Tuesday 25 September 2012

Some Nessie Webcam Images?

From time to time, readers will send in various items of interest pertaining to the Loch Ness Monster. That includes shots taken of objects at Loch Ness on the popular webcam found at this link.

So it was that from the dedicated army of webcam hunters, a Nessie watcher by the name of Ed provided me with a sequence of 40 snapshots he took on the 5th April 2012 between 1020 and 1036.  With a little help from some GIF file processing software, I managed to concatenate the images into an animated GIF which gives the files a video like quality. Click on the first image below to see the entire video properly.

The sequence is a bit jerky for obvious reasons as the time gap between snapshots is typically 30 seconds. Brief points where the object appears to slow down are more due to images with a shorter time gap between them. The same can be said in an opposite sense for faster portions where the time gap is longer.

Now it may appear that this is nothing more than a blob and in all likelihood just a boat heading north (Ed was willing the object to submerge before it disappeared past the hill!). However, apart from the interesting exercise of creating such an animation, there is something else eye catching about this object and that is the fact that it is changing its appearance in the animation. The video below is a zoom in of the object and allows you to see more detail. If you click on the video icon and then click the bottom right hand corner to go full screen, you will get a good view of the changing aspects of the image (you can also zoom in on the GIF file above if you open it in a new tab and type in a few "control +" characters).

As you observe the object, you will notice it seems to "grow" to the front as it makes progress up the loch and then go back to the "dome" appearance. If this was Nessie, you would conjecture this was the front part of the creature briefly surfacing and submerging again. The difference in the two is shown below - dome-like and then extended.

An attempt can also be made to estimate the speed of the object. We know the time elapsed is about 16 minutes and the object is roughly mid-loch. By projecting a line in the first frame through the object to the opposite shore and again as it disappears behind the hill, an estimate of distance and hence speed can be calculated. I estimate it travelled at least a mile giving a speed of about 4 mph but a final answer also depends on the webcam elevation and the precise distance to the object (the Google 3D map below give rough idea where lines AB and CD are possible object routes).

The other curious feature is the lack of a wake from the object. You would expect it from any motor driven boat but nothing is readily apparent in the animation. Once we get some dry days at Loch Ness, I will see if I can spot a boat in a similar situation on the webcam and report back. So what is going on here? Is this a crazy boat rotating about 360 degrees as it moves north? That seems unlikely. Is it a rowing boat which may account for less wake but again how do we account for the changing shape?

There is a long boat that goes up and down Loch Ness which is quite fast and manoeuvrable and that is the RIB boat that leaves Fort Augustus (below). However, it tends not to go north of Urquhart Bay and you can see that it would leave an easily discernible wake on the picture. As an aside, the boat cruising season had not yet started on Loch Ness when this webcam sequence was taken. This was Thursday April 5th and official cruises did not start until the Easter Weekend the following day. So, using a cruise timetable to pinpoint a boat in the area would be a bit haphazard (although I do not doubt some dry runs at "unofficial" times may have been happening). It is also to be noted that a lot of boats that cruise Loch Ness are white.

The other theory would be video artifacts in the image which could give it an extended appearance. I am not convinced of that explanation - especially when the image extension happens at the same point more than once.

Another objection may be why no else saw this object plainly moving up the middle of the loch for at least sixteen minutes? I would reply, how do we know no one else saw it? It is my belief that the majority of witnesses to strange things in the loch never report what they see or they do but it is never published.

On the flip side of potential witnesses, the tourist season had not started (as evidenced by cruise companies not running) and the rush hour was over so traffic volume was lower. Also note that so called loch observers who speed their way along the A82 carriageway are not focused on the loch and neither should be for road safety. A quick glance at the loch at a dark object may be simply ignored and dismissed as a boat. I would also add that the road at that point above the object is very high and the object was not likely visible from many points along the road (unless you got out at a layby).

So did anyone else see something? We simply don't know.

Or perhaps it is a trick of the light as the sun plays upon the surface of the object? A run of my favourite solar position calculator gives the position of the sun on that day and time. The sun is to the right of the webcam and so the object is somewhat in shadow. Could the sun be blanching out the front part of the object at various intervals due to that part being more reflective? The sun position does not suggest it and if this were the case, I would still expect to see a lighter area of pixels where the "extension" would be and be readily distinguishable from the rest of the object and open water. I don't see this in the sequence of images.

By way of update from a comment below from Tim, could the extended part simply be the shadow of the object? I thought about this and noticed some problems with this theory. Firstly, if you observe the sky in the top left, it gets steadily darker toward the end of the sequence but the form of the shadow does not seem to follow it. Secondly, why would the shadow completely disappear? Surely the sun's degree of shining is not that variable? Thirdly, if it was a shadow, then it is too long for that time of day. The elevation of the sun in the solar calculator is given as 33.86 degrees. A simple trigonometrical calculation shows that a shadow would be no longer than half the height of the object. However, the enlarged image above suggests the "extension" is longer than the height of the object. So, we conclude it is not likely to be shadow.

There are two other interesting points to make in concluding. Firstly, there was another reported sighting of something unusual in Urquhart Bay only 17 hours before and you can read that incident here. It would indeed be strange that the only two known "Nessie" incidents over these past 260 days of 2012 would be so close together!

The other point is that when examining the sequence I noticed another object making its way in the opposite direction! If you look at our dark object at the beginning of the sequence and look to the right and slightly up, you will see a whitish object which is presumably a water disturbance moving south and which disappears before the end of the animation. What is this, you may ask? Was it birds disturbing the surface or some other animal just breaking the surface as it moved? Comments and suggestions are welcomed.

So we have an interesting sequence of images here. As luck would not have it, I turned up at Loch Ness the next day! It seems spotting the Loch Ness Monster is often more luck than judgement.

But has Ed captured the Loch Ness Monster on webcam or is there the usual (and inevitable) alternate explanation for this strange image? You be the judge, I'll put it in the log of reported sightings for 2012.


  1. My first thought after watching the zoomed video was of something along the lines of a large garbage bag or piece of plastic sheeting or tarpaulin being blown along the water surface. The curved garbage bag shape would of course change with the wind, and a small amount of water in the thing would keep it from lifting off the surface of the loch.
    I hope additional images and eyewitness accounts will shoot this theory down!

  2. Well it doesn't appear to be a boat, but you never know. Perhaps it's another one of the Adrian Shine Sturgeon population. Or an Otter distorted by heat haze. We also have to consider the possibility of swimming deer. Please accept my humble apologies but I just couldn't help myself from pipping the debunkers to the post, but I have to agree with you GB that it does look a bit different in some ways.

  3. I viewed a similar occurrence on this same webcam about 2 months ago. Unfortunately I wasn't clever enough to take screen shots. After watching the webcam for some minutes, I saw a large dark, domed object appear in the middle of the screen. It was hard to estimate how large it was until a boat passed a few minutes later. The object was not as long as the boat but had a similar height and width and had no wake. The object moved to the right of the screen and was out of view in about 5 minutes. A boat was following from behind at a distance so I could estimate the object was moving at about half the speed of the boat, considering the distance the boat gained on the object. Once the object was off screen, two boats appeared from the bottom of screen and I thought "Great they too have spotted it and they are now in pursuit". Unfortunately, I didn't hear anything about it in the coming days.

    Great blog by the way. I'm a keen Nessie enthusiast from Perth, Australia. I had the pleasure of visiting Loch Ness in 2010 and I hope to return soon. What a mystical place it is. Keep up the great work.

  4. Tim, you;re correct about the sun position and I have updated the chart and text accordingly to accommodate your shadow theory.

    Don't know what happened with the solar numbers, they're punched in correctly, I must have failed to git the "calculate" button.

  5. It's an interesting point about the shadow, but on the day in question it had been snowing and the sky was full of very dark and heavy snow clouds; so light levels were very low. This would, I imagine, lessen the effect that you mention - perhaps even remove it completely?

  6. When I went up the following day, I do remember the weather being very changeable. There are a couple of grey circular areas over the tree on the image which is normally suggestive of a recent rain shower.

  7. Now, Tim, were these UFOs over Loch Ness? Inquiring minds need to know.

    Like Nessie and plesiosaurs, I wouldn't focus entirely on ETs for UFOs, a gamut of explanations are lining up for each mystery.

    I personally don't think they are any such thing. Adamski's blond Venusians from the 1950s were replaced by spindly grey midgets from other stars. Something sounds faked and/or subliminal there.

  8. I'm not sure of the scale but if you saw a sea kayak through the web cam it could look very very much like this.

    Changes in perceived shape of distant sea kayaks can be due to:

    waves hiding and emphasizing the hull
    paddling action of the kayaker
    paddle blade orientation - the blades appear/disappear depending on whether you see the flat or the edge.
    Slight variations in direction - if it is windy it can be difficult to keep a sea kayak straight even heading for a landmark and using a skeg.

    As a kayaker myself, the pattern of movement says "sea kayak" to me, there is even white "noise" around the black object in the areas I would expect spray.

    That said I'd really like to be wrong :-)

    1. I may be wrong, but I tend to see canoeists nearer to the shoreline than in the loch centre. Could be a safety regulation?

      Also, how fast can a typical kayaker go compared to the object in the sequence?

      I also could not see an indication of a person upright in the images?

  9. I can't find any safety regulation for kayaks on Loch Ness. I think the distance that kayaks stray from shore has a lot to do with confidence and purpose. People like myself stay close to shore (and very likely wouldn't kayak out on Loch Ness in April). However throughout the winter and spring open sea kayakers come into more sheltered waters to practice and maintain fitness. They seem confident much further from the shore because they are used to the open sea.

    Speed... well that would depend on a lot of factors like whether there is a following wind, the type of kayak, whether it is loaded with kit, and the skill of the kayaker. However 4 mph is well within the bounds of possibility.

    I don't have a problem with seeing a blob rather than an upright person for several reasons.
    First the elevation means the head and body would be slightly shortened visually.
    Second it is a windy day so a kayaker would be leaning forwards further shortening the figure.
    Third a kayaker would be wearing waterproofs and pfd which would bulk them out.
    Fourth because of the wind a kayaker would be using lower paddle strokes to prevent the wind snatching at the paddle blades and slowing/twisting/or even rolling the boat. Generally a low paddle action is normal for a sea kayaker in contrast to river kayakers who use a high stroke to avoid hitting submerged rocks, this means that the arms would appear as part of the bulk. That said, when watching the zoomed in video I thought I was seeing a paddle sticking out, once above the shape and once below but I couldn't be sure.

    I've tried to find a youtube video that would show what I'm thinking, this one gives some idea at around the 2 minute stage although it is a surfing rather than touring kayaker:


    I do still have a couple of reservations regarding the kayak theory:

    First the stern is never visible. The stern can be less visible than the bow if for instance there is a following wind, waves are washing over it or if the kayak was unevenly laden, it also depends a little on the type of kayak

    Secondly kayakers shouldn't really be going solo, however kayakers tend to be more relaxed about that in waters they consider safer than their usual.

    Sorry, I didn't mean to write an essay :-(

  10. there is no monster in loch ness cause there is not enough food in the lock to sustain a large animal /monster.plus there cannot be just 1 has to be a family of them and if there was we would see them up on the loch all over the place.
    mostly they are boats at long distance or animals swimming across the loch or sealions dolphins/the other big thig in the loch is wells cat fish they look very big and look like monsters / but sorry no dinosaur's.
    thankyou . Nodge

    1. Nessie is not a dinosaur.

      There is enough food and she breathers water so would not be at the surface as much as stated.

      I see boats at long distances all the time, it would be an impressive feat to be fooled by a boat.