Friday 30 May 2014

Underwater Webcam Photos

Jay Cooney at the Bizarre Zoology blog gives a summary of various images captured by the now defunct underwater webcam run by Scotland Online. The original article is by Scott Mardis. The webcam was pulled back in 2003 and by all accounts seemed quite popular (I was too busy with toddlers to notice). There is an online petition you can sign to persuade the owners to put the webcam back online.

My own impression was the blurriness of the objects compared to the clear images of the underwater rocks and vegetation. That would suggest to me the objects are quite close to the camera and hence small. You can see the same feature with the close up blurry, green vegetation. The other problem is similar to the problem with the dog interpretation of the Hugh Gray photograph. Where is the rest of the body?


Sunday 25 May 2014

Loch Ness Trip Report (April 2014)

I was over at Loch Ness for a long weekend back in April and so I thought I would report the highlights here. I begin with the photograph above which was taken near the campsite I was based at. If you had walked along this beach about 45 years ago, you would likely have come across a man watching the loch with his tent nearby. That man was Frank Searle and though he is long gone, his story forms part of the often quirky mosaic that makes the Loch Ness Story so fascinating and attracts multitudes of visitors every year.

For me, there are usually four aspects to any trip to Loch Ness. The first is to try and get a glimpse and perhaps some footage of the creature itself. That, we could say, is the least likely objective to be fulfilled, whether one believes in the Loch Ness Monster or not.

With that in mind, the second objective is to try out new equipment and ideas whilst there. The third objective is to look into old cases to see what new information can be gleaned and the last objective is simply to relax and enjoy the beautiful area that is Loch Ness.

As regards the first objective, nothing was seen which would make me think there was a monster in close proximity. I guess I will have to try and be more gullible when I am next looking at birds,  passing pieces of wood or boat wakes!
There was one experiment I wanted to finish off and that was whether objects are just visible just below the loch's surface. My contention is that they are, but only to a small depth. There are some cases (but not many) where a large, dark shape has been reported as being visible just below the surface. The late monster hunter, Ted Holiday, had such an experience in the 1960s and this continues up to the present day with such cases as Jon Rowe. 

I had previously and conclusively tried this with a silver-grey tray, but now it was the turn of a matt black tray I acquired at the local Fort Augustus stores. The video below shows the tray visible in over a foot of shallow waters. The stones below provide a lighter backdrop to increase the tray's visibility. This contrast would tail off as one moved such a dark object into deeper waters.

This experiment was conducted at the site of the famous Lachlan Stuart photograph taken in 1951. I include a clip of that scene below. I visited this area a few times when writing a series of articles on that picture. The contention is that his three humps were merely hay bales but I have my doubts about the source of that story. But come rayn or shine, I will continue to defend that doubt. :)

Now there was one ongoing experiment I have to speak of, and that is trap cameras. I consider them a valuable tool in Loch Ness research and the more of them around the loch the better. I had previously given one to Steve Feltham but the other I placed a year ago on the other side of the loch road to see what was happening on the land rather than the loch. In other words, it was not looking at the loch. I was just curious to see what passed before its lenses.

I placed the camera in a good location in April 2013, but when I went back to get it in August 2013, I could not find it! The reason being that the hillside had become like a jungle  over the summer months and had become unrecognisable. Despite taking a picture of the location, I looked around for a good while to no avail. I concluded it had either been nicked or it was hidden under some vegetation.

So I let this previous winter have its way and reduce the undergrowth, but this return visit still turned up nothing. It may yet be there, but I do not intend to waste any more time on it. Some you win, some you lose. I'll buy a new set of trap cameras for deployment over the winter when I go up again in August. As I said, the more the merrier.

As readers may recall, I posted an article some weeks back on Nessie as land predator. I kept that thought in my mind as I walked along the shores of the loch, testing it against what I saw at Loch Ness. Interestingly, this field at Borlum Bay had a good supply of sheep for an adventurous Nessie!

On the subject of sheep, I did stumble across a sheep carcass near the Lachlan Stuart location and it presented a bit of a minor mystery. Perhaps not a monster class mystery, but more like a "how did it get there" mystery. The carcass was readily identified but the skeleton was about ten feet from the shore where there was wool tufts caught on branches.

So, what accounted for the distance between wool tufts and main body? Did the sheep somehow stumble from the shore line, catching its wool in the branches before expiring further in? Or did it die on the shoreline only to be dragged further in by a predator?

Quite how the sheep got there was a question itself. I was not aware of any areas of sheep grazing nearby. Perhaps the sheep died further up the shore in the shallows and floated to that point, later to be dragged in shore by a predator. If so, what animal can drag a full sheep carcass ten feet? Well, that is one for further speculation.

Talking about the dead, I was over the other side of the loch later on the trip and came across this curious sight by another part of the loch's shoreline. It was a rectangular arrangement of stones on three sides with the contours of the beach forming the fourth side. A cross made from branches was placed at the head of this "grave" at the far end of the photograph.

Was it a grave of some description or some area designated as "sacred" by somebody? I would hardly think anyone was buried there, but neither was I prepared to start digging! If anyone has an idea as to the possible purpose of this site, I would appreciate a comment.

Sadly, there are sights around the loch that are not mysterious and one would prefer were not visible. I refer to the garbage dumping that surreptitiously goes on annually around the loch. Some people regard Loch Ness as a gigantic waste bin. The photograph below was taken near Urquhart Castle.

I paid a visit to Steve Feltham after this and took in the lovely view from his home at Dores Bay. Note the lenticular cloud formation making its way over Loch Ness. Or should that be a fleet of flying saucers? After all, did not Frank Searle claimed to have once photographed a UFO flying over Nessie?!

Steve was busy putting up a wind turbine which powers his home and as we chatted a local friend of his turned up. Steve said his friend's mother lived just over the other side of Dores Bay and had a sighting back around 1992. She had looked out over the familiar sight of the bay one morning to see an object just under the surface swimming past. It was described as having a crocodile-like back and was estimated as being six feet long (the visible portion I presume). It was reported at the time, but the journalist seemed to have turned it into a crocodile sighting! Not quite the same thing.

After this, I dropped in on the local salmon farm and finally made contact with Jon Rowe, who took that interesting picture back in 2011. My presumption that the picture had been taken from the shore jetty was wrong. He was on the platform further out and closer to the cages. My one regret was that they did not have security cameras trained on the cages. My own feeling is that this place is a draw for Loch Ness Monsters who like a salmon or two. However, a short lesson on the structure of the cages suggested they would not be penetrable by our large denizen. It looks like Nessie is limited to window shopping when it comes to farm salmon.


I was out again at night time with the infra red recording equipment to see if Nessie would pop up in the hours of darkness. However, I have to point out that even if she was ten times more likely to surface at night than at daytime, then the odds would still be around 2000 to 1 against a sighting for the duration and field of view in question. I ran the equipment at two sites for a few hours but I was beginning to like the idea of leaving it running longer term. How one achieves that without getting the equipment stolen or ruined by the weather will require some thought.

I bought two new pieces of equipment to try out for this year. The first was a Toshiba Camileo Clip recorder which was modified to record in the infra red for night use. Apparently, some ghost hunters like these devices. You clip it on to your jacket lapel, set it to record and it logs your activities as you move around the area putting your hands to other uses.

They are quite nifty devices which record at 1080p HD, 5x digital zoom, microSD card support and a resolution of 5MP. I suppose I would regard it as a human equivalent of a car dashcam; hook it up, start recording and get on with other tasks hands free.

The other item was a Trifield 100 XE electro magnetic field detector. This device detects and measures magnetic, electric and radio/microwave fields in three axes for more precise measurements. Now I am not exactly sure why I need this from a Loch Ness Monster point of view. If one was a paranormal investigator, it may be a required tool, but at Loch Ness, it was more a case of being curious as to how energy readings registered locally. 

Normally, one should not expect the needle to move much at all.  At home, it rose in the presence of an active microwave oven and close up to the house's fuse box. It would also rise slightly near electricity power lines. At Loch Ness, the needle barely moved (as expected), but in future, I intend to see how it performs at various selected areas.


I popped over to Loch Ness Cruises based at Fort Augustus and boarded their well equipped Royal Scot boat. Some readers may recall that one of their crew, Marcus Atkinson, had an intriguing sonar hit back in September 2011, which I consider one of the best pieces of evidence for the Loch Ness Monster in recent years.

Apart from enjoying the trip up the loch, I was intrigued to have a look at their sonar-based seabed mapping Olex software, of which I show a shot below. One of the crew members, Ricky, explained more about it to me. The way it works is that it takes a continuous stream of readings from their Simrad sonar device. It is only interested in the depth readings, anything else is not important.

The computer software then translates that to a map location and adds that micro-contour detail to the overall map. Indeed, the map is a work in progress. The more sonar pings it processes, the more detailed the map becomes. We chatted about carcasses on the loch bed and he reckoned it could pick up such detail.

Ricky himself seems a bit of a character and has a few Nessie tales to tell. The most interesting was the time he was out kayaking when he looked at the water below him and saw a long neck, then a body and flippers and then a tail passed right under his vessel. I forgot to ask whether he subsequently broke all kayak speed records. Sceptics are free at this point to submit enraged comments about why he did not have a helmet video attached to his head!

Meanwhile, I waited in vain for a Jonathan Bright type water hump to appear on this cruise and another cruise I took in Urquhart Bay ...

At the Clansman Hotel, I also saw this old promotional poster for a Nessie comedy film made back in 1961. I reckon "What A Whopper!" cashed in on the Dinsdale film taken the year before. I bought this DVD some time back and I love those old Ealing type British comedies, so I enjoyed watching that genre include my other favourite subject matter. Nessie is depicted as green again. Why green?

So a busy enough time at the loch, but also time to relax. I hope to be back up later in the Summer and I wish all monster hunters at the loch success in the months ahead.