Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Tim Dinsdale's Son on Nessie

BBC Cambridge broadcast their program "Inside Out East" and did a feature on Simon Dinsdale and his belief in the Loch Ness Monster (pictured below on the left). We know about his father's famous footage and I was interested in what he had to say about this and Nessie in general.

First he had no doubt that his father had seen the monster. Any talk about fakes or boat misidentification do not wash with him. If his father had reconsidered and decided it was a boat, his son did not know anything about it and in my opinion would not in good conscience have appeared on the program. So it looks like Tim believed he saw the monster to his dying day.

Simon also mentioned two sightings he had. One was of a black object sitting on the loch which he and his family saw but not his dad, who I presume was driving!

The second sighting I already knew about from later editions of Tim Dinsdale's "Loch Ness Monster" book. In 1970, they were in choppy waters near Urquhart Castle and then a long pole like object appeared out of the water which sped past them before submerging again.

The interviewer suggested a tree (perhaps in one of those strange skeptical scenarios being propelled to the surface by gases!) but Simon said nothing was found on a search. It's always good to hear eyewitness testimony especially being held with conviction years later.

The account itself is recounted in Tim Dinsdale's book "Monster Hunt" aka "The Leviathans". Here it is:

"On August 30th, while out drifting at the mouth of Urquhart Bay late one afternoon, I spotted a tall, fat 'telegraph pole' sticking up from the water, perhaps half a mile distant. I shouted 'look at that' to my eldest son and Murray Stuart, another experienced monsterhunter, who were standing in the cockpit, as I dived into the cabin for my binoculars. It was choppy at the time, and equipment was safely cushioned on the seats. I heard both comment excitedly ... 'My God, look at it go.'

In a matter of seconds the object had streaked across the water, disappearing behind a promontory near Urquhart Castle. It was such a brief experience - and there had been no time to focus cameras - but it had been entirely real. Starting the motor, we plunged through the choppy water but found no evidence of anything on the surface. Discussing the sighting, we concluded it must have been the head and neck of one of the larger animals. It must have stood ten feet at least out of the water. My son's eyesight is exceptional, and Murray sketched the object he had seen which he declared thickened near the water, curving slightly at an angle when moving fast.

My own view was momentary; and since I did not see the movement or the curvature, I believed the neck was moving away from us when first sighted, Then it must have turned to the right just I went into the cabin.

Now don't tell me ... they all were fooled by a bird that took fright and skittered quickly across the water. Ten years watching the loch obviously counts for nothing!

The programme can be viewed until I think the 21st December on the BBC iPlayer at this link.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Video on Nessie Hunting "Basics" II

I shot this video at Foyers Pier in July and talked about how I "monster hunted". A basic discourse, nothing about setting up underwater camera and sonar. Just the basics!

And, no, Nessie did not break surface as I filmed unfortunately. The first video of this series can be found here.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

New Book on The Loch Ness Monster

Tony Harmsworth, former curator of the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre has published a book on Loch Ness, Nessie (as others and himself sees her) and his life living at the side of Loch Ness.

Further details can be had from his website and once someone buys it for my Christmas, I will review it!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Latest Nessie Photos

The latest Nessie pictures are out and the obvious question is it Hoax, Misidentification or Nessie? I wouldn't like to say but the account by the witness Richard Preston is as follows from the STV website:

Richard Preston, who has redesigned the castle grounds on the loch’s southern shores, snapped the image of a mysterious three-humped object on the water.

“I am not saying it is the monster. But I don’t see any reason why it cannot be some sort of a sea-going beast,” Mr Preston said.

The 27-year-old Yorkshireman, who is based at Broughton Hall near Skipton, was working at the castle when something close to the opposite shore caught his attention at about 3pm. “It was a glimmer,” he said. “It was like a reflection. The rest of the water was still and dark. It was quite odd.”

Mr Preston snapped a series of images on his mobile camera but when he turned around, the mystery object had disappeared.

“I was gobsmacked,” he said. “I have been working here for the last two or three years and have never seen anything like it.”

Naturally, the sceptics hold Mr. Preston to his initial words and say it is a reflection of the house on the opposite side of the shore (but why is the other house not reflecting?). The width of the phenomemon even looks the same as the house. The shadows on the grounds of Aldourie Castle also indicate the sun is somewhere behind him making the reflection hypothesis plausible.

The other point to note is that the object is white and Nessies tend to be dark in colour. Okay, pack up and go home? Well, maybe not quite.

One of the snaps (three I think) is below (copyright Richard Preston). The second is my zoom in.

The zoom is quite pixellated but its shows two things. First is the three part nature of the phenomemon which has prompted a three hump interpretation and secondly the the three dark lines which are seen above the "humps" from the observer's point of view suggested as shadow by some.

Now one could presume the dark lines are the house roof being reflected but my rudimentary physics suggests that should be "below" from the observer's point of view. But then again since the sun is shining behind the observer then that is where shadow would be if it was a raised object.

Can a reflection of a fairly uniform structure like a house produce this segmented effect? No doubt a critic would say "yes" via some mirage effect adding a shimmer effect. There is always a plausible yet perhaps not probable explanation for these things. Mirages do occur on Loch Ness. It is all down to when the picture was taken and the ambient weather conditions.

As for the shadow effect, This needs further explanation beyond the obvious one of a real shadow cast by a real object. Over to the sceptics who specialise in optics!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The DeNessiefication of the Loch Ness Centre

Take a look at the two flyers for the Loch Ness Centre in Drumnadrochit.

The one on the left I picked up at Edinburgh Airport a few days ago. The one on the right I picked up at Loch Ness in the early 1980s. Can you spot the difference already? The latest one has no mention of Loch Ness' most famous attraction, the right leaves you in no doubt about it. This is what I call the "denessiefication" of the place formerly known as "The Official Loch Ness Monster Exhibition".

In fact, looking inside the new brochure, they seem to go out of their way to not say much about Nessie at all. The tenor of the exhibits is certainly gauged to steer visitors away from any notion that Loch Ness may harbour a large creature. It was no surprise to learn that Adrian Shine, Nessie Skeptic, wrote much of the exhibit material. In fact, the only time the word "Nessie" appeared was in connection with the shop which visitors are inevitably funnelled into at the end of the exhibition.

Contrast with the old brochure which can't stop talking about Nessie! The opening words are these:

"Opened in 1980, the Exhibition has forced sceptics to take Nessie SERIOUSLY."

Ironically, the Centre has now joined the sceptics and leads them!

Friday, 12 November 2010

More on David James

Continuing our intermittent tour of Tarasay House on Mull where the David James, Member of Parliament and Nessie Hunter lived we come to the press clippings.

Two rooms are devoted to Nessie memorabilia in the stately home. I have already shown the famous Sir Peter Scott painting of two Nessies in a seperate post but David James was also an avid collector of Loch Ness press clippings.

The first one shown here takes me back to 1975 when the famous head and neck Rines photographs hit the front page of newspapers worldwide. It was quite a furore and the press picked it up with glee.

But the formation of the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau in which he played a large part also features in his clippings as this clipping from 1962 shows.

David James also contributed articles on the Loch Ness Monster and these were collected as well. This one was a reprint in some magazine originally written for The Field magazine on November 23rd 1961. The resolution on the image is good enough to zoom in and read the article yourself. There is also a small clipping there which mentions the well known film taken of a possible Nessie around that time by I think Dick Raynor (though he has since decided it was birds).

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Frank Searle

Does anyone raise the hackles of the typical Nessie believer more than Frank Searle? Exposed as a hoaxer and general charlatan, he has earned a place in the annals of Nessie Lore for all the wrong reasons.

Since revisionism of Nessie icons is "Plat Du Jour" then why not Frank Searle? Perhaps his reputation is 100% unreformable, but let us see how far I get.

To begin on a personal note, I have had three involvements in the Frank Searle story. The first was when I met him personally in 1982. I was a student who cycled up to Loch Ness to the Altsigh Youth Hostel for a week of "Nessie Hunting". I made my way to his base at Foyers and came upon a rather tatty looking caravan and had a look for him inside. The walls were covered with various clippings, monster-like photos and notes by Frank. Nothing that excited the imagination so I went outside to see him making his way towards me smoking a cigarette. I introduced myself and we chatted about the monster scene. I can't remember now all what we said but there was a bit of the "them and me" about his situation with other "hunters".

Unbeknown to me, his time there was numbered and he was to be gone within a year or so. Around that time, I was in Glasgow coming out of a city centre library and got talking with a lady who knew Frank Searle and defended him against his adversaries. She gave me a booklet by him which turned out to be a book which had been pulled from publication. It was quite a diatribe against Loch Ness personalities known and still active today but I will come back to that later.

Finally and years later I was in contact with Andrew Tullis who was making a documentary about Frank Searle and asked me if I had any idea where he was. I did not, but I volunteered to look around Edinburgh in case he was still in Scotland. I drew a blank but Andrew did not as a speculative ad in a treasure hunting magzine led to his home in Lancashire but ironically he had only died a few weeks before. You can find out all in his documentary "The Man who Captured Nessie".

Fate had conspired to deny Frank Searle a final word on TV but we have his final book.

I was not minded to put my copy out on the Internet but someone else did and it can be found here courtesy of Mike Dash who writes on Frank here. It seems that Frank Searle, being dead, yet speaketh. A second link for Frank's booklet is also here.

So now is the time to review possibly the most controversial book on Nessie and her believers and skeptics called Loch Ness Investigation: What Really Happened.

The backdrop to the short book is warfare. War between Frank Searle and those stationed on the other side of the Loch at Drumnadrochit. Those under fire include Adrian Shine, Tim Dinsdale and others still around today. One is even insinuated as a sexual pervert, others as money grabbers and all as generally unsavoury. He counter-accuses those who accuse him of an attempted Molotov Cocktail attack on their boat. Clearly this is a book where one has to tread carefully else libel may be the dish of the day.

Now his accusation of profiteering on Nessie is hardly a revelation. Loch Ness is a major tourist attraction (even more so then) and this will inevitably attract entrepreneurs. That is nature of capitalism and free enterprise. Just because he quotes some metaphorically salivating at that prospect is really neither here nor there.

Nessie equals money, full stop. I don't take a purist view on this, I just ignore it. Unlike some, I have not given up my job to look for Nessie and so do not feel the pressure to supplement any pension or savings I may be relying upon with freelance Nessie work.

Frank tries and sets himself apart and aloof from this but this smacks of the hypocritical if he was already faking pictures for media money. The matter of Tim Dinsdale is interesting in this respect as he accuses him of asking for a fee equivalent to at least £2000 in today's money to act as a professional guide for a Japanese TV team over to make a documentary.

Now this I tend to believe. As I said, no one is a 100% liar or a 100% truth teller all the time. Some of what he said is by implication true - but what?

Dinsdale proferring his services for money? Why not I say? We need to dismiss this image of monster hunters as people detached from human nature and puritanically focussed on the big prize of the irrefutable picture or film to the exclusion of all else.

Frank Searle is of course the perfect example with his live in lovers and his story about decking Nicholas Witchell when he discovered him snooping around his base. Big deal, I say.

Drug taking and booze sessions amongst the student volunteers of the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau? Is that all? What about orgies I ask? Well, perhaps that is going too far but that was the Hippy 60s after all.

Human nature red in tooth and claw. Frank Searle helps dispel any notion we may have that Nessie hunting is akin to a bit of congenial bird spotting in a leafy booth. I won't accept his more extreme suggestions but in general there is a grain of truth in some of his observations. Nessie people, like Frank Searle, are imperfect. We just have to take a look at ourselves to begin to appreciate that.

So, if anyone says Frank Searle was a 100% liar, take it with a pinch of salt.

UPDATE: As it turns out, Monster Researcher, Paul Harrison, did locate Frank before his death and conducted interviews with him that he intends to publish this year. Watch this space.

You can also find an archive of Frank Searle's newsletters here.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Seagull and the Surgeon's Photograph

Is there a seagull present in the Surgeon's Photograph? The thought never occurred to me until some years back when I read Edward Armstrong's book called "Sticking My Neck Out" which primarily focusses on the "escaped elephant" theory of the Loch Ness Monster. There is however a section on the idea that a seagull can be seen flying near to the left of Nessie in the famous 1934 picture.

The problem is that you are not likely to see this on any image you may care to consult apart from the one reproduced in Constance Whyte's book "More than a Legend" published in 1957. Armstrong quotes Whyte from her book who says that the chemist who developed Wilson's photographs made a second negative for himself and a print of the second less well known photograph. It is from this second negative that Whyte produced her print for the book.

This led Armstrong to postulate that there were three negatives.

Negative 1: The original bought by the Daily Mail which is probably now lost.
Negative 2: A copy made of the original by the chemist.
Negative 3: A replacement for the lost original made form a print perhaps in 1934.

Based on this theory, he suggested that negative 3 produced a higher contrast image that blotted out the bird image.

Armstrong took the Whyte image and zoomed in on this feature in his book and the image does indeed look like a bird in flight. That image is reproduced below though it is not of great quality because it is an enlarged photocopy printed onto a self published book which lacks the quality of a professional print. Nevertheless, Armstrong calculates that if this is indeed a standard sized bird then the length of the neck has to be at least seven feet and not the 12 inches of the Spurling confession.

To verify this with the aid of modern PC technology, I scanned in the photo from my own copy of the Whyte book and zoomed in for a closer look which is shown below. The image is somewhat different but you get the same impression of a bird in flight.

What do we make of this? Is it a bird or is it something added later such as a defect on the print? How does one distinguish between these two cases? If it is a bird then the Spurling hoax theory is untenable, if it is a defect we just move on.

Just to prove that Nessie believers do not swallow every pro-monster idea, I tend to the idea that it is a defect on the print. You will notice on my own scanned picture that there are darker areas to the left and right of the bird image which are not apparent on Armstrong's photocopy version. The fact that they can form a straight line suggests they are part of the same thing - a defect. Armstrong himself thought there may be a second bird which I presume to mean the mark to the left of the main bird image.

In fact the lesser known photo in the Whyte book also has a similar defect in a similar area which backs up this argument. (Note that despite all this Nessie skeptics doubt these two pictures came from the same four plates).

What do others think?

Saturday, 9 October 2010

More on Torosay House

I posted something on David James' house with its Nessie exhibits a while back (see link).

But here is a delightful object which I photographed when we first entered the house and alerted me to the Nessie possibilities of the place.

The image is a bit shaky but the form is unmistakeable as a model of Nessie or to be more precise the Nessiteras Rhombopteryx version of Nessie. You can see the tail to the right and the lowered head to the left.

It appeared to me to be a plaster cast of some sort and the flippers you can see were damaged in the past but repaired. I imagine it was made in the late 1970s during the media hype concerning the Rines photographs which inspired the Sir Peter Scott painting from which I think the model is derived.

(I have since found out the item was sculpted by Lionel Leslie).

Friday, 1 October 2010

The Plausible versus the Probable

This blog occasionally (always?) takes on what is the new trend in Skepticism. It has always been around a long time but currently it is making more noise than usual and it is no surprise that Loch Ness Monsters should come under their cannon fire.

Recently I have been defending the Spicers who claimed in 1933 to have seen Nessie cross the road (to get to the other side no doubt).

If one is a skeptic then it is bad enough to suggest large entities inhabit Loch Ness - but to also forage onto land offends logic in the extreme!

I thought I had laid to rest any notions of otters or deers crossing in front of the Spicers but Alexander Lovcanski put out an interesting piece that the Spicers saw a mirage enhanced otter that day. His analysis is here.

Okay, it deserves to be aired and analyzed. I put some questions to Alexander and then went away and thought about it.

I asked myself a seemingly simple question. What was the probability of the Spicers and this misidentified otter coming together in such a way to produce this effect? Or to put it more precisely - Nessie hit the news in April 1933 and the Spicers had their experience four months later in July 1933. What was the probability of otter, car and conditions confluencing in this miragical manner within the 81 days between the first public announcement of a sighting (the May 2nd edition of the Inverness Courier and the Spicers' encounter on July 22nd)?

I did some sums and came up with my own answers. The odds against it happening in that four months was about 2330 to 1 against. In other words, it was not at all likely to have happened. I have laid out the calculations at the end of this post for those who may want to suggest improvements in my assumptions.

I would add that changing the figures to lower the probabilities will present another problem to the skeptic. If one make the event more probable then over 77 years why have there not been more such misidentifications on land?

Now the retort may be that this is still more likely than a lumbering antediluvian crossing a road. But isn't that what the debate is all about? If you believe there is a large entity in Loch Ness then a land excursion moves from the impossible to the probable (depending on what you think it is). If you don't believe in such an entity, obviously no road crossing will ever occur.

But let us learn this lesson. Something may be plausible, but then ask yourself - is it probable?


Calculate the probability of seeing an otter at the right position on the road
at the right distance in the right weather conditions between April and July 1933!

1. Otter Population around Loch Ness

Let us assume an even distribution of otters around Scotland's shores and a recent article estimated 7,000 otters live in Scotland.

Coastline of Scotland = 11800km - 16491km (depending how accurate you wish to be)
Coastline of Loch Ness = say 1% of Scottish coastline
7000 otters in Scotland - say 1% proportionately at Loch Ness = 70

The otter population suffered under hunting and pollution but has been on the increase in recent years so double for larger otter population in 1930s = 140

2. Number of times an otter crosses the road on Loch Ness during day = 0.5

This is not so easy to assume. Most otter activity is at dawn/dusk and near water courses so a 4pm crossing near dry ground is most unlikely. But for the sake of this study we will assume an even distribution of otter activity but a daytime crossing is still a rare event.

3. Road perimeter of Loch Ness = 85km = 85000m

Eliminate 55% off road which does not pass Loch side = 38250m
35% is Between Fort Augustus and Foyers 10% is around Drumnadrochit
Eliminate 10% which is too high above shore for otters to traverse
A lot of otters are never seen because the roads are not near the shore or the road is high above the water.

So drop the number of otters to account for the lack of road:
Correspondingly drop number of otters = 77

4. How much of the remaining road is conducive to the special mirage conditions of the article?

The requirement is a gently ascending road over 100-200m. I have driven around the Loch quite a few times and a lot of road is bends, long stretches. So not a lot of opportunity but we will be generous and say:
Number of "mirage points" on perimeter (i.e. a hump on an undulating road) = 1
per 4km = 10 overall

5. Where the otter lies is crucial.

If it is too far from the dip horizon on either side then the mirage will not happen. That is why the range is only 1m or +/- 0.5m either side:
Otter has to be laterally within 1 metres of the "mirage zone" to work or 10 * 1m
zones in total = 10m

6. The otter has to be at beginning of "run" to have the desired effect

Or the sighting will be over in a flash. It is no use being half way or near the end at point of first sight:
Probability of otter about to cross the road = length of otter / length of road = 1.1/3.3 = 0.33

So combining all these "otter" factors together:
Probability that one of the 77 otters will cross one such area in one daylight
period = 77 * 0.5 * 0.33 * 10/38250 = 0.0033

7. What proportion of the daylight hours will be best for mirage conditions?

If it is nearing dawn/dusk then the temperature difference between the road surface and air above will not be high enough so for an average 12 hours of daylight deduct 6 hours:

Probability of good daylight mirage hours = 6/12 = 0.5

So otter crossing mirage area probability reduces to 0.5 * 0.0033 =
0.0017 in one day.

Now onto the other party - the car driver.

8. Assume car has to be at a dip approaching this hump for mirage to be effective.

Assume number of dips = number of humps = 10

9. Monster in sight for a "few seconds"

So at 9m/s zone = 9 * 3 = 27m
Car observer has to be within 27m of the dip zone for mirage to be effective or a total zone of 27 * 10 = 270m

That is the practical maximum but what was the actual range for an effective mirage? The small angle for an effective mirage suggest not much so let's third it: 9 * 10m = 90m

10. To see the whole mirage for a few seconds suggests the car has to be just entering the mirage zone

So probability that observer is at start of "mirage zone" = 1m/9m = 0.11

Probability that one car will be in this zone at any time = 90/38250 * 0.11 =

11. Of course, it is the number of cars passing these optimal mirage points that counts so:

Number of cars on south side of road crossing these points in one day = one every ten minutes = 36 during the 6 hour mirage time window

This is based on my own observation in July 2010 between Dores and Whitefield
where a car passed every minute and the assumption that car ownership is 10 times more than what it was in 1933.

Probability that a car will be over one of these mirage dips over 6 hours at any

one time = 36 * 0.00027 = 0.0097

Probability that otter at hump zone and car at dip zone will coincide =

0.0097 * 0.0017 = 0.000016

12. Probability that weather will be hot, no clouds, no shade, no recent rain

= 1 in 3 = 0.33

Overall probability on one day = 0.0000053 or 189393/1 against

13. Sum up over entire period
in question

81 days = 81 * 0.0000053 = 0.00043 or 2329/1 against

Friday, 24 September 2010

The Loch Ness Kelpie

Here is a great wee cartoon about the Loch Ness Kelpie. If you are wondering what a kelpie is (or was) this short film may help.

Now was Nessie a Kelpie, Water Horse or Water Bull? I never could quite tell ....


Sunday, 19 September 2010

Mirages and Nessie

Recently on one forum I frequent, the Spicer sighting has become somewhat of a touchstone on Nessie believers vs skeptics. Of course I could have picked other sightings to have defended Nessie upon because the Spicer sighting is to say the least unusual. But if you get good mileage on that then who knows what else will follow.

Having shrugged off the otter/deer explanations and saying you would have to be hallucinating to think deer or otter were a dragon like creature, lo and behold the next best thing to hallucinating comes up.

In the aptly named skeptic.org.uk website, Alexander T. Lovcanski suggests the Spicers saw an otter in special conditions which produced a mirage. His article is below.

link to article

My reply is below and Alexander may come up with plausible reasons why we should accept his assumptions and resulting hypothesis but I wonder why they don't just apply Occam's Razor more ruthlessly and say the Spicers lied - end of story. Let's face it, if you do not believe there is a large unclassified creature in Loch Ness then you are obliged to come up with some unusual explanations at times. I would guesstimate the odds of someone seeing a larger than usual otter under special mirage conditions crossing the road is thousands to one against. In July 1933, the Loch Ness Monster phenomenon was about three months old. So set the timer running from then and then ask what are the odds between April and July 1933 of someone seeing a larger than usual otter cross the road in front of them under special mirage conditons on the less frequented side of Loch Ness? And remember car ownership was far less in 1933 than today (George Spicer was a director of a Saville Row tailor which somewhat demonstrates the point).

Thank you firstly for confirming my view that suggesting the Spicers merely saw an otter or deer is simplistic to say the least. Something delusional or illusional would be required to even begin to entertain such a theory.

Let me make a few points. Several things clearly have to be in place simultaneously:

1. A sufficiently hot day.
2. A larger than usual otter crossing the road.
3. Witnesses and otter in the proper positions for a mirage.
4. Suitable surface conditions.
5. Witnesses in an expectant mind to misinterpret mirage.

Now you say the temperature was 16 to 18 degrees centigrade on that day and it was already late afternoon at the time. I normally associate mirages with higher temperatures. I read that a temperature gradient has to be 4 to 5 degrees per metre for the mirage to be strong. Can you be sure these conditions were in place?

I understand a large otter is required to be stretched vertically to "monster" proportions by the mirage. One assumes then that a normal otter is insufficient? Also why the need to have the otter go from L to R, is the tail required on the right to produce the impression of a long neck? Can a mirage really fool someone into thinking the object is going in the opposite direction?

Also what about the horizontal? The witnesses say that the creature filled the road. I understand that road mirages work on the vertical best, how do you stretch an otter which has less that a metre visible across a road?

The road surface itself is important in this consideration. What was the composition of the Dores to Foyers road in 1933? We know road works were in progress on the A82 but what about the B852?

Were the witnesses in an expectant frame of mind? Perhaps they were to see something on the water - but on land?!

Also, why have we not heard of other such land sightings if these conditions are fulfilled? It seems nothing else has been heard of in the literature since! Either this is a very rare confluence of events or perhaps even such mirage conditions still do not fool people easily.

It would be an interesting exercise to work out the probability of such an event happening. I know if enough cars pass by that spot then it could happen eventually but despite the large increase in car ownership no further mirages of nessies across roads on hot days have been reported. I suspect your theory predicts more such sightings - or is this one of those one off special explanations?

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Man, Monsters and Mysteries (Disney Film)

For your entertainment below, Walt Disney's documentary on the Loch Ness Monster made in the early 1970s. If you can put up with their ridiculous cartoon Nessie this documentary is a Who's Who of the Monster Hunt of the 1960s. I don't recognise everyone but with the YouTube time counter in parentheses you can spot the following Loch Ness Luminaries:

Not surprisingly, the video has now been removed. If you want it, you can buy it from amazon.com and hope your DVD player does region 1 as it is not available on amazon.co.uk. Happy hunting!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Some Deer Crossing Roads

Would you mistake these videos of deer running across a road for a big, grey, snail-like, prehistoric-like creature?

Thought not, nor did I. Feel free to suggest other clips!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

England's Nessie

As reported by Sky News who have sonar equipment on the case:

article link

Search For England's Loch Ness Monster

Monster hunters have used sonar equipment for the first time to search for a mysterious creature reportedly living in England's largest lake. Skip related content

Sky News filmed out on Windermere with the team looking for proof that the beast exists.

In the last four years there have been seven reported sightings of a long humpbacked animal, now nicknamed Bow-Nessie.

Windermere hotel owner, Thomas Noblett, described his strange encounter in the water, saying: "All of a sudden I felt something brush past my legs like a giant fish.

"And then I was lifted up by a 3ft wave. I've no idea what it was."

During the sweep of the lake, the team spotted a strange 14 metre long disturbance in the water but were unable to detect anything on sonar.

Searching Windermere is a huge task as the lake is 220ft deep in parts and over ten miles long.

Hunt organiser, Dean Maynard, said: "We've had more creature sightings here than at Loch Ness in recent years so we think it's time that Bow-Nessie received more attention."

Last year, a local film crew spotted a 20 metre long object below the surface of the lake but sceptics believe the footage shows a wave from an unseen boat.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

A Painting of the Loch Ness Monster?

I found this picture in a relatively old book on Nessie. It claims to be of a sighting of the monster but the source they claim for it (Mary Evans Picture Library) has no reference to it.

Has anyone else seen this before?

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Final Thoughts on Spicer Sighting

Readers may recall that I mentioned that Rupert Gould had decided that the Spicers had just seen a "huddle of deer". This was probably based on Mrs. Spicer saying that part of the creature looked like a young animal such as a deer and that there was a track found at the spot which some claimed could just be a deer track.

The obvious issue is that the Spicers claimed to have seen something that looked like a huge grey snail with a long neck. Not quite deer I would have thought.

My final point is deer tracks and deer activity. I consulted an author on deer tracking and put the question to him:

"The context is some hillside forest falling down to a road with traffic and then on the other side some bushes leading to the loch side shingle beach.

There is an area of flattened grass on the loch side leading to the beach and on the other side of the road was some kind of track before the forest.

My question is really could this be a deer track but it seemed odd to me that a deer track would cross a road and onto a dead end beach.

Also, when would deer be most likely to cross such a hazardous track/road?
Morning, afternoon or evening?

His reply was that it is possible because deer do "curious things" but ultimately he could not say. The point being that "curious" implies this was not a normal deer track situation. After all, a track crossing a road onto a dead end beach is not the usual deer tracks through forests and moorlands.

The other point the deer author made was that deer activity follows a circadian cycle. That is, deer are most active at sunrise, noon and sunset. In between their movements move to a minimum.

The Spicer sighting was at 1530-1600 and sunset on July 22nd is at about 2152 hours. So assuming noon is 1200 then the midpoint is 1654. In other words, 1530-1600 is near a low point of deer activity and a less likely time to see them (as a side note I saw some deer on the forested passing place road north to Foyers in July but it was at 8:30pm near to sunset).

I also saw a study which showed that deer activity veered away from areas of human activity such as country walk paths which further suggests that deer tracks across roads are less likely.

So in summary:

1. Deer tracks across roads to dead ends is not normal.
2. Deer activity cycle was near a low point during this sighting.
3. Deer avoid areas of human activity.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

W. H. Lane - Monster Hunter

You've heard of Tim Dinsdale, F. W. Holiday, Robert Rines and lots more. But what about William Horsburgh Lane?

Back in the 1930s when the Loch Ness Monster came to the fore, retired Lieutenant Colonel Lane lived at the Tigh Na Bruach residence near Invermoriston with his wife Agnes. Having seen action in the Far East with the Indian army he moved from the heat of the battlefield to another area of contention - Loch Ness.

He was already a man with a taste for the explorer of the exotic and mysterious having written a book on his involvement in Babylonian excavations. As a topographist he joined in the excavation of the 5,000-year-old archaeological site of Kish, 50 miles south of Baghdad (from which his photograph here was taken in 1923-1924).

Now as he settled into the quiet life on the shores of Loch Ness, Nessie reared her compelling head. Lane's interest was piqued and the first we hear of him was in a letter to the Inverness Courier on the 10th October 1933 (extract below). In this letter he commends the theory that the monster is a species of giant salamander. This was based on his experience in Burma where he came upon a four foot specimen in the jungle.

Evidently as the media interest in the monster continued apace W. H. Lane proceeded to write himself into the Loch Ness Monster folklore by publishing the first ever work on the creature entitled "Home of the Loch Ness Monster" published by the Moray Press around March 1934. The cover is shown below and as you can see the salamander theory is given prominence.

This was before the famous Surgeon's photograph was taken in April 1934 and long necked Nessies had not quite taken all other theories prisoner. The book is an interesting little work which I shall review with other Loch Ness Monster titles of 1934 in another posting.

W. H. Lane was now very much part of the Loch Ness investigation and from his shoreside home near Invermoriston he was well placed to scan the loch surface for its mysterious denizen.

This came to the fore when another retired Lieutentant Colonel, Rupert Gould, published his seminal work "The Loch Ness Monster" in the summer of 1934. These two ex-combatants had struck up some kind of friendship as it seems that they were in communication. Gould mentions a letter from Lane a week before his arrival at Loch Ness in which Lane describe an incident where a log came down into the loch as the River Moriston was in spate. Lane followed it with his binoculars whilst those with no optical aid were sure they had seen the monster. The old campaigner Lane was not fooled and watched as the log drifted across to the west side of the pier.

Gould also discusses Lane's Courier letter on the salamander theory but dismisses it on the grounds that no salamander has exceeded six feet and no fossil had been found greater than twice that length.

Whether Lane changed his mind on that theory we may never know but undeterred he continued his watch of the loch and wrote another curious book in 1936 entitled "Eden". This book combined his religious beliefs with his archaeological interests to attempt to pinpoint the ancient location of the Garden of Eden.

Interestingly, the book's foreword is written by Count Bentinck who takes the opportunity to cite Lane's interest in the Loch Ness Monster and claim his own sighting in 1935! Lane also revisits in this book some non-Nessie aspects of Loch Ness which he had previously mentioned in his Loch Ness book (again we will return to this in another post).

But Lane finally got what he wanted - a sight of the Loch Ness Monster. The incident is related in Witchell's "The Loch Ness Story" and tells us of Lane's sighting in May 1945. We are told that Lane was with his wife and two neighbours at their home.

The account relates:

"It was a huge black object. Watching it closely, it remained about two minutes on the surface, after which it suddenly disappeared leaving a big wake on the loch."

Lane again employed his binoculars but this time it was no log. He says:

"There was a slight curve in the wake, which looked, as far as I can judge, as if a moving torpedo was in the water. There can be no doubt it was made by a large, fast-moving object."

And that was that. The following year on the 10th September 1946, W. H. Lane died aged 72 and went to meet his Maker. One presumes he is now fully informed as to the identity of the Loch Ness Monster.

His wife, Agnes, died in 1967 and Tigh Na Bruach is now a Bed and Breakfast property.

So ends this brief description of an unsung monster hunter. No doubt there were quite a few like him but we are unlikely to hear much about them now. Personally speaking, his life intrigued me and I did try to find descendants but I am quite convinced from public records that he died childless and anything pertaining to his work on Nessie is long gone or hidden in the recesses of a dark forgotten attic.

We leave the final words to W. H. Lane from his book.

"It soon became palpable that some beast of huge dimensions did actually inhabit Loch Ness."

We agree and seventy six years on the search continues.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Torosay House and David James

I had the pleasure a couple of years ago of visiting the beautiful Scottish island of Mull. Whilst taking in the sea eagles, multi-coloured houses of Tobermory and the religious island of Iona we decided to visit the local stately home called Torosay Castle (website is here).

I was expecting just another trip round elegant rooms and various items of arts and craft ending in a gift shop but was delighted to find this was also a stately home with a monster edge to it. As it turned out it was the home of the late David James - Member of Parliament and co-founder of the Loch Ness Phenomema Investigation Bureau in 1962. You can read his Wikipedia entry here.

As we toured this place I was enthralled to see items which hearkened back to my youth. The best reminder of all was what looked like the original and famous "Nessiteras Rhombopteryx" painting by Sir Peter Scott now hanging in one of two rooms dedicated to Nessie hunting! My picture of it is below.

It was quite a feeling seeing the original which has regaled many a book, newspaper and postcard. Now looking at the castle website you would not think such treasures were inside (perhaps his son is a little embarrased by it all!) but I am sure they are still there and awaiting the inspection of any Nessie-phile who happens to pass by on their holidays.

I will put up other pictures of my visit in the weeks ahead (the next article is here).

Monday, 23 August 2010

The Motives of Marmaduke Wetherell

There is one aspect of the Surgeon's Photo Hoax theory that has always puzzled me and that was motive.

If we go back to the 1975 newspaper clipping that started Alastair Boyd's investigation we get an insight into why it is alleged that Marmaduke Wetherell faked the photograph. According to his son Ian in that clipping, the Daily Mail had gone cold on Wetherell's expedition and had dropped it much to his father's chagrin.

In response to this, Ian quotes his father as saying "All right, we'll give them their monster". This was all meant to set in train a chain of events leading to the pictures being offered to the Daily Mail via the link man Kenneth Wilson.

All perfectly plausible, but wasn't something meant to happen next? You get the cold shoulder from the Daily Mail, you fake a photograph and sell it to them, they get the media sensation of 1934 and the rights to the iconic image of Nessie for decades to come. Was that the intention of Marmaduke Wetherell? Did he plan to give the Daily Mail the glory of the best picture of Nessie ever?

Somehow I do not think so.

I don't read in the Boyd/Martin book what Wetherell planned to do once the picture was published but it is not hard to guess. The most reasonable explanation for all of this was revenge. He would fake the picture, wait until the Mail was basking in the glory of it and then expose the picture to a rival newspaper. Thus the Mail is jeered across the nation and Wetherell dies a happy man.

Quite clearly this did not happen and I am not the first to question the whole alleged motive because of this. If Wetherell did not follow through on his plan - then was there ever a plan? Now at this point we again enter the realms of speculation because all the main protagonists in this story are dead. When an explanation is offered for something (i.e. the photo was faked for revenge) but these discrepancies appear then the supporters of said theory are obliged to come up with some explanation even though it may not be the probable one.

So why didn't Wetherell apply the Coup De Grace? Why did he snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory? He died in 1939 so that gave him about 5 years to finish the execution of the plot but in my opinion the best time to strike was when the iron was hot and the picture was experiencing high publicity in 1934.

So what could have gone wrong for Wetherell?

1. Did he perhaps approach rival newspapers but they refused to take the bait? Hardly likely considering the ribbing other papers gave the Mail over the hippo tracks Wetherell "found" (see Boyd/Martin book).

2. Had he perhaps intended Wilson to come clean but then the good doctor got cold feet? Possibly, but why not then do it himself or one of the other plotters such as Chambers? Surely our intrepid game hunter would not let the prey escape so easily?

3. Was he perhaps afraid of his reputation being panned if he declared himself? So why didn't he confess when he knew he was dying of cancer with nothing to lose?

Whatever explanation is conjured out of the air, this is another question mark will hang over this story. The motive was revenge but revenge was not applied despite Wetherell's great desire to do so. It is all rather like watching a movie where the plot is going along well but at the very end the crooks don't get caught or the lovers do not live happily ever after.

And while we are on the subject of that 1975 newspaper article there was one or two points made in it that made me think. The relevant text is this:

"Then it was just a matter of winding up the sub and getting it to dive just below the surface so the neck and head drew a proper little V in the water. I took about five shots with the Leica, then suddenly a water bailiff turned up. I suppose he had heard voices and thought we were fishing. Dad put his foot on the monster and sank it, and that was that."

Now this matter of trying to produce a V-wake is contradicted by the actual photograph above which evidently shows a stationary object with no wake and rather a concentric ripple around it indicating the opposite.

Furthermore, we are told by Ian who was actually claimed to be there (as opposed to Spurling who allegedly made the model but did not go to Loch Ness) that the whole session did not last hours but was interrupted in which time five shots were taken as the submarine went "just below the surface". Why is this important? Because it makes no space for that troublesome second Surgeon's photograph to be taken. Again, that photo is unaccountable by this hoax theory.

Do I have any conclusion regarding the whole matter? There are inconsistencies in the story which a good lawyer could get an open verdict on if there was a "Nessie Inquest". I won't say Christian Spurling and Ian Wetherell were lying but neither could I say they were truthful. There are questions which leave me asking questions but I would have to find a real motive for why they lied. I won't pursue that line for now but neither will I let the matter lie there.

For now, digest these thought on my blog of the last weeks and draw your own conclusions.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Summing up the Surgeon's Second Photo

A reprise:

In Alastair Boyd and David Martin's book, Spurling knew nothing about the second photograph of the creature submerging. The authors suggest this is because it has nothing to do with the plot but we have covered the issues with that previously.

Others have offered speculative answers by suggesting the second photo is the toy submarine submerging underwater. This is unlikely due to the destabilising effect of a one foot piece of bouyant plastic wood and the head does not look like the head on the first and famous picture (this is less of a problem if the picture is of a living creature).

The second photograph remains an inconvenient truth to those who believe the Surgeon's Photograph is a fake.

Bu the main piece of evidence calling Spurling's confession into doubt is the alleged motive for the whole episode which I will come to in the next post!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Waiting for Caddy

I see on the cryptozoological forums that potentially good video footage of the Cadborosaurus of British Columbia has been obtained and will be shown on TV in the weeks ahead.

I say "potentially" because too many camcorder "blobs" have fallen short of what may be called proof for many.

I recall the publicity that surrounded the 1975 Rines photos and the attendant scorn that was heaped upon them. The body and neck of a large creature became "bagpipes in a snow storm" on one newspaper headline. Whatever the truth behind those pictures, the keyword is clarity and the more it is absent the more skeptics increase.

But the case for the Sea Serpent swims in parallel with the case for the Loch Ness Monster. Back in 1934, Oudemans speculated that Nessie was an itinerant sea serpent who either visited or was trapped in Loch Ness. There is an underlying link between the two. Strengthen the case for one and you strengthen it for the other. That is why I await these "Caddy" images with interest but restrained hope.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Rupert Gould's Recantation of the Spicer Case

Continuing our analysis of the famous Spicer land sighting, Dick Raynor pointed out to me that in Gould's biography he had changed his mind about the incident. In that book, ("Time Restored" by Jonathan Betts) there is a chapter on Gould's investigation into the monster and the eventual publication of his 1934 book "The Loch Ness Monster and Others".

Betts had access to Gould's own annotated copy and in it Gould had written the words "Were I rewriting the book, I should have omitted this case. I think the Spicers saw a huddle of deer crossing the road. RTG".

Why one may wonder the Volte Face after being so convinced of the genuineness of the case on interviewing the Spicers first hand? Perhaps he had decided that Loch Ness Monsters do not cross roads or had he grown more sanguine on the subject as we know he received some scorn from colleagues and others alike since publishing his book? Perhaps he rethought Mrs. Spicer's comment that part of the animal looked like the head of a young animal like a deer.

These speculations aside, in the manner of the otter explanation, how credible is it that the Spicers mistook deer for a large aquatic creature? I have driven along the Foyers-Dores road many times and it is a rather tight corridor at times with mountain looming up to your side on one side and narrow beaches on the other. If the Spicer location is like that then it is unlikely deer are going to appear out of a wall of stone and then simply disappear on a narrow beach (at least otters have some semblance of doing that). George Spicer reported that he drew up where the creature had crossed and saw nothing. I doubt a group of deer would have been so easily concealed.

And if anyone may say that the Loch Ness Monster cannot appear from stone either then I would say that such a comment was aimed at the idea that deer tend to only appear out of forests. Does the Loch Ness Monster appear out of forests? Is it even small enough to get through tree spacings? I do not think the monster is so mobile and may only go as far as the other side of the road. Why it would do that is left to Nessie behaviouralists!

Of course, this all rather depends where the sighting took place, the Spicers said it was somewhere near Whitefield which is opposite Urquhart Castle. That area is certainly short on "huddle of deer" space. I think the otter theory is more credible - but of course we also debunked that in a previous posting.

Monday, 9 August 2010

More on the Spicer Sighting

This really combines what I said in my last post about the secularization of Nessie and I apply that post's thoughts to this particular sighting.

Skeptics may rightly scold some Nessie enthusiasts for accepting any old reported sighting as a genuine Nessie sighting but on the other hand Nessie believers should not accept any old explanation offered by skeptics.

As said before, the Maurice Burton and Ronald Binns view was that the Spicers had seen a line of otters crossing the road. To account for the bulk on the left and the neck on the right, Burton suggested the adult otter was the "bulk" and some cubs ahead of her were the neck undulations.

So we can accept that and close the file?

Not really. I emailed an otter conservation group and asked a simple question. Do otter cubs follow or go ahead of their parent? The reply was:

"As a rule, cubs would follow their mother, but an excited cub might easily run ahead ...."

So cubs follow their mother - not the other way round as Burton postulated. That makes the otter explanation somewhat less convincing. In a piece of tautology, the skeptic may suggest that in this case the mother did follow the cubs. You are not any under compulsion to believe that leap of assumption making.

One could also add that otters tend to be active mainly at dawn and dusk whilst the Spicer sighting was late afternoon.

It is rare to see an otter at Loch Ness, it is even rarer to see an otter and her cubs. And by all accounts it is even rarer to see the cubs leading the mother.

One may say "it is possible" and I say it is also possible my car will be struck by a meteor this week - possible but not probable. You have to ask yourself if an explanation is not so much "probable" as "reasonable". I do not think the otter hypothesis is reasonable.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

The Secularization of Nessie

You may have noticed a trend in recent years towards an increasingly skeptical frame of mind in treating the more unusually held beliefs about life, the universe and everything. With that comes a definite opposition and even belligerency towards those who hold such fringe views beyond what is accepted by those who champion logic and science.

Now that tends to be focussed in the works of such people as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens when they turn against religiously held views of the world. But their contempt is not just reserved for them but for those who tend to hold views unsupported by science such as UFOs, ghosts and of course our own Loch Ness Monster.

Now I am not saying that one needs to be religious or believe in flying saucers to be believe in a large, unidentified creature in Loch Ness but you can be certain of being treated much the same way by the modern skeptic.

Sad to say, some of the leading spokesmen on the Loch Ness Monster could be classed as "skeptic" in that they do not believe that the Loch Ness phenomemon is anything other than something that can be explained by natural and human phenomenon. Oh for the days when a Dinsdale, Mackal or Gould would hold forth on the reality of large beasts in Loch Ness! Now there is at best silence.

The questions will be asked:

What is easier to believe in: the back of a large unknown animal or just some unusual wave conditions unfamiliar to the observer?

What is easier to believe in: The head and neck of a large unknown animal or just a long necked bird resting in the water?

The principle applied is Occam's Razor - that "entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity" or as some say the theory with the fewest assumptions is usually the best - as long as it also explains the phenomenon in question.

It is more a guiding principle than an axiom but in our case it rests on the statement that a hump-like appearance being explained as a wave formation requires less assumptions than that of the back of a large creature.

Well, not quite. It requires the assumption that the observer of our example hump cannot distinguish between water waves and the back of a large creature. In fact, I would go further - the skeptic theory requires more assumptions that the traditional "large creature" theory for it requires hundreds of assumptions that each observer of each reported sighting over the years is delusional or lying.

The traditional theory requires one assumption - Loch Ness harbours one or more large creatures.

A thousand or more assumptions versus one assumption. Which one would Occam's Razor favour?

Of course, one may say that that one assumption is a pretty big assumption. What is the probability of Loch Ness containing a creature possibly unknown to biological classification?

But perhaps it is not Occam's Razor that is required here but Sherlock's Axiom:

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

Part of the motivation of this blog is to take the Sherlock route and not Occam's. Prove enough so called logical explanations of sightings untenable and whatever remains, however improbable must be the truth.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Classic Sightings - The Spicers

Date: July 22nd 1933
Time: 1530-1600
Location: Between Dores and Foyers heading south
Witnesses: Mr and Mrs G. Spicer
Type of sighting: Land

There is nothing better when talking about Nessie to look back on historical sightings and see what we can glean from these more famous incidents against the larger backdrop of the Loch Ness mystery.

They don't come much more mysterious than the sight beheld by the Spicers on that summer afternoon 77 years ago. The original account first appeared in the Inverness Courier of August 4th 1933 where George Spicer (a director of the tailors Todhouse, Reynard & Co.) described seeing something like a prehistoric beast cross the road in front of him at about 50 yards ahead.

Rupert Gould who wrote the first work on the creature in 1934 read the account but fancied it a pleasantry or hoax and went to London to interview the Spicers and went away convinced their story was bona fide.

Gould's interview we take to be the most accurate record of the sighting and hence reproduce it here.

"They had passed through Dores, and were on their way towards Foyers when, as the car was climbing a slight rise, an extraordinary-looking creature crossed the road ahead of them, from left to right, in a series of jerks. When on the road, it took up practically the whole width of it.

He saw no definite head, but this was across the road before he had time to take the whole thing in properly - it was in sight for a few seconds. The creature was of a loathsome-looking greyish colour, like a dirty elephant or a rhinoceros. It had a very long and thin neck, which undulated up and down, and was contorted into a series of half hoops. The body was much thicker, and moved across the road, as already stated, in a series of jerks. He saw no indications of any legs, or of a tail - but in front of the body, where this sloped down to the neck, he saw something flopping up and down which, on reflection, he thought might have been the end of a long tail swung round to the far side of the body. The latter stood some 4-5 feet above the road. The whole looked like a huge snail with a long neck."

On reaching the point where the creature had lurched across, they could not see whether the loch was disturbed and he had heard no splash but the sound of his car would have covered any other noise. I can concur with these sentiments adding that I was watching the loch between Dores and Foyers this July and can say that the waters were particularly choppy and noisy in this area compared to further south.

Gould made a drawing under the Spicer's direction and this image is taken direct from his book.

Constance Whyte in her 1957 book "More Than A Legend" corresponded with the Spicers and give her own record of the sighting but does not add anything substantive in my opinion. Her drawing (which presumably was supplied by the Spicers) is shown below.

Of course, some take things a bit too seriously and end up with this:

An intriguing tale you must admit and the classic of its genre - the land sighting. Now nothing annoys the debunker more than a land sighting because they are more difficult to explain. No unusual wave formation or distant bird can dismiss them but nevertheless they have to be explained away. Arch-debunkers such as Maurice Burton and Ronald Binns in their anti-Nessie books both agree that the Spicers obviously saw one or more otters crossing the road. Burton puts more flesh on it by suggesting the undulations were young otters and the main body the parent(s). I thought any young would follow the parents, but who knows?

Well, if you don't believe in Nessie, all sightings are misidentifications or lies. Binns also indulges in some libel by suggesting George Spicer was a publicity seeker who embellished his account. It's easy to speak against those who are now in the grave.

Would you mistake a line of otters for a lumbering leviathan? I wouldn't, but such an explanation will satiate those who apply Occam's Razor to everything.

More classic sightings as time progresses.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Follow Up on Surgeon's Second Photo

Feedback from my previous blog suggested that the second photograph could have been achieved because the toy submarine was capable of diving.

My problem with this is that the experts on the subject - Alastair Boyd and david Martin do not see fit to defend this or even mention it as a theory in their book. Hence their reasons to dismiss the 2nd photo on other grounds. Perhaps Spurling said something about the capabilities of the altered toy or they thought it through themselves - they don't suggest it and I accept their silence as proof that a toy submarine with a 12 inch lump strapped all over its hydrodynamics is too unstable to do much else than float.

Here is a picture of such a toy from that period.

Reagarding the plotters rephotographing the best photographs so they knew exactly what to give to the Inverness chemist - again I have a problem with this subplot.

Four plates were submitted to the chemist but only two came out. Perhaps my knowledge of 1930s photogaphy is incomplete but that doesn't sound like the work of meticulous hoaxers to me!

Saturday, 31 July 2010

The Surgeon's Photographs

Any one that is familiar with the subject of the Loch Ness Monster will know about the "Surgeon's Photograph" taken in April 1934 by Kenneth Wilson. In fact, the image this blog uses is an artist's impression of what may have been seen that day.

Or so it would seem to be Nessie but since the publication of "Nessie: The Surgeon's Photograph Exposed" in the 1990s by David Martin and Alastair Boyd everyone seems to have accepted it is a hoax and moved on.

As good a piece of investigative journalism as it is, some questions still nag in my mind and we will visit these as this blog progresses. But today I wish to focus on the second less well known picture associated with this event. The picture is reproduced below.

Now in the expose book this photograph is mentioned in a little detail. The story is that Wilson took four exposures to Ogston's the Chemist in Inverness for development. Two plates showed something and the others did not. The Daily Mail was offered both but bought only the first for publication. The second plate was not collected by Wilson and Mr. Morrison the chemist allegedly destroyed it but kept a print in his wallet for 20 years until it was published by Constance Whyte in her "More Than a Legend" book in 1957. It also seems that even the print is now lost from Whyte's collection and we do not even know what the original uncropped image looks like and any speculation about what is in that uncropped image remain only speculation which can be interpreted either way according to one's bias so I will say nothing further on that.

There are two things that need to be answered in my opinion. The first is the fact that Wilson took the undeveloped plates at all to be developed by a chemist who was not in on the alleged plot (the book makes no allegation on this point). Logic would dictate that to make sure the whole elaborate plot was successfully recorded on the negative, the development process also had to be done covertly so as to make sure the image was just right. It does not make sense to trust the final stage of the hoax to a third party who cannot be trusted. This leaves a question mark on the alleged modus operandi of the hoaxers. Furthermore, we are told that Wetherell destroyed the model after taking the pictures with no recourse to taking them again if the plates did not turn out well by their untrusted third party chemist!

Secondly, and more importantly, is the way the book treats the second photograph. It is summarily dismissed as having nothing to do with the first photograph, looks nothing like the first "creature" and the wave formation looks different and so on.

But one senses that the book struggles a bit here and an imaginary lawyer defending the Surgeon's Photo would have a field day with this. After all, the natural question to ask is "What did Christian Spurling say about the second photo?". Readers may recall that Christian Spurling was the main character in the expose book who confessed that the whole thing was a hoax he took part in with his step-father Marmaduke Wetherell.

Okay, so Alastair Boyd and David Martin would have asked him about the second photograph. It is unthinkable that they would not have asked him about it in their five hour visit. They knew the second photograph was part of the story and it is a certainty they asked about it. What does the book say that Spurling said about the second photograph? The answer is not a word. If Spurling had said it was a fake too then the authors would certainly have mentioned it in their dismissal of it.

They do not and I put it to you, readers, that the reason Spurling is not quoted as saying it was a fake was because he knew nothing about it. But he was involved in the plot - how could he not have known about it if he was the one who made the fake model? After all, it was one of the four negatives submitted by Wilson for development. How did it come to appear on the plates when the toy submarine with a fake head and neck on top clearly could only produce the first more famous picture? Did the plotters produce a second fake monster in the act of submerging? That is the main question. If Spurling's story is correct, there should be no second photograph so we have a slight conundrum here.

Until we can get to the bottom of the story of the second photograph, I will accept Alastair Boyd has got it right ... but I still have this nagging feeling!

We'll visit this famous story again in later blogs.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

More on Foyers

By the modern wonder of Google Earth we can zoom into that monster hunting spot on my last post. If you have Google Earth the coordinates of the pier are:

Latitude: 57°15'31.28"N
Longitude: 4°29'17.27"W

I have annotated the picture with a few items. The lines A, B and C effectively show the limits of the line of sight I would have had from that vantage point. Line B is limited by the head land to the left and extends about 1.5 miles. Line A goes along the southern shoreline but ultimately stops at the distance to the horizon which is marked by line C about 2.5 miles from my vantage point. In practise nothing much will be conclusively recordable at such distances.

All in all, I would say I had theoretical coverage of about 12% but less in practise if any meaningful evidence was to be recorded.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Monster Hunting at Foyers Pier

I was up at Loch Ness recently so a good chance to record some educational footage and describe the sights and sounds of Loch Ness as well as discuss Nessie and Nessie hunting. The building I cannot name is actually the Hydro Electric Power Station which generates 300Mw of energy for the locals.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

"I have lived at Loch Ness all my life and seen nothing!"

So what about these folks who have spent decades by the loch and never have seen a sign of Nessie? Is this a proof of Nessie's non-existence?

Not at all.

Firstly, all the major places of habitation around Loch Ness such as Fort Augustus, Drumnadrochit, Foyers and Dores are not built on the shore line. In fact they can be quite a distance from the shoreline as in the case of Drumnadrochit. So you could spend your entire life in your town and never actually see the loch!

Secondly, it is surprising how much of the loch is not visible from the main roads surrounding Loch Ness. In the case of the south side of the loch, hardly any of the loch is visible and the north side is not great either. In fact, I would say that as you drive around on the A82 and B roads, not even 10% of the roads present a decent view of the loch.

So in the case of our local residents driving off to their jobs in the morning and coming back at a speed of 50mph or more, any view of the loch will be short lived and of low quality as they have to keep one or both eyes on the road ahead.

So perhaps the typical inhabitant spends only minutes per day looking at Loch Ness. Over thirty years that would add up to 850 hours for about 5 minutes per day (allowing for being absent on holidays or being sick). And remember this consists of glances, focussed on other objects such as boats with no systematic scanning of the surface that serious Nessie hunters would employ.

In that light, I am not surprised the vast majority of Loch Ness natives have never seen anything!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Has Steve Feltham become a Part Time Monster Hunter?

I was up at Loch Ness recently and went to Dores to look up resident monster hunster Steve Feltham.

As the Guardian article displayed outside his mobile home says, he became a full time monster hunter in June 1991. But that day I wondered if the title "Full Time Monster Hunter" would reach its 20th anniversary?

As it turned out his home was locked up. I assumed he was at the nearby Dores Inn having lunch but on further enquiry the staff said he was only at his home a few days a week. He had found a girlfriend and spent a lot of time at her place!

Well, if you are not at base every day then can you be a full time monster hunter? If this lady becomes the future Mrs Feltham would she want to take up residence at his former mobile home? I may not be an expert on women but I am pretty sure such a place would not appeal.

Are Steve's days as a full time or even part time monster hunter numbered? Don't get me wrong, 19 years of monster hunting is an achievement of human endeavour and perhaps it is fitting that as the Guardian article said that full time monster hunting made him leave his girlfriend, so a girlfriend made him leave full time monster hunting.

Good luck Steve in whatever you do!

Welcome to the Loch Ness Blog


I have followed Nessie since I was a bright eyed and bushy tailed youngster many moons ago. My views on what Nessie may be have changed but my overall belief that something big and unusual lurks beneath the waters of Loch Ness has not changed.

In this day when anything beyond so called science and fallible human reason is under increasing derision, this blog defends the thesis that the Loch Ness Monster is more than just misconceptions.

Of course we will also follow the personalities and places that have helped shape the Nessie story.