Saturday 10 August 2013

Man, Monsters and Mysteries (Disney Film)

I added this video as an afterthought to the recent post on a new Tim Dinsdale book but I add it again in case anyone missed it. I originally posted my own version three years ago but removed it because of copyright reasons. Someone else has now posted it on YouTube, so the copyright issue now belongs to them.

The documentary was a bonus feature to the VHS version of the 1977 film "Pete's Dragon". It also appeared on DVD but seems to have dropped out of the feature list on later releases. However, the documentary pre-dates "Pete's Dragon" and was actually released on US educational TV around 1972 and appeared in British cinemas in 1974 (presumably as a second feature to a main Disney film).

This is a review of the film (original link) for the 2001 DVD release but it appears to have gone from the 2009 release.

"Man, Monsters, and Mysteries" is a fairly fascinating 25-minute piece which again analyses fantastical mysteries and myths on animals. The majority of the program focuses on the 'elusive' Loch Ness monster, who appears in animated form, voiced by Disney veteran Sterling Holloway (the original Winnie the Pooh among others). The interaction between Holloway and Winnie the Pooh narrator Sebastian Cabot is a lot of fun, as the monster explains individuals who have been trying to track him and how he's teased those in search of him by allowing a mystery to prevail. Pristine live action sequences contain comments from folks who claim to have seen Nessie. While this isn't directly related to the movie, other than in theme, it's an awesome and quite entertaining inclusion.

To this I can add that you will see various personalities from the search for Nessie such as Tim Dinsdale, members of the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau, Roy Mackal and so on. You can also read about the visit of the producer, Ken Peterson, to Loch Ness in 1969 in "Project Water Horse" by Tim Dinsdale.

Tim tells us Ken arrived with his wife Harriet with a film crew in August 1969 for a two week stint. It seems their arrival drew practically all those involved in the hunt to offer their services. Well, apart from one. Frank Searle had arrived just eight weeks previously to start his 15 year watch of the loch.

Not surprisingly, there was footage shot which did not make it into the final release. I would have been particularly fascinated to see the footage of the monster hunters resorting to their watering hole at the "Lodge" for a bit of R&R. 

Overall, the film rightly takes its place in the history of the Loch Ness Mystery.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Some Stories from Readers

I love to hear from people who have stories to tell of things they have experienced on Loch Ness. These are tales that have not reached the normal public channels and may well have lain dormant forever unless blogs like this picked up on them.

As some of you may recall, it is my belief that most eyewitness reports go unreported and indeed that trend is confirmed to stay and perhaps even escalate as modern day sceptics who have the public microphone re-assure people that they have only seen logs, birds, seals and so on. However, those who have seen strange things may not be so convinced that they were fooled by a passing boat wake and store these things in their mind.

A reader from Seattle posted anonymously to me two weeks ago while I was on holiday with this account:

Hello there, I came across this blog surfing the net for LNM info and would like to share with you my experience at Loch Ness back in May 2009. It was while visiting my relatives in Fort William ( I am from Seattle ) that myself, two brothers, my aunt, and her good friend had seen something large in the water from the banks of Loch Ness. This was closer to Fort Augustus from the North shore. It was late afternoon and calm weather at the time of our sighting.

We saw for what we guessed would be at least for one minute what appeared to be one large greyish hump at first idle in the water from about 80 yards. This was approximately 10 maybe 12 feet long and perhaps 3 feet above the water. It began to head towards the opposite shore and submerged rapidly. We were quite amazed to say the least. I rarely discuss this with people because they simply do not believe it. My aunts friend was first to spot it and not a word was said while we watched what looked simply like the back of a large grey animal cross the loch. It left quite a large wake after it's dive under the surface. 

Sorry that I cannot provide more detail. One moment this thing was there and the next it had submerged. At the very least I was not alone and have fellow witnesses to this brief spectacle. 

The next story came in a month ago from a Mr. Candlish (and like our other witness, if you're reading, please get back to me at His account goes as follows:

Many years ago, while I was based in Aberdeen, my wife, son and myself rented a boat and spent 10 days traveling the lock system from Abdereen to the Atlantic and back. We also spent four days on Loch Ness, sleeping on the boat and exploring the area by foot. Great people!!

We decided to drop anchor in a small cove just a mile or so from the castle (I can't remember its name, but it's in one of the most famous pictures of, "Nessie". We dropped anchor close to the shore and an overhanging branch. However, we kept moving away from the shorline. I could feel the anchor moving along the bottom and, when we had moved away around 150', we stopped moving. I tried, several times, to return to the orginal spot I wished to anchor, with the same result. The last time I tried to position us, I looked into the water and there was an obvious eye looking directly at me.

As I moved left to right, the eye moved with me; the boat had stopped moving. I stood there for at least fifteen minutes watching it watching me. Later, I tried to think of what it could have been other than what it obviously was. It also blinked several times. I have never told anyone about this, but have thought about it for many, many years. I don't know what it was, but it was certainly alive and, in my opinion, was moving the boat away from the original area. There is no doubt in my mind that the "eye" I was looking at was definately some type of eye of some type of living creature. Thanks for listening. 

The first story has much of the classic single hump scenario to it. Note the object was at first stationary which speaks against the oft suggested standing wave. At 10 to 12 feet long, it was not likely to be a seal or similar. Sceptics will at this point default to the "liar" theory whilst asking why no one had a camera.

The second story is curious indeed and almost unique in its genre ... a sighting of the Loch Ness Monster's eye? The only similar story I can think of was the apocryphal tale from Nicholas Witchell's book of the diver who was brought up terrified from the loch with a tale of red, mysterious eyes looking at him from the murky depths.

Did he just see his own reflection? I would doubt anyone would fail to figure that out after fifteen minutes. Can a seal impede a boat's movement to that extent? That does not sound like a seal's behaviour to me (if it even had the strength). Sceptics may nevertheless gravitate towards a seal.

Once again, let everyone make their own judgement. Loch Ness Monsters or something else?

Sunday 4 August 2013

More on the Jennifer Bruce Photograph

I would now like to revisit this famous monster photograph in the light of feedback. Not surprisingly, I got a spectrum of responses to my original article ranging from agreement to disagreement. It surprised me that some still insisted it was a seagull (or any bird for that matter) despite the logical arguments I put up against this idea.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I doubt anyone could argue that my analysis on the bird question is an indefensible position. I suspect there may be a degree of resistance to a non-bird argument perhaps because some may see that as an implicit admission that the object in the picture is therefore a "Loch Ness Monster".

That is not a logical consequence. What I am saying is that it is not a bird, so another explanation should be sought. That does not compel one to select "monster", although that is a valid position to take (as I do). A choice of "inconclusive" is also quite acceptable. So it is not a choice between "gulls and gullibility" as one researcher once put it, but rather taking it to the next stage.

In defending the weakened gull argument, one comment suggested the bird may be banking to distort the shape. This I cannot agree with as banking would tend to foreshorten the length of the wing compared to the body. The problem we have with this alleged bird is that the wing length is way out of proportion to the length of the body.

The only way I could see such wing "stretching" taking place is via a mirage or heat haze. However, I see no possibility of such an idea in this picture. Feel free to attempt such a defence and I will reply.

However, one comment I will "focus" on for the rest of this article and that is the blurriness of the object.  Look at the object and you may notice it looks a bit fuzzy. This is offered as proof that it is a bird in flight from left to right. Now apart from the reasons given why this is not a bird, let us look closer at why the image could have this degree of fuziness.

There are several possible reasons for this. The first is that the overall image is slightly out of focus. The second is that there is some form of motion relative to the scene and the observer. This could either mean the camera is moving slightly during exposure or the object is moving relative to the observer. There may be other causes but we concentrate on these two.

So which of these could account for the slight fuzziness? To help answer this question, I employed an image processing software package called "FocusMagic" which has received good reviews for improving images with focus issues due to defocus or motion blur.

The parameters required to execute an image clean up are somewhat heuristic as we don't know the conditions under which the photograph was taken. So the first trial was to employ the package's focus filter which attempts to restore the image due to out of focus issues. I employed a blur width of 2 and an amount of 100% which gave the result below.

The result was actually quite impressive and certainly sharpened up the image. In fact, the main thing I noted after processing was that the entire picture suffered from a degree of defocusing. Note how the buoys to the right and the foreground foliage have also sharpened up as well as the distant trees on the contours of the hills.

This would suggest the fuzziness is due to a general problem with the image rather than the object of our main interest. However, if we assume a bird flying from left to right, then we can proceed to apply the package's motion blur compensation filter. After some playing around with parameter values, I plumped for a blur width of 4 and a direction of zero degrees (left to right). The result is below.

Again, there is an improvement not only in the Nessie object but for the picture overall which again is consistent with the motion being relative to the whole scene rather than just our object. Indeed, if it was only the object that was moving, applying a motion blur filter to the whole image would not be helpful as everything else is relatively stationary. In both filters, the circular ripple I suggested is moving out from the object is also that bit clearer.

However, it is to be noted that the refocus filter produced a better result than the motion blur filter, which again is consistent with the fuzziness problem being camera related rather than scene related. I would also again point out that the "bird" in all images has not resolved itself into a more bird-like image. It is still deformed and inconsistent with bird morphology.

If the object is zoomed in and isolated from the general scene, various motion blur filters were then applied for various angles (below and click to enlarge). As it turned out, none really produced as good a result as the refocus filter.

What does all this prove? It suggests to me that any blurriness on the photograph is a whole image issue rather than one related to the object. That does not mean there cannot be independent movement in the object, but that could be applied to both a monster or bird scenario. Indeed, motion blur is something that is seen on at least one other Nessie photograph - the Hugh Gray picture from 1933.

If this was a Loch Ness Monster and it was briefly in view, then one would expect some motion as it rises and falls back into the depths. What the progress of that motion could be is entirely a matter of conjecture. It could rise and fall vertically or it could be a 45 degrees descent which would have a large component of horizontal motion. The sinusoidal nature of the neck could also contribute additional motion on top of rising/submerging to produce a complex array of motion vectors.

My own conclusion is that we are not seeing individual object motion blur consistent with a left to right movement but rather consistent with camera shake or a slightly out of focus image. That there may yet be some motion inherent in the object is conceded but that is an argument that cannot be hijacked by either side concerning this mystery object photographed by Jennifer Bruce those thirty years ago.


A comment from a reader below suggested a seagull in the original post bore a resemblance to the Bruce "bird":

"You'll see a small silhouetted gull on the upper right of the photo, below and right of the big gull at the top. That figure almost exactly matches the figure in the 'nessie' photo."

I superimposed the gull in question as before:

Though these is a foreshortening of the top joint of the wing, the net effect is to foreshorten the whole wing length and as you can see, the overlay is not convincing. To see a real overlay of a gull at Loch Ness, refer to Dick Raynor's picture here. I have overlaid the rightmost gull on our "test gull" and as you can see it is a good fit. Clearly, we have a gull in that particular picture!