Saturday 5 February 2011
I would like to spend some time in this post and others doing something unconventional and against the trend - defend Tim Dinsdale and his milestone 1960 film of the Loch Ness Monster. The trend is to demystify and debunk, and this blog is all about swimming against the current trend.
The "avant garde" thinking is that Dinsdale filmed a boat. Well, it is not quite new thinking but a Richard Carter some years back put together a theory that Dinsdale failed to distinguish between a common outboard engine boat and an unidentified creature of large proportions. Another researcher, Adrian Shine, published his own analysis which I hope to look at in a later posting.
Richard Carter was an active Nessie hunter in the late 1990s. He believed in the monster's existence (he also didn't accept the Spurling Hoax theory about the Wilson photo) but was prepared to literally push the boat out on the Dinsdale film being misinterpreted.
His analysis of the film and the 1965 JARIC report that examined it can be found at this link and it is this critique that I wish to critique.
You may wish to read through Richard Carter's analysis or read my hopefully accurate summary which is in three points:
1. The JARIC Report's estimate of a speed of 10mph for the object is overestimated because they did not take the winding time of the cine camera into account.
2. The appearance of the object submerging is a trick of the light.
3. A filming of a suitable boat under similar conditions can look like the object in the film and hence is the most likely candidate.
The focus of this article is point one - that JARIC overestimated the speed of the object in the film. Let me explain why it is so important that the speed of the object must be less than 10mph to allow a boat explanation to be considered.
The engine in typical use in a 1960s boat would have been a Seagull 5hp outboard engine which was capable of a maximum hull speed of 5.4 knots or just under 7mph. Richard Carter understood this and knew a 10mph object in the film would cast doubt upon an typical outboard engine boat being a candidate.
How could one suggest that one of these common boats that regularly flitted across the loch could be the "monster" in the film yet be seen to be going at a speed 43% above its top speed? Clearly there was a contradiction here which had to be dealt with.
Richard Carter had a brainwave. He knew that Tim Dinsdale's cine camera had to be stopped and rewound at certain intervals as the mechanical motor winding the film through the camera ran down. He estimated this happened every twenty seconds and a rewind took twelve seconds. He suggested that JARIC had not taken this rewind time into account and hence the object in the film would apparently cover more distance as a 12 second gap was instantly leapt over in the appropriate frames. He calculated this would bring the real speed of the object down to 6.5mph - acceptable for the boat theory.
He further suggested that because Dinsdale gave instructions not to project the film but only examine frames that these time jumps would not have been apparent the JARIC experts.
So, is this all done and dusted? Can we all go home now and bin the film? Not quite yet.
First we need to ascertain some facts about the film. The first is how long it lasted. In Dinsdale's book "Loch Ness Monster" he gives a full account of his sightings and various items of information about the filming process. Richard Carter takes the book to task at this point because it apparently contradictory in its account of how long the film lasted. In one place it says 50ft of film was exposed, in another 20ft to 30ft and in another place it is said that the monster was filmed for four minutes.
I will address these apparent discrepancies at the end of this post but first we need to know something about the technical specification of the cine camera that was used. The camera used was a Bolex Cine H-16 which was capable of running 50ft or 100ft of film at one time before reloading was required. The camera could run at various frame rates but in this instance it was running at 24fps (frames per second).
From this we can infer the maximum time of possible footage that could be shot. For 50ft it would be 77 seconds and for 100ft it would be twice as long at 155 seconds.
Referring to the JARIC report, it is clear from their analysis that he had loaded 50 feet of film. I say this because they numbered the frames from 1 onwards up to 1440 and if we divide this by 24fps we get 60 seconds. Since Tim had stated that he was nearly out of film when he drove to the loch to get a closer shot, then that would be consistent with 50ft and not 100ft (Note the report mentions frames 700 to 1700 but these are rounded numbers are given as an assumption to demonstrate an arithmetical procedure).
Now if Richard Carter's analysis is correct, Tim Dinsdale would have had to stop and rewind his camera at least twice. Once at 20 seconds in the film and again at 40 seconds into the film. A third rewind is possible at 60 seconds but no further film would have been shot as he stopped to drive on.
If we break that down into frame numbers, we get possible jumps in the film at frames 480 (24fps x 20s) and 960 (24fps x 40s). Note this relies on two assumptions. Firstly that the cine camera had been fully wound and ready for action that morning. Given the account by Tim of his meticulous preparation that day, I think this is a safe assumption. Secondly that Tim rewound the film only when he had to (i.e. keep filming Nessie!).
Does the film jump at these frames? Without a copy of the complete film, I cannot say. If anyone who has a full copy of the Dinsdale film would oblige then I could take this further. But we press on.
The first problem with the Richard Carter analysis is that in his book, Tim Dinsdale says he only rewound the camera once. The quote is here:
".. firing long steady bursts of film like a machine gunner, stopping between to wind the clockwork motor."
How could he rewind once in a 60s shoot when a rewind is required every 20s? The answer is because a rewind was not required every 20 seconds. Thanks to the power of the Internet, I trawled around for a technical description of the Bolex H-16. I found one at this link and this is what it says about rewind times:
"Fully wound, the motor will drive about 18 feet of film through the camera (about 28 seconds at 24fps)."
So it seems that 28 seconds and not 20 seconds was the expected run time for a model from that period and that would agree with Dinsdale's testimony. Why did Richard Carter's Bolex not perform the same way? It may have been a later modified model but for sure not all Bolex cameras are the same.
Therefore, only one rewind would have been required at around frame 672 (24fps x 28s). However, there is a slight discrepancy here because two runs of shooting lasting 28 seconds each at 24fps gives us 1344 frames which is 95 frames short of the 1440 frames JARIC stated (or roughly 4 seconds missing). Did Tim Dinsdale managed to run his rewinds longer? I would think so given that the document quoted is not dogmatic on the precise upper limit. That puts the film break at frame number 720.
The next problem with Richard Carter's analysis follows on from this conclusion. The sequence of frames which JARIC used to calculate the speed of the creature falls outside the range of where a 30s rewind would occur (frame 720). In their analysis of the speed as the monster swam away from Tim, they state they analysed frames 1 to 384 to derive a speed of 10mph. In their second analysis as the monster was moving parallel to the opposite shore, they used frames 816 to 1440.
In other words, the jump in the film would have been missed and irrelevant to the analysis. The calculated speed of 10mph stands.
As it happens, even if two or more jumps did happen in the film, it was probably not relevant. The first jump in a 20s run occurs at frame 480, but by then JARIC had already analysed frames 1 to 384 and calculated a speed of 10mph. Furthermore, I would find it incredible that the professionals at JARIC had failed to take pauses to rewind into account. The Bolex H-16 was a well known and popular model and they must have known about this. I doubt they would have made such a schoolboy error in their calculations.
As a side note here, Richard Carter speaks of the JARIC report on the difficulty of measuring the speed of an object moving away from the observer at an elevation:
"This after they tell you the difficulty of near horizontal photography, especially the measurements in depth view."
Richard uses this to suggest that the 10mph estimate was therefore not reliable. However, he omits to quote another passage from the report which says this:
Note: Difficulties of Y measure are mentioned at para.5. and during this sequence almost all of the measure is Y measure. However, since the object is travelling on a fixed bearing relative to the shore, the point of intersection on the shore becomes a fixed reference point and measures become more reliable. Moreover, the speed has been calculated from observations on 5 separate frames and the given speed is the sensibly LOWEST speed from these observations.
Note, 10mph is estimated at the lower range of their estimates - the creature coulsd have been travelling faster than this. So, the estimate is reliable and the techniques of the JARIC team are further vindicated by the fact that they estimated the speed of the boat Tim had sent out later as a control footage as 6.5mph which agreed well with Dinsdale's own estimate of 7mph as he paced the boat in his car.
But what about the apparent discrepancies of 50ft, 20-30ft and 4 minutes in the book's account? These are not difficult to explain. The 50ft relates to the entire length of film shot including the test boat footage. The 20-30ft is the estimate of how much monster footage was shot though my own estimate suggests the number is closer to 38 feet but it is no more than an estimate which Tim Dinsdale clearly did not see the point in pinpointing accurately for a general audience of readers.
As for the four minutes, Richard Carter wonders what Tim Dinsdale may have hidden or cut out if the footage lasted so long but in the same breath he says that four minutes would have been impossible to film (which I agree with). One can't suggest two contradictory things in the same paragraph.
But then again, the film lasted one minute but the book says he shot four minutes of film - which is clearly wrong. What I suggest is that the entire filming process lasted four minutes but that does not include actual footage time. I speculate that the missing three minutes came during the rewinding of the motor previously discussed. Without the full footage to examine, I cannot be certain, but it is a reasonable hypothesis. Why would Tim Dinsdale take three minutes to rewind the cine camera when it should only take a tenth of that time? In the excitement and tension of such an event, it is easier to take longer over things. Perhaps he had finger trouble, a temporary mechanical problem arose or he was distracted by something. It is hard to pinpoint an exact explanation but the film footage ought to show up a three minute gap in this case.
The analysis seems clear to me. The estimated speed of 10mph calculated by JARIC stands and this is a problem if you think the object in the film is a common boat.
Let me finally say something about Dinsdale's reputation in the eyes of others. All say, despite his alleged cock up on the filming front, he was not to blame for any deception, was as fooled as anyone was but nevertheless he rendered an invaluable service to monster hunting. To the last sentiment I would agree.
However, I do detect an undercurrent of criticism which needs to be answered. I already mentioned the 4 minute criticism and the suggestion of something being hid - that is not true.
Another person who thinks the object is a boat claims that Tim Dinsdale could not have driven down to the shore in the few minutes he claimed. This is said because they tried it and took them ten minutes. If you read Dinsdale's account, he seems to have driven like a maniac, blaring his horn and then running for his life to the shore. I would say that the person probably did not drive or run in the manner Tim did (he may have been arrested for dangerous driving!). What obstacles lay in one's way in 1960 as opposed to now is also an open question.
Finally, Tim Dinsdale's widow, Wendy, seems to come in for a hard time when she refuses to allow her husband's film to be examined or put on public websites. If those websites were to use the film to prove her husband wrong then her actions do not surprise me. That doesn't mean she thinks it is a fake, only because the recipients of the film do. I would also point out that Tim Dinsdale's son, Simon, publicly stated the film was the monster only a few months ago. If he thought his father had shot a boat, I doubt he would have come forward with those statements.
So much for the speed of the creature in the film. Richard Carter appears to have dropped out of the Loch Ness scene, but there are others objections raised against the film today which I hope to cover in later posts.