Thursday 23 April 2015

A 1934 Picture of Nessie?

My apologies first of all for not blogging this picture sooner. I have been sitting on this for months ever since I photocopied the newspaper article in Glasgow (I don't think the story is available online). Fellow cryptozoologist, Scott Mardis, came across a very cropped version of the picture during his research which prompted me into action.

The picture was taken on the 10th June 1934, but the identity of the photographer is not known. My excuse for delaying was to go to Loch Ness to line up the hill contours to establish the general location, but I will assume it was taken at Loch Ness near Fort Augustus. The account of how the picture was taken was also printed (see below and click to enlarge).

However, the picture is not new to the general Nessie literature. Peter Costello, in his 1974 book, In Search of Lake Monsters, reproduces a drawing of the picture. Based on the shallowness of the hump, he does not assign great evidential value to it.

Roy Mackal also mentions it without reproducing it in his book, The Monsters of Loch Ness, and, like Costello, consigns it to the inconclusive category. Maurice Burton also includes it in his sceptical book, The Elusive Monster, as does Witchell in his The Loch Ness Story, but none show the photograph. Today is your chance to see the original article.

Looking at the picture itself, it is not of great quality and there may even be retouching going on by the picture staff (a practise that was applied across all manner of newspaper photographs in those days). However, the sea serpent researcher, A. C. Oudemans, had reproduced the picture in a 1934 dutch article (below) which improves the quality but is cropped in extremis. Certainly, this picture shows the object to be a dark object consistent with the witness description (as a side note, I have been intending to translate this article for months, bear with me).

If this is a picture of the Loch Ness Monster, then we are looking at it in its double hump aspect. The problem is the relative shallowness of the hump which opens it up to sceptical interpretations of boat wakes. The photograph below taken over forty years ago by the Loch Ness Investigation gives you some idea of the problem.

We have also have the controversy over bow wave pictures in the recent David Elder video and again the shallowness of the phenomena opens it up to such interpretations.

If you believe there is a large creature in Loch Ness, then it is reasonable to expect shallow hump photos. In my own view, the creature is a water breather and so any breaking of the surface is largely accidental and there is no instinctive behaviour behind it. So how does one distinguish a barely breaking hump from a bow wave?

Well, there is one way to quantify this and that is to calculate the height to length ratio of the phenomenon in the given image. Applying this to our various images above we get the following numbers (I have added error estimates since uncertainty is part and parcel of such investigations).

Daily Express 0.05 +/- 0.006
LNI wake        0.034 +/- 0.006
Elder picture   0.031 +/- 0.006

It is to be noted that the 1934 object is 47% greater in its ratio than the next highest. Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, but the question has to be asked, how high can this ratio be for natural bow waves? If the object in question goes above such a limit, do we discard bow waves as an explanation in this case? At this point in time, the best number is 0.034 for the LNI wake.

Another point which tends to argue against a bow wave is the fact that there seems to be no other waves in the picture. You will note that the two example pictures of wakes display this extended nature, but there is not so much indication of this in the Express picture. The caveat to be applied there is that the quality of the picture mitigates against a full analysis.

So what is it? A bow wave or something else? If somebody can find a bow wave picture with a ratio that approaches the Daily Express object, leave a comment below.

POSTSCRIPT: One possible location for the photograph may correspond to the view below which was taken two or three miles out of Fort Augustus on the A82.

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Wednesday 22 April 2015

Nessie for Scotland's National Animal

The unicorn is apparently Scotland's national animal; but should it be changed to the Loch Ness Monster? Tourist agency, VisitScotland, think so and have set up a petition calling for the change.

I have already signed the petition, I ask other Nessie fans to do likewise!

A campaign has been sparked to have Nessie usurp the Unicorn as Scotland’s national animal.

Scotland’s National Animal is currently the unicorn – a legacy from William I’s decision to use the mythical creature on his coat of arms.

The campaign, launched today at the VisitScotland expo 2015, led by Inverness cruise company Loch Ness by Jacobite and is calling on the public to support essie’s quest to be formally recognised as a more relevant National Animal of Scotland, or at least as the National Monster.

The first sighting of the Loch’s oldest inhabitant dates back to 565AD, and the age-old question that she may or may not still roam the Highland waters is worth millions to Scottish tourism annually.

Just this week internet giant Google launched its own quest to survey the waters of the great Monster, making the need for a National status even more time critical.

It is now hoped that the public will get behind Scotland’s most famous mythical creature, by signing a petition which will be presented to the Scottish Government in an effort to secure Nessie a rightful place in the country’s legacy.

Freda Newton of Loch Ness by Jacobite said: “We have been running tours of Loch Ness for 40 years now, with many of our visitors coming to search for, or at least catch a glimpse of one of the world’s most famous monster.

“Nessie is an icon and an asset. There is no doubt she attracts hundreds of tourists to Scotland every year and she deserves recognition. If not as our National Animal, then at least she should be awarded the title of Scotland’s National Monster.”

To help raise awareness of Nessie’s plea, a new Twitter account has been set up to give the Loch Ness Monster her own voice, as she outlines her manifesto for change. 

@RealNessie is spearheading the campaign – reaching out to people online to support her cause.

The campaign has already received support from The Monster Raving Loony Party who have vowed to make Nessie Scotland’s National Animal and a protected species.

Tuesday 21 April 2015

A Couple of Items

If you use the Internet, you probably already know about Google putting up a picture for Nessie's 81st "birthday". Well, it's actually the 81st anniversary of the Surgeon's Photo, you can read about my 80th anniversary piece here.

There is also a special link to do their StreetView version of a trip under the waters of Loch Ness. My browser seized up when I tried it, Firefox just gets worse with age. On another browser, you get a cool trip down to the depths, but the distance from light to dark is brief due to the peat stained waters. Enjoy the trip.

When I watched Google's promo video, I was under the impression that the cruise boats at the Loch Ness Centre were used for the job. It turns out that Marcus Atkinson's boats were also (if not exclusively) used to do the 3D camera jobs, photos here.  Good job, lads!

While I am here, the BBC's Secret Britain is running an episode called Hidden Highlands of Scotland tomorrow. They will include an item on Mhorag, the monster of Loch Morar. I am not sure if Nessie features, but it's nice to see her sister get some airtime for a change.

The program runs on Wednesday 22nd April at 2100 on BBC One and you can watch it on iPlayer afterwards.

POSTSCRIPT: The Mhorag documentary can be viewed internationally at this YouTube link.

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