Monday, 28 December 2015

Nessie Review of 2015

2015 has come and is nearly gone and that means times to look back on the World of Nessie these past twelve months.

At Loch Ness itself, Gary Campbell, who runs the "Official Register of Sightings of the Loch Ness Monster", recorded five sightings he judged as genuine. The first does not actually make it onto his list but it made the national newspapers in March as Connie Ross and her daughter, Reyshell, observed something like a "big black belly", submerge in the midst of a big disturbance of water by Urquhart Castle. She got this image just as it was vanishing from sight.






Some critics, completely ignoring what the witnesses described, dismissed it as bubbles from divers. However, the witnesses described themselves as "mesmerised" by the sight; I can't say I have ever been mesmerised by some scuba bubbles! I accept this as a genuine sighting of the Loch Ness Monster.

The following month some independent witnesses described an object they described as large and dolphin-like surfacing up to six times. Whatever is was, it was certainly no dolphin and I am not aware of any seals being reported in the loch at that time.

Only a few days later on April 25th, a Dee Bruce and Les Stuart from Elgin, saw a dark creature emerge three foot out of the loch at the north end. Unfortunately, it all happened so quickly that the camera could not be employed in time.

The next report occurred in July and was covered recently here. Crystal Ardito from New York noticed she had snapped something that was only fleetingly noticed at the time. Opinions naturally vary as to what it could possibly be (picture below). Something splashing through the water perhaps, but what exactly?




Another picture was taken on the 13th August by a Mr and Mrs Bates as they observed an object moving in an undulating fashion at mid-afternoon for about five minutes. This event involved multiple witnesses and this photograph below. Unfortunately, nothing can be deduced from this picture due to its lack of detail.




Finally, on the 15th September, local man Connor McKenna was one mile south of the castle at 1245 in his car when he had a 6-7 second view of dark object 15-20 feet long about 250 metres away. Despite having a clear view, the object submerged, leaving a wake behind.

Standing back, we see that four of these six sightings were brief in duration, only seconds. That mitigates against them, but three out of the six produced images of varying quality, mainly due to the distances involved.

These are certainly not sightings that would be classed alongside those of yesteryear, it would be great to report on such an event for the edification of readers, only time will tell on that matter. But it is good that the monster has been seen on at least six occasions this past year.

And what would Nessie research be without some odd looking sonar readings? Amongst the images come across this year are the ones below (see here and here). Sonar images are not as intuitive to interpret as optical images. However, their interpretation has come on strides in recent years as clearer resolutions have become more affordable. The trouble, of course, is what exactly would a sonar image of the Loch Ness Monster look like?





Other Nessie stories this year we were not so sure about were such as this photo by Geoffrey McSkimming which has more of the heron than the plesiosaur about it.




And did Flying Saucers zoom over Loch Ness this year? Given they look like mirror images of each other, we're not so sure about this one either.






OTHER EVENTS

Extending beyond the creature itself and to round the loch itself, it was sad to see one of the iconic sights of the lochside being nearly destroyed by fire only mere days ago as Boleskine House was in flames. Most of the house was destroyed in the blaze and its overall future must now be in doubt and in the hands of the insurance company.




As most readers may know, this house was the residence of the infamous magician, Aleister Crowley, between 1899 and 1913 as he homed on in an area which he believed focused the magical energies he needed to execute his magical rituals. He paid twice the asking price of the house to get what he wanted. I say this was an iconic place, but one would be lucky to get a decent view of the tree-sheltered place, let alone get a chance to visit this reputedly haunted abode.

Meanwhile, tales of old regarding people and Nessie were to the fore in preparation for Gareth William's book, "A Monstrous Commotion". For example, was a renowned academic pushed out of the Natural History Museum  in the 1960s due to his enthusiasm for the Loch Ness Monster? Or was it more the case that Dr Denys Tucker was a bit too cantankerous with his colleagues?

Who was it that suggested that the monster should be christened "Elizabethia nessiae" after her Majesty the Queen? Such was the enthusiasm and expectations regarding the monster in the 1960s. Though an old controversy came to light when the tale of Digby George Gerahty and his claims to have invented the Loch Ness Monster in a 1930s pub were resurrected.


MONSTER HUNTING

Going by headlines this year, one would have been forgiven for thinking the mystery had been finally solved as Steve Feltham, long running monster hunter, was quoted as saying he thought Nessie was no more than a catfish.




However, Steve was quick to state he was being (once again) misquoted. What he meant was that the catfish was one possible solution from many as perhaps some catfish had been released into Loch Ness over a hundred years ago. An interesting theory, but one that needs further research as regards such fish being let loose on Loch Ness.

Meanwhile, yours truly continued on this blog and at the lochside. Research uncovered some previously forgotten reports from 1909 and about 1880. Contact was also made with the family of the late Lachlan Stuart, famous for his 1951 triple hump monster picture while a forgotten hump picture from 1934 was brought back into the light.

The hunt continues and to end this review, I had some game cameras in action around the loch waiting to be triggered by anything that moved in front of them. One such camera was trained on one small patch of the vast area that is Loch Ness.




You know, I had fought through rocks and thistle to find a secluded spot for this camera (kindly donated by a regular reader) and then who turns up as if it was placed in Piccadilly Circus?





It got worse as you can see below. Anyway, whoever you were, thanks for not stealing the camera!




Furry or feathery fiends would also get in the way of serious research. I have no idea what this was!




But at least the night infra red worked admirably as these insect shots show.



These shots amongst other were copied off the camera between August and November. Let us continue to hope the decisive shot of the Loch Ness Monster makes its appearance on such a camera or others in 2016!

A Happy and Prosperous 2016 to you all.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Boleskine House Ablaze





It may have been the house that belonged to "the Wickedest Man in the World" and also owned by various other students of magick, but it is sad to see this icon of Loch Ness Mystery nearly destroyed by fire. I had hoped to have lodged there if it ever became a B&B again, now that day looks afar off. 

From the BBC:

Firefighters have been called to a blaze at a historic property above Loch Ness.
Crews from Foyers, Inverness, Beauly and Dingwall have been sent to Boleskine House near Foyers.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said a large part of the property has been destroyed.
Boleskine House was owned by infamous occultist Aleister Crowley and later for a time by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.
The alarm was raised at 13:40.
Flames from the fire were visible from the other side of the loch.
A fire appliance from Foyers and another from Inverness were first sent to the scene.
Pumps from Inverness and Beauly along with a water carrier from Inverness, a pump from Dingwall and an incident support unit from Inverness have also been sent.

SFRS said: "A large part of the property has already been destroyed by fire and crews are concentrating their efforts on the west wing of the building.
"Crews in breathing apparatus are using four main jets to tackle the blaze and the incident is ongoing."
Crowley, who died in 1947, lived at Boleskine House above Loch Ness from 1899 to 1913.
He was infamous in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century for his promotion of the occult.
During World War I, he wrote anti-British propaganda.
He was also an experienced climber and was part of an ill-fated attempt to scale K2, in modern day Pakistan, in 1902.
Musician Page bought Boleskine House in the 1970s because of the Crowley connection, before later selling it.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

An interview and a painting

Gareth Williams was briefly interviewed last Friday on BBC Radio 4 regarding his latest book, "A Monstrous Commotion". If you go to the podcast, jump about five minutes before the end to find it. It is available for another few weeks.

Meanwhile, I bought this nice painting of Loch Ness and its monster on eBay. I like it.







Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Another Forthcoming Book On Nessie!

The discussion on the latest Nessie book by Gareth Williams is not yet over and we're now talking about yet another book. This time it is authored by Nick Redfern who is a well known investigator of paranormal mysteries. This time, in his simply titled book "Nessie", he explores "the supernatural origins of the Loch Ness Monster". The book is due out next year, which by my estimation means there are a potential four books on Nessie out in 2016 (Nick Redfern, Malcolm Robinson, Karl Shuker and Paul Harrison).




Whilst on this very subject, I am flagging up an event in which I shall be speaking on "A Paranormal History of Nessie". The event is the Scottish UFO and Paranormal Conference, 25th June 2016 in Glasgow. You can find more details here.







Monday, 14 December 2015

Robert Rines and Richard Fitter do Book Reviews

I acquired some pages from an old copy of the International Journal of Cryptozoology (Vol.7 1988) which had some Loch Ness Monster articles. Three books were reviewed by Robert Rines, well known past President of the Academy of Applied Science; Richard Fitter, co-founder of the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau and Jack Gibson of the Scottish Natural History Library.






They respectively reviewed Henry Bauer's "The Enigma of Loch Ness", Steuart Campbell's "The Loch Ness Monster: The Evidence" and Edward Armstrong's "Sticking My Neck Out!". The first two will probably be known to most readers, the last one was privately published and I looked at it myself some years back at this link. The pages are shown below and you click on them to get a larger, readable image.
 







 




Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Latest Nessie Photograph




Or is it? Well, Gary Campbell, who runs his register of Loch Ness Monster sightings, was recently talking about the five sightings he had logged for 2015. Amongst them was this curious photograph taken by American tourist, Crystal Ardito, on July 1st as she was on one of the cruise boats that regularly make their way up and down the loch at that time of year. According to the Daily Mail:

Among them was that logged by American tourist Crystal Ardito who recently found pictures of 'Nessie' after studying her summer holiday snaps.

'I went to Scotland to go on the Loch Ness boat ride on July 1. I took photos of the loch and I was just looking at my photos and I found one photo where I saw a grey thing sticking out of the water, so I zoomed in,' she said.

Ms Ardito said she had only seen the object for 'a few seconds' and 'did not notice the grey object in the photo until months later...in the middle of the loch.'

Gary's website adds a little more detail:

1 July 2015 - Somewhere between 15.00 and 15.30, Crystal Ardito of New York snapped an unexplained creature from a boat on the loch. She said that it was only a few seconds and weather conditions were about 10 degrees celsius and a little windy

From what I can understand of this brief account, Crystal had seen the object for only a few seconds at the time, and so the brevity of the sight was insufficient to have made an impact on her. It was then ignored until she saw it in one of her photographs. The actual location would seem to line up with this picture from Google Streetview. Perhaps she was on one of the Jacobite Cruises that heads south to Urquhart Castle before turning back north.


A zoom in of the picture adds some detail, but not enough to decide whether this is monster or other.




So it was time to run the image through some deblurring software. Various parameters were tried mainly trying to compensate for focus or motion blur. The results were mixed as you can see below.




The best one is compared with the original below.







Non-monster candidates could include a buoy, water fowl, seal or tree trunk given the lack of clarity. I would not have thought a buoy would occur in mid-loch. The shape does not remind me of a bird, though some may interpret the two white "lobes" as wings. They could also be wash or waves. A seal is a possibility - if there was one in Loch Ness. Given the density of traffic around the loch at that time of year, I suspect something about seals would have appeared on social media by now. A tree trunk is possible, but again they tend to hang around rather than disappear from sight.

The object is very dark in comparison to its surroundings which made me wonder if it was in shadow (i.e. the object was between the sun and the observer). Since the time was stated as being between 1500 and 1530, the sun's position for July 1st 2015 can be calculated and shown as a yellow line in the diagram below. The additional green line is the direction of sunrise and the red line indicates sunset.




Such an azimuth would not put the object in shadow unless the cruiser was further up the loch than I thought. However, going back to the original photograph at the top, if that is the sun behind the clouds in the top centre, the time is more likely to be about noon. If it is indeed the sun behind the object, then this would also explain the darkness of the object. 

Certainly, there is an impression that the two white "lobes" are wave action caused by the object, be it by breaking from the surface, moving across the surface or dropping into the water. That would seem a more likely explanation than something descending into the loch.

Theories are invited from readers.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com






Saturday, 5 December 2015

Book Review: A Monstrous Commotion



This year brings us a new and informative history of the Loch Ness Monster and her detractors and adherents. The last one was Nicholas Witchell's revised 1989 edition of "The Loch Ness Story", and November 2015 brings us Gareth William's "A Monstrous Commotion". 

However, it would be fairer to reverse terms and say this is a history of the adherents and detractors of the Loch Ness Monster as it seeks to present the human side of an endearing and enduring mystery.

Now, my own interest in the Loch Ness Monster dates back to when Witchell's first edition came out in 1974. Forty years on, I may have thought I had a pretty good grasp of the Monster and its pursuers, but it seems to be a truism (certainly for me), that we forget more than we remember about even favoured subjects.

So, it was certainly a refresher lesson for me to again read of the exploits, successes and failures of the monster hunters that stretched back to 1933 (and before). One can argue that the failures outweigh the successes and that is certainly writ large as the trials and tribulations of various small and large expeditions are charted from the semi-serious joints of meat hurled by hook into murky waters to the hi-tech, multi-disciplinary technologies of later hunts.

None of them delivered the conclusive proof that hard nosed scientists demanded and with that all of them fell into the annals of cryptid history. Gareth Williams revisits those heady days of Edward Mountain, the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau, the Academy of Applied Sciences and Operation Deepscan. Each brought something new to the table in the great chase, but what about the people and personalities?

SIR PETER SCOTT

Gareth Williams' book breaks new ground by tapping into the archive of a central figure in that most intense period of Nessie fervour, the 1960s and 70s. That figure was Sir Peter Scott; naturalist, Olympic medallist and Nessie believer. In fact, one gets the impression this was the catalyst and motivation for writing the entire book in the first place.

Peter Scott was a major influence in how the monster hunting scene of the 1960s developed as he tried to bring together the scientific community and the monster hunter community. Throughout this period and into the 1980s, he regularly communicated with various names familiar to us such as Tim Dinsdale, Constance Whyte, Robert Rines and so on. Those letters have been preserved and in them we see not only the opinions of people as regards the existence or non-existence of exotic creatures, but also their opinions regarding other people and the various Loch Ness projects.

This is where "A Monstrous Commotion" begins where the more anodyne "The Loch Ness Story" ends in exploring the dynamics of human relationships in the great monster quest. Of course, such opinions were deemed confidential at the time, but since the vast majority of all these players are now dead, the negative and positive comments inked onto paper can now be revealed.

One would have suspected that what we know of human nature would reflect in the all too human world of monster hunting. That has been confirmed by Gareth as people like Tim Dinsdale and Robert Rines do not come out of this smelling of roses. One however wonders if there is yet more to tell concerning people who are still alive and have been spared embarrassment?

Certainly, it has been told me that Rines, in a burst of American forthrightness, told a current Loch Ness researcher to "Piss off, Sonny!". One suspects Rines was not the most angelic of figures (though what elicited that outburst is not known to me).

The other aspect of taking up the hunting of this Scottish Snark was the detrimental effect it seemed to have on other aspects of one's career and relationships. The obsession with the monster has closed many a door which otherwise was wide open to those with the undoubted talents to do so. It seems an undue focus on Nessiteras Rhombopteryx aided and abetted by an actual sighting of the creature led to blindness in other areas. Let that be a lesson to us all.

INFLUENCE

Gareth extends this thought into how monster hunters selectively picked or ignored various sightings to bolster their beloved plesiosaur theory. That may be true, but he omits to mention that those on the other side of the debate are also guilty of bias driven analysis. To wit, he mentions how Gould rejected the un-sea serpent-like sighting of a crocodile like creature in the River Ness in 1932.

However, sceptic Adrian Shine, in an attempt to bolster his roaming sturgeon theory, holds up the exact same account as a possible sturgeon sighting, rather than consign it to one of the more humdrum creatures that frequented the river and loch. My own feeling was that sceptics got off too lightly in parts of this book, as if they were uninfected by the human frailties of their opposite camp.

Perhaps the approach here is like a controlled debate or a court case. The defence for the monster made their case between 1933 and 1980. The prosecution then stood up and made their case from 1980 to the present day. However, the process is more complex than that as counter arguments bounce around to the present day.

One case in point is the Peter MacNab photograph. Gareth gives us the flow of debate around this picture as even the Professor of Zoology at Oxford, Sir Alister Hardy, became an advocate of the photograph. When he comes to Roy Mackal's treatment of the photograph, the problem of why foliage in the foreground is present in one version of the picture but not another is again presented as a reason to reject this photo.

However, this argument is forty years out of date as recent research has adequately demonstrated that the reason for the difference is that one picture is more enlarged than the other and thus cuts out the foreground foliage as a result.

This is a problem noted before in recent publications on the monster. There is the printed matter published between 1934 and 1976. However, the debate has now moved onto the Internet and that is where authors need to go to get the latest thinking (be it of an anti-monster or pro-monster cast).

Having said that, new books do address old arguments and I am tempted to send Gareth a free copy of my "The Water Horses of Loch Ness" book as he also travelled down the well-trodden sceptical path of saying there is precious little monster tradition prior to the Nessie era of 1933. Since Gareth acknowledges Dick Raynor and Adrian Shine were heavily involved in the editing of the document and "correcting my many errors of fact, chronology and interpretation", it is not difficult to see their sceptical influence on how the Loch Ness mystery should be "interpreted". Facts and chronology can be objective, interpretation is more subjective.

But perhaps subjective interpretation even trumps objective chronology? In Gareth's book, it is stated that Peter MacNab took his picture on the 21st October 1958 (page 67). However, MacNab always said he took it in the Summer of 1955. If the aforementioned advisors did indeed correct him on chronology, it suggests that they "decided", on their assumption it was a fake photo, that it was actually "taken" only days before its publication. That is not objective chronology, that is subjective interpretation.

Typographically, the book has few errors and that is a credit to the proof readers. The only thing I would seriously query is plate 46 which shows the 1972 flipper photograph. The bottom picture does not look like the JPL enhanced picture, but another one called the "two body" picture. I think the actual image is this one below.





TELLING THE STORY

But how do you tell the tale of an unproven monster swimming along the borders of human fantasy and objective reality? Gareth does the right thing in telling it from the perspective of the actors in this play. So, we get history new but also history old as respect is given to the eyewitnesses. Thus, the look and feel of the saga is preserved as tales of long necks, humps, flippers and outsized flanks creating a terrific commotion in the midst of the waters reflects and catalyses the commotion playing out on terra firma.

Ultimately, the shadow of the sceptic intrudes as Gareth goes through the various theories which try to explain these incredible sights without the need for a plesiosaur, sea serpent, giant salamander, tullimonstrum gregarium or giant eels.

As I read through his veritable blizzard of so called ordinary things seen in extraordinary circumstances, it struck me how virtually anything that has existed near the loch has been employed as an explanation. From cars to boats, from dogs to ducks, from deformed cows to dead trees, this blunderbuss approach spins the mind and one soon realises it is easier to state what has not been employed in this revisionism rather than what has.

If almost anything can be employed as an explanation, one wonders how that devalues the whole approach?
CONCLUSIONS

I would have liked to have seen the history extended further. Witchell's "Loch Ness Story" took us up to 1989, but Gareth's book only really goes a few years further to include the 1993 "Project Urquhart" and the 1994 expose of the Surgeon's Photograph. Apart from a brief biopic on Steve Feltham, the period between 1995 to 2015 is still largely a black hole to readers.

However, Gareth's book is a good addition to the Loch Ness literature in how it lifts the lid on the human side of the Loch Ness Monster hunt. From Crowley's "Koloo Mavlick" to Torquil MacLeod's swan-off shotgun and Dinsdale's preoccupation with the Queen, there is plenty to inform and entertain. Whether that takes us closer to deciding whether there is an exotic creature in Loch Ness is another matter. Gareth wisely leaves that conclusion to the reader. I personally think it does not, but it does reveal to what extent this phenomenon drives both believer and sceptic.

Gareth's postscript ends on an ironic and perhaps unintended note. He begins with a Colonel Lane's sighting of a torpedo like object ploughing a watery furrow through the loch in the 1940s.  He ends it with current monster hunter Steve Feltham also witnessing a torpedo like object cutting speedily across the loch. Loch Ness history continues to beat the same rhythm and that perhaps sums up the ongoing hunt for the beast of the loch.

I thank Gareth for bringing these things to the attention of Nessie people everywhere and recommend it as a worthy addition to their crypto-bookshelf.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com









Tuesday, 1 December 2015

No Peace for Nessie



The heaving throngs of tourists have left the loch, but can Nessie now safely surface without those annoying humans getting in her face?

It seems not for her Majesty's Armed Forces have been using Loch Ness as a training ground prior to bigger manoeuvres in Norway next year. Hopefully the Loch Ness Monster will literally dodge a bullet here. Video of their visit is here or here.






Sunday, 29 November 2015

Friday, 27 November 2015

How many people can Loch Ness hold?

It's one of those "amazing" facts that is trotted out about Loch Ness. The fact that the volume of water in Loch Ness is equivalent to containing the entire population of the world. But by how much seems a matter of opinion.

This website suggests ten times the world's population. The Daily Mirror seems to say the same, but says "surface area" instead of volume. Bzzzzz! Meanwhile, looking further back, issue 235 of the Europe magazine from 1983 states it is three times the world population.

It is one of those factoids like the one that the Post Office Tower or Eiffel Tower could be submerged in the loch without trace. But when this population fact was first mentioned was a bit of a mystery to me, though I certainly recall it going back before the Internet. I checked most of the classic books, but couldn't find any mention of it. Where had it come from and indeed does it stack up?

Now the volume of water in Loch Ness is stated as 7.5 cubic kilometres in its Wikipedia entry. This translates to 7.4 billion cubic metres. What is the average volume of a human? Not so easy to figure out, but good old Google suggested that water displacement measurements of 521 people of varying ages gave 66.4 litres or 0.0664 cubic metres. That seemed to be about half what I thought for an adult, but we are including babies and kids in our experimental mega-plunge.

Divide the volume of the loch by this average human volume and you get about 111,445,783,130 people fitting into Loch Ness. Since the world's population is currently estimated at about 7.3 billion, then you'll get them all into Loch Ness not just 10 times over but more than 15 times over. It seems our factmeisters were right but also underestimating things.

But what about surface area as the Daily Mirror misquoted? The best known fact on this wise is that the Isle of Wight can hold the entire standing population of the world. Okay, what about Loch Ness with a surface area of 56 million square metres? If we assume five people squeezing up per square metre, then that's 280 million people, which is well off the mark.

But, again, who first concocted this fact? Was it the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau or some more obscure book or booklet? If anyone knows, leave a comment or send an email.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com





Monday, 23 November 2015

Grumpy Skepticism

The world is full of Nessie sceptics, they may be young or old, fat or thin, near or far from the loch, they may be intelligent or dumb. What they do have in common is a shared belief that Loch Ness harbours no large, exotic species of animal. It is, of course, their right to hold such an opinion. However, another thing they may not have in common is the way they express that opinion and that involves personality.

Take these words from retired Loch Ness researcher, Tony Harmsworth, as he gave a short, grumpy pre-review of Gareth Williams' book, "A Monstrous Commotion".

Anyone studying the subject seriously might find it useful, but his repeatedly going into depth about exaggerated sightings and reports which, for anyone who knows the subject, have no credibility whatsoever, was the most annoying aspect of it and I found that extremely tiresome. This was the very reason why I didn’t include all of these irrelevant sightings in my own book. However, now they are all referenced, perhaps we can let them die a natural death. 

It seems Gareth's mistake was making these eyewitness reports sound too "real". I began to suspect that if Tony didn't like the book, then, ipso facto, I would like it. Since I have started reading the book, that feeling has partially been confirmed. I will put up a proper review when I have finished (as I am sure Tony will).

Now Tony does not really involve himself in the search for any form of Nessie these days, his presence on such forums is minimal to say the least. Having written his book, "Loch Ness Understood", he perhaps feels that is all he has to say on the subject. I note that when Tony mentioned a book by another sceptic, Ronald Binns, called "The Loch Ness Mystery: Solved", he describes this as "rather prematurely titled". Presumably, Tony has now "put the world to rights" with his similarly (but still prematurely) titled book!

Tony suggests Adrian Shine would do a better book on the history of the Loch Ness Monster and its pursuers. I wouldn't care to give an opinion on that but I would certainly look forward to such a book (as I did with Tony's).  I think Adrian is now aged 67 years old and must be nearing retirement from his post at the Loch Ness Centre in Drumnadrochit. Maybe after this we will see such a book.

As best as I can ascertain, Tony now tends to be preoccupied with aiming verbal arrows at people who believe in one or more gods (presumably he regards them as another set of witnesses who have misidentified something ordinary for something extraordinary). However, back to his quote.

In typical bombastic fashion, he put us to rights by describing all claims to seeing a large animal in the loch as being "exaggerated", having "no credibility", "tiresome", "irrelevant" and we ought to "let them die a natural death". And this, he says, should be obvious to "anyone who knows the subject".

Let us look at how Tony handles one of these claimed sightings. I refer to the John McLean case and how Tony has decided that this was in fact just a bird; a cormorant to be more precise. His post in facebook can be found here.

The long neck fits in with cormorants. It is well known that people overestimate sizes over water. The body drawings are typical of boat wakes or groups of birds apart from the last drawing which is a bit of a mystery. Bearing in mind that only around a third of an aquatic animal's body appears above the surface when swimming, the size estimates would put this animal at around 50 to 60 feet or almost the size of the largest animal on the planet - a blue whale. We also know that long-necked animals have high metabolic rates so there would be insufficient food in the loch for a long-necked creature of any size. Oh how I wish I could have been looking over his shoulder so that I could have pointed out that he was actually seeing a ...... or a ...... or a ......, but my Tardis is currently not operational.

Now to dig a bit deeper into these words.

The long neck fits in with cormorants. 

Well, it doesn't actually, the sketch by McLean looks nothing like a cormorant. The lack of a long beak is a give away. The proportions are also wrong.





It is well known that people overestimate sizes over water.

But not by a factor of nearly seven. McLean suggested a length of up to 20ft (610cm) while a cormorant is about 90cm long. Moreover, overestimates are not so credible at a range of under twenty yards. This is a bit like someone claiming they saw an articulated lorry pass by, only for some "expert" to tell them they actually saw a mini car. I think the words "exaggerated" and "no credibility" just as equally apply to Tony's strained interpretation of what Mr. McLean saw.

The body drawings are typical of boat wakes or groups of birds apart from the last drawing which is a bit of a mystery.

Group of birds, but only one neck? Curiouser and curiouser. It goes without saying that Tony completely ignores any experience John McLean may have had as regards boats and birds. After all, he had claimed to have seen the monster, so he is immediately an unreliable witness. That is circular reasoning by any other name. As for the inflated hump, Tony hopes we will just ignore this minor "mystery".

Bearing in mind that only around a third of an aquatic animal's body appears above the surface when swimming, the size estimates would put this animal at around 50 to 60 feet or almost the size of the largest animal on the planet - a blue whale.

Loch Ness Monster fans have always held that the creature has notable powers of positive buoyancy. This is rejected by sceptics, hence the unwarranted use of this one third formula. Tony fails to note that McLean said he saw the creature from tail to head, so that blows his one third calculation clean out of the water.

As a side note, here is a YouTube clip of an animal with positive buoyancy that matches and perhaps even exceeds that of our favourite cryptid. Nature again provides a precedent to the confounding of the sceptics.



We also know that long-necked animals have high metabolic rates so there would be insufficient food in the loch for a long-necked creature of any size. 

Well, using proof by contradiction, it appears the long necked nothosauridae did not - Quad Erat Non Demonstrandum.

Oh how I wish I could have been looking over his shoulder so that I could have pointed out that he was actually seeing a ...... or a ...... or a ......, but my Tardis is currently not operational.

Ah, such arrogance! Besides, Tony, I am sure you would rather send off your Tardis to more interesting times .... such as White Hart Lane in the early 1960s.

If this is what "anyone who knows the subject" knows, I will continue to live in ignorance, thanks very much.










Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Infrasonic Nessie

The rise of scepticism has brought with it a desire to find more natural explanations for eyewitness claims to large creatures in lochs and lakes around the world. We are familiar with the older theories regarding boat wakes, seiches, vegetable mats, birds and other forms of misinterpreted phenomena, but not much new has hoved over the sceptical horizon recently.

So, it was with some interest that I noted a comment left by Loch Ness researcher, Dick Raynor, on this blog a couple of years back:

I am just beginning a new avenue of amateur investigation involving infrasound and I am sure that Ted and Tim would have been years ahead of me had they still been with us, as both of them (and I also) had experiences consistent with its effects.

This work, if successful, will in no way claim or prove that there are no unknown large animals in Loch Ness, it will only add to the argument that their existence is not necessary to account for the wide variations in observations and data obtained so far. If I see and film a plesiosaur from one of my boat tours tomorrow I will happily admit "Yup, there are plesiosaurs there too."

You can find Dick's thoughts on this matter at his website. In summary, the theory draws on previous work by Vic Tandy which suggested that inaudible sound at around a frequency of 19Hz triggers various physiological effects such as fear, blurred vision, shivering and dizziness. The blurred vision is alleged to be due to the human eyeball resonating at this frequency. Tandy's own personal experience made him think a grey spirit was entering at his peripheral vision but vanished when he turned to look at it.

Dick Raynor thinks this is applicable to some aspects of the Loch Ness Monster phenomenon. The infrasound waves are theorised to be generated by the culvert pipes below the road which then affect human observers near them. These pipes are used to run hillside water off into the loch and the photo below is of one such culvert at Loch Ness which I took recently.





However, how exactly this is to be applied to the Loch Ness Monster is not made clear on his website. A look around for Dick's other comments does not elaborate much more on the neurophysiological mechanisms involved or the proposed alterations in perception. One comment here has him actually applying the infrasound mechanism to Bigfoot as well!

Adding to what Rangoon says, the same naturally occuring infrasound could produce the perception of bigfoot in addition to the "bad" feelings. Witness is unaware of cause but senses both effects and the brain then turns one of them into a cause.

However, one assumes culverts do not run past Bigfoot sites. On another forum, he says:

Could it be that Science has added a new category of 'answer' that relies on modern physics, including infrasound-generated psychological / perception disturbances ...

Could produce, could it be? Maybe, but then again, maybe not. Let's look at issues with this theory.


SEMI-SCIENCE

Now Dick said (albeit two years ago) that this was a work in progress and it is just as well he said that because what we have just now is not science but at best incomplete science. He has proposed a theory, albeit thin on the human perception side, but having more to say on the matter of the physics of resonating culverts.

The main problem is immediately obvious to those with experience of the scientific method. There is no evidence that this theory has been tested. It is over two years now since Dick outlined his theory on his website, but nothing more has been added. What do we need to see to progress this?

First, is there any evidence of infrasound emissions near the culverts? Has Dick gone to some culverts with measuring equipment in an attempt to measure the presence of sound waves in the proposed frequency range? If nothing has been detected, clearly the theory is already dead in the water.

Secondly, the intensity of any proposed waves also need to be measured. Herein lies a deficiency with the theory as it is not stated at what decibel level the proposed perception-altering changes kick in. Culverts may emit at 18Hz, but may be too weak to have any effect on humans.

Thirdly, a control test needs to be done at a site well away from culverts on the loch side. This is to establish whether any theoretical infrasound presence can be statistically linked to the culverts rather than another potential cause. If infrasound were to be detected nowhere near culverts, it is unlikely to have anything to do with them.

Have any of these tests been done? If not, it is incomplete science, it is semi-science. Many a theory has been proposed over the centuries of scientific enquiry, they may have been totally plausible and mathematical, but in many instances they turned out to be wrong due to an unwarranted assumption, loose handling of the data or a missing piece in the equations.

On the other hand, it is of course entirely possible all this has been done, it just has not been published yet. In that light, we await the possibility of unrevealed research for further critique.


PEER CRITICISM

The other aspect to all of this is whether the initial and original theory is as worthy of acceptance as it is made out? In that light, I took a step back from what is being proposed regarding the Loch Ness Monster and sought out the opinions of others on Vic Tandy's theory of infrasound and paranormal phenomena. It did not take long to find a dissenting opinion.

This objection can be found in a paper authored by Jason Braithwaite and Maurice Townsend in October 2006 entitled "Good Vibrations: The case for a specific effect of infrasound in instances of anomalous experience has yet to be empirically demonstrated" which is a long winded way of saying "we don't think anything has been proven here".

I see that Dr. Jason Braithwaite lectures in Cognitive Science and Brain Science at Birmingham University and his academic profile is here.  You can obtain their article here. His view in the paper is that the infrasound phenomenon has not been properly quantified, there is no baseline data and the neurological side is inadequately stated.

That does not mean that infrasound effects on human perception have been proven false, it just means they are not proven to an adequate level of scientific enquiry. 


CONCLUSION

There is no proof that infrasound can perceptually affect observers at Loch Ness or anywhere else. No measurements at this time confirming their presence at culverts are forthcoming and there is no mechanism adequately explaining how resonating pipes lead to people seeing plesiosaurs. Apart from these objections, it's a great theory. :)

We await further scientific revelations from Dick Raynor.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com





Monday, 9 November 2015

Jennifer Bruce's Monster and Sucking

Every time I see a picture of a gull, I think of the 1982 picture of the Loch Ness Monster by Jennifer Bruce. I wrote about this in 2013 and when I look at such a gull picture, I am less convinced by the sceptical interpretation that it is nothing more than a passing seagull. Let's just say that if that was a gull, it would be so deformed as to be incapable of flying in the first place!





I saw yet another gull in a recent photo and include it below with a zoom of Bruce's Nessie. Compare and contrast.








Now whether the bird in the photo is a bona fide member of a gull species seems irrelevant to me. After all, damn! Those are the strangest looking wings I have ever seen on a supposed bird in Bruce's picture. Perhaps it is a weird, cryptid bird like the legendary Thunderbird looking up its watery cousin in Loch Ness?

Quite simply, the sceptics have been suckered into a case of pareidolia here; they see something that looks vaguely like something else. That brings me to a flaw in sceptical logic that is a repeat offence. I call it the "my theory sucks the least" argument and there is normally some fancy Latin  phrase to describe these things, but I am not particularly bothered to find it.

The argument runs like this, the probability of there being one or more large monsters in Loch Ness is approaching zero. So it is not a valid explanation for things we see in photos and films from Loch Ness.

However, since one wishes to look authoritative and intelligent, some kind of explanation needs to be offered as to what is in the picture. Now since any explanation that looks half plausible is going to be more probable than a monster one, it is therefore a probable explanation - use it.

Since the majority are not going to criticise this approach, people will generally get away with it - until they get shot down (like a gull) on this blog and others. So, you declare Bruce's photo is a bird. What do you mean it doesn't look like a bird on closer inspection!? It's more probable than a monster, so that's good enough for me!

Matey, if you think the odds of a monster are a million to one against, but the odds of that thing in the picture being a gull are a thousand to one against, you better just drop both and keep quiet.

This "my theory sucks the least" approach is found all over the place. Another example was Maurice Burton's explanation of the Surgeon's photo. He said it was an otter in the act of diving. It's a daft explanation, but it sucks less than a monster one, so we're cool with that.

I see it all time to varying degrees of dubiety. That does not mean that people do get it right on various pictures (e.g. Steve Feltham outing George Edwards or Alistair Boyd on the Surgeon's Photo), but some others attempts are just ... embarrassing.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com








Saturday, 7 November 2015

More on the man "who invented Nessie"

Or not as the case may be. A commenter pointed out that a Loch Ness researcher had written on Digby George Gerahty over twenty years ago. The researcher was Steuart Campbell, author of the popular book,  "The Loch Ness Monster: The Evidence".

The article was "Who Invented the Loch Ness Monster?" published in the March/April 1992 issue of The Skeptic magazine. Steuart has kindly sent me the scans of these pages which I now include for your interest. You can view the first page and the second page via google drive.









Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Upcoming Book Event




Gareth Williams, author of the upcoming "A Monstrous Commotion", emailed to inform me that the book will be launched at Waterstones bookshop in Inverness next week on Thursday 12th November at 6:30pm. You can find out more at the Waterstones website. Unfortunately, I am just back from the area and so can't make it, but I am some of our local readers may want to come along.










Saturday, 31 October 2015

Was Nessie invented by a publicist?

As part of the promotion for the upcoming book, A Monstrous Commotion, the Daily Mail runs an article on the author, Gareth Williams, and an interesting piece from his book. It concerns a Digby George Gerahty, who claimed to Henry Bauer before his death in 1981, that he was the inventor of the Loch Ness Monster via a series of planted monster stories back in 1933. You can read more in the Mail article.

The story is not unfamiliar to me, I just discounted it as one of the various competing theories promulgated as to what triggered the Loch Ness Monster story. The competing one is the influence of King Kong. The other is road works and blasting rousing the monster. One that also springs to mind is the Italian journalist, Francesco Gasparini, who in 1959 made similar claims:

Italian newsman Francesco Gasparini claimed in an article published in the Milan weekly magazine Visto that he had invented the Loch Ness Monster. His story was that in August 1933, while working in London as a UK correspondent for an Italian newspaper, he saw a two-line item in the Glasgow Herald about a "strange fish" caught in Loch Ness. Having nothing else to write about, he expanded on this, turning the fish into a monster, and soon "other papers began to print eyewitness accounts of the monster being sighted." Gasparini's claim was not taken very seriously. "The man is talking rot," one Scot was quoted as saying.

And then there is poor Alex Campbell, long time water bailiff of Loch Ness, who people such as arch sceptic, Ronald Binns, pins the blame on for inventing, embellishing and sustaining Nessie stories to catalyse the Kelpie legends into life.

Who's to blame? All, none or some? As Gareth says, he is not the one to judge, it is down to each of us to form our own opinion. I look forward with greater interest to the release of his book on November the 12th.

POSTSCRIPT: follow up article here


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com









Wednesday, 21 October 2015

An Old Tale from Loch Ness

Nothing to do with Nessie, but an amusing tale of life on the loch from "Angling and Art in Scotland: some fishing experiences related and illustrated" by Ernest Edward Briggs, published in 1908.

But the morning train from Perth was quite an express, and, if I remember rightly, only took four hours to accomplish the distance, arriving at Inverness about eleven o'clock. That gave one ample time to look around the cleanly little Highland town, and to pay a visit to the fishing-tackle shop ; for the steamer up Loch Ness did not leave until three in the afternoon. This afternoon boat, which went no farther than Fort Augustus, was also of the most leisurely ; you could, however, get a decent tea on board, with fish and cold meat. A peaceful calm pervaded the whole establishment. It was impossible to instil any great amount of energy into any of the employees; the utmost excitement on the part of a passenger brought no answering light of enthusiasm to the eye of the deck-hand. It was on this boat that a portly, well-to-do, though irascible Highlander, bound for the Temple Pier at Glenurquhart, found as he neared his destination that his portmanteau had been mislaid.

The luggage for the various ports had been put under tarpaulins, each in a separate pile, for it was a wet afternoon, and the pile destined for Glenurquhart, when examined, did not furnish the missing article. This fact, when demonstrated, produced a perfect ferment in the mind of the owner, who charged about the deck accusing the captain and sailors, jointly and severally, of having made away with his luggage. One of the sailors particularly, whom he vowed had brought the precious case on board, fell under his severest displeasure. But the company, from the captain downwards, were in no wise to be ruffled. This dignitary, in fact, remained perfectly unmoved by the most forcible language and threats, merely affirming that if the portmanteau had been properly labelled for the Temple Pier, it would have been found amongst the articles destined for that port, and therefore there was no doubt that it had never been brought aboard.

Ultimately, when Glenurquhart was reached, the excitable gentleman had to go ashore minus his luggage, muttering half-articulated threats into his beard, evidently having himself now some doubts as to whether the bone of contention had been properly labelled or no. But the climax came when one of the deck-hands — perhaps more conscientious than his fellows — actually found the missing article amongst the Fort Augustus luggage, and literally hurled it on to the pier just as the moorings were being cast off. The owner immediately pounced upon his property, growling over it as a dog would growl over a bone. He rapidly examined the label, and found it to be correctly addressed.

I Ah! you should have seen him then, that irate Highlander, alternately thumping with his fist the label which he had hastily torn from off the portmanteau — and which he was holding up for the captain's edification, as he ran along the pier keeping pace with the now moving boat or vigorously shaking that same fist at the imperturbable despot, bawling out as he did so, "Ye're condemned, Sir! Ye're condemned!" It was a mercy, in his excitement, that he did not tumble into the water on coming to the end of the pier, where for several minutes we could see him dancing like a bear on hot iron, gesticulating wildly, while his curses were wafted ever more faintly over the waves as the steamer forged ahead.

I note the observation "the utmost excitement on the part of a passenger brought no answering light of enthusiasm to the eye of the deck-hand" and wonder if even a raising of the eyebrow would be elicited if any passenger had seen the "huge fish" spoken of in former times gambolling nearby? Imagine the scene.

Gladys: Look! Look! What are those three humps and long neck in the water?!

Claude (looking at zombie crewmen): Clearly nothing to get excited about, Darling. It must be a bow wave generated by a sturgeon pursuing a cormorant. Another sandwich, Dear?


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com
 



Thursday, 15 October 2015

The Sightings Problem

It is the constant refrain of the sceptical - "Where is the conclusive film or photograph?". Having "jousted" with such people over the years on this subject and replied in various articles, there is no need to repeat long arguments and replies. 

However, the sceptical demands for evidence are brought into contemporary relief by the advent of mobile phone cameras and the supposed deduction that this ought to produce something game changing. My previous replies to that suggests it is not as clean cut and wrinkle free as they make out.

A further look at the recent sightings database reveals more. I produced the graph below for the aforementioned article to demonstrate that image capture was on the increase due to such technology. The proportion of images taken in relation to the total number of reported sightings has increased substantially since the 1980s with at least 50% of reports carrying a film or photo.




However, that is not enough for the critics. They want an irrefutable image which would somehow get past the accusations of "Fake" and "CGI". Setting aside the issues of how exactly a photo is deemed fake-free or non-CGI, one thing is certain and that is the Loch Ness Monster would have to be pretty close and well out of the water to produce such a compelling image. Here begins the problems. I charted the number of historical sightings which were less than 100 yards or meters from the witness and got this graph.



As you can see, close up reports of Nessie have been on the decline since the 1970s. To put it plainly, if the monster is not playing ball by putting in a close appearance, no amount of fancy or expensive HD ready mobile phones will capture anything that could be called game changing.

Accept it, as they say.

You won't? Okay, let's take a closer look. The question is why close up reports have declined? This is not surprisingly part of a general decline in sightings, for which I drew up a list of possible reasons in an earlier article:


  1. People are less easily fooled by natural loch phenomena. 
  2. People are less motivated to report sightings in a sceptical age. 
  3. People find it harder to find an "official" centre to report sightings. 
  4. The media does not report as many sightings as it used to. 
  5. The creature(s) is surfacing less often either due to population decline. 
  6. The creature(s) is surfacing less often due to aversion to increased surface activity. 
  7. Reports from recent years have still to filter through to researchers. 

To be clear, though, the absence of close encounters with Nessie at a hundred paces is not going to be explicable by all these categories. For example, the first explanation is not so convincing for close up encounters, I quite frankly get bored with people who insist witnesses mistook a cormorant for a monster at sixty feet. You can only dumb down witnesses so far.

In fact, of these seven speculations, I would think only 5 and 6 are relevant as I can't imagine a close up view of Nessie not making it into the media mainstream. In fact, the bottom line is that sightings of the calibre of MacLean, Jenkyns, Cockrell and so on have just not happened in recent years.

I would add a modifier to option 5 and that is the travelling Nessie hypothesis. As opposed to population decline due to overfishing and pollution, perhaps the Loch Ness Monster has just vacated the premises? Since the sightings record indicates at least three or more creatures seen at one time, the population in the loch is not so dependent on breeding but on new creatures every few decades coming in to replenish the numbers. Whether they can leave again is a matter of debate and an article in its own right.

But we do have sightings which have occurred within 100 metres of the witness, but whatever was seen was just below the surface or barely showing. One example is the photo taken by Jon Rowe in 2011. There may be one or two others but they involve water disturbances rather than a full show of the creature.

Which brings me to a comment posted a while back on the matter of how many films and photos should we have of the Loch Ness Monster. That word "should" is pretty loaded as it can carry a lot of bias generated assumptions with it. Their reasoning went as follows:

"Ok let's show mathmatically the minimum since 2005, because I have read a stat that 90% of adults since 2005 have carried a mobile phone with a camera, averaged over the last 10 years. This seems reasonable, certainly not far off the mark in terms of everyday observations. In 2015 it is higher than 90%, in 2005 it was lower. So for argument's sake we will both ignore the years before 2005, and we will not factor in the multitude of digital cameras and video cameras (inc night vision) taken to the loch additionally.

Next we need to know how many sightings lasting more than 10 seconds have occurred since 2005. We are told that this figure is down to about 3 a year.

So doing the maths, there should have been 30 sightings of more more than 10 seconds, and 90% of these should have been filmed. We should have 27 films worth looking at since 2005, and dozens more from before then. Of these 27, if they were all clear views of Nessie, they would all produce footage worth analysing.

Now, your turn to justify why we have ZERO instead
"

So, our commenter is expecting 27 films of the Loch Ness Monster since 2005 - and he thinks I expect zero. The first thing to do is ascertain how many sightings have actually been logged in the ten year period up to 2015. Consulting my own articles as well as the database maintained by Gary Campbell, I have come up with at least 24 recorded events as opposed to the 30 assumed by the commenter. In this, I have excluded webcam reports, sonar contacts and Google Earth map stories.

How many resulted in films or photos? Our commenter applies a 90% ratio to get 27 image captures and for some reason he expects them all to be motion and not still images. As it turns out, the number is 13, 11 of these were photos and 2 were film. That is an image/report ratio of 54%. Three of the cases involved driving in a car and three were in boats. If the car drivers are removed as potential camera users, the ratio increases to 62%. The list is shown below:

2005 - 4 (Bell, Yeats, Anonymous(b), Girvan(p))
2006 - 1 (Murphy(d))
2007 - 2 (Wilson(bp),Holmes(f))
2008 - 1 (Ellis(p))
2009 - 1 (MacDougall)
2010 - 1 (Preston(p))
2011 - 4 (Rowe(p),Hargreaves,Gruer,Jobes(p))
2012 - 2 (Assleman(p),Ross(p),Anonymous(d))
2013 - 0
2014 - 3 (gamekeeper,Loch Ness Lodge staff(p),Bhardwaj(bp))
2015 - 5 (Ross(f),Anonymous,Bruce(d),Bates(p),McKenna(d))

d=driving
b=boating
p=photo
f=film

Those are the numbers and I would not class any of them as a close up view of a fully exposed monster. Indeed, some reports will be too far for such a situation. So that means I do expect films and photos but I (at this point in time) expect no game changers. There are others things to note.

The first is that even monster researchers will not accept every sighting as a bona fide sighting of Nessie. Some are going to be misidentification, though these will tend to be the ones which are much further away or only seen briefly before a proper assessment could be made of the object in question.

Secondly, witnesses prefer taking photos than films. As much as sceptics fume at dumb witnesses not switching their phones or cameras to video mode, it just doesn't happen the way they want it. The raw data says that 15% of images taken are motion and not the idealistic 100% of our commenter.

Where does this leave us? That sceptics expect films is not to be denied. The problem is the old girl is not putting in the required close up appearances. They say this is because such "sightings" do not happen now because witnesses are better educated and not so easily fooled. I say prove it and how on earth does that apply to close ups at 100 metres where doubts over what you are seeing should be minimal.

Rather than accept these arguments, consider the possibility that the Loch Ness Monster is just not surfacing as much as it used to. Whether that is due to increased surface activity or population decline or just due to some of the monsters vacating the loch  is now a matter of debate.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com