Tuesday 1 January 2019

Nessie Review of 2018

Let us begin the review of the year past by going straight to the list of Loch Ness Monster reports as found at Gary Campbell's sightings register.

26th March 1500-1530: Dakota Frandsen sees a 40 foot dark shape moving about near the Castle jetty. The shape seemed to avoid boat traffic in the area but as a black speedboat came by it seemed to attract the shape's attention which lead it to briefly surface. The "skin" of the object was grey in colour, almost like that of a hippopotamus. The shape started swimming towards the opposite shore and disappeared. Other, similar shapes seemed to also appear but quickly vanished.

30th April 1207: Eoin O'Faodhagain from County Donegal took a ten minute video from the Loch Ness webcam. This was covered here.

28th May 1100-1130: Morag Connor and her friend were driving north out of Drumnadrochit. They saw a creature with a long neck with some humps behind it sticking about 7-8 feet out of the water and about 50m from the shore. The creature had an all dark body but with no discernible head. They were unable to stop as they were driving and there was no place to pull over.

1st June 2230: Natalie Hodgson and her family, on holiday from Yorkshire, took this picture of the head of an unknown creature in the water from the Highland Lodges holiday park where they were staying. The creature, photographed by her daughter, remained for a few minutes caught in the moonlight before disappearing.

5th August 0938: Marylin and her family, regular visitors to the area, were on holiday from Leeds travelling from Drumnadrochit to Fort Augustus when they looked out at the loch and spotted a strange looking lump on the surface of the water, which was very still and quiet at the time. It looked dark brown in colour and 'sort of like an upturned boat'. They revisited the area by boat in the afternoon and there was nothing like that in that area. Unfortunately because they were driving and couldn’t pull in, they didn’t manage to get any pictures.

8th August 1039: Ten year old Isla Ross was with travelling in the back of a car when she took this picture on her iphone of something unexplained near Urquhart Castle. Her family has confirmed that there was no boat traffic nearby.

16th August 1400: A resident local to Loch Ness reported a possible sighting.  The location was the woodlands walk behind the Dores beach and although the witness reckons the creature was forty feet from the shore, they were no less than 100 metres from the beach. I covered this event here.

17th August: Charlotte Robinson, 12, from Leeds was staying at the Loch Ness Highland Lodges at Invermoriston with her parents when she spotted something unexplained just 50ft away on the first day of her holiday. She took some pictures on her iphone and the full report here.

17th August 0940: The Locke family from Ontario, saw a "solid dark shape" appear about 50 yards offshore close to the Castle. The sighting lasted about one minute and this is what they captured on camera.

5th September 1735: Dipak Ram and Tom Smith on vacation from England saw a dark shadow in the water near Dores beach. Initially they thought was just a wave but the shadow remained persistent for about 30-35 seconds with water moving around it. When they zoomed in using their camera phone, it became much more apparent that it was a stationary object. After 30-35 seconds, it disappeared downwards into the water.

22nd November: A visitor from the United States saw a dark green (almost appeared black) object protruding from the water, at about 4.5 feet in height, slowly moving farther from shore. There was no boat traffic and the sighting lasted about 30 seconds.

13th December 1440: Ricky D Phillips, a well known military historian, heard a curious noise while taking pictures where the River Oich flows into Loch Ness at Fort Augustus. He looked up from his phone and saw a long, straight neck, a head maybe the size of a rugby ball, all completely grey, and a narrow face, which was only about 20ft away - it then turned and disappeared. This was covered by me here.

19th December 1020: Caroline Barnett from the south west of England was watching the Loch Ness Webcam when she saw something move slowly up the loch. Initially she thought it was a boat or similar but the object appeared animate and then disappeared into the water before reappearing. It was dark in colour and nearer the east shore of the loch.

So the roster comes out at thirteen reports with five hump reports, five neck reports with three I would consider unclassified with six of them being captured as mobile phone camera images and two as webcam videos, but none of them are mobile camera video clips. What does one make of this year's collection of images?

The first thing to say is that the much vaunted role of the ubiquitous mobile phone camera has fallen short again. The reason is quite simple as these devices are not made for the kind of detailed images we need of long distance objects which pop up in the loch. Proper DSLR or SLR cameras with telephoto lens are what is needed but their use seems to be on the wane.

There is one caveat to this and that is the zoom feature which allowed the images taken by Dipak Ram and Ricky Philips to show more details though the resolution may suffer depending on whether optical zoom or digital zoom is being used. I suspect the inferior digital zoom may often be the one in use. But, of course, in the eyes of readers, there will be a spectrum of opinion of as to which of these reports actually involve the Loch Ness Monster.

The most striking image is the close up of an apparent head and neck of the creature taken by Ricky Phillips just over two weeks ago. I covered that with an initial article, but hope to say more later. Certainly, if it passes the tests, it is one of the best images taken since the Johnston and Gray photographs. We shall see.

Other images of interest that turned up this year, but were taken in previous years starting with that curious object seen in the loch by an anonymous American couple in 2006. Was it the real deal or just a piece of bird shit on a window? I plump for the first option and continue to wonder why the best images are often the most rejected. Yes I know, high level of scrutiny and all that, but it guarantees nothing ever get past these over applied filters.

There was also the strange image noticed by Lisa Stout when she was looking for Nessie on Google Earth back in 2015. Explanations as to what that might be have varied as bird, bat, log, wave, photoshop, lens debris, divers and sycamore seed. Once again, with Loch Ness Monster pictures, you are guaranteed a list of possible explanations, the vast majority of which are always going to be completely wrong!

Meantime, out in the investigative field, the main item of news was the eDNA sampling experiment performed by Professor Neil Gemmell (below) and his team in June of this year as they descended on the loch with the equipment necessary to go back with a large number of water samples taken from a multitude of points across the loch's extent and depth.

Doubtless, this endeavour will form part of the major highlights of 2019 as well as the results of the DNA extraction and matching are published soon. Will they find no significant DNA, giving a boost to those who hold to a no Nessie, paranormal Nessie or visitor Nessie position? Or will they find something not matchable against the known inhabitants of the loch? And there yet may be a surprise as they also took samples from that other cryptid lake, Loch Morar.

Back at base here, the usual trips to Loch Ness with equipment in tow were made and new items of equipment were employed as a DJI drone and a Flir thermal camera were bought. There were trips in April and September amongst others including my new venture of Nessie guided tours. The drone has been operated over the Foyers beach area and also opposite Urquhart Castle where Lachlan Stuart took his famous three humped photograph. There is still some teething issues such as dexterity in use of the drone in flight and when recording over the waters, getting the right height for optimal coverage for an animal over 30 feet long and getting the speed right so that the recorded video is not blurred.

Back in February, I published my second book on the Loch Ness Monster, entitled "When Monsters Come Ashore" which concentrated on the few dozen sightings of the monster out of the loch on land. A curious and hotly contested part of the mystery which even believers in the monster do not accept as possible and we can add Frank Searle to the ranks of Nessie on land sceptics! On this theme, I note that the famous Arthur Grant land sighting finally got a plaque erected at the location, much to the chagrin of the sceptics!

Old and new stories were also reprised in 2018 as we recounted the tale of Sandy and his close encounter with a strange object near his canoe in 2010. There was also the story of a large object passing under a boat in the 1980s and a diver's encounter with Nessie as reprised by a current Nessie fan who knew the person.

Looking ahead, I aim to publish my third book on the Loch Ness Monster in a month or so which will concentrate on the good, the bad and the ugly of photographs of the creature. But what will 2019 hold in general for the mystery of Loch Ness? I have no idea, but I wish everyone a prosperous 2019!

The author can be comtacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com