Sunday, 22 June 2014

A Sighting Report from 2001




Reports of encounters with the Loch Ness Monster regularly appear on multimedia, even years after the event happened. Today, I highlight one for you which happened 13 years ago but was not made public until 2011 and now in 2014, hopefully it will go out to a wider audience.

Of course, the phrase "Encounter with the Loch Ness Monster" is a contentious series of words before one even gets into the details of the story. Not all reports that enter the public domain will be of the creature and, indeed, plenty of people will not hesitate to tell you that none of them involve a monster at all. Once again, I will offer my opinions, but let the readers judge.

I was at a recent meeting of the Edinburgh Fortean Society where Innes Smith gave a very good talk on the problems of believers, sceptics and the paranormal in the field of psychic research. That in itself was material enough for a few more articles, but it was what Innes said after that is relevant today.

Innes is Vice-President of the Scottish Society for Psychical Research and has been researching the paranormal since 1998. On the night of 1st May 2001, he found himself on the shores of Loch Ness as a result of a detour from a paranormal investigation at Loch Ashie. I encourage you to read his full and entertaining account here before I get into the nitty gritty.

In summary, Innes was staring out at the loch on a beach opposite Castle Urquhart, drinking coffee with his camera at the ready. To quote from his article:

It was then that I saw it. Her. It. Constantly in motion, something between the graceful rise of a swan’s neck out of water and a wiggly worm, an animated question mark (how apt) moving from  left to right. I estimated it to be about 6 feet out of water (1.8 metres to my metric chums) and it was framed brilliantly by the path of moonlight. My instant reaction was one of joy and I said out loud, ‘no way, no f*cking way‘, and then curiously my brain started to squeeze at least 20 seconds of thought into 0.2 of a second.

I reasoned that I was witnessing something that no-one would believe, and yet, here I was with a camera in my right hand (a cup of hot coffee was in my left). I also reasoned that even if I did take a photo, the chances of anything appearing on the film would be negligible (I had no telephoto lens and it was 1 a.m in the morning). However, the mere fact that I would not try, would, I reasoned, count against my credibility, so I decided to take some photos. I took five photographs. With a flash (it is an old automatic 35mm film camera). By the time my eyes had slightly readjusted to the darkness, I could see nothing.


The rough location of the sighting is circled above. I must admit to a bit of jealousy here. I have been out several times at night by Loch Ness with the infra-red equipment trained on the dark waters. So far I have had no success. But amidst the flow of millions of travellers past Loch Ness over the years, some people will statistically be in the right place at the right time.

But for eeriness levels, this report is a notch above the others. One o' clock in the morning; a cold, lonely beach; a path of moonlight leading an individual to see a monster's neck writhing on the surface.

If indeed it was a monster's neck. The zoom in below shows a bit more of what Innes saw, though he seems convinced it was a hallucination, but why and how he cannot say.  The word "illusion" is more often used than "hallucination" when attempts are made to explain away monster sightings. Though some of the strained explanations that I have read must have required the witnesses to have feasted on magic mushroom soup for their lunch before their alleged encounters.



But Innes' story is a bit more unique. The usual daytime explanations seem even less adequate in a nighttime environment where birds have gone back to their nests and otters to their holts (I have run various trap cameras over the years, I get birds landing near the camera in daytime, but to date nothing at night). Logs will continue to drift at night with vertical branches protruding, but they don't writhe and twist and disappear from view so quickly.

Did that shimmering path of moonlight have an effect on the mind? I must confess I do not know, but I don't think the burden of proof lies with me to demonstrate that. After all, it is just moonlight reflecting of a surface of water. It does not sound like a big deal but I have put a note in my mind to coincide my next visit to the loch with a full moon and hope for a clear night. I am not expecting to trip out into a hallucination. Innes said it was a half moon, NASA's moon phase calendar confirms ths moon was in a first quarter phase on April 30th.

If it was the monster, I am sure Tony Shiels would approve of the "tentacle" reference and Ted Holiday would give a nod to the worm like metaphor. With reference to the previous plesiosaur article, I don't think any plesiosaur could contort its neck like that.

But what about the camera? It seems a bit of that "shock and awe" I have previously referred to kicked in to a degree. That doesn't always mean one is suddenly rooted to the spot, but it certainly initiates a mindset where one is not dotting ones "i"s and crossing ones "t"s in the usual methodical manner (and I say this knowing that Innes is a practised investigator of the unusual). As Innes says:

I legged it back up to the car. I told my colleague about what I’d seen. I know he didn’t believe me. I hardly believe myself*. And as a footnote: the photos?  A mysterious mist appeared on all the shots. How odd, there was no mist? Maybe I had captured something paranormal after all? …. and then I remembered what I had in my left hand. A cup of steaming hot coffee. I had succeeded in photographing steam from a cup of coffee – brilliantly.

I can sympathise with that, even a "seasoned" visitor like myself cannot be quite sure that I would be ready to seamlessly move into action with the video recorder or camera. Here are some more observations that Innes gave to me:
  1. It had no head or head shape, it could have been a tentacle or a giant worm.
  2. It was constantly moving, initially from the left to the right as if rising from the loch surface.
  3. I would estimate it as being about 6 - 10 feet out of the water.
  4. The colour was impossible to know due it being nighttime, but the shape was in the middle of the path of moonlight on the surface and looked black to me. 
  5. How far out was it on the loch? Hard to judge. Maybe a bit closer (to me) than halfway across. 
  6. The sighting lasted no longer than 5 - 10 seconds - at this point I started to take photographs and the flash ruined my night vision. By the time I stopped taking photos the image had gone - maybe 10 seconds after that...
Innes suggests about 500m to the object and when he described the motion of the object it reminded me of one of those fast time lapse films you see of plants growing where they rise up and flail about in various directions, but in a general vertical direction.

Did Innes spot our famous resident? He is not sure and I am, of course, open to the possibility that he did.  The briefness of the sighting and the relatively long distance brings one into the percentages of sighting validity. It is simplistic to just say deer, bird or branch as the credibility of a sighting is inversely proportional to distance and obscuration but directly proportional to time (see link for more detail).

I regard Innes as a trustworthy and skilled investigator and so it is down to what could possibly have fooled him ... or not. When I come back from my next trip, I will have a hopefully better idea of moonlight observations of the loch.

PUBLIC NOTICE: Could P.C. get back to me about the painting you told me about. My email is shimei123@yahoo.co.uk






34 comments:

  1. It's a tale well told, i'll give him that.

    But 'steam from my coffee' obscuring the photos? Hmmm, okay then.

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  2. It would be very helpful to know the exact model of camera, and the film. My feeling is that when an automatic camera takes a flash picture, it sets an exposure which would not show that much detail in even a moonlit landscape. Perhaps you could do some experiments.

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  3. He says it was an old 35mm instamatic so you can be sure the flash isn't going to do jack more than 10 feet or so.
    As far as photographing steam, I can see that happening because the flash will reflect off it but that's assuming its pretty damn hot and near the lens.

    Perhaps David Icke is right, we live in a hologram where creatures and ufo's can make intrusions into our reality. ;-D

    Jon

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    1. Icke? You mean sir Richard Brandon,aka Gary neuman,at times?
      Wellaware1 dhought commn

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  4. Having no head or head shape on the tip, and constantly wiggling, makes it highly, highly unlikely it could have been a vertebrate's neck. Which means if it was a vertebrate, what was seen had to be the tail. Lateral, sinusoidal oscillation of the tail is an efficient means of propulsion for many non-mammalian aquatic vertebrates. February to April is a typical mating season for newts and salamanders, and tails can be seen breaking the surface for a few seconds and behaving just like this during their mating dances, which often occur at the surface. Of course this would have to be a very great salamander indeed to show a 6 to 10 foot tail. But that's just what the locals called our beastie during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    If surfacing occurs primarily at night, and primarily in mating season, there's very, very few nights a year anything would be observable, and then only if the Moon was just right. Innes Smith seems to have been in the right place at just the right time.

    Silent, overnight canoe floats on moonlit Spring nights are probably just the ticket. Keeping in mind that too much success could be a very dangerous thing.

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    1. Surely tail vertebrae suffer from the same issues as neck ones as regards flexibility, Steve?

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    2. Not when adapted for aquatic propulsion (tails that is, not necks). But all the wriggling will be in one plane, unlike a tentacle which can bend in any direction. So if a laterally wriggling tail is viewed from the side, the motion won't be apparent (----o--). But rotate your view to either a dorsal or ventral position, and you'd see the flexing: (~~~o--). I did slightly overstate the rigidity of neck vertebrae. Swans can flex their necks a good deal. But not a giraffe, nor a plesiosaur.

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  5. Not a giraffe or a plesiosaur no but maybe an unknown creature we havnt discovered. That is what i believe is in loch ness :))

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  6. This one demonstrates that even those experiencing so-called shock and awe are able to raise a camera and click the shutter button.

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    1. Not quite, I said a "bit" and to a "degree". Like most things in life it is either in degree or in kind. At 500 metres away, most of us can raise a camera. But what about 50 metres? My point was that even at such a long distance, one's excitement began to interfere with the usual methodology - and this was someone who was a paranormal investigator.

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    2. Zebedee Sebadoh III26 June 2014 09:17

      I truly love this blog.

      Only in the crazy world of the paranormal would we read an assertion that someone taking 5 photos of a beast is some kind of evidence of people being too scared to take photos of a beast! Then followed by backtracking about distance.

      Glasgow Boy your blog makes me smile every day I come here, please keep up the good, but sometimes unintentionally hilarious work!

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  7. We can do a consistency check. The height of the object out of the water is shown as about 1/4 the diameter of the Moon. That would make its apparent size about 1/8 of a degree, which at 500m distance would equate to about 3.5 feet. Not too far from the quoted 6 to 10 feet - and, as we all know, these things are hard to estimate.

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    1. Thanks, nice bit of maths.

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    2. How on earth is 3.5 feet "not too far from 6 to 10 feet"? That's absurd, sorry.

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    3. Anonymous, you would be right if I were measuring a photograph. But it's a rare person who can get the relative sizes of distant objects correct in a sketch.

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    4. So what you're saying is he was not too far wrong because he didn't say either 1 inch or 30 feet tall? Like we don't all know that the 6 to 8 feet range of neck isn't the standard! 3.5 feet is way out compared to "6 to 10 feet", end of.

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  8. Is that grey box supposed to be a photo? It looks like a drawing to me.

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    1. It is a drawing made by the witness.

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    2. Worthless as evidence then.

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  9. Very interesting. After years living in Loch Ness and hearing folks stories, i have always thought these beasties are nocturnal and more active at night.

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  10. Burton Caruthers27 June 2014 05:04

    Very entertaining and highly dramatic indeed.
    Next!

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  11. A good friend of mine who lives in Loch ness and spends half his life on the water has never seen anything in the daytime but has seen 3 things he cant explain and all at night time between 8 and 10. That tells me something :))

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    1. Do you live quite near to the loch, Jake?

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    2. It tells me something too. That it's even easier to mistake common phenomena for a monster when it's dark.

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    3. What "common phenomena" are out at 1am?

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    4. The usual ones which people keep mistaking for a monster. You know, the ones which have caused all the "sightings" but no film evidence.

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    5. Be more specific. What "common phenomena" are out at 1am?

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    6. Waves, drifting branches, otters and seals are all active at night. Dinosaurs playing bagpipes - to my knowledge - are not. The above phenomena would more easily cause confusion in the moonlight.

      By common I meant common enough to account for the rare reports of Nessie.

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    7. Now I know you are just guessing. Otters 500 meters out into the loch? What kind of wave produces a long neck like appearance?

      Just please give me your interpretation of what caused Innes to be "deceived" rather than producing lists.

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    8. Its true. drifting branches are more active at night.
      Gawd....

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    9. Where did you see the words "more active"? I don't see that at all. Just "active" with no implication of more activity at night.

      Gawd indeed...

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  12. Are we told when Mr Smith made the drawings - dd/mm/yy ?

    Anon - Stargazer

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  13. No GB. But i spend a lot of time there. Second home some would call it lol

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