Saturday, 1 December 2018

Snaring the Monster




A news story from August 1984 exemplifies the story of a laudable attempt to capture final proof of the monster of Loch Ness. The text runs as follows:

CIVIL servant Stephen Whittle plans to solve the riddle of Loch Ness - by catching the monster. Armed with a 60ft long "monster trap" Stephen and his dedicated band of helpers will set out on their six-week quest to net Nessie. The £20,000 cost of the expedition is being put up by Warrington based Vladivar Vodka, a company noted for sponsoring some of life's more eccentric ambitions. But Stephen, aged 25, from Blackpool is serious about his plan to crack one of the world's greatest mysteries. "I am convinced there is something down there - but the only way to prove it is to catch it." he said.

The trap is being built to Stephen's specifications at the lochside and will be lowered into the water by helicopter when the hunt begins on August 28. The glass fibre tube will be suspended 30 feet below the surface. Live fish will be inside to tempt Nessie inside. A four-man crew aboard the floating platform above will monitor the tube 24 hours a day through cameras and electronic sensor equipment. When they detect something swimming into it a lever will be released to close the trap door. The plan is for Nessie to be winched to the surface and photographed, filmed and examined. Afterwards the monster will be lowered back into the loch and released.

"We don't want to harm it in any way,- said Stephen. "as soon as we have filmed and photographed it we will let it go"

Stephen has chosen a point on the eastern side of the loch about 100 feet from the shore to set the trap. The water is more than 200 feet deep at that spot. The device will be serviced from a base camp on shore. Stephen is still recruiting students for the 30-strong team who will take turns manning the trap during the hunt.

Stephen said "The various scientific exercises and sonar readings which have been made of something large moving in the loch convince me there is something down there, though I don't know quite what. The one way to find out is to catch a live specimen. There has to be some kind of breeding colony down there. We will probably find they grow to a maximum length of  25 feet. The creature obviously feeds on fish because there is insufficient plant life down there to support anything that big.

It will take a little while for it to get used to the trap being in the water, but I think six weeks should be long enough to pull one in. If we fail it won't change my mind about their existence. But until it gets a scientific name and credibility, I know most people's tongues will remain firmly in their cheeks when they talk about the Loch Ness monster".

The expedition is being aided by members of the Loch Ness Project, a scientific team engaged in a long term investigation of the mystery. Project leader Adrian Shine said "We're the most sceptical investigators so far. But we are greatly impressed with some eye witness accounts and strong, deep sonar contacts. Until we have resolved what they are, we will continue our research. There is no scientific reason why there should not be a relatively large animal in Loch Ness".




I had previously written on various attempts across the years to physically capture the creature and this was certainly one of the most ambitious. You can also read Adrian's reflections on the Loch Ness Project's involvement here which also reveals their part was more complex than the newspaper article suggests. The above photo of the trap being dropped is taken from the same website. Adrian has misgivings about such efforts due to disruption to boat traffic, possible danger to other species and the introduction of invasive species (used as live bait).

I previously gave the Vladivar trap minimal odds of 250-1 for succeeding. The trouble is I don't think the creature is a frequent occupant of the upper pelagic zones down to 30 metres and  I disagree with Stephen Whittle that there is necessarily a breeding colony of such creatures in the loch. Some other technique is required and we await the possible "capture" of Nessie in the form of micro fragments of DNA floating in the water.

But there is one thing I disagreed with Adrian on and that is the matter of dredging for Nessie bones. Adrian's main argument against this is the valuable resource that the undisturbed depths of silt provide as a chronological record of the loch environment going back thousands of years. I do agree with him in that regard, but the silt bed of the loch must be about a dozen square miles or more in extent, so why can't a designated but small area of the loch bottom be reserved for the purposes of dredging and analysis?

Admittedly, care would have to be taken that the uplifting of samples did not result in silt clouds contaminating the surrounding area too much. However, even dredging up 100 square metres would constitute a minuscule portion of over 30 million square metres of loch bottom. The problem is of course the logistics of drawing up such large amounts of silt and debris. 

The alternative is the more surgical approach wherein sonar targets on the loch bed are identified and probes such as ROVs or the more recent Munin AUV are sent to investigate them. The first problem here is that only more recent carcasses could be explored as older ones are below the silt. The second problem is that a general sonar survey of the bottom may lack the required resolution to identify potential targets - hence the need for AUVs and ROVs in the first place. However, it is a viable technique that has been used in the past. 

Meantime, and as said above, we await the results of the eDNA survey.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

 

















52 comments:

  1. I think I remember reading a story in a book , or somewhere about a Japanese group back in the 70s or 80s who also undertook to capture the LNM. One in the group went so far as to boast “We will catch you your monster and cut off it's fripper.” LOL Or something to that effect. Obviously they didn't succeed.

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    1. I think I know the book you are thinking. I want to say it is by Dan Jenkins, but I can find nothing about this. The book mentions Boleskine House too, and the author was trying to get a "wizard" to do some magic. I (used to?) have this book - I am going to look through the stacks now...

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    2. Following up - wrong Dan. Was it Dan Greenburg's Something's There? I have not hit the stacks, it finally came to me correctly.

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  2. Roland are the eDNA survey results still on for January? I hope that there are no delays.
    Good luck trying to lure nessie into a giant cage lol...she's far too keen for such a simple and basic idea. These creatures hardly ever nip at bait and nobody really knows for sure if they eat fish ( although fish have been reported jumping out of water to escape large sonar contacts). Cameras and sonar can only glimpse nessies at best and people still believe cages can do the job hahaha!
    Anyone - does anybody on this blog have ideas that would be fresh and original to approach a serious search???

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    1. I think everything possible has been attempted at one time or another short of draining the loch. Lets say you did drain the loch, where would you pump the water to? Impractical. Plus you'd kill the creatures and all other life forms indigenous to the loch, unethical. Animal rights groups would be on you like flies on you know what. At one time the Rines team planned on using trained dolphins equipped with sonar and triggered strobe lights and cameras to locate Nessies. That didn't go to well, one of the animals died and that plan was scraped. The Tory government under Margaret Thatcher even proposed such an idea. Here's the stories.

      https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-world-famous-researcher-who-tried-to-find-the-loch-ness-monster-with-dolphins

      https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/thatcher-dolphins-could-hunt-loch-574093

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    2. The dolphins seeking nessie plan was somewhat realistic, it's unfortunate one of them died before they had the chance to give it a go. As for draining the Loch yeah good luck with that! Not even close to being possible.

      Let's talk about methods and techniques of searching Loch Ness whether large scale or small. New approaches, different angles, outside the box ( if there are any left )
      What areas of Loch Ness receive the least amount of surveying? Are there any different ways to bait a nessie? ( aside from fish, sex attracting pheromones, fish distress noises ) Is it possible to set up a sonar curtain that operates on a year round basis that would cover a large underwater zone? ( north loch sidewall- south loch sidewall ) How much money is needed to operate a year round sophisticated sonar array at a selected point of the loch at a selected depth?


      What else ?

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  3. Very interesting. Did anyone ever seriously propose the Mr Burns approach: drain the entire loch?

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  4. here has to be a breeding colony GB. How else would these creatures propagate their species? Self-breeding or asexual (parthenogenesis)? A Methuselah group of Nessies lasting foe centuries?

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  5. Slightly surprised, Roland, that you don't believe in a breeding population...are you advocating the 'occasional visitor' theory?

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    1. I think it is more accurate to say I don't think a breeding population is a necessity. After researching an article on river ness sightings a while back allied with a study of sea serpent sightings around the west and north of scotland I felt a synthesis of the itinerant and indigenous was a better approach. How one balances the two requires a deeper study.

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    2. I myself have much more faith in the existence of sea serpents than I do of Nessie...on Nessie I waver.

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    3. Will you be publishing the results of the two studies on these pages at some future date...sounds very interesting.

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    4. Win, Win Riitta - Nessie IS a sea serpent!

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    5. Riitta - check out http://lochnessmystery.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-itinerant-monster.html

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  6. If it's a breeding colony there would be young, and one would think a small creature would be easier to catch. Has there ever been reports of tiny LNMs?

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    1. Yes a few years back a couple of schoolkids reported 3 smallish nessie type objects in shallow water, if i remember rightly.

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    2. I remember reading of such a story and yes it was a “few” years back. Seems to me they were spotted in one of the locks, my recollection is vague on that, I may be wrong and it may be another instance. Frank Searle once claimed that he came across some young Nessies in a tributary feeding the loch, but we all know what a fraud and scoundrel he was. He always carried a camera, but failed to take a snap. Imagine that.

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    3. Next to nothing, though when you get to creatures up to the size of otters, birds and deer, there is more chance of mistaking them for such non-exotic animals. The MacGruer land beast was smaller than a camel, whatever that might mean.

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    4. Of course young ones would help explain why not every sighting is of the same size (or even color) animal...

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  7. Ur right gezza..its in dinsdales book..it was 1937 and in fort augustus...two schoolboys said they saw 3 small creatures swimming away from their boat and described them as 3ft long and lizard like wih long necks! They wer both interviewd by the monks seperatly and both monks felt they wer telling the truth.....hope that helps!

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    1. Yes! Worked for me! That's it Roy. That's the account I read. Cheers

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  8. Are there any swamps or bogs around Loch Ness with few people in the vicinity? I haven't been there but maps show roads going almost all around it. I mention this because there is a belief that the Lake Champlain creature may breed/winter in such locations in ponds but the locals tend to keep quiet about exact locations. Perhaps this is where young may be found at some stage in their lives?

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  9. Two schoolboys in 1937, is that the only account? That is not reliable one bit if that is all that is known.
    Let's say these boys did see three young nessies three feet long, at that size they would be prey for a variety of animals. Tough odds against survival. What would they eat at that size? Frogs, toads, small eels, small fish?

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    1. Prey for what animals Jack D ?

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    2. Scottish wildcat, pine marten, seals that enter the loch, otters?
      It's not a haven for predators but mini 3 lizards could be easily picked off

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    3. Well if they spend 90% of life in the bottom of the loch i doubt very much the animals you mention are a threat to them.

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    4. Eels live in the Loch and can grow to 4 ft in length on occasion, they eat fish.
      I like Tim Dinsdale and consider him reliable and believe he indeed saw a large unidentified animal in the Loch. When two school boys claim they saw 3 lizard like creatures in 1937 near Fort Augustus I can't buy it 100%, just not enough info to take seriously

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    5. A 4 ft eel would not eat a 3 ft animal though.

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    6. Unlikely sure but those mini nessies may not be born at 3 feet, European eels have reached 5ft on record. Seals would be a larger threat.

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    7. Not many seals get into the loch, maybe one or two per year but dont stay long plus they dont go down that deep.And for me a smaller nessie would be too big for an eel.

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    8. Thinking about it, the Loch would be a pretty safe place for spawning and the subsequent maturing of young beasties. Perhaps this is what happens when the LNM is ready to reproduce. It may only happen once in a blue moon and may not be the only place that such a thing may take place.

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    9. If the loch monsters are reptiles once the clutch is born they are on their own, they would hatch from eggs making them vulnerable to birds,fish,eels, and more. They would not have a guardian - mammals on the other hand would have a big big mama protecting them if they are mammalian. Spawning grounds for a variety of fish but nobody knows the nature of nessie. If nessie gives birth to live young they would not appear lizard like most likely. Unless she is a big lizard looking animal...which she sometimes is according to some. The cold temperatures guarantee they can't be reptilian animals though.

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    10. Well we do av a few reptiles who give birth to live young
      and some who carry the eggs inside them so this is possible!! And as mentioned before sum reptiles can live in the cold including terrapins who have survived actually in the very cold british winters in lakes and ponds!! Nothing wud suprise me and reptiles and amphibians can suprisingly adapt when we thought they cudnt...Roy

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    11. There is one species of lizard native to Scotland that does give birth to live young, the viviparous lizard. They only reach 10-11 inches in length at max. So yeah it is possible for such a reptile to survive the cold of Northern Scotland on land but these lizards are not living in the Loch. Terrapins can survive the Loch temperature year round but are they native to Northern Scotland?
      The odds of unknown reptiles inhabiting Loch Ness - lizards in Loch Ness are very low, I doubt it highly. An amphibian could call Loch Ness home because they do, mammals could thrive but would be easily detected.
      If those schoolboys from 1937 had names and had been interviewed by Dinsdale or C. Whyte for the record it would be easier to accept but this kind of sighting is as good as make believe. Children can be more honest than adults and better eyewitnesses because of their honesty but also children can have wild imaginations. With talk of a huge monster lurking in the Loch any schoolboy would be thrilled to roam the shoreline searching for monsters. Nobody knows these eyewitnesses so there is zero credibility here.

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    12. Lets throw in another spanner in the works,the duck billed platypus,mammal that lays eggs.I agree that all animals can spring a suprise or two.

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    13. Why does everybody assume that people are lying? Why cant the schoolkids have been telling the truth?

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    14. The schoolkids could have easily been mistaken like so many people believing waves are humps. How old were these kids at the time of their sighting?, did Dinsdale speak to the monks the children told their story to? Compare that account to Finlay, Fr Brusey, Brock Badger, Rines, Boyd accounts. Those are valid sightings, two schoolkids in 1937 is as good as " a guy told me he saw Nessie ..actually his friend saw Nessie "

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    15. Viviparous lizard??? Good shout Jack! Mad how some reptiles can live in the cold and great how they have adapted ova the years! Going back to the schoolboys yeah i think dinsdale did speak to sumone and it was two trustworthy monks who intervied them and said they wer happy they wer telling the truth..though of course they cud of bin mistaken....big eels maybe??? But they did describe them as having a neck and thicker body! Im not saying the boys saw three baby nessies i ws just giving the account of a sighting of small ones cus someone asked...and i new id read it in one of my books so looked it up...cheerrs

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  10. Can’t think of any swamps or bogs. The shoreline is more rocky than marshy and gets deep fairly sharply pretty much everywhere. Only place I could think of that might qualify as a ‘marsh’ is at Urquhart Bay where the river enters the bay, but that’s a pretty popular walking spot these days.

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  11. Rather than disturbing the sediment at the bottom dredging for bones (with, in m opinion, a rather low chance of finding anything) wouldn't it make more sense to replicate Rhines' experiment with sonar-activated cameras at that depth, or place the gear on the bottom?

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  12. New creatures that inspire "monster" legends are still being discovered by science, so the same can apply to Loch Ness...
    https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/world/scientists-solved-a-decades-old-swamp-monster-mystery-in-florida/ar-BBQFnGb?ocid=spartandhp

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    1. Great read Olrik...cheers! Proof that sum things can remain unseen! Another sceptic theory is if there is an unusual creature in loch ness then why only loch ness?? Well the taylor salamander is in one lake only in mexico and the gwyniad in one lake only in north wales...so why not ....

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    2. Interesting comments near the end:"...finally confirming rumours of the species that had been circulating for decades. “It was surreal to see after years of talking about this creature — it was kind of a mystical, mythical beast,” researcher David Steen tells The Revelator. “It’s so unlike most other creatures that we share the planet with.”

      “It lives in...mud,”.

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  13. Jack D ive just read up further on the schoolboys sighting and constance whyte has mentioned this sighting in her book...and the boys names wer known.. they wer a A Smith and anthony considine and they wer interviewed separately by the monk Dom Cyril Dieckoff who said both stories wer exactly the same.....hope that helps..cheers Roy

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  14. That does indeed make for a credible case, crucial info obtained. Documented names and involvement of Cyril Dieckoff give the school boys sighting validity.
    I was skeptical but now I stand corrected, thanks Roy for this information. If these were mini nessies after all I wonder how many times they appeared on sonar and were passed off as resident fish...

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  15. Great work Roy, thanks. I suppose everybody has to make up their own mind on sightings or opinions. I would also like to add that so called experts in the subject are not as expert as they make out so have your own mind.Roy was told by Tony Harmsworth that his tullymonstrum could not live in fresh water but now new evidence says that it was actually a fish so that puts his opinion out of the water( pardon the pun)Be careful what you believe in guys.

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    1. Fish??? I always thouht it was a species like a slug or that type! Just done some research on it and ur right...scoentists now believe it was a type of fish like a lamprey!!!!! Hmmmm ur right.ma fish with a neck????? Opens up a new can of worms lol..ive always said there are strange looking things out there we havnt foound and things that can suprise us...always felt that despite the mocking that mr holiday was going down the right road..especially in days of nessie bin a plesiosaur!!! Great mystery....cheers Roy

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  16. Regarding the sighting by the two schoolboys of the alleged mini-Nessies, the skeptical opinion is that the mini-Nessies were likely otters. And if we're honest then we have to admit that otters do more or less fit the description given by the schoolboys: 3' long, 4 rudimentary limbs, brownish in color with definite necks.

    Regarding the Tullymonstrum, that was Ted Holiday's candidate.

    Regarding reptiles being egg layers and not being cold tolerant, it is now recognized that at least some plesiosaurs were cold tolerant, gave birth to live young one 'pup' at a time and were apparently nurturers as parents. I'll add that in Lake Norman NC they've extracted alligators - and this lake was previously thought to be too far north for reptiles to tolerate.

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  17. Good points Paddy, but if the boys described them as lizard like i dont think they would have been otters.

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  18. Fair enough Gez, the critters may have been little Nessies or they may have been otters. We just don't know. Regarding the lizard-like description, we have to remember that these were schoolboys, not wildlife biologists, so their familiarity with otters can be called into question. And to this Nessie fence-sitter the much-maligned (at least on this blog) Ronald Binns does get some mileage out of his discussion of otter's appearance being somewhat reptilian, at least in genral form.
    So, given that: a.) Otters do more or less meet the description given by the schoolboys. b.) Otters do inhabit Loch Ness. c.) Evidence for the existence of Nessies remains at best ambiguous, then, regarding this sighting if I was a betting man and had $100 to bet I'd put $70 on otters, $15 on little Nessies, and buy a few pints with the last $15.

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  19. Alrite paddy..the reports ive read including dinsdales said they wer dark grey in colour not brown! Cheers Roy

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