Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Analysis of the Hugh Gray Photograph

 


I was invited by the Society for Scientific Exploration to write an article on the famous Hugh Gray photograph of the Loch Ness Monster for their Journal of Scientific Exploration. This has now been published online and is available for viewing from their Summer 2022 issue at this front cover link. The article is basically a revised and updated work on a collection of various pieces I wrote for my blog over the last eleven years. Arguments have been added, removed or modified and hardened where they needed to be. 

Needless to say, like any picture claiming to be a close up of the creature, it has generated controversy from the first day it was published in December 1933. Unlike any other picture, it had no predecessor, it was the first claimed photograph of the creature coming about seven months after the Inverness Courier article which started the mystery off. Here we have a picture which has levels of details that others do not have, yet it frustrates as people debate what they are actually looking at. You may have your own opinion, read over the article and see if that opinion is confirmed or changed.

As a bonus, look down the journal contents and you will find a review of my book, "The Water Horses of Loch Ness" by Henry Bauer,

Comments can also be made at the Loch Ness Mystery Blog Facebook group.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com




Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Eoin moves to the new Webcams


The new webcams from Visit Inverness and Loch Ness went live eight days ago on Monday 29th August and I wrote a piece on them a day later. So what is not to like? More webcams to watch, better quality, and closer to the action overall. I did however warn that the days of blobby Nessies were not necessarily over. Nevertheless, I recommended watchers such as Eoin from the old webcam moved over to the new ones.

Just three days after the webcams launched, Eoin emailed me claiming what could be his first sighting on one of the webcams.

To be fair, he did not outright label it as a monster sighting, but rather described it as something large round and black which arose from disturbed water then into a wake before submerging. This happened at 1118 on September 1st on the Shorelands Lodge webcam which I had indicated looked one of the best situated cameras. This is one of the images he sent me and you can also watch his video at this link.



There are several things I want to say about these pictures and the accompanying video. The first is the poor quality of the video and images. Now this is not the fault of the webcam, it is because Eoin continues to use his mobile phone to record images. The glare bouncing off the monitor into the mobile lens, the shakiness of the video and the unfocused images all conspire against assessment. Why is this happening? There is a snapshot feature on the webcam to capture quality images, here is one I took a few days ago.



The difference is obvious, mobile phones are bad enough as recording devices at the loch and are no better here. The result of this extra recording layer is more loss and corruption of data introducing artefacts into the original images. Neither is this acceptable when it comes to video. There are various free software packages you can install to capture video from your monitor. 

I installed one called OBS Studio which I downloaded from a review website and had it running within the hour and it recorded the full screen video of the chosen webcam perfectly. This is what is required, not mobile phones which introduce uncertainty and doubt. The video and photos given cannot be properly assessed due to the problems they introduce. I urge Eoin to start using these and ditch the mobile phone.

Now I understand that this was taken on a work computer by Eoin and so there may be issues installing video recording software. There should be no excuse using the snapshot facility. The solution is simple, start using the home computer or perhaps the mobile phone has a use here as it can be watched at work and doubtless there is some android or apple app which can also record screen video.

As to what is in the video and pictures, I cannot tell because of the quality of the images. That there is water movement is not in doubt, but the dark object is seen to disappear after one frame indicating an artefact. Blockiness has been introduced into the mobile video processing, so observe the vertical blocks on the general water surface and how they flicker in and out of view as the video progresses.

This may not have been observed by Eoin at the time and may be errors introduced when the video was compressed for storage. Either way, the mobile phone video recording layer needs to be eliminated. But all is not lost, if something anomalous can appear at the far end of the webcam, one assumes there is an equal probability it will appear at the near end of the webcam and the usual blobby issues will vapourise (once the mobile is dropped).

If that never happens, we can assume the far end objects resolve into recognisable objects which are not going to be presented as evidence of monsters. Be that as it may, I encourage webcam watchers to continue their observations, just as a lochside watcher would not contemplate using a camera or binoculars with smudged or scratched lenses, so the mobile phones must go.


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The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com






Tuesday, 30 August 2022

New Loch Ness Webcams and an Appeal

 


This week saw the arrival of a welcome facility at Loch Ness - better web cameras. In fact, five have been installed at various points around the loch to enhance the remote Nessie hunting experience. As you can see from the screen grab of the Visit Inverness and Loch Ness website, these are located at the sites of private businesses. These are listed below with their corresponding numbers on the map giving their locations and an idea of loch coverage.

  1. The Clansman Hotel
  2. The Airanloch Bed and Breakfast
  3. The Shoreland Lodges
  4. The Craigdarroch Hotel
  5. The Drovers Lodge



So, most of the cameras are on the busier north side of the loch, but this is likely in proportion to the number of commercial enterprises around the loch. However, as you can see, they are all nicely spread out to give different views of the loch surface. The webcams can be accessed at this link and this is where we go next to try each one out.

As each selection was clicked into live stream mode, the quality of the video was of good quality. Each can be expanded into what looks like full screen 16:9 and the square 4:3 aspect ratios. A zoom button moves in on the centre by a factor of 1.50 for a closer look. I assume this was a digital rather than an optical zoom. A click of the camera icon downloads an instant snapshot of the scene you are looking at in 4:3 format complete with date and time stamp. There is no option to record what you see or rewind or fast forward, but one could install an appropriate application to record the screen.

Most of them had a panning motion enabled apart from the Shoreland Lodges camera. All panned right to left but to varying degrees. Some would pan until 20% to 40% of the previous view was out before they reversed the pan. Some would pan with a greater sweep until a complete new view was seen. This has its pros and cons. The main pro is that more of the loch is under surveillance in a wider sweep and so more chance of seeing something of interest.

The reverse of this is that if you do see something, it may pan out of view before you get the snapshots you want. Given the rarity of seeing the monster surface before you on a live stream, I think I prefer the panning option to see as much of the loch as possible. The distance from camera to loch also varied as two were over 500 metres from the shoreline but the others were very close.

But all told, it is a great scheme that is up and running and I think my two favourites are the Clansman and Shoreland. The question is whether they will deliver game changing images? I think if the monster surfaces close to the shore nearest to some of these cameras, we will get some very interesting images that will not be so easily dismissed as the webcam fare we have been subject to in recent years. 

Obviously as an object surfaces further away from the webcam, the more uncertain the image. So snapshots of objects on the other side of the loch from any webcam should be treated with the same caution as before. Likewise, new images such as unfamiliar water patterns, passing branches and logs will get undue attention, but it should be no trouble to identify them as such.

However, it is the opportunity now to see objects much closer than before that open up possible new opportunities. So congratulations to those who put in the effort and money to get these projects going. Webcam users may now switch to the new webcams. With tongue slightly in cheek, perhaps each should sit a test to identify common objects and repeat to themselves daily, I will not pass off any old rubbish just to get my name in social media. I suggest a compilation of everyday objects be collected from the webcams over the year ahead and are published as a guide on the Visit Inverness Loch Ness website!

And now for that appeal. A film maker I know is producing a documentary on the Loch Ness Monster and its Hunters. He has asked if anyone knows of any film footage taken by tourists or locals of the loch from the 1960s to the early 1980s. This is just general footage of the loch and its surroundings, not anything to do with the monster. Email me at the address below if you have relevant information or leave a comment.


Comments can also be made at the Loch Ness Mystery Blog Facebook group.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com






Sunday, 21 August 2022

The Surface of Something

 


Forty seven years ago, a private meeting in the USA was held by Robert Rines of the Academy of Applied Science to which author Nicholas Witchell was invited to view the best of the underwater pictures taken at Loch Ness on June 19th 1975. Penguin Books subsequently rushed a new paperback version of Witchell's "The Loch Ness Story" to tell of the photographs which would now place the Loch Ness Monster under the discipline of zoology and not cryptozoology. The final chapter tells us that the order of notable slides was an upwards view of the boat from which the camera rig was suspended, the body and long neck, the gargoyle head and one final slide:

The final good picture showed the underbelly of the animal as it passed immediately above the camera. A cylindrical object stretched across the whole frame. The most noticeable feature of this was the covering of what were evidently parasites hanging off the belly. As we went through the whole sequence of pictures again, Bob described the reaction of a group of experts from the Smithsonian Institute who had flown over from Washington the previous day to see the pictures. Headed by Professor George Zug, the head of the Reptiles and Amphibians Department, they had been utterly amazed at what they had seen. They had, he said, noticed details which only the trained zoological eye would see; for instance on the underbelly picture they had been particularly interested by the parasites and there had been speculation that a dark area towards the left end could be the creature's anal fold.

This is the third in a series of articles on the 1975 underwater photographs taken by Robert Rines and the Academy of Applied Science. You can get the background on these famous pictures from the two previous articles here and here. I actually had not intended to write any third article until a fellow Nessie researcher got in touch with me. He pointed me to an archive of photographs maintained by MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which includes photos taken by the technical people from MIT involved in the 1975 search, namely Martin Klein on sonar and Harold Edgerton on optics.

Most are pictures of people directly and indirectly involved in the hunt, places around the loch, Martin Klein's sonar work and Harold Edgerton's underwater camera work. It is a fascinating collection of a time when people thought the monster was almost within their grasp. The Edgerton collection homes in on the underwater camera work done in Urquhart Bay under the auspices of the Academy of Applied Science. Most of the photos revolve around the ones we know about, the gargoyle head, the long necked body and so on. 

I had looked through some of the hundreds of pictures in the archive and then my fellow researcher pointed me to the image at the top of this article which could be a candidate for that "final good picture" mentioned by Witchell above. The fascinating thing is that I have never seen this photograph before in any book, magazine, discussion, web page or TV documentary in the decades I have been following this mystery. It was perhaps mentioned in words in some publications, but I would have assumed it was something else. The classification of the picture on the MIT website is as follows:


Water surface, Loch Ness (?) (Scotland, UK) - n.d.

Major collection: Science & Technology

Named collection: Harold E. Edgerton Collection

Object type: color slide

Maker: Edgerton, Harold Eugene

Place made: United States

Materials: 35mm film; plastic

Site location: Scotland, UK

Measurements: 2" x 2"

Surface of water on lake at Loch Ness (?) in Scotland, UK. DUPLICATE (CC)


I will now look at the pros and cons of whether this is a photograph from the 1975 expedition and if it is of the loch bed. The classification is uncertain as to when and where this was taken and suggests it is the surface of the waters of Loch Ness. It appears as if the curator has no backstory to it from anyone involved in 1975. Having looked at untold number of pictures of the watery surface of Loch Ness, I am certain the features on this surface have little to do with water and more to do with a solid surface. Let me now explain why I think this photograph could be the one described by Nicholas Witchell. First, he says the object is above the camera. To give some context here, the setup of the 1975 camera rigs is shown below.



The camera in question was the old 1972 strobe light camera rig here suspended at a depth of forty feet. It had been reconfigured to put the camera five feet below the strobe and tilted upwards to avoid back scattered light. Nicholas described the surface as stretching across the whole frame as this image does. He describes it as cylindrical and this could be argued from the bottom of the feature where we see what looks like a foreshortening perspective of surface features as they recede into shadow consistent with a cylinder. 

He also describes the surface as "above" the camera. Since the camera is pointing upwards, one may take this as a given, but if, for example, only the top of the surface was visible and it occupied the lower part of the picture, one could say it was in front of the camera rather than above it. Then we have the speculative mention of parasites and an anal fold to the left. The annotated picture below explains how these descriptions would line up well with the image.



Of course, the matter of anal folds and parasites is secondary as to what we are actually looking at in its entirety and so such speculations are set aside. Thus if we assume that this is the image that Nicholas Witchell was talking about, that leads us now to speculate on what is in the picture. Back in 1975, the AAS team were sure the mid-water camera rig never went near the loch bed and so anything photographed was also in mid-water. 

However, it is now accepted that the boat from which the rig was suspended was prone to drifting under the loch winds and could reach shallower waters and drag the rig along the loch bed whilst taking pictures at about one minute intervals. What is uncertain is how much this coincided with the photos taken on the night of June 19th into the 20th. For comparison, here are some shots of the loch bed taken during that time. The first was a calibration shot and the second was taken on the 19th June (we shall return to this shot later). The third shows the effect of silt disturbance which was especially evident in the famous gargoyle shot.





It is evident that there are differences between the surface of the image in question and the loch bed. The silt that accumulates on the loch bed basically gives it a smooth appearance which is punctuated by the appearance of rocks, branches. rubbish and so on. The rough textured surfaces gives no indication that any silt is present there or indeed objects such as rocks and branches. In fact, when I first saw the image I thought it looked more like the surface of the moon from a satellite!

I would also suggest the presence of the gouges on the image to the top left and top right dictate against a silted surface as the volatility of disturbed silt will not leave such sharp features. I say this in anticipation of suggestions that the gouges are produced by the camera rig dragging along the surface. The other point to make is that if this was the bed of the loch, it is almost as if it was a plan view of the surface, as if the camera rig was parallel to the bed hovering a few feet above it. That does not seem a likely scenario. If the camera was going to be parallel to the surface, it would be face down and probably in a cloud of silt.

However, the clarity and quality of the image under scrutiny is clearly superior to the other images which begs the question as to what circumstances allowed this to happen? Why is the image so sharp and detailed compared to the loch bed images? It could be because it is in a silt free region such as mid-water, thus aiding clarity or it may be a lot closer thus reducing attenuation of detail by the volume of water between camera and object. 

Or perhaps it is an image of the camera pointing up at the disturbed waters of the loch surface? The image below is of the loch surface during those days when the camera was titled up. Clearly, this lacks the clarity, detail and texture of the image and thus we should discount the surface of the loch as an explanation. The one remaining explanation related to the loch bed is the possibility that the camera rig did not hit the bed but had rotated in the water to face the loch wall. 



This is a theoretical possibility, though the sides are not vertical but slope to varying degrees. I could not find an image which shows the sides of the loch underwater in close detail, but I doubt the sides would look like this image since I still expect silt to lie inside clefts and indeed expect gravity to ensure surface features are more vertical in appearance. Nevertheless, I will keep this view on hold until suitable side wall images turn up.

But there are arguments against the image. One is that it has been accepted that the image described by Witchell was the loch bed image previously shown which we show again below. This was actually printed in the MIT journal, Technology Review, in March 1976 which discussed the 1975 images and was interpreted by the AAS as a cylindrical object ten feet away but they made no mention of parasites or anal folds. Now it could be that image, though I see nothing to the left to suggest an "anal fold" and the proposed creature would be swimming upside down, though this is not unheard of in the marine world. Then again, what should an anal fold look like? What did George Zug have in mind? Nevertheless, I can see features in both photographs which line up with Witchell's description. Obviously, the most expedient solution is to ask the man himself.



Now if this was the rough skin of the Loch Ness Monster, then it would be an astounding win for Rines and the Academy, but some questions have to be answered before we go that far though the rough texture of the surface evokes various thoughts, as it did with those zoologists back in 1975. My curiousity was aimed at the almost star shaped scar or gouge to the top right. Is than an animal like feature or something else? Also, the superior clarity of the image may be so good as to mitigate against it being taken by the same camera.

But no sooner was this picture possibly mentioned by Witchell and perhaps Meredith in his book, "Search at Loch Ness" than it disappears from view, if indeed it ever appeared in the public space. And therein lies the biggest problem concerning this image, if it was believed to be the underbelly of the creature, why was it not published? Robert Rines ought not to have passed up on such an opportunity. 

The fact that the curator puts a question mark against it being from Loch Ness and has no date for it should make us pause before going further. Indeed, this article is probably more an appeal for further information to corroborate this picture than claiming it is the monster. I can confidently say it is not a photograph of the loch bed of 1975, it is something else. It may have been taken during that expedition or maybe another year or at another spot at Loch Ness or maybe not at Loch Ness at all. The bottom line is that more information is needed to determine the provenance of this photograph. If that comes, a follow up article may be required.

The original image can be viewed at the MIT archive here.


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The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com





Friday, 12 August 2022

Upcoming Loch Ness Monster Talks

 


Let me update you on a couple of upcoming talks related to the Loch Ness Monster in chronological order. First up is a talk by Charles Paxton next Tuesday organised by the Edinburgh Skeptics as part of their Edinburgh Fringe meetings. The talk is described above which he tells me will refer to the beast at various points. You may wonder why I am promoting a talk by a skeptical society and indeed, Charles himself does not believe there are any large animals in the loch. However, I am interested in how he will define the gap between science and pseudo-science in the context of the search for unclassified animals. That is a conversation all cryptid hunters should engage in rather than reject it just because zoologists don't go near their chosen subject. The talk is free at the Banshee Labyrinth Pub just off the Royal Mile at 7:20pm, first come, first served with a donation encouraged.



The next talk is more for believers in our favourite cryptid. On the 29th October, Malcolm Robinson will deliver a lecture on the Loch Ness Monster as part of his monthly series of talks on mysterious subjects. Malcolm will be known to readers as a leading UK paranormal and UFO researcher and author of various books on those subjects - including one on the Loch Ness Monster shown below. Indeed, Malcolm is not long back from a trip to Loch Ness looking for its famous denizen.



The talk is in the town of Sauchie, about five miles east of Stirling. Further details of the meeting are in the promo image above and I have already booked my seat. I also aim to be at Charles' talk, so it should be a series of interesting events all round.


Comments can also be made at the Loch Ness Mystery Blog Facebook group.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Saturday, 30 July 2022

The Statistics of Nessie Sightings



Is the study of the Loch Ness Monster a subjective or objective matter? I suppose the answer has to be both when one considers what the particular focus is. Photographs and films can be considered objective evidence although the interpretation of each item can be considered a mix of the subjective and objective. Likewise, eyewitness accounts are objective but again the interpretation is often in the eye of the beholder.

However, in all of these there is usually a collection of quantifiable data points than can have statistical techniques applied to them. For the next few articles, we shall have a look at some of these in no particular order. When it comes to the Loch Ness and large enough statistical datasets, we are mainly talking about eyewitness accounts which can be subdivided into a variety of metrics related to time, motion and dimensions.

The database I use is an augmented version of one based on the work of Charles Paxton and consists of over a thousand accounts divided into various sub-categories. By way of example, I will open up with a dataset that one would expect to be Nessie-agnostic, in other words, no correlations may be expected. In this case, I am using the day of the month on which individual eyewitness accounts happened. Using the total dataset, it was ascertained that 639 accounts had a complete date associated with them. The number of reported sightings on each day from day 1 to day 31 is shown below.


The expected average over days 1 to 31 is 20 sightings. However, there is a slight skewing of the data as four months have 30 days, seven have 31 and one has 28 or 29 days. So it is no surprise that the 31st has the lowest count of 10, but the 2nd comes in just behind at 11. However, the data is quite varied about that average of 20 reports, ranging from 10 on the 31st to 32 on the 27th. Does this mean Nessie is more disposed to putting in an appearance on the 27th of any given month or that more eyes are on the loch on the 27th of the month? Or is it just a random effect of the data?

One way to approach this statistically is by calculating the normal (or Gaussian) distribution curve for this dataset. This curve basically shows the distribution of data points around a mean value. For example, in a set of student exam marks, we may find that most students score a C grade at the peak of the bell curve while one half of the curve are the higher grades which tail off to the end where a small number achieve an A+ and on the other side of the curve the low achievers tail off to the small number who get F grades or worse.

Given enough data points, it is found that these bell curves occur in many areas of society and nature. This dataset of Nessie reports is no different as it produces a nice normal distribution below centred around the peak of the average of about 20 sightings per day of month. We see it also tails off towards the extremes of a high or low incidence of reports for the days mentioned above. This suggests the distribution of sightings is within statistical norms.



However, one further confirmation of this is the so-called "68-95-99 rule" which is a heuristic (or approximate rule of thumb) which states that:

68% of the data is within 1 standard deviation of the mean.

95% of the data is within 2 standard deviation of the mean.

99.7% of the data is within 3 standard deviation of the mean.

The standard deviation of a set of data points is a measure of how much the data varies from the mean or average value. The higher the variance, the higher the standard deviation value. The value of the standard deviation for this population of data points is 5.35. Applying the 68-95-99 rule, vertical lines are usually drawn at the 1st, 2nd and 3rd standard deviations (or sigmas). The 1st, 2nd and 3rd deviations are calculated by adding or subtracting 1, 2 or 3 times the standard deviation of 5.35 from the mean of 20.6 on either side of the peak.

Thus we should have 68% of the data within the 1st deviation or between the vertical line values of 15.3 and 26.0 and 95% of the data between the values of 9.5 and 31.3. In this case practically all the data is within the 2nd standard deviation. Statisticians tend to only regard data points as being significant or out of the normal if they go beyond the 3rd standard deviation (here between 4.6 and 36.7). None of the Nessie data points get near the 3rd deviation and so we conclude nothing of statistical significance is notable here. For example, if a third of all sightings had occurred on the 15th day of the month, then we would have had something to scratch our heads over.

But one might venture to say that the dataset is corrupted by accounts which are not sightings at all but are misidentifications and hoaxes. Will this not skew any analysis of the data? After all, do not experts claim that 90% of all monster sightings are explicable by known and unremarkable phenomenon, either natural or man-made? The quote below is from one of the leading Loch Ness Monster researchers, the late Roy Mackal, who wrote this in his conclusion at the end of "The Monsters of Loch Ness":

The realization that surface observations are rather rare has developed gradually over the years. The number of recorded reports during the 30-year period following 1933 was roughly 3,000. This figure, taken at face value, would mean that about 100 observations were made annually. From this it is clear why it was reasonable to expect photographic surveillance of the loch surface to produce evidence rapidly. However, as noted, a more careful examination of the reports tells us that a large proportion of these observations, perhaps 90%, can be identified as errors, mistakes, misinterpretations, and, in a few cases, conscious fraud.

In my opinion, this 90% statistic is as meaningful as saying nine out of ten cats prefer Whiskas. Firstly it is based on a premise that about three thousand sightings were recorded between 1933 and 1963. The database I use has been thoroughly researched and it lists about 570 unique reports over that period or one fifth of the claim by Roy Mackal. Where can these missing 2430 reports be found? I doubt they all exist and I cannot tell how this number was arrived at. Perhaps some were low grade LNIB eyewitness reports. So, perhaps the 100 observations per year that made Roy Mackal conclude a paradox and led him to a 90% reduction is not so paradoxical when it now reduces to 20 observations per annum over that thirty year time span.

I would add the caveat at this point that the original author of the database I use may have found 3000 reports and culled them. I know he excluded such dubious items as Frank Searle's accounts, but 3000 sounds unlikely. Secondly, this ninety odd percent assertion is something that occurs elsewhere and seems to just be a number symbolic of human error and the triumph of scepticism. The number was repeated again by LNIB member Clem Skelton (see link):

Skelton figures that eighty to ninety percent of the people who think they have seen the monster have really seen something else.

It gets worse as the same numbers appear in Bigfoot research (see link):

... even those who research Bigfoot will admit that roughly ninety-five percent of Bigfoot sightings are either mistakes or purposeful hoaxes.

Imagine that, a completely different phenomenon with completely different explanations, yet they come out at about 90% as well! And let us not forget the UFO phenomenon where, you guessed it, nine out of ten cats, I mean debunkers, prefer swamp gas and the planet Venus (see link):

UFO reports -- 90 percent explained; scientists say rest should be investigated 

Perhaps if it said often enough it will be believed. The truth of the matter is that as the observational qualities of the report deteriorate, the curve of natural explicability approaches the 90% range in an asymptotic manner. Deterioration can mean increasing distance, decreasing time to observe and assess or poor weather conditions, light levels and so on. It would be naive to claim that 90% of all reports seen at 100 yards are as easily explained as 90% of all reports at one mile away. I hope I have made my point, but having said it, a certain percentage of the total claimed sightings will be in error. What is that percentage?

No one knows and let us leave that guesstimation to personal opinion rather than being dogmatic about it. In that light, an attempt should be made to extract a subset of sightings which can be regarded as error free as possible. So we go back to Roy Mackal, who in the same book, tabulated a series of 251 reports he regarded as the best up to the year 1969. On page 84 of the paperback edition, he says he extracted them from the three thousand aforementioned reports. I have made my comment on that, but I will largely take these 251 sightings as of a higher standard and graph them. I say "largely" as the St. Columba account is included, but not surprisingly, the day of the month for this encounter is not given. The graph using the Mackal data is shown below.



We have 138 out of the 251 reports supplying a date or 55%. Does this graph bear any similarity to the first one now that the quality has been increased? One can see similarities such as the expected dip on the 31st and again the count for the 2nd is very low, but there are also divergences. Going back to statistical techniques, similarities in data sets can be quantified using a correlation function. The one I will use is the Pearson correlation coefficient formula. If the coefficient approaches a value of 1 then the two data sets are increasingly similar. If the value approaches 0, there is less similarity between the two. If the value goes past zero to approach -1 then the two are more negatively correlated, or a mirror image of each other.

The correlation coefficient for the two data sets turns out to be 0.32 which means they are not particularly correlated. Does this mean anything? Given that we are examining the Nessie-agnostic day of month, it shouldn't and we are looking at one set of random data against another. The normal distribution graph for the Mackal data is shown below.



This distribution is not as smooth as the larger data set which we can perhaps put down to the lack of data points compared to the other. If a data set gets too small, statistical analysis becomes less reliable. However, the lines indicating the 1st and 2nd standard deviations once again show that the data is within normal bounds and there are no anomalies here.


CONCLUSIONS

We deliberately started this series of articles with a data set which should bear no relation to monster or people activity. There is no theory that either should be more disposed to one day of the month over another, apart from the slight dip expected on the 31st. In other words, it should be data which varies around its average conforming to normal statistical techniques and this has been confirmed. So we can go forward with some confidence in the tools tried out. In the next article, we shall look at data more relevant to the statistics of Loch Ness Monster sightings.


Comments can also be made at the Loch Ness Mystery Blog Facebook group.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com





Monday, 4 July 2022

Marmaduke Wetherell makes a Film

 


Before Marmaduke Wetherell engaged in his most famous production - the Surgeon's Photograph of 1934, he was in the African continent making another production, though this one was more based in fact being the story of the 19th century missionary, David Livingstone. The image above is the front cover of a promotional magazine from 1925 shows Wetherell playing the lead part. I saw the item on eBay which describes it thus:

Programme for one of the (presumed) first British screenings of the silent movie Livingstone, directed by “Duke” M. A. Wetherell, who also played the title role, David Livingstone the explorer of Africa. (For more on Wetherell and the Loch Ness Monster, see below) The film opened in the UK in January 1925, and though the programme has no date or venue it was certainly produced at around that time. The cover has an image of Wetherell as he appeared in the movie and the 5.5” x 8.5” programme is stuffed with information about the life and expeditions of Livingstone as well as the making of the film in October and November 1924. It includes a cast list, photos of film scenes, and even photographs and biographies of two African performers, one of whom claimed to have been Stanley’s servant as a boy, and therefore present at the actual meeting between the two men in November 1871. Eleven of the twelve pages are devoted to film-related content, with the only advert being one for Osram light bulbs on the back cover. In fair condition, the programme has some creases but is clean and bright. A very rare programme indeed.

* M. A. Wetherell was the hoaxer behind the famous “surgeon’s photograph” of the Loch Ness Monster. Details can be found on the Monster’s Wikipedia page, but it is interesting to note that the photo was actually taken by Ian Wetherell, who played David Livingstone at age 10 in the movie Livingstone.

Here is a picture of Wetherell from that magazine which tells us he had spent fifteen years in Africa up to that point. It made me wonder if he had ever heard of the mysterious Mokele-Mbembe of the Congo being the big game hunter he claimed to be. Then again, Africa is a huge place, and him being in Rhodesia must have put over a thousand miles between him and that cryptid.



Another player in the Surgeon's Photograph drama was his son, Ian Wetherell, who took part in the taking of the model photo at Loch Ness. As it turns out, he is in this film playing a young David Livingstone as shown below. Another person mentioned in this magazine is Gustave Pauli, who is credited with the photography. Now some may remember him as Wetherell's cameraman when he mounted his Daily Mail expedition to Loch Ness in late 1933. He is shown below with his beret on with his camera at the ready beside Wetherell at the loch. The location is Dores Beach on the pier which is now just a number of decaying posts sticking out of the water.




A thought passed my mind on the matter of Pauli. He had been at Wetherell's side since at least 1925 helping him with photographic matters. So he would seem the natural choice to get these monster pictures properly processed with the minimum chance of error. Not much is known about him and perhaps he was an honest man who would have nothing to do with Wetherell's planned revenge upon the Daily Mail. 

The eBay item can be viewed here.


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Sunday, 19 June 2022

Arthur Grant's Wall

 



Its a funny old world sometimes. Just a couple of weeks after posting on Arthur Grant and whether our favourite beastie had to negotiate a wall to get back to the safety of deep waters, something turned up on eBay. It was a Mexican magazine called Duda issue No.9 from July 1971 devoted to the subject of the Loch Ness Monster. The title "Duda" means "Doubt" in Spanish and they seemed to have published on various mysteries from all parts of the world over the years. A look at the pages displayed on the listing showed that the author had included the Grant case as you can see below.



As was the case with these illustrated magazines, they did like to go a bit beyond what had been reported in the original testimony from the primary source newspapers of the time. The more dramatic the picture, the better the sales I guess. Here we see Arthur Grant fully kitted out in motor cycling gear, leather boots, goggles and all. The creature itself is more threatening than what Grant described with human chomping teeth included. I suspect Grant is a bit too close to the creature here for his own good.

But then the wall appears and the creature clambers over it. The translation from the Spanish reads "and awkwardly climb the wall that separates the road from the loch". One would be interested to know what the magazine's source material was for this account as none I know of mention a wall. Either way, their version of Nessie with powerful hindquarters knows how to get over a wall.

A bit of a fun coincidence. Maybe someone can translate the Spanish and I include the other pages I saw and wonder what report they are referring to when the monster pops up in front of a man in a boat. The one from 11th July 1935 in the adjoining Loch Dochfour is the Mrs Gerald McGrath head and neck account from 11th June 1935 which I include at the end from The Scotsman of the 12th June. The description of two rows of fin like "excrescences" refers to some kind of abnormal protuberances which is quite curious and difficult to envisage without a sketch.










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Monday, 6 June 2022

Interesting selection of Cryptozoological items


Just a quick note to refer readers to a long listing of dozens of Loch Ness Monster books and other cryptozoological items on eBay just now by seller roman10818. I don't think I have seen quite a good collection coming under auction from just one seller in my years of watching eBay. The listings include books from Gould and Oudemans in the 1930s right up to the present day and they can be found here.

Now I admit I own practically all of the Nessie items but I have been scouring the book landscape for decades. One item I did not own was an original copy of Frank Searle's unpublished "Loch Ness Investigation: What Really Happened", presumably posted out by Searle. I only have a photocopy given to me by one of Frank's supporters back in the 1980s. 


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com






Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Arthur Grant meets a Wall of Scepticism

 


I have to say that Arthur Grant is one of my favourite accounts of the Loch Ness Monster. A giant creature lurching across a lonely road under a full moon before a befuddled motor cyclist? What's not to like? Of course, the dramatic story line makes some think it is just that - a made up story. I cover this account in my book, When Monsters Come Ashore, and will no more than quickly reproduce some words from the time to bring you up to speed. The event happened in the early hours of the 5th January 1934.

"It was," said Mr. Grant, "a bright moonlight night after rain had fallen. When almost forty yards away under the shadow of the hills, a short distance from the part of the reconstructed Glasgow-Inverness road near Abriachan, I observed what appeared to be a large black object on the opposite side of the road. I was almost on it when it turned what I thought was a small head on a long neck, and the creature, apparently taking fright, made two great bounds  across the road and plunged into the loch.

"I had a splendid view of the object; in fact, I almost struck it with my motor cycle. It had a long neck with an eel-like head and large oval-shaped eyes, just on the top of the small head. The body was very hefty, and I distinctly saw two front flippers. There were other two flippers, which seemed to be webbed behind, and there was a tail, which I estimate would be from five to six feet long. The curious thing about the tail was that it did not, so far as I could see, come to a point, but was rounded off. The total length of the animal would be from 15 to 20 feet.

"Knowing something about natural history, I can say that I have never seen anything in my life like the animal I saw. It looked like a hybrid. 

"I jumped off my cycle," said Mr. Grant, "but the animal with great speed had rushed into the loch, splashing the surface violently and making away."




Having written the chapter on this event, it is never wise to close the book as things always turn up for further discussion and insight. For example, news of a three toed cast found back then came to light after I wrote the book (see link). Today, the focus is on addressing another attempt to discredit this account by sceptics. In this case, pictures of the then newly developed Glasgow to Inverness have been posted with what is claimed to be an important feature - walls. One is shown at the top and another below and they were part of the completed construction of the new road running for miles.


If you wonder what walls have to do with this case, then the implication is that if there was a wall in front of the alleged Nessie, it would not have got over it. Ergo, Grant lied and the sceptics can remove another famous case from their hit list (though I suspect they think they have done that already). Now by my estimate, these walls could be up to two or three feet high as they seem to vary. It is not clear if there was a consistent height depending on the situation or risk at that point by the shoreline. One can still see them today in various states, some missing stones or covered in vegetation and so on.

The first question to ask is whether our creature could hurdle such an obstacle? That depends entirely on what kind of species the animal is and so we could go off in different directions speculating on our own favoured beast. Could a mammal such as a long necked version of a seal get over such a wall? I would say yes going by this video clip of a much smaller seal negotiating an imposing rock of similar height to the walls by Loch Ness. One would think a larger pinniped would have less trouble getting over.

Could a plesiosaur negotiate it? Now you're asking a question. Are you talking about the ones preserved in the fossil record or the evolved one popular in the 1970s? When a plesiosaur is proposed to have evolved, there is no end to the adaptive qualities one may add to achieve ones ends. Well, I see no reason why it couldn't, but I am not being authoritative on that matter. And so we may go through the list of candidates.

But one may cut through this and say if the creature managed to get out of the loch, get on to the road and over it then surely it can retrace its route in reverse with similar skill? One can see the logic there, though another may retort that it may have disembarked at an easier point further away. Such is the cut and thrust when information is lacking. But another observation may come to our aid. As explained in my book, the location of the Arthur Grant encounter is almost certainly along the stretch of road now occupied by the Clansman Hotel. The Google image below shows the hotel and note the green Nessie statue to the left conveniently reminding us of the event nearly ninety years before.



A look around shows a lack of walls such as this shot where the only visible wall bridges over a stream. Obviously, the metal barriers are a modern addition. The second image is looking the opposite direction towards the south and you can see the entrance to the pier where various vessels such as the Jacobite tourist cruisers pick up passengers. One would surmise that a brick wall is less likely to be found at a pier as it would hinder access for vehicles and if a boat had to be towed onto land.




A look at contemporary ordnance survey maps may help us here. The first is the one inch per mile (1:63360) "Popular" edition published from 1921-1930. You can see the pier clearly marked and note that the red road is delineated by either solid black line or dotted black line. According to the symbols of the time, the solid line with a red road indicates a main route between towns but if it changes to dotted line then it is an unfenced boundary. The road goes from solid to dotted as the pier approaches and for a distance after before going solid again. We can take it that this means any wall disappears to accommodate access to the pier. This stretch of unfenced boundary is where I think Grant encountered his monster.



However, this map was published in 1929 and Grant himself refers to the reconstructed road in the account above five years later. Did that result in a wall being constructed near the pier? A look at another map from 1940 says not. It is a military map at at scale of 1:25000 and the broken/unbroken lines follow much the same pattern. So no wall along the shore and I think we can dispose of this sceptical objection.





Of course, other objections to the Arthur Grant land sighting have been made over the years. The arrival of Marmaduke Wetherell at the scene gave sceptics the opportunity to play the guilt by association card. However, an expedition led by Mr. A. F. Hay, a Fellow of the Zoological Society of Scotland, visited the site and their report was published by the Scotsman newspaper. They had examined the road and beach and proposed a walrus was the best candidate. Curiously, they did not mention anything about walls getting in the way and I have no reason to doubt this was because there was no wall there.


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Monday, 2 May 2022

A Recent Video Examined

 


A few days back came the latest video published by the Daily Mail of a wake filmed by an anonymous couple from above Urquhart Castle at about 6am on the 25th April. Below is the relevant text from that article:

The woman had woken up just after 6am on Monday and decided to take some photographs as the loch was so still that its surface was like glass. But after spotting something large moving in the water, she began filming on her iPhone and could be heard saying ‘What on Earth is that?’ as her husband joined her to watch what was unfolding. The couple filmed for two minutes and 37 seconds from 6.21am as the mysterious creature – they estimated it to be between 20 and 30 feet in length – swam beneath the water and gave them tantalising glimpses as it broke the surface.

It appeared to have at least one fin or limb, which paddled under the water ‘like an oar’. The woman also took several still pictures from the vantage point of their holiday cottage set on the hillside opposite Urquhart Castle, around a quarter of a mile from the loch. She added: ‘I really don’t know what it was in the water. It was something large. I don’t think it really equates on the video quite how large it was. ‘We don’t know what the creature was. It was propelling itself with something. It wasn’t how a fish would do it.

‘You could see it much clearer than it’s come out in the photos. The lumps or humps or whatever they are kept disappearing under the water, but it was still pushing forward under the water. ‘You could see something under the water, then it rushed forward and turned round. From what we could gauge, it was between 20 and 30 feet long. There was nothing else on the loch, no boats, nothing.’

The shot below with the castle in the foreground gives some context. Now when I read the headline that it was a double hump film and the best footage for twenty years, I thought I have to see this. But as they say, the trailer is often better than the film and I was disappointed with what I saw. In fact, I struggled to see much detail in the mobile camera clip. We are told they were high on a hillside about a quarter of a mile away from the loch.



And therein lies the problem, they were in a comparable position to the controversial webcam clips that have regaled newspapers in recent years. Though admittedly, the resolution of this is a bit better. I believe this is a 640x360 resolution (at 25 frames per second) and it looks like the webcam is 480x360 and so the couple's video has about 33% more information. This is not much compared to the webcam, though I suspect the original iPhone video would be higher, perhaps 720p. If so, an investigation is incomplete without seeing this original file.

Now the image at the top of the article is taken from the Daily Record presumably was a highly zoomed in frame from the video. I say that because we also learn that some photographs were taken by the lady and I suspect they may provide more detail than the video. At this point, I do not have access to these and again the investigation may be incomplete without them. However, if this is an enlargement of a photograph, then perhaps they are not that useful.

But what we see in the top image is interesting in that the two dots are behind the bow of the wave which is being generated by something else. In fact, there appears to be nothing at the head of the wave. Clearly there has to be something there and the conclusion is that whatever it may be is lost in the pixellation.

We have the video and there are photos, but we must not discount the naked eye testimony as others are wont to do. The eyewitness said what they saw with the eye was superior to what was recorded and that I can agree with. The human delivers something which no camera can. In that context, some details come out:

It appeared to have at least one fin or limb, which paddled under the water ‘like an oar’. ... The lumps or humps or whatever they are kept disappearing under the water, but it was still pushing forward under the water. ‘You could see something under the water, then it rushed forward and turned round.

Nevertheless, they were still a quarter of a mile away or about 400 metres. This is not a great distance - unless a thirty foot creature wholly breaks the surface with a double hump and long neck display and goes on a swim for a good few minutes. But certainly, going by the video alone, nobody could conclusively identify what is in the sequence - unless somebody comes forward and confesses they had a vessel or something in that area at that time. However, the lack of detail in the video should not be taken as a reason to discount the naked eye testimony.


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