Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Diving with the Pisces Submarine (1969 article)

I am currently busy with my next Loch Ness Monster book, so blog postings have been a bit less frequent. But it is time to delve into the archives and surface with one of those interesting articles that I occasionally encounter during my searches at virtual and real libraries. This article from Diver Magazine of September to October 1969 details an excursion into the depths of Loch Ness with the Vickers Pisces submarine. We know about Dan Taylor's yellow Viperfish, but the Pisces was also there at the loch during those busy year of 1969. Readers may wish to speculate on what they struck during the dive and those interesting craters and I refer them to this previous article.




(Pisces on the surface of the Loch, with a diver securing the lifting tackle. The author in the pilot's position.)

IN THE MONSTER'S LAIR

Arthur Bourne, chairman of the Exploration Group of the Ocean Resources Conservation Association, describes his journeying into the depths of Loch Ness in the Vickers' submersible, Pisces. The monster did not appear, but a mystery did develop.

The veil of mystery that has covered Loch Ness is beginning to lift. The Loch which is part of that great Caledonian fault which effectively divides Scotland into two and gives that characteristic shape to the Highlands has for a long time remained something of an enigma. It has been variously described as bottomless, having deep holes connecting with the sea, and even of being so deep that there is air at the bottom in which people are living in the sort of "Brigadoon" world. If we ignore the persistent belief in a somewhat ambiguous monster and the current burst of enthusiasm for Loch Ness monster hunting, there has been little attempt to get to grips with its mysteries.

Apart from some echo soundings and sporadic sampling of the Loch bottom with grabs, little has been done to explore its depths and to see what is down there. The fortunate choice of the Loch by Vickers Oceanics as the site for the demonstration trials of their submersible Vickers-Pisces has enabled some information on the structure and contents of the Loch to be built up. In fact, Pisces has proved beyond any doubt the point that there is no substitute for man when it comes to exploring the bottom of the sea or as in this case the bottom of a deep Loch. The automation leaves much to be desired. The bottom of the Loch seems to be generally covered with a deep layer of extremely fine sediment. So fine is it that when the skids of the sub touch it they plough in, and it billows up obscuring the view from the ports.

The tiny particles of matter reflect the light from the two 1000 watt quartz iodine lamps. In the area we examined the undisturbed sediment covered what appeared to be a wide level plain with very clear ripple marks on its surface, not unlike the sand at the ocean's edge, the difference being that this was at 800 ft and in fresh water. As one would expect there is very little life at this depth. However we did see some very small white eels, and one of the members of the crew during a previous dive had seen an odd little creature seemingly jetting itself along the bottom.

A great many more dives will need to be made and a systematic bottom survey carried out to get any real picture of the Loch's bed, but at around £1000 per day this is not likely to happen just yet. Another feature of this plain is a number of horseshoe-like craters. the walls of which were quite high. The sediment covered what could be described as the leeside with gentle slopes; those on the "windward" as expected were steep. This and the ripple marks quite clearly indicate a current of sorts at this depth and a moment with the motors switched off soon verified this observation, because the machine would slew round and drift broadside on to the current — at about two knots.

During one excursion we examined one of the horseshoe craters. We entered the open end and examined the walls of sediment that surrounded us. Then we attempted to raise ourselves gradually over the lip. It was higher than we thought, we kept hitting it and disturbing the sediment each time. We explored its contours and then when the echo sounder was registering 10 ft of clear water beneath the craft, we hit something, with a resounding crash, that reverberated through the sphere. It seemed as if we had hit a metal object. Carefully the sub was manoeuvred so that we could examine the water just below us, but we could find nothing. I thought that we had hit the lip of the crater and the arm had gone through the sediment (which for some reason was not picked up by the sonar) and hit the rocky ridge which, presumably, these craters must have.

Later, on the surface, we found in the working parts of the arm pieces of shattered sedimentary rock similar to sandstone which are now being examined by geologists. This does not explain why we registered clear water beneath us and the peculiar nature of the sound. When you hit rock you know it for the dull thud it gives, but this was a definite metallic crash. Not only did the sonar register nothing beneath or around us, but we could not see anything either, even with very careful manoeuvring and using our high-powered lights. We could have picked up the sandstone when we ploughed through the sediment earlier. We will probably never know what we hit. Throughout all the trials this was the only time that Pisces struck with anything like this kind of force.

Other crews have reported something hitting the vessel during previous dives which couldn't be explained. It is not impossible that tree trunks floating at great depths may be encountered and be sucked towards and bump into a craft during its descent. In fact tree trunks were found on the bottom. But it must be admitted that they couldn't have caused the jolt that we experienced. Loch Ness like other lochs, lakes and even the seabed seems to have been used as a dumping ground for anyone's unwanted rubbish from old Morris engines to muskets of the '45. Also there was a wreck of an old sailing collier with its mast still standing. Like most lochs this one does not have a great deal of life in it. It is far too deep and with too small a surface area, though there are fish and plankton in the surface waters.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

But beyond 15 to 20 feet, where there is no light, very few fish are encountered and the very few bottom living eels described above would hardly provide enough food for any reasonable sized animal. Even a filer feeding mammal like a whale, or a fish like the basking shark could not live for long on the plankton of Loch Ness. A fish-eating mammal, reptile or fish of the size generally credited to the Loch Ness monster would soon find itself out of business. The dives of Pisces have proved that the submarine is capable of very neatly controlled movements and is able with its hydraulic arm to pick up specimens from the Loch bed. It is ideally suited for explorations of this sort. Its two 3hp motors are more than adequate to cope with bottom currents of up to 3 knots, while at the same time giving the pilot a high degree of manoeuvrability.

The buoyancy and trim controls are also very sensitive, in fact one tends to fly this machine rather than drive it. It is beautifully designed for hovering lust above the bottom, especially when one is trying to examine a rock structure or some other object. In this position one can use the hydraulic arm to lift a rock, examine some debris or with a suitable sampler to take specimens of sediment. The total impression that one gets when riding in this machine is of complete safety and freedom. This is a very unusual quality in a submersible. Particularly those in which the crew's quarters are housed in a steel sphere as they are in Pisces.

Here, any scientist, even if he hasn't been in a submersible before, can feel quite relaxed and thereby concentrate his efforts on recording his observations and carrying out his experiments. My own explorations, short though they were, were carried out with this complete feeling of security which was engendered by my faith in the machine and confidence in my companions. Vickers have a very highly trained unit comprising pilots, observers, engineers and divers. And equipped with these machines they will be able to perform almost any task at continental shelf depths and even beyond. 

Friday, 3 August 2018

Tricks of the Sceptics





This blog has been running now for eight years and published over 600 items in that time. During that period I would like to think I have gotten a good handle on the debating tactics of that class of Nessie naysayers commonly known as "sceptics". Quite likely you will hear them before you see them as they loudly go forth proclaiming the inerrancy of their ways and the perfections of their thoughts.

Like a crowd of wannabe Spocks they practise the raising of the right eyebrow and the parting of the fingers, but they have no desire that your monster theories will live long and prosper. I long ago grew used to this logical posturing and the shallowness of much of their argumentation. Today I would like to present to you some of the tactics they use in the pursuit of doing whatever it takes to rid themselves and the world of these meddlesome monsters.
  
1. Eyewitness accounts useless ... unless they support pet theories

You've heard it many a time from sceptics, eyewitnesses are poor "recording devices". Not only do the fail to perceive what they are seeing at the time, but are pathetic at recalling the details later on. Well, that is unless what they describe supports your agenda, in which case the clouds of poor memory suddenly depart. The perception of the eyewitnesses becomes lucid and their descriptions are now as sharp as a tack.

This duplicity came to my attention when the matter of the sturgeon came to the fore. Instead of the usual rejection of certain eyewitness reports, a number of reports were deemed accurate to support the sturgeon theory; namely K.MacDonald(1932), J.McLeod(c.1900s), and M.MacDonald(1993). Go to this link and search for "sturgeon". Adrian Shine admitted that "anyone, of course, can assemble sighting reports to support a pet theory", so why bother with this? All that being said, I take this as a positive as the sceptics are admitting witnesses can accurately describe what they are seeing. 


2. Devise unfalsifiable theories

The obvious one being "If it is not a misidentification, then it is a hoax" allied with "If it is not a hoax, then it is a misidentification". A piece of circular reasoning specifically devised to exclude genuine monster reports.


3. Cherry picking accepted theories

In other words, promote only those theories which advance your agenda. This even includes parts of theories such as the false memory theory but ignoring the inconvenient theory that dramatic events stay longer in the memory.


4. Devise explanations to explain reports without testing

 A common tactic wherein sceptics put forward seemingly plausible explanations as to how a witness was wrong, but they never actually test if it is a viable explanation in the field. Of course, not every theory can be tested, but the sceptics are quite happy with that arrangement.


5. A lazy over reliance on the "least fantastical" approach to theorising

This is the "improbable" versus "impossible" theories and is a straw man argument. You construct an albeit unlikely scenario but use common everyday objects to soften the implausibility. This is then propped up against a monster theory and the audience is deceptively asked "which one looks more likely to you?". An example would be, "What is more likely to you? A line of otters in a heat haze or a plesiosaur crossing the road?". The correct answer from a neutral or sceptical audience should be "The first, but both look unlikely, so we are no further forward."


6. Objectification of subjective data

Sceptics often berate believers for going over monster pictures with a fine toothcomb for minor details that are at best inconclusive and at worst wishful thinking. However, sceptics are guilty of this when we are assuredly told that there are wires present in the Surgeon's photograph, a canoe's rudder point in the O'Connor photograph and a forward wake in the MacNab photograph. Like the believers they put down, they are merely seeing what their confirmation bias wishes them to see!

7. Inconsistency in accepting eyewitness testimony that suits their agenda

Eyewitnesses to monster sightings are categorised as inadequate (unless it involves sturgeons) but people who come forward to offer juicy information to debunk sightings are star witnesses who cannot possibly be wrong. In this list we include Richard Frere who claimed to have information to debunk the Lachlan Stuart photograph and likewise Alec Menzies on Arthur Grant. One is not inclined to judge whether these people lied or misinterpreted an event, but the sceptics make no attempt to assess the weight of their testimonies. 


8. Ad Hominem tactics 

A somewhat baser form of tactic which gets personal. For instance, I heard one sceptic state that eyewitness testimonies from anyone at Fort Augustus Abbey should be discounted in the light of the recent child abuse scandal there. Not much logic there I am afraid. Also, we are told to discount Arthur Grant's testimony because known faker Marmaduke Wetherell visited the site while he was at Loch Ness. The old "guilt by association" tactic. Finally, the monks get it in the neck again when some of their eyewitness testimonies should be discarded because "they like their whisky". Yeah, sure.


9. Overuse of tentative or false theories

Be it discredited theories such as vegetable mats, earthquakes or uncatchable sturgeon, some theories just seem to go on well past their sell by dates. But f they deflect attention away from inconvenient monsters, what's not to like?


10. Mistakes in use of eyewitness reports

The classic here was Ronald Binns' conflation of the Margaret Munro and Torquil MacLeod land sightings. The intended or unintended synthesis of these two accounts resulted in inconsistencies which Binns then exploited to discredit the MacLeod account. I am not making this up, folks! 


11. The psychological use of hyperbolic language 

Or to use an old phrase, "Argument weak here, shout louder!". Do you want your faltering arguments to carry more weight with your audience? Simple, just attach such words as "damning", "amazing" or "very telling" to arguments which are nothing of the sort. This one comes straight out of the politician's playbook.

12. Deflection

You may have noticed when debating a sceptic that the topic under discussion actually has nothing to do with the original question. This is called deflection and usually involves the sceptic going off as a tangent so long as the direction is away from the original awkward question. Another tactic taken from the politician's playbook.

So there you have it. No doubt Mr. Spock would have replied "Fascinating!". The next time a sceptic beams down and starts pontificating to you on the matter of lake cryptids, get out this list and check how many of these tricks they are trying to pull off. Perhaps we should start an annual award for the worst offender. We could call it the Cryptozoological BS Award, where of course BS stands for Bogus Spocks.





The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com



Should Inverness Airport be renamed Inverness Loch Ness Airport?




Cast your vote at this link! Twitter poll closes today.




Saturday, 28 July 2018

Nessieland up for Sale




Do you fancy owning your own Loch Ness Monster exhibition at Loch Ness? Then your chance has finally arrived as the Nessieland exhibition in the village of Drumnadrochit goes up for sale. Details of the sale are available here

I have only visited the exhibition a few times over the years I have been at the loch, but on my last visit there had been a revamp and I posted my thoughts on it in a previous article. Of course, any prospective buyer has to take into account the fact that there is a competing exhibition about 100 yards up the road which has resulted in friction between the two as they both compete for the tourists pounds.

That competing exhibition is the Loch Ness Centre and the friction was evident in the charging of Nessieland's owner, Donald Skinner, over the theft of a Loch Ness Centre sign back in 2013. This followed a lawsuit some years before when the Loch Ness Centre owner, Robbie Bremner, sued over the names of the two centres.

The Loch Ness Centre was called "The Official Loch Ness Monster Exhibition" whilst Nessieland was called "The Original Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Centre". This proximity in naming led Bremner to claim he was losing over a £1 million in revenues. The outcome was both centres agreeing to change their names to "Nessieland" and "The Loch Ness Centre".

My own thought was that the "Loch Ness Centre" suited sceptics better as it really did not have much for those who believed in the Loch Ness Monster (though an eyewitness testimony section has improved that). The "Nessieland" exhibition would suit monster believers more, though it was more family and kid oriented rather than dedicated to serious researchers.

So, in terms of balance, two exhibition centres would be best, but there is no need for them to be 100 yards apart as the history shows. I did think one in Fort Augustus would be better, though where to site it is is not clear to me and the town did have two exhibitions in decades past which have now closed down. Has the time come for another one?

There was chat about a community buyout of Nessieland, though that seems to imply a total revamp of the building into something more for the benefit of the locals than tourists. The trouble is Donald Skinner will be looking for a price which assumes it continues as a Nessie attraction with the commensurate revenues. Whether a community buyout can bypass that problem, I do not know.

Watch this space, I guess, but I am sure the Loch Ness Centre would want to see the end of the place, the end of a competing exhibition and therefore more tourist pounds coming their way. That is of course no surprise. Business owners are all for competition and free enterprise except when it comes to their own business, whatever the sector!

For me, the idea of a pro-monster exhibition is a must for the area. If Nessieland goes, the space needs to be filled and not left to an exhibition that has no belief in the thing that attracts people to the area in the first place. A pro-monster exhibition, properly done, could attract more visitors, especially if the recent idea of erecting sightings plaques around the loch takes off.

A brief history of exhibitions around the loch can be found here.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com








Saturday, 21 July 2018

A Follow up to the Aircraft Monster Film




The mystery concerning the film taken of a possible large creature in Loch Ness has been solved. It was indeed taken in September 1981 by explorer Sydney Wignall but at Loch Morar and not Loch Ness. Here is a newspaper clipping from the Daily Star of February 5th 1982.


PRINCE Charles has joined the great Scottish monster hunt. He has asked to see a film made last year that is said to "prove conclusively" that there are monsters in some Scottish lochs. And monster-hunter Sidney Wignall said last night: "By the time he's finished watching It, the Prince will no longer be in any doubt that these creatures are real and not just a figment of people's imagination."

Sidney. 59, shot the seven-minute cine film from a powered hang glider last September at Loch Morar in the Western Highlands. He claims it shows Morag, a relative of the Loch Ness Monster. "Part of the film shows two creatures leaving wakes behind them In the otherwise still water." he said. "Another part shows a 1,000 yard wake similar to a torpedo's.

"But the most frightening bit shows a creature - or something - lying perfectly still at the side or the loch. "Whenever I get to that bit, my hair stands on end - and I'm sure it will do the same to the Prince."

Sidney. of Old Colwyn, North Wales. has spent £4,000 on his hunt for the monsters, and he has sent several reports on his activities to Prince Charles. The film, which was shot over a period of five weeks, will be rushed to the Prince as soon as it is returned from Japan, where it is being studied at the moment.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said last night: "The Prince has said he is interested in seeing the film. But no date has been fixed yet. "I don't want to say too much - or well be deluged with Loch Ness monster things from now on."

However, this was not how I found the provenance of this film. A visit to the library to examine multitudes of online newspapers failed and no mention appeared in any crytpid book I perused. Then I thought to consult Rip Hepple's newsletter for 1981 and the answer was soon forthcoming as Rip wrote about watching the cine film himself on the ITN news in early November 1981. Since I carry that newsletter on this very blog in the Rip Hepple Nessletter archive, the answer was under my very nose in Nessletter No.49 which I would have read back then, but completely forgotten.




Sydney Wignall (above) was an explorer who undertook aerial surveys of the lochs reputed to have large unknown creatures and passed over Loch Morar as one of them. The main part of Rip's description is:

The piece of film was shown, and while it was very short it was most impressive. It was not stated which stretch of water it was, but from the glimpse of shoreline we had it did not seem to be Loch Ness. I thought it may have been one of the tree covered islands at Loch Morar, the very clear water seemed to support this. But what was on the film? It was as close as anyone could wish, to being a silhouette of a plesiosaur.

There was no real scale to judge size, but taking the small waves on the surface as a guide I would say the animal was some 25 to 30 feet long. The dark shape showed a fairly long pointed tail, it thickened considerably where it joined the body, which was oval shaped and had three flippers, that we could see, two rear and one front. Presumably there was a fourth one we could not see. The neck was long but not very long, thick at the base narrowing towards the head, which was distinct from the neck.

The animal was close to the surface and twisting to one side, showing movement as the aircraft passed over. The flippers were pointed, definately diamond shaped, in fact just what you would expect of Nessiteras Rhombopteryx, or perhaps Morariteras. Strangely this novel idea and the results it produced did not receive a mention in the press, also there seems to have been no follow up.


You can view a scan of the original page 1 here. Rip contacted Sidney and got a reply published in Nessletter 50 (Feb 1982). Sidney told him it was to be shown on the BBC children's programme, Blue Peter on Monday February 22nd (as one person has already said here). It was not an RAF helicopter but a four seater Rallye low wing monoplane fitted with floats (below) and he further spoke on how to get closer to such animals. There was another communication in Nessletter 51 (Apr 1982) in which Sidney laid out some plans for another expedition in 1982 as well as more about his previous work as well as a surface sighting at Loch Morar.



A fuller account was given by Wignall himself to the now defunct Pursuit Newsletter dated Second Quarter 1982:
In late September, overflying Morar, we saw something very strange lying on the loch bed in about three meters of water in an area we had covered a few days before and which on the earlier occasion showed nothing unusual. The "thing" appeared to be about six meters in length and had what could be fins or paddles, but not the four I expected to see. (I was being subjective and not objective, hoping to see a plesiosaur.) A cine-record was made from heights of between 500 and 200 feet.

A low pass at 50 feet nearly put us into the water when we hit a "sink" area. Climbing away, I took several still monochrome photographs. Then I saw about 30 meters away from the "thing," another "thing." Only this time, Thing No. 2 was most definitely moving slowly, about a meter under the surface. I managed one 35mm still frame of it, then it descended into deeper water, out of sight. A polarizing filter had almost completely eliminated surface glare.

It could not counteract the small surface chop that distorted the resulting photographic image, which appeared to be of an object 7 to 8 meters long, moving to the northwest at possibly one or two knots. It appeared to have a neck and a tail but only two fins could be seen, and these were on either side just forward of amidships. I managed only one dive in the area after that, and in one bay I came across a log which did not appear to relate either to Thing No.1 or Thing No.2. What had I seen? I very much doubt if No.1 was an animate object. Its shape wasn't quite right. No.2 was the real thing, but what it is I cannot say, if a plesiosaur, why not four fins? If a zeuglodon, wasn't the neck too long?

However, no further communications were received by Rip and I saw no further mention of Mr. Wignall in the next four years of Nessletters. One presumes they either did not take place or nothing of note happened. And so the entire mattered faded into obscurity until this week.

Sidney Wignall died in 2012 after leading a life of adventure. Now I know what you are asking - where is the film now and I suspect a familiar feeling of deja vu will roll over you when I tell you I don't know. Yes, it appears to have gone down the same plughole as the Irvine, Fraser, Taylor, LNIB and Beckjord films. Unlike some of these films, I don't even have a still image. That is not to imply that all these films are genuine cryptid films, but researchers will not get the chance to analyse them and come to any form of conclusion.

Neither does it imply this and other films are destroyed and gone for good. I suspect the film is lying around somewhere, forgotten and unloved. The resolution may yet lie with Wignall's next of kin or some Google warrior who uncovers some footage online.

What did Sydney Wignall see? Rip Hepple classed it as an impressive piece of footage though Wignall was not entirely convinced one of the objects was animate. However, his quotes in the Daily Star article are more bullish concerning it being two creatures. Will we ever have the chance to make that assessment ourselves? Well, I will see how far I can get with this.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com









Thursday, 19 July 2018

Upcoming Interview on the Loch Ness Monster



I will be a guest on the Paraversal Universe radio show tomorrow discussing you know what. Details are below.

Join Paraversal Universe this Friday, July 20th (2018) in North America at 2pm pst/3pm mst/4pm cst/5pm est, in Europe at 10pm gmt/11pm cet, & in Australia (Sat) at 8am aest on the Late Night In The Midlands Radio Network (LNMRadionetwork.com) as we talk to Cryptozoologist & Author Roland Watson about his research into the Loch Ness Monster. We'll discuss his books "When Monsters Come Ashore" & "The Water Horses Of Loch Ness". Join us live in the chat room to ask questions & make comments at LNMradionetwork.com. Listen live from your phone at (701)-719-9704. Check out our archives at Paraversal Universe Show Archives.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

Arthur Grant gets his own Plaque




It was with some satisfaction that I read Wednesday's Inverness Courier and a plan by local businessman, Willie Cameron to place plaques around the loch giving information on famous Nessie sightings. First I reproduce the story here from the original link:

Businessman pushes for 'Monster Trail' to show Nessie at her best

Written by Val Sweeney

Willie Cameron hopes a new plaque installed at The Clansman Hotel will set a trend around Loch Ness.

BUSINESSES around Loch Ness are being urged to help create a new monster trail by sponsoring special plaques relating stories and anecdotes about the area’s most famous resident.

Despite countless reported sightings of Nessie – as well as several infamous hoaxes – little information is available at locations around the 23-mile long stretch of water.

Drumnadrochit company Cobbs has now seized the initiative by installing an engraved plaque at its lochside Clansman Hotel, relating the 1934 sighting by motorcyclist Arthur Grant who reported seeing a long-necked creature in the water on a January night.

Company director Willie Cameron is now urging other businesses and organisations to sponsor plaques relating to more tales of Nessie through the years.

"The majority of people who come to Loch Ness come here for one reason – the Loch Ness Monster," he said. "Yet when you go round the loch, there is very little indication relating to the mystery."

He envisages the installation of plaques at 25 different locations, depending on permission from agencies including Highland Council, Bear Scotland and landowners.

The ultimate aim is to develop an app which would contain further details as well as information about any sponsors.

"It is good for business and it is excellent for exceeding customer expectations relative to the sense of place," he said.

"I have driven around the loch and not found anything other than in the Loch Ness Visitor Centre.

"What signs there are tend to be negative – no camping, no litter, no parking, no this, no that. These signs would put out a positive message."




I say all this because back in April, when I was conducting a guided tour of the loch for a client, we began at the Clansman Hotel discussing the Arthur Grant land sighting of 1934. My own research had indicated that Grant more likely saw the creature that moonlit night close to the hotel rather than a mile up the road at Abriachan. That reasoning is laid out in my latest book on land sightings.

However, I noted that the hotel displays a large model of the Loch Ness Monster by one of the streams feeding into the loch and it struck me that this "Nessie" on land was a great reminder of the Nessie on land seen by Grant possibly just yards away from it.

So, after the tour, I emailed Willie Cameron recounting this and suggesting it would be a good idea to erect a plaque by the model to remind visitors of that monstrous event. Good for Nessie, good for the hotel. I am glad to say Willie took me up on the idea and we now have the plaque installed.

However, being the local businessman he is, Willie has seen the opportunity to expand the idea to the whole loch with up to 25 such plaques being placed at sites. I think it is a great idea and gets away from the sceptical idea that we need to concentrate tourism on other aspects of the loch and push the monster as far away as possible from the tourist eye.

If the various tourist enterprises with their Nessie oriented items is anything to go by, they completely disagree with that notion. Sorry. but Loch Ness is all about the Loch Ness Monster and anything that promotes that ancient link is fine by me.

It's early days and we may not see something looking like the proposed Nessie Trail until next summer. It may well have its issues such as famous sites which are hard to get to (e.g. Hugh Gray), some locals may object to plaques being sited near their homes and will sceptics fight it all the way?

My one hope is that these plaques do not include sceptical disavowments as a general rule. A plaque which says "so-and-so saw a six foot neck and ten foot hump here ... but it was actually just a line of ducks" is a pure anti-climax. Adding that so-and-so claimed to have seen this is okay, but we don't want a series of plaques which tries to debunk away the area's most famous resident.

Now don't get me wrong, you are going to get a spectrum of opinions from Nessie believers on what is and is not a true sighting. The point is one group's agenda should not be imposed on this. I don't think the Surgeon's Photo is real but I still think a plaque should be placed at Altsigh to mention it.   However, I assume a map or some form of literature will accompany the trail and that should point out that these sightings, photographs or films generate controversy and some accept them and some don't; let everyone make up their own mind.

Just let the original people tell their story without any revisionism. As Willie says. we want "to put out a positive message"!


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com








Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Loch Ness Monster Filmed from Air?

A reader of my blog just drew my attention to a comment made by a "William Smith" some months back on a Nessie video clip. What he said sounds astounding but I myself have no recollection of such a TV event back in 1981. To quote his words:

I was in the US Air Force in England circa 1981. The BBC used to broadcast the news at 9pm. They would always run a teaser just before 9 at the end of whatever program that was on before that. We lived in a dorm on base and there'd always be TV's on while we did whatever we were doing. One night, there were 4 or 5 people in my room and the TV was on.

It was also on in our dayroom, which was a communal relaxing room on the floor. ANYWAY,,,,,the teaser for the news came on. It totally blew us away. There in front of us on the TV was footage,,,,not video,,but film,,,taken from inside an RAF helicopter over a shallow area of Loch Ness. The guys in the copter were yelling and the camera was pointing below them. You could see the wash from the propeller on the water and in the middle of it was a creature. It looked like a small dinosaur,,,it had four flippers, a long neck and a somewhat short tail. It was thrashing about in a panic under the helicopter. The footage was real. They didn't have CGI back then, the inside of the copter was real,,,the men were yelling, the noise was loud,,,and the scene on the water was real.

The announcer was saying something to the effect that the RAF had found Nessie and details would follow at 9. Of course we all freaked out. We watched at 9 and absolutely nothing was said. We were completely perplexed. Many people saw the clip,,,I know of at least two of my superiors who contacted the BBC and the RAF and no one seemed to know anything.

We'd all seen it. I met locals who saw it as well. There was no internet then,,,no phones to text with,,,,so word couldn't get around like we can do today. I talked to people about it for weeks and many people saw it. The story faded away and one can only wonder what the hell happened. But for me,,,,the creature,,whatever it is, exists.

By some coincidence, a seperate facebook post from yesterday stated this:

I have not been able to find it again but I saw a video a few years ago taken from a helicopter hovering over Loch Ness and a sturgeon, from 20-25 feet long, was just under the surface of the water. Parts of its back were above the water. It is a perfect candidate (use Occam's Razor) for the Loch Ness "monster." It settled the matter for me.

It sounds like they are referring to the same video but with a differing interpretation. But anything 20-25 feet long filmed in the loch is a must see, sturgeon or not. So there are two questions here. Does anyone remember seeing this alleged clip back then and if it really was recorded, where is it now and why was it pulled?

Let's see how far we can go with this and see what turns up. I blogged on some airborne sightings a few months back.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com



 


Sunday, 15 July 2018

No, Dr Burton!

For your interest, I publish yet another article on the Loch Ness Monster from decades past. This one was published in May 1962 by The Scots Magazine and the author was no less than Alex Campbell, water bailiff at Loch Ness, multiple witness to the creature and an expert on the lore of the monster.

The title is a pointed reply to the writings of the monster's first major sceptic, Maurice Burton. He had just published the first sceptical book on the subject entitled "The Elusive Monster" and was active in pushing his views in various publications. It was Burton's predilection for vegetable mats that particularly drew Campbell's objections and to which he relates his own experience.

Campbell covers other topics such as pre-1933 reports which later made their way into Nicholas Witchell's 1974 "The Loch Ness Story". Giant eels also get a mention as well as a night time sighting from 1938. I am not sure if Campbell wrote any other magazine articles, if so let me know.

Depending on your browser, click on each image below to expand it and also expand it further by right clicking to "view image" on Firefox or "control-+" to zoom in for MS Edge.



The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com








Monday, 9 July 2018

Who is Mickey Weatherly?





I now quote an article from the Adventure Club of Europe.



This letter from Mickey Weatherly was written in 1940, but was handed over to the members of the Adventure Club of Europe in 1994.


Dear friends and colleagues of the ACE,

I would like to apologize to you all with all my heart. When you will get this letter, then my secret is probably somehow betrayed. Yes, I falsified the photograph of the creature in Loch Ness. But, to my soul, I would like to say heartily that I have personally seen this being and proved its existence. In 1932 the great goal of my life was fulfilled, I found the evidence of a being in Loch Ness. I had risked my life there several times in dives since the difficult tectonics under water, the sharp-edged stone slabs and an opaque arrangement of caves make the superficially quiet lake a subterranean labyrinth.

Loch Ness is dark waters and I meant not only the color. The lake holds a secret. It is deep, gloomy, and unyielding, like the sea itself. I don’t have to tell you how much this mystery kept pushing me into the highlands of Scotland, is it not an incentive for all of us to curb these secrets of the world? On one of my dives on 21.08.1932 a white plate shone through the dirty, gloomy water. I tried to grab this plate, but it was heavy, very firm and unusually furrowed. Nevertheless, I could grab it, and from the entanglement of mud, algae and the tribulation of the lake a huge egg-shell appeared. Yes, my dear colleagues, a bowl of ice about 1 meter long.

I noticed how the wave movements in the water grew stronger, as the pressure changed, and in the cloudy a still more turbid being swam towards me. I swear to God, I looked the dam straight into the eyes. My lungs were filling with water, dirty, muddy water. I wanted to spit. On a sharp edge my air hose had blended. I would not give this egg for my life, but I had to get to the surface. The wave movements made the orientation difficult for me, and the egg shell I held were pushed repeatedly, as if this Loch Ness creature would want to prevent the proof of its existence at all costs.

I lost consciousness when I saw the sunbeams of Scotland in front of my eyes. When I woke up and was still alive, I also had the egg next to me. Heureka! But my euphoria was suddenly quenched by the reactions from the presumed research. But what kind of researchers are these, what servants of the truth are they, who accused me of lying? They claimed that my lack of oxygen had dampened my senses, that my craving for attention had invented the piece of evidence, and that my relic, the egg, whose battle I had almost lost my life for, was a simple stone showing its age.

I went for diving several times at the place where I found the egg, but could never again look into the dark eyes of the Loch Ness. This disgrace, this disappointment and then this rage. They drove me to this. Yes, I displayed the photo some months later and today I feel ashamed about it. But at that time, I wanted to give the research, what they returned to me only with mockery. It would give me some peace of mind, if Nessi’s egg, would get exposed at an exhibition venue here in the Adventure Club of Europe, where it would be taken more seriously by real adventurers.

Your ACE friend,

Mickey Weatherly

Quite a story you may think albeit with various errors. Just in case you think we have a Nessie egg in a similar fashion to "The Water Horse" film, it is all just a fiction. The Adventure Club of Europe is a new addition to a German theme park, so you can go along and see the egg for yourself if you are nearby.







The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com





Thursday, 5 July 2018

Two Nessie Talks




Firstly, I had a telephone interview with Richard Syrett of the website "Conspiracy Unlimited". You can click on this link to hear our chat on the Loch Ness Monster which covers a range of topics over about half and hour.

Meantime, I am also pencilled in for yet another talk at the Edinburgh Fortean Society on Tuesday July 10th of which details can be had here. I will be looking back on the year past with an emphasis on a few subjects of recent note such as the eDNA search.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Sunday, 1 July 2018

A Loch Ness Monster Article from 1967




I have an old copy of the Readers Digest dated February 1967 in my possession which carries an article on the search for the Loch Ness Monster entitled "Closing In on the Loch Ness Monster" authored by a David Scott. The article is actually based on an earlier article dated November 1966 from the journal "Popular Science" of whom David Scott was the European Editor.

You can find that original article here, and it is interesting to see an article on the creature embedded amongst other features on space exploration, car technology, practical devices and electronics. Back then the Loch Ness Monster had more respect amongst scientific thinkers, partly driven by such items as the Dinsdale film, the O'Connor photograph and the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau.

The JARIC report on the Dinsdale film had been published earlier in 1966 and this seems to have also added grist to the mill as people began to focus more on the mystery of Loch Ness.  The optimistic title of the article laid out the various tactics and technologies that were in use and hoped to be used in what was seen as the final and definitive search for the monster.

To be more precise, it was the first and inconclusive search for the monster. Sure, we had people scanning the loch in the early 1930s and there was the brief Mountain Expedition, but nobody had seriously undertaken any kind of search as advocated by the likes of Donald Munro in the 1930s.

Then came the Whyte book, "More Than A Legend", the Dinsdale film and things began to gather pace with the formation of the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau in 1962. They had been at the loch for four years when David Scott visited them, but still no film or photograph of any substance had been produced.

The article images follow below and you can click on them for enlarged views, but what of that oft used phrase connected with the LNIB that the more the loch was watched, the less the monster was seen? Yes, people outside of the LNIB continued to see the creature, but nothing came within range for the LNIB. This is seen as a disproof of the monster's existence or is it?

I say that because despite this being one of the biggest undertakings of the hunt, there is surprisingly little written in retrospect about the operations of the LNIB that allows one to evaluate the sum of the parts. We have various members of the organisation still alive and around today, but nobody has seen fit to write a detailed history of the organisation - warts and all.

Rip Hepple would occasionally refer to the workings of the group in his Nessletters, others incidentally referred to its operations such as Ted Holiday in his book, "The Great Orm of Loch Ness", so what we do have are some annual reports published by the Bureau which were sent to members far and wide. Someday we'll get greater clarity on the "eyes on the loch" in those days, in the meantime, enjoy an article from more optimistic times.










The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com




Friday, 22 June 2018

An Unsettling Incident from Loch Ness




It was back in February that I gave a talk on the monster to the SSPR, a society founded by Glasgow University's Emeritus Professor of Astronomy, Archie Roy. Coincidentally, he taught me the mathematical delights of Celestial Mechanics many moons ago.  After the talk, I made my acquaintance with Sandy, a monster believer for years and one with a story to tell. He recounted his experience to me and was happy to email it to me for general dissemination. Without further ado, I present his story here.

My wife and I were staying at a B&B in Dores (The Pottery House) for the weekend in mid October 2010. I arranged to borrow a local residents canoe and, after a late start, we set off in perfectly calm weather to paddle a straight line from Dores village to Urquhart Bay. We have our own canoe in Glasgow so are quite experienced and the kind donor gave us life jackets etc.

We reached Urquhart Bay about 3:00pm and stopped for a rest and lunch. After exploring the area around the mouth of the river Enrick we decided to head back. At this point I realised that it would be dark before we reached our destination but, since the weather was perfect with hardly any breeze, we set off. 

It was a little cloudy but after we reached the middle of the loch it began raining and the sun had set. We carried on with me in the rear of the canoe and my wife in front. The rain stopped and the clouds broke up a bit. You could see the reflections of them in the water and it was quite beautiful.

About half way back I noticed a lighter patch in the water which I took for cloud reflection. My wife had stopped paddling to tell me about a difficult incident she had experienced in the past and was mid-story when I saw the light patch. We were passing close by the light patch soon after I spotted it. 

When I realised it was a fairly large thing right at the surface I was absolutely petrified; we were half a mile from the shore in the dark, slowly passing a large strange object in Loch Ness. I paddled like mad trying to get past it and away but it was too late to do anything but go right by it with only a couple of meters between it and the canoe. 

It was pale creamy white, round or oval in shape, domed, about 4 metres across and lying motionless right at the surface. It looked like a king size duvet without a cover seemingly with patches or stains and with an irregular edge that vanished into out of sight beneath the surface. It hardly broke the surface at all but just affected the water immediately above it, as though it was only submerged about 2cm.

It didn't move as we shot past as fast as possible and continued going as quickly as I could paddle so that my muscles were sore for days afterwards! I couldn't tell my wife as her story telling was the only thing keeping me going. As soon as we got back to dry land an hour or more later I told her about it.

Since Sandy is an accomplished artist, I asked him for a sketch of what he saw. I have no answer yet from him and so I publish the verbal account and may republish with the drawing as and when. Now, if only I had my quadcopter drone hovering over that scene! It would have provided some very nice footage that may have helped explain what Sandy saw.

There may be alternate explanations and doubtless people may suggest things such as algae bloom (in an oligotrophic lake?), mass suspension of pollen, floating garbage and so on. Though to me it sounds like Sandy was convinced it was more like something he did not want to go and explore. Having said that, a pale, creamy white Nessie is off the beaten track. I checked the record and perhaps five reports over 85 years could be described as some shade of white.

I include in that list the Hugh Gray and Richard Preston photographs, the latter being more suspect that the former. How would one explain a pale Nessie? Undoubtedly species change their colour according to age, season, situation and so on. How would the species known as the Loch Ness Monster fit into that list? Five reports is not enough to detect a meaningful pattern over such a long time span and so we will just have to leave this one to the vicissitudes of speculation.

I put one of Sandy's drawings at the top of the article to demonstrate an extreme example of what an unsettling incident at Loch Ness would look like. Here is some more of his artwork below.





The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Sunday, 17 June 2018

Another Land Sighting from Days of Yore



It was while I was finishing off an article on the Alfred Cruickshank land sighting, I was reminded by someone of another such story related by Mr. Cruickshank himself. It comes from Nicholas Witchell's book, "The Loch Ness Story", and it comes after he finishes relating the Cruickshank case with this brief note about another possible land sighting:

Mr Cruickshank also recalled that towards the end of the 1920s, he spoke to a girl working in a baker's shop in Fort Augustus who told him that she had once seen a large animal hauled up onto a beach near Fort Augustus. "She said that she was coming down the hill east of the village on her bicycle when she saw a big animal lying on the beach below her. She was so frightened she jumped off her bicycle and ran the rest of the way home."

Now when I read this again, I was reminded of the Margaret Munro land sighting of 1934, for this short account surely happened on the same beach as her famous account. The girl is described as cycling downhill east of Fort Augustus when the creature came into view. Now where the creature may have been in this story is a matter of some speculation, but a guess will be made.

Certainly, until recently, as you drove down the B862 road to Fort Augustus, Borlum Bay did not come into view until you were nearly at the bottom of the hill. The trees covering the hill prohibited an earlier view, but recent forestry work has cleared the trees to bring us a magnificent view of the loch.

As to the state of this treeline in the late 1920s, I am not sure and so we will assume the bay only came into view for her near the bottom of the hill. Now, I am just looking at this from the point of view of how people react to traumatising situations, but I doubt I would be dismounting a bike and running until such an unsettling sight was behind me rather than before me.

Also, as I explained in my Munro article, most of the beach would not be visible from the road level as it flattened out from the hill. So, I would suggest the creature came into view when she was higher up, just as the bay below came into view and just before the road levelled off. In that light, I place a "B" at the point where she claimed to have seen it and I place an "A" where I think the Munro creature was.




People can feel free to speculate, but the stretch of beach upon which this creature is said to have been on is shown below.




One can imagine Alfred Cruickshank, having been shocked by the sight of that strange creature crossing the road in front of him in 1923, becoming interested in anything anyone else had to say about strange creatures about the loch. With perhaps a combined sense of reticence but also a great curiosity to learn more, he may have asked the locals to keep him informed of events. And when this girl came forward with her tale, it would have naturally resonated with Alfred and stuck in his mind until interviewed by Nicholas Witchell in the 1970s.

It was a pity the story was not followed up as the girl may well have still been in the area by the time Witchell spoke to Cruickshank in the early 1970s, being (I suppose) in her 60s. But then again, going by my own experience and without a name, such investigations can often just run into dead ends.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A Look at a Recent Nessie Video





I thought I would make some comments on a recent video purporting to show the Loch Ness Monster. It is a mobile phone recording of a webcam stream appearing to show a large dark shape moving along the waters of Urquhart Bay for quite a long time by monster standards. Gary Campbell's Loch Ness Monster Sightings website puts it thusly:

30 April 2018 - Eoin O'Faodhagain from Co Donegal took a ten minute video from the Loch Ness webcam at 1207 hours. The creature moves from right to left and there were no boats visible on the water when he first noticed it but as it swam towards Urquhart bay, two cruisers came down the middle of the loch from the north and it sank briefly then came up again, but seemed to be lower in the water than when it first appeared. As the cruisers got closer to the object, it sank completely and never came back up. 

And from the Daily Record, they put the account in these terms:


Of all history's greatest questions - who killed JFK? was the moon landing faked? who shot Phil Mitchell? - none is more mysterious than 'is the Loch Ness Monster real?'. Well a fan says he has an answer after filming the mythical beast frolicking about in the waters of the famous Loch for 10 minutes ... allegedly. Eoin O’Faodhagain was given a "terrific shock" after appearing to capture Nessie diving down before resurfacing. The clip has been accepted by the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register, according to The Mirror.

Nessie watcher Eoin, 53, from Co Donegal, Northern Ireland, said:

“I couldn’t believe my eyes and started recording it on my phone. It was certainly something big. It dived down and up again and dived and disappeared. It was not a boat. I would say it was Nessie.”.

Gary Campbell, keeper of the sightings register, said:

"As far as Nessie footage goes, this is a feature film. Normally you only get videos of one or two seconds. It is remarkable in its length. Clearly it is something that dives in and out of the surface with water splashes and reflections. The object would be no larger than 20ft.”

The news comes just days before DNA sampling on fragments of skin and scales collected from the loch in the Scottish Highlands.
 



Mr. O'Faodhagain clearly thinks he has captured the famous monster on his mobile phone camera and he certainly has an interesting video. The clip was recorded off the computer screen which was running the live stream from the popular Nessie webcam run by Mikko Takala. The camera is mounted on a roof on a hilltop overlooking the castle (which is out of view).

Based on the camera's position, the object in the clip is likely no closer than 450 meters away. Add to this the fact that the resolution of the live stream is only 360p (HD is at least 720p) then you can see why the image is fairly indistinct. A 1080p stream would be great for Nessie hunters, but that would cost more money and most of the Loch Ness money goes into the pockets of hotels, restaurants and exhibitions.

But we can say some things about the video. An estimate of the size of the dark object can be made by comparing it to a known object taken from the same webcam. So below is a snap of a cruise boat coming in from the right making its way to the castle. I am not sure what boat it is, so I will assume it is one of the rented cruise boats which come in at at least 30 feet.





The boat and the object match nicely for proximity and so an overlay can be done to make a size estimate as shown below. Based on this, the screen grab of the object is about 10 feet long. However, other portions of the video show the object extending and decreasing in apparent size which could be partly down to reflection, though the video is too indistinct to separate solid object from light effects.





The object is also considerably slower than the boat I snapped, perhaps more than ten times slower. If this really was 10 feet of solid object, then that points to perhaps 30 feet of total object below the surface. The haziness of the object does open it up to other interpretations. Some will say it is a group of birds slowly swimming along or a log floating past or even a seal.

I would say, however, that the object does appear to submerge, no longer to appear in the video as a boat approaches. That would mitigate against birds for me, which should fly off rather than disappear under the water. Logs can indeed sink, but they are more likely just to be washed ashore since they can take weeks to saturate and sink. As for the ubiquitous Loch Ness Seal, I don't think they show ten feet out of the water.

In some ways, this is how I imagine the 1938 G.E.Taylor film to be, I say that never having seen it, but its apparent shape shifting is perhaps partly explained by what we see here in terms of reflections and water movement. Is this the Loch Ness Monster? It could well be, but let's exercise the other theories to see how well they stand up to scrutiny.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Friday, 8 June 2018

The Photographic Problem


Take a look at the photo montage above. Do you believe all the pictures are of the Loch Ness Monster? If so, you are likely what they call a gullible believer. If you think none of them are of the Loch Ness Monster, you are likely a die hard sceptic, whether you say you are a believer or not. I say that because over 85 years and a swathe of good sightings, some of these will be converted into photographs or films. There will be a minimum greater than zero, if you say there are zero pictures, you are effectively saying there is no Loch Ness Monster (this is in distinction to the argument that there should be more pictures which I discuss elsewhere).

How do many people today sit with this logical tension? The answer is due to the assault on these pictures by a band of die hard sceptics dedicated to the task of debunking the Loch Ness Monster. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, most photographs purporting to be of the creature were passed through in a largely uncritical manner by Loch Ness researchers of the time. Or at the very least, they kept quiet about the ones they had reservations about.

Fast forward to the 80s and 90s and we see a form of historical revisionism as those who once believed but no longer believed, attempted to align these photographs and films with their new worldview. Theories were formulated to explain away such pictures in terms of boat wakes, birds, dogs or just plain fakery. Since this was a process which lacked a negative feedback loop, it grew into the bloated form of lazy scepticism we see today.

As we progress in the new millennium it is time for a new form of revisionism which is sceptical of the sceptics and the tools and techniques they employ. This blog has attempted that over the last eight years and one would like to think others are involved too. But what is the problem I allude to? I shall explain in general terms and then apply it to one specific photograph that has recently gained attention.

I titled this article after a chapter of the same name in Ted Holiday's 1968 book, "The Great Orm of Loch Ness". His problem concerned the difficulty of obtaining good photographs at the loch. This article is concerned with the ease of obtaining bad explanations of photographs. Let us start with the example of the Surgeon's Photograph. Prior to the expose by Alastair Boyd and David Martin, several sceptical explanations were offered to explain what had been photographed. We had an otter's tail, a water bird, the branch of a tree and a fake model.




Logically, of those four theories, at best three are wrong, at worst they are all wrong. It wasn't until the Boyd-Martin expose that we got to see who was swimming naked when the tide went out and it was the model theory that won. The other people, despite their detailed and convincing arguments were simply wrong. No doubt they had their followers, but it didn't matter how convincing they came across or the evidence they produced - they were as wrong as wrong can be.

Sadly that is the ongoing state of affairs with Nessie photographs. People make arguments which sound convincing, but may not actually add up to a hill of beans because no one can prove that is what actually happened. When people go around promoting their pet theory as if they had been there when it was being perpetrated, they should remember Burton's otter tail and Mackal's water bird.

Although hoaxes are normally undesirable events which tarnish the reputation of Loch Ness investigation, they do serve a useful purpose in testing the robustness of sceptical theorising. As we just saw with the Surgeon's Photo, if Boyd and Martin had not published, all four theories would have been considered as viable and plausible to this day.

Another chance to see who was swimming butt naked came with the George Edwards photograph of 2012 which was exposed as a fake fibreglass prop by Steve Feltham. Prior to this revelation, another local researcher, but die hard sceptic, had published his own mathematical analysis and concluded the object was 23 inches across above the water.

Without Steve Feltham, people would have concluded this other researcher had with the application of science, crafted an unassailable theory. How wrong they were as the actual exposed part in the water turned out to be 46 inches long. The mathematical wizardry was not 10% out or even 20% out, but 100% out. How many other sceptical theories are sitting pretty claiming they have solved this and that monster picture, but actually are as useful as a chocolate teapot?


THE FALSIFIABILITY PROBLEM

I will revisit this principle as we apply these thoughts to a recent sceptical analysis of a Nessie photograph from 2006, but I move onto another problem with scepticism and that is the problem of unfalsifiability. To put it in a nutshell, no matter what picture you put before sceptics, they will always find an explanation for it. This is a violation of the scientific principle of unfalsifiability which requires that any theory must require a test or experiment to disprove its viability.

To put it another way, if one asked a sceptic what kind of photograph would prove immune to any of their explanations, you may not get an answer. Even a close up picture of the monster, nostrils and all, may just elicit the response, "good CGI picture". I would go further and say that if a genuine picture of a large unknown creature was taken, we would get a raft of theories explaining why this is anything other than what is shows!

I ask you what use such a theory is if it always produces a sceptical result? It is of no use and is just a shell game. Now we know that photographs of misidentified objects and downright hoaxes exist and some kind of scrutiny needs to be applied to them. However, the problem is not so much the theory but the warped version of it applied in an unscientific and biased manner by certain people.

The final point I would make in this regard is how, once formulated, such explanations are handled in the context of Occam's Razor which states that the theory with the least assumptions should be accepted. Here some pseudo-intellectual pressure is applied when it is argued that since a sceptical theory requires less assumptions than a monster theory for a given picture then it should be given priority.

The problem here is that since it will be argued that a large creature in Loch Ness is a big assumption, then people will be led to always accept a sceptical theory over a monster one, even if they sound flawed. The flaws are papered over by invoking the "big assumption". The truth is that if a theory with less assumptions is flawed, then it is just as wrong.


DEGREES OF PROOF

Now I am not saying you cannot prove a photograph to be a hoax. This has been done in various ways. The first line of proof is participant confession. We had this with the Surgeon's Photo and Christian Spurling. I would prefer a corroborating confession and we got that with the 1975 newspaper article citing Ian Wetherell's confession and his part in it. Such confessions are few and far between in the Nessie world.

The second is physically direct evidence of fraud. There is no better example of this than Frank Searle's infamous 1976 "Brontosaurus" picture where it was obvious to even the most gullible believer that Frank had superimposed a silhouette from a contemporary postcard onto the waters of the loch.



That is the closest one gets to empirical facts, but after that the "facts" weaken and become more indirect and circumstantial. In other words, they become deductional rather than empirical. At that level of proof, we have Anthony Shiels' infamous 1977 Nessie picture. Unlike Frank Searle, we have no model and no confession that he faked this photo. However, we have a taped confession of Shiels discussing how to fake sea serpent photographs and a confession that he faked a multi humped object in, ironically, Loch Shiel (below).




That is indirect evidence rather than direct evidence, but the waters begin to get murkier after this. One favoured mode of what is called indirect evidence is inconsistency of eyewitness testimony. This is a very contentious area of analysis which attempts to find contradiction in a testimony such as a time or a place. For example, the witness may say he was in such a place when the photo suggests he was elsewhere. They may say the event happened at such a time when the photo suggests the sun was in the wrong place for such a time.

Sceptical interpretations will seize on these apparent discrepancies and say "It looks like they lied about this, so how can we trust them on the actual photograph?".  But it has been demonstrated that such an approach can often be ambiguous and easily challenged.

When a photograph of a curious fin like object in Loch Ness was published back in 2016, the aforementioned researcher who erred with the Edwards hump declared he did not think it was taken at Loch Ness (due to the lack of background hills) and was likely a dolphin. When Steve Feltham produced the uncropped picture, the insinuation that the photographer was lying was retracted and the dolphin transformed into an osprey. But what if there had been no background hills, the sceptic's almost dogmatic pronouncement would have seemed important.

Likewise, the same researcher took the Lachlan Stuart photograph to task because he claimed the sun was visible above Urquhart Bay which would have been impossible if Stuart had taken the picture when he claimed. However, comparison shots done by myself showed that the bright patches were easily reproduced by clouds above Urquhart Bay reflecting light from the sun when it is on the opposite side of the loch. Again, a dogmatic decree becomes an easily challenged opinion.

The examples could go on as the analysis dilutes to the point where empirical fact goes from deduction and onto pure speculation. Example of speculation include objections that the testimony of the photographer does not sound right. By that one may produce objections such as "why did he do that instead of this" or "why did he not do that instead of this". Such low levels of analysis do not need empirical or deduced facts and are especially useful to debunkers when the person is no longer around to answer and silence is taken to mean guilt.

These are the levels of analysis and they are quite legitimate to use so long as one recognises their relative strengths, the problem arises when there is no one to cross examine them when the researcher is preaching to the converted.


THE REPRODUCIBILITY PROBLEM

Perhaps one of the biggest issues regarding investigation of cryptid images are reproductions. By that I mean experiments where investigators attempt to reproduce an original image using what they think were the original hoaxing ingredients. This has been attempted at various times over the decades with various famous pictures of the Loch Ness Monster.

Some examples will suffice. A few years back an attempt was made to reproduce the 1951 Lachlan Stuart photograph with its famous three humps and head. Since a Richard Frere had claimed that Stuart had confessed to him that hay bales and tarpaulin were used, these constituted the main ingredients for this particular experiment. It is important where possible, to use items which were readily available at the time with no modern contrivances involved.

The results were arguable for reasons I laid out in my response to that staging. The bales did not look like the triangular peaked humps of the original and there was no third hump reproduced raising questions as to whether a third bale would have sunk, bringing the whole experiment into question.

The Tim Dinsdale film has also had the reproduction rule run over it with distant boats being filmed with an original Bolex cine camera and film back in the 1990s. Maurice Burton attempted to reproduce the Peter O'Connor picture with inflated bags and sticks. The Surgeon's Photo has been the focus of floating necks on styrofoam and other materials. And to bring things right up to date, the recent debate over the anonymous 2006 picture is discussed below.

Problems may arise as to what constitutes original hoax ingredients and a lack of such knowledge may lead to researcher bias selecting the materials that produce the best results without any regard as to whether they had anything to do with the alleged hoax. In the Stuart case, we have an unverified claim by Frere, it's the best they have, so they go with it. Others have less to work with.

But the problem I allude to is one of psychological manipulation rather than any degree of proof discussed previously. Sceptics love to craft these reproductions, trying to get them to look as much like the original, like some artist copying the Mona Lisa. The trouble is, a very good reproduction of the Mona Lisa does not make the original a fake.

Perhaps some will claim that a decent reproduction of an original is proof that this is how the photograph was done. Actually, all it proves is that they can produce a photograph that has a resemblance to the original. Whether the original picture was created using this technique cannot be proven from such an experiment.

For example, suppose we raise further theories that the Lachlan Stuart photo was faked with three airbags or three rocks (as implied by Ronald Binns). People may discuss the merits of either theory and similar looking photos may be reproduced. However, at least two of these three theories are completely wrong even if convincing reproductions are made! The only way to know which, if any, of the three techniques is true is further evidence as discussed in the previous section, be it a confession from one of the participants or physical evidence found near the scene.

Note I am not saying that I have disproved the meaningful use of such reproductions, only that another level of proof is required to corroborate the use of the image. Beyond that, it is a matter of opinion how to interpret the reproduction.

Ultimately, I am fairly convinced that even if a genuine monster photo was presented to a group of sceptics, they would come up with a theory as to how it was faked and they may even go out and stage a similar looking picture. What does that say about the whole process? I think the operative word is again "unfalsifiable" and in this age of CGI, sceptics have a safety net to fall back on if things get too tough to debunk.


A REPLY TO AN ANALYSIS OF THE 2006 PHOTOGRAPH

Now having said all that as a backdrop to the photograph from 2006 that I recently published, there has been various opinions offered as to the nature of this picture. The one I will focus on here is Steve Feltham's reply which basically states it is a monster shaped piece of bird excrement on a window photographed over a passing boat but not its wake, this giving the impression of a monster on the move.

This opinion was not the first as another person, Aleksandar Lovcanski, had suggested a similar theory some days before, but using a monster cut out stuck on a window. Indeed, this is all rather reminiscent of the 1955 Peter MacNab photograph which debunkers to this day claim is no more than a black cut out over another boat wake passing the castle.

Nessies on windows is nothing new. I took the picture below in 2014 as I took a ride on the Cruise Loch Ness boat out of Fort Augustus. It's a little trick for tourists to snap pictures to kid on people back home. Obviously, no one is fooled by it and neither is it intended so. But can you fool people in  a serious way with this technique?




So Steve has put out an article detailing his investigation which you can find here. In summary, he thinks the photo was taken from the windows of a rented house near the Clansman Hotel based on what he perceives as similar foreground vegetation and some other cues. he also attempted his own monster cut out experiment which I shall address below. Steve is pretty confident he has the solution, but I am not so convinced and will begin with this photograph he took from the rental house.




The first thing I did with this photograph was to overlay the original 2006 picture on top of it, line up the major topological features and see how the two compare. The result is shown below and presents some difficulties. The first thing to note is that the tree which is claimed to be the same as the vegetation in the 2006 picture is not in the expected position in the overlay.




As you can see, the 2018 tree is well to the right of the 2006 vegetation (be it tree or bush). Based on that discrepancy, I do not accept that these are the same objects and therefore we must look elsewhere for the location of the 2006 picture. We are also told that the second item of vegetation seen in the 2006 picture is located just behind a large hedge which now dominates the foreground.

Again, there is little information in the 2018 comparison photo to make that deduction since the object is largely obscured by the hedge and so no compelling conclusion can be drawn. There is also the matter of that hedge. Obviously, no hedge is present in the 2006 picture and so we are asked to assume that it was not there or not high enough back then. Should we make that assumption or should we ask for more proof of this assertion? Be that as it may, the picture does not square up for other reasons.

In fact, comparing trees in pictures is not the easy task it is made out to be. We are led to believe that the twelve year gap between the original and comparison pictures is a matter of no consequence. Look again at the two trees in the overlay. They are practically at the same height, should that be accepted after a time gap of twelve years?

I don't know what the trees are in either photo, they could be birch or hazel, in which case, annual growth rates can be from 1.5 to 3 feet per year. You can do the maths for a 12 year growth period and again conclude it is unlikely these two trees are the same tree. One could also take trimming into account but still come up with an essentially unknowable scenario.

Steve also questions whether any of the nearby parking spots on the road were suitable due to the background tree heights. The first point to make here is that the height of the trees will again be different compared to 12 years ago, be it due to growth or any trimming done. Secondly, we do not know exactly where the car stopped to take the photograph.  That requires further investigation with the proviso that this 12 year gap has to be taken into account.


PAPER NESSIES

That alone could conclude this analysis, but there are some other items to discuss. Steve went further in his analysis by trying to demonstrate how such an image may be produced. He glued a paper cutout of a notional monster onto his car window and snapped pictures as boats passed and were obscured by the cutout. I compare one of his photos below with the 2006 picture (zoomed and flipped).





Now no one in principle is saying that you cannot produce a Nessie like object superimposed over a boat wake. Indeed, that accusation has been around since sceptics turned their attention to the MacNab photograph. However, that principle has two requisite components - reproducibility and repeatability.

In terms of reproducibility, the question is asked whether the reproduced image has the same "look and feel" of the original. Looking at the two pictures above, the answer is clearly "No" as the reproduction is of an inferior quality and is obviously a fake. The retort may come that it was not the intention to fully reproduce the original, to which one can legitimately ask how much quality needs to be lost before the reproduction experiment is rejected? I suspect the answer to that depends on one's own bias.

In terms of repeatability, this is a requirement that the original tools are used to reproduce the original image. This is something that is often overlooked in modern analysis as corners are cut to produce an image with psychological impact. The issue here is that the initial reaction to the 2006 photo was that the blurred nature of the object suggested it was out of focus due to its proximity to the camera.

The reproduction here actually shows the overlaid object is not much less blurred that its surroundings. The point being that a digital camera from around 2006 may be a better candidate to resolve the issue of whether the blurring is due to motion or focus as well as inform on any other differences between itself and a modern camera.

In this case, the theory is that the opportunistic tourist was lucky enough to have a piece of monster shaped bird excrement on his window. The one thing I would point out here is to look again at the overlay picture (below) and you will see that a cruiser boat is passing very close to where the 2006 object is. Note how the object is not big enough to cover the boat and so one wonders what kind of boat it would have to cover and still produce a noticeable wake?




So a substitute method was used in the reproduction and thus we have no idea if the originally proposed method is actually viable. Is the original proposed scenario something you find on demand? I agree it is not and so we must logically take the position that the conclusion is "inconclusive" on whether the originally proposed method would work.

I hope to do some further onsite and offsite investigations on this photo in due time, so watch this space.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com