Wednesday, 26 June 2019

3-D Model of Loch Ness

I collect many items related to Loch Ness and its Monster, so I came across this nice little item on eBay which is a 3-D print of the loch based on the 1903 bathymetric survey done by Sir John Murray. The description runs thusly:

3D Printed High Detail Bathymetric Survey Model of Loch Ness created from original info obtained in 1903 by Sir John Murray.
This model gives a unique view of what the Loch looks like under the water.
1000mm version - Scale 1:38,000 Horizontal & 1:19,000 Vertical.
A large scale model of this is on display in the Loch Ness museum.
Printed in Glow in the dark green or blue PLA.
All models include a recessed area at the bottom for a UV LED strip Light. (included)
This will come in 3 sections that are not fixed together.
It's not my cup of tea, but others may be tempted to spend the £88 on it. There is also a cheaper but smaller unpainted model listed by the same seller here.
The author can be contacted at

Friday, 21 June 2019

Darren Naish Tells us there is no Loch Ness Monster

... again.

The headline from the Daily Telegraph trumpets "smartphones have killed the Loch Ness Monster, zoologist tells festival" as the article continues:

The advent of smartphones proves that the Loch Ness Monster is a myth, a leading scientist has claimed. The ubiquity of camera-enabled devices means the creature would have been photographed by now if it existed, according to palaeontologist Dr Darren Naish. However, the University of Southampton expert on cryptozoology - the pseudoscience of mythical creatures - said the last few years had seen a record low of reported sightings.

The same goes for other “cryptids”, such as the Himalayan Yeti, the Australian Bunyip and American’s Bigfoot. “Everybody has good phones,” said Dr Naish. “You really would think they'd be more and better photos, but the only things that ever have ever appeared are terribly low resolution little blobs in the distance. “I would say that the fact that we haven't got any of the evidence that we should have by now - alarm bells are ringing. “It's all speaking towards the fact that this is a cultural event, a belief system.” 

As sales of camera-equipped phones have soared, there have been droughts of several years with no new Nessie pictures, he said. Those that have emerged are unconvincing. Cryptozoologists have taken to calling them "blobsquatch pictures”. The name is a play on “Sasquatch” meant to convey how the purported monster invariably appears as a tiny, indistinct blur.

Most scientists argue it is unlikely that a creature such as Nessie - which purportedly resembles a cold-blooded reptile - could survive in the cold Scottish waters. They also say the 22-tonne stock of fish in the loch would not be sufficient to sustain a population of giant plesiosaurs. Sceptics further argue that if such a creature did or had existed, the bones of its ancestors would have been detected by now. In 2003 the BBC took part in a large search for the monster, including the use of 600 sonar devices, but nothing was detected.

Let us look at the main objection first, which is the only one attributed to Mr. Naish, given it is the only one he is quoted on, and that is mobile phones. I covered this objection five years ago in this article. Whether Mr. Naish has read this is unknown, but I learnt a while back that sceptics and pseudo-sceptics rarely if ever read articles by those who dare to believe in monsters. I guess it must be beneath their intellectual dignity.

Naish says "you really would think they'd be more and better photos". Well, as my previously mentioned article concluded, there are "more" photos of alleged monsters coming forth now. Unfortunately, they are of sufficient distance as to be mainly inconclusive or non-monster. As to the "better", the article concluded you do not get better images using a typical mobile phone camera compared to the traditional SLR cameras with their superior optics. 

But perhaps Naish means more pictures that are better than what has gone before? When it comes to objects that appear mid-loch in a typical distance from tourist to water objects, the answer is no. In fact, the quality of the image is worse. But at the other end of the witness spectrum, is it reasonable to conclude that more and better short range pictures would become available?

All things being equal, one may be tempted to answer in the affirmative. But there is a likely cryptozoological explanation for the lack of these "better" images and that is because there are less monsters in Loch Ness. Leaving aside the itinerant monster theory which would explain volatile swings in monster photograph counts, it seems not to have occurred to pseudo-sceptics to consider this sub-theory of the monster. The reason they do not consider the sub-theory is because they have rejected the main theory - there is no Loch Ness Monster. Thereafter, anything else is mentally blocked out.

The idea itself is eminently reasonable. Historic overfishing, pollution, climate change and other factors have served to reduce the biomass of the fish the monster would normally feed on. Less fish means less monsters. Less monsters means less surfacings and less surfacings means less clear photographs. Now whether such environmental factors have served to reduce the population of indigenous fish such as Arctic Char in the loch is a matter of debate. The tonnage of biomass stated in previous studies were performed decades ago. Have they now changed for the worst? Perhaps the recent eDNA studies could help in that regard, but that is a hope rather than a stated fact on my part.

The graph below shows the catastrophic crash in the Scottish salmon and trout populations over the last 67 years.  One wonders how the underlying cause of this depopulation has affected the alpha predators around these waters?

Focusing on the rivers feeding into Loch Ness, we have these graphs from the Ness District Fishery Board since 1952. The first graph is for catches of salmon and the second for trout. It looks like trout have fared considerably worse than salmon. Realising the predicament, the authorities instituted tougher measures such as catch and release to encourage numbers to recover, but what effect has this had on large predators in Loch Ness? What is the tipping point for a given number of such creatures?

That other large predators have suffered is evident in this population graph of harbour seals around the Moray Firth from the year 1995 onwards where the count dropped from 1300 to less than 850. Seal counts have fared considerably worst in other parts of Scotland such as the east where the count is now a third of what it was. Biologists may debate what the main cause of decline is, but it is naive to isolate larger creatures such as the one of Loch Ness in this overall problem.

So, we have an alternative explanation to counter the one championed by scepticism. But some other arguments were cited in this newspaper article that may or may not be supported by Darren Naish. The first one cited is "the 22-tonne stock of fish in the loch would not be sufficient to sustain a population of giant plesiosaurs". Needless to say, cryptozoologists are not all plesiosaur supporters. There are other theories which can reduce the required prey to predator ratio.

The oft quoted estimate of 22 tonnes of fish stock is also a fabrication. Yes, studies were done which came up with this approximation, but this was performed on the fish inhabiting the top 10 metres of the loch water column in the pelagic region using sonar counting. It took no account of the eel population in the lower regions or the migratory salmon and trout in the side (littoral) regions. Some journalist did not do his research and any sceptic would do well to avoid leaning on this number too much.

Indeed, one may ask such people how many fish were in Loch Ness in 1833 or 1933 when the monster became international news? I say this because they indulge in the logical fallacy of applying this 22 tonne number not only erroneously today but retrofit it to decades past. To be clear, it is likely there were far more fish in the loch in times past than in these ecologically challenged times when recent studies have been done.

How many large creatures this translates to whether in 1819, 1919 or 2019 is a complete unknown. A study I did on multiple creature sightings suggested a minimum of four creatures - and that was back in  1976. How many are in the loch right now is a number no one can authoritatively state.

Finally, we are told that "in 2003 the BBC took part in a large search for the monster, including the use of 600 sonar devices, but nothing was detected". Now I wish I could watch that documentary again as the memory of it has long faded (indeed I cannot even be sure I watched it at all). However, I am pretty sure the BBC did not use "600 sonar devices". Perhaps they meant 600 sonar beams which in itself is inadequately explained.

Did the BBC sweep the entire loch in the manner of Operation Deepscan (which produced three sonar hits which had moved on when the sites were revisited)? Or was it done in a fragmented, piecemeal manner? Does the BBC finding nothing negate anything else found by other sonar researchers? That is a bit like me looking out the window and stating that if I do not see a blackbird outside, then they do not exist in the area. Well, such is the range of pseudo-sceptical logic.

The author can be contacted at

Thursday, 13 June 2019

A new Loch Ness Video .. Quickly Identified

The Daily Record put out this video today by tourist couple Gloria and Ian Davison. I watched it, I sighed, I looked up my archive of recent photographs and moved on. You can watch the video yourself and then compare this screen grab against the picture of this log I took in 2017 which is evidently still there and is at the same spot.

They are the same thing, so no point in taking this further. However, the tourist is quoted as saying "It disappeared after a minute beneath the water". Now unless this log briefly submerged under a passing wave, somebody is lying. The witness or the reporter? I have my suspicion, but will leave it at that.

Nothing to see here, move on!

The author can be contacted at

Friday, 31 May 2019

Loch Ness eDNA results to be published in September

The iNews website has published an article today claiming that Professor Neil Gemmell's eDNA study of the loch has almost completed and the results will be revealed in July but possibly pushed out to September. One or two surprises are in the offing though one should not begin to superimpose one's own guesses and just wait and see what will come of this. However, the failure to sell this as a documentary may or may not eliminate "sensational" results. After all, what kind of DNA would elicit such a scenario?

It is a bit surprising no TV company picked up on this though, considering the lack of novel research they so often come up with - banal retellings of the Surgeon's Photograph, CGI shots of plesiosaurs and the same old faces going on about waves and birds. Perhaps the price of novelty was too high. I would also note that the comparison eDNA studies from other lochs may well be worth a watch. Was Loch Ness or even Loch Morar different to others?

UPDATE: It's always worth checking out the original source, especially when the Press get a bit over-excited. Neil Gemmell's own twitter account states it will be September rather than July for any announcements and this will take the form of a conference at Loch Ness. Likewise, he plays down (a bit) any idea he has discovered Nessie. Likewise, the delay in announcing turns out to be mainly due to classifying nearly 3000 micro organisms and bacteria (and this works still has not finished).

To quote two of his tweets:

Gosh this is quite the headline, but not quite what I said. Just to clarify, at this point, we can't rule out one of the common theories used to explain the monster myth. A full announcement of our findings will be made at Loch Ness, likely in early September. 

Some sensational headlines about our eDNA hunt at Loch Ness have come across my social media today. For the record, we are still investigating the data. Most popular hypotheses seem unsupported; one cannot yet be excluded. An alternative and more accurate headline.

Loch Ness monster study set to reveal ‘surprising’ findings

Researchers took samples of water from the loch with the hope of capturing Nessie's DNA

A scientific trawl of the waters of Loch Ness by researchers hoping to uncover the truth behind the myth of the famous monster has made a “surprising” finding. Professor Neil Gemmell of the University of Otago in New Zealand, who led the study, told i that his team had managed to test most of the main theories about the Loch Ness monster.

While he declined to reveal exactly what they had found until the results had been fully analysed, he hinted that the Nessie myth was likely to endure. Professor Gemmell is preparing to announce the full results of his research almost a year after taking a series of water samples from the loch with the hope of catching the monster’s DNA. His team was using a new technique that can pick up traces left behind by passing animals in miniscule amounts of fur, skin, scales, faeces or urine.

Having been extracted in the lab, the DNA has been sequenced and compared against known species, creating near-definitive list of everything in the loch for the first time. The results of the study were supposed to be published in January, but cataloguing the extensive range of micro-organisms and bacteria has taken longer than expected. The team has found around 15 different species of fish and up to 3,000 species of bacteria, some of which will have been deposited in Loch Ness by animals using connecting rivers.

Professor Gemmell said he hoped to announce the full findings of the study at a press conference in Scotland in July, but the date may yet be pushed back until September. “Is there anything deeply mysterious? Hmm. It depends what you believe,” he said. “Is there anything startling? There are a few things that are a bit surprising. “What we’ll have achieved is what we set out to do, which is document the biodiversity of Loch Ness in June 2018 is some level of detail.

“We’ve tested each one of the main monster hypotheses, and three of them we can probably say aren’t right and one of them might be. “We’ll never disprove that there’s a monster, as we said at the beginning. If we find no evidence of the monster, that doesn’t prove anything. All we can do is describe what we’ve found.” Professor Gemmell also admitted that part of the reason for the delay in the publication of the results was due to a series of failed attempts to film a television documentary. He and his team had hoped to use any money generated from the project to fund further research, but negotiations with a series of production companies ended without a deal.

“There’s been an ongoing tension between wanting to tell people what we’ve found and wanting to maximise the vehicle through which we tell them,” he added. “To be fair, I think a TV documentary would’ve been a wonderful way to document the search and what we found, and put it into the context of other studies of Loch Ness. “It’s been something I’ve worked on pretty hard. I haven’t pushed things as hard as I could have with my collaborators because I was working on the production deals.”

The author can be contacted at


Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Finlay's Monster and Cobb's Speedboat

After speaking to Harry Finlay and reliving his famous encounter with the Loch Ness Monster in 1952, I thought I would do some follow up. These days, people can sit in the comfort of their armchairs and access many a resource online. In this case, that was not an option as not all newspaper year ranges are digitally online. In this case it was off to the local library to examine the microfilm rolls for the Inverness Courier and Northern Chronicle in August 1952.

As it turned out, there wasn't much to add to the story as the Inverness Courier from August 22nd 1952 gave a rather terse account below while the Northern Chronicle had nothing to say. My expectation was that the sighting by Dores school kids a few hours later may have appeared with further details, but alas, the clipping below does not add much to what was already known.

One thought that did pass my mind was whether the creature in question was actually entering the loch when it was seen by the Finlays. I say that because the entrance to the River Ness at Bona Narrows was less than a mile away and the creature gives the impression that it is making its way at speed from that point into the loch.

Of course, I cannot prove that but you will go on to read that John Cobb and his speedboat team were on the eve of arriving at the loch and the monster's spectacular appearance seemed almost portentous as John Cobb was to die in his speedboat accident on the 29th September, just over 5 weeks later.

Seasoned Loch Ness fans will know about the valiant but fatal attempt at the water speed record at Loch Ness by John Cobb. I have written about it before on this blog but it had not then twigged with me the proximity of the Finlay and Cobb events. Was the creature seen by Greta and Harry Finlay responsible for the death of John Cobb? The accepted explanation was that the Crusader had hit a wave caused by the support boat, the Maureen combined with a known weakness in the forward planing shoe of the boat (note the possible waves in the picture below).

The sequence of events is taken from this website:

When the morning of the 29th arrived conditions were far from perfect, slight ripples on the surface of the water .By almost 9.30 am conditions had worsened, then events took a turn for the better in that surface conditions had improved dramatically.  At 11.25 am 'Crusader' was again put in the water at Temple Pier and the official observers boat 'Maureen' set off to land the timekeepers at the Drumnadrochit end of the Loch. The 'Maureen' had reported the timekeeper were ashore at 11.50 am. At 11.55 am 'Crusader's' engine was started and she catapulted out at an angle from Urquhart Bay. Cobb came round to his starting point and revved his engine up to full power. 'Crusader' rose in the water and the attempt was under way, the time was almost 12 noon.

With a slight burst of spray in front and a trail of white foam behind she skimmed over the course and reached the second marker. As 'Crusader' reached 200 mph eyewitness accounts say she was hardly touching the water when she came out of the measured mile. Then 'Crusader' started to decelerate to make the second run but hit a wave causing her to bounce twice, she recovered for a second but the next moment the horrified spectators saw the boat plunge in a whirl of spray and foam, flaked with flying wreckage. There was no audible explosion but the boat gave the appearance of bursting apart. Hopes for Cobb's safety was roused when the yellow light attached to his safety apparatus bobbed to the surface. The 'Maureen' made her way to the floating debris and lowered a small boat which reported Cobb had been found. The news brought an immediate call over the radio for a doctor and ambulance, but later it became clear Cobb was dead, probably killed instantly.

Another site states that Cobb was "furious" with the late arrival of the Maureen and any residual waves left behind but pressed on regardless. One presumes from this that he did not regard it as a serious concern but the main theory of how this ended in disaster remains. However, for me, the sighting of a twenty foot plus creature entering the loch some weeks before should have put the brakes on this project from the start.

Of course, John Cobb and his team did not believe this and the Inverness Courier piece on the Finlay sighting was not taking it seriously enough to advise a cancellation. Indeed, another clipping from the time had some people convinced a series of wakes observed during the Crusader trials were monster related, but they were assured these were again just support vehicles. Were people that undiscerning?

On examining the story again, I tried to visualise the sequence of events. The "Maureen" pulled in at the "Drumnadrochit end of the loch" which to me was likely by the Castle, not far from where the Crusader took off from Temple Pier. So, the Crusader took off and headed south one mile to the marker. It then decelerated to turn round and run the second mile back when the accident happened.

So, the question for me was why the Crusader did not hit the Maureen's wake when it was at its strongest closer to the Castle at the beginning of the run? Perhaps because the boat had not picked up speed? But a mile down the water it was dissipating and indeed, it has to be surmised that it was a reflection from the sides of the loch that was encountered, not the original wake. For me, that is a weak explanation as reflections from the loch are not as strong as some make out.

Of course, even if the boat wake theory is proven inadequate, that does not mean it was the Loch Ness Monster as a freak gust of wind could have been enough. Over sixty years on, no further water speed records have been attempted and long may that continue while a large creature continues to move beneath the surface of Loch Ness.

The author can be contacted at


Saturday, 11 May 2019

Loch Ness Monster seen from the Air?

This letter appeared in the Letters section of the Daily Telegraph dated 10th May 2019 regarding a strange object seen by an RAF training instructor by the name of Dave Henderson as he flew above Loch Ness. No date is given but it is now added to the list of airborne sightings previously discussed in this article.

The author can be contacted at

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Update on the Ricky Phillips Picture

I was back at the loch a few weeks back and managed to do an onsite visit at the spot where Ricky Phillips took his photograph. I will get onto those in a minute but first the picture below was sent to me by a person by the name of "yeezy man" who also commented "Here's the full version of Ricky's purported 'Loch Ness Monster' photograph. As you can see, he clearly just cropped a bit of log sticking out of the water."

However, it is a tiny 13kb in size and so is not the expected full multi-megabyte image, so I would ask him, if he has it,  to send the full EXIF image so a proper analysis can be done and also explain how he or she came by this image. Ricky Phillips is, of course, invited to offer his comments on this image, but he has already told me it "looks a bit fake". Either "yeezy man" is lying or Ricky is lying, it is as simple as that.

The image above was taken under the disused stone railway bridge at Fort Augustus rather than near the disused wooden bridge further along. As an update, the second photograph was emailed to me and expands everything out with a comment by Ricky himself. No need to say much more and it's good to have an Internet which allows such communications. However, and as ever, Ricky has the right of reply right here.

And here is a third photo sent by Ricky himself of a log at the same spot which does bear some resemblance to the object, though Ricky was not saying if it was his object!

It is probably a bit moot now, but I visited the site as mentioned and took some pictures from the spot Ricky identified. The map of that location as well as the direction of the sun at that time is shown as a yellow line.

I talked to the anglers you can see in the picture and it turned out they were regulars at this spot and so I showed them the photo and they were unanimous in saying it was just a branch. Okay, fair enough, but when I asked if any believed there was a large creature in the loch they all said "No". 

They said the depth of the river reached up to eight feet depending on rainfall and they pointed me to some branches that had washed up on the shore which I pictured below, though they they didn't bear much resemblance to the object in the picture and so were not of much use as regards an assessment. Needless to say, looking for anything from the time Ricky took his photo was a futile venture.

So things may have moved along or just got muddier. Therefore, comments are welcome, but especially from "yeezy man" and Ricky.

The author can be contacted at