Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Thoughts on John MacLean, Lachlan Stuart and the An Seileag

First off, I wrote an article on the famous John MacLean sighting a while back. The item was linked by James Jeffrey Paul a few days back which led to a comment by well known Nessie sceptic, Tony Harmsworth. He "explained" to James that it was a combination of a cormorant and waves. Shall we now go home? Not likely.

So what gets on my pectorals more than anything else in this subject? It's sceptics dissing and dumbing down Nessie witnesses without exception. It can be summed up in that most unusual of sceptical dogmas:

No Loch Ness Monster eyewitness has ever accurately described what they claimed to see.

That applies to all 1500 or so reports that we know about. Yes, it does sound counter-intuitive, doesn't it? But the only way they get away with this outlandish axiom is because the alternative is seen as even more counter-intuitive by the general public; that a monster inhabits Loch Ness. Sorry, but one implausibility should not rely on another for its justification.

But John MacLean was a local man who fished Loch Ness, I think he would have had some experience of the wildlife around Loch Ness. How much experience do you need around the loch to recognise a cormorant?

He was only about sixty feet from this animal, how close do you have to be to recognise a cormorant?

He observed this creature for six minutes, how long do you need to tell a cormorant from a monster?

Clearly none of this is relevant to the sceptic.


Thirteen years later, Lachlan Stuart claimed to have seen and photographed the Loch Ness Monster on the other side of the loch. Tony Harmsworth also has a hook into this story in his 1985 booklet, The Mysterious Monsters of Loch Ness. In this short work, he states that Richard Frere approached him and told him that he had witnessed Lachlan Stuart and Taylor Hay set up hay bales and tarpaulin to photograph a hoax.

This was at variance with later accounts which had Stuart merely confessing the deed to Frere. Tony stood by his version until he stated "I got it wrong" at the Nessie at 80 conference. Given the 28 year gap between booklet and recantation, I put it to you the recall of the 1985 Tony would be more reliable than the 2013 Tony.

But my main point here was I always wondered what a hay bale from that time would have looked like. Eventually I found a 1950s picture of Inchnacardoch Bay with hay bales in the distance. Judge for yourselves whether these types of objects are up to the task. I would say the job is not so clear cut as some make out, but no doubt one or two sceptics will come up with creative answers.


Moving on to more folkloric times, I recently found this story from The Celtic Review of 1905. It is set in the Isle of Lewis and Harris amongst the small lochs of that island. 

Many years have passed since my old grandmother told me the tale; and she said that it was a very old story then. In the lochs there dwelt a huge monster, a water-horse. He was very dangerous. He used to swell the loch, so that any one that happened to be in the neighbourhood was swept into it, and afterwards devoured. This monster had a liking for women and children, whom he enticed to his dwellings under the loch, there to eat them up. The grass round the loch also served him for food. Not very long ago there was a seileig in a loch over the way of Leurbost.

A seileig is not the same as the each-uisge. It is like an enormous eel, and is supposed to come from the sea. Several people saw a part of this seileig rise like an island in the middle of the loch. They got a big hook and fastened it to a long chain. On the hook they hung the carcass of a sheep, and threw it into the loch. Next day they pulled out the chain. The sheep was gone, and the great hook had been pulled straight.

There was a burn running from the loch to the sea, and some time after, when it was in spate, the people saw traces along the sides of the burn as if some slimy monster had been making its way from the loch to the sea. It must have been the seileig for nothing more was seen of it in the loch. 

Giant eels form part of the tapestry of Scottish monsters. For example, one could argue that we can read an eel into the etymology of Loch Shiel (gaelic sealg or seileig).


Finally, a poem about the feared Kelpie taken from the The Mataura Ensign newspaper dated 6th May 1892.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The F. C. Adams Photograph

Here is a photograph that has been on the periphery of the Loch Ness literature for decades, yet for Loch Ness Monster researchers, it has remained an ambiguous image. I would rank it as one of the "classic pictures" in the Loch Ness panoply, being one of those seminal black and white pictures taken between 1933 and 1960 that so often formed the backbone of many a Nessie book. However, one may be forgiven for getting the impression that this one was made the "runt of the litter".

Opinions have been varied as to what it shows. Dr. Roy Mackal declared it as "positive evidence" of the creature in his 1976 book, "The Monsters of Loch Ness". He mused that the object is akin to a flipper or fin comparable to the [1972] underwater photograph of an appendage”.

Likewise, Peter Costello found in its favour in his 1974 work, "In Search of Lake Monsters", where he reflects the opinion of A. C. Oudemans in saying the head is turned away from us” in the manner of forced perspective. This was offered in explanation of why the presumed neck looked so foreshortened.

But others pro-monster authors have barely given it a mention, neither declaring it monster, misidentification or hoax. Of such, we find that Holiday, Dinsdale and Whyte act as if the photograph never existed.

Perhaps Nicholas Witchell best summed it up in his 1974 book, "The Loch Ness Story". He reproduced the picture, but adds the simple description: "An unidentified object in Loch Ness". One suspects the problem lay in the fact that the object on view did not fit into the normal plesiosaur mould. But then again, it didn't have to.

Sceptical authors, of course, will have a different opinion on the object's identity. Maurice Burton, ever keen to promote his vegetable mat theory in the 1961 work, "The Elusive Monster", tells us that the picture is like a trunk or a branch brought up from the depths by some underwater explosion.

Finally, Tony Harmsworth, in his recent work, "Loch Ness Understood", plumps for the dorsal fin of a species such as the dolphin.

So much for the variety of opinions, but what more can we learn of this picture? The picture itself came to light in the form of two press articles. The first was published by the Daily Mail on the 25th August 1934. In this regard, good old fashioned research trumped over online and digital as I paid for a photocopy of it from the British Library and reproduce it below for your interest.

The short text under the picture runs thusly:

This exclusive and latest photograph of the Loch Ness Monster (which has been in retirement for some time) was taken recently by a reader of "The Daily Mail" on holiday at Fort Augustus. The picture has been enlarged, but not retouched. On the right we reproduce, for the purposes of comparison, the picture of the monster published in "The Daily Mail" last April. It was a photograph taken by R. K. Wilson, a surgeon, of Queen Anne Street W., at a distance of 200 yards.

The picture was again printed in the 1st September issue of the Illustrated London News (picture at the top of this article). Its even briefer text says:

The latest photograph of the Loch Ness "Monster", after an interval during which it had not been seen for some considerable time: an enlargement of a picture taken recently by a visitor on holiday at Fort Augustus.

As an aside, I would point out that the monster had not been in retirement or been unseen for a considerable time. July and August of 1934 proved to be the most monster intensive period in the history of the phenomenon. After that, apart from Maurice Burton dismissing it in 1961, the picture sunk without trace until Peter Costello included it in his aforementioned work forty years later.


Thanks to Peter Costello, the authorship of the picture seems to have landed by default at the feet of a Mr. F. C. Adams. If we look back at the press clippings of the time, there is indeed an F. C. Adams who claimed to have seen and photographed the creature. The account below is from the 3rd August 1934 edition of the Inverness Courier, three weeks before the picture appeared in the national newspapers.

Mr. Adams was in the tower of Urquhart Castle when he took his picture. A recent picture of my own from that vantage point shows the vista that formed the back drop of his picture. I would imagine that the creature he photographed would have occupied the top centre of the waters. An attempt to pinpoint the creature's location based on the account is reproduced further down.

Now since the object is stated to be mid loch and in a line with Whitefield, this would suggest the object was at a distance of  over one mile away from Mr. Adams. This leads me to question whether the photograph under consideration was indeed taken by him. I say that because the clarity of the object is not consistent with a photograph of an object over one mile away. Mr. Adams himself was quoted as being sceptical of anything coming out on film at that distance and I do not doubt his word on that matter.

Moreover, the two newspaper articles suggest that the incident may have actually happened closer to Fort Augustus, over ten miles away. I would also add that the photograph was taken side on whereas the object described by Adams should be heading away from him.

In that light, I do not agree with Peter Costello's assessment that Adams is the photographer. I suspect Peter took this line because the Adams story was the one closest to the Daily Mail article that mentions a photograph being taken. That is a logical deduction, but the internal evidence suggests we need to look elsewhere.

I did make an attempt to find the true Adams picture during the course of this investigation with no success. Given the distance of the object involved, I am of the view that the potential prize is not worth the effort (apart from the historical aspect of the story). Mr. Adams lived in Clapham, London and the wartime census of the 29th September 1939 still placed him at Granville Mews (or Granville Mansions). That census actually names him as "C. F. Adams" but the census administrator (despite my payment to submit a query) would not give me any further details unless I could prove he was deceased. A chicken and egg situation ensued as I needed his full name to confirm his demise! 


So I moved on. Going back to the original articles, the first clue I had was that the picture may have been taken at Fort Augustus. The second was a comment in Witchell's "The Loch Ness Story". Though he makes no commitment as to what the object is, he does attribute the picture to not F. C. Adams but to a Dr. James Lee.

So we have Fort Augustus and Dr. James Lee. What could be found out about this doctor? A search of the online British Newspaper Archive website turned up only one Dr. James Lee from that period. He was the senior surgeon at the Buchanan Hospital at Hastings, Kent.  Here is one clipping regarding him and a dispute over an unpaid bill from the Hastings and St. Leonards Observer for June 13th 1936.

However, further searches of the various archives proved unfruitful in connecting him in any way with this photograph or even Loch Ness. However, I am certain that he is the man who took this picture and how ironic that we have a second "Surgeon's Photograph" taken only four months after its more famous predecessor!

How Nicholas Witchell came by the name is not certain. My own guess is that he got it from Loch Ness researcher, Constance Whyte, author of More Than A Legend. He had consulted her for his book and since she was old enough to have been researching the monster in 1934, I suspect she had asked the Daily Mail (or perhaps Rupert Gould) for the name of the person behind the picture.

But could I find a descendant of James Lee to find further information? By a fortuitous sequence of searches which linked Dr. lee to nobility and the peerage, I managed to find the grandson of James Lee, who still resides in that general area of England. I must say that it is normally a bit of a trial trying to find existing descendants of Loch Ness characters, so I was glad to make his acquaintance via email.

As it turns out, Dr. Lee was born James Carrell Lee in Quebec, 7th March 1888 which means he was 46 years old when he took this picture of the Loch Ness Monster. He lived at St Leonard-on-Sea and was married to Ethel. Unfortunately, his grandson had no knowledge of the photograph or whether he had visited Loch Ness. In his own words:

 "I'm afraid I have no idea whether or not my grandfather ever visited Loch Ness ... I have one old photo album, but there are no pictures of anywhere looking like Loch Ness.

However, I have left it to his grandson to discover any further information, be it by accident or design. Admittedly, I could not tell you what my own grandfather was doing in the 1930s, so I cannot expect other people to have ready answers. It is the kind of scenario that either requires the living descendant to have been explicitly told about it or some tangible item such as the photograph being preserved.

Let me say that the main thrust of this kind of investigation is to uncover specific information. In this particular case, the most important item of information is the uncropped photograph. What we have seen in books and newspapers is again the bane of research, the blown up photograph which excludes all other detail which can aid the researcher. But let us move on.


But the investigation into this photo may yet produce another witness. According to the newspapers, the taker of the photograph was on holiday at Fort Augustus. However, a search of newspaper reports prior to the publication of the picture in the Daily Mail turns up nothing in that area. That scenario changed when I looked out beyond the publication of the picture in the Daily Mail. This clipping from The Scotsman of 1st September 1934 proved illuminating.

So here we have a nobleman with family and guests spending a holiday at Fort Augustus who saw something resembling a fin careering up Loch Ness. Could this be the very same fin that appeared in the Daily Mail taken by someone the paper says was "on holiday at Fort Augustus"? The story does not date the incident, rather using the vague term, "the other evening", and so could have occurred a week or so before. The account also states the object was creating a wash comparable to a speed boat to which I suggest the Mail photo also gives a hint of water turbulence to the right of the object.

But who could this "well-known Scots Baronet" have been? There are over a hundred such people in Scotland, but the clues led me to conclude it was Sir Alistair Gordon-Cumming, 5th Baronet of the Altyre Estate near Forres, Morayshire (only 60 miles on the road to Loch Ness). He was born in 1893 and died in 1939 and so fits our timeframe. Here he is pictured below with his family from the Aberdeen Press and Journal dated March 28th 1933. As you can see, he was married and was the father of two daughters, which fits in with the description of our Scots Baronet from The Scotsman account.

Moreover, Sir Alistair was a keen naturalist and I'll wager was also a follower of the stories coming out of Loch Ness. By way of example, a story concerning him was found in The Scotsman for the 22nd May 1934. Here we read how he drove twice from his estate to Findhorn Bay to investigate a "sea serpent" like creature which turned out to be a ribbon fish. So, it seems from this story that accounts of sea serpent like animals in Loch Ness would doubtless also encourage some visits to that nearby loch!

Finding the grandson of Sir Alastair Gordon-Cumming was always going to be an easier affair as he is now the 7th Baronet and still based in Forres. But, an email to him did not elicit the desired response when asked about this story: 

Never heard this one! Sorry, Alastair


But can James Lee and Sir Alistair Gordon-Cummings be linked? Was James Lee a guest of Sir Alistair on that day, and did he take that famous alternative "Surgeon's Photograph" while Sir Alistair examined the object through a spyglass? As you can see, answers from descendants have not taken us further. However, when I asked Dr. Lee's grandson about the Cumming connection, he did say that although he was not aware of any connection to his grandfather, there was one snippet of information.

By strange coincidence, when I looked up the Cumming baronetcy, I found a member of the extended Cumming family living in the house where I spent 12 years of my childhood, 1946 to 1958.

So were the two families indeed linked? This does not prove who was present on that August evening in 1934, but it provides enough incentive to continue to pursue the matter. In fact, putting this information into the public domain may yet elicit further information as people search for related facts about Dr. Lee or Sir Alistair.


Whatever the connections with this photograph, I am sure Sir Alistair would have taken an interest in the picture under discussion. What can we glean from the picture as we have it? First, the idea that it was a branch being forced to the surface by gases should be discounted. I have a hard time conceiving of that dark, smooth object as being part of a tree.

But when I first began to delve further, I had the hypothesis, like Costello, that this was the head and neck of the creature. Unlike the other researchers, I take the view that the neck is non-skeletal and can shorten and retract. However, even allowing for a theoretical retraction and extension of this part of the anatomy, I concluded the way the object extended into the water was not indicative of such a feature. So, could it be another appendage such as a fin or flipper? Again, a flipper did not look likely which left us with a fin.

This leads us to the prevalent sceptical position that this is no more than the dorsal fin of a species of dolphin or whale.  Let us compare this object to the dorsal fin of a generic Bottlenose Dolphin by overlaying it against this image taken from Wikipedia.

The problem here is not whether it is a fin, but what kind of fin? Note that the Lee fin when overlaid upon our dolphin is more blunted at the top and narrower as it extends downwards. This is a pattern I have discerned with various other fins I have compared it against.

Now, I am told that dolphin dorsal fins are a bit like human noses and come in all manner of shapes and sizes. I may also be accused of merely picking the dorsal fin images that suit my case. In fact, if it was merely the dorsal fin of a local dolphin photographed off the Scottish coast, it should not be a problem looking for a match. To avoid the charge of selection bias, I point readers to a photo catalogue of dolphin dorsal fins compiled by the universities of Aberdeen and St Andrews between 1990-2012.  These dolphins inhabit the coastlines of Scotland and so are an appropriate group.

All in, there are just under 200 separate images of dolphins. As far as I can see, none of them are a good match for the object in the Lee photograph. They are either more pointed or broader than our object. I show a small montage of 24 of these fins with the Cumming-Lee fin as a comparison, the rest are pretty much the same.

One could try and present a dolphin at an angle in an attempt to flatten its fin, but that does not work either. In fact, the object in the picture is evidently being photographed side on as my white line suggests along the waterline.

So, it is not likely to be a Bottlenose Dolphin. However, I did find one image that was a reasonable fit and that was Rossi's Dolphin. I found this image and overlaid it. This candidate still has two problems. Firstly, the fin has that "sharp" end to it, unlike the blunted Loch Ness object. Secondly, the overlay suggests we should see more of the upper body, and I do not think that is convincingly seen in the Loch Ness photo (one also wonders how hydrodynamic (streamline) is the Loch Ness object compared to other fins?).

I would point out that the majority of dorsal fins from this species were not a good fit. Indeed, I did not find this image using the search phrase "dolphin scotland" or "dolphin dorsal fin scotland" but rather had to focus on narrower terms. Now, in terms of selection bias, one has to be careful. The fact that I found a reasonably fitting image is not the whole story. The use of Google Images can be an abused tool despite its apparently logical use.

The problem is statistical and can be summed in the phrase "The harder the image is to find, the less likely it is to be the solution". That is a generalisation and one may argue for specific cases, but a rare image can be taken to mean a rare circumstance in terms of time, location and object. If that is the case, one may present it as a plausibility, but the probability is harder to argue.


With that in mind, suppose we do find that elusive uncropped photograph and we confirm the picture was taken at Loch Ness? I would suggest that dolphin candidates should immediately be discounted. This blog has talked previously about an alleged sighting of porpoises in Loch Ness in 1914, but even some sceptics are not convinced that such creatures could negotiate the various obstacles to get into Loch Ness. 

In that case, a dorsal fin in Loch Ness is not likely to be a known animal, but the problem is that most Nessie researchers do not believe the Loch Ness Monster has such a dorsal fin.  It seems we have a sighting which is a square peg to round holes. We are told plesiosaurs do not have such fins, nor giant eels, sturgeons, long necked seals or super sized invertebrates.

This is no wonder since witnesses explicitly describing fins can probably be counted on all your fingers with some left over. But there is one curious and potentially open door to Loch Ness Monster dorsal fins. I am referring to eyewitness reports that describe triangular "humps". Are these objects in fact fins seen side on, giving the impression they are bulkier than they really are? 


So, it cannot be deduced from a blow up whether the picture was taken at Loch Ness. There is only the merest hint of a distant shore on the picture, but certainly not enough to say it is at Loch Ness. This is the sine qua non of this case and without which the subject settles into abeyance.

This is a supposed boon to sceptical researchers who can merely turn around and say "there is no evidence this was taken at Loch Ness" without having to exert themselves any further. In fact, the photo cannot be proven to have been taken anywhere, let alone Loch Ness. The drawing below traces out a suggested route for the creature seen by Alistair Gordon Cumming and James Lee.

If this route approximates to the truth and the photographer was located in the general vicinity marked by the circle, then it is a fair bet that the familiar backdrop of Loch Ness and its hills will be in the uncropped picture.

I have searched high and wide for this uncropped picture. I have enquired of the Daily Mail and Illustrated London News archive departments, the online British Newspaper Archive, descendants of witnesses, private archives and reverse image Internet searches. As an example of private archive research, I found some of Alastair Gordon-Cumming's personal letters at the National Library of Scotland. As it turned out, they were of no consequence, but who knows what that line of enquiry may yet reveal?

A few avenues are still open, but the options are rapidly running out. Nevertheless, it is great that we live in an age where a vast library of literature can be analysed and searched so easily via online and digital websites. So, a final verdict on the matters covered here escapes us and the search for the uncropped picture continues.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

UFOs over Loch Ness?

The Daily Mail is running this picture asking if tourists have snapped UFOs flying over Loch Ness. Meteorological explanations are now invited. As for Nessie and Aliens, this blog covered that in a previous post! I am also still waiting to see that nearly infamous photo that Frank Searle took of a UFO and Nessie in the same shot.

Tourists holidaying next to Loch Ness have captured an extraordinary photo which they claim shows a mysterious creature flying over the lake - and it's not Nessie.

Alan Betts, 48, was on holiday with his wife, Anna, and her parents when his mother-in-law Tatiana captured this extraordinary image of two mysterious disc-shaped objects flying over the famous loch in the Scottish Highlands.

The family from York were staying at a holiday cottage near Urquhart Castle when the unusual shot was taken. But they did not realise quite how unusual the picture was until Mr Betts and his wife returned home and started looking through their holiday pictures.

The couple were bewildered when they spotted the strange, glowing, white shapes hovering over the loch. Mr Betts, the director of a refrigeration company based in Bradford, said he was usually 'very sceptical' about UFOs - but he cannot find a rational explanation for the strange picture.

He said: 'Our Akita dog, Yuka, was strangely unsettled that night. He never barks but I remember we were laughing at the time saying that he'd seen Nessie because he was looking outside from the cottage window and barking at the sky. 

We couldn't see anything at that time though. We had been very lucky with the weather and were stunned with the view we had, it was almost constant sunshine but then when we got back to the cottage after a day of sightseeing, the weather suddenly changed.

We'd not seen it change that quickly before, which is why my mother-in-law went outside to take a general landscape picture.

'After the holiday we were looking through the pictures on our PC, as they were taken on a digital camera. On the PC screen the resolution was better and it was only then we saw the objects and when we zoomed in we were shocked. I can't offer any logical explanation, I am probably one of the most sceptical people you could find about things like this but I just can't explain what it is.

'I know what it looks like though. We showed the pictures to Anna's parents who were as shocked as us and her dad is probably more sceptical than me.'

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Peter Costello Interview

Online show, Binnall of America, interview Peter Costello on his cryptozoological work. Peter is best known for his book, In Search of Lake Monsters, which has been recently republished.

You can hear the talk here.


Saturday, 6 June 2015

Update on F. C. Adams Talk

I am currently working on the powerpoint presentation for next Tuesday, but need to inform you of a change of venue. It is now at the Leith Beer Company of which further details here.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Pole Like Nessie Sightings

I would like to address a class of Loch Ness Monster sighting that has proved unusual within the context of a generally unusual phenomenon itself. I am referring to the pole like appearances of the Loch Ness Monster, if indeed that is what they are. 

To clothe this in some familiarity, I refer readers to perhaps the most famous of "pole Nessies" and that was Father Gregory Brusey back on the 14th October 1971. Relating one account of his sighting from his obituary (he died in 2001):

It was a lovely morning, and the sun was warm and the water smooth," he recounted to The New York Times in June 1976. "And with me was a friend, an organist from London. We suddenly noticed a big commotion about 200 yards out in the water, and then a black neck appeared, about eight inches in diameter and seven or eight feet high, followed by a hump. It rose, then dove sideways back into the water. It was not a boat or a log or a fish. It was a different animal.

The sketch below of his sighting is taken from Dinsdale's "Loch Ness Monster". Back in the 1970s and 80s, Gregory Brusey became a kind of star witness for the Loch Ness Monster as any media group would almost resort to him by default for a good, contemporary Nessie story. It appears that he eventually got fed up with all the attention his sighting had birthed (though he stuck to his story).

To compound the curiosity of this type of sighting, Brusey had another sighting back in the 3rd May 1968, but this was of a more expected "horse like head and two large humps". What is it about these "Pole Nessies" that makes them to differ?

Other sightings describing the neck as a "pole", "pillar" or "periscope" throughout the 81 years of Nessie include:

"L.A.R." July 1933
John Cameron August 1933
"J.C." 1934
The Rolands July 1937
Dom Cyril Dieckhoff May 1940
Warden of Altsigh Youth Hostel 1949
Robin MacEwen 1956 
Cambridge University Expedition 1962
Peter Hodge May 1964
Gregory Brusey October 1971 
Ian McKenzie 1974
Peter and Gwen Smith August 1977
J. Cameron December 1980  
Miles Cato March 1987
Simon Cooke July 1993
Robert Pollack August 2000

This gives us about 16 "pole" sightings from a total of about 200 head and neck sightings which is 8%. Neck sightings overall constitute 18% of the total sightings record. So this class of sightings is rare being only 1% of all eyewitness reports.

The main reason I was prompted to write this article was an email from a Dr. Simon Cooke who was led to tell his tale for the first time having read this blog. The story is told below in his own words.

Dear Mr Watson

I've read with interest your excellent blog on the LN phenomenon and thought you'd be interested to hear of a possible sighting experienced by my wife and myself on a August evening in 1993.

We were on our honeymoon, and staying at a B and B in Dores. Following a meal at the Dores Inn we walked along the beach. This was about 7 in the evening, and very clear and bright. The surface of the loch was very still. When we approached the far end of the beach we noticed what appeared to be a black pole sticking out of the water, which then sank down vertically. It was about a hundred and fifty yards from the shore.

The object continued to rise and fall for about three minutes, each time disappearing and then reappearing in a different place - sometimes to the left by a few feet, sometimes to the right. I knelt down and looked directly across the surface of the water, and could see clearly a small splash as it sank and rose.

Needless to say, we had neither camera nor binoculars (I don't possess a set). We weren't expecting to have what might be a sighting and were both surprised by what we were seeing. We both formed the impression that this was something living, and definitely not a log, although it did look like a telegraph pole rising and falling.

Out of curiosity I subsequently did some research. What we saw looked exactly the same as the object appearing in the Smith film, reproduced on Arthur Clarke's Mysterious World. Nessie or not, this was probably the same phenomenon, in about the same place.

I'm not making any great claims for this, but I thought you'd be interested to hear of it. 

Requesting further details, I was able to ascertain that the object was visible in spells of about 30 seconds with the height of the object varying by as much as five feet. It always submerged in a vertical manner, but they had the impression it turned on its axis as it went down. The date was revised to July 29th 1993 and the sighting lasted 3 to 5 minutes. Nothing else was in view on the loch surface. Simon included some drawings which I include below.

So what non-monster explanations can be suggested for what Simon saw? We will consider their merits here.

1. Jumping Fish

This explanation is best told by regular reader, Simon Dawes, who had this story to tell.

I actually wanted to share with you something that I saw that initially made my heart race but turned out to be a fish. It's something I've never heard mentioned but I saw it at Fort Augustus on the jetty. I was looking at the Loch and in my peripheral vision noticed something come straight up out if the water at a fair speed and drop straight back down.

So I carried on looking and it happened again and this time I had a clear view of what looked like a pole straight up and down about 3-4 feet long, I called my dad over and he watched it happen several more times. He knew that it was just a pike fishing but if he hadn't been there we both know what I would've thought I was looking at!

Pop reckons it's how they fish? Swim with the prey between them and the surface of the water and then shoot up so fast they come out of the water as they grab the prey. It fits what I saw but I've never seen it before or since.

That's a good explanation and will fit some sighting reports. However, the reason I don't think it fits the bill for the Cooke sighting, is that his object stayed above surface for up to thirty seconds.

2. Birds

Clearly, a long necked bird whose body may be obscured by the waves could occasionally submerge and come back up in the kind of intervals and locations mentioned. The problem here is that the object was described as pole like. No bird fits that description.

3. Buoy

There are navigation buoys in that general vicinity which will be tall, erect and of similar height. But they have a large extended body underneath and they do not sink in the manner described. It would not be a very good buoy if it kept sinking out of sight! They are also not black but more green and red to improve visibility to boat traffic.

4. Driftwood

Many branches and other parts of tree debris flow into Loch Ness from its various rivers and streams. It is a fact that some of these can take on a Nessie like appearance. Most will be easily recognised after some inspection. In rough conditions, one such branch protruding from a submerged trunk could give the impression of appearing and disappearing.

However, in this case, the loch surface was described as "very still" and the witness has already discounted a log as an explanation. The object also disappeared from view permanently.

5. Hoax

This brings us to another famous "Pole Nessie" sighting from 1977. It was an 8mm cine film of a pole like object taken by Peter and Gwen Smith (pictured below). Eventually, suspicion fell on a group of schoolboys who were nearby at the time and also claimed to have seen the creature while out on a rowing boat. The sceptical hypothesis was that they had rigged up a fence post with an anchor on a rope to fool the Smiths.

Now, as far as I know, no one has admitted to this proposed scenario, and neither has it been proven that the boys had the skills to pull this stunt off. However, the technical feasibility of the fence post trick has been demonstrated by Adrian Shine and was repeated in 2002 by researchers Richard Carter and Dick Raynor.

Could the Cookes have been fooled by a prankster or were inadvertent witnesses to an experiment? It can't be discounted, though some questions have to be asked, such as did Adrian Shine perfect this technique before 1993, can such a pole be moved to varying locations and can a pole be made to rise five feet from the surface?

The 150 yards distance may also be an issue, though it is possible our hypothetical trickster was hiding in the undergrowth beyond the beach to the left of the map above.

6. Monster

So what if the Cookes saw the Loch Ness Monster? It would be another of those strange pole like Nessies which seem to have no head and all neck. Now, I have said it on this blog before, I don't think the head and neck of Nessie is as classical as made out. I mean, I don't think it is a neck but more a proboscis. By that I mean an extended trunk or appendage but not a head.

The corollary to that is that it is boneless and very flexible and malleable in form. It may contain a mouth or sucking part that connects to the oesophagus. It may also have other sensory organs at its extremis. 

The consequence of this is an ability to stretch and tense itself via its musculature into a range of lengths and thicknesses. The pole like structure would be envisaged as its most tense and taut form. Why the creature would assume various proboscis postures is unknown. 

One final thought as regards this and the fossil record. Critics have asked for a precedent for the Loch Ness Monster from the fossil record. The plesiosaur is the obvious candidate but if we have a boneless "neck", I suggest it is less amenable to preservation as fossilisation is more a hard tissue process.

That does not make it impossible for something like an outline to be preserved, but it may be that when we are looking for Nessie precedents, perhaps we should not be so preoccupied with matching long neck vertebrae.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Interesting Sonar Image

Loch Ness researcher, Dick Raynor, posted this on his YouTube account a few days ago. He entitles it "Sonar Anomaly recorded on Castle Cruises tour boat at Urquhart Castle". The anomaly appears towards the end of the scan and the readings suggest it covers about 90 feet in the water but what it could be is open to interpretation. Dick offers no explanation for it on the YouTube page and I don't know if he rescanned the location to see if it was still there or if he has seen similar objects before.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com