Monday, 9 October 2017

That Loch Ness Fin

Rebecca Stewart was watching the loch from Fort Augustus pier on Monday the 2nd October when she spotted a fin-like object on the other side of the loch. The resultant iphone pictures merited a mention in the media as exemplified by this article in the Scottish Sun.




It got some positive remarks across the Internet and I "liked" it myself on Facebook. The problem, of course, is it was taken at a vast distance with an inferior image capture device - a mobile phone. I knew "Cruise Loch Ness" operated in the area and contacted the manager, Marcus Atkinson, to see if he knew anything about it.

The result is this picture below taken from their "Chieftain" boat by Ricky, captain of the vessel on the same day, for which I give them thanks. It was reckoned it sank as they passed, though it is not clear whether the debris sank due to the turbulence of the passing ship.




It is a piece of driftwood, but definitely fin-shaped in appearance, so top marks to the witnesses for making that observation despite the large distance involved. However, since we are probably talking about something half a mile away, the odds of being fooled rise with the distance.

What does one need? A proper camera and a decent distance between you and the monster. The William Jobes photos I talked about recently fulfilled the better camera and closer distance requirements, but even there at 300+ metres, the conclusive, clear images are still hard to come by. Therein lies the problem of solving the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster.




The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The William Jobes Photos




On the 23rd May 2011, William Jobes took a series of photographs of the Loch Ness Monster. I have covered this story from the start when it first came to the attention of the media, which then led to a follow up article. Late last month, I published some more of William's pictures taken on a subsequent visit in August 2011.

But I would like to visit the original report as there was some confusion around it at the time. First, I would like to reproduce William's own recounting of the experience which was printed in the February 2012 issue of the "Fate and Fortune" magazine:

The wind whistled round my ears, as my friend Bruce, 20, and I stood at the top of Urquhart Castle in Inverness, gazing out at the water below. It was April 1969, and we'd come in search of the famous Loch Ness Monster. I'd been determined to catch a glimpse of Nessie since reading about her in a book when I was 14. Most people didn't believe she existed, but I knew there had to be some truth to the dozens of reported sightings.

However, despite taking numerous trips to the loch to look for her over the years, my search had been in vain. Just then, I spotted what looked like a grey hump breaking the surface of the water about three quarters of a mile away. 'Can you see that?' I gasped, looking through my binoculars as a second hump appeared.

'I don't believe it!' Bruce gasped, peering through the camera lens. We began snapping away furiously, until it disappeared a minute later. I was buzzing with excitement. Had we caught Nessie on film? We had the pictures developed the following day, but all they showed was a lens flare from where we'd shot towards the sun. 'Maybe next time,' I sighed. But we had no more luck on any further trips.

Still, I didn't give up hope, even though my wife, Joan, now 58, thought I was nuts. I persuaded her to take yearly trips to the loch with me, where I'd spend hours gazing out at the water, armed with two digital cameras - a small one for taking close-ups and a bigger one for snapping long-distance pictures. Then, on the morning of 23 May 2011, I was on my usual Nessie stake-out when I decided to pop into the nearby village of Fort Augustus for a break.

Dropping off my bigger camera at the holiday cottage where Joan was watching telly, I headed off. On my way back along the water's edge, I heard splashing and turned to see a head poking out of the water about 300 yards away. As it turned towards me, I stared in disbelief. There, looking back at me, was the strangest creature I'd ever seen. It had a protruding snout, like a horse, a sheep-like head, and brown feathery hair, which glistened in the sunlight.

The creature stared right at me with its black bulging eyes the size of apples. Shaking, I fumbled round for my smaller camera and took a snap just as the creature dipped back into the water. I checked my camera. 'Damn!' I cried. The lens was just for close-ups, and I'd only caught the tip of the creature's body. But I was certain of what I'd seen. Grabbing my phone, I rang Joan. 'I saw its head and neck!' I spluttered.

'That's amazing,' she said, although she didn't sound too impressed. No doubt she thought I was imagining things! But now I didn't just believe Nessie existed... I knew she did. The next day, I got up at the crack of dawn and kept watch from the side of the loch. Hours passed, and the sky began to turn dark. I was about to give up and head back to the cottage when I heard a splashing sound and turned to see a huge hump-like shape, 500 yards away.

I was astonished - it looked as if it was over 20ft long! With my heart racing, I fired off some shots as the hump slid in and out of the water before disappearing a minute later. Afterwards, I checked my camera Had my 45-year search finally paid off? I frantically flicked through my pictures. And there, in the middle of the choppy loch, was a clear image of the creature's body and tail sticking out of the water. I'd caught it! I was over the moon as I raced back to show Joan, who was very impressed. That's not to say my monster-hunting days are over. I won't rest until I've captured a photo of Nessie's face and proven to the sceptics that the Loch Ness Monster really does exist. Watch this space!

William is shown below in a photograph taken at the time. Now the issue with the debate over these pictures at that time was the presumption that William had seen the same "object" over two days. This led to the assumption that since the creatures are not going to appear to anyone two days in a row, then it must be something inanimate floating around which had come in from one of the rivers at Fort Augustus.




However, it is clear from William's own words that the media at the time had mangled his words somewhat and got some things wrong (such as stating his wife was with him at the time). The idea that this was just a piece of garbage floating by does no credit to someone who has made multiple visits to the loch and has accumulated observational experience of the loch over that time.

As he said himself, he thinks he has grasped the ability to tell the difference between a piece of wood and a particular animal. Unfortunately, sceptics do not seem to take an eyewitness' observational abilities into account, which is a most odd omission. William pointed out to me what he thought were ridges on the animal's back and I can certainly see what he is referring to in the photo at the top of the article. I also include these two further back photos taken on the 23rd May 2011 for your consideration which William estimated to be 4-5 feet long.




The final picture below was taken the following day and was estimated to be 20-25 feet long.




Doubtless, the uneven nature of the back was also something that prompted ideas of irregularly shaped garbage floating into Loch Ness. But the natural question to ask is whether anyone else photographed this "garbage" in the loch? The answer appears to be a big "No" and when you consider that people at the loch have been quick to publish their own pictures of logs and debris allegedly linked to other sightings in recent years, one wonders how they did not manage to repeat the feat for this object?

But, now we move onto the controversial part of this account and that is William's sketch of the head and neck he observed on that day. You may say what could be more controversial than what has already been published, but you will understand when you see the drawing below and realise what William has sketched is decidedly un-Nessie like.




However, when one says un-Nessie like, we are of course referring to the "received wisdom" as to what Loch Ness Monsters should look like. Plesiosaur like with that smooth reptilian skin and barely perceptible eyes. The creature depicted in this sketch is nothing like that and has more of the "water horse" about it.

Now if William was making this all up and trying to convince us of the reality of his fake news, he has gone about in entirely the wrong manner! If you want to fool people, you stick to plesiosaurs and antediluvian monsters. So, I have no doubt that William claimed what he claimed to have seen. But what he saw breaks the Nessie mould. Or does it?

A look at the overall sightings database has eleven eyewitness accounts describing the head as like that of a horse. That may not sound a lot out of over 1500 reports, but head-neck reports constitute a minority of all reports. Indeed, only 76 of those reports describe the head, making "horse-like"  about 15% of such reports. One could also argue that heads described as like a goat, giraffe or deer could be close to "horse-like". As for hair, less than 10 reports mention hair or matted like features while about 17 reports mention a mane or mane-like frill or growth.

No report mentions mane/hair alongside a horse head description, but it could be that the witness implied hair when describing such a head. However, when I was considering William's drawing, I was reminded of another sketch from over fifty years before found in Bernard Heuvelman's book, "In the Wake of the Sea Serpents" which is reproduced below.




This was one of Heuvelman's seven archetypal sea serpents and went by the name of a merhorse. People have since argued for their own classifications and what species such a creature could occupy. But did William Jobes see a merhorse in Loch Ness on that day six years ago?

William has no problem accepting that there may be more than one unknown species of large animal in Loch Ness, be they permanent or visitors. I can see his point of view, but only from a rare visitor point of view. Which begs the question as to what the permanent resident of Loch Ness may be?


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com




Monday, 25 September 2017

Loch Ness Trip Report September 2017




The rain had fallen in abundance, thus ensuring a field of mud at the campsite. I was here a month later than usual, so it was a bit colder, a bit wetter and daylight hours were less. Nevertheless, a walk afterwards along the beach at Foyers presented one with a loch after the storm as the waters almost perfectly reflected the hills and skies above. The proverbial mill pond as someone once said 84 years before at the same location. The only initial oddity was the patches of foam which had swept into the loch from the nearby River Foyers (below).

However, it was something I saw that disturbed the calm on this first evening that grabbed my attention. As I scanned the waters, my eyes fell upon a disturbance of water to my right about half way across the loch. It was a splash of water perhaps three feet high which fell back to whence it came from but that was that.

What had caused it was not apparent to the eye as nothing apart from water was visible. If an object had broken the surface and then submerged again, I was none the wiser as to whether this had happened at all because my eyes had seen it too late.

I would say that the whole area was a continuous sequence of concentric ripples appearing all over the surface which indicated the presence of fish taking insects from the surface. Did one of these larger fish breach the surface but disappear below the surface before I could see it? Perhaps, perhaps not, but I will have to call this one inconclusive.




TASKS

As threatened in a previous post, I undertook the task of trying to identify the location of the George Spicer land sighting. There were only three parameters available in determining any answer, but there is enough in that sub plot to merit an article in its own right.

Friday night saw my usual dawn run between Foyers and Dores as I continue to gather data on deer runs and any other information that may be gleaned from this two way excursion. However, I think late September is not as good as late August for such a run. Since sunrise was at about 7am, I headed off about 6am but this was not a great choice as traffic was already present on the road as I passed by three cars and I prefer a zero car run for the dashcam.

The problem is that if I set off earlier to avoid cars, it will be too dark for the dashcam to record anything. So, another argument for visiting the loch in August (despite the huge number of tourists). As it turned out, I did not see a single deer crossing the road in front of me during the 23 mile round trip, just one rabbit. That said, the "huddle of deer" Spicer theory continues to be a busted flush.

One thing that does not require my presence is trap or game cameras. I have spoken on these instruments in the past and they have been part of my research portfolio for five years and counting. I left one over the past four months and returned to it on Saturday and, yes, it was still there untouched by dishonest hands.

I know that because it didn't snap anyone in front of it! It is a higher risk leaving such a device over the bustling summer months as one cannot discount the more energetic visitors clambering around the shore and finding it. However, when I went to retrieve it, I nearly gave up myself trying to get near it, only to be stopped by thick vegetation which had sprung up in the intervening months.

Well, I suppose that is a good thing. I opened the camera casing and removed the SD memory card. There was no point in unstrapping the whole thing since it was my intention for the camera to continue being a sentinel over the autumn and winter months. I would return later with fresh batteries and an erased SD card.

This particular game camera was set to record one single image and a 10 second video clip. That resulted in about 300+ of each being stored on the card. Video clips obviously take up a lot more memory than single images, so the trick is to make sure the camera runs out of battery power before it runs out of memory space!

The camera did its job perfectly. Anything moving within sixty feet of it triggered the still image snap and the short video clip; be it boat, animal, tree or water. The trouble was no Loch Ness Monster ventured in front of the sensor which was no surprise considering the odds of it swimming past the sixty foot radial cone of the camera is very small indeed.

However, the odds shorten the longer the cameras are trained on the loch and so we wait ... and wait. But that is the best way as snapping blobby looking objects half a mile away is not going to cut it with the sceptics. However, something within sixty feet of an HD camera is a different matter.

One picture that repeated often on the still/video image was a set of bow waves but no boat. It was if the object was travelling so fast, the camera failed to trigger in time to snap it. When I went to visit Steve Feltham, we speculated whether it was Langmuir circulations which are characterised by streaky lines upon the surface of the loch.

As it turned out, the mystery was solved when I was back in the area and I heard an approaching roar. It was the fast moving RIB boat from the Cruise Loch Ness company and it was clearly the culprit which could not be captured on SD card. I just hope Nessie doesn't move that fast or these cameras will never get anything!


IN AND ABOUT THE LOCH

People are always posting pictures of Nessie simulacra and why should this blog be any different? I saw this "Nessie" on land looking out across the loch. Like practically all pieces of tree in and about the loch, it was fooling nobody.




If you have been to the village of Dores, you may have noticed the sculpture below commissioned by the owner of the Dores Inn which looks out over the bay. A nice piece of artwork, though very much in the plesiosaur tradition I suspect.




The aforementioned Steve Feltham was sitting outside his immobile mobile home enjoying the sun and crafting his latest Nessie model. He had nothing to report of interest, although he did know about the sighting in Dores Bay recently reported by Gary Campbell. We compared notes as the tourists and locals enjoyed the beach and took in the Dores Community Fair stands nearby.

AND FINALLY

The rain returned on the morning of our final day, which is always a bit of a pain as the tent has to be dried out later back home. But by coincidence, it was also the day of the annual Baxters Loch Ness Marathon.  So, I suspended the usual decamping chores and walked up the hill from Lower Foyers to Upper Foyers to take in the event.




I was standing at the 7 mile marker and after 35 minutes the first runner went past, meaning he was clocking a five minute mile on average. The chap in second place was about 30 meters behind him and I am sure one of them was the winner as the next group turned up five minutes later! I reckon those two were a mile ahead of the other with less than a third of the marathon completed.

Of course, the question is what do these guys do when the monster breaks the surface of the loch as they run past? Do they stop to gaze upon this wonder and potentially lose the race or press on regardless? I know what I would do!

I hope to be back at the loch in April 2018.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Some Nessie Photos from William Jobes?




William Jobes will be known to many of us for his Nessie photographs which appeared in the press back in 2011. I will be saying more about that when I come back from Loch Ness next week, but William emailed me some more photos he took back in 2011 which are now published here for the first time.

This sequence of pictures was taken when William returned to the loch three months later on the 31st August 2011. He was at the Fort Augustus boat jetty near the old Abbey on the morning at 7:36am. He noticed a disturbance in the water about 400-500 yards out in Borlum Bay and began to take photos. The sequence began with this water disturbance below and ended with the object we see on the surface in the first picture. All in all, the episode only lasted seconds before the object was gone.




The reason these stills have lain dormant these past six years is because William lost the original images when his laptop died and all he had left were these enlarged images which we show today. Despite that, I thought they were still worth publishing to generate discussion and get lake cryptid people up to date on what objects continue to be snapped at Loch Ness.



What it could be will obviously produce some varied opinions, some more sensible than others. The more conventional explanations of driftwood, wreckage or a deer seem less convincing since the object was visible for only seconds. From a Nessie point of view, it has that aspect which reminds me of those who describe a more horse like appearance to the creature. In fact, this image reminds me of the John Mclean account from 1938.

William took some other pictures during that trip which I show below. Indeed, this picture below was taken on the same day, only four minutes before at 7:32am from the same place at the Fort Augustus Abbey jetty. The pictures were taken with a Canon EOS 550 camera and a Canon 55-250 lens.




Since this was taken near the old Abbey, it was natural of William to suggest this reminded him of that famous sighting by the late Fr. Gregory Brusey in 1971. Indeed, a drawing done by the man himself was done for William years back is shown below for comparison.




Now the thing I have to point out here is that William takes a prodigious amount of photos on his many visits to the loch. So, when he gets back home, it is down to examining the myriad of images for anything that he may have missed the first time round. This image was one of those instances where he shoots first and ask questions later.

So, in that context, he did not see anything at the time and only noticed when he went through the many images at home. I asked whether the boatmen in the foreground of the picture had acted as if they had seen anything and he said they did not. Indeed, looking at the photo, they seem rather preoccupied with their own affairs.

I suggested that since the object looked a bit sharper than its surroundings that it may have been a fleck of material that temporarily stuck to his lens, but William said that there was no irregularities on the following few frames and nothing on the lens around the time of shooting as he regularly checked through the viewfinder.

Pole like Nessie reports are a fascinating aspect of the mystery and I covered them in a previous article. Various explanations were posited for this special class of report including  jumping fish, birds, buoys, driftwood, hoaxes and, of course, the creature itself.

The fact that the two objects were photographed a mere four minutes apart made me wonder if they were different aspects of the same creature. Again, William thought it unlikely the distance between the two locations could have been covered in four minutes.

So, two photos of interest, at least one of which may well be an image of the famous Loch Ness Monster. Just the motivation I need before I head off to the loch tomorrow!


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Saturday, 16 September 2017

A New Nessie Book for 2018

Okay, so having taken all things into consideration, I will author a book on the subject of the Loch Ness Monster for publication next year. The book will basically be an anthology of this website with appropriate edits, updates and hopefully new material.

An email from a Nessie enthusiast asked whether it was worth publishing hard copy in these days of easy access to information on the Internet? My answer was "yes" as one cannot guarantee that such digitised, online information will be there the next day. We have copies of books going back centuries, if not millenia if you count scrolls and cuneiform tablets. I have books myself dating back 200 years.

Now tell me what you think the Nessie Internet content will be like in 200 years? You can answer that in two ways - in terms of whether the mystery was finally solved or whether there is anything at all to view. If someone from 2217 found a hard drive with terabytes of Internet content from 2017, could they even access it? After all, the drive is basically a recurring series of 0 and 1 bits. Without knowledge of how to decode this via boot sector, file system, word processing and network protocols, it is unreadable without a digital Rosetta Stone.

But aside from the issue of how future generation access today's electronic information, I am just looking a few decades ahead. All the cryptozoological websites you access and enjoy today, whether they be pro- or anti- Nessie will one day be gone. Owners and administrators will lose interest, get ill and eventually die with no successors to maintain them. Their domain names will expire or be dropped by the website hosts if the fees are not paid or they have a cull of long inactive websites.

The testimony to that is the number of now defunct Nessie websites versus those still active. My links sections lists eleven websites linked to the mystery. This does not include Facebook groups, which tend in the main to recycle information. However, the link to the list of defunct websites stands at seven and that was when I checked them over five years ago.

Fortunately, some websites will be archived under such projects as the Internet Wayback Machine. In fact, this blog website is archived there too, albeit the last update was in July. However, if someone googles for Nessie related items in the future when this blog is gone, they may not find anything unless Google links into archived websites. Perhaps it does now, but don't expect the hits to be anywhere near the top of the rankings.

Anyone with a knowledge of computer use knows the need for backing up important files. In this context, the backup is a traditional paper book. Today, I can still find copies of the seminal Loch Ness Monster works by Tim Dinsdale, Ted Holiday, Rupert Gould, Constance Whyte and so on. This is despite 30, 40 or more years since they were last published. Could I say the same about a website?

Admittedly, the pool of these books shrinks as they become tattered and torn and end up in the bin, but I see no shortage of such books if the price of them is anything to go by. Moreover, we are seeing classic Fortean books being reprinted to which I refer you to the admirable work of Anomalist Books and their reprints.

So, the bulk of the work has been done in the near 600 blog posts put here since 2010. It is now a matter of condensing them into one handy sized book. I will keep you updated as and when progress is made.

What can be discussed now is how the book cover will look. Comments are welcome.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com







Sunday, 10 September 2017

More on the eDNA testing Project




I had written previously on how Professor Neil Gemmill of the University of Otago in New Zealand planned to take water samples at Loch Ness in an attempt to discover what species of animal may be resident in the loch. That was back in April and things then went quiet.

The last update I read was from the Inverness Courier on August 17th which told us how Neil had visited Loch Ness to size up what was required and enlist local help. The proof of his visit was this selfie with the curator of the Loch Ness Centre, Adrian Shine. He had also paid a visit to sceptic, Darren Naish, since he had picked up on the idea of an eDNA hunt from Darren's book, "Hunting Monsters", published in 2016.




Actually, Darren's idea is not new as I had suggested it back in May 2014 in this article. Whether he got it from me, I cannot tell. Of course, such ideas are only going to carry more weight if they come from a sceptical scientist.

Adrian offered the centre's help with boats and people but then the bombshell was dropped. Neil reckons he needs £100,000 to fund the entire project. I'll say that again - one hundred thousand pounds. He plans to raise this money through crowdfunding and as of today, I cannot see any reference yet to this on his twitter account.

I had assumed some kindly scientific department had offered their facilities to process the water samples, but I guess not. There will obviously be costs, such as the transport of the large amount of water samples and running the DNA tests, but I was surprised by the £100K price tag.

Which makes me wonder if this project will ever get off the ground? On reading various comments on newspapers, you had people deriding this as a waste of money and it would be better spent on hospitals, nurses, etc. If that was true, you could probably close down most science research.

Interest has been expressed by film companies who wish to track his ventures for a documentary. They may put up some of the cash, grants may even be available if it could be argued that this experiment provides great publicity and awareness for the science of environmental DNA and ecology (a bit like using Nessie to promote food chain studies in schools). However, when the phrase "Loch Ness Monster" is mentioned in polite, scientific circles, they usually run a mile.

One thing I am quite certain of and that is the business people who are raking it in every year from tourists at Loch Ness will not be putting their hands in their pockets. As one Nessie man told me once of a local entrepreneur, he doubted he could even point you to the loch, as he was too busy with his nose in the till.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com








Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Lake Bala Monster




Having seen Nick Redfern's recent interesting article on the Lake Bala Monster, it brought to my mind an article I had on the creature from years back plus some recent thoughts I had on the phenomenon. The article is from issue 82 of the Fortean Times dated August 1995 and is shown below with the relevant text. There is also a big cat article which may be of interest to some.





Early last March, brothers Andrew and Paul Delaney from London were fishing on Lake Bala in Gwynedd, North Wales. "It was very calm and we were about to finish when we noticed something coming up to the surface about 80 yards from the boat. At first we thought it was a tree trunk. Then it straightened up and towered 10 feet in the air. It had a small head and a long neck, like'pictures of the Loch Ness Monster."

The first recorded sighting of Lake Bala's monster - nicknamed "Teggie" after Llyn Tegid, the local name for the lake - was made 20 years ago by the former lake warden, Dafydd Bowen. Others have since claimed to have seen a strange shape lurking in the depths of the lake, which is 4 four miles long and 150 feet deep. "I looked out of my office 1 window and saw this thing moving through the water 200 yards away," said Mr Bowen, now 72, a teetotaller who worked on the lake for 25 years.

"It was grey, about eight feet long and looked like a crocodile with a small hump in the middle. Many others have seen it, but most of them are too shy to report their sightings in case they are made fun of." Dr Rick Leah, a zoologist at Liverpool University, said last April that the environmental and evolutionary biology department was keen to use its latest £10,000 digital echo sounder equipment on the lake to look for Teggie, but would need financial backing for the tests.

This report prompted a letter to the Fortean Times two issues later:






Nick's article about a possible 10 foot pike does in fact make some sense looking at the sketch at the top done by Craig Boscombe. After all, a crocodile head is not too dissimilar to that of a pike. Having said that, the Delaney brothers' account is distinctly more in line with the traditional long neck ascribed to lake cryptids.

Now, I was actually in North Wales for a holiday back in July but time forbade me paying a visit to Llyn Tegid. However, I had taken a look at the map at the time and was struck by something that may or may not be a coincidence. Take a look at the map below.




Lake Bala is seen to the top right and to the left you will see Barmouth Bay. Seasoned lake monster fans will know that Barmouth also has the reputation for sightings of sea serpents. This article gives various dates for some possible cryptid encounters in that area. Could the two mysterious creatures be connected in some way? Certainly, at four miles long, the lake does not seem a sustainable place for one or more large creatures and so perhaps the Lake Bala Monster was once the Barmouth Bay Monster?

There is probably some river route amongst the complex of rivers and streams that gets you from the sea to the lake, but it looks like a fifteen mile swim, so it is hardly a trip that would be undertaken regularly. Nevertheless, perhaps some food for thought.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com