Tuesday 27 December 2011

Nessie Sighting from 2002

A fellow Nessie researcher drew my attention to this sighting from 2002 which I thought deserved a rerun and was worthy of a wider distribution in the cause of demonstrating that Nessie continues to be alive and well.

The witness is Tim Richardson and one of the reasons I like this sighting is because Tim is one of those people I would class as competent due to his long interest in angling. He has been a naturalist and big fish angler for 30 years with the emphasis on big fish such as catfish and carp. So, we would expect Tim to be familiar with most types of aquatic wildlife and not so easily fooled into thinking for some reason that they are Nessie. Tim takes up the story himself.

I myself experienced the creature's presence while standing by the freezing cold flat calm Loch on a bright sunny morning in February 2002.

The day was calm and sunny but temperatures were cold following a hard frost that morning. Standing on the jetty by the castle in Urquhart bay I felt an unprecedented irrational fear sweep over me and I backed off the jetty fast. I walked up the grassy slope feeling foolish not having felt such a feeling ever before strong enough to move me from standing over the cold peaty red - black water.

Now as a very serious fisherman I have spent 30 years intensively spending a great proportion of this time on the banks and shores of hundreds of lakes, lochs, rivers, seas, ponds, and stretches of water, most often all night long. But I've never experienced such a unique feeling of fear before even at 'haunted' locations or in fierce lightning storms or on the darkest of nights miles from civilisation.

I know fish behaviour pretty well and felt something was very 'wrong' when just then I observed trout leaping high out of the water. This was only 200 metres away from my position over far deeper water and these fish were in such a highly excited state, darting about everywhere as if looking to escape something unseen below them. I quickly felt in my bag for my binoculars when I realised I did not need them...

I am more than scientific when it comes to the 'unknown,' requiring measurement and evidence and past records to verify anything unusual. I preferably would experience things 'first hand' before analysing and concluding anything substantial. I did not really think the mythical 'Loch Ness monster' existed except in the minds of fantasists or locals benefiting from the tourist trade in the area.

The major 2 reasons for this was that the entire loch had been under ice during the last ice age, so most likely preventing anything from remaining from previous times. Not only this, but detailed surveys show 'insufficient' fish stocks present in the loch which would appear to not be able to support a population of large animals for sustenance.

Please picture this now, because this is what I observed next: As a fish turns its flank over and rolls just under the surface of the water, it raises the water above it. I have observed this hundreds of times over the years being a big fish angler (mainly of giant catfish and big carp) of 30 years experience. The width, depth and length of the fish is indicated by the dimensions of this water movement discerned by the experienced eye. What this indicated was a massive creature.

For example an average sized large 30 pound carp may move a significant oval shaped area of water at the surface of perhaps to 3 feet. Such a fish would be about 3 feet long and between a foot and a foot and a quarter deep. The surface water movement I observed was about 15 feet long by 10 feet across... I never saw what caused it but I've fished right next to large seals, seen deer swimming in a lake, know very well the depth of sturgeon and dolphins compared to carp and whatever caused this phenomenal water movement was none of these possibilities. This was no killer whale or known cetacean either if that's what you are thinking...

There was a weird fact about my camera which is not uncommon at this loch. It has never failed me in thousands of photographs taken on thousands of bright days or dark even misty nights or on the hottest to the coldest of winter night temperatures. I am very careful to keep the battery at least new or at least 'half full.' On attempting to photograph the water anomaly, the camera failed completely despite calmly retrying. Filming under pressure of speed is not at all new to me with this camera. No photo was achieved.

Once all was calm, as if nothing had ever happened to disturb the completely calm surface of the thousands of feet deep bay without even a ripple present, I tried the camera again. This time it worked; in the 5 years since then, it has never failed either. There is definitely far more to this place than is yet known and not merely electrical anomalies.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/700232

I emailed Tim to get his permission to reprint and he expanded on his views. He is very much in the line of the famous Nessie hunter, Ted Holiday, in believing that the "thing" in Loch Ness is more than mere flesh and blood and has its origins in the paranormal. He also takes from the works of people like Paul Devereux who believe strange things occur along fault lines (such as Loch Ness) due to piezoelectric effects.

The one thing that intrigued me was how the creature managed to stay just below the surface and this made me immediately think of the recent Jon Rowe photograph and my speculation that something was just visible below the surface too and pushing up a thin layer of water (see link).

The failing camera is also classic Ted Holiday, he himself saw significance in such mechanical failures, as well as sightings which were just beyond the reach of LNIB cameras. Of course, we would also point out that, statistically, most photographs will be beyond "evidence range" purely by reason of the loch's vast size. If Nessie surfaces at the centre line of the loch, then it is already 800 to 1200 metres away from shore based witnesses!

Thursday 22 December 2011

Two recent cultural references to Nessie

People may not wholeheartedly believe in a large creature in Loch Ness, but the image of a prehistoric beast continues to pervade cultural imagery. Two items came up recently to demonstrate this. The first is the poster for the next Highlands Comic Convention in March 2012 showing Tank Girl, Judge Dredd, Dennis the Menace and Gnasher riding on a less than willing Nessie. (Note to US readers, Britain has its own version of Dennis the Menace). Full story at BBC website.

It is a source of confusion to me why Nessie is so often portrayed in green in cultural references when she is actually uniformly reported as various shades of grey. The artist has also dispensed with the long neck approach here.

The second is from the series of TV adverts created by the makers of "Scotland's other National Drink" - Irn-Bru. This drink is sometimes recommended as a hangover cure after imbibing Scotland's main national drink (i.e. whisky). The advert linked to YouTube below is a rerun based on the successful cartoon from the 1980s. Look out for Nessie swimming below around 30 seconds in!

Since the advert wishes everyone season's greetings, I will now take the same opportunity to wish readers a Happy Christmas and I will post again once the effects of the turkey, pudding and alcohol has finally dissipated!

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Alex Harvey Presents The Loch Ness Monster

Alex Harvey and his The Sensational Alex Harvey Band had a string of hits in the 1970s but one album he produced in 1977 took an entirely different tack altogether. Entitled Alex Harvey Presents The Loch Ness Monster, his interest in Nessie is evident to see in this collection of eyewitness accounts.

Where this item acquires high status in Loch Ness Research is in its recordings of the actual witnesses recounting their experiences. Clearly there is an advantage to be gained here from listening to the actual people who claimed to see what they saw as opposed to reading it on a more dispassionate page. The following witnesses were interviewed:

Father Gregory Brusey
Frank Armstrong
A. Hewson
Sam Job
Alex Campbell
Mrs. Margaret Grant of Invermoriston
Frank Searle
Sandy Smart
Sgt. Nicholson
Mrs. Kathrine Robertson
Ian Dunn
Billy Kennedy

Some accounts such as Frank Searle will no doubt be viewed with disdain. Alex Campbell's account of something he earlier said was cormorants is controversial. The rest are people largely removed from the Loch Ness investigation scene and were just ordinary people going about their lives before being stopped by something regarded as extraordinary.

The album is available to listen to on YouTube in three parts via these embedded links:

Saturday 17 December 2011

Final Thoughts on the Jon Rowe Photograph

Back in September, a new photograph of Nessie hit the headlines as fish farm worker, Jon Rowe, took a snap of something unusual out in the water beyond the pier of the farm. I have previously discussed this event in two previous posts (here and here).

Now being a website which believes in an exotic species of creature living at the bottom of the loch, nevertheless, we try and avoid being a "Never Nessie no matter what!" or an "Always Nessie no matter what!" kind of website. So we have something here for both skeptics and believers alike.

Living relatively near Loch Ness, I headed up there back in October and visited the said fish farm just south of the village of Dores. I parked my car just outside the entrance and walked down the pathway to the locked gate (though it was an open site). Despite there being cars parked at the entrance, I could not find anyone there. I could hear a loud humming noise of machinery behind the trees but could get no one's attention.

That was a pity as I had hoped to enquire after the whereabouts of Jon. At the end of the path, I could not proceed further due to health and safety regulations avoiding contamination of the site without wearing the right equipment or receiving the correct treatment (they don't like the salmon getting infected!). Nevertheless, there was plenty to see as my first photograph below shows.

To compare this against the Nessie photograph shows we are in the same place as claimed by the witness.

As I panned over to the main area of the fish farm, I noticed and photographed something that skeptics will no doubt make much of.

The pier you can see is most likely where Jon took his photograph from but what is the small object floating just beyond the pier? It's a buoy, of course, and skeptics will suggest that this (and presumably another buoy) were the objects actually photographed. Clearly, the thought did cross my mind, so I did a bit of analysis. Here is a close up of the buoy and a close up of the "bumps" Jon photographed.

Do the objects in the Rowe photograph look like the buoy in the upper photograph? Well, they don't to me but perhaps some skeptic can put up a convincing argument. I don't think they do, but in the interest of open debate, I put these pictures up for discussion. Comparing various pictures I took, I also thought the buoy was bigger than the two objects.

But I said I had something for both sceptic and believer alike today. I have two further observations to make about the "bumps" photographed in September. Take another look at the uppermost "bump". You will have noted that there are various black dots on the surface of the two objects. However, it appears that from the centre dot (or perhaps orifice?) that there is some kind of fluid being ejected. I have annotated the ejecta line in the picture below.

Make of that what you will. Some won't see it, some will. What it means if it is really there (and not an artifact of the image) is another matter. Some may think this revives the discredited "synchronising birds" explanation. Do birds pee upside-down? I would not have thought so (these systems have evolved to be gravity assisted!).

However, on my second thought, two bumps suggest bilateral symmetry which suggests a lifeform. Another suggestion of something looking bilateral if visible further down the photograph.

If you look at the bottom centre to right of the picture there is a curious oval-like structure which to me is not suggestive of wave interference but something ridge like and barely below the surface. The water around looks slightly raised as if pushed up by something underneath. The nearest analogy I could think of to demonstrate what I was seeing was something like the back of a crocodile (below).

The perpendicular lines to the left of the item are the water waves rising and curving over this interesting piece of symmetry. Is it the back of the Loch Ness Monster? Judge for yourselves. But I better stop there as I am getting a bit cross eyed looking at the pixels of this picture!

Tuesday 13 December 2011

The Recantation of John MacDonald

Who is John MacDonald, you may ask?

Back on May 12th 1933, ten days after the first Loch Ness Monster article was printed in the Inverness Courier, the editor evidently favoured a second opinion in the form of Captain John MacDonald who had commanded several ships which had steamed their way up and down Loch Ness for nearly 50 years. Who better to ask about what sights may been seen on the loch surface, they may have thought.

The Captain proceeded to solemnly declare that the Mackays were the victims of their stirred imaginations and had probably seen salmon at play in the waters. After all, he had embarked on nearly 20,000 trips on the loch and he had never seen a thing and he knew what he was talking about.

He also dismissed any talk about a legendary creature being known about in the loch. Why is that? Because no one had ever told him about it! As it turns out, the tradition of a Water Horse in Loch Ness was well established.

Ronald Binns in his sceptical book, reprints the entirety of the captain's letter and holds it up as an authoritative example of how to answer the "myth" that was to develop.

As it transpired, this all turned out to be irrelevant as I was studying the archives and diaries of Cyril Dieckhoff in Edinburgh recently. Our erstwhile monk and monster hunter had kept various newspaper clippings and an undated one from the Daily Mail (probably after January 1934) proved most illuminating.

The reporter had tracked down Captain MacDonald again and asked his opinion over six months on from his letter to the Inverness Courier. This is what he said:

If so many reputable people say they have seen 'the beast' one inclines to the belief that there is something in it.

The article also relates how his own daughter, Christina, claimed to have seen the Loch Ness Monster.

So Captain MacDonald came to realise his 20,000 trips on Loch Ness counted for nothing in the grand scheme of things. The truth is that you can spend your entire life on the loch and never see the monster or you can see it within minutes of arriving for your first visit. When you have a creature that spends almost its entire life in the silt at the bottom and sides of the loch, it is surprising that it puts in an appearance for anyone.

But it does and the mystery depends on those who have seen it and not those who have not!

Saturday 10 December 2011

Webcam Photo of Nessie?

For some years now, webcams have been trained on various locations at Loch Ness enabling people from all over the world to indulge in some monster hunting.

Adam Bird, a regular reader of this blog, sent me something he snapped last year as he was scanning the loch surface on the webcam run by Mikko Takala. which was trained on Urquhart Bay looking north. The incident happened on September 18th 2010 at about 12:20pm and in Adam's own words:

I happened upon the Nessie Cam by accident and had been watching it for about 20 minutes when I saw the object you see on the photograph. I quickly took a snapshot and copy and pasted it. It is hard to make out much detail, I do admit. I am not saying that there is anything 'monstrous' about the thing in the water but about an hour later a boat came and passed by and I took a shot of that too to compare it to the shape in the water.

The picture is shown below accompanied by the boat image (you can click on the images for a bigger view).

Here is Adam's zoom in of the object.

Grabbing the image of the boat an hour later is an important help as it gives an indication of how large the object is. Typical cruiser boats on Loch Ness are about 30 feet long, 12 feet wide and 8 feet high. My estimate is that the object is smaller but not significantly. As you can see, the webcam is trained on an area quite far out which though enhancing the chances of seeing something is countered by the large distance to the object which must be at least 1000 metres.

Comparing the two pictures, we note that it was a misty day and was a bit mistier at object time rather than boat time. There is also a ripple line going across the centre of the picture which I presume is the right arm of a wake from a boat that passed previously. There is however, no indication that the two are connected in any way.

The zoom in reveals something almost dome shaped in appearance and a grey area behind it that is suggestive of water disturbance, but I may be over-speculating.

The other interesting point made by Adam is that though the webcam refreshes every few seconds, the object was there and then it was not there. So where did it go? If it was a rowing boat or dinghy then it would surely have been in view for a long time given the wide vista of the image (for a dinghy type analysis go here). As Adam said to me:

The webcam only displays still images that updated every few seconds, so it went from being nothing in the water, then as it refreshed the object was there. On the next image the thing was gone. So I cannot say how it appeared and disappeared.

So, though the object is too far away for a conclusive identification, the mystery is how it literally popped in and out of the webcam?

Finally, Adam, had an even better webcam experience some years before:

I did see an object on a similar webcam about thirteen years ago, in Urquhart Bay, and I can say for sure that it was something out of the ordinary. It was the classic upturned boat shape and my estimate compared to nearby boats would put the length at around 15 to 20 foot long.

It was dark in colour and moved around the water in a horseshoe shape. I tried to get a still of it but unfortunately could not get one. It is something I have regretted ever since. I am 100% sure that it was some sort of odd object which could not be explained by any rational explanation such as a seal, deer, elk, otter, wave nor log. Unfortunately I have no proof of this sighting except my word.


Webcams overlooking Loch Ness seem to have come and gone over the years. There has even been an underwater one. If anyone knows of any others then post a comment below this article or send me an email (lochnesskelpie@gmail.com). The point being that what is available should be valued and put to use.

Whilst watching whatever webcam, if something appears then employ the snapshot facility to capture as many images as possible. If the object disappears then take some more snapshots as their timestamp will prove the object did not simply drift out of view like a normal boat.

If there is another webcam trained on the same area, see if the object is there too and then snapshot from that (in the past this was certainly possible around Urquhart Bay). Obviously, it helps to have both webcam sites already running ready to go.

Finally, like Adam, wait for one of the regular white cruiser boats to pass near the spot to provide a size and shape comparison. It is better to do this nearer to the time of the object's appearance. It can be done on a different day so long as it is near the same time and weather conditions are similar.

Who knows, with persistence, perhaps you will capture the elusive head, neck and humps of the Loch Ness Monster itself.

UPDATE: Dick Raynor has some webcams running on Urquhart Bay, so perfect for a bit of triangulation! Go to this link.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Top Cryptozoological Books of 2011

Loren Coleman has published his top cryptozoological books for 2011 and yours truly has managed to get his book on the list. Nice to have some recognition. You can find out more about the book here.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

The Skeptic Theory of Nessie

In this posting I would like to address an interpretation of the Loch Ness Monster which though the most popular has nothing to do with a monster in Loch Ness.

It is of course the sceptical view on what is being seen at Loch Ness. I am not aware of any official name for this theory so I will simply call it the Skeptic Theory. The theory itself can be summed up in the phrase "Deceived and Deceivers" which states that all claimed sightings of a strange creature are either

1. Deceived witnesses who have been fooled by perfectly normal phenomenon.


2. Deceivers who lie about what they have seen.

I think the theory is nicely summed up in the humorous picture above. Let us look at each of these sub-divisions in turn.


It goes without saying that people make mistakes in all walks of life and claimed sightings at Loch Ness are not exempt. All Loch Ness researchers accept that people misidentify known objects and events, the problem is the degree to which it happens in the face of some pretty extraordinary witness claims.

In one sense this theory is the most complex because it employs a large array of items to explain what witnesses claim to have seen. The "deceived" category itself can be further subdivided into three sub-categories.

  • The Object
  • The Context
  • The Person

Firstly, we look at the object under observation. An incomplete list follows:

  • Standing Waves
  • Boats
  • Birds
  • Tree Debris (such as logs)
  • Vegetable Mats
  • Otters
  • Deer
  • Seals
  • Sturgeons
  • Fish Commotions
  • Moose
  • Dogs
  • Rubbish
  • Buoys
  • Rocks
  • Surface Reflections
  • Surface Shadows
  • Gas bubbles

You can add your own definitions to this list. Now since it will be rightly argued that people tend not to mistake otters, boats and trees for 30 foot monsters, the second subcategory of context is generally required. Context is the means whereby the theory attempts to blur the distinction between "object" and "monster". A context will obfuscate the physical perception of the object. Examples of context are:

  • Distance (to object)
  • Time (e.g. light levels)
  • Light Effects (e.g. reflections, shadows)
  • Weather (e.g. heat haze, rain)
  • Seiches (counter-underwater waves)

The idea being that increasing distance makes it harder to identify the object, a dark time of day makes an object more indistinct and seiches can make an object such as a log behave in a counter-intuitive manner.

So proponents of this theory will combine the object and context to reinforce an explanation for a sighting. For example, one explanation of the Spicers land sighting requires "Otters" to be combined with "Weather (Heat Haze)" and "Distance" to produce what is claimed as an adequate explanation.

(Interestingly, some skeptics take the Spicers' original size of 7-8 feet instead of his revised size of 20+ feet but take his revised distance of 200 yards and ignore the original distance of 50 yards. Unbiased selection of data?)

However, these two sub-categories are still not enough to take on the thousands of claimed Nessie sightings (indeed the context is largely irrelevant if the object is close). What has to be added is the human factor or how the human mind perceives the object under observation in the given context. Examples of this are:

  • Inexperience
  • Expectation
  • Hysteria

This category is more controversial since it involves qualitative and subjective elements. Objects are real and solid, context can be determined to some degree but the mind of the given witness is not so amenable to measurement. Consequently, there is less agreement as to the degree of this category's merit.

Inexperience is probably the least controversial element. Some people will indeed fail to recognise an object for what it is because they either have never seen it or have not seen it in the given context (if context is important). People who have spent their lives in urban areas may be more susceptible (though this has to be countered with any knowledge gained from books, zoos, hobbies, etc). However, those less prone to this element would be locals and experienced observers such as anglers, water bailiffs, boat operators and of course hands-on "Nessie hunters".

Expectation is more controversial in its claim that the mental state of the visitor or local resident is somehow "primed" to see a monster in the loch and hence will prejudice their powers of observation. In other words, the person "wants" to see a monster and therefore is more likely to "see" one. Again, there is no doubt that some people will view the loch with this attitude but the question is "How many?" and that is where disagreement arises.

Since it is a safe assumption that the majority of the population do not believe the loch holds a large, unidentified creature then it follows they will not be viewing the loch with such a sense of expectation.

But it has to be noted that "expectation" is normally a pre-condition rather than a continuing one. Once a person begins to process what they are seeing according to their level of experience then expectation will normally tail off as reality sets in. However, if the context mitigates against this (i.e. object too far away, too dark, etc) then the expectation may remain and even heighten.

Hysteria is related to expectation but is more group oriented. It is basically the "crowd effect" in the situation where a group is watching an object in the loch and their expectations may begin to mutually reinforce beyond what may happen if only one person may be present. Richard Frere in his book "Loch Ness" tells of how he managed to whip up monster enthusiasm in a group of people by pretending some distant object was the Loch Ness Monster. An interesting "experiment" (we couldn't call it an experiment in the scientific sense), though we doubt every sighting has such a cheerleader egging on the witnesses!

Another claimed aspect of hysteria is media coverage of the Loch Ness Monster. The idea put forward is that the Press not only perpetuates the Loch Ness Monster "myth" but instills across their readership an unreasonable expectation regarding the beast. The problem with this approach is that newspapers do not take the subject seriously at all. As a result, one should not expect the bulk of their readership to be different on the matter.

As you can see, the interplay of object, context and observer is a complicated affair. In fact, I am not aware of any attempts to successfully model this and come to some hard conclusions. All we have is anecdotal evidence such as the Frere example above.


One could with tongue in cheek summarise this whole theory in the following way:

The further away the object, the more likely the witness is deceived. The closer the object is, the more likely the witness is a deceiver.

When it becomes untenable to insist that the witness is a victim of object, context or his own preconceptions then this theory in its full blown form still does not admit to the existence of an exotic creature. In such instances, the "safety net" of deceiver is employed (although surprisingly some will continue to insist that witnesses at less than a hundred yards still misidentify common objects). In other words, the account is a hoax.

This part of the theory is mainly targeted at film and photograph but can be applied almost indiscriminately to any and all witnesses whose stories are deemed inconvenient. Of course, photographs of the Loch Ness Monster are emotive and powerful icons. These are the items that stick in the public memory and often motivate and inspire others to research into the subject. If these photos can be proven to be hoaxes and removed from public memory and credulity, then the theory has made advances.

Now, it is admitted that as with reports which are a result of being deceived, so there will be photographs or testimonies that are the products of deceivers (hoaxers). However, in the realm of film and photograph, I am hard pressed to come up with a confession by anyone to being a hoaxer.

We have hearsay about somebody saying something to someone else, but next to nothing that can be verified by more than one witness. The one exception is Christian Spurling and his Surgeon's Photo confession. Does this imply that deceiving the public is in fact less common than proponents of this theory claim? Perhaps, but we move on.

Hoax photographs can be exposed in other ways. The best example was one of Frank Searle's head and neck pictures where it was proven beyond doubt that a wooden post out from shore had been used as the "neck".

But whereas one expose will cast doubt upon one person and their pictures, every other photo be it Hugh Gray, F.C. Adams, Peter MacNab and so on has to be judged on its own merits. So various means will be employed to discredit the photo. Like non-photograph testimonies, the account will be scrutinised solely for errors or inconsistencies to "incriminate" the person. The photograph will be poured over for any tell-tale signs of tampering or damning clues based on field of view, light levels and shadows, etc.

There is nothing wrong per se with these methods, it is rather the non-neutral way in which the picture is handled. Perhaps the most withering aspect of this procedure is the popular "reproduction" technique. Here an attempt is made to reproduce the picture using hoaxing techniques such as models, natural items (e.g logs) or photo development trickery.

Once something that resembles the original picture is produced, the copy is proudly displayed to the world as "proof" that the original was hoaxed. The problem with this technique is that it is a complete non-sequitur and useless as a critical tool of analysis.

The reason being that almost anything can be copied to some degree of accuracy if enough time and resources are applied to the problem. The art world is awash with copies of famous works of art - some of which only experts can distinguish between. If someone can copy something as complex as that, they can copy a blurry picture of the Loch Ness Monster.

Some may be careful in only using tools available at the time of the picture but in truth, apart from image editing software, most of what is available now has been available since 1933 (or close substitutes were on the market). More modern photographs claiming to be of the Loch Ness Monster will be debunked as the product of Photoshop or similar packages. Thus, the tautology of reproducing look-alikes moves from the lochside to the computer screen.

Reproducing a photograph is a pointless act because if in theory a real picture of a monster in Loch Ness appeared, then that too would be reproducable using tools and techniques not beyond the wit of man. Hence, in the context of Loch Ness Monster research, this is a tautological procedure and an unfalsifiable process. Anyone employing this process to debunk Loch Ness Monster photographs should give up as they will only be preaching to the converted.

But even if this reproduction aspect of the "Deceiver" theory was viable, there are still problems. For a hoax has three aspects to it:

  • The Intention
  • The Plan
  • The Execution

What we have only discussed here is the "execution" or the end product in the form of a photographic negative or print. What has not been discussed is how the sceptic proves the "intention" to hoax and whether the skill, time and resource was in place to execute the "plan". Since we suggest here that the "execution" critique is flawed, it therefore does not add anything in pursuit of these two other aspects of an alleged hoax.

As it turns out, unless a confession is forthcoming (to multiple witnesses) or there is a serious flaw in the testimony which cannot be put down to lapsed memory or newspaper error, the "hoax" aspect is unprovable. And the same is true of the ability to "plan" the deception, most anyone (with possibly help from others) can put together such a thing. So unless the incriminating model or tampered negatives are found, nothing can be gained from saying "it is possible for someone to fake this".

So photos can be obviously faked, but reproducing a similar picture is meaningless. What is required is:

  • A verifiable confession
  • The "tools" which did the job
  • Internal evidence from the photograph

I would note that the last point can be a bit of a quagmire since Loch Ness investigators are not always thorough in establishing the facts. One recent example will suffice. The Inverness Courier printed an account of a photograph taken recently in September. The witness was said to have taken the picture at 8:30am but a well known Loch Ness researcher cast doubt upon the picture as a result of this because he (correctly) pointed out that the picture suggested the event happened closer to midday.

As this point, we could have all turned negative on this event and began to walk away from it. However, I contacted the photographer and he said the picture was indeed taken near noon and the paper had misquoted him.

Now one may cynically accuse the witness of backtracking to preserve their debunking - but I call it going to the original source (NOTE: I had not asked any leading questions either - I had merely asked if the newspaper account varied in any way from his own). If it means a key fact is lost in critiquing the picture, then so be it, better to be thorough than shallow. After all, critical thinking needs facts not what suits one's case.

One wonders how many cases have been discarded as dubious when all it took was a rechecking of the facts with the witness?

So the Skeptic theory reigns supreme amongst the general population. But like all the other theories about the Loch Ness Monster, it is flawed. It's biggest problem is its assumptions about witnesses. To not put too fine a point upon it, it regards them as observational idiots.

This flaw has already been discussed elsewhere on this website, such as the Greta Finlay and Spicers cases. Check those articles to see how incredulity is stretched when skeptics try to assassinate witness credibility. There are also plenty of other similar cases which challenge this view of witness competence.

Advocates of this theory will fall back on Occam's Razor and claim that this theory is the best one because it requires less improbable assumptions than any exotic creature theory. Well, not quite. It has to make hundreds, if not thousands of assumptions about every person that has ever claimed to have seen a strange creature in Loch Ness. That is, that every witness was an incompetent observer. Each individual and circumstance was unique, so each assumption is unique.

Now that I do find improbable.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Strange Loch Ness Images on Google Earth

Readers may remember the Sun newspaper article from two years ago which claimed to show a strange object on Loch Ness visible from Google Earth. The image is shown below but a close inspection plainly reveals it to be one of the many cruiser boats with its wash rippling in its wake.

However, a couple of months ago, some stranger looking images revealed themselves as I scanned the same Google image of Loch Ness. They were definitely not boats, buoys or logs and had a strange looking structure to them as you can see below. The images are to the same scale as our boat image above. I found all four of them in the top half of the loch and because of the strange "ball" attached to a snake-like "body" they did not look like the micro-debris that may accidentally fall onto the image as it went through the stages from satellite transmission to Internet image.

If they really were on the loch then they would be 40 feet long by 3 feet wide, longer than the boat which caused the original interest.

As a comparison, I scanned other major Scottish lochs to see if they had similar images. I checked Loch Lomond, Loch Tay, Loch Maree, Loch Awe and Loch Morar but none of them had anything like these strange images. I also checked the land around Loch Ness but to date have not found any similar image. I asked one local expert what forms of junk may be found floating on Loch Ness but nothing sounded like these pictures. So far, I have no satisfactory explanation for these images. Obviously, if they were Nessies, they have a rather weird shape compared to our traditional "plesiosaur" shape which makes one less inclined to say they are creatures. Nevertheless, an explanation is sought.

All a bit strange and so I turn to you readers to help solve this mini-mystery. You can zoom in on the objects via Google Earth or Google Maps by using these coordinates:

Object 1: 57°23'3.76"N 4°21'30.84"W
Object 2: 57°22'7.29"N 4°21'53.41"W
Object 3: 57°21'3.92"N 4°22'30.19"W
Object 4: 57°21'4.96"N 4°23'37.89"W

Have a look at them and tell me what you think they might be and why (as far as I can see) they only appear "on" the waters of Loch Ness. The possible explanations are image debris, image defect, image tampering, unidentified artificial objects on the loch or something unidentified on or just below the loch surface.

Monday 28 November 2011

The Monster Hunters

This is a general post linking to other postings on people involved in the great hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. As time progresses more people and articles will be linked here.

What is a Loch Ness Monster Hunter? In the eyes of the general public, he or she is an eccentric but mainly harmless person who is searching for an unlikely beast called Nessie and (hopefully) some definitive proof for it that forever silences their detractors.

But in truth they follow in the lineage of Saint George pursuing his dragon or the wealthy Victorian stag hunters who went after the local guide's oft-mentioned and feared water horse.

Some spends weeks if not months at the loch trying to fulfill that mission statement - See Nessie and Prove Nessie. A few even set up permanently by the lochside as they took a diversion from the Rat Race to scan the loch full time amongst the lapping waves, tweeting birds and howling gales. The majority, constrained by family and job commitments, make it to the loch whenever they can over a lifetime to indulge in this most unusual of hobbies.

Others exiled in far flung continents join the new band of e-Hunters as they carefully watch the various webcams trained on Loch Ness for that stirring of the waters or that slightly inexplicable black blob that makes a fleeting appearance on their screen.

Finally, when not at the loch, they continue their pursuit of the monster as it is found on the Internet, newspapers, books and any other resource that is reasonably to hand. Such are the Monster Hunters from days of old to the present day.

Another group which merits mentions are what may be called the Loch Ness Hunters. I drop the word "Monster" because their main motive is not per se the pursuit of a large, unidentified and exotic creature in the loch, but rather adding to the store of knowledge about the loch and its surrounding area. Clearly, gaining a better picture of the creature's ecosystem could be called an indirect pursuit of the Loch Ness Monster as the ecology of the loch tends to put constraints on the beast's identity (unless you believe it has resources beyond the local ecosystem such as in tunnels out of Loch Ness or it is a paranormal phenomenon).

Some combine these hunts with Summer holidays as they drag along willing or unwilling wives and children to the loch with them. Others plow a lonely furrow and disappear down a stream or hedge only to appear again at sunset to fill their stomachs and pint glasses as they contemplate the day's general lack of success.

Although such people tend to work alone, they will occasionally band together in an attempt to maximise resources. We saw that particularly in the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau of the 1960s and the Rines expeditions of the 1970s as people known and unknown lent of their talents to further these escapades.

In that light, should the Monster Hunter be deemed a "professional" or an "amateur"? In my opinion, there is no such thing as a professional monster hunter. They are very rarely paid for their efforts and there is certainly no accreditation at any institution of learning that will confer any kind of qualification. People may bring their own levels of expertise into the hunt such as photography, sonar, biology and local knowledge but as a whole a Monster Hunter is a Monster Hunter whatever else may lie beneath their exterior.

It's a labour of love and to a degree an obsession. Those that see the creature are hooked for life. Some who do not see it quickly enough for their own liking fall away never to be heard from again. For the rest of us, it is a matter of "keeping the faith" in a world that demands the creature be dumped dead at their feet before they consider its existence.

Click through the links below and consider the human side of the Loch Ness Monster phenomenon.

General - the legacy of past monster hunters

General - various monster hunters interviewed plus pics

Some Photographs - here

Tim Dinsdale - herehere and here

Ted Holiday - here, here and here.

Alex Campbell - here, here and here.

Roy Mackal - here

Rupert T. Gould - here

Steve Feltham - here, here, here and here

Dr. Denys Tucker - here

Frank Searle - here and here and here and here.

William H. Lane - here

Marmaduke Wetherell - here

Joe Zarzynski - here

David James - here, here, here and here

Richard Carter - here and here

Adrian Shine and others - here

Maurice Burton - here

James Aloysius Carruth - here

Captain Donald Munro - here

Blog author's own trips and stories - here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here.

Friday 25 November 2011

Books: "The Story of Loch Ness" by Frank Searle

Frank Searle is well known to Loch Ness researchers and is held in varying degrees of contempt, hatred and sympathy depending on who you talk to. I have already briefly talked of him here but in our occassional series of book reviews we come to his small 16 page work "The Story of Loch Ness" published in 1977.

Frank wrote four books, one which was unpublished and was reviewed by me in the link above but this small work seems to have been privately published and was aimed at a more local level for tourists and other interested individuals. I say privately published because I do not see the work listed at the National Library of Scotland and anything published in the public domain almost inevitably reaches their vaults (finding a copy even in this Internet age is not easy, I will pay £20 to anyone that wishes to part with it). The only reason I could read a copy was due to its availability as an ebook purchase (which you can read about here).

The booklet was published at a time when Nessie interest was at a new high, possibly higher than the 1930s. As a result, many books were published on the Loch Ness Monster aiming to cash in on the heightened public interest. In that regard, Frank Searle's book is no surprise though it has to be said that his other work "Nessie: Seven Years in Search of the Monster" was more aimed at the general paperback market.

Being such a small publication aimed at people new to the subject, one would not expect anything groundbreaking as it runs through various facts about Loch Ness and its famous inhabitant. Once again, Frank's antipathy to large, organised searches is evident as he talks about the failure of the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau or any other visiting teams to find any cast iron proof of Nessie. It seems from his statements that surveillance of the loch by the LNIB tailed off in the last couple of years of its existence. Whether this was because of lack of volunteers, equipment or diversion to other activities is not made clear. However, he uses this observation to elevate the role of the single, lone observer but thirty four years on from the booklet, this method of operation has also failed to yield the final, definitive proof. Clearly, something else needs to be thought out here (and, no, it is not to give up!).

Though Frank Searle saw the monster as plesiosaur-like, he veered towards the idea of a creature that did not need to come up for air, but what he thought it was beyond that is not said. One surprising comment he made was that he did not give any credence to land sightings. I am a believer in this behaviour of the creature but Frank Searle was not convinced due to his belief that they did not breath air and would have trouble getting their large bulk onto shore plus overcoming some of the steeper shelves of the loch side. He also cites the lack of tracks, stripped vegetation (does he assume Nessie has herbivorial traits?) and the assumption that it would be so slow as to be easily photographed.

I don't think these are issues if they are thought through more deeply, and I will address these on a more dedicated posting.

But overall it was a good read and worthy of inclusion in any one's Loch Ness Monster library.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

An Old Bones Story from the Daily Express

As mentioned previously, I trawled through the archives of the Daily Express a while back and came up with some tidbits which though not solving the mystery, add some mystique and humour to it.

This clipping is from the 27th December 1933 and concerns the finding of some unidentified bones. The story is rounded off with the latest reported Nessie sighting.

New Monster Mystery


Daily Express Special Representative

THE Loch Ness monster, though it has remained as elusive as ever during Christmas, has acquired a family tree and heaps of bony remains. While taking experimental photographs at the loch, Mr. E. Dean, a London photographer, discovered nearly two hundred pieces of bone and teeth, some of which the Inverness Museum authorities are unable to identify as belonging to any known animal.

A number of bones among the remains, according to the museum authorities, are bigger than those of a horse, and include what appears to be a talon or claw-bone larger than is found in any known beast or bird.

Yesterday I saw Mr. Dean with a large box of relics which, at the request of the Inverness Museum, he is taking to the South Kensington Museum today tor examination. Mr. Dean emphasises that he did not go to the loch with the intention or even the hope of finding relics, remains, or footprints.

Yet It was in less than an hour that he made this discovery "I was taking general photographs of the loch," said Mr. Dean "I was in a lonely spot on the way to Fort William, on a piece of beach that has never been uncovered before this year."

"While scraping the beach to make a level stand for my camera I uncovered the first bone. I dug a bit more and found hundreds."

Scottish experts state that the age of the bones is about 150 years, though they are not all from the same animal or creature. There are still hundreds of bones left on the beach, according to Mr. Dean, who says that they run in a line right down the beach and under the waters of the loch.

Here is a new problem for monster authorities. What are these mysterious bones? Are they the remains of the monster's elderly parents or relatives? Are they the remains of a hasty breakfast enjoyed by the monster himself, when a youngster way back in 1780?

Or has the monster, hunted by sightseers, pursued by photographers almost as much as a debutante, given up the unequal struggle and died peacefully in a quiet corner of the loch?

Are these bones. In fact . . . the monster?

Late News: Dr. J. Kirkton, medical officer of Fort Augustus, reports that he saw the monster yesterday.

"It bore the resemblance of a boat, but it proceeded with a leaping motion and threw up a considerable volume of spray," he says. "It appeared to be black and about three feet protruded above the water."

So the bones were taken to the Natural History Museum in London but after that we learn nothing else. Presumably the staff there (which at that time included a certain Maurice Burton) diagnosed something familiar but it would have been nice to know what. I suspect Mr. Burton was familiar with the matter but whether he published on it I cannot say for certain!

Saturday 19 November 2011

More David James Photos

I mentioned recently that Torosay Castle was for sale and that meant an end to the Nessie exhibition there. I have previously posted photographs and comments here and here. So here are the other photographs I took when I visited a couple of years or so ago.

First here are some familiar images from the 1970s Academy of Applied Sciences expeditions. The famous "gargoyle" head can be seen as well as the "plesiosaur" body and the retouched flipper images. I was too young for the 1972 flipper picture but I remember the commotion caused by the 1975 pictures. Although by then a Nessie fan, when I first saw the gargoyle I was struck that this looked nothing like the descriptions that eyewitnesses had afforded to Nessie's head. So, I was always ambivalent about that picture.

In the main room were large number of clippings that David James accumulated over the years and had been put into folders. Here is a selection of some stories which may evoke memories for our readers.

The man in the picture is Sir Peter Scott whose famous painting of two Nessies (also in the clipping) will soon be up for sale.

At one time the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau employed searchlights at night time on Loch Ness in the hope that a nocturnally-inclined Nessie may make more frequent appearances. That is an idea I am sympathetic too but the problem is where to point the searchlight!

The writing above gave a brief opinion of his parliamentary career with a comment about how Loch Ness and the House of Commons could be at odds with each other. A political career or a search for a centuries-old mystery? Well, somebody had to stand up for Nessie in the government! It just so happened that mantle fell upon David James.

I have a quote attributed to David James which sums up the spirit of monster hunting. If anyone can tell me the source of this quote I would appreciate it:

"If any individual or group wants to pursue an independent line of research, all of the information of the bureau is at their disposal ... The Bureau is dedicated to identifying the unusual animal."

So we thank him for his efforts and zeal in pursuit of the mystery of Loch Ness and we finish this short piece appropriately with a fine portrait I saw of the man himself in his stately home.

Thursday 10 November 2011

The Latest Nessie Sighting (August 2011)

Witnesses: Diane Blackmore
Date: 28th August 2011
Location: Near Lochend
Time: 1000

The sighting reports continue this year with an experience recounted to me by Diane Blackmore. She found my blog having returned home from her Scottish holiday and decided to email her story to me.

Following on from the Hargreaves head and neck encounter in June, Diane also spotted Nessie in her famous pose whilst she was travelling from Nairn to Skye on a bus tour. Her encounter is that bit more unique because she saw the creature face on whereas most such sightings strike a side on pose.

To begin her story, she was at the rear of the bus and looking out over the loch on an overcast day but with no particular thoughts about "Nessie Spotting". In her own words, she describes what happened after Loch Ness came into view southbound on the A82 but still a few miles from the Clansman Hotel:

I was looking out the window keeping my gaze on the water when in the distance I saw the typical body and neck and head of Nessie. She appeared to be emerging out of the water as I saw splashing around her. She appeared to be shiny black in the sun. (Though I know it wasn't a sunny day.)

Adding to the detail about movement:

I saw some splashing like the effect of movement gone on before but I didn't note movement.

The bus continued on its journey as she gazed at this intriguing spectacle which was soon out of sight:

It was all over in a few seconds but I know what I saw. It appeared rounded .... would have to be a blow up model if at all ... but it appeared moving and alive.

I do know that it appeared to be a living creature though, not a wave or a log.

I emailed Diane back for further details and to ascertain some more facts about the event. The location of the sighting was right at the top of the loch which is much narrower than the main body of the loch. She also said that the creature was three quarters of the way across the loch from her which would place the distance at about 350m-400m depending on the exact location.

Based on that information and the fact that she stated that the Clansman Hotel was another ten minutes away after the sighting, the map below speculates on the probable position of the creature.

I asked Diane to supply a picture of what she saw and two were sent to me. The first is how she saw it from the distance stated and she estimated it was 1.5m to 2m out of the water.

And the second picture below is her impression of how the creature may have looked closer up. I asked her about facial features:

I can't say for certain that there were eyes though I did suggest them in the drawing. I was given the impression in the short time that there was a face though so I must have seen eyes and a mouth.

As to what it may have been, she was convinced it was a living creature and not something like a wave or log. I further enquired as to whether it could have been a bird she was looking at. The reply was decisive:

As to it being a bird, well I wouldn't want it landing on my roof! It was a bird x 1000!

At a range of 350 metres or more, I suspect she is right. A bird at such a distance is hardly likely to excite an observer.

And so the sighting ended. Being a shy person, she didn't want to shout out and risk an accident with the bus and when she told the other tourists, some suggested she had too much of the distillery samples but a few accepted her testimony (and, no, she was not drunk!). It is to be noted that Diane saw the creature in between shrub like trees - which would partly explain why others were not so quick to see it.

So what did Diane see? Was it the famous denizen of Loch Ness or something more mundane? Naturally, the skeptically minded will say "bird" because of the long neck. In that regard, a big, impressive picture of a bird like a cormorant is normally shown at this point - like the one below.

And the consensus would be, "Oh Yeah, big bird, easy to mistake for monster ..." and so on. But then you produce a picture of a cormorant perched on the old pier at Dores:

This bird is probably about 20 metres away and is, errm, tiny. What would it look like twenty times further away? I am not really sure, because I probably wouldn't even see it! Impressive close up, nothing far away.

Now since this sighting occurred not far from Greta Finlay's famous sighting, someone who is skeptical may suggest it was a deer out for a swim. Well, apart from deer being reddish-brown and not being black and shiny, their heads protrude forwards instead of upwards when swimming.

And swim it must at that place in the loch or it will inconveniently descend to the bottom. And, yes, those give away ears do stick out a bit.

Perhaps it was one of these very rare excursion by seals into the loch? With that long neck, one is doubtful of that.

But this sighting raises a question that is often seen in Loch Ness Monster reports - how does the creature achieve such high buoyancy? By that I mean, how does it raise itself so far out of the water? What we read here is only part of this buoyancy question as the beast is extremely adept at both rising and falling in a vertical manner.

Typical reports would speak of a hump and/or neck rising and falling effortlessly. Sometimes this could be accompanied by a "boiling" effect of the water or no obvious turbulence.

Tim Dinsdale considered this question and put it down to either displacement of water upwards and downwards by flippers, altering its specific gravity (i.e. density) or altering its displacement (i.e. changing its shape in relation to the amount of water it displaced).

Tim was more inclined to the third option. The unknown factor is how much of the creature is below the water in relation to what is above and what is the average density of what is below in comparison to what is above water.

Quite possibly, the creature has a degree of bodily contraction and expansion plus a gas-based buoyancy organ that combine to allow these feats of movement. Proving that requires a live or dead specimen, until then we move in the realms of speculation!

UPDATE: I have been told that the object in question may have been a buoy that floats on the Aldourie side of the top end of the loch. It is green-blue in colour and its dimensions are similar to what was seen. Whether our witness saw the buoy before the creature, I am not sure but you can add this observation into the mixer and form your own opinion. I continue to investigate whether this is indeed a viable explanation in the context of the witness' location and description.