Wednesday 29 November 2023
Tuesday 7 November 2023
I first wrote on the famous Hugh Gray photograph back in 2011, a picture that was snapped on a calm day on the Sunday of November 12th 1933. Ninety years on, I still think it is one of the most intriguing pictures taken and especially taking into account the image of the animal head to the right of the photo. In fact, the Loch Ness Centre will be using that 90th year as a reason to host some talks by eyewitnesses on photos they have taken - details are here. Doubtless as other media outlets comment on this anniversary, you may see the image below presented to you.
The superior image copied by a Mr. Heron-Allen at the time was rediscovered by Maurice Burton and passed onto Steuart Campbell. It is shown below and should be the only reference point for this particular debate. It is from this version that the head image at the top was enlarged.
Looking back, my original and main article on this picture can be found at this link. At the time the article focused on the head to the right, which was a bit of a revelation to a lot of folk. But as it turned out, I was merely repeating what others had passed comment on back when the picture hit the headlines. Later on, I posted another article quoting a newspaper piece from 1933 talking about the "head". That article is at this link.
The articles on this blog continued as I looked at the issue of shadows and reflections in the photo used as a sceptical argument against it and was published at this link. Meantime, understandable discontent with the sceptically minded over the labrador dog interpretation surfaced as one broke ranks to promote the idea that it was actually a photo of a swan. I covered that theory in another article at this link.
Finally, the whole thing was brought together, revised, reformatted and published in a journal last year. That was announced at this link while the pdf of that journal article is available here. Twelve years on from that first article, my opinion on it has not changed. I believe it is a picture of the Loch Ness Monster and Hugh Gray was no liar and deceiver as others accuse him of.
Notice I said "I believe it is" and not "It is" as this subject is all about opinions and not decrees. But I would say that the rediscovery of that head image casting its conical reflection on the water below has only strengthened my opinion of it. So as we consider ninety years of the good, the bad and the ugly in Nessie photographs, let us take a moment to remember the man who started it all - Hugh Gray of Foyers.
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Before I address the main point of this posting, some have said that by outlining the features I see in the eel-like head, I have admitted the image cannot be seen on its own. This is not true. What I annotated was a zoom in of the best image we have and hence de facto it becomes more grainy. So I show below a better zoom out and invite people to see the fish like head with mouth open on the right extremity of the creature.
Now one of the meatier points raised concerned the shadow on the creature. It was suggested that if Mr. Gray was where he said he was at the stated date and time then the shadow is in the wrong place. The sun would be roughly to his left and hence the shadow should be more to the right on the image. Naturally this raises the question of not so much Hugh Gray's position on the shore but rather his orientation with respect to the sun and the creature. Since the sun was somewhere to the south west then the creature had to make an appearance somewhere in that direction. Can this be achieved from the Foyers estuary? The answer is yes going by Google Maps.
The geographical position is an estimate given I don't think anyone alive knows where exactly he was (but the accounts in Whyte's and Holiday's books helps a lot). The lines show the area where the monster likely put in its appearance. I will elaborate on this in another post but one point made was that the creature looks transparent as if the waves are going through it. I do not think this is totally correct. Where there is spray and water being thrown up then one can see through that but the creature is solid and the shadow extending from it proves this.
However, one should not assume that the shadow is a perfect representation of the creature's dimension but it can help us determine some factors (hence the title of the post). Firstly, shadows lenghten and shorten according to the sun's position. How high up was the sun on this occasion? We know the date, time, latitude and longitude so it is not difficult to come up with the altitude of the sun - it was about 11 degrees. This gives us the rough hand drawn diagram below.
Where x is the height of the creature above the water and y is the length of the shadow. The angle at the apex is our 11 degrees. The one assumption made is that the creature formed a roughly semi-circular shape out of the water when viewed laterally. The maths can be done on this (at end of post) and the ratio y:x is 4:1. That is, the shadow is about four times longer than the height of the beast out of the water.
But you then look at the picture and it is evident that the shadow is not four times longer than the apparent shape of the creature. This is due to the angle at which the observer viewed the object. Imagine the observer was directly over the creature. In this case, he would see the entire shadow length at four times the height of the beast. At the opposite extreme, if he was at the same eye level as the beast, he would see no shadow. So at this range from 90 to 0 degrees was an angle at which the observer viewed the beast and which would proportionately present a foreshortened shadow.
Now from what I can ascertain from the various books I have, Hugh Gray saw the creature from about 100 yards and was about 50 feet above it. This being the case gives us the following approximate diagram in metres.
This gives us an angle of incidence of about 10 degrees as a first estimate. We then divide this by 90 degrees and then multiple it by the ratio of 4:1 and the apparent shadow ratio is now only about 0.44:1 of the height of the beastie. Looking at the photograph of the suggested height of the beast and the extent of the shadow and we can see that this estimate is not far off. Though clearly these factors will change if the distance and height of the observer are altered.
Note that I am not entirley satisfied with the outline of the creature I have proposed here. I will alter that in another post. If I haved erred in any calculation, please add a comment below.
Some algebra: Tan( angle ) = x/(x + y)
x = height of beast
y = shadow length
From trigonometrical table Tan(11 degrees) = 0.21
x/(x + y) = 0.2
x = 0.2x + 0.2y
0.8x = 0.2y
y = 0.8x/0.2
y = 4x
Sunday 8 October 2023
I watched the latest Loch Ness Monster documentary which recently televised on the 22nd September. I believe this had previously shown on the new Paramount+ UK subscription channel a while back. That was originally shown as a three part series, but Channel 5 broadcast it as a single show lasting just over two hours, including adverts. I am not aware if anything was cut out from the originals. It was produced and directed by Stephen Finnigan for Two Rivers Media Limited.
I don't always review every documentary that is broadcast and looking back, I note I did not do the History's Greatest Mysteries episode from Sky History last June or the Zachary Quinto double header from January 2020. The last documentary I reviewed was also shown on Channel 5 back in March, so I wondered how this one differed from that as one does like to see a bit of variety in what is presented, although the basic facts of the mystery must needs be laid out for new viewers.
As I have said before, these documentaries are not made for the likes of long term watchers such as myself, they are aimed at the general public but there are some variations on a theme as producers try to put a different spin on the usual boilerplate formats lest increasingly informed audiences lose interest. So we have seen documentaries focused on Frank Searle, the recent eDNA project, Robert Rines, the major hoaxes or specific species candidates. In this case, there was an emphasis on the twelve year period from Tim Dinsdale's film to the Rines Flipper picture.
The players in this documentary known to me were Adrian Shine, Gary Campbell, Dick Raynor, Simon Dinsdale, Darren Naish, Willie Cameron, Malcolm Robinson, Tony Harmsworth and David Martin. As the documentary proceeded upon a timeline narration from 1933 onwards, various people would chip in with appropriate sound bytes as the documentary flipped between general narrator (Dougray Scott) and a given expert, depending on what was being discussed in that slot.
Not so familiar to me was a Stuart McHardy (Scottish Historian), Jenny Johnstone (Scottish Historian), Elsa Panciroli (Paleontologist) and Mara Menzies (Folklorist). These were not Loch Ness Monster experts but I suppose people looking from the outside in with some skill in related areas. Well, maybe, and others will be mentioned later.
Once upon a time in a far away land, there was a loch and in that loch was a monster. Or so some people supposed but others laughed and thought it foolish.
I think that fairytale like beginning sums up any documentary. It is natural to start a story at the beginning and for most that is the year 1933. So the various participants took us through the proverbial first sighting in water, first reporter, first sighting on land and first photograph. Now through all these narratives, the odd mistake will be made. I make them myself when I appear in such productions if one mis-speaks during an interview. One normally does not ask for a re-take if it is a minor sin of commission or omission.
I will come to the big sin of omission further down. But Aldie Mackay's sight of something black and glistening was presented as was the famous Spicer land sighting. Here we were pleasantly surprised to meet Mark Spicer, a grandson of George Spicer. I even got my first look at Mrs. Spicer in a photograph - though I still do not know her first name. Mark told us that his grandmother would tell them the tale of the monster and she wouldn't have told them if she didn't believe it to be true.
Alongside these was included the multiple eyewitness account from the Halfway House by the Alltsigh river on the 22nd September 1933. I initially wondered why this was included and then remembered my own write up on this account here and the statement that this was another first - the first sighting of a long neck. Well, I don't think it was, they were beaten by about 20 days, but it is actually a fascinating account as two others claimed to have seen a long neck at other parts of the loch the same day.
It was onto the first photograph taken by Hugh Gray and here was the big sin of omission. With all those experts to advise the production team, how on earth did they end up showing this terrible version of the photograph?
When they could have used this one instead?
The first version is poor quality, over-contrasted and retouched as was the fashion of newspaper editors in those days. The second is the superior version and has been available for use since the 1980s. I was going to send off a communication to the program's senior researcher asking that question, but why bother? However, in doing this, they missed a trick as it later transpired.
All this combined, as the program said, to light the blue touch paper. One speaker said people like to place their monster in dark places, such as peat-stained waters. That didn't quite explain the Loch Morar Monster which resides in clear waters. Nevertheless, in preparation for the later expose of the Surgeon's Photograph, we followed the adventures of Marmaduke Wetherell, who was described as the first person to come up and conduct a search and investigation of the loch.
I would normally agree with that but then concluded that the first person of note to do that was actually sea serpent expert, Lt. Cdr. Rupert T. Gould, who was up at the loch by November of that year. Wetherell arrived in mid-December. Be that as it may, the story of the fake hippo tracks ensued and we are told Wetherell was sacked from the Daily Mail investigation and left under a cloud with the apparent intent to give the Mail their monster photograph.
Once again, I am not sure Wetherell was actually sacked. He had conducted this investigation for a full month and then claimed he had seen a huge seal in the loch to close it all off with the explanation that this was what all the fuss was about. Actually, Wetherell's seal would clock in at nearly thirty feet and it was a sighting as convenient for the end of the expedition as the discovery of tracks was at the beginning. Like Alastair Boyd, co-author of the Surgeon's Photograph expose book, I think Wetherell cooked up this sighting. There was no seal in the loch at that time, certainly not one of those proportions.
That led to the Surgeon's Photograph of April 1934 and the oft-mentioned story of the investigation into how Wetherell and his associates had seemingly duped the Daily Mail. The other author of the expose book alongside Alastair Boyd was David Martin and he was interviewed about the Wilson picture. Not once was Alastair mentioned in the documentary. You would think he had nothing to do with the book, so I was a bit puzzled as to why he was not even credited with his part in this story.
Various other events from 1933 to 1934 were mentioned such as the Edward Mountain expedition and of note was what appeared to be a glimpse of the leader, Captain Fraser's, log book. Or was it? I wonder what dark corner that book is being held in. Then the documentary took a big leap of 24 years from 1934 to 1958. Had the Loch Ness Monster vacated the premises and gone off on holiday somewhere? No, the media generally lost interest to focus on the troubles in Europe and all that came from that.
The story resumes with the Peter MacNab photograph published in 1958, though it was taken in 1955. Some comments were made about the photograph suggesting they did not accept it but no expose story like the Surgeon's Photograph was forthcoming, because there are none. However, all seemed to be going well at this point as there was no concerted sceptical attack upon the stories or images as a whole. I began to think that the second half of the documentary was going to metamorphose into an attempted demolition job as various opinions on why these were all non-monsters would unfurl one by one.
But that didn't really happen.
So, the documentary entered the busy period of 1960 to 1972 as the Dinsdale film was taken and appeared on the BBC Panorama program rekindling interest in the monster and a series of expeditions throughout that decade. At this point, Simon Dinsdale entered the story as did some people from the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau. These were Dick Raynor, Alison Skelton and Peter Davies, who volunteered for service over those years. I do not recall seeing the latter two in television before, so that proved to be of additional interest as these people recounted their tales of monster hunting and also the human side of the story.
Alison was the wife of Clem Skelton, one of the important members of the LNIB whose camera skills helped set up the various camera watches. He had altogether been a Spitfire fighter pilot, high altitude reconnaissance photographer, actor, novelist and monster hunter. He is pictured below applying his skills to an LNIB camera.
I was interested to hear her give an account of an encounter that Clem may have had with the creature back in those days. She said he was rowing across the loch about the time of dusk when something came up beside him, making bubbling sounds and was larger than his boat. He did not investigate and rowed as fast as he could to shore. I guess I would have done the same thing rather than think of the photo-op of the century.
Then Dick Raynor told us about his time there and the film he shot in 1967 of an object making its way on the loch leaving a wake behind it. The LNIB regarded this as an important piece of evidence and submitted it to JARIC for photographic analysis, concluding the object was perhaps seven feet long and travelling at 5mph. The story of Dan Taylor and his yellow submarine were told before moving onto the arrival of Robert Rines and the Academy of Applied Science from America.
Dick commented that this felt like NASA was getting involved in the hunt and it wouldn't be long before they got results. On and after the night of August 8th 1972, i would have certainly felt that way. Dick Raynor and Peter Davies recounted their experiences on the night the famous "flipper" photograph was taken. What came out of that leads us into the section of the documentary on Robert Rines.
This took us into 1975 and those controversial head and body photos, the article in the prestigious Nature magazine naming the Loch Ness Monster, the postponed meeting with scientists and the press conference at the House of Commons. A leap of 12 years then takes us to Operation Deepscan and its inconclusive results.
So the program switched to two investigators, Rikki Razdan and Alan Kielar, who discovered the 1972 flipper photograph was a claimed enhanced image which bore little resemblance to what the Jet Propulsion Laboratories produced and they were right. It had been retouched by parties unknown who to this day have not confessed to the deed. They also visited Winifred Cary to find that Robert Rines had used her so called psychic dowsing skills to pinpoint where to place their underwater cameras. To this day, it is not clear to me what Rines' reply to this was?
One thing seems certain, as a lawyer Rines never sued them over these claims. We then switched to a fuller exposition of the Surgeon's Photograph hoax, but there was no new information added to that particular story. After some more psychological words about people wanting the monster to exist, we ended up with the recent eDNA survey results and no reptiles but lots of eels.
That eel reference left some speculating that some of what had been previously spoken about could support a giant eel theory. They picked the so-called eel-like nature of what the women at the Halfway House in 1933 saw and the "snake-like" characteristics of what Hugh Gray photographed. Well, at least they admitted these people saw a large unknown creature but there is nothing eel-like in what was reported by those women or anything snake like in Gray's photograph. But, as stated earlier, if they had used the superior Gray image and dug around a bit more, they would have had an eel-like head to bolster their case.
After some more lightweight psychology about the monster being ingrained in the culture, a mystery we cannot let go and the more we want to believe, the more it stays in our mind, the documentary ended. After all that, I wondered if a change in direction for this genre of documentary was required? How about a documentary that focusses on land sightings, or one on events before 1933 or one that tracks a team of monster hunters (like the bigfoot programs) and so on? Well, the last one may be in the offing, but I suspect even the general viewing public may be getting tired with the same old format.
Maybe that is more down to the lack of imagination of the broadcasting organisations to whom these documentaries are sold to. Either way, the vast majority of stories on the monster remain untouched by these people while they play it safe with a tight subset of the genre which is rarely updated.
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Sunday 17 September 2023
Two pictures of something which may or may not be the Loch Ness Monster turned up on social media in the last few days. The first to look at was sent to Alan McKenna of the Loch Ness Exploration group who recently ran The Quest monster hunt weekend. It came from a Richard Wilson who had actually taken the picture in question on the 18th January 2015 just before noon. Richard filled in a sighting report for the LNE which gave the following details.
At Dores Beach, an object thought to be head like at a range of 70-100m was visible for several minutes. Richard and his wife walked away but returned fifteen minutes to find it had gone. The waters were calm and the object looked to be stationary. The appearance was of a green-gray color with a white band across its "face". There were no wakes visible caused by the object or any boats. Only one photograph is available or was taken at the time.
Alan checked the exif metadata associated with the original image and he says it looks okay. Now to all intents and purposes, the object looks like a floating sphere, which points to a buoy. That has naturally been suggested already and google image searches have already been done to find a picture of a buoy that looks the most like the one in Mr. Wilson's photograph. Of course, just because a striped flotation device can be found on the Internet, does not imply that one such item was floating in the loch about nine years ago,
The other thought that came to mind was the recent images taken by Chie Kelly which caused a stir a couple of weeks back, but which has gone quiet as we await more pictures. I say that because it also features a spherical type object with the suggestion of a lighter stripe against a darker area. But that is where the similarity ends as a cursory examination suggests they are not the same object. Having said that, it is admitted that the entirety of either object, taken over three years apart, is not seen. I would say that this image from 2015 looks more spherical than the ones from 2018, but is it a perfect sphere?
Perhaps it was the spherical similarity that prompted Richard Wilson to contact the LNE? If it is a ball buoy it has quite a mottled surface and I would expect the stripes to be better defined than this. Also, if it is a spherical buoy, it is not very buoyant as the extrapolated sphere drawing below shows with the waterline added. This suggests that less than a quarter is above the surface. Maybe that all points to a very old buoy or other flotation device? That being said, it looks a little too rough looking on the surface for a buoy.
It would be good to get some clear images of the known buoys in the area. The fish farm just down the shore has some and there are some in Dores Bay. Note that the light is striking the object from the left. The stated date and time would give the sun's position in the chart below. I assumed the witness was on the top side of Dores beach to allow the direction of light to agree with the image, though other locations can also line up.
Alan McKenna produced a photo of a Dores buoy with a similar lighting effect. The buoy is clearly more buoyant, but what we need here is a clear picture of these buoys. Do they have the same pattern as the object photographed by Richard Wilson? If they are a plain colour like the other buoys in the loch, this is not a candidate.
Moving onto the second photograph, this was taken much more recently and was published by the Mirror newspaper on the 14th September. The witness gave her account to the newspaper, which I quote below. The last quote is from Gary Campbell, maintainer of the Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register.
A shocked woman is convinced she got a glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster after spotting huge ripples in the water. Siobhan Janaway first mistook them as coming from a powerboat. But taking a second glance she noticed no vessels were on the famous loch. Local Siobhan said what she thinks was the mythical beast was moving at great speed. She took a photo – showing a large trail of air bubbles visible to the human eye. Siobhan, from Inverness - near the loch - said: “There was something causing turmoil in the water off Foyers Point. Then it coalesced into a single object moving at speed just under the surface causing at least a 20 metre white wake.”
Siobhan made the sighting just before midday on 27 August. But she has only just reported it to The Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register. It is the seventh recorded sighting of what could be the Scottish folklore creature this year. Speaking about Siobhan’s sighting, he said: "From our perspective, this is a really unusual wake which at first might look like it was caused by a powerboat. But Siobhan has confirmed no boats were nearby and that whatever was causing it was just below the surface. Maybe Nessie was just popping up to see what the fuss was all about that weekend, but of course keeping her head down at the same time.”
When I saw this image, I discounted it as the creature pretty quickly, mainly because I was there the same morning on the 27th August at the Foyers campsite on the other side of the river. I quote from my trip report published four days before this photograph.
When I arose on the Sunday morning at Foyers, I looked out to the area where the River Foyers met the loch. The heightened flow of the river was rushing down to meet the loch and there was a lot of disturbance where the two collided. The general flow of the vaster body of the loch water was from the south west up the loch. However, the river water was hitting it at almost a right angle.
The result was a wall of resistance as the river water tried to merge with the main waters. The dynamics of this interaction led to the river water rotating in the direction of the loch water but also turning back towards the river giving us a sort of whirlpool. I have seen this phenomenon before at this location some years before. It is not very dangerous as the waters are quite shallow there. I imagined our ducks having some fun with this, jumping onto it like a fairground carousel.
The previous time I had seen this turbulence was back in 2017 and I had driven up to the top of the hill by the old Foyers Hotel where Tim Dinsdale had stayed during that auspicious week in 1960. I too looked down on the bay and saw the water in turbulence in a manner similar to the photograph above. There was another factor in play and that was the water flowing from the hills into the Foyers Power Station, there is a discharge point that ejects water into the other side of the Foyers peninsula through a narrow channel called the Tail Leat.
This would flow rapidly into the field of view of Ms. Janaway. Here is a photo I took of that area at another time showing a lesser disturbed flow of water heading out. After torrential rain, this compressed flow can increase many times over and look like something else, such as wake disturbances apparently produced by boats. So I do not think this was the Loch Ness Monster but the image from 2015 is more open to question for me.
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Sunday 10 September 2023
The weekend of August 26th began what nationally was called "The Quest", the latest mass organised attempt to search for the famous Loch Ness Monster. This was a joint venture between the Loch Ness Exploration (LNE) group founded by Alan McKenna and the staff of the new Loch Ness Exhibition owned by Continuum Attractions. As a seasoned "monster hunter" myself, I had some input into the matter, though the whole matter was run by the LNE and Loch Ness Centre.
It was a convenient coincidence for me as I normally go up to the loch around late August for my own purposes but was happy to join in the search as things moved towards that weekend. So, in giving my own perspective on that weekend, I will mainly describe it in a travelogue manner, going through it chronologically. It was certainly the busiest time I had encountered at Loch Ness!
Friday 25th was mainly a day off packing and travelling the 160 odd miles from Edinburgh to Foyers. I had previously posted on Facebook a selection of items that I was bringing with me. There was a thermal video camera, night vision binoculars, trap cameras, maps and an assortment of other items including some obligatory liquid refreshments. To that could be added camping equipment, books, etc. Thus packed, I headed up the M90 and then A9 where I encountered heavy rain.
Rain and the Highlands go hand in hand, so one just has to put up with it as I arrived at the campsite late afternoon. This was the kind of weather ducks love as you can see below as they paraded across the pitches. After sorting out some issues with camping I jumped back in the car and headed south to Fort Augustus to meet up with Alan McKenna and a filming team who had invited me to participate in the making of a documentary which followed The Quest and included some of their own work. On the way, I stopped off for a quick look at the Falls of Foyers as the heavy downpour would make for a more spectacular fall and I was not disappointed.
It was there that I finally met up with fellow Nessie fan Andy McGrath who was part of the documentary team and who I had only communicated with beforehand via social media. I was also pleasantly surprised to meet cryptozoologist Ken Gerhard who was also part of the team and whom I had also communicated with remotely when he was writing his book, "The Essential Guide to the Loch Ness Monster". Good to meet both of you and everyone else!
It was a good evening of banter about mysterious monsters and how we hoped the weekend would pan out. I has brought my Flir thermal video camera with me to scan over the waters of the loch afterwards so Alan and I took advantage of the drop in rainfall to scan the dark waters of the loch from the distant north shore towards Inchnacardoch and over to Borlum Bay on our right. We were standing at the jetty where the old monks of Fort Augustus Abbey used to launch out their boats to fish going back to the late 19th century.
We were fishing around for something larger as we scanned a loch surface that was cloaked in darkness to the naked eye but was lit up in the infra-red eyepiece. It wasn't long before we noticed something on the loch which moved from our left over to the distant edges of Borlum Bay. It was a string of bright dots and it didn't take long to figure out it was those damned ducks again. Well, not the same bunch, but another six or so of them. One would have thought they would have gone back to base by nightfall, but they just love that rain I guess.
Well, it shows you how useful such a device is at night time if the creature is indeed more active at night. I took some thermal pictures of our feathered friends and we called it a night as things would start up early the following day. It was my intention to bring the thermal camera to the work the team hoped to do with the thermal drone later on. On the way back to bed, I stopped off at the River Tarff which flows past the Abbey. It was loudly flowing into the loch as the rains filled the surrounding rivers and took a look at the dark torrents through the thermal camera and then onto slumber.
Saturday was the beginning of the hunt as I drove over to the Loch Ness Centre at Drumnadrochit for the morning briefing at 0830 given by Alan. It was when I got there that I realised how much media interest there was in this event. The Loch Ness Monster never fails to attract attention across the world. There was representatives from the UK, America, Germany, Japan and so on there with their cameras and microphones thrust in the direction of our man from the LNE. I soon found out I would be involved and asked to give some words on the subject.
It was a bit of a miserable day as the rain continued to descend upon us, no doubt damping some of the occasion. The volunteer monster hunters had turned up, though some had decided to just go straight to their watch stations from their accommodation, while others would not turn up at the loch until later that day and the following day. I also discovered we had various impromptu hunters who knew about the hunt but were participating incognito.
I also met Dick Raynor who has long associations with the monster, but is now on the sceptical side. He wasn't there for the media circus but to offer his help to Alan as they went out on the Loch Ness Centre boat Deepscan, to use hydrophone equipment to revive the old science of picking up any audio signals from the loch below which may or may not be associated with the creatures. Hydrophones have been used at the loch ever since the days of the first hunts in 1933-34. They were used again around 1970 and some interesting sounds were picked up, but nothing more happened and I was glad to see their use again after fifty years.
At that point, I did not actually have an exact plan for the day. I hoped to first go out on the boat with Alan and Dick to merely watch and learn as the hydrophone was employed, but that would not be until about noon. So I went into the café beside the Loch Ness Centre for a coffee where I first made the acquaintance of a journalist working for the Daily Telegraph. We had a fifteen minute chat about the loch, the monster and my own hunt for it. When I saw the final article the following week, the only part that got into the paper was my own possible sighting a few years back when I heard a large splash and turned to see a large vertical column of water dropping back into the loch!
I say "sighting" but no visual contact was made with whatever physical object threw up the water. It is one of those events where you think it was the monster on a Monday but something else on Tuesday. Next up was a camera crew from the German RTL TV channel. Having chatted with one of them, they invited me to do a segment with them beside the loch answering a few basic questions about the weekend hunt.
This was filmed at a layby a mile or so beyond Temple Pier which commands a good view of the loch. Time was a bit tight as I did not want to miss the hydrophone boat trip, but it finished quick enough and I had time to chat with one of the volunteer watches called Craig who was there keeping an eye on the waters. After that, I dashed back to Drumnadrochit to join Alan and Dick on their second trip out on the boat. We were joined by various paying customers to whom Alan would demonstrate the hydrophone.
As we motored out to the centre of the loch beyond the castle, the engines were turned off and a speaker was attached to the now underwater hydrophone and we listened for any noises. Now the use of this equipment is in its early days and Alan with his LNE team will be using it in the months ahead as he attempts to gather recordings of the noises around the loch and catalogue them. To recognise that which is unknown, you first have to gather the known noises and there is no shortage of them. Daytime during the tourist season is not the best time, but this is all part of the wider experiment.
So the speaker would play out the noise of passing boats as well as the water lapping against the sides of the boat. There are other audio sources which will be explored going forward such as the Foyers power station, the water flowing into the loch from the many streams and so on. The loch is a noisy place, all such sources of noise need to be recognised and recorded. Ideally, you gather these and then change context to the night when all these distractions are gone and perhaps new sounds will emerge. As the loch gently rocked the boat, I kept an occasional eye on the loch for something, somewhere to agitate the waters beyond the expected. After all, I was there to watch the loch as well.
Once the boat docked back at Temple Pier, I watched some of the passengers being interviewed by the waiting media and then got back in the car and headed up the A82 towards Inverness. The intent was to ultimately get back to Foyers but also look for other volunteers and watch the loch myself. So I kind of stopped at various laybys, trying to look like a recognisable volunteer (i.e. holding a pair of binoculars) and looking for anyone else who looked recognisable (i.e. also holding a pair of binoculars).
Pretty soon, I spotted a chap wielding his binoculars and went up to have a chat. He was actually an unofficial volunteer as he wanted to participate in the hunt, but keep a distance from the scrum down at Drumnadrochit. He told me he had a sighting back in 2021 and I soon realised I was speaking to fellow Nessie Facebooker, Colin Veacock. We had spoken many a time on various cryptozoological groups on social media, but it is always best to meet and talk face to face. As we chatted a young lady approached us and asked if we were volunteers as she was a journalist from the Independent and wanted to chat with one of us on how things were going. Colin deferred to me and I again answered what was pretty much a similar set of questions about the loch, the creatures and its hunters.
After that I did some more watching of the loch, specifically at the spot where Aldie Mackay had her famous 1933 sighting and visualised in my mind the changing appearance of the animal as it traced its route near Tor Point before submerging. After Foyers, I drove back for Alan's second debriefing of the weekend around 1745. Some observers reported some unusual sights and a couple had taken a video clip of something of definite interest from the beach at Dores which looked like a double humped object and can be viewed on this YouTube link.
There is also the suggestion of something smaller to the right of the two hump-like objects. You will also notice in the video what appears to be a floating island in the farthest distance. This is actually a mirage which can happen given the right conditions for a temperature inversion to occur. One may then ask whether the two humps are part of the mirage effect? I don't think it is, but I would like to see the entire video rather than the truncated ten second clip available.
There was also another observer who thought he might have seen something akin to a double hump and long neck. He was speaking to a couple of media representatives who were interested in running his story. Looking at his sketch and hearing his account, the main issue was that the object was described as moving backwards, that is, humps then neck moving right to left. I suggested then and there that it was either the Loch Ness Monster or the Log Ness Monster and the backdrop to that statement was the fact that the heavy rains of the last two days had led to an increased influx of tree debris from the connecting rivers and streams. In fact, the volunteer's position was near the mouth of the River Moriston.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS AT THE LOCH NESS CENTRE
The other reason for being in Drumnadrochit was an invitation by the Loch Ness Centre to take part in a Q&A session at 1900 with Steve Feltham and Alan McKenna in front of twenty-five guests in the "underwater" room. What format this might take varied a bit until it was agreed that the emphasis should be on the audience asking questions and so we were each given an initial question by way of introduction asking something specific about our own research into the mystery. The question assigned to me was:
What was it about the legend of the Loch Ness monster that inspired you to research more about other myths and legends in the area? Do you think these could help us in solving the mystery of the monster?
The background to this question was my book "The Water Horses of Loch Ness" and the relation of the past mythical creatures to the present day ones. I told the audience that the main motivation was the fact that in the 1930s, many were saying this was a new phenomenon and an example of mass hysteria. For me, demonstrating there was a viable and noteworthy tradition before this disproved this "new" form of hysteria to some extent. The second point was to demonstrate that each age carried its own cultural version of the creature with the storytellers of that time layering literary devices over the real phenomenon according to the prevailing beliefs of the relevant communities.
The storytellers of the 18th century created the Each Uisge based on the horse like appearance of the creature they sometimes beheld and turned it into a devilish opponent to good Christian people everywhere. Today's storytellers are the media and some influential authors who imported the plesiosaur, appropriately changed to accommodate what people said they saw.
In fact, I called this current ninety year old phenomenon, the newest cycle of man trying to frame this mystery to the context of their age. In fact, this is the third cycle if we include the indigenous Picts prior to the arrival of Christianity whose animistic culture would have framed those distant humps and long necks into yet another context which is only preserved for us today in the symbol stones variously scattered across the North of Scotland.
So we have the Animist, Christian and Secular cycles of the Loch Ness Animal. I wonder when this current secular cycle will end and what will replace it? Thereafter, the audience asked various questions and a lad asked us if we would ever give up. The answer was a collective no and I speculated my son would probably place a fluffy green Nessie toy in my coffin! I hope not, there is more to life than the Loch Ness Monster.
But that was not the anticipated highlight of the day for me as it was planned for us to go out with the documentary team to watch the thermal drone in action. But bad news came as we were told this was being moved to the following evening. That was too bad as I would be back in Edinburgh by then. So with some disappointment, I drove back to Foyers and decided to do my own thermal imaging work with the Flir camera around 2200.
A quick scout around the pitch dark loch revealed more of what Alan and I had seen at Fort Augustus as the ducks were out on the loch. I snapped the image below showing a similar sized group of ducks swimming past me towards Dinsdale Island. Once again, looking out onto the loch with the naked eye showed only darkness. I did various sweeps of the loch looking for anything unusual out there. Clearly, if a hump several feet high and twice as long had surface near the ducks, it would stand out a mile on the thermal imager if it exuded any body heat.
But therein lies the question, what kind of body heat would it emit? One wonders what an ectothermic pike or salmon breaching the surface would have looked like compared to the endothermic ducks? Whether the Loch Ness Monster is endothermic or ectothermic is a matter of opinion. My own view is that it is mainly ectothermic but has limited endothermic capabilities as most animals do metabolize their own degree of heat emission amongst a variety of strategies to keep their core temperature within a certain range.
Above is a video of the Flir camera scanning the loch at Foyers Beach and you can see the ducks on the go but this time colour coded for temperature (red hottest) and that concluded another night. The documentary did their filming the following night and captured something of interest which has received some publicity. I will cover that in a later blog posting.
The final day was more devoted to specific projects and the first was meeting up with the Dragonfly filming team at the Clansman Hotel about 1000. After a general chat about the past couple of days, it was decided to film me being interviewed by Ken Gerhard at the locations of the Arthur Grant land sighting and the Aldie Mackay sighting further up the loch.
By a happy coincidence, there was already a Nessie on land very close to the spot where Arthur Grant had his close encounter of the Nessie kind ninety years before on a moonlit night when there was no Nessie model and no Clansman Hotel. The lady in white below was not part of the filming just in case you wondered. By this time the other monsters known as midges were out in force. This was the only good thing about the heavy rain, midges do not go out in it for the same reason we would not go out if the raindrops were the size of cars.
I explained how I interpreted the event and defended Mr. Grant against all comers. I suggested the creature may have disembarked from the shore seventy yards further along before lumbering to the point where we were standing near a stream and then Grant turned up to send it bounding back over the road into the loch.
It was then back up to Tor Point where I had been the day before to likewise describe the sighting Aldie Mackay had seen about nine months before Arthur Grant. The traffic was quite heavy along the A82 and was actually quite busy over all that day around the loch, as if tourists were making up for the wet Saturday. If I was Nessie, I wouldn't be crossing this road in 2023. Maybe in 1934, but not today! She may be big, but a car moving at 60mph packs a lot of punch even for a thirty foot creature.
After saying my farewell to the filming team around lunchtime, it was time to conclude the business of the day, and that meant installing various game cameras around the loch. I scouted out a few new spots as I had extra cameras. These were loaded with 4, 8 or 12 AA batteries and generally 16Gb micro-SD cards. Some will last longer than others, but it depends on the location and settings. While walking various beaches, it became evident how much debris had been washed into the loch as seen in the photo below.
Now back in April, I had collected the previous run of cameras but a couple had gone missing. I actually went back to that site and found them, which was a mixed blessing. One was still attached to the tree, so it beats me how I missed it first time around, but it was still there. The second I found lying on the grass near its tree but there was no sign of the strapping that had held it to the tree. I opened it up and found it was beyond use having succumbed to months of rain and rusted somewhat, though it is more likely the water ingress into the electronics had done the damage.
But the memory card was missing and I realised what had happened. This camera had not been pointing at the loch but along the shoreline to see what wildlife approached the loch by night or day. Well, you can guess what happened. Somebody had come off the road to visit the shore and while walking around saw this camera pointing at them. They concluded it must have snapped them and they did not want their picture to be recorded. The result was a game camera taken off the tree, opened up, card removed and then dumped on the ground. Why didn't they just tie it back to the tree?
Anyway, the lesson was learnt and I will have to position that kind of camera more sensitively in the future. One of the other cameras did record some wildlife near the shore at about three in the morning last year as you can see below with the deer with its back to the camera looking intently at the dark loch. Ignore the dark hump like object in the water near the centre. It is a rock sitting in less that a foot of water.
So my time at the loch was coming to an end. I spent a final hour or so watching the waters from the quieter south side of the loch. The beast made no special appearances for me and so about 1700 it was time to hit the road south - via Burger King. Yes, Loch Ness trips do have their benefits. Various people have posted their thoughts and reports regarding that weekend. The Loch Ness Centre has its own report at this link and Alan McKenna has posted here.
But what about the "whirlpool of evil" that was foretold in the media if we tried to find a supernatural Nessie? Well, I did see a whirlpool, though it was not particularly evil. When I arose on the Sunday morning at Foyers, I looked out to the area where the River Foyers met the loch. The heightened flow of the river was rushing down to meet the loch and there was a lot of disturbance where the two collided. The general flow of the vaster body of the loch water was from the south west up the loch. However, the river water was hitting it at almost a right angle.
The result was a wall of resistance as the river water tried to merge with the main waters. The dynamics of this interaction led to the river water rotating in the direction of the loch water but also turning back towards the river giving us a sort of whirlpool. I have seen this phenomenon before at this location some years before. It is not very dangerous as the waters are quite shallow there. I imagined our ducks having some fun with this, jumping onto it like a fairground carousel. But in the main, I was not aware of anyone being seriously injured during this weekend of observation.
But now is the time to assess and reflect. What can be done to improve the process if it is done next year? What could be tweaked, dropped or something new added? That is a matter for discussion and is best done now while the memories are fresh of the past weekend. I have a few thoughts and hope to pass them onto to Alan and the Loch Ness Centre at some point. In the meantime, it was a great but busy weekend for me. Most trips are just me and the loch, but it was good to experience the camaraderie of the hunt and a shared belief.
Those thermal drones look interesting, though I wonder what the cost of such an item would be. The documentary team had also mentioned underwater ROVs which are accessible to a lot of people like me today. The issue was where to maximize their utility as a lot of shoreline is shallow and consumes a lot of cable before you hit the deeps. So certainly food for thought as the Winter approaches and most activity winds down at the loch.
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Monday 4 September 2023
The set of photographs taken by Mrs. Chie Kelly that appeared a few days ago continue to generate interest and debate. I penned my own initial reaction having found five of the fifteen images amongst various media articles but though they generated a degree of anticipation, I wasn't going to dive in deep without seeing the complete run of images. In the meantime, as I await such a development, I looked to see what other people were saying.
If they are images of the Loch Ness Monster, their detail and clarity may never have been surpassed - depending on what you think of others alleged monster photographs. So the clearer the picture, the more unanimous and convergent the opinions? Nothing could be further from the truth! These are some of the interpretations I found on some Facebook forums:
- giant eel
- otter or seal being attacked by a reptile
- a big cat carrying prey
- leatherback turtles
- water snakes
- two bin bags
- half-sunken dinghy
- dog carrying something
- dead deer
- degraded two man kayak
- two people swimming with rucksacks
Clearly, a lot of these ideas are non-starters but the Daily Mail ran an article which gave us the opinion of Ben Garrod, a biology professor at the University of East Anglia:
However, biologist professor Ben Garrod told the programme that the thinks the humps are something far less exciting - such as debris from a boat or a lump of wood. He added that he doesn't believe that Nessie would be a prehistoric monster - as these were huge and sometimes violent, quick creatures, which would have made their presence known by now.
'As a biologist I would say if we're looking for an animal and we haven't seen it in approximately 50 years or we haven't got conclusive proof it's there, it's extinct.'
However, he thought it might well be 'a massive fish'.
So, a piece of floating wood and not a prehistoric monster as we would have some bodies dotting the shoreline by now - and I don't mean sunbathing. No aquatic dinosaurs but a vague reference to massive fish. Perhaps someone could clarify this as another later Mail article quotes a Hayley Stevens, identified as a paranormal researcher (though actually a sceptic of the paranormal):
But after their publication, paranormal researcher Hayley Stevens said: ‘I personally think it is most likely they saw a large sturgeon in the loch. The photos were taken in August and sturgeon migrate into fresh water in late summer and early autumn to mate.’
She added that native sturgeon are large – growing up to five metres in length.
I suppose the Daily Mail regarded these answers as expert opinion, but they come across as ill-informed and hasty. Now if the two had been presented with only the image shown at the top of this article, you might give them some leeway, but how can this two humped object possibly be called a sturgeon which has no such contours (compare below)? In fact, when the second image below is brought in, driftwood and sturgeon look like wholly inadequate explanations.
If one takes a look at Hayley's original piece, she attempts to answer why she thinks this is the best explanation.
The golden rule for solving ghost and monster mysteries is to keep it simple. Although it can be tempting to let your imagination run wild, the simplest solutions are almost always the correct answer, so start with those. Lay out what you already know and more often than not, the knowledge gaps fill themselves in.
Instead, when Nessie makes the news, people rush in with wild theories about what’s in a photo – theories that often have very little evidential basis to them. I’ve seen it suggested that this could be a deflating inflatable raft or an otter sitting on a ray. These suggestions may not be as farfetched as the idea that a dinosaur survives in the Loch, but they’re still pretty wild…
So, keep it simple, it's a sturgeon .. except the photos look nothing like a sturgeon and no sturgeon has ever been caught in Loch Ness. Apart from these minor points, it's a great theory. Perhaps sturgeon have made their way into the loch at some point in the past but their depleted numbers today suggest this is even more unlikely than past decades. I also doubt a sturgeon getting into Loch Ness to mate (with what?) is ever going to get back out.
So the clearer the picture, the more convergent the opinions? Not likely, it looks more like an exercise in hammering your favourite square peg into a round hole! Hayley even accuses Nessie believers of infighting over such images. I beg to differ, I see the discussions as largely civilized with the odd cross words being the minority. Of course, the vast majority of ideas are wrong, only one or none of them can be right.
What we have here is the marketplace of ideas on the Internet and like a real marketplace the worst ideas don't sell much, are ignored and fade away. Of course, some bad ideas still get bought like cheap pairs of shoes, nothing is perfect where people are involved. But driftwood will eventually sink and sturgeon will eventually stink. Will this winnowing of ideas eventually leave us with the true explanation? The answer to that is no, but I would hope that if and when we see more data, an awful lot of dross would have been cleared out by then.
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