Monday, 30 October 2017

A Nessie Article from 1956




I came across this article in a rather obscure magazine entitled "The Aquarist and Pondkeeper" dated July 1956. It is a journal that mainly concerns itself with Aquaria and water gardens, but in the midst of all this came an article concerning a creature that you could not buy from your local pet shop and, besides, was unlikely to fit inside your standard tank. I reproduce the text from the page above.


Is the Loch Ness Monster a Fish?

by Dr. J. L. CLOUDSLEY-THOMPSON

DURING August, 1954, a brief report appeared in the Sunday Times that the Loch Ness monster had been seen by a number of people, including the occupants of a motor coach. The discovery of the coelacanth may have tended to shake our healthy scepticism about the existence of undiscovered monsters, "living fossils" and the like. At any rate two well-known zoologists have recently suggested that the great sea serpent may actually exist, and have put forward identical hypotheses regarding its nature. Dr. Maurice Burton points out in his book Living Fossils, that sea serpents have been alleged to have been seen by a large number of people over a period of many years and characteristically show a series of humps above the water-line when swimming. Now, Burton observed a conger eel at the London Zoo turning on its side and undulating its body vigorously, thus producing a series of humps from head to tail. He suggests that a giant eel carrying out the same manoeuvre would present an appearance similar to that of a sea serpent.

The larvae of the common eel, which measures up to three feet in length when adult, are only three inches long. Yet Dr. Anton Bruin, zoologist of the Danish "Galathea" deep-sea expedition, dredged up a larva six feet in length, and possessing over 430 vertebrae—three times as many as are found in the largest known eel. There was a dramatic moment while Dr. Burton was showing a film of the expedition during the XIV International Congress of Zoology at Copenhagen in August, 1953. After describing living organisms found at the very greatest depths, he asked: If a chordate can live at the bottom of the sea, why not a sea serpent ?"

It has been objected that nearly all the accounts that have been given about sea serpents are due to mistaken identity. No doubt giant squids are responsible for many of the stories that have arisen, for these creatures are known at times to come to the surface of the sea. One of their arms, 30 feet in length, one moment writhing on the surface and next raised aloft, must look very much like a serpent. Also sea serpents have sometimes been described as spouting water, an act that might well be expected from a squid. It has also been suggested that basking sharks, schools of porpoises, long strings of weed, giant ribbon fish and even flights of birds may at various times have given the appearance of a serpent.

It is more difficult however, to explain an unknown marine animal seen off the coast of Brazil not far from Parahiba by E. G. B. Meade-Waldo and M. J. Nicoll on 7th December, 1905, while cruising in the Earl of Crawford's yacht "Valhalla." This was described the following year in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. The creature had a dorsal fin about four feet long projecting about two feet from the water: this fin was brownish-black in colour and much resembled a gigantic piece of ribbon seaweed. Behind the fin could just be discerned the form of a considerable body. "Suddenly, an eel-like neck about six feet long and of the thickness of a man's thigh, having a head shaped like that of a turtle, appeared in front of the fin." Unfortunately, the curious beast soon disappeared; but on the following night some animal made such a commotion in the water that it looked like a submarine travelling along just beneath the surface.

A firm believer in sea serpents was Dr. A. C. Oudemans, formerly director of the Zoological Gardens at the Hague. In a volume entitled: "The great sea-serpent: an historical and critical treatise", Oudemans gave reports of 187 appearances, the suppositions and suggestions of scientific and non-scientific persons including 22 "explanations," and his own conclusions regarding the nature of the animal - that it was a huge, unknown, long-tailed pinniped. In 1934, he published a somewhat dogmatic pamphlet entitled "The Loch Ness Animal", in which he stated that this creature was "nothing but a sea serpent."

If indeed there is a sea serpent and it has whiskers, a mane, two pairs of webbed, pentadactyl flippers, blows like a whale, its warm breath condensing in the air, and moves in a series of jerks, just as seals and sealions do, then Oudemans may be correct. Certainly a sketch by Mr. Arthur Grant, who claimed to have seen the animal in the road about eight miles from Inverness by the light of his motor-cycle lamp at 1 a.m. on 5th January, 1934, shows an animal that cannot possibly have been an eel but looks not unlike a seal.

On the other hand, in his book "Half Mile Down", Dr. William Beebe describes a fish which he saw at a depth of 2,450-2,500 feet, that was at least 20 feet in length and deep in proportion. The whole fish was monochrome and he could not even see an eye or a fin. In shape it was a deep oval: it swam without evident effort and it did not return. This description certainly seems to be not inconsistent with that of a giant eel. Thus it may be that the great sea serpent does exist and is, in fact, an enormous eel. It is not impossible that more than one kind inhabits the depths of the ocean. If one of these creatures were occasionally to find its way into the restricted waters of Loch Ness, its appearance might well occasion reports of a fabulous "monster." So, if that is the explanation, then the Loch Ness monster is a fish!

Illustrations:

1. "Sea serpent" seen off the coast of Brazil by E. G. B. Meade-Waldo and J. M. Nicoll in 1906
2. "Loch Ness monster" os seen by A. Grant in 1934
3. Most probable form of the "sea serpent" and "Loch Ness monster" according to A. C. Oudemans, 1934

The article promotes the idea that the Loch Ness Monster is a giant eel and that is a thought favoured amongst zoologists and cryptozoologists across the years. Indeed, I initially though Dr. Cloudsley-Thompson, was just a local doctor who maintained a fish tank in his surgery waiting room.

No, far from it. John Leonard Cloudsley-Thompson was a postgraduate, lecturer, doctor and eventually professor in the science of zoology to which he added a long and varied list of publications on the subject of animals. His speciality was desert fauna, an interest birthed in North Africa where he was a tank commander during the Second World War and where he left after being severely wounded in battle (obituary here).


Prof. J.L. Cloudsley-Thompson


I would note that this short article was written in 1956 when things were pretty quiet for the Loch Ness Monster, being sandwiched between the 1951 Lachlan Stuart and the 1958 MacNab/Cockrell photographs. At this point, Tim Dinsdale was an unknown man with little interest in the monster and his future critic, Maurice Burton, was still a leading advocate of the creature. It seems also to be a time when leading zoologists were open to the idea of a large creature in the loch and would openly discuss it.

To that end, Cloudsley-Thompson mentions his fellow zoologist, Burton, in this article with both taking a positive view of a cryptozoological approach to the Sea Serpent mystery. However, Burton was perhaps still inclined towards plesiosaurs while Cloudsley-Thompson plays it somewhat safe with giant eels.

As time advanced and monster fever grew to an inglorious end with the 1975 Rines photographs, zoologists began to step back until the siren song of the sceptics lulled them into a belief that all was just waves, logs and birds.

Having said that, he talks more about sea serpents than loch monsters, his one reference to a then recent eyewitness report of the creature is most likely the object seen by a Mr. Alan Graham and a party from Oxford-Cambridge. The description is of a hump which surfaced before them, estimated at four feet long by one and a half foot high which was seen early on a July morning.

It initially remained stationary for about four minutes whereupon it took off at a "fair speed" leaving a wash before finally submerging. No doubt one of those "standing waves" which can do remarkable things, but another academic by the name of Roy Mackal saw fit to include it in his list of top reports.

The professor dies only four years ago and one wonders what his thoughts were then compared to his article from 61 years ago. In that respect, I note he was discussing the identity of that other cryptid, the Mongolian Death Worm, with Karl Shuker back in the 1990s.

Evidently, the world of strange and unclassified beasts was something that piqued his interest. Either way, the subject of that large creature in Loch Ness is not a subject which is as easily broached in polite zoological circles today.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

63 comments:

  1. Nice job finding that one, Roland. A very reasonable, well considered article by Dr J; probably one of the more well informed articles from that time no matter the source.

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  2. Cool article. The mindset back then in professional circles was very much more open to every possibility. However, it wasn't so much that seekers of the creature lost faith by accepting the claims of skeptics (who were equally willing to accept fantastical ideas in defence of a negative hypothesis). It was more the complete lack of compelling evidence other than a barrage of inconsistent eye witnesses that describe a chimera beast that lead to the decline in belief in the monster. The only evidence that I ever accepted as proof positive growing up was the Rhines photos. When I learned they were suspect it really killed it for me. Yet there is a beautiful nostalgia in older articles like this that is extremely compelling.

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    1. I must admit, it was the eye witness testimonies that made me doubt the Rines pictures back then! That gargoyle head never fitted in with eyewitness story.

      Inconsistencies in what people claim they saw is a multiple of factors, especially since a percentage of the database will be tainted with misidentifications.

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    2. Rines produced the 'gargoyle head' photo at the same time as the 'head neck and body' photo. As has been mentioned numerous times over the years, the 'head' in each photo were remarkably different to each other and if were animals could not be the same species. I think for most people at the time the head neck and body photo was compelling and the gargoyle head was not compelling at all.

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    3. What I'm interested in, going off topic and relating to the Rines photos, is how we could possibly see the head, neck and body quite clearly. To get it all in frame it must have been a reasonable distance from the camera. And the visibility in Ness is famously poor of course. I've never heard a convincing explanation for that.

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    4. Good point Martin. I read recent takes on this photo stating it is known now to have been taken close to the camera so the object is only small. Is there proof of this or is it just speculation? Because the Rines team were adamant it was a big object. Does anyone know?

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    5. film magazine or filmmakers monthly ( or something) did an in depth technical article on these photos in 1975.They are real.Sonar was obtained at the sametime,with breaking fish on the surface.Doc edgerton mit professor and inventor of strobe light photography was on this team that photographed these animals.
      They were moving ,animate,and triggered the sidescan sonar which triggered the strobe camera setup.
      Doc was the guy who photographed the atomic explosions and bullets in flight featured in time magazine.Very prestegious(sic) team.

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    6. it was not taken close,and the simutanious sonar calculations from the mit tech institute showed a large animal with 6 foot flippers.

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    7. "it is known now"..... sources please

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  3. Would it be fair to say that if More Than A Legend hadn't been published in 1957 the legend may have receded back into pre 1933 obscurity ?
    The book kick-started the second rebirth, the Cockerel and McNab images, O'Connor and Dinsdale [ maybe Holiday too ? ] were prompted to mount lochside expeditions. A case of an inspired book coming along at just the right time.

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    1. People in their droves have witnessed the animals. The lack of a book in the 1950s wouldn't have prevented these wonderful beasts from making their presence known. It's possible that Tim Dinsdale might not have made his first trip to the loch without having read CW's book, so we may have to thank its existence for creating the circumstances leading to the most important piece of cinematic evidence we have for the animals. The Dinsdale film, in all its irrefutable glory. The one unarguably genuine monster film no one has ever successfully 'debunked'.

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    2. Some point to it as inspiration. I include Frank Searle in that category but he did nothing until 1969. Tim Dinsdale points rather to an article in Everybodys Magazine as his catalyst. Ted Holiday had an interest going back to the 1930s, though he didn't visit until 1962 it seems.

      I am not sure what Whyte's book has to do with Cockrell/McNab/O'Connor. McNab claimed his picture was taken in 1955, O'Connor and Cockrell were doubtless aware of the book, but any causality is hard to determine.

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    3. I still say no Whyte book, no Dinsdale film. CW indirectly resulted in the most solid piece on Nessie evidence ever obtained. A film which has never been successfully debunked.

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    4. Looks like Will wants an argy-bargy on the Dinsdale film.

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    5. No Roland, I reposted because my first post on it yesterday didn't seem to be appearing. Couldn't care less if sceptics choose to argue it shows a boat.

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    6. I'm a photographer, and the difference in the appearance of terrain within a few minutes difference in light can be marked. Certainly what the camera can capture can be very different, very quickly. That's why, much as I'd love to, I can't say that Tim's 1st and 2nd films, the 2nd to show what a positively identified boat looks like on camera, are not (easily) comparable due to very different light levels. He did his best, and I don't think there was any foul play on his part. He seemed like a person who had seen a genuine wonder.

      I do remember a programme recently that used the services of a retired forensic investigator to analyse the film, and found that there was an object above the hump, present in all frames. He suggested that this was indicative not of an error on the film, but of a solid object that is very difficult to see due to the lighting conditions and the poor resolution of the film. Unfortunately he made a convincing argument for a boatsman in a small boat, following a standard path across the loch. I was disappointed by this, although I do remember Roland's own take on the speed of the object being outside the range of a normal motor boat. So maybe we still have a genuine item.

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    7. The speck was most certainly not present 'in all frames' Martin. You must have forgotten that part of the documentary.

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    8. Well I might stand corrected then, I'll have a look again. But there was something odd about it, and I could see the investigator's problem with it.

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    9. It was when multiple frames were overlaid on each other. A faint speck seemed to appear where a person would be if it was a boat. The argument was that the noise of grain gets cancelled out if you overlay multiple frames, and what is left behind must actually exist. It's a fairly convincing argument at first sight, but it has been shown to be false in this instance.

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    10. I see. Well what you describe is a technique for noise reduction in photography, although I could only ever use it for still photography. However, in my mind, if a speck continuously appears above the object in multiple frames and in multiple locations, we could rule out film error. I'm wondering if it could have been a lens artifact, or if it was actually an object of sorts. May I ask how the analysis has been proven false here?

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    11. Yes, the film overlay speck cannot have been a human, because if you read Tim's account of what he saw through the binoculars it was the humped back of an animal. Definitely not a person in a boat. He was in no doubt about that.

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    12. I understand what you're saying but unfortunately Tim's words are not proof in themselves. I'm fairly sure that he couldn't mistake an animal's back for a boat with a man, but could he possibly have filmed something else by mistake?

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    13. well,there's a little problem of people every year seeing large dino type aquatic animals in lochness.tsk,tsk.

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  4. I still find it strange how a boatsman would cross the loch on a right curve when he wanted to go left when he got there.

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    1. Totally agree with GEZZAS remark...and may have said this before...why would you cross the Loch in that manner? Surely the two clips are of different objects...the second clip is a boat, for sure, but the first?

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    2. Agree 100%. The path the hump took can only be explained as animal behaviour, not a farmer in a boat!

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    3. Has anyone with boating knowledge on Loch Ness offered a thought on this. I'm curious. They would certainly be the best person to ask. I've also read about an enhancement of the film that appears to show an underwater body, but can find no trace of it.

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    4. Hello Ritta, am i right in saying you think there are 2 different objects in the Dinsdale film?

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    5. It's a fairly common manoeuvre for small boats line trawling for salmon on the Loch.

      99% of the time the water in the Loch is moving northeast ie. left to right as you look at the TD film. In line trawling you take the boat off with that current then cut back into the current to drag fishing lines across it.

      The salmon runs also move relatively close to the north shore, and particularly in that area where they may be heading for the River Morriston spawning grounds, So I'd say our boatman sets out from Foyers to line trawl for salmon along the north shore.

      However, it isn't the boat aspect that undermines the TD film for me. It's the fact a large animal prone to such blatant prolonged surface exposure - even only very occasionally - would surely have revealed itself numerous times since. Where are the other similar films?

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    6. RP, I'd have to disagree. Even now the percentage of people with professional video equipment, in the right place at the right time, must be exceptionally low. The advent of camera phones with video capabilities might only have lulled folks into thinking they are well equipped for this task, although they are far from it. And that might have actually pushed down the amount of people who invest in proper equipment while they go Nessie hunting. A camera phone is next to useless unless the object is within 200 metres and the light is right. And that's only photography. Video capabilities are lower again.

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    7. Although your knowledge of boat movements adds an intriguing direction to the story.

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    8. Gezza...yes, I honestly think the first object we see, going away from the camera, looks utterly different to the (much lower to the water) object we see travelling from right to left in the second clip...that one I would concede is a boat...I might suggest it's appearance may have caused the first object to submerge.

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    9. No offence to you Martin, but I find that argument very thin.

      The bottom line is the TD film would have us believe a large animal or animals plural are prone to prolonged surface displays in the middle of the Loch in broad daylight.

      The Loch is an enclosed area with roads down both sides, 3 decent sized settlements on its banks, and thousands of eyes on it daily. If that was an animal in TDs film, its existence would be verified some time ago.

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    10. No offence taken, although I think there have been a fair few surface displays witnessed. But in the grand scheme of things they seem to be few and far between, and the chances of witnesses being properly equipped to capture it is obviously extremely small. My rational is that there are far too many reports by good witnesses for this to be nothing, therefore I do believe that something is there that needs accounting for. Not strictly scientific, but instinctual and common sense as far as I'm concerned.

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    11. RP, you make some fair points. I regularly camp at the spot where the alleged boat took off on that day in 1960. At that beach there are indeed boats moored up at the small pier and on the beach to this day.

      The problem with TD's object is that it is first seen moving across the loch from Foyers to the opposite shore and, as I recall from the sightings database, that is unusual for known creature behaviour. The creature(s) tend to be seen moving up and down the loch. Granted there are instances where they may describe patterns mid loch, but the TD path is possibly unique - correct me if I am wrong.

      As for your thought that if the creature is so open in its display for TD then it must be at other times, well that really is more down to what other witnesses actually describe rather than extrapolating from one event.

      Obviously, others do see prolinged hump sightings. Unfortunately, they are not very good at recording them to the satisfaction of all!

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    12. Forgot to say on the 55-45 on TD's film being genuine Nessie.

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    13. Very interesting Ritta. This is the first tine ive seen this theory mentioned. Next time i watch the film i will see if i think this could of happened.

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  5. Martin, the alleged underwater body or rather shadow, was on the Loch Ness Discovered documentary from around 1994. The technician noticed the shadow when he put a still of the film into negative. Dick Raynor has criticized the alleged shadow claim, and having read his criticism, I'm on Raynor's side of that argument.

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  6. Martin from what ive seen i would not take Raynor's claims too seriously.He has some very poor ideas for lots of the sightings and photographs.

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  7. Alrite Martin! Yeah paddy is right the enhancement is on the discovery dvd loch ness discovered and u can buy it on amazon for as little as 1.75...worth a look its a decent dvd! Cheers......Roy

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  8. To those above, the original film was submitted to JARIC for analysis.

    At later dates copies of the film were made, as we know, a copy of a copy losses the original quality.

    Since Tim's passing (I have mentioned this before) his wife has (if she is still with us) has never given permission to allow the original film to be analysed since JARIC.

    I'm confident the original film coupled with digital enhancement would lay to rest this question.

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  9. GB being obtuse again, is it possible McNab sat on the 1955 photo till Nessie was back in the news again via a new book ?

    Much as we all love Tim and recognise his major role in nessie history , the two films clearly show a bow and propeller wake.

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    1. Peter McNab did indeed sit on his 1955 picture until Nessie was back in the news, but it was the H.L.Cockrell picture that did it - in his own words.

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  10. John, if the two films 'clearly' showed a bow and propeller wake we wouldn't be having this conversation. The boat filmed by TD for comparison purposes clearly shows a bow and prop wake, but the first object filmed only shows a bow wake reasonably clear. That there is a prop wake is arguable. The alleged prop wake is too ambiguous to my eyes for any definitive statements to be made.

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  11. If the two films clearly showed a propeller wake then we would not have spent 40 years arguing it was the loch ness monster John.

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  12. Gezza, folks spent a long time arguing over the Cottingly Fairies when a bit of common sense and photographic knowledge would have told them that they were really nice cut-outs. And that the older girl had worked as a magazine retoucher might have been a hint. Sometimes we're not too pleased with the truth of the matter. Sometimes I'm not.

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  13. Sorry Martin you cant compare the two they are two totally different things. The point is if the propeller wake was identical ( which it isnt) we would not be arguing for so long. The point is the wake does not look the same.

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  14. Glad to have stimulated such lively debate! Those of us who know, just know.

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    1. Might I ask Will, do you have special knowledge of this topic?

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    2. Martin, yes I think you know the category I'm in. You are correct in your assumptions.

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  15. I'm not suggesting that they are the same, just at people's willingness to believe what they want to believe. A disappearing 'boat' though, that's harder to believe....

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  16. Its not so much about what you believe in but what you actually see with your own eyes.I have seen the video numerous times and the propeller wake does not look the same if you ask me, so nothing to do with fairies and what people believe in.

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  17. Yes, I have to admit the blob does disappear during the seagull flying through the frame bit.

    We all agree the two films were taken in differing light and surface conditions, one would expect the [ alleged ] propeller wake to look differently, less or more evident, in each film too.

    I also have trouble with a beast in possession of a long thinnish neck ploughing through the waves at a fair rate of speed with its back a metre above the waves, no head to be seen, where is it, whose driving ? a very unorthodox creature indeed.

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  18. The Dinsdale film is a thing of beauty for many reasons. First of all 1) there was a purported monster in Loch Ness. His film seemed to show a creature swimming in the Loch. At the time it was the best evidence for the creature, alongside the still to be debunked Surgeon's photo. 2) Dinsdale turned out to be incredibly passionate about the monster and honest in his endeavors (Frank Searle he was not) which added to the conviction that it was defo a monster. So you had a ready made leader of the second wave of Nessie hunters who also just happened to have the best evidence, arguably still to this date, coming to the fore just at the right time. I would have followed Dinsdale around Loch Ness in the 60s. Debating the veracity of the film is fun and sometimes I still think it shows a monster. Most of the time I remember how improbable that is. But ultimately let's say it IS unequivocally footage of the Loch Ness monster? It would still not qualify as strong enough evidence within the scientific community given the ambiguity that remains due to the very little it does show.

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    1. That's true enough. Best scientific conclusion that can be drawn from it is 'unknown'. But even that is a tantalising proposition.

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  19. Just reading back on the comments, is riitta unaware the two Dinsdale films are of the same strech of loch but were taken hours apart ?
    Riitta mentions the possibilty that the noise of the outboard motor may have made the creature submerge. :)
    It's worth reading GB's excellent articles on the film[s] and the circumstances in which they were taken. Or buy Dinsdale's first book, availible in all good Amazon bargain bins.

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  20. John...I'm referring to the film on 'themanwhofilmednessie' website. I had assumed that the film shown is the original film (as stated) and not the follow-up film taken for perspective an hour later...if . I have made an error then I apologise. :)

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  21. John...just rewatched the video again...I'm suggesting that the object going right to left in the original vid is not the same as that at the start of the vid. Nothing to do with any of the later video.

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    1. That's a very good point. It's looks like you might be on to something.

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  22. Well its the first time ive seen this theory put forward Ritta so fair play on that, although my take is its the same object but you never know. Its great to see new ideas put forward.

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  23. Yes Riitta, I see what you are getting at now.

    Damn those clockwork 16mm cameras.
    The film is very short why did he need to wind the camera so much ?
    What would be the point of a camera you need to stop every 15 seconds to wind up ?

    Even Zapruder managed 30 or so seconds of uninterrupted footage, mind you that was 8mm.

    Is there missing Dinsdale footage, a second version ?
    I'm making up my own conspiracy theories here.

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