out and see a bit of the world.”

The filmmakers stressed that their environmental message, the essential drive of their project, is a strong one and, though they never made it to Shetland, they feel that this message will be a strong point of their finished project.

“Is Nessie real? Did the Kraken exist? Is there even a simple answer to these questions? We’ll do our best to provide an answer. But one thing is for sure – the UK is truly stunning.”

Back on dry land but not defeated as their environmental message will come through strongly in the final project. Picture: DGS
Back on dry land but not defeated as their environmental message will come through strongly in the final project. Picture: DGS
Dragging the raft ashore. Picture: DGS
Dragging the raft ashore. Picture: DGS
The raft was eventually dismantled and taken away to be recycled. Picture: DGS
The raft was eventually dismantled and taken away to be recycled. Picture: DGS

ECHT says it makes “art with a purpose” and though their videos are often comedic and entertaining they contain some message of value that they want to convey.

ECHT is on Instagram at: www.instagram.com/echtisaconcept

There is a YouTube channel at: www.youtube.com/@echtisaconcept

“We think it’s important that, as young people, the content we engage with online is positive and leading our generation in the right direction.

“At the same time, we try to remember that life is never too serious. After all, we’re all stuck on a giant rock spinning through space.”


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