Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Skeptic Theory of Nessie


In this posting I would like to address an interpretation of the Loch Ness Monster which though the most popular has nothing to do with a monster in Loch Ness.

It is of course the sceptical view on what is being seen at Loch Ness. I am not aware of any official name for this theory so I will simply call it the Skeptic Theory. The theory itself can be summed up in the phrase "Deceived and Deceivers" which states that all claimed sightings of a strange creature are either

1. Deceived witnesses who have been fooled by perfectly normal phenomenon.

OR

2. Deceivers who lie about what they have seen.

I think the theory is nicely summed up in the humorous picture above. Let us look at each of these sub-divisions in turn.

THE DECEIVED

It goes without saying that people make mistakes in all walks of life and claimed sightings at Loch Ness are not exempt. All Loch Ness researchers accept that people misidentify known objects and events, the problem is the degree to which it happens in the face of some pretty extraordinary witness claims.

In one sense this theory is the most complex because it employs a large array of items to explain what witnesses claim to have seen. The "deceived" category itself can be further subdivided into three sub-categories.

  • The Object
  • The Context
  • The Person


Firstly, we look at the object under observation. An incomplete list follows:

  • Standing Waves
  • Boats
  • Birds
  • Tree Debris (such as logs)
  • Vegetable Mats
  • Otters
  • Deer
  • Seals
  • Sturgeons
  • Fish Commotions
  • Moose
  • Dogs
  • Rubbish
  • Buoys
  • Rocks
  • Surface Reflections
  • Surface Shadows
  • Gas bubbles


You can add your own definitions to this list. Now since it will be rightly argued that people tend not to mistake otters, boats and trees for 30 foot monsters, the second subcategory of context is generally required. Context is the means whereby the theory attempts to blur the distinction between "object" and "monster". A context will obfuscate the physical perception of the object. Examples of context are:

  • Distance (to object)
  • Time (e.g. light levels)
  • Light Effects (e.g. reflections, shadows)
  • Weather (e.g. heat haze, rain)
  • Seiches (counter-underwater waves)

The idea being that increasing distance makes it harder to identify the object, a dark time of day makes an object more indistinct and seiches can make an object such as a log behave in a counter-intuitive manner.

So proponents of this theory will combine the object and context to reinforce an explanation for a sighting. For example, one explanation of the Spicers land sighting requires "Otters" to be combined with "Weather (Heat Haze)" and "Distance" to produce what is claimed as an adequate explanation.

(Interestingly, some skeptics take the Spicers' original size of 7-8 feet instead of his revised size of 20+ feet but take his revised distance of 200 yards and ignore the original distance of 50 yards. Unbiased selection of data?)

However, these two sub-categories are still not enough to take on the thousands of claimed Nessie sightings (indeed the context is largely irrelevant if the object is close). What has to be added is the human factor or how the human mind perceives the object under observation in the given context. Examples of this are:

  • Inexperience
  • Expectation
  • Hysteria

This category is more controversial since it involves qualitative and subjective elements. Objects are real and solid, context can be determined to some degree but the mind of the given witness is not so amenable to measurement. Consequently, there is less agreement as to the degree of this category's merit.

Inexperience is probably the least controversial element. Some people will indeed fail to recognise an object for what it is because they either have never seen it or have not seen it in the given context (if context is important). People who have spent their lives in urban areas may be more susceptible (though this has to be countered with any knowledge gained from books, zoos, hobbies, etc). However, those less prone to this element would be locals and experienced observers such as anglers, water bailiffs, boat operators and of course hands-on "Nessie hunters".

Expectation is more controversial in its claim that the mental state of the visitor or local resident is somehow "primed" to see a monster in the loch and hence will prejudice their powers of observation. In other words, the person "wants" to see a monster and therefore is more likely to "see" one. Again, there is no doubt that some people will view the loch with this attitude but the question is "How many?" and that is where disagreement arises.

Since it is a safe assumption that the majority of the population do not believe the loch holds a large, unidentified creature then it follows they will not be viewing the loch with such a sense of expectation.

But it has to be noted that "expectation" is normally a pre-condition rather than a continuing one. Once a person begins to process what they are seeing according to their level of experience then expectation will normally tail off as reality sets in. However, if the context mitigates against this (i.e. object too far away, too dark, etc) then the expectation may remain and even heighten.

Hysteria is related to expectation but is more group oriented. It is basically the "crowd effect" in the situation where a group is watching an object in the loch and their expectations may begin to mutually reinforce beyond what may happen if only one person may be present. Richard Frere in his book "Loch Ness" tells of how he managed to whip up monster enthusiasm in a group of people by pretending some distant object was the Loch Ness Monster. An interesting "experiment" (we couldn't call it an experiment in the scientific sense), though we doubt every sighting has such a cheerleader egging on the witnesses!

Another claimed aspect of hysteria is media coverage of the Loch Ness Monster. The idea put forward is that the Press not only perpetuates the Loch Ness Monster "myth" but instills across their readership an unreasonable expectation regarding the beast. The problem with this approach is that newspapers do not take the subject seriously at all. As a result, one should not expect the bulk of their readership to be different on the matter.

As you can see, the interplay of object, context and observer is a complicated affair. In fact, I am not aware of any attempts to successfully model this and come to some hard conclusions. All we have is anecdotal evidence such as the Frere example above.


THE DECEIVERS

One could with tongue in cheek summarise this whole theory in the following way:

The further away the object, the more likely the witness is deceived. The closer the object is, the more likely the witness is a deceiver.

When it becomes untenable to insist that the witness is a victim of object, context or his own preconceptions then this theory in its full blown form still does not admit to the existence of an exotic creature. In such instances, the "safety net" of deceiver is employed (although surprisingly some will continue to insist that witnesses at less than a hundred yards still misidentify common objects). In other words, the account is a hoax.

This part of the theory is mainly targeted at film and photograph but can be applied almost indiscriminately to any and all witnesses whose stories are deemed inconvenient. Of course, photographs of the Loch Ness Monster are emotive and powerful icons. These are the items that stick in the public memory and often motivate and inspire others to research into the subject. If these photos can be proven to be hoaxes and removed from public memory and credulity, then the theory has made advances.

Now, it is admitted that as with reports which are a result of being deceived, so there will be photographs or testimonies that are the products of deceivers (hoaxers). However, in the realm of film and photograph, I am hard pressed to come up with a confession by anyone to being a hoaxer.

We have hearsay about somebody saying something to someone else, but next to nothing that can be verified by more than one witness. The one exception is Christian Spurling and his Surgeon's Photo confession. Does this imply that deceiving the public is in fact less common than proponents of this theory claim? Perhaps, but we move on.

Hoax photographs can be exposed in other ways. The best example was one of Frank Searle's head and neck pictures where it was proven beyond doubt that a wooden post out from shore had been used as the "neck".

But whereas one expose will cast doubt upon one person and their pictures, every other photo be it Hugh Gray, F.C. Adams, Peter MacNab and so on has to be judged on its own merits. So various means will be employed to discredit the photo. Like non-photograph testimonies, the account will be scrutinised solely for errors or inconsistencies to "incriminate" the person. The photograph will be poured over for any tell-tale signs of tampering or damning clues based on field of view, light levels and shadows, etc.

There is nothing wrong per se with these methods, it is rather the non-neutral way in which the picture is handled. Perhaps the most withering aspect of this procedure is the popular "reproduction" technique. Here an attempt is made to reproduce the picture using hoaxing techniques such as models, natural items (e.g logs) or photo development trickery.

Once something that resembles the original picture is produced, the copy is proudly displayed to the world as "proof" that the original was hoaxed. The problem with this technique is that it is a complete non-sequitur and useless as a critical tool of analysis.

The reason being that almost anything can be copied to some degree of accuracy if enough time and resources are applied to the problem. The art world is awash with copies of famous works of art - some of which only experts can distinguish between. If someone can copy something as complex as that, they can copy a blurry picture of the Loch Ness Monster.

Some may be careful in only using tools available at the time of the picture but in truth, apart from image editing software, most of what is available now has been available since 1933 (or close substitutes were on the market). More modern photographs claiming to be of the Loch Ness Monster will be debunked as the product of Photoshop or similar packages. Thus, the tautology of reproducing look-alikes moves from the lochside to the computer screen.

Reproducing a photograph is a pointless act because if in theory a real picture of a monster in Loch Ness appeared, then that too would be reproducable using tools and techniques not beyond the wit of man. Hence, in the context of Loch Ness Monster research, this is a tautological procedure and an unfalsifiable process. Anyone employing this process to debunk Loch Ness Monster photographs should give up as they will only be preaching to the converted.

But even if this reproduction aspect of the "Deceiver" theory was viable, there are still problems. For a hoax has three aspects to it:

  • The Intention
  • The Plan
  • The Execution

What we have only discussed here is the "execution" or the end product in the form of a photographic negative or print. What has not been discussed is how the sceptic proves the "intention" to hoax and whether the skill, time and resource was in place to execute the "plan". Since we suggest here that the "execution" critique is flawed, it therefore does not add anything in pursuit of these two other aspects of an alleged hoax.

As it turns out, unless a confession is forthcoming (to multiple witnesses) or there is a serious flaw in the testimony which cannot be put down to lapsed memory or newspaper error, the "hoax" aspect is unprovable. And the same is true of the ability to "plan" the deception, most anyone (with possibly help from others) can put together such a thing. So unless the incriminating model or tampered negatives are found, nothing can be gained from saying "it is possible for someone to fake this".

So photos can be obviously faked, but reproducing a similar picture is meaningless. What is required is:

  • A verifiable confession
  • The "tools" which did the job
  • Internal evidence from the photograph

I would note that the last point can be a bit of a quagmire since Loch Ness investigators are not always thorough in establishing the facts. One recent example will suffice. The Inverness Courier printed an account of a photograph taken recently in September. The witness was said to have taken the picture at 8:30am but a well known Loch Ness researcher cast doubt upon the picture as a result of this because he (correctly) pointed out that the picture suggested the event happened closer to midday.

As this point, we could have all turned negative on this event and began to walk away from it. However, I contacted the photographer and he said the picture was indeed taken near noon and the paper had misquoted him.

Now one may cynically accuse the witness of backtracking to preserve their debunking - but I call it going to the original source (NOTE: I had not asked any leading questions either - I had merely asked if the newspaper account varied in any way from his own). If it means a key fact is lost in critiquing the picture, then so be it, better to be thorough than shallow. After all, critical thinking needs facts not what suits one's case.

One wonders how many cases have been discarded as dubious when all it took was a rechecking of the facts with the witness?

So the Skeptic theory reigns supreme amongst the general population. But like all the other theories about the Loch Ness Monster, it is flawed. It's biggest problem is its assumptions about witnesses. To not put too fine a point upon it, it regards them as observational idiots.

This flaw has already been discussed elsewhere on this website, such as the Greta Finlay and Spicers cases. Check those articles to see how incredulity is stretched when skeptics try to assassinate witness credibility. There are also plenty of other similar cases which challenge this view of witness competence.

Advocates of this theory will fall back on Occam's Razor and claim that this theory is the best one because it requires less improbable assumptions than any exotic creature theory. Well, not quite. It has to make hundreds, if not thousands of assumptions about every person that has ever claimed to have seen a strange creature in Loch Ness. That is, that every witness was an incompetent observer. Each individual and circumstance was unique, so each assumption is unique.

Now that I do find improbable.



















Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Strange Loch Ness Images on Google Earth

Readers may remember the Sun newspaper article from two years ago which claimed to show a strange object on Loch Ness visible from Google Earth. The image is shown below but a close inspection plainly reveals it to be one of the many cruiser boats with its wash rippling in its wake.



However, a couple of months ago, some stranger looking images revealed themselves as I scanned the same Google image of Loch Ness. They were definitely not boats, buoys or logs and had a strange looking structure to them as you can see below. The images are to the same scale as our boat image above. I found all four of them in the top half of the loch and because of the strange "ball" attached to a snake-like "body" they did not look like the micro-debris that may accidentally fall onto the image as it went through the stages from satellite transmission to Internet image.




If they really were on the loch then they would be 40 feet long by 3 feet wide, longer than the boat which caused the original interest.

As a comparison, I scanned other major Scottish lochs to see if they had similar images. I checked Loch Lomond, Loch Tay, Loch Maree, Loch Awe and Loch Morar but none of them had anything like these strange images. I also checked the land around Loch Ness but to date have not found any similar image. I asked one local expert what forms of junk may be found floating on Loch Ness but nothing sounded like these pictures. So far, I have no satisfactory explanation for these images. Obviously, if they were Nessies, they have a rather weird shape compared to our traditional "plesiosaur" shape which makes one less inclined to say they are creatures. Nevertheless, an explanation is sought.

All a bit strange and so I turn to you readers to help solve this mini-mystery. You can zoom in on the objects via Google Earth or Google Maps by using these coordinates:

Object 1: 57°23'3.76"N 4°21'30.84"W
Object 2: 57°22'7.29"N 4°21'53.41"W
Object 3: 57°21'3.92"N 4°22'30.19"W
Object 4: 57°21'4.96"N 4°23'37.89"W

Have a look at them and tell me what you think they might be and why (as far as I can see) they only appear "on" the waters of Loch Ness. The possible explanations are image debris, image defect, image tampering, unidentified artificial objects on the loch or something unidentified on or just below the loch surface.

Monday, 28 November 2011

The Monster Hunters

This is a general post linking to other postings on people involved in the great hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. As time progresses more people and articles will be linked here.

What is a Loch Ness Monster Hunter? In the eyes of the general public, he or she is an eccentric but mainly harmless person who is searching for an unlikely beast called Nessie and (hopefully) some definitive proof for it that forever silences their detractors.

But in truth they follow in the lineage of Saint George pursuing his dragon or the wealthy Victorian stag hunters who went after the local guide's oft-mentioned and feared water horse.

Some spends weeks if not months at the loch trying to fulfill that mission statement - See Nessie and Prove Nessie. A few even set up permanently by the lochside as they took a diversion from the Rat Race to scan the loch full time amongst the lapping waves, tweeting birds and howling gales. The majority, constrained by family and job commitments, make it to the loch whenever they can over a lifetime to indulge in this most unusual of hobbies.

Others exiled in far flung continents join the new band of e-Hunters as they carefully watch the various webcams trained on Loch Ness for that stirring of the waters or that slightly inexplicable black blob that makes a fleeting appearance on their screen.

Finally, when not at the loch, they continue their pursuit of the monster as it is found on the Internet, newspapers, books and any other resource that is reasonably to hand. Such are the Monster Hunters from days of old to the present day.

Another group which merits mentions are what may be called the Loch Ness Hunters. I drop the word "Monster" because their main motive is not per se the pursuit of a large, unidentified and exotic creature in the loch, but rather adding to the store of knowledge about the loch and its surrounding area. Clearly, gaining a better picture of the creature's ecosystem could be called an indirect pursuit of the Loch Ness Monster as the ecology of the loch tends to put constraints on the beast's identity (unless you believe it has resources beyond the local ecosystem such as in tunnels out of Loch Ness or it is a paranormal phenomenon).

Some combine these hunts with Summer holidays as they drag along willing or unwilling wives and children to the loch with them. Others plow a lonely furrow and disappear down a stream or hedge only to appear again at sunset to fill their stomachs and pint glasses as they contemplate the day's general lack of success.

Although such people tend to work alone, they will occasionally band together in an attempt to maximise resources. We saw that particularly in the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau of the 1960s and the Rines expeditions of the 1970s as people known and unknown lent of their talents to further these escapades.

In that light, should the Monster Hunter be deemed a "professional" or an "amateur"? In my opinion, there is no such thing as a professional monster hunter. They are very rarely paid for their efforts and there is certainly no accreditation at any institution of learning that will confer any kind of qualification. People may bring their own levels of expertise into the hunt such as photography, sonar, biology and local knowledge but as a whole a Monster Hunter is a Monster Hunter whatever else may lie beneath their exterior.

It's a labour of love and to a degree an obsession. Those that see the creature are hooked for life. Some who do not see it quickly enough for their own liking fall away never to be heard from again. For the rest of us, it is a matter of "keeping the faith" in a world that demands the creature be dumped dead at their feet before they consider its existence.

Click through the links below and consider the human side of the Loch Ness Monster phenomenon.


General - the legacy of past monster hunters

General - various monster hunters interviewed plus pics

Some Photographs - here

Tim Dinsdale - herehere and here

Ted Holiday - here and here.

Roy Mackal - here

Rupert T. Gould - here

Steve Feltham - here

Frank Searle - here and here and here and here.

William H. Lane - here

Marmaduke Wetherell - here

Joe Zarzynski - here

David James - here, here, here and here

Richard Carter - here and here

Blog author's own trips and stories - here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Books: "The Story of Loch Ness" by Frank Searle


Frank Searle is well known to Loch Ness researchers and is held in varying degrees of contempt, hatred and sympathy depending on who you talk to. I have already briefly talked of him here but in our occassional series of book reviews we come to his small 16 page work "The Story of Loch Ness" published in 1977.

Frank wrote four books, one which was unpublished and was reviewed by me in the link above but this small work seems to have been privately published and was aimed at a more local level for tourists and other interested individuals. I say privately published because I do not see the work listed at the National Library of Scotland and anything published in the public domain almost inevitably reaches their vaults (finding a copy even in this Internet age is not easy, I will pay £20 to anyone that wishes to part with it). The only reason I could read a copy was due to its availability as an ebook purchase (which you can read about here).

The booklet was published at a time when Nessie interest was at a new high, possibly higher than the 1930s. As a result, many books were published on the Loch Ness Monster aiming to cash in on the heightened public interest. In that regard, Frank Searle's book is no surprise though it has to be said that his other work "Nessie: Seven Years in Search of the Monster" was more aimed at the general paperback market.

Being such a small publication aimed at people new to the subject, one would not expect anything groundbreaking as it runs through various facts about Loch Ness and its famous inhabitant. Once again, Frank's antipathy to large, organised searches is evident as he talks about the failure of the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau or any other visiting teams to find any cast iron proof of Nessie. It seems from his statements that surveillance of the loch by the LNIB tailed off in the last couple of years of its existence. Whether this was because of lack of volunteers, equipment or diversion to other activities is not made clear. However, he uses this observation to elevate the role of the single, lone observer but thirty four years on from the booklet, this method of operation has also failed to yield the final, definitive proof. Clearly, something else needs to be thought out here (and, no, it is not to give up!).

Though Frank Searle saw the monster as plesiosaur-like, he veered towards the idea of a creature that did not need to come up for air, but what he thought it was beyond that is not said. One surprising comment he made was that he did not give any credence to land sightings. I am a believer in this behaviour of the creature but Frank Searle was not convinced due to his belief that they did not breath air and would have trouble getting their large bulk onto shore plus overcoming some of the steeper shelves of the loch side. He also cites the lack of tracks, stripped vegetation (does he assume Nessie has herbivorial traits?) and the assumption that it would be so slow as to be easily photographed.

I don't think these are issues if they are thought through more deeply, and I will address these on a more dedicated posting.

But overall it was a good read and worthy of inclusion in any one's Loch Ness Monster library.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

An Old Bones Story from the Daily Express

As mentioned previously, I trawled through the archives of the Daily Express a while back and came up with some tidbits which though not solving the mystery, add some mystique and humour to it.

This clipping is from the 27th December 1933 and concerns the finding of some unidentified bones. The story is rounded off with the latest reported Nessie sighting.




New Monster Mystery


200 STRANGE BONES FOUND BESIDE LOCH NESS


Daily Express Special Representative


THE Loch Ness monster, though it has remained as elusive as ever during Christmas, has acquired a family tree and heaps of bony remains. While taking experimental photographs at the loch, Mr. E. Dean, a London photographer, discovered nearly two hundred pieces of bone and teeth, some of which the Inverness Museum authorities are unable to identify as belonging to any known animal.


A number of bones among the remains, according to the museum authorities, are bigger than those of a horse, and include what appears to be a talon or claw-bone larger than is found in any known beast or bird.


Yesterday I saw Mr. Dean with a large box of relics which, at the request of the Inverness Museum, he is taking to the South Kensington Museum today tor examination. Mr. Dean emphasises that he did not go to the loch with the intention or even the hope of finding relics, remains, or footprints.


Yet It was in less than an hour that he made this discovery "I was taking general photographs of the loch," said Mr. Dean "I was in a lonely spot on the way to Fort William, on a piece of beach that has never been uncovered before this year."

"While scraping the beach to make a level stand for my camera I uncovered the first bone. I dug a bit more and found hundreds."


Scottish experts state that the age of the bones is about 150 years, though they are not all from the same animal or creature. There are still hundreds of bones left on the beach, according to Mr. Dean, who says that they run in a line right down the beach and under the waters of the loch.


Here is a new problem for monster authorities. What are these mysterious bones? Are they the remains of the monster's elderly parents or relatives? Are they the remains of a hasty breakfast enjoyed by the monster himself, when a youngster way back in 1780?


Or has the monster, hunted by sightseers, pursued by photographers almost as much as a debutante, given up the unequal struggle and died peacefully in a quiet corner of the loch?

Are these bones. In fact . . . the monster?

Late News: Dr. J. Kirkton, medical officer of Fort Augustus, reports that he saw the monster yesterday.

"It bore the resemblance of a boat, but it proceeded with a leaping motion and threw up a considerable volume of spray," he says. "It appeared to be black and about three feet protruded above the water."


So the bones were taken to the Natural History Museum in London but after that we learn nothing else. Presumably the staff there (which at that time included a certain Maurice Burton) diagnosed something familiar but it would have been nice to know what. I suspect Mr. Burton was familiar with the matter but whether he published on it I cannot say for certain!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

More David James Photos

I mentioned recently that Torosay Castle was for sale and that meant an end to the Nessie exhibition there. I have previously posted photographs and comments here and here. So here are the other photographs I took when I visited a couple of years or so ago.

First here are some familiar images from the 1970s Academy of Applied Sciences expeditions. The famous "gargoyle" head can be seen as well as the "plesiosaur" body and the retouched flipper images. I was too young for the 1972 flipper picture but I remember the commotion caused by the 1975 pictures. Although by then a Nessie fan, when I first saw the gargoyle I was struck that this looked nothing like the descriptions that eyewitnesses had afforded to Nessie's head. So, I was always ambivalent about that picture.


In the main room were large number of clippings that David James accumulated over the years and had been put into folders. Here is a selection of some stories which may evoke memories for our readers.


The man in the picture is Sir Peter Scott whose famous painting of two Nessies (also in the clipping) will soon be up for sale.




At one time the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau employed searchlights at night time on Loch Ness in the hope that a nocturnally-inclined Nessie may make more frequent appearances. That is an idea I am sympathetic too but the problem is where to point the searchlight!



The writing above gave a brief opinion of his parliamentary career with a comment about how Loch Ness and the House of Commons could be at odds with each other. A political career or a search for a centuries-old mystery? Well, somebody had to stand up for Nessie in the government! It just so happened that mantle fell upon David James.

I have a quote attributed to David James which sums up the spirit of monster hunting. If anyone can tell me the source of this quote I would appreciate it:

"If any individual or group wants to pursue an independent line of research, all of the information of the bureau is at their disposal ... The Bureau is dedicated to identifying the unusual animal."

So we thank him for his efforts and zeal in pursuit of the mystery of Loch Ness and we finish this short piece appropriately with a fine portrait I saw of the man himself in his stately home.


Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Latest Nessie Sighting (August 2011)

Witnesses: Diane Blackmore
Date: 28th August 2011
Location: Near Lochend
Time: 1000

The sighting reports continue this year with an experience recounted to me by Diane Blackmore. She found my blog having returned home from her Scottish holiday and decided to email her story to me.

Following on from the Hargreaves head and neck encounter in June, Diane also spotted Nessie in her famous pose whilst she was travelling from Nairn to Skye on a bus tour. Her encounter is that bit more unique because she saw the creature face on whereas most such sightings strike a side on pose.

To begin her story, she was at the rear of the bus and looking out over the loch on an overcast day but with no particular thoughts about "Nessie Spotting". In her own words, she describes what happened after Loch Ness came into view southbound on the A82 but still a few miles from the Clansman Hotel:

I was looking out the window keeping my gaze on the water when in the distance I saw the typical body and neck and head of Nessie. She appeared to be emerging out of the water as I saw splashing around her. She appeared to be shiny black in the sun. (Though I know it wasn't a sunny day.)

Adding to the detail about movement:

I saw some splashing like the effect of movement gone on before but I didn't note movement.

The bus continued on its journey as she gazed at this intriguing spectacle which was soon out of sight:

It was all over in a few seconds but I know what I saw. It appeared rounded .... would have to be a blow up model if at all ... but it appeared moving and alive.

I do know that it appeared to be a living creature though, not a wave or a log.

I emailed Diane back for further details and to ascertain some more facts about the event. The location of the sighting was right at the top of the loch which is much narrower than the main body of the loch. She also said that the creature was three quarters of the way across the loch from her which would place the distance at about 350m-400m depending on the exact location.

Based on that information and the fact that she stated that the Clansman Hotel was another ten minutes away after the sighting, the map below speculates on the probable position of the creature.


I asked Diane to supply a picture of what she saw and two were sent to me. The first is how she saw it from the distance stated and she estimated it was 1.5m to 2m out of the water.


And the second picture below is her impression of how the creature may have looked closer up. I asked her about facial features:

I can't say for certain that there were eyes though I did suggest them in the drawing. I was given the impression in the short time that there was a face though so I must have seen eyes and a mouth.


As to what it may have been, she was convinced it was a living creature and not something like a wave or log. I further enquired as to whether it could have been a bird she was looking at. The reply was decisive:

As to it being a bird, well I wouldn't want it landing on my roof! It was a bird x 1000!

At a range of 350 metres or more, I suspect she is right. A bird at such a distance is hardly likely to excite an observer.

And so the sighting ended. Being a shy person, she didn't want to shout out and risk an accident with the bus and when she told the other tourists, some suggested she had too much of the distillery samples but a few accepted her testimony (and, no, she was not drunk!). It is to be noted that Diane saw the creature in between shrub like trees - which would partly explain why others were not so quick to see it.

So what did Diane see? Was it the famous denizen of Loch Ness or something more mundane? Naturally, the skeptically minded will say "bird" because of the long neck. In that regard, a big, impressive picture of a bird like a cormorant is normally shown at this point - like the one below.


And the consensus would be, "Oh Yeah, big bird, easy to mistake for monster ..." and so on. But then you produce a picture of a cormorant perched on the old pier at Dores:


This bird is probably about 20 metres away and is, errm, tiny. What would it look like twenty times further away? I am not really sure, because I probably wouldn't even see it! Impressive close up, nothing far away.

Now since this sighting occurred not far from Greta Finlay's famous sighting, someone who is skeptical may suggest it was a deer out for a swim. Well, apart from deer being reddish-brown and not being black and shiny, their heads protrude forwards instead of upwards when swimming.


And swim it must at that place in the loch or it will inconveniently descend to the bottom. And, yes, those give away ears do stick out a bit.

Perhaps it was one of these very rare excursion by seals into the loch? With that long neck, one is doubtful of that.

But this sighting raises a question that is often seen in Loch Ness Monster reports - how does the creature achieve such high buoyancy? By that I mean, how does it raise itself so far out of the water? What we read here is only part of this buoyancy question as the beast is extremely adept at both rising and falling in a vertical manner.

Typical reports would speak of a hump and/or neck rising and falling effortlessly. Sometimes this could be accompanied by a "boiling" effect of the water or no obvious turbulence.

Tim Dinsdale considered this question and put it down to either displacement of water upwards and downwards by flippers, altering its specific gravity (i.e. density) or altering its displacement (i.e. changing its shape in relation to the amount of water it displaced).

Tim was more inclined to the third option. The unknown factor is how much of the creature is below the water in relation to what is above and what is the average density of what is below in comparison to what is above water.

Quite possibly, the creature has a degree of bodily contraction and expansion plus a gas-based buoyancy organ that combine to allow these feats of movement. Proving that requires a live or dead specimen, until then we move in the realms of speculation!

UPDATE: I have been told that the object in question may have been a buoy that floats on the Aldourie side of the top end of the loch. It is green-blue in colour and its dimensions are similar to what was seen. Whether our witness saw the buoy before the creature, I am not sure but you can add this observation into the mixer and form your own opinion. I continue to investigate whether this is indeed a viable explanation in the context of the witness' location and description.





Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Iconic Nessie Painting for sale

Anyone who has a passing interest in the Loch Ness Monster is bound to recognise this picture below.


It is the famous painting by Sir Peter Scott of "Nessiteras Rhombopteryx" and was created shortly after the media circus over the 1975 Rines pictures. I think he first gave it the quaint title "Courtship in Loch Ness".

This is the actual original painting as I photographed it at Torosay Castle back in 2008. You can read my blog about that visit here. It is now in the possession of Chris James, son of the late David James who was co-founder of the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau. Torosay Castle was the home of David James and for some years was also open to the public - hence my visit.

However, the place is now up for sale and that includes this painting. I was in contact with Chris James and he revealed that the plan is for the painting to go up for auction at Christies on January the 22nd next year. You can go to christies.com to view the item when the time approaches for the auction.

Fancy owning a piece of Loch Ness history? Then prepare to bid in a few months time!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Legacy of Past Nessie Researchers

I was in communication with a fellow Loch Ness Monster enthusiast recently about an aspect of Loch Ness research that barely gets a mention in the general discussion and that is the legacy of past researchers.

We can list the honoured people who dedicated years if not decades in the pursuit of this mystery who are no longer with us. I think primarily of Rupert T. Gould, Constance Whyte, Tim Dinsdale and F. W. Holiday and others. But there will be the lesser known people who gathered material on Loch Ness but never went to print with them. We also have the groups such as the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau which has long disbanded.

Yes, we have the books, newspaper articles and magazine features but what about their private collection of material? We can be sure that not everything of interest made it into their books and we can be sure that items continued to be gathered after their last publications and before their death or disbanding.

I have queried various national library catalogues with no indication that any works were deposited with these publicly accessible organisations. Admittedly, some collections will still be held by the family of the deceased. Some will not be considered significant enough to be put in the vaults of these places while some were sadly destroyed or lost when the estate of the deceased was distributed.

I have hopes that the works of Rupert Gould on the Loch Ness Monster will be hidden amongst his other notable horological items. I suspect these may be in the British Library or some other archive in the London area.

I am optimistic that Tim Dinsdale's works are still with his family and well preserved.

Constance Whyte's works are a mystery as they seem to have been bequeathed to someone but have been subsequently lost. This needs clarification.

F. W. Holiday's works are a mystery too. He died unmarried and without children as far as I know. I have a theory as to where they are now but again this needs clarification.

But the biggest question mark is the whereabouts and accessibility of the materials gathered between 1962 and 1972 by the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau. I suspect some material may be held at the Loch Ness Centre in Drumnadrochit but they need to confirm that. A lot of material may have been distributed to individuals on their closure. The point I want to make is that the LNIB materials ought to be made publicly accessible to all researchers.

If the mission statement of such founder members as David James and Constance Whyte was :

"To study Loch Ness to identify the creature known as the Loch Ness Monster or determine the causes of reports of it."

Then who are the successors of the LNIB and on whom does the mantle now fall? Certainly not any one individual but I would suggest anyone with a serious interest in the subject - be they on the "skeptics" or "believers" side.

Meanwhile, access to private individual collections are a matter for the new owners to consider. Do they let these items of potential importance lie in a dark corner of an attic until they decay or are thrown away? Must a new generation of researchers have this information lost forever or have to go through the exertions of re-discovering old knowledge again?

Finally, I am not addressing the matter of how these materials are made accessible. It is unlikely that much of these items are digitised or ready for email and the web. It may be that one has to physically travel to see such material. It may be a matter of someone volunteering of their time to scan and collate documents. The point of this posting is the matter of being granted access in the first place.

The legacy of the Loch Ness mystery should be made available to those who can take it further. If anyone has such a collection, I ask them to contact me about what they have!

UPDATE:

Subject to confirmation, the state of ownership of various archives is:

LNIB: Loch Ness Centre under supervision of Adrian Shine (have asked for confirmation)

Tim Dinsdale: presumed held by family

Rupert T. Gould: presumed held by family

F. W. Holiday: Some or all of his material was held by Alastair Boyd

Constance Whyte: Held at one time by Nicholas Witchell (rumours of this being lost need to be confirmed/denied by Nicholas himself).


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Nessie Simulacra

A reader sent me a link to a photograph he took at Fort Augustus of a Nessie-like tree branch.


Note the wide mouth, grinning teeth and bulbous eyes. Did anyone unwittingly file a report on this pseudo-monster? Not quite because it is still attached to a tree on dry ground. As we have pointed out before, logs and the like can fool some of the people some of the time. I actually thought of another monster when I saw the picture ...


Link