Thursday, 15 September 2011

Follow up on the Jon Rowe Nessie Photograph

Having initially posted the media's words on the latest Nessie report, I contacted the witness himself for clarification. It is always desirable to do this as newspaper reports may omit something important or misquote. Also, when various people critique the report publicly, the witness' reaction to this can also be educational.

As it happened, some things did have to be corrected. Firstly, the time of the reported sighting was 1230 and not 0830. This may seem a minor point, but since the time of day can often be easily deduced from shadows if a photograph is taken, then doubt is cast upon the witness if the reported time and photograph time are in conflict. In this case, the reported time was wrong.

Secondly and more importantly, the two hump like objects are not all there is to this sighting. In fact, if the witness report is read without reference to the picture, it is evident that Mr. Rowe saw a large, dark object moving just under the surface of the water. The two smaller objects are a sideshow in that respect. To quote from the Daily Mail:

"There was a rainbow so I got my camera out to take a photo and noticed this really large dark shape in the loch with two humps that were barely out of the water."

The dark shape was under the water, the humps (or perhaps bumps) briefly above. In fact, when I saw the photo, I saw this shadowy area centre bottom and asked Mr. Rowe if this was relevant to the sighting. His reply was:

"Yes, the shadow beneath the "humps" details the rest of the mass moving through the water."

I invite readers to look again and note the semi-elliptical shadow at the centre of the bottom of the photograph. In fact, Mr. Rowe described the experience of being near this large object as "very unnerving". This is not a wave shadow as the sun is directly ahead in the picture and the wave just to the right has no such shadow. In fact, on the higher resolution picture that Mr. Rowe provided, it looks as if the waves from the westerly wind are shallower and washing over something rough with contours perpendicular to them.

As for birds and seals, Jon is not convinced for one simple reason, the entire object he saw moving underwater and partially above was much bigger than anything he was accustomed to seeing, in fact 2 or 3 boats in length.

We can only guess as to what kind of animal would form the shadowy shape below, but what about those two small "bumps"? In that sense, we are in the area of speculation and can only guess. However, given the distance from the main shadow, one may speculate that this may be the head region slightly surfacing. Could these "bumps" be horns of some description? We know that witnesses in the past have described horns, though such events are a small proportion of the record and they tend to be stalk like. Zooming in on the objects just deepens the mystery - they certainly are not birds in the act of a bottoms up dive as no tail feathers or legs are visible.

An intriguing photograph which adds to the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Latest Nessie Sighting?

Jon Rowe claimed to have spotted two humps in the water on the 7th September (story below).

(Also updated for Daily Mail coverage at end)

Long time Loch Ness researcher Adrian Shine thinks it may be a pair of birds diving for fish. The question I need to know is really how long did the witness watch this spectacle? If nothing came back up after a long enough time, then the bird explanation is unlikely. In fact since Mr. Rowe says "It wasn’t up for a long long time" then one wonders how it could be birds (unless they decided to drown and sink!).

Mr. Rowe's statement about a "really large dark shape" makes one wonder whether two birds could fulfill such a description. There is also the question of why this person who works as a fish farmer on the loch could fail to identify two birds local to the area?

However, the photograph itself needs some clarification. The two white dots I can see in no way suggest a large dark shape. There is however a large dark shadow bottom centre - so where exactly does one focus their attention and is this photograph uncropped to begin with?

This is a black throated diver pictured below. A quick check on their habits suggests they only submerge for half a minute or so. A bit hard to reconcile with a "really large dark shape" but there you go ...

Original story from Inverness Courier here.

'Nessie' spotted going for a dive

By Rosemary Lowne

A FISH farmer could not believe his eyes when two unexplained ‘Nessie-like’ humps appeared from below the surface of Loch Ness.

Jon Rowe, from Lewiston in Drumnadrochit, was working at Dores Fish Farm when he decided to take a picture of a stunning rainbow.

However, after taking the picture, something unusual caught Mr Rowe’s eye.

"It wasn’t up for a long long time," said 31-year-old Mr Rowe. "It was a really large dark shape and I’ve not seen anything like that on Loch Ness before."

Asked if he believes it was the elusive Loch Ness Monster, Mr Rowe said it is a possibility as he does not believe it was a buoy or a mooring as it is in the wrong place and ropes would be visible in the water.

"I think it’s interesting, that’s how I take it and I would like the photo to be checked," said Mr Rowe, who took his snap on Wednesday at 8.30am.

However, Adrian Shine, from the Loch Ness Project based in the Loch Ness Centre in Drumnadrochit, cast his expert eye on the picture along with his colleague Dick Raynor.

He believes one possible explanation for the photo could be that it was two black throated diver birds captured diving for prey or emerging after a dive."It’s an interesting picture," said Mr Shine. "My colleague Dick is a skipper at Urquhart Bay and last week he spotted two black throated divers which are quite big and they have white undersides which you can see in the picture," said Mr Shine.

Previously there have been two possible sightings of the Loch Ness monster with white undersides.

But Mr Shine said if the birds were diving, which they often do in pairs, then it would explain their disappearance beneath the surface of the water.

"If it was one object with two humps and it dives, you would not see two undersides.

"You couldn't have one object with two humps having two bits of underside."

Mr Shine explained that the birds often dive in pairs

The Daily Mail has added its story here:

It's been said before and it's being said again .. Nessie is alive under the waves of Loch Ness.

Once more the notoriously shy Loch Ness monster has been reportedly sighted in Scotland's deepest loch. This time close to a commercial fish farm.

Jon Rowe, from nearby Lewiston in Drumnadrochit, took the eerie snaps moments before the mysterious shape slipped beneath the water.

And the stunned fish farmer is convinced that the shapes he saw in the morning light are Nessie.

He said: 'It was a very strange morning. It was misty with a bit of rain and sunny at the same time.

'There was a rainbow so I got my camera out to take a photo and noticed this really large dark shape in the loch with two humps that were barely out of the water.

'My instant reaction was "That's Nessie".'

Mr Rowe has dismissed claims that the shapes he saw in the water were not the legendary beast of the deep said to stalk the atmospheric Highland loch.

He added: 'I have no doubt, I work on the loch everyday and I've never seen anything like it.

'Almost as soon as I took the shot the shape disappeared under the water and out of sight.

The 31-year-old told how he had not believed that a monster swam the depths of Loch Ness until he captured Nessie on film.

'It can't have been a buoy or a mooring as it's in the wrong place and the ropes would be visible in the water.

'A few people have said it was birds diving under the water - but I didn't see any birds fly by. It can't have been birds - the whole thing went down into the loch.

'It was quite spooky but I think it's really interesting.

The Daily Mail also provides this zoomed in photograph below:

Mr. Rowe answers one question and that is that he does not think the two humps were birds because they disappeared under the water. As I said above, birds tend to come back up. That does not mean we immediately say "Loch Ness Monster" but then again, the alternatives are diminishing.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Loch Tarff

In my new book, I explore the various "satellite" lochs around Loch Ness which had traditions of water horses, water bulls and kelpies. I recently covered one such body of water in Loch Duntelchaig (link) but another caught my eye as I drove past it on my summer trip to Loch Ness. I did not cover this loch in the book mainly because no written tradition exists - unless you are prepared to dig a bit deeper.

I am speaking of Loch Tarff which is on the south side of Loch Ness. You encounter it as you head north to Foyers on the B862. Having ascended the steepest incline around Loch Ness, you head downhill to a dip and the loch is on the left. I took this picture at the time.

There is nothing to recommend the mysterious about it apart from that general gloominess which descends on such lonely places under cloud. It was apparently used as a skating rink by the boys of Fort Augustus Abbey's school in decades past but not much more can be said about it apart from its name. The word "tarff" is a transliteration of the gaelic word "tarbh" meaning bull. This has significance because place names often have something to say about the place itself. In this instance I suggest that this place had a tradition of a water bull inhabiting its shallow depths (as other authors have suggested for "tarf" rivers or lochs).

Indeed, its maximum depth is about 90 feet (though the mean is 24 feet) and it is about 960 feet above sea level. Its dimensions are half a mile by about one third of a mile in a roughly triangular shape. Not a lot of space to sustain a Tarbh Uisge one may say but then again it is not alone in that attribute.

So I add it to the half dozen or so satellite kelpie lochs around Loch Ness. One final note concerns a river one encounters as they drive back down the hills to Fort Augustus. It is the similarly named River Tarff that empties into Borlum Bay beside Fort Augustus Abbey. This river begins its course further south in the Glendoe region and flows through Glen Tarff towards Loch Ness. The headwaters have been dammed to now form part of the Glendoe Reservoir for the Glendoe Hydro Power scheme. However, the waters of the river and loch Tarff are not directly connected.

One would presume that a river and loch of the same name and seperated by only a couple of miles would be related in folklore and perhaps they are but as yet I have found no evidence. It seems this small south eastern corner of Loch Ness has more of the Water Bull about it than the Water Horse. One wonders, did the local residents occasionally see the water bulls of Loch Ness head out of Loch Ness along this river and hence decided upon this name? After all, the River Ness and Garry are blocked by canal locks and other Loch Ness rivers rise quite steeply.

One can only speculate!