WASHINGTON – Dan Taylor, a Navy torpedoman, engineer, inventor and restaurateur, and one of the world’s persistent dreamers, has died at age 65.
In recent years, he was building a self-financed mini-submarine, complete with “biopsy wands,” to prove the existence of the Loch Ness monster.
Although he never found the monster, Taylor had other memorable episodes. He built a giant aquarium and a windmill, the latter a 90-foot tower to power the Memphis restaurant he operated. He bought an old hydroelectric dam near Fayetteville, Tenn., hoping to return it to use.
When he later sold the dam, without getting it to operate, he remained sunny. “Nothing I make ever works the first time,” he told a reporter.
He moved to Hilton Head, S.C., to care for his aging mother. There, he also reinvigorated his work as an amateur cryptozoologist, hunting for evidence of legendary creatures.
His fixation was the Loch Ness monster, that elusive freshwater serpent. He was almost certain the monster was a very large eel, based on what he had seen at Loch Ness when he took his first submarine there in 1969.
That first submarine, the Viperfish, malfunctioned in the murky Scottish loch. Some unusual currents that disturbed his craft, however, left him with the impression that “this might have been the monster saying hello.”
His obsession was born, and he vowed to return some day. His effort took on new urgency after a debilitating heart attack and stroke a decade ago. “I see no other purpose for my life now but this expedition,” he wrote in an online log of his work last year.
He died July 23 at a hospital in Savannah, Ga., after surgery to correct an aortic aneurysm.
At his death, Taylor had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars building the new steel-structured sub that he named for a Celtic water goddess (“just a little extra insurance”). Working from a garage in Hardeeville, S.C., he designed the 44-footsub to dive 2,000 feet, more than twice the depth of Loch Ness at its deepest. He kept his designs in his head, not on paper.
Taylor was not the only Loch Ness “monster hunter” since the craze to find “Nessie” was revived in the 1930s. And he was neither the most flamboyant nor the most credentialed. One such hunter, physicist-turned-lawyer Robert H. Rines, once journeyed to Scotland under the sponsorship of the New York Times.
Rines found Taylor a compatriot in the cause, telling a reporter a few years ago, “We need all the (Dans) we can get.”