Monday, 29 September 2014

Nessie and the Falkirk Kelpies

Our local artist, Jack Rumney, hits the ball out of the park again with another great painting of our favourite lake monster. In his own words,

I have seen pictures of the Falkirk Kelpies illuminated so I thought I would send you a painting of Nessie giving them her seal of approval (this is the long necked paranormal variety).

You can watch the official opening of the Kelpie statues below.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Loch Ness Trip Report - August 2014

I must admit that this excursion to Loch Ness proved a bit of a wash out. As it turned out, the remnants of Hurricane Bertha was about to greet me as I made my way up the high road. Going by the lashings of rain that came upon us, I was grateful that we rarely experience such storms in their full vigour. So, it was a period of almost continuous rain, but the old tent held up well as we camped over the weekend of the 9th August at Foyers.

Given the weather, some of my activities were curtailed and I also failed to get in touch with some people I intended to talk to. However, some people I did talk to, such as Ala MacGruer who is a long time resident of Foyers and knows the area like the back of his hand. He is a keen fisherman and is old enough to remember Frank Searle. In fact, he featured in the 2005 documentary, "The Man Who Captured Nessie", in which he reminisced as a local on Frank's time there.

Ala was an independent witness to a head neck sighting made by the Hargreaves in 2011. He was sticking with that story and I have no reason to doubt him.  As an experienced and down to earth observer of Loch Ness, he has one of the better tales to tell of strange sights at Loch Ness.

I also chatted with him about other things, such as the memories of his neighbour, Hugh Gray, who took the first photo of the monster. Ala was also the nephew of William MacGruer, whose experience of a strange animal lurching into Loch Ness around the time of World War I has long formed part of the Loch Ness story.

Apart from the usual surface watches for anything unusual breaking the surface, I also tried out some new trap cameras. However, the aim of these was not to capture the monster in the water, but on the land. So, in  a sense, they are pointing in the "wrong" direction. But my reasoning is that the creature is more likely to trigger the camera on land since the motion/heat detection area is much smaller (i.e. the creature is not 300 metres away in the water). Also, you'll get a far more interesting and decisive picture than a hump in the water.

The problems dictating against an installation are manifold. Firstly, car traffic will continuously trigger the camera and wear out the batteries over a multi-month period. The trick here is to set the camera to night mode (between 0000 and 0700) since it is highly unlikely that the monster will venture onto land during daylight hours. I know it did in the past, but the loud presence of fast moving cars is now a deterrent. 

Also, the camera has to be in a hidden spot so it is not easily spotted by parked cars or hikers. So I will run those for a few months but the rarity of land sightings dictates against immediate results. One trap camera experiment that did not go as well as I thought was the Covert Code Black Special Ops camera (or the UM565).

Now this is an expensive camera and offers leading edge new features such as sending MMS pictures over the 2G/3G mobile phone network to your phone or email account. It also has a remote control command set using SMS text messaging so that you can request immediate snapshots or reconfigure your settings.

All in all, a great set of features, but no good for my research. I have to first say that it was a bit of a pain to set up for mobile networking. I bought a rolling monthly SIM contract from Vodafone and eventually got it sending pictures to my gmail account and mobile phone. I set it up and left it for a few months.

So, I was regularly getting pictures from the camera as events such as birds and waves triggered the detection software in the camera. I must admit I felt a sense of satisfaction being able to conduct monster hunting from wherever I was located in Edinburgh. Also, the occasional SMS message would automatically send me a view of the loch at that time.

However, the problem began when the camera began to send multiple images from sun glare. This was not an issue in and of itself but it became clear that the act of sending an image across the network was a bigger drain on battery power than simply saving the image to a file on the SD card. Within six weeks, the camera shut down! This was despite running on twelve AA batteries.

I retrieved the camera and took it back home. On further thought, I realised this was not going to improve in the autumn and winter months as sun glare would be replaced by continual shots of heightened wave activity. So I will sell the camera and replace it with two or three simpler SD card cameras. We live and learn.

Meantime, the other usual experiments continued. Infrared recordings of the loch at night, the car dashcam recordings and beach searches. There is nothing to report there on the monster front (though I am still reviewing the night videos). Even though technology has improved and cheapened immensely, the monster hunter of today has the same problem as the monster hunter of old - a creature that rarely breaks the surface is not beholden to any such technology.

However, Loch Ness continues to bring up other interesting images. Firstly, one wonders how tourists manage to forget things so easily?

Walking along one of the beaches on the south side of Loch Ness, we came across this bivouac pictured below. We wondered if someone was down on their luck or was at the loch without a tent. The owner was nowhere to be seen and there was no sign of food  - just an empty bottle of whisky.

Beside it was a bottle filled with small stones with a plastic bag below. Presumably this was an improvised rainwater collection system. I left wondering what the purpose of that person's visit was and whether they had any tales to tell of their lonely nights sleeping on the shores of Loch Ness.

But it was not all negatives from the downpour. A visit to the Falls of Foyers presented a raging torrent which I had not witnessed before.

That video clip was taken from the upper viewing area beside the waterfall. However, attempting a shot from the lower area proved impossible as the spray being thrown up threatened to drench us quickly. A quick retreat from that spot was the best tactic. Below is a clip of the nearby River Farigaig in spate also providing an impressive display.

But this particular trip was not all about Loch Ness. On the suggestion of Doug, a blog regular, I took a detour to Loch Morar on the way home. Doug had not long been back from Loch Ness and Morar and felt that this was a loch that has not been as watched as it should be. Indeed, I read that Adrian Shine thought there was a better chance of a large creature in Loch Morar than Loch Ness.

I have to confess that I have never been to Loch Morar in my long time here in Scotland, so it was finally time to remedy that omission. The main purpose of the trip was to install another trap camera as I had to get back home the same day. The loch is quite a contrast to Loch Ness and its tourist noise. At Loch Morar, it was a quiet single track road along the north of the loch with not much in the way of activity at all.

Having installed the camera, I visited the site of the Mhorag sighting I wrote on a while back. The video clip below is a quick survey of the area where the creature allegedly lumbered over a sandbar before disappearing into the loch.

So, as the tourist season winds down for another year and cryptozoological interests are pursued from home, it is hoped those silent trap cameras will snap something that doesn't quite look normal.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Tim Dinsdale's Operations Newsletters

Tim Dinsdale spent over 25 years in his quest for the Loch Ness Monster. They were exciting times, frustrating times and challenging times, but something drove him on for a quarter of a century. That something was the prospect of another glimpse of that thing that had seized his attention long before in April 1960.

He wrote occasional books, magazine articles and gave lectures, but he also kept Nessie people up to date on his activities via his Operations Newsletters. I have some of these from 1973 to 1977 and have now put them up for public viewing on my Google Drive. Most of them were sent alongside Rip Hepple's Nessletter but the 1977 one was sent to me by regular reader, Brad. 

That one is particularly fascinating as it was owned by that other monster pursuer, Roy Mackal, whose collection is up for sale. Brad had bought Mackal's copy of Dinsdale's "Leviathans" and the newsletter was found between its pages. 

I am sure there are other newsletters and similar items published by Tim. If anyone cares to provide scans of these, I will add them to this archive.

The newsletters can be found at this link.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Nessie says "No!"

Scotland's most famous citizen (not Alex Salmond) says "No". Mind you, forming a "Yes" would be an interesting proposition. Good on yer, Nessie! It is easier to believe the Loch Ness Monster exists than the promises of the "Yes" camp as far as I am concerned.

Exclusive from Loch Ness here.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Two Forthcoming Lectures on the Loch Ness Monster

I would like to publicise two talks on Nessie which are coming over the next two months. 

The first is part of the Scottish Paranormal Festival which runs in Stirling, Scotland from the 30th October to the 2nd of November. The talk is by our old associate Jonathan Bright who took that controversial picture of what may be the Loch Ness Monster which was analysed on this blog. My own take is that this is the creature. Other have differed and think it is a wave, but I beg to differ.

Jonathan will be giving his views on how the Loch Ness Monster could be viewed as a paranormal phenomenon as well as looking back at his photo and some other items. The talk is at 10am on the 31st October and you can find further details here. Click through to the other talks at the Festival, you may find other things of interest to you.

The second talk is on the 11th November at 7:30pm in which Charles Paxton gives the Edinburgh Fortean Society an update on his statistical analysis of Loch Ness Monster reports. Charles has been working on a project to perform an in-depth analysis of all the monster reports he could find going back to centuries past.

I have had access to this database and it is quite comprehensive and Charles has some results to share from it (though not all of them). I suspect there may be something for both the pro- and anti-monster groups, but we shall see. Charles hopes to publish some more detailed papers in the months ahead. Check out the website of the EFS for updates.

I hope to be at both meetings, so it would be nice to meet up with any regulars (even sceptical ones!) who make it to these events.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Scots, The English and Nessie

So, in nine days the voters of Scotland decide whether to stay in or opt out of the United Kingdom. The main arguments will revolve around currency, tax, oil and so on. It is not likely that Nessie will figure in the debate, which is no surprise but it should be remembered that the Loch Ness Monster is a top attraction in one of Scotland's major economic sectors - tourism.

Whether tourism will decline or rise as a result of independence is unknowable. But the whole debate made me look at who's who in the Loch Ness Mystery. As it turns out, the leading sceptics of the notion of a monster are all English. They are Adrian Shine, Tony Harmsworth and Dick Raynor (pictured below).

Though it has to be said that Tony on at least one occasion has tried to pass himself off as a Scotsman (below). Now, all this English Scepticism, is this a conspiracy against Scotland's Nessie? After all, they don't have any lake monsters in England. Why should Scotland have one if they don't? It's just not fair!

Conspiracy? I would say probably not (though I am now bracing myself for some fruity comments).

But if Scotland does gain independence, will Tony have to dust off that kilt for continual wear? Will Adrian have to dye his impressive beard a ginger colour? Will Dick have to stand in front of the mirror practising his Och Aye The Noos in as guttural tones as he can muster? I would say probably not.

Then again, perhaps all three will be fleeing across the border the day after independence is announced? I would say probably not. But it is all not doom and gloom. After all, our own Steve Feltham is English too and a believer in Nessie. He can be an honorary Scot anytime.

But to be fair, you don't have to be English to be a sceptic. Nessie has had her most able defenders from south of Hadrian's Wall. The roll of honour includes Rupert T. Gould, Tim Dinsdale, Ted Holiday, Alastair Boyd, Paul Harrison and Richard Carter (though one can never be quite certain of every birth country).

So, with there being ten Englishmen for every Scotsman, it is no surprise they have invaded Loch Ness. But where are the Nessie loving Scotsmen? Who has stepped up to the plate for home grown research and hunting in times past?

Well, there was dear old Alex Campbell who stood up for the monster many a time. As a result of this, he has become the especial target of the sceptics. But that is another article in its own right. Constance Whyte, who wrote "More Than A Legend" is an uncertainty. I don't know if she was a Scot. The aforementioned Alastair Boyd has a Scottish sounding name, who knows?

All in all, a meagre harvest as Scots have stood back and let the English dismantle their monster. Come on, lads! We can do better than that. Will independence send the English sceptics homewards tae think again and spawn a new generation of Scottish monster hunters? I would say probably not, but who knows.

And should any English sceptic take this article seriously? I would say probably not. After all, they don't take anything else this blog says seriously.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Those Loch Ness Investigation Bureau Films

Some readers may have read my comments and others on the whereabouts and accessibility of the films taken by the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau during the 1960s. Though no one is expecting any of these films to be game changers, they are nevertheless part of the tapestry of the eighty year long search for the Loch Ness Monster and a minor debate has arisen as to their current whereabouts.

For those who don't know, the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau was an organisation set up in 1962 with the objective of solving the mystery of Loch Ness once and for all. Ten years later, they were disbanded having failed in that objective (though some disaffected and now sceptical members may have left believing the mystery was solved in more mundane terms).

Though various experiments were attempted in pursuit of the monster, the mainstay of investigation was the surface watches using 35mm cine cameras with telephoto lenses. These cameras were either mounted on fixed platforms or taken around the loch on vehicles.

During that time a group of films were shot with varying degrees of success. The only well known one is that taken by Dick Raynor in 1967, but there are others and Roy Mackal in his "The Monsters of Loch Ness" mentions another fourteen such films. However, I only recall ever seeing the LNIB's Raynor film in the public domain.

So do these films still exist? If so, what is their state and whereabouts? How do they compare to what people like Roy Mackal documented in his book "The Monsters of Loch Ness"? The one film that generated most interest on blog comments was an alleged filming of the Loch Ness Monster on land taken in June 1963. Though not likely to be of great value since it was taken at a range of nearly two miles, the interest of myself and other Nessie-philes was piqued. 

Deciding to take the initiative, regular reader, Peter, established email communications with Loch Ness researchers, Adrian Shine, Dick Raynor and Henry Bauer to find out more. His findings are reproduced verbatim below in italics.


I am going to partially “de-cloak” here (allusion to Star Trek), and talk about  more details concerning the LNIB and its film cans.

My name is Peter, and Roland is familiar with me.  I have been lurking on Roland’s webblog for some time, and I always enjoy his postings.  At times, I read the comments sections, but not often.

However, recently, Roland posted an article about land sightings at Loch Ness, and I also read the comments that followed.  This blog article, coupled with the subsequent commentaries, provided the impetus for me to do some more spadework on this topic.

This commentary provides a “map” as to what I have currently learned.  All errors in interpretation of what others have told me are entirely my own. 

I have had correspondence with Adrian Shine, Dick Raynor, as well as Henry Bauer.  All these men were courteous, cooperative, and informative in their responses.  So any brick-bats that I have seen in the comments section were not in evidence in my experiences.  I thank all of them for taking the time to engage in these telepresence “dialogues.”  I should add here that the alacrity with which I was able to obtain the information that I impart here is a product of the Internet Age, as attempting to do this in the “by international post” manner of times past might have taken months.

I should reiterate here that this commentary of my own should not be considered comprehensive, although I attempted to ask a good many questions.  For example, one question I recently asked Dick Raynor was if he could guess-timate the total number of film shoot sequences displayed in the 35mm film cans, and his response was “I do not currently have a useful opinion on that.”  I interpret that to mean that such statistical data is not yet in hand--but I am hopeful that Dick may eventually one day be able to provide this type of numerical data. 

My questions and interest have centered around the LNIB film cans, and the June 1963 event, where potentially a large creature came on shore and was filmed doing so.  Due to the fact that these men were exceptionally informational in their responses, I am going to quote and use data from their correspondences with me so that others can understand context.

Let’s begin with information from Adrian Shine.

When Adrian inherited the LNIB film cans from David James in 1976, it was already known that the film footage was problematic—Adrian described them as “less than spectacular.”  (These problems will be described further on here by Dick as to the quality of the footage.) Compounding that, all the film footage taken by LNIB volunteers was of the 35mm size, the exact counterpart that many feature dramatic films are shot in, as well as projected in theaters.  As Adrian told me, these 35 mm filmstocks “required nothing less than a cinema” for projection and viewing.  So Adrian was not able to see the contents until sometime in the early 1980s, when he was able to arrange a viewing session at the Eden Court theater in Inverness.  Adrian went on to state to me that “I concluded then, that none of the films contained useful research material.  It was also a fact that it seemed difficult to identify the individual sequences” as detailed by LNIB reports.  (Again, Dick’s inputs will provide some context as to why.)  Later on, Adrian passed on all the cans to Dick Raynor.

According to Adrian, Dick Raynor produced clips from all the sequences on hand by a high-resolution printing process.  Subsequently, due to a researcher request in the past, Adrian further had all the film footage digitized.  However, it is not clear to me--based on the information that Adrian kindly provided--whether current researchers can have access to this digitized film footage for independent research purposes if they make a request to do so.

Additionally, Adrian informed me that all LNIB paper reports containing sightings that were collected have been freely available for over a decade at the following URL link:

Adrian further disclosed that individual sighting records are currently being prepared for exhibition at the Loch Ness Center as well, even though there are some issues currently about permissions and addresses of eyewitnesses (that are in the process of being resolved).  And Adrian suggested I get into contact with Dick Raynor.

Dick has been very helpful in responding to the voluminous set of questions that I have had.  The bulk of the information about the LNIB films comes from him.

Based on what Dick has told me, the conclusion that I have personally reached about the LNIB effort is that it was an amateur enterprise, and that it lacked much scientific and technical coordination.  It seems that there was no master catalogue produced of film shoot sequences, neither was there any film can tracking, nor does it seem that there was any effort to provide some simplified technical cinematography training to the volunteers in regards to shooting film.  These apparent shortcomings are borne out by Dick Raynor’s responses to my inquiries.  However, despite the fact of these hobbles, Dick has been engaged in  excellent work, which is currently on-going as he gets time.

Dick provided the following illuminations.

a)—The film cans in Dick’s custody were not catalogued at all:  “There is really no rhyme or reason to the reels and cans, I’m afraid.”  That is, there was no tracking/identification data on them. “They are a collection of slightly rusty tins of varying sizes with no original labels, some containing positive film, and others containing negative material, usually wrapped in preservative tissue.”  He has seen the 35 mm filmstocks projected “a few times.”  All the 35mm films are black-and-white.

b)—He also has seen some 16mm versions of some of the 35mm film stock sequences, which he believes may have been among those shown at some LNIB Xmas parties (and other functions such as volunteer recruitments) in London.  He further told me that “From memory, some of the items on the 16mm film reel [that he has seen] are not in the 35mm material in hand.”  He further adds that it was difficult to see [recognize?] anything on the 16mm films at all “with the exception of Tim Dinsdale’s film and my own [which was taken in 1967].  Of course, I have studied frames from these films using modern digital software, which is far superior to what we had 20 years ago.” 

But there may be other 16mm film cans out there, and Dick would like to be able to learn what is contained as content on those, and maybe even get a chance to view them.  As do I, because I would like to find out if the June 1963 potential “creature on the shore” sequence exists currently, and if so, what this clip actually depicts.  (Subsequently, Dick suggested I get into contact with Henry Bauer for more insights about LNIB films.)  There is also a possibility that the June 1963 potential “creature on the shore” event may only be extant on 35mm film stock, but the whereabouts of this particular film footage sequence is currently unknown.

c)—“With few exceptions,” according to Dick, the films were shot by people who had never used a motion picture camera before.  “The quality is mostly very poor, with soft focus and incorrect exposure being common, leading to a lack of contrast.”  (Contrast helps with seeing detail, as well as with resolving things.)  Indeed, Dick has told me that none of the material he has viewed up to this point has been “meaningful”—that is, shows a large creature unknown to science in the Loch.  Many of the sequences show wakes on the Loch (that Dick feels are products of wind phenomena and boats), as well as bird activity on the Loch’s surface.

d)—One of Dick’s on-going projects is the attempt to “match up” LNIB film sequences with the paper records.  (Only a few sequences have been successfully matched to the reports, according to Adrian.)  Dick is attempting to do this matching up by identifying the background shown in the film shoot sequences, and then hopefully, the camera location.  I consider Dick’s effort near-Sisyphusian, and everyone should take their hats off to him for attempting to pursue this. 

e)—Both Adrian and Dick confirm that there are indeed filmed LNIB 35mm sequences shot that are no longer extant among the existing 35mm filmstock that Dick has.  This includes the June 1963 event that potentially shows a creature coming onto the shore.  According to Dick, he has seen a 1963 vintage film clip, but it does not show anything like the forementioned described event.  As Dick told me, “The two week period of the 1963 expedition was lucky enough to have several sightings.”  He is also currently working on attempting to identify other filmed event sequences that are not among the 35mm film cans he has in hand. 

Based on Adrian and Dick’s commentaries, it seems doubtful that the LNIB ever captured anything of significance dealing with the Loch Ness creature on cine film—that is, the 35mm cine film shoot clips currently in hand. 

However, not everyone shares this viewpoint.  According to Henry Bauer, he feels that there were three occasions where there were “possible filmed contacts” by LNIB personnel regarding creatures unknown to science in the Loch.  He specifically mentions the June 1963 “creature on the shore” event as one of these possible contacts.

Indeed, the story does not end here.  Henry has demonstrated willingness to aid in the effort to possibly locate potential locations of where other LNIB 16 mm film cans reside, and I thank him for that.  And if these efforts subsequently bear fruit, I will provide further updates as they become available.

If anyone has further information on LNIB film cans or film shoot sequences, whether 35mm or 16mm, please post your comments.

So, there you have it. I thank Peter for his efforts and to Adrian, Dick and Henry for their cooperation. Where does this leave us? Firstly, it is good that the films that are available have been digitised and enhanced. It sounds like some of them may end up being displayed at the Loch Ness Centre at Drumnadrochit where Adrian is curator. But how may those who live further afield view these facets of the Loch Ness story? Given that the items are now digitised, the next step to streaming them online is not rocket science. It is also a matter of interest as to what conclusions the researcher who received the digitised films came to. What did he or she find out about these films?

I also had a quibble about Adrian's comment that all LNIB sighting reports were available online. I understand that there are hundreds of such reports of varying clarity and description gathering dust in boxes. I suspect it is the best ones that made it into the LNIB public reports. Loch Ness researcher, Tony Harmsworth, informs us that about a thousand reports were collected by the Bureau (although not a few were of a dubious nature).

Sadly, the alleged land sighting film appears to have been lost and we may never know what this film allegedly showed, But the others are there, enhanced and digitised. Will they ever see the light of day or will they forever remain under wraps and beyond the gaze of thousands of Loch Ness Monster fans?