Friday 11 October 2013

Loch Ness Monster seen in Moray Firth?

Date: 17th April 2013
Time: 2pm
Location: Findhorn Bay
Witnesses: Celia Hawe
Type of sighting: Head, neck and back in water

I spotted this one on the CFZ blog and thought it worthy of passing on to readers. Strictly, this is a not a Loch Ness Monster event as it did not happen in Loch Ness. The claimed sighting was in Findhorn which is a village further along the Moray Firth coastline (check first map below for circled location with Loch Ness in the bottom left corner).

Nevertheless, I have addressed this subject of Nessie-like creatures being seen around the Moray Firth in a previous article and we can now add this one to that list.  My own opinion was that it seemed unlikely we had several different species of cryptids in the same small locality (Loch Ness and up to the adjoining sea). So Celia could be right in claiming this as a sighting of Nessie. I thought things were a bit quiet at the loch this year, was Nessie away on vacation?!

So, Celia Hawe has put together a video clip of her experience which is a good way of getting her story across. I do not think she is pulling our collective leg and I have no reason to doubt her sincerity - especially as practically all hoaxers are men. The object she saw certainly sounds like a classic Loch Ness Monster with its long neck and single hump.

She also says she regularly watches the wildlife and boats on the waters, so it seems unlikely she was fooled by any of these objects. Of course, it cannot be entirely excluded that some normally recognisable object in an unusual context was involved but the duration and proximity of the sighting would exclude many of the usual "suspects". Until a sensible and alternate explanation is forthcoming, I will leave that aside.

She further puts up a general view of the bay in the video (below) and you can just see her PC cursor pointing to the area where the object was observed which is more or less just above the line of the bushes. The object then disappeared behind the treeline. Unfortunately, Celia did not have a camera to hand during the sighting, though given her comments about being "mesmerised" by the sight, I wonder if she would have remembered to use it!

The position of her bay photograph can be located using Google StreetView. The first StreetView image shows the same tree and distant view of the waters.  It seems the bay was not as busy in April than the StreetView shot taken in warmer months.

A look at the bay on the other side of the trees shows a beach. One wonders if the houses closer to the shoreline were occupied at the time and had seen anything?

The comment by Celia that the head-neck took on a twisted kind of appearance is one I personally find interesting as I have commented before on the extreme flexibility of the Loch Ness Monster's signature profile. I still wonder if it really is the classic neck with bony vertebrae that is normally assumed. I have sent a message to Celia hoping for more details and perhaps a sketch, so watch this space.

So, I will call this an honorary Nessie report. But if this was a genuine sighting, what was the creature doing in this enclosed bay? Why did no one else apparently see this creature? Could it be that this bay conceals the entrance to that infamous tunnel that connects Loch Ness to the sea? 

Am I over-indulging in speculation? Considering such a tunnel would be over thirty miles long, I may well be. But if I had scuba-diving gear, I know where I would be heading for my next session!


Celia got in touch with me and explained that she tried to draw what she saw but gave up confessing she was useless as an artist.  That's a pity but I am sure that if Celia was making all this up, she would have come up with some kind of picture!

She also added this interesting postscript to her experience which this time involved her husband as they were packing the car for a pre-dawn trip to England:

It was dark still, then we heard this noise, once, it was like nothing we have ever heard before. It was scary but we just had to carry on with what we were doing and get going as it is such a long drive. We of course discussed it later. What it could have been.  We went through everything we could think of. Drowning dog, seal, everything we could think of, But this sound was, and I use this word carefully, unearthly. It was incredibly loud, deep and reverberated over the water. I had no idea at the time at what level the bay water was at, but later checked and at 4.54am it was full tide.

Make of that what you will!

Monday 7 October 2013

George Edwards Confesses

As reported in the Inverness Courier, George Edwards finally admits he faked his photograph and is proud of it because it generated interest in the Loch Ness Monster and hence the area. This story received worldwide attention in early August 2012 but Steve Feltham broke the news on the 18th August that the object in the picture was most likely a 1.9m fiberglass prop used in a documentary some years back. George also confesses in a Wall Street Journal article (though insists a picture he took in 1986 is not a hoax).

The news has apparently angered Kevin Carlyon, Nessie's self-proclaimed white witch protector, who has promised to send a "psychic torpedo" in Edwards' direction on Halloween!

What prompted Mr. Edwards to confess is not clear and the article does not quote him saying he used the prop, but this must surely be the most likely explanation. George takes "the end justifies the means" approach in not initially admitting to the true nature of the picture. The reaction to that approach has been mixed but as far as I am concerned it would be short term positive gain versus long term negative gain where "gain" here is of the monetary kind.

Now these photographs are normally the bane of Nessie proponents as they can often be difficult to distinguish from a real monster picture. However, there is an important and unexpected slant to this which needs some attention. Dick Raynor is one of the recognised analysts of the Loch Ness phenomenon who has been involved with the mystery for over forty years. His various critiques of monster films and photographs throughout the years have been well received by those sceptical of any large creatures in Loch Ness.

Now since Dick does not generally miss an opportunity to point out what he thinks are problems with my analysis and those of others, I am sure he won't mind his own coming under the spotlight.

The problem here was his initial analysis of the picture which you can find at his website. Before the fibreglass hump revelation, he conducted an experiment with a 25cm plastic bottle at the location he thought was close to the Edwards picture. He placed the bottle in the water and attempted a size comparison by overlaying the Edwards photo and lining up the contours of the background hills. You can see the results half way down his webpage. Based on this, he estimated the object in the water to be 0.6m long or about 23 inches. The conclusion of Dick's analysis was that the object was an un-monster like length of about 20 inches and hence was dubious.

So, as usual, sceptics would congratulate Dick on his analysis, dump the picture and move on to the next target. That was until Steve Feltham turned up.

When the truth about the fibreglass prop came out, a contour comparison with that object showed it to be about 1.2 metres out of the water. This can be seen just below the bottle experiment on Dick's own webpage where he overlays the Edwards' object with a picture of Adrian Shine standing beside the prop. This means Dick was out by 100% in his estimate. The object was twice as large as he estimated and the combined image was an optical illusion, the hump though closer is actually larger and further away (In fact, since the bottle is further away than the overlaid hump, bringing it closer to the spot where the hump is, makes it slightly larger, increasing the error).

This issue is briefly mentioned on his webpage, but in a series of postings to, Dick admits his error in more detail and eventually figures out he got his camera height wrong:

"I finally figured out where I had gone wrong - I missed an upright handrail stanchion on the fly bridge of NH4. If that is the object in the bottom left, GE simply snuck a photo under the handrail while the crew were filming."

So what is Dick saying here? Did he figure out how to get the bottle-hump scaling right or something else? It is not clear but the implication of this is that the difference between standing somewhere different on the same boat at the same distance to the same object can result in a doubling of the estimate! Either way, it does not matter, the initial numbers were wrong.

So, the main point is this, if Steve Feltham had not stepped forward, many would have assumed that Dick's analysis was spot on because it involved maths and hard numbers.  The truth was nearer to four feet than 23 inches which is a more monster like length. It does not matter that the picture was proven to be a hoax on other grounds, a picture cannot be proven to be a hoax for the wrong reasons.

This was a possibly unique opportunity to test the practise against the theory since we have the actual object used. Something important has come out of this sorry episode - a demonstration of the difficulty in assessing alleged photographs of the monster and the lack of peer review.

This raises the question of how accurate are other sceptical analyses of monster evidence? For example, Dick and others attempted to reproduce the Lachlan Stuart photograph from 1951 on another webpage. The problem now is whether this is as accurate as made out? Like the bottle and hump overlay, are the Stuart objects actually bigger in size and subsequently further out in the water where it may be too deep to put hay bales? The reproduced overlay may again be an illusion. Indeed, Lachlan Stuart, being on land, could have taken his picture from a far more diverse range of camera heights than on a boat. Does this mean the possibility of error in estimation is significantly more?

In fact, Lachlan Stuart stated that the three humps were 5 feet across at the waterline and 2, 4 and 3 feet high from left to right.  Using the person in Dick's picture as a scale, it would appear that, like the Edwards hump, the superimposed Stuart humps are half the size of the original account. In other words, 100% out again. If the Stuart picture is overlaid and resized to Stuart's dimensions, the overlay no longer works.

One thing seems clear, just lining up the contours of distant hills on each picture is not enough when it comes to making judgements about close up objects.  I pointed this out in my own reply to this "hay bale" reconstruction back in January. Because the distant hill contours hardly change as one moves along the shore, there is an unscientific temptation to just cherry-pick the best spot to bolster one's own theory. This episode with the George Edwards pictures now proves the folly of presenting just one picture at one location.

All scientific experiments where possible carry error ranges. This reflects the fact that making measurements is not a perfect procedure. In this case, it is not enough to assume one camera position, a range is required to highlight the close range uncertainties in the experiment. This, of course, also applies to myself and other proponents of the Loch Ness Monster when we also carry out our pro-Nessie investigations. I am sure I could find similar examples in that regard.

So what is the conclusion of all this? Read the opinions and analyses of both proponents and opponents of the Loch Ness Monster and form your own opinion, readers. None of us are free from errors - no matter what tools we claim to use.

(NOTE: As part of any discussion in the comments section, I may include emails received privately).

From the Inverness Courier:

LOCH Ness cruise boat operator George Edwards has admitted the photo of Nessie he took last year is a fake – and he is proud of it.

Mr Edwards, of Loch Ness Cruises at Drumnadrochit, claimed in August 2012 that he took the picture – which attracted worldwide attention – near Urquhart Castle.

He said at the time: "I did not want to mention my sighting until I was sure that I had not photographed a log or something inanimate in the water in the water. I have friends in the USA who have friends in the military.

"They had my photo analysed and they have no doubt that I photographed an animate object in the water.

"I was really excited as I am sure that some strange creatures are lurking in the depths of Loch Ness."
Mr Edwards has now admitted the picture was a fake and was proud to be following in the tradition of the famous "Surgeon's Photograph" of 1934, supposedly showing the monster's head and neck, which was later proved to be a hoax.

"So as far as I'm concerned it's perfectly valid," he said. "It's just a bit of fun.

"I am quite happy to join the rogues' gallery along with the surgeon who produced the best known picture image of the monster in the world.

"How do you think Loch Ness would have fared over the years without that picture? I have no guilty feelings at all about what I have done."

It is understood Mr Edwards may have used a Nessie fibreglass hump which had previously been used in a National Geographic documentary to create his fake photo.

Yesterday Willie Cameron, of the Clansman Hotel agreed with Mr Edwards that the fake pictures would help boost the Nessie story rather than damage it.

"It brings the story back to the limelight," he said. "It will probably create another wave of interest in Loch Ness which is required to keep the story going.

"It's been running now for about 80 years and I think most people knew George's photos were fake, just like the majority of photographs of the monster."

However, Steve Feltham, who has hunted the monster from Dores beach since 1991, said the admission harmed Mr Edwards' credibility and the Loch Ness Monster brand.

"It does the subject no good and damages his own reputation," he said. "When you read things like this in the papers, people will think it's all just a fairytale.

"But if you read the reports and books you're more likely to think that something is there to be explained. He's supposed to be taking people out on tours but he's nothing more than a faker and a liar."

In 1989, Mr Edwards said he found "Nessie's Lair" after his boat recorded a depth of 812 feet in the loch near Urquhart Castle.

The trench was then named Edwards Deep.

Mr Edwards was criticised last year by the former boss of the Loch Ness centre Tony Harmsworth who said he should not have to resort to "fakery" to keep his customers entertained.

Mr Harmsworth, who lives in Drumnadrochit, subsequently resigned from the Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce after fellow members failed to back him.

From the Wall Street Journal:

DRUMNADROCHIT, Scotland—Steve Feltham was surveying the shores of the Loch Ness last summer when his cellphone rang, breaking his concentration. A local reporter was calling to say she had just received a photo of the Loch Ness Monster—its arched hump protruding from the waters—and she wanted to run it by him before sending it to print.

Mr. Feltham, a full-time monster hunter for 22 years, studied the photo.

"It is the best photograph I think I have ever seen," he told the journalist at the Inverness Courier from his home, a van parked on the pebbled shores of Loch Ness.

Many in Drumnadrochit, a village in northern Scotland, and throughout Britain, hailed the photo taken by George Edwards, a tour guide, as one of the most convincing monster pictures ever taken. It is the centerpiece of his tour company which operates out of Nessieland, a Loch Ness tourism center. He sells postcards of his photos to passengers for 50 pence (80 cents) apiece.

Monster hunter Steve Feltham, on Loch Ness, retracted his backing of a photo of Nessie, igniting a controversy.

But Mr. Feltham—who says a perfect day involves staring at the loch from dawn to dusk in search of the monster—now says his endorsement was a grave error. He says he soon realized the photo was actually of a 6-foot-long fiberglass hump used as a prop in a documentary filmed on Mr. Edwards's boat in 2011.

Other local experts agreed. Adrian Shine, a Nessie researcher and designer of the Loch Ness Center and Exhibition, and Dick Raynor, another researcher, say the photo is so obviously fake that it's an insult to visitors.

Mr. Edwards's photo has become the centerpiece of a fierce debate ripping through Drumnadrochit. It has exposed a bitter truth: Some key players in the Nessie industry don't believe the Loch Ness Monster exists.

One Monday afternoon recently, Mr. Edwards lashed out at his critics to passengers on his tour boat. Nothing irritates him more than the fact that some of his customers have just walked over from the Loch Ness Center and Exhibition, which sits 300 yards from Nessieland, where they are told the monster may not be real.

Incredulous, Mr. Edwards in May escalated his complaint with the town's fathers. "I carry thousands of tourists on Nessie Hunter every year and I am concerned when passengers tell me that after they have visited the self-proclaimed Official Loch Ness Exhibition and Center they come out feeling disappointed after [being] told that Nessie is a myth or a figment of the imagination." 

Mr. Edwards wrote in a letter to the Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce. "In recent years we have seen a decline in tourism across Scotland and maybe it is time for Mr. Shine to put up or shut up," he said in the letter.

Tony Harmsworth, another Nessie tour guide and editor of the chamber's website, in a written response accused Mr. Edwards of treating tourists like gullible fools and sending them away with "their heads full of garbage." Says Mr. Shine: "I would concur with that. That is exactly what he [Mr. Edwards] does and what he now admits of doing. He says people like this."

The Chamber of Commerce demanded Mr. Harmsworth remove his rebuttal to Mr. Edwards from the website, along with any other critical comments about Mr. Edwards. Disgusted members of the Chamber of Commerce, including the Loch Ness Center and Exhibition, have resigned in protest. Robert Cockburn, the Chamber chairman, says the group is officially neutral on Nessie's existence, and he is ambivalent on the Loch Ness Center's resignation.

Mr. Harmsworth argues that monsters cannot possibly live in Loch Ness. "Can anyone trust what the chamber is doing anymore?" he said. "To just feed people fake pictures because that's what you think they want is not really the way forward for tourism in the Highlands of Scotland."


Another battle front is the competing tourist centers, Nessieland and the Loch Ness Center. Their tours start similarly, with visitors walking through a dark, tunnellike entrance. But at Nessieland, tourists are regaled with tales of monster sightings and secret passages in the loch where Nessie may be lurking; the Loch Ness Center casts the monster as a myth. When it talks about supposed sightings of the monster since 1933, it plays circus music in the background.

The two tourist centers have a history of not getting along. In June, police cautioned and charged the owner of Nessieland, Donald Skinner, for stealing a sign outside the Loch Ness Center. He said he "took custodianship" of the sign because it was blocking one of his own. 

Mr. Edwards, who was laid off from his job as an oil worker in the 1980s, says his critics are trying to destroy Loch Ness, which depends heavily on tourism. "Can you imagine if Mr. Shine or Mr. Raynor came across to America and walked into Disneyland and told all the children there's no such thing as Mickey Mouse—don't be taken in by all this rubbish. That's what they're doing here." 

Mr. Shine says tourists would rather know the truth than be misled. He says Mr. Edwards asked whether he could run his tours out of the Loch Ness Center last summer, but that the center said no.

The Loch Ness monster has stirred debate for nearly 1,500 years. The first sighting may have occurred in 565 A.D., but interest in Nessie was revived in 1933 when a couple told the local newspaper that while driving, one of them spotted a creature rolling and tumbling in the roughly 23-mile loch. The creature then vanished into the foam. Loch Ness is 800 feet deep at its deepest.

Many were skeptical, but a year later, Col. Robert Wilson, a British surgeon, came forward with a photo he said showed the monster rising from the loch. Sixty years later, Christian Spurling, who made the model used in the photograph confessed that the photo was actually of a toy submarine with a sea-serpent head.

Mr. Edwards says he has no doubt that there are some mysterious creatures in the Loch Ness, including Nessie.

But he also has a confession. Throughout the fracas over his photo, he insisted to the local media it was real. He initially declined to comment to The Wall Street Journal. But he has relented, recently telling a boat full of passengers that he manufactured the shot to win attention for Nessie and prove how easy it is to fake photos.

However, he said another photo he took of Nessie—from summers ago—is for real:

"I've taken photographs over the years. One in particular, on the 6th of June, 1986, is an absolutely genuine photograph."