Monday 2 January 2023

Nessie Review of 2022

The year 2022 has come and gone, so let's go straight into the eyewitness reports for the last twelve months. As ever a visit to Gary Campbell's Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register is required to see what he has logged. When you go to his 2022 page, we find six claimed sightings ranging from March to October. The first was on the 30th March by documentary maker, Jamie Huntley as he was in a car driven by Warren Speed. What he claimed to have seen was a dark dome shaped object which briefly was in sight towards the Foyers Bay area, measuring 15 feet across and 7 feet high. Warren Speed stopped and reversed only to see concentric ripples on the loch surface. which was photographed.

Driving down road past Boleskine cemetery myself as passenger in vehicle, I looked towards cemetery and then large object/creature in the loch caught my eye at first I thought was a big boulder or something as first time to the area I don't know the layout I said to my friend driving, "what's that it's huge!" I could see movement and the water breaking against it so told friend to stop the car where the car stopped trees obscured the view so he reversed and the object/creature was fully gone I had phone out and took pictures of the ripple in water expanding from point the object/creature disappeared down.

The object/creature was reflecting the water so looked wet, almost like a whale skin crossed with a fish skin it was dark in colour darker than the water surrounding it, there were dark grey's, black, browns in colour, it almost looked like how a whale hump might look breaking the surface minus the fin, there was a definite movement but didn't see too much of the movement before trees obscured it, it was a very big size at least 15 foot long, maybe bigger, around the middle of the loch.

There was a small speedboat that came up the loch after my sighting but wasn't anywhere near the spot I seen the object/creature but wouldn't be surprised if they had seen it too in the distance as they started circling around the area, using their speedboat as a reference it was much larger than the boat, as an estimate I'd say the object was around 7 foot height out of the water.

The two men were actually there to film footage for a documentary on the monster. In such a situation, we like nothing better than professional film makers with professional equipment being in the right place at the right time to capture the monster. None of that happened and so it was a case of what might have been if they had passed a minute earlier. The area of disturbed water and the eyewitness sketch are shown below.

The spot was at the cemetery opposite Boleskine House and one can get a good line up with Google maps. I would guess going by the foliage to the left of their photo that the water ripples were just off centre to the right in the google image.

So the object looks mid loch but this can be estimated by noting the flatness of the ellipse that the concentric ripples form to gives an angle of viewing of about 8 degrees. A look at an ordnance survey map places the  cemetery at a height of about 77 meters once we deduct loch level from sea level. This gives the distance between eyewitness and object as about 550 metres which places the object about 400 metres from the shore.

The curious thing was the speedboat they said came to the point of submergence and started circling the area as if they had also seen the object from the pier further south. Perhaps so, but no one has come forward in what would have been a valuable exercise in corroboration. But this seems to have provided a frame of reference to estimate a dome shaped object 15 feet across at the surface and 7 feet high. 

What is described is basically akin to a sphere of radius seven feet half floating in the water. Looking at the historical record of sightings, very few reports describe the object they are seeing as dome-like, perhaps a handful over the decades. So this type of description is rare and this is to be expected if we presume the main body of the creature to be more of an oblate spheroid in shape.

With that in mind it is possible that the eyewitness was looking at the back of the beast along the axis of its spine (if it has such a thing). This would present a degree of foreshortening giving the impression of a hemisphere. Whether the estimated angle of view can facilitate this perspective is unclear. That aside, the dimensions given would indicate a massive creature. If we assume it is a fifteen foot girth then the body alone could be forty feet long. Add in a neck and tail typically believed to be at least as long as the body when their lengths are combined, then this is getting to be a giant. 

So perhaps the torso underwater flattens out to give a smaller size or the size has simply been overestimated given that this was a heavily wooded area and in a moving car, it would have been visible for only seconds. The only way to progress this case would be to find the alleged boat that visited the area within minutes and get their side of the story. 

Looking at the five other reports, back in May we examined a video clip of a wake taken near the castle on the 25th April. That article can be found here and the point of interest was what looked like a double object near the head of the wake (below). At over 400 metres away, it was difficult to evaluate what was being seen in the video. This was somewhat hampered by what may have been a downscaled video for web page use and there were still images taken, but it was not clear if any of those have been published. These may have helped the evaluation and so the whole affair remains inconclusive.

A sighting I was quite impressed with was a couple of weeks before up at the north end of the loch by a local man, Glenn Blevins on the 15th April. Having worked and fished around the loch for the past thirty years without a sight of its famous denizen, he finally got a sight of the mysterious:

I was near Aldourie Castle on Friday 15th April working on the banks of the loch when I saw a large animate object in the water between both banks of the loch at approx 9.30am. It was dark in colour and stayed there for around 20 seconds before sinking into the water. I watched it with binoculars that I’d taken with me in the hope of seeing ospreys that had recently returned to the area. It was difficult to estimate the size but it was definitely larger than a seal and given the angle, there may have been two, one behind the other.

There is no photo, video or even sketch but I would place an account by a local who knows the loch like the back of their hand over and above many a sighting by anyone else. Another wake video was taken on the 27th August at Lochend of which a still is shown below. The video lasted seven minutes but I have had no opportunity to see it and form a better opinion.

Finally, on October 11th, a mother and her daughter took a snap of a distant object:

200 yards off the bank we noticed a long break in the water which was otherwise still and calm. As we watched a black lump appeared out of the water and sat for approximately 30 seconds before disappearing once again under the water. After another 30 seconds the black lump resurfaced for a shorter amount of time before disappearing under the water again. The lump appeared to be boxy in shape and about the size of a football. It did not appear to swim about, rather it just bobbed and then disappeared under the water before resurfacing to do the same a second time.

The photograph is pretty disappointing and makes me wonder if it was really only 200 yards away? It looks further away than that or mobile phone cameras really are that bad at taking decent pictures in these scenarios. So ended the roster of five surface reports and there is one sonar contact to be added from Tom Ingram on the 4th April.

It was on the Spirit of Loch Ness cruise boat which was remembered for its sonar contact by Ronald Mackenzie back in September 2020. This new image was not quite to the same standard as that one and both are reproduced below by way of comparison (Ingram first). Nevertheless, it asks the question as to what we are looking at. It looked like it happened at roughly the same spot as we note the similar depths and speeds for each image. There is a question over calibration here for this and the original image. In other words, what does the strength of the signal signify in terms of possible candidates? 

This allows for a better quantitative analysis of the data. What that means is passing down one or more objects of known size and density to a series of appropriate depths and use what appears on the sonar screen as a series of benchmark measurements. This would normally be a sphere which is either solid or hollow containing gas or liquid. The choice of material such as metal, plastic or glass can also be important. What controls have to be adjusted on the sonar equipment would be a matter for the sonar technician. These are required to advance the assessment of such contacts.

That ended Gary Campbell's register for 2022 and what you may have noticed was absent were any webcam shots. Back at the end of August, the Visit Inverness and Loch Ness tourism website added four webcams which allowed anyone in the world to scan the loch surface by day or night at five locations. I looked at them at the time at this link. This was a big improvement on the solitary webcam stationed above the area of the castle in terms of proximity to the loch, night time infrared capability and the multiple locations.

These should be a valuable resource for monster hunters, but as we know from the annual number of reports, the creature is not an easy beast to pin down and so perseverance will be required on the part of any hunters watching these cameras. However, various claims have been made that evidence has been recorded on these new webcams. None of them are convincing and generally consist of water disturbances and low lying areas of darkness which cannot be distinguished from the usual windrows, shadows and video artefacts. The latter category applies to the camera stationed at Shoreland Lodges which can suffer from these video effects due to what looks like brighter reflections and it is no surprise most of the claims have come from this camera.

That was probably the most important event in terms of facilitating the hunt for the monster worldwide. Not far behind was the formation of the Loch Ness Exploration group or LNE for short set up by Alan McKenna early this year as he mounted the first of a series of monthly watching briefs at the loch with varying numbers of like minded volunteers. I met up with Alan at one of his watches, though the watch turned into a meet up as I introduced him to Adrian Shine for a long chat. I had not long met with Adrian to see some of the old LNI surveillance films.

I wrote up on both of these meetings here and it was appropriate that a discussion on the old LNI group dovetailed into the new LNE. We wish Alan success as he looks to expand operations into 2023 and beyond. On a personal level, I was at the loch several times this year but circumstances did not allow me to spend as much time there as I wanted, though the trail cameras were in operation. The year began with the publication of an e-book entitled "How to Investigate a Loch Ness Monster Sighting" which covered the notable sighting by Richard Jenkyns in 1973.

This was followed in June by the publication of an article on the Hugh Gray photograph in the Journal of Scientific Exploration which expands on the original articles I wrote over the years. I have been asked to contribute to another article for them in 2023 of which I will speak nearer the time. As for the rest of the year in the blog, the subjects included Arthur Grant and his 1934 land sighting, making contact with George Spicer's grandson - Nigel Spicer, examining Frank Searle's most famous photograph, beginning a statistical analysis of monster sightings and the James Gray photographs.

Having said all that, I noticed that I had written only 26 articles this year, the lowest ever at one every two weeks. I plotted the annual numbers since I started in 2010 and got the graph below. Now the number of annual articles actually peaked at 104 back in 2012 and has been declining ever since, apart from an uptick in 2016. 

At this rate, there will be zero articles by 2026! The reasons for the downslope are various. The blog started with a rich seam of material to mine in 2010. All those classic photographs, films and reports from the past seven decades to examine and defend. The rich array of monster hunters, sceptics and others to look back on as well as tales of ancient kelpies and water horses. A lot of that material has been covered but it is not exhausted and there is always the odd new discovery.

There was also the pandemic which slowed down matters and well, I have been busy with other projects unrelated to the Loch Ness Monster. There is as ever a backlog of subjects to write on, though not as long as other years. So, eight hundred and ten articles on, the Loch Ness Mystery blog enters its 14th year. One wonders every January whether the next year will bring that piece of evidence that reproduces the events of 1960 when a young Tim Dinsdale captured a mysterious object ploughing across the loch and triggered more than a decade of investigation.

Nobody knows, though most will bet on the answer being "No". Whatever, I wish all readers a Happy and Prosperous 2023.

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