Saturday, 25 February 2017

Analysis of the G.E. Taylor Film




I say "analysis", but there is no film to view, but there is enough to present some new angles. So, let's get straight to the story of how this first colour film of the beast came to be. The only previous analysis of this footage had the unique privilege of full access to the 16mm colour film. Maurice Burton was the man with that advantage after a Dr. T. H. Crouch contacted him with news of a film taken by a Mr. G.E. Taylor of Natal, South Africa. The film was shot at Loch Ness on the 28th May 1938 opposite Foyers and was composed of two separate sequences. At about noon, Mr. Taylor noticed an object lying in the water about 200 yards away:

Its body was large and rounded, with a tapering down to the neck which dipped under the water, becoming visible about 18ins away, rising in an arch to about 6ins. above water before dipping again. Where this arched neck re-entered the water it had every appearance one would associate with a head. The body showed about 1ft above the water. Its colour was very dark.

He continued his loch tour and met an elderly lady, to whom he described his experience. Expressing a desire to see this, he drove her back and they arrived at about 12:45 to see the object was still there:

When we returned the object was quite fifty yards nearer. The sun gave it what I would call a straw colour.

He shot off another sequence of film and that was that. I could not ascertain how the experience ended, whether the object was left as it was found or whether it submerged. One would assume the former scenario. Very little of Taylor's original words make it into the book. The only words I could find were those I just quoted above.

Be that as it may, the account of this sighting by Taylor or the anonymous woman do not make it into the newspapers of the time and so this had to wait 22 years before it emerged into the public arena. In fact, I would speculate that the film may have lain dormant longer unless another film of the Loch Ness Monster had not gained worldwide attention in 1960. That was the Tim Dinsdale film and I suspect the publicity surrounding this convinced Mr. Taylor (perhaps spurred on by his associate Dr. Crouch) to contact Burton.

And so Mr. Taylor sent Burton the film as well as his diary around 1960 and the analysis subsequently appeared in Burton's 1961 book, "The Elusive Monster". Indeed, since it was allocated over a chapter of material, it received more attention than any other item of Nessie evidence in the book. Dinsdale's just released film got one page of attention, Taylor got eleven pages.

For better or worse, the rest of the analysis goes through Burton's sceptical filters, for there could only be one outcome to this particular analysis. In the end, the only thing that approximated to primary sources were one still from the the film and the above quotes. The author of "The Elusive Monster" was now the author of the elusive monster film.

So runs Mr. Taylor's account. Given that this was an extract from his diary, we can presume it is of good accuracy and not subject to the vagaries of recalling an event over twenty years later from memory alone.

CONFLICTING STORIES

I had earlier updated readers on my own attempts to find this film so that a second analysis may be effected. As of today, there is no success in finding any trace of this near mythical film. Unlike the McRae and Currie films, we know for certain that this film existed, the problem is we do not know its current status.

However, the time to have homed in on this film was back in the 1960s when the trail was relatively warm. In that respect, I refer to the writings of Holiday, Mackal and Costello which  raised the interesting question of whether Burton possessed a copy of the Taylor film.

First, Ted Holiday in his 1968 book, "The Great Orm of Loch Ness" tells us that he wrote to Burton requesting the address of Taylor in the hope of borrowing the film. But Burton replied saying he had a copy of the film and may be willing to let Holiday see it. When Holiday said he would like the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau to scrutinise it, Burton declined and there things ended.

In case one thought Holiday had got his wires crossed, Roy Mackal stated the same thing after meeting Burton in July 1968 after a BBC television programme. In his book, "The Monsters of Loch Ness", Mackal says he got talking to Burton about the Taylor film after the show and he agreed to let him see the film. Sadly, repeated attempts by Mackal to contact Burton to arrange the viewing all failed as Burton refused to answer his letters or calls.

Peter Costello had a slightly different experience with Burton a few years later. In his book, "In Search of Lake Monsters", he opined that Burton refused him access to any of the stills he had in his possession. A different request, but the same complete lack of cooperation. It seems Maurice Burton's conclusions were final and it was obvious to him that nothing was to be gained by letting the "believers" anywhere near the evidence.

It seems clear to me that Burton had a copy of the film and dozens of still photographs taken from the film. However, in contrast to this, sceptic Steuart Campbell in his book, "The Loch Ness Monster - The Evidence" makes no mention of any film. I emailed him recently and he confirmed his correspondence with Burton back in the 1980s made no mention of any copy of the film. When I contacted Maurice Burton's son, Robert, about the film; he was rather more forthright.


If I had a fiver for every enquiry about this film! In his book, my father said he was lent the film. It was returned to Mr Taylor after the analysis. When I watched it I concluded that if the object had been seen anywhere other than Loch Ness, it would have been unremarkable!

So, we have a diversity of opinion on whether a copy exists or not. I will just have to leave that particular matter there and let readers form their own opinion. Let us move on and look at what we do know and what we can know.


BURTON'S ANALYSIS

Before I proceed with my own thoughts on this film, it would be remiss not to mention Maurice Burton's observations and conclusions on the matter. After all, he was the one who had full access to it. When he introduced us to the film, he stated:

I have no hesitation in saying that this film contains the most important piece of evidence on this vexed problem it has so far been my privilege  to examine.

You get it? Burton was labelling this film as the most important item in the decades long Nessie debate. A clear shot across the bows of the recently launched ships of O'Connor and Dinsdale. However, the inevitable conclusion was soon to follow as Burton stated that the object was:

animal-like only in showing movement, but the movements are those of an inert floating object.

Burton goes through a frame by frame analysis and describes an object which seems extraordinary in its fluctuations as the presumed body, head and neck varying in height, length and form. This includes variation in hump count as it changes between one and two humps. However, Burton thinks any movement is dictated by the surrounding waves rather than anything in the object itself.

Given this was the first colour film of the Loch Ness Monster, Burton observes apparent changes in the intensity of colour regions which even change position! Burton speculates whether this may be due to a rolling motion. Towards the end of the film, the object takes on a straw colour.

Also fascinating was the fact that Burton observed the object suddenly disappearing under the water after morphing to only a single hump. This act took only one frame after which there is no monster for fifteen frames (about one second). Then for the next nine frames, a slight shadow intensifies back into a single hump. The more I read this, the more I wish I could see this film!

Burton also thought that since the object never raised its neck above the water, this was to be considered a fact against it being an animal, since he expected any animal to raise its head for a look around. I do not find that argument particularly convincing. Likewise, since the object seems to have done very little in the 45 minutes between the two film sequences, Burton also considered this an un-animal feature.

Burton had shown the film to a select audience to garner opinions. A minority thought it animal ("it will take a lot to convince me that is not an animal") while the majority opinion was best summed up by the comment that it looked "more like a sheet of sacking being gently tossed on the waves", their conclusion was that it was an inanimate body of unknown identity.

However, at the end of it all, Burton offers no personal explanation to what this object actually was. The closest we actually get to this was over twenty years later when he mentioned to Steuart Campbell that the film was shown to the National Institute of Oceanography and they plumped for a dead horse or cow.

Indeed, Burton told Campbell that a "four horned monster" had been reported in the loch around that time and had been identified as the bloated body of a horse with its four legs sticking up in the air. As it turns out, no researcher has ever found this report and it is now presumed that Burton misremembered it. It is also unclear to me how a rigid corpse could be reconciled with the dynamic quote that the object was like a sheet of sacking being tossed in the waters.

Let us now move onto this author's own analysis.


THE LOCATION




As you can see from the still above, which was published in Burton's book, there is a sufficient view of the background hills to identify the location. According to the book, Taylor was on the northern shore of the loch at a point opposite Foyers. That places us around the location circled on the map below.




Of course, there is nothing like being there to conduct an onsite investigation, and that is what I did back in 2014. Parking my car at a spot which may well have been occupied by Taylor's car 78 years previously, I took some comparison shots starting with this one just off the road.




The view was not too great and I suspect Mr. Taylor had a clearer view of the loch back in 1938 due to the cutting back of trees for the earlier road expansion. Making my way a little further down the hill presented a better view for a sequence of comparison shots for better analysis (picture below).




However, a problem presented itself when I got back home to compare and contrast the images. The contours of the distant hills did not match Burton's image. Had I reached an impasse? Was the location wrong and perhaps not even taken at Loch Ness?

The matter was resolved in a simple manner. The Burton image was flipped over and the solution became apparent - as you can see below with the overlay of the two images at the end to confirm the congruent hills. The upshot is that for fifty five years we have been looking at a reversed image and not what G. E. Taylor actually saw and filmed. This will impact the proceeding analysis of the film.


 





One can see how Burton may have made this error as a 16mm film strip may look the same flipped over if one is not familiar with the content of the film. Whatever the reason, we move on. How big is the object in the photograph?

That is not so easy to ascertain on its own, but we can get a sense of it with some modern comparison photographs. Ideally, I wanted a boat of known size to pass over the same spot as the creature. From this, an estimate of the creature's visible size could be made. After waiting a long time, a Caley Cruiser passed by, although further out.






Applying an overlay gives us a view of the relative sizes of the objects. Since the object is closer to us but relatively smaller than the 30 foot cruiser, it is absolutely smaller than the cruiser. The account given to Burton states the object as being no more than 200 yards (about 200m) from the northern shore. If we assume the Caley Cruiser is motoring in mid-loch (a common sight), we can estimate the size of the object as being about 5.5 feet across at the waterline (object at 200m, boat at 625m, boat measures 14mm, object measures 8mm, scale down from 200m to 625m gives 5.5 feet).

Burton states Taylor as estimating the object at no more than six feet across the waterline, so this is a good agreement. However, Burton thought it could be as long as twelve feet, but we will go with the numbers in agreement of about six feet. Now, clearly, there is no aquatic animal in Loch Ness which could expose this much body line above water. In fact, using my normal heuristic that only one third of the whole animal shows above water, this gives us a potential creature size of 18 feet.


THE DISCOVERY OF MORE STILLS

Now in the course of general Loch Ness investigations, I came across some more stills from this mysterious film. During one of my frequent visits to the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, I was actually looking for more information on the Peter O'Connor photograph, which Burton also had a stake in. He had written various articles for the Illustrated London News, and so it was that the 26th November 1960 issue yielded two more stills. The one we already know about is shown first for comparison.




The two new stills are in the correct orientation and do not need flipping like the first one. Clearly, Mr. Burton had more stills than one may have initially assumed. In fact, I would wager he had a very large number of them and no one else was going to get a look in. Whether there are more of these frames published in unknown journals at unknown dates is a matter of conjecture. The point now is that I fear they have all been destroyed by those who saw no point in letting anyone else see them. But I digress.

Now, Taylor said he shot two sequences separated by 45 minutes in which the creature was said to have moved. These stills would bear out that fact, if we assume Taylor was roughly in the same spot each time. Using the elongated area of treeless ground on the opposite shore as a reference point, it is evident that the top two stills were from the same sequence while the last one was from the other sequence.

Mr. Taylor said that the creature had moved 50 yards closer to the northern shore in between the two film sequences. If we overlay the first and third stills and use the object length of six feet previously calculated, the distance between the objects in the two stills is an apparent 20 yards. However, there may be a degree of foreshortening due to perspective between the two which would increase that actual change in distance.




The next pertinent question concerns the chronological sequence of the three stills. The first and second stills are from the same sequence and so they cannot be separated chronologically. However, was the third still exposed before or after the first two? There is no conclusive way to decide this from the stills alone. but Burton gives us the answer on page 88 of "The Elusive Monster":

.. the monster has moved so that it is now only about 150 yards from the north shore of the loch, and appears to have moved slightly west ...

In other words, the west is to the right of the stills and so the third frame is from the second sequence and the first two from the first sequence. However, if this is an inanimate object, we have a problem as the prevailing wind moves from the south west of the loch to the north east. In other words, the wind proceeds from right to left in the frames. Meanwhile, the object has moved from left to right in the opposite direction.

Burton himself confirms this south westerly wind when he describes the choppiness of the waves in his analysis. So how does an inanimate object move against the prevailing wind? Burton is ambivalent on this question and does not really address it by downplaying the effect ("moved slightly") and talks more about how the object retains is position against the wind and waves (pp.89-90).

I myself do not regard a counter move of at least 20 yards as something slight and rather something indicative of a living entity. This is why a second set of eyes on this film was always necessary. Of course, the sceptic may suggest the near mythical seiche effect which is an underwater wave which can make objects such as logs appear to move of their own volition. Finding examples of this effect at Loch Ness proved to be elusive themselves, but I found an alleged film of a log being driven counter to the surface waves at this link.

However, there was 45 minutes between the two film sequences. I estimate the object moved 20 yards which equates to a speed of 16 inches per minute. Mr. Taylor's estimate of a 50 yard move gives an average speed of  40 inches per minute. Is that how fast a seiche moves? The problem here is that the object appears not to have moved during the actual film sequence - certainly Burton makes no mention of it.

If the total film sequences last three minutes, then that is a movement of up to 120 inches or 10 feet. I doubt such a movement was noticed which suggests the total movement happened while G.E. Taylor was away between film shots and was no seiche. As an aside, Burton states the weather conditions as follow on page 68:

.. the weather was fine. The sun was shining ... fair amount of white cloud. The surface of the loch showed wind borne waves continuously moving in a north easterly direction with a small amount of foam cap.

Overall, I would say the motion analysis is suggestive of a self propelling object. And remember my comment about whether the original still being reversed had an analysis impact? Clearly it does in the matter of proving the object had moved against the loch currents.



THE DRAWINGS

Maurice Burton may not have left many frames of this film for other researchers to examine, but he certainly left a lot of drawings based on the film. Burton tells us that the two sequences of Taylor's film were one minute and forty seconds and one minute and thirty seconds respectively. The second sequence was stated as consisting of 1450 frames or 36ft of film. This gives us three minutes and ten seconds of film in total. From these frames, Burton tells us he painstakingly sketched over a thousand drawings from them.

A selection of these drawings are printed in his book, but the most interesting are 96 drawings representing the first 96 frames of the first film sequence. This adds up to six seconds of footage and Burton reproduced them in his book to demonstrate the "rhythmic up and down movement of the object". These are shown below and this provided an ideal opportunity to sequence them into an animation. That animation is shown below. However, the expected running time of the animation will most likely not be six seconds as it will depend on your computer's processing power. My laptop was actually running the animation for just over nine seconds.






Now as you watch this animation, you may get a sense of the fluctuations that Burton talked about. However, even at the slower speed that your computer may render this clip, it seems very fast for anything alive or much anything else for that matter. Burton admits to the problem of mapping a somewhat blurred frame of an object 200 yards away onto a crisp and sharply delineated sketch.

Given the blurriness and imprecision of the only enlarged still that we have, shown at the top of this article, I am doubtful of the accuracy of this process. That is not to deny that there are noticeable variations in the object's appearance during the film, they just seem exaggerated in this animation. The resolution is of course to view the film, but that opportunity seems a distant prospect from here.


CONCLUSIONS

Burton had a feast upon which to base his analysis, we have only the scraps that he deigned to leave behind. That he refrained from sharing evidence was not so much a sign of professional sloppiness but rather a sign that he did not wish to see monster believers induct this film into the Nessie Hall of Fame. Mackal would class the film as positive evidence in his later book as others followed suit in the monster fraternity.

I have previously spoken of my own search for this film in a previous article. If a descendant of Mr. Taylor knowingly has the film, I am sure we would have heard of it by now. That may mean the film is at best now mouldering in an attic or store room somewhere, its new owner unaware of its value and importance.

And I do regard it as important. Burton's analysis is not satisfactory as his attempt to downplay the movement of the object against the waves suggests. Also, his suggestion that this is merely a floating carcass does not sit well with the fluctuations described in the object. There is more to the internal than the external when we speak of what moves this mysterious object.

The fact that the object apparently spent the best part of an hour on the surface may be used as an argument against it being our elusive monster. After all, don't Nessies put in rather fleeting appearances? Well, of the 292 sightings on the database that I use which state a duration, about 8% last more than half an hour.

But then again, Mr. Taylor's sighting did not actually last that long as he was absent for 45 minutes. Did the creature disappear during this time or did it submerge only to re-emerge up to fifty yards further on? No one will be giving you an absolute answer on that one.

That would be perfectly in keeping with the mystery. No absolute answers, just opinions from either side of the debate, but - in my opinion - I side with Dr. Mackal in calling this out as a film of the famous Loch Ness Monster.

I will continue to hunt down the whereabouts of this film and doubtless write a follow up for readers. I am confident there is more information out there in old magazine and newspaper archives, it's just a matter of digging.



The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com





41 comments:

  1. Great article GB. But I must say that I strongly disagree with Mackal's catagorizing of films he hadn't actually seen as positive evidence. That's not scientific! He should've labeled this film inconclusive.

    On the other hand, Burton refusing to let members of the LNIB view the film is telling to say the least. He had an agenda.

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    1. Good point, why endorse a film you have not seen? I suspect it may have been directed at Burton himself and his sceptical tactics.

      Mackal in his book devotes a couple of pages to the film and has no time for Burton's arguments. Having dispensed with Burton's logic, one presumes he only saw a monster one after that.


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  2. It's clear Burton thought that the film may advance the arguments of his opponents. Very interesting analysis, and it might be the best one can achieve with this, given the passage of time. Who knows if the film is even watchable at this point? I'm not sure of it's maximum lifespan, but I know it's highly dependent on storage conditions.
    I've never seen a dead floating animal myself and I'm wondering if this is a common sight on the loch?

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    1. Well, that is an important point as some Loch Ness critics have no clue about the loch. Anything that dies sinks and won't be seen again.

      That does not preclude carcasses ending up on the loch but it requires something to die, bloat to achieve bouyancy and then somehow end up in the loch by external means.

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    2. So it's a long shot. And hasn't been documented? I certainly don't remember any photos of floating dead animals, and I remember reading your analysis of the floating dead body theories. I found your work and conclusion, and the observations of locals (ie. There are no floating bodies in the loch) compelling enough to believe that is not an argument against LNMs, or for sightings being misidentified as carcasses.

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    3. I don't recall seeing any photos of dead horses, deer, sheep or cows floating in Loch Ness. I have seen skeletons around the shoreline at best. It's just too rare an event I guess.

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    4. It's funny how it suddenly becomes a real prospect when trying to disprove the LNM.

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    5. Well, to be fair, a lot of the people Burton showed the film too were more familair with sea life than lake life. However, some sceptics who should know better have tagged along with this carcass theory.

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  3. I've never heard of a floating animal carcass in the loch in all my years of living here. I suppose it's possible but it must be extremely rare.

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    1. No doubt it is and probably not worth mentioning in the annals of Nessie theories.

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  4. To your point regarding the length of time as described by Taylor - you are correct to recognize that just because it was on the surface when Taylor returned it does mean it stayed on the surface the entire time. But the distance traveled between Taylor's sightings is miniscule for a living animal, nor does it match with the speed usually recounted in Nessie sightings. But Taylor also describes a distinct color difference on his return - perhaps it is a different/2nd Nessie?

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    1. My take is that the creature did not progress at a steady speed from A to B. It just decided to move from A to B in probably seconds.

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    2. Does Nessie have a history of floating on the surface for any extended periods? Are there any theories why a water breather might do this?

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    3. There a certainly a number of sightings where people just stumble upon the object already there and floating inertly before it eventually sinks or first moves off. As I said, about 8% of sightings with stated durations last 30mins+ and have a variety of motion/non-motion.

      As for the water-breather on surface scenario. I doubt it would be feeding (certainly in this case), it could be surfacing allows transfer of heat or oxygen via the skin.

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  5. I was fascinated with Burton's drawings from the stills, Roland. Fabulous idea to animate them. Have you a sense where the additional drawings are - or are they accessible?

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    1. Thanks. Burton died in the 1990s but I get the impression he lost all interest in the subject years before and just got rid of everything. If that meant destroying it all, that is academically unforgiveable. He should have passed them on - even if it was onto other sceptics.

      We've had heard this all before. Rupert T. Gould's entire archive were dumped by his son on his death. It's just as well people write books and articles, but you lose something when these archives disappear.

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  6. If memory serves, there's a drawing of the object that was filmed by Captain James Fraser during the Mountain expedition. GB, I think it would be interesting to post that drawing as a basis of comparison with the Taylor film object.

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  7. Hi Paddy- have you seen the Fraser Drawing? Is it based on the film or sketched from memory? Sounds fascinating. It is terribly lamentable that material from Gould and Burton's research has been lost. As an artist, I wonder what sorts of visuals (along with written material) went into the bin. Grateful for the treasure of of material being digitized and catalogued on this blog.

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    1. It's in Costello's book. I can't recall where he got it from.

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  8. Willie Camerons ( Inverness detective retired ) sighting was long in duration of an object above the water, it lasted over 30 minutes and was corroborated by a separate eyewitness. It moved from time to time before eventually submerging.

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  9. The Cameron sighting was also witnessed by a group on the opposite shore which included researcher/author F.W. Holiday.

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  10. The Cameron/ Holiday sighting is very interesting.After browsing through various nessie sights i saw this discussed on the fb sceptical page.Two of the biggest sceptics Myers/ Raynor have 2 very different opinions on this sighting. Myers favours a boat whilst Raynor favours a bale of hay. It is interesting in my opinion because it shows how difficult it is to point out what these sightings are, a boat is totally different to a bale of hay. Personally i dont think any of them are right on this one.

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    1. Slick damage control Gezza.
      Anyhow,skeptic pages are the last place to learn about the lochness phenomenon.

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    2. Boats and bales of hay? Hmm, perhaps seen at 2 miles for 5 seconds, in this case, nah. These sceptical speculations normally assume the witnesses cannot tell their arse from their elbow.

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    3. Again, all these floating things that you never see, they all seem to turn up here. Maybe Loch Ness is a portal to a landfill site in another dimension.

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    4. Reminds me of the ubiquitous seal that turns up in the loch on demand to explain sightings and then disappears again.

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  11. Always something new to learn john,and yes Glasgow Boy i cant see how this sighting can be of a boat or a bale of hay myself if you read the reports of Cameron and Holiday,plus there were other witness's to this sighting totalling about 7-8 people.

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    1. It is not, it is just sceptics playing mind games again.

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  12. Bales of hay floating in Loch Ness ? Unheard of,

    unless ,hold on, what about the Lachlan Stuart
    photo ?

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  13. Cameron and his fishing partner plus Ted Holiday estimated the size at around 30 ft long. That rules out a bale of hay in my opinion.

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  14. Ian Cameron was the Chief Of Detectives for the area. He described the object as whale-like, said it moved against the prevailing wind/waves and that it executed a turn! Now the skeptics will say that a seiche-propelled log could conceievably replicate this action. But for all the time the LNI had cameras trained on the Loch and failed to film a Nessie they also failed to film one of these seiche-propelled, acrobatic logs! In one of the documentaries Adrian shine had to tow a log in his rubber dingy in order to demonstrate such action. But anyone with common sense will know that filming a log being towed is a different proposition than filming a seiche-propelled log!

    I may be the site's resident Nessie fence-sitter, but some of the explanations and propositions offered up by the skeptical side are just as much weak tea as some of that offered by believers!

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    1. I reread the account in Holiday's book last night. The only tactic the sceptics have here is to play the "liars" card.

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  15. But with 7 other witness's he obviously wasnt lying. Yes i agree, the septic answers on this one are very weak.

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  16. I think although its good to have 2 sides to the coin you have to make your own mind up ratber than settling for the answers of someone else.Cameron said it was a whale like object about 30 ft in length which turned around as it aproached the shore so unlikely something drifting.The witnesse's also said after a lengthy spell on the surface it went down. Now for me after weighing down these comments it rules out a boat and a bale of hay.Its a complicated issue and everyone is entitled to their opinion but when you study the comments and the sighting you have to make up your own mind.

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    1. I think someone of influence who kives at lochness is supporting the skeptics.
      Why?

      I think he is tired of tourists and traffic etc.

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  17. You've mentioned bales of hay 3 times since your first bales of hay comment,and boats another 2 times.
    I feel that professor tuckers elasmosaurous fits the bill for this thread.
    However,plambecks giant amphibian salamander,the waterbull,also may be a possibilityi feel they both exist along with giant horse eels.

    #1.elasmosaurous or plesiosaurus.
    #2.giant salamander
    #3.Giant (horse) eel.

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    1. Do you feel that creatures 1-3 exist simultaneously?

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  18. I think you have said all this before!

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