Sunday, 5 December 2021

Comments on a Summer Sighting


I note I had not posted on the Loch Ness Monster since October, having posted twice on her "sister" in Loch Morar. So, I wanted to remark on a sighting report made in the Summer at the loch. Gary Campbell, over at his Loch Ness sightings register website, had (last time I looked) registered a total of 13 sightings thus far for 2021. Helpfully, he has split them into two sections, those at the loch and those via the webcam run by Mikko Takala.

The total was eight webcam and five at the loch. I have already made my views on the webcam reports known before and await better equipment for webcam enthusiasts to use. It is one of the in situ sightings I move onto. This was a sonar contact from one of the tourist cruise boats that ply their trade on the loch. The description from Gary's site is brief:

26 August - Benjamin Scanlon was on holiday with his family and took a trip on the 'Nessie Hunter' of Loch Ness Cruises. He spotted something on the sonar on the boat and caught the image below. Captain Mike of the boat estimated it to be 3-4 metres in length, at a depth of about 20 metres, while the boat was in water about 40 metres deep. 

The image captured by Benjamin is shown at the top. Naturally, sonar images have come more into vogue since the fascinating image captured by Cruise Loch Ness a year ago. The skipper of the boat is Mike Bell who posted a better image on Facebook (below) which we can try and make some estimates from. The first thing to note is that a length of three to four metres is estimated to which we address some comments.




I reached out to Mike on Facebook and he answered some questions I posed to him. 

We were maybe around 200m away from the grant tower of Urquhart Castle, heading out to the deeper water. This was around 10 minutes into the cruise and after giving the young gentleman a demonstration of how the sonar works. We were moving at the time doing our usual tour speed and because of this and knowing how fast we go every second, we then use this to give a rough estimate of what size the object is.  I don’t know [how] familiar you are with sonar as well but we also had our gain turned down at the time, which is why the contact looks a little “broken”

As stated before, the horizontal display is a time axis, so no length dimension can be calculated directly without some further information, which is basically how much the boat has moved and how much the sonar contact has moved relative to each other. This is not a snapshot of the entire object, rather it is a continuous sequence of snapshots merging into a single drawn out streak. The best photo analogy would be someone with a long exposure camera snapping a car driving by. The resulting image would be a streak as successive images of the car merge into one long blur. Or, in this case, it may be more like the camera moving quickly past a stationary car resulting in a similar image.

This is quite frustrating and makes me ask if these sophisticated sonar devices have a snapshot option which would send out one or more quick pings to construct one single image and freeze frame display that to give us a better idea of the dimensions of the object. A continuous time display is actually a hindrance. Again I asked Mike Bell if such an option existed, he said he was not aware of it.

I asked Mike for his speed estimate and it was 6.5 knots per hour or 7.5 mph, but actually it is displayed on the sonar display screen anyway. The heading can also be seen on the display as roughly bearing 155 degrees or about south by south east.  However, the same cannot be quite said for the vertical axis which is the depth measurement in metres. Using the gradations to the right (0, 20, 40 and 60m), the maximum vertical extent of the object comes out at three metres or nine feet. Now granted this is not a rock solid calculation either as an object could move vertically up or down during the period of the scanning, causing it to appear thicker than it is.

To add to the uncertainty, the sonar is highlighting the biggest discontinuity between the object and the surrounding water, which is usually from water to gas to water here and usually indicates the lungs or swim bladder of an animal, if indeed it is an animal in view here. Note that animal flesh is largely composed of water and so is not so easily distinguished from the surrounding waters. I say that lungs or swim bladder as the interface between different temperature layers of water is usually blamed for these readings by more sceptical researchers. There is no denying that the thermocline exists and is detectable, my only objection is that it should appear practically all the time to which I asked Mike if the phenomenon was still visible on the return journey to the pier.

His answer was it was not, but neither was the thermocline as they had turned down the gain to filter it out as much as possible. This naturally leads to the question as to how the object would look if the gain was raised? In other words, what is the "true" nature of the image? Gain is defined as the sensitivity of the sonar receiver to compensate for water depth and water clarity. Increasing the gain shows more detail, and decreasing the gain reduces screen clutter. In terms of the photographic analogy, it is a bit like reducing the aperture size, producing a dimmer image and the effect that has on objects in the picture.

That may well affect the vertical estimate of three metres given above which introduces the need to find a suitable frame of reference against which to measure these sonar contacts when certain parameters can be varied via buttons and dials. This procedure is called calibration and it can involve tests such as dropping an object of known size and density to predetermined depths and note its sonar image for a variety of configurable parameters - or a default set. This is a natural question to ask because a three metre deep contact which is assumed to be just the lungs or swim bladder would imply an awfully big cross section for the whole creature.

But what about a skeleton, are not bones denser than water too? They would be but remember it is the discontinuity in density differences that registers on sonar and the transition from gas to water is bigger than from bone to water. But I suspect a skeletal echo return could add to the "fuzziness" of the image. In the absence of calibration, Mike's own size estimate is one based on experience and how the sonar contacts from known objects such as fish compare to this curious and large contact.

So expect more sonar images to appear in the media as we move into 2022. These are to be welcomed and analysed on their own individual merits. However, a form of sonar "fatigue" may well set in at some point as readers get used to this kind of image and then the questions will be asked as to what do we do with these images and what is the next step after that? That is probably an evolving debate.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


57 comments:

  1. Could it be a Large seal ?? as it is only around 3 metres long, and at a depth of only 20 metres

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    1. It's possible. The depth at roughly 65ft is still deep enough to hide a large creature (always reminds me of Robert Badger) but the 3 meter measurement isn't over exciting unfortunately.

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    2. Possibly a large seal sure, we know they get into the Loch. But with such ambiguity this image could be a young Nessie or a large seal or anything really. I like that it is clearly something midwater but it raises many questions.

      Sonar technology needs to improve ( in time yes it will ) or we will be stuck guessing the identity of these contacts. It's great to see that something is swimming around down there still !

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    3. Would nessie being a very large unknowable seal work?

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    4. The assumption at any given time is that there is not a seal present in the loch as they have never been indigenous and just chase the fish during the seasonal runs. But once trapped they can stay for months. One would expect some accompanying surface reports, photos, etc as they are naturally inquisitive creatures.

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    5. The seal envisioned by Peter Costello might be unique, being a long neck variety though!

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    6. If the seal though was the long beck one envisioned by Peter Costello. might not operate as a normal seal though!

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  2. A quick look on google images " best sonar for fishing " shows fish finders far superior in imaging to this Loch image here. I'm guessing the catch is the great depth of Loch Ness hinders such fish finder imaging?

    Why do these cruise boats on the Loch have sonar imaging with 1985 video game quality ?? Crap!

    I just received my copy of your book " Photographs of the Loch Ness Monster " now I own all three. Great read !!

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    1. Enjoy the read.

      There are better quality 3-D type sonar on cruise boats, maybe not on this one.

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  3. Do seals normally dive that deep to feed in the loch?

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    1. I am sure 20 metres is no problem to a seal, if one was around.

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  4. I know Seals can dive deep, I remember on a Nature programme, years back they tracked a Female Elephant Seal, and I'm pretty sure She dived to around 4,000 Feet !!....

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    1. Curious how many times sonar and sightings are things like fish and seals coming into Loch Ness, and not Nessie itself?

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  5. I thought I read somewhere that some sonar companies like to test new equipment on Loch Ness "due to the unique properties of the water" (totally not to see an unknown animal).....Is that even true?

    If it is, then surely they must see something down there, the amount of hits these 'regular' sonar devices capture proves something big is down there.

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    1. @The Latman any ideas where you read this because that sounds really interesting. I got carried away with myself the other day and ended up looking at boats for sale lol and what sonar equipment would be available to the average joe, safe to say that I'd need to put in for a lot of overtime at work! Maybe one day...

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    2. Me too...was checking-out prices for underwater drones!

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    3. @Riitta Fancy going halfers? lol

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    4. Riitta, speak to Steve Feltham first, he has a submersible drone.

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    5. I assume the "unique properties" include the steep side walls and trench like shape. If these companies did find something interesting would they publicise it?

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    6. It would make perfect sense to test new or improved sonar equipment at Loch Ness as you've already stated Roland. What a job that would be right, cruising around Loch Ness, taking point, scanning and mapping the Loch and fingers crossed capture something mysterious.

      Give me a shout sometime Roland.

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    7. I wish I could remember where I read it, perhaps I saw it in one of the documentaries.

      I think they said that the peaty nature of the water, along with the shape of the sides, were something to be excited about in terms of sonar development.

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  6. Hi GB ,I've Loved this Site and the comments section, for awhile but only just joined in. Living in Devon not Yet been to Scotland. But have read and studied about cryptozoology and have lots of books. I was just wondering on the subject of Itinerant large Creatures, does anyone think there could be a connection between the strange "object" seen by Ted Holiday and Mr. Cameron etc, and the one seen briefly later that Year in the flooded River Ness, Heading towards the Sea in a downpour in the City by Two Men. Both were very large and had ridges or spikes along the top part??

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  7. Could be, altho it sounded Like it was Huge

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  8. The largest was 27 feet long Caught in Russia I Believe, but the Atlantic Sturgeon as far as is known grows to Barely half that Size. Still a Very big Fish tho of course

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    1. There appear to be some in lake Illiani in Alaska that can get that big!

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    2. If one saw a Fish that big, would be a monster!

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    3. How many london buses is that ?

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    4. I've never been a fan of the sturgeon theory. Far too many accounts that have no resemblance at all. Noted, there are a few but to me it's just another 'lazy go to'. We have had experienced angler's over the years who have witnessed unusual behaviour and none as far as I'm aware mention sturgeon. Surely experienced angler's will know a sturgeon if they see one.

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    5. If the LNM turns out to be a fish I'm out. To be honest if it isn't a plesiosaur (which it certainly won't be) I'll be gutted.

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    6. I'd love to find a plesiosaur too but that's wishful thinking. You're not alone on that one mate. I believe that Nessie is an amphibian but what? That's why we're all here I guess.

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  9. If these Sonar contacts in the last few Years, are a large Creature, then an itinerant one seems most likely. Allowing for the many Times there were long spells without any Sonar hits, then it's unlikely a large enough population of big Creatures to keep the Gene pool going, are permanent residents in Loch Ness. I always liked the Giant Amphibian idea, because it's a Good Environment for Them. It would also Explain Land Sightings. I actually came up with the Greenland Shark Theory Years before Jeremy Wade. I remember texting it to Dick Raynor at the Time. But now I Think A Very Large Eel or a Sturgeon are by far the strongest candidates left

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    1. Interesting. I know you've stated that the amphibian theory explains the land sightings however you then say that a large Eel or Sturgeon may be the strongest candidates. If you belive that's now the strongest candidate what changed your mind and what to you think others have been seeing on land?

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    2. just saw a film that showed 30 ft long anaconda off Fl coast attacking something off coast line anything like a giant sea snake ever been seen over there ever>

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    3. Can you share the link to that video please, I've got a keen interest in snakes. Also, are you asking if there could be a giant sea snake in Loch Ness? If so then the answer is most definitely no! Here in Scotland we only have one native snake and that's the Adder, size wise they tend to be 2ft-3ft with the female being bigger than the male.

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  10. Well firstly I love the whole mystery, including everything over the years even the hoax pics . I'm pretty much agnostic over things, partly science, partly fantasy. The Land Sightings are really an enigma arent they ?? Its tempting to say they are either hoaxes or mistakes in identity. I admire both Dick Raynor, and Adrian Shine. People rush to put them down as arch skeptics, but they have both done a heck of a lot of research, over a lot of years and come to their conclusions in a well thought out way. There is definitely a lot of different Things going on at the Loch:- standing waves, boat wakes, floating logs, water Birds, mirage effect, swimming deer, etc,etc. But it's the sonar hits that remain enigmatic, and large Fish seem the most logical explanation. But this mystery will probably go on indefinitely because we all love a mystery, away from the cold reality of the Daily news.

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    1. I'm very much the same and it's nice knowing that many on here approach each account with logic rather than screaming MONSTER at every photo or video which claims to have captured something. I try to stay clear of the 'Official Sightings' website and those webcam 'Sightings' as I feel it does more harm than good.

      I have an incredible amount of respect towards Adrian Shine and he's the reason why I have a huge interest towards the natural behaviours and the creation of the Loch. I'd happily sit and listen to him all day, I obviously don't share all his conclusions in regards to Nessie but I do respect them.

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    2. Think Nessie could be a combo pf creatures, still like Extreme sized eels, seals, and amphibians of unknown type!

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  11. Very Large eels or a locked hugh Sturgeon for nessie?

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    1. You are obsessed with this giant Eel and giant Seal thing. I've lost count in how many time's you've asked this question, are the answers not satisfactory?

      I honestly don't mean that in a rude or nasty way, I'm just trying to understand.

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  12. The one Thing with Seals and otters is, they can manoeuvre on Land aswell as Water. So anything blocking the River like at Morar, shouldn't be a problem to Them ?? But have Seals ever been reported in Loch Morar. And has there been any recent Sonar work there ??


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    1. I like to think that those who have invested time towords the Loch and the mystery of the LNM are more 'alert' or 'aware' in how to identify a Seal or Otter, I also hope that the average person can do the same and I say that without trying to cause any offence. I try not to assume but at times it can't be helped.

      Yes, you're right. Both Seal and Otter would have no issue crossing the shallow parts of the River Ness but as far as I'm aware there's very little accounts suggesting a giant Seal or a giant Otter, for me personally they do not fit the bill.

      I've no idea about Seals being spotted in Loch Morar and the same applies to any recent sonar scans, I don't have that answer sadly. If you are interested then follow this link below, it's pretty fascinating...

      http://contours.org.uk/bathymetry/morar/3d/

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  13. Yes I get that it's difficult to see, Seals and otters and not recognise them. Maybe People with little familiarity from a certain distance, with the old expectancy theory. But not every case. I was actually referring to the Hydro electricity dam on the River morar when I said about Seals and otters, the River Ness doesnt prove a Hindrance to otters and Seals, even with the weirs, especially when it's in speight. And Adrian Shine has said of historical cases of sturgeon Swimming many miles up Rivers, and negotiating locks and weirs . What about the story of porpoises being present in Loch Ness in 1914 ?? Any views on that, and another old News story on this blog about an Angler Seeing a pilot whale in the Loch after a long Spell of very heavy rain and floods ?? Definitely interesting .....

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  14. I sure hope these cruise boats upgrade their sonar, seems to be more and more hits lately.

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  15. @Black Garden - I will admit that I haven't heard about the pilot of Whales or Porpoises in Loch Ness.

    Are you suggesting that this could be a potential theory to what the LNM could be? If not then no worries but if you are it seems highly unlikely as Whales and Dolphins are mammals and breathe air just like us so we would see whales and dolphins daily if that was the case.

    I wonder if there's a way to count how many time's the River Ness has either burst its banks or became so deep due to weather conditions that it could potentially hide a larger creature. If we discovered the number of times this has happened we could then compare sightings of the LNM to those specific events.

    Does that make sense?

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  16. Yes it would be fascinating to find out about the River ness flooding, and any sightings connections. No I wasnt suggesting porpoises as Cause of Nessie sightings,I just thought that if Porpoises, had gotten into the Loch then there is no reason why a Hypothetical Large creature couldnt aswell ??. And there has been a lot of claims of large Mystery Creatures off the Scottish coast down the Years ....

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    1. There was the great flood of 1849 which destroyed a bridge and sent a surge down the loch which left its mark to this day in the silt depth. One could doubtless tabulate the major ones and compare against Nessie flaps.

      Obviously anything just before 1933 would be of more interest.

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  17. @Black Garden - My apologies for not understanding your meaning but I do now.

    @Roland - I agree. It's definitely something to consider. You and I have briefly spoken about trail cams in the past and if I had the money or resources I would love to be able to place underwater trial cams in very specific locations around the Loch. I would place these at the North end of the Loch where the River Ness begins/ends, place more near the canal and I would also place them near other rivers that run into the Loch, especially those that carry fish. As we've highlighted before those areas may be 'shallow' but still deep enough to hide a large creature.

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  18. I agree A.R, about the cameras, Especially⁷ either End of the River Ness. And G.B, how about the creature spotted by miss Macdonald in the River heading Towards Loch Ness In 1932 ?? Her description is very Sturgeon like. Also theres the Creature seen in 1988, the Lady who saw it described it as like a crocodile, or Some kind of Fish again could be a Sturgeon ?? Sturgeon live a very long Time, Live on the bottom and only surface occasionally. I saw a programme about Angling for Sturgeon in the River volga some Years ago. While they were fishing there were sturgeons lying still with just their backs sticking out of the water, I couldnt believe how much they looked like a hump or upturned boat. Could there be Sturgeon coming and going, even if they dont reside permanently in Loch ness?? Sturgeon are ancient, very reptilian in appearance, and Very rare. To me they are far from an uninteresting possibility . But I am not saying there isnt anything else In the Loch, just think the Sturgeon theory is more likely than most

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    1. @Black Garden - That's the beauty of the mystery I guess. If we only considered the River and Loch sightings then yeah, it's possible that a sturgeon could enter the Loch and if you place that alongside witnesses who claim to have seen a crocodile like creature then I can see the resemblance especially with that armoured body.

      Only a small amount of eyewitness describe seeing a resemblance to the sturgeon, so for me personally I believe that it's the opposite from your conclusion. I struggle to see it being the more likely candidate as it doesn't line up with the vast majority of sightings and there's no chance that a sturgeon can roam around on land.

      There's plenty to take into consideration, gotta love the Nessie community!

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    2. Could there be more then one type of nessie then, Sturgeon, eel, seal, amphibian, fish etc?

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    3. @JesusFan - Well that really depends on who you ask and what you believe because there's a decent amount of diversity when it comes to theories. Are you asking if there's different species of the same creature?

      We still don't know what Nessie could be so it's impossible at the moment to answer your question. I do understand why you're asking, it's a valid question but for now the answer remains locked away.

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    4. Just wondering if a big problem is that there are not just one kind of nessie, but could, be sightings over years of large eels, seals, fish, amphibians etc! Still think could be something like a sturgeon or a shark swimming in and out!

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    5. @JesusFan - Really? A shark! Even if the River Ness did burst its banks on a regular basis there's still locations thoughout that would prove extremely difficult for a shark to navigate. I won't 'shut down' that theory altogether and I acknowledge that some sightings have mentioned a fin but those accounts are not consistent. I won't say that you're wrong because that's what you believe, I just don't agree with it at all.

      What about potential land sightings and accounts over the years? Sturgeon and Sharks can not live or survive on land. Sturgeons and sharks do not have long necks. The only link I can see is that if a shark or sturgeon did breach the waters it may appear as an upturned boat BUT we would also see fins and as I've said before, those accounts are no consistent.

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    6. I do not hold to shark myself, but a very large sturgeon and large eels would seem to cover many sightings!

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