Saturday, 28 December 2013

Nessie Review of 2013

The year two thousand and thirteen draws to a close and it is time to look back and reflect on what has happened in terms of the Loch Ness Monster and events elsewhere which have an eye towards Loch Ness.


The most important event this year was the year itself as 2013 marked the 80th anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster phenomenon. Though legends and stories of strange creatures go back a lot further than 1933, this was the year that this now worldwide story was birthed and there is no sign of the old girl dying off yet. Not by a long chalk.

Mention Loch Ness to citizens across the world and the first thing they think of is Nessie. The two are inseparable and long may it continue. The Tourist agencies of Scotland may try to disassociate them and point to the other attractions of Loch Ness, but I suggest they cease and desist.

The story started with the sighting of a water disturbance and two humps seen by the Mackays around April 1933. I took a fresh look at this seminal story some months back. The exact date is not clear but the publishing of their story by the Inverness Courier on May 2nd 1933 can be regarded as the date of importance as far as public awareness is concerned.

To mark the event, a special symposium was arranged by Charles Paxton and Gordon Rutter and was held at the Counting House in Edinburgh in April. The event received publicity worldwide and was well attended as various speakers (including myself) held forth on various aspects of the phenomenon.

It was perhaps a sign of the times that the event was more sceptically leaning than the last symposium in 1987, but a show of hands in response to the simple question "Do you believe in the Loch Ness Monster?" was pretty much 50-50. I gave my own thoughts on the event here.

A week later, a special event to mark the Mackay sighting was held at Loch Ness itself and near the spot where Aldie Mackay spotted the double hump coursing its way across the loch. The event was suitably backed up by Birthday Cake and Whisky.


But what of the old beast herself this year past? Though there were things to discuss, sightings again were thin on the ground compared to previous years. By thin, I mean they were not reported in the general media as the number of people who believe they have seen something outnumbers those which make it into print. These days, I suspect you will need a video or photograph of some interest to make it into the public view. However, what turned up this year makes me dub this year, the Year of the Wave Like Nessie.

Firstly, the only sighting I am aware of is one I have not written about until now! It appeared on the Facebook page of the cruise company, Cruise Loch Ness. It goes like this: 

Three different people came to the Wheelhouse today to tell me that they had seen something in the Loch on the 2 o clock cruise. They all described a long black thing on the surface behind the 'Royal Scot' it was visible for a few seconds before disappearing. I wish they'd said something when they were watching it, as I was busy looking where we were going and missed it !! 
This happened on April 5th just the day before the aforementioned Edinburgh Symposium. The skipper, Marcus Atkinson, gave me further details:
I was skippering the Royal Scot when this happened, and it was me that posted on Facebook. It is unusual because, over the last few years no-one has ever mentioned seeing anything, then on one trip three different people from different parts of the boat came to the wheelhouse and mentioned seeing something? I remember that it was a flat day with no wind, and everyone pointed to the same spot on the loch.

At the time I didn't think much about it because - they were all pointing to the place on the Loch where the Royal Scot turns around. This off the horseshoe scree and on a windless day the wake from our voyage up will slowly move across the Loch, at times it does look like several humps moving across the water. Because I didn't see it, it's hard to say anything really. Other than I wish someone had pointed it out at the time!

One may suspect it was just a wave if it was not for the independent tourists who came to Marcus. Was it a Nessie-like Wave or a Wave-like Nessie putting in an appearance for it's 80th?

The wave theme continued with a video taken by David Elder in August when he spotted something snake like making its way across the loch near Fort Augustus. This one generated quite a few comments about waves being caused by long gone boats. A pretty convenient explanation I thought since it does not require any proving on the part of the sceptic. A look at the still below shows three distant white boats near the horizon which makes them over nine miles away based on a height above sea level of 62 feet. There are also some boats in another picture on the far south shore making their way towards the observer.

A bit too far away to leave much of a wave for my liking. Accepting the presence of large creatures in Loch Ness as I do, it is inevitable from my point of view that these creatures can put on wave-like appearances. Admittedly, not good enough for the sceptically minded, but one that I take into account.

The wave theme appeared one more time in November with Jonathan Bright's unusual photograph of something appearing behind a Jacobite cruise ship. This might well be the first infra-red picture of the Loch Ness Monster. Again, the wave explanation was offered and was critiqued on this website. It clearly generated a lot of interest as it currently stands as the seventh most accessed article on this blog.

Oh well, perhaps these three Nessie stories was her just giving us a "wave" on her birthday. Jonathan's photograph is an example of how stories can filter through from recent years. Not everything that makes the news need happen in the year of reporting it.

This was also the year that George Edwards came clean on his hump photograph. Thanks to a conversation Steve Feltham had, the fibreglass prop that was actually photographed was presented to the world. Though George confessed, he was not explicit on how the photograph came about.


That little episode brought into relief a conflict of sorts that rumbled through 2013. I speak not of so called "believers" or "non-believers" in Nessie but a conflict between Loch Ness businessmen and Loch Ness businessmen. Whether they believe there is a large monster in Loch Ness (and I doubt it), they certainly profit from it and where there is money to be made, there is potential for conflict.

George Edwards' stunt brought to light a war of words between such people as to how the Loch Ness Monster should be presented to the public. George's "end justifies the means" approach did not sit well with Tony Harmsworth who preferred the scientific approach. When the Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce told Tony to remove negative comments about Edwards from their website, he tendered his resignation.

The wars continued later in the Summer when the two competing exhibition centres at Drumnadrochit got into a tiff over what signs should be shown where. This resulted in one sign being taken and the owner of the Nessieland exhibition being arrested by the police over its theft!


In the world of print, three titles of contrasting nature came out in 2013. The best for me was the biography of famous monster hunter, Tim Dinsdale, titled "The Man Who Hunted Nessie". This was written by his youngest son, Angus. I reviewed this book here. The second book by J.F. Derry called "Loch Ness Monster and other Unexplained Mysteries" was more an anthology of photographs and stories as published by the British newspaper, the Daily Mirror.

In distinction to these was the sceptical tome "Abominable Science" written by Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero. I reviewed their chapter on the Loch Ness Monster or perhaps the better term is panned it. I gave it one star on while nearly everyone else was praising it to the skies and the sceptics never forgave me for that! In fact, they focused on that more on than what I said because I was told the rating should be based on the whole book. Well, I have nearly finished the book and I may up it to two stars. But the fact that they complained more about that the exposure of  poor research suggested deflection tactics to me.


This was the year we also said farewell to some people involved in the hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. The most prominent was the now legendary monster hunter, Professor Roy Mackal, who died of heart failure at the age of 88 in September. Roy joined the Loch Ness Phenomenon Investigation Bureau in 1965 and helped put the "Scientific" into "Investigation". You can read tributes to him by Loren Coleman (who broke the sad news), the Chicago Sun Times, Dick Raynor (who worked with him) and myself.

We also say "Rest In Peace" to Ken Wallis who died at the grand old age of 97. He famously employed his one man autogyro to help the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau perform any airborne surveys of Loch Ness - in case Nessie popped up to the surface. The Loch Ness Monster has been spotted from the air on at least one occassion, so the idea had merit. Doubtless, Mackal and Wallis would have met back then in 1970.


Meanwhile, the search for the Loch Ness Monster continued in 2013. Aside from the myriads of tourists that hot summer, people such as myself and Gordon Holmes took the high road to Loch Ness in search of Nessie. I posted recently about Gordon's recent work and my own attempts to glimpse the creature. I always am thinking of a new angle to try and catch that elusive piece of evidence. Of course, there is nothing new there. The aforementioned Loch Ness Investigation Bureau brainstormed many a new technique into existence and some of their ideas are still employed today. The one I don't particularly fancy is "nightdrifting" where you drift around in a small boat in the darkest hours ... waiting for something. I would probably freeze to death first.

Back home, discoveries of a different kind were made as old stories came to light after decades of hiding and well known stories were re-examined. The well kent Jennifer Bruce photograph was shown to be more than just a passing seagull and I finished off my series on the Lachlan Stuart photograph. An old tale from the 1880s telling of a diver's encounter with a strange beast was found as was a curious photograph from 1938 which was closely correlated to a known sighting from the time. A recently obtained zoom in does not reveal much more but indicates some water disturbance to the left. In some ways, it is reminiscent of Gordon Holmes' 2007 video.

What will 2014 hold? God willing, I hope to be back at Loch Ness in April. I also plan to give a talk on recent events at Loch Ness in Edinburgh in March. That year will also mark the 80th anniversary of the most famous Nessie image of all, the Surgeon's Photograph, in April. So expect some media coverage around that time.

And again, we await that story or picture which continues to make the Loch Ness Monster a subject that is more than just interesting - it's an intriguing and enduring story.

A good New Year to you all when it comes.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Another Strange Satellite Image

Remember this image below from Google Maps a few years back? It made the newspapers but it was clear on examination that it was nothing more than a boat with attendant bow waves.

It was seen making its way up the loch north of Invermoriston as the wider map shows below. The scale of 200m gives an idea how big it is.

Then there was the filament like images spotted on Loch Ness images and covered here. However, another stranger object has turned up, not in Google Maps, but Apple Maps recently. This image is shown below and something can be seen to the left making its way presumably south down the loch. The zoom in is shown below.

Now as it turns out, this object does not appear on Google maps and I show the equivalent picture below with attendant scale. Using the scale gives a rough size of 40 metres for the entire object, which is about twice the size as our more famous Google Boat image above.

Like the Google Boat image, I doubt the object is all one object. There is wake action going on in both pictures to the extent that the Google Boat is half wake and half boat (10m each) or the standard size of a Caley Cruiser boat.

The other object is a bit more difficult to parse, but the object is perhaps 20 metres long which makes me wonder if it is the bigger Jacobite cruiser boats that head south from the locks near Inverness? If somebody could find one of those larger boats on satellite imagery, that would be helpful. An overlay of the two objects show some similarities and dissimilarities.

The first question is why is the image so much fainter? If you look at the original Apple Maps image, you can see the smaller boats moored near Aldourie Castle (below centre of image). Like our Google Boat, they are quite quite white in colour. So why is this object not showing a similar albedo? Could this be because it is just below the water's surface or perhaps it is a darker colour? 

However, to produce the presumed bow wave we see, it must be showing something at the surface. And what is that crescent type "wave" ahead of the main part of the object?

Anyway, comments are invited in an attempt to identify what is going on here.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Roy Mackal 1925-2013

Loren Coleman reports on his blog that Professor Roy Mackal died this September at the age of 88. With the passing of this leading light in the pursuit of the Loch Ness Monster, it would be remiss not to say some words here. Loren gives a fuller view of the man's life but this blog focuses on his contribution to the mystery that resides in Loch Ness.

It was a chance tourist visit to Loch Ness in the autumn of 1965 that led an American microbiologist from the University of Chicago to meet up with David James, the head of the Loch Ness Phenomenon Investigation Bureau. By the following year, he had become a director of the Bureau and had already convinced the first of several American based organisations to give financial or technical support to the Bureau. The LNPIB would have been a lot poorer for the absence of Mackal's enthusiasm and American connections and, indeed, may have experienced an earlier demise.

But it was not only money that Mackal brought to Loch Ness. It was a scientific application and rigour under his technical directorship that extended the Bureau's reach into the murky depths of the loch. Techniques that were only touched upon were realised and new ones came to fruition as well. Under his lead, underwater photography, acoustic monitoring, fixed and mobile sonar searches, specimen collection from the loch and its environmental assessment earnestly pressed ahead. To that we can add the never used biopsy darts and large Nessie nets.

Various sonar hits were recorded as well as some curious noises from the oil barrel encased hydrophones. The surface surveillance continued as usual and Roy even had a possible sighting of the Loch Ness Monster in September 1970 during the "Big Expedition". The clip at this YouTube link is from around that time showing Dr. Mackal in his capacity of LNIB technical advisor talking about Dan Taylor's submarine, the Viperfish.

Regarding the sighting, he was changing the tapes on one of the hydrophone recording devices. Roy noticed a disturbance about 6 feet in diameter and about 30 feet away caused by what appeared to be some animal "roiling about". What was described as a "black, triangular, blunt-pointed, rubbery-looking object" appeared every few seconds before completely submerging. Though he was inconclusive as to what it may have been in his seminal book "The Monsters of Loch Ness", he became more convinced later:

If that's a fish, I thought, it's a mighty fish indeed! To this day, when someone asks me, 'Do you believe there is a monster in Loch Ness?' my stomach does a somersault. I know what I saw."

The response of his scientific colleagues was naturally mixed. It is accepted that career progress at his University of Chicago halted, though it appears they were more supportive later where he taught a course in zoological mysteries.

The mixed reception was also evident when the scientific journal Nature pulled his article on the 1968 Tucker-Birmingham sonar results but it was taken up by New Scientist. The publishers of Nature continued their campaign against him by spreading falsehoods about the testing of the sonar equipment and its operators. Some things do not change.

Mackal's thoughts on what the Loch Ness Monster could be was a reflection on the depth of the mystery as he ranged in opinions from mollusc to sirenian to amphibian and finally the zeuglodon. 

But all good things must come to an end and when a Robert Rines came along to one of his lectures in 1969, the technical dominance began to swung over to the visits of the Academy of Applied Science. The LNIB folded in 1972 and Roy Mackal's influence began to wane. By the end of the 1970s, Roy Mackal's cryptozoological interests began to focus on a sauropod in the depths of the Congo jungles.

Like others before and after him, the final clinching piece of evidence never came but not before he amassed and collated all his scientific, technical and personal experiences into the massive tome that is known as "The Monsters of Loch Ness". Published in 1976 and coming in at 401 pages, it is a comprehensive work on the Loch Ness Monster and, in my opinion, the best book on the subject.

It may lack the romance, adventure, history and folklore of other Nessie books and have its faults, but this is outweighed by the vast range it covers in analysing the phenomenon.

Roy Mackal has gone and another symbolic figure from those heady days of the 1960s and 1970s passes into cryptozoological history. I never met him or communicated with him in any way, but I hope this blog will continue to uphold in its own little way what he thought about Loch Ness - "Here be Monsters!".

Friday, 13 December 2013

Christmas and Nessie

I popped into one of the main Edinburgh bookstores yesterday for a bit of Christmas shopping but thought I would also check up on their cryptozoological offerings. With a particular focus on looking out for any Loch Ness Monster books, it came as no surprise that there was nothing on display. I include even sceptically minded books in that search.

So while it was a relief not to see the likes of Abominable Science's poor handling of Nessie on offer, I was wondering if the lack of books on offer reflected the public's lack of interest in the subject? After all, the popularity of shows like "Finding Bigfoot" would suggest a keen interest.

The most likely section for Loch Ness Monster and cryptozoological books to be found is strangely the "Spirituality" section of the book store. Ironically, the "Popular Science" section was right beside it (and I checked there in vain for cryptozoologically sceptical books). I would also point out that, being in Scotland, there is also a "Scottish Interest" section. Sadly, that had no Nessie books either.

The "Spirituality" shelves seem to be a catch-all for anything kooky. Alongside the expected titles on astral projection, angels and poltergeists were UFOs and conspiracy theory titles. There were two monster-type books on sale. The first was Jospeh Nigg's "Sea Monsters" which was interesting from a sea serpent point of view but not Nessie. The one title that was Loch Ness Monster related was one previously covered here. That title was "The Loch Ness Monster: And Other Unexplained Mysteries" by J. F. Derry. Strictly this is a book about newspaper stories about Nessie and other mysteries, nevertheless, it is an interesting book.

Of course, people tend to order books online these days and one will find a richer selection of books on the major retailer websites. But if the walk in bookstore is an indicator of what is most popular to the general public, then clearly good old fashioned mysteries are falling short.

As a final comment, the "Popular Science" shelves were about a third bigger than the "Spirituality" shelves. In my younger days, the latter shelves would have been a lot bigger. Doubtless, an indicator of trends, even if Nessie-sceptical books can't get a look in!

I wonder what readers are seeing in their bookstores?

Sunday, 8 December 2013

A Rediscovered Diver's Tale

Sightings of the Loch Ness Monster are rare, seeing it on land is rarer still, but the rarest of all sightings belong to those people who dive into the depths of the loch to unexpectedly encounter its most notorious resident. I could probably count all these stories on the fingers of one hand stretching back over 130 years.

So, I was delighted to stumble upon this new (yet old) story of a diver who had an unsettling time of it in Loch Ness in the 1880s. I was perusing some old newspaper clippings in the National Library of Scotland when I came across this letter from a reader in the 9th December 1933 issue of the Dundee Courier and Advertiser.

The text of the story is given below:


Sir, As much has appeared in the press recently regarding the Loch Ness monster, perhaps it may be of interest to the readers of the “Courier and Advertiser” to hear a little more from one who for some years dwelt in the district of Dores, on the beautiful classic shores of Loch Ness.

Once coming to “Meffin” I made the interesting discovery that one of the residents of this village also hailed from this part of Inverness-shire. After discussing persons and places the conversation turned round to the Loch Ness monster.

“I remember,” he began, “how the villagers in that district used to talk about a monster being seen on Loch Ness, about three(?) miles from Invermoriston – that is, at Ruskich(?). The story runs that a gentleman sailing down the loch in his yacht was driven shorewards. The yacht sank and came to rest on a ledge of rock.

In order to secure some of his valuables the owner of the sunken yacht hired the Caledonian Canal diver – Honeyman by name – from the village of Clachnaharry. He intimated to the assembled onlookers that he would begin work the following morning. When the coast was clear, however, the diver, thinking that he and his ??? would get something for themselves, donned his diving suit and descended into the water to make inspection.

When he got to the yacht it slipped off the ledge of the rock and disappeared into the depths. But then, to the diver’s intense horror, a huge beast, measuring about nine feet long and possessing a body as stout as that of an average man, passed in front of him.

Perhaps the diver thought that it was the ??? of the lower regions that had come to advise him on his dishonest work, or that Loch Ness possessed the door to the nether regions. Whatever it may have been, the diver, who in very truth had ‘got the wind up,’ adamantly refused to descend into the water again.

“I understand,” added my friend, “that there is still living in Clachnaharry a man that can remember the details of this incident, which happened nearly 50 years ago. It was no unusual thing for parents of the Loch Ness district to frighten recalcitrant children by threatening to bring the Loch Ness water horse to them.” -  I am, etc,

A Lover of the Highlands.


Some of the words are hard to pick out due to the letter being printed at the spine of the newspaper. The words I am not sure of are marked with a (?) while illegible ones are marked "???". However, I am sure you get the gist of the story. My guess is that this sinking occurred three miles north of Invermoriston near Alltsigh which marked the beginning of the long Ruskich Wood. Since the incident is alleged to have happened fifty years before around 1883, a contemporary half-inch to the mile survey map below marks the general area (courtesy of the National Library of Scotland).

The story itself concerns a sunk yacht and a diver called Honeyman from Clachnaharry. Addressing the boat first, I have found no record of such a sinking in the newspapers of the time which some may presume to cast doubt upon the story.

In fact, stories of sinkings at Loch Ness are pretty rare. The best known one was the schooner  "Margaret Wilson" which struck the rocks near Point Clair back in 1861. It was carrying a large cargo of guano at the time (and wonders whether such a load attracted or repelled Nessie!).

But I would suggest sinkings could as easily not be reported. The best example I can think of was the sinking of the Zulu class boat, the "Pansy", off Foyers at some time after 1911. There is no record of this 80 foot vessel sinking in Loch Ness and it was not discovered until 2002 during the Loch Ness Project's Operation Groundtruth. More details can be found here.

However, more success was gained in the matter of our diver Honeyman. An examination of the 1881 census revealed a small number of males by that name residing in the Inverness county. The most likely candidate was James Honeyman who resided at No.2 Low Street in the Clachnaharry area.  He was aged 31 years in 1881 which best places him as our man since the other Honeymans were aged 0, 11, 14, 61 and 66.

However, his trade is stated as "carpenter" in the 1881 census and "house joiner" in the 1891 census. One may have expected the job of "diver" to be stated but on reflection I would not think so. My reason for saying so is because I do not think such a skill would be a full time job. For example, a search revealed that a Donnie Goodwin was a lock keeper on the Caledonian Canal as well as a diver. One suspects he spent more time being a lock keeper than a diver! In the same light, I suspect other divers required other jobs to gain income. Below is an 1874 picture of a diver courtesy of the Highland Heritage website Ambaile. It cannot be verified if this is James Honeyman himself.

James Honeyman's street is still there today (though doubtless it would be unrecognisable to him). It's location near the mouth of the Caledonian Canal may suggest that he was well placed for a maritime-related job.

Now at this point some may ask about the well known Duncan MacDonald story from 1880. To remind readers, here is the story quoted from "The Loch Ness Story" by Nicholas Witchell.

An experience by another MacDonald in 1880 was of an altogether different nature and terrifying in the extreme. As a diver, Duncan MacDonald was sent down to investigate a ship that had sunk in the Caledonian Canal entrance at Fort Augustus. Not long after, he sent urgent signals on his line to be immediately brought back to the surface. 

Shaking and ashen faced, he refused to say what he had seen for several days. When he had sufficiently composed himself, he told the tale of how he had seen a “very odd looking beastie ... like a huge frog” lying on the rock ledge where the wreck was lodged as he examined its hull. 

He refused to ever dive in the loch again though it would appear this encounter was where Loch Ness ends and the canal begins.

My first thought was whether these two stories could be the same or related in some way. But I do not think so as there is more that divides than unites them. They occurred about the same time but the names and locations are different. 

So a man descends into Loch Ness seeking riches but returns with terror. What exactly did he see that day? Something nine feet long and one to two feet wide swam past him but there is not much more to add. That is certainly bigger than anything known in Loch Ness but not quite full Nessie proportions. One wonders if the diver had managed to see the whole creature from the limited field of view of his helmet?

Getting rough dimensions of a similar helmet, suggests the diameter of the helmet is about 24cm and the "porthole" is just over 9cm. The boat was most likely on a ledge about 10m under where I guess the horizontal visibility would be less than 6m. Drawing some field of view triangles based on these numbers gives a field of view of about 4.5m at a distance of 6m. Likewise, a 3m creature would full occupy the horizontal field of view at a distance of 4m. So, the creature would have to be less than 12 feet away to not be fully visible through the helmet visor.

Of course, it could be our oft mentioned but never seen Atlantic Sturgeon which would have these proportions. Would Honeyman have recognised a sturgeon? One presumes so, but who knows in those conditions? I will just remind readers here that no sturgeon has ever been seen or caught in Loch Ness.

So, an interesting story and one wonders if James Honeyman's descendants still tell this tale of their great-great-grandfather? If so, perhaps you could contact me at this blog!

The author can be contacted at

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Analysis of the Jonathan Bright Picture

Two weeks ago I published the latest photograph of the Loch Ness Monster without much in the way of comment. Jonathan's story and photo have already been published in the latest issue of Fortean Times (No.308) and so now having had a closer look at the picture and the accompanying facts, let us see what else can be found out.

The photograph was taken by Jonathan Bright on the morning of the 2nd November 2011 as his ride on the Jacobite Cruiser boat was heading out towards Urquhart Bay. He was snapping pictures randomly with various cameras. As he was looking out from the stern of the boat, he snapped a series of pictures with his specially adapted infra-red camera but did not notice anything unusual at the time or even later, during his initial review of the pics. But it was a coincidence of the unexpected kind that prompted him to go back and check what he had.

For it was on that same day that George Edwards claimed to have taken his now infamous picture of a hump in Loch Ness. When Edwards' picture became news in August 2012 and thinking he might have taken pictures in that vicinity, Jonathan reviewed his snaps and did indeed find something unusual. However, what Jonathan Bright photographed is not what George Edwards photographed.

Based on what Jonathan has said, the picture was taken as the Jacobite was a few minutes out of the pier beside the Clansman Hotel and a suggested point is circled in the map below. The boat would be generally heading south west towards the vicinity of Urquhart Castle (marked A). The time would have been shortly after 11am when the tour boat departed from the harbour.

So what is in this first ever infra-red photograph of the mystery of Loch Ness? A zoom in of the picture reveals a bit more detail. In fact and in my opinion, it reveals something that looks out of the ordinary. But first, let us try and get some data out of this picture.

Jonathan kindly provided me with the uncropped image, the EXIF data and the model and make of his digital camera. From that an estimate of the object's size and distance can be made from the focal length, crop factor, distance to horizon, height of witness standing at the stern of the boat and relative distance of object to horizon.

That gave an object height of about 0.75 metre and a distance from the observer of about 31.5 metres. If we assume the object is turned at an angle of about 45 degrees to the observer, then the side aspect is estimated to be about 1.3 metres. This was based on the camera being 2.8 metres above the water. But a greater witness height would result in a bigger and more distant object and vice versa. So, for example, a combined witness/boat height of 3.5 metres gives an object height of 0.93m and a distance of 40 metres. If any wants the full trigonometrical calculations, send me an email.

So it is an object of some proportions but not as big as some Nessie sightings. But what are the possible candidates for such an object appearing on the surface of Loch Ness? Based on your comments to the previous posts, I address them here.


Are we simply looking at a natural object such as a log or some man made rubbish? Apart from the shape of the object not suggesting the usual stuff that floats around Loch Ness, several other things dictated against this interpretation.

Firstly, Jonathan was on a boat ploughing through the water. I emailed Marcus Atkinson, who operates one of the large cruise boats at Loch Ness. I asked him what they do when an obstacle lies dead ahead of the boat.

He said they normally steer a course around it unless it is something minuscule such as twigs. So it is unlikely that such an object is going to end up only 31 metres behind the boat.

Secondly, once the object is avoided, the bow wave of the boat is going to be another reason why the object won't be so easily found right behind the boat. The reason being that the outward going bow wave will tend to push objects away from the boat's direction of travel.

Thirdly, even if the boat went over the object due to it being very low in the water, how come it manages to appear nearly a metre high on the other side? In the light of these propositions, I do not regard the debris as a valid theory. (Jacobite Cruises do have a catamaran boat which technically allows debris to pass underneath but it was not commissioned until 2012).


The other explanation offered is that this is merely a wave. This might seem to carry more weight than floating logs. A quote from the Great Loch Ness Monster Debate Facebook page is appropriate here.

In my opinion, as a boat skipper who daily sees the waves made by the larger trip boats near Urquhart Castle, the "Nessie" photo is indistinguishable from the usual interference waves generated when the bow-wave from a south-west bound boat meets the north-east moving wind generated waves on an ordinary day. If someone offers a more logical explanation I will be pleased to learn from it.

So, be it logs or waves, the skeptics say their bit, mark it "solved" and move on (and let it be known that monsters do not constitute a "logical explanation"). Meanwhile, I had obtained the Fortean Times issue which carried the story of this photograph. Elsewhere in the issue, I came across a quote from Charles Fort which summed up it all up for me.

"When I see that a thing has been explained, I go on investigating."

So let's get on with the investigating. There are some reasons why I do not agree with this wave theory.

The person whom I quoted on waves is Dick Raynor. He has spent decades at the loch taking pictures of phenomena which can fool inexperienced observers of the loch. I looked at his web page on waves and wakes to see what his years of taking pictures has produced. I assume it was representative of his research on this topic. 

To put it bluntly, none of his photos look like the object in Jonathan's picture. But his quote says it is indistinguishable from the "usual interference waves" on the loch. I take the word "usual" to mean these are a common phenomenon, so he must have a better picture on file somewhere which matches Jonathan's picture.

In the meantime, the photos on his site show waves which are too flat, extended and appears together in sequential groups. Neither of these apply to the object in our picture which is more peaked and is on its own. I have scanned the uncropped picture and see no evidence of this being in those classes of wakes and waves. That is how we determine if it is distinguishable from the "usual" waves. The photograph below shows an actual Jacobite cruiser interacting with another boat wake. I see nothing in this picture to suggest the production of a stand out lone metre high wave.

Jonathan also sent me the photographs he took immediately before and after our main picture. The one below was taken seconds before and shows nothing.  However, I overlaid the Nessie picture over it and it just makes the right hand edge of the overlay. So, it is a matter of debate whether our object would have appeared in both pictures since its direction of travel is not clear.

Furthermore, the photo below which was taken after Nessie is too far to the observer's right hand side but is included to show the lack of any proposed interference waves. Readers may note unusual colouring of the pictures. This is because they were taken in infra-red. I have not come to any conclusion as to whether this adds to or takes away from the analysis of the picture.

Jonathan says it is a picture taken with τhe internal IR pass filter of his camera, which allows infrared light from 720 nM (the near infrared range extending from 700nM to 1000 or 1400nM, depending on the dividing system). So this is not in the thermal IR range beloved of Bigfoot Flir camera hunts. Jonathan's own comment on near IR suggests:

"The dark/light colors seem to rather depend on the composition of the surfaces, for example, healthy vegetation/chlorophyll reflects large amount of near-infrared light, thus giving the whitish appearance to the tree leaves and grass, while rocky surfaces reflect little nIR light. But I really don't know how a 'Loch Ness monster' body would behave."

Perhaps this is a clue which suggests the object in the picture is of a more rough texture. 

The other issue I noted was the height of the wave compared to others round about. Consider how waves normally interfere constructively to produce one bigger wave. The compound wave cannot be greater than the combined energies of its parent waves.  This wave looks at least twice as big as the waves around it which suggests another boat or wind source of comparable energy is nearby churning out waves.

There is no indication of such a thing in the picture. Indeed, the Jacobite cruisers are amongst the most powerful boats in the loch and, being November, I think the other cruises have closed out for the season. I am wondering what powerful boat could be around to provide this additional energy? Not that it matters, this "wave" does not look like such a wave. Jonathan also commented on how this "wave" seems to have water running off it as suggested by the white "streaks" you can see around its base.


Could it be an animal known to science such as a seal? I do not consider this a seal as the back would look smoother and more rounded. Could it be a sturgeon? Well, despite the fact that such a sight would be extremely rare, I do not think an Atlantic Sturgeon could arch its back like that or display the contours I think I can see.

Finally, it was perhaps no surprise that it was suggested that Jonathan had faked the photograph via the ubiquitous Photoshop. Now, this gets trotted out now and again and I suspect without much in the way of analysis. But these type of images are becoming more and more prevalent and the Loch Ness researcher needs to be able to conversant with their tell tale signs.

But based on my conversations with Jonathan, he comes across as no faker to me. Moreover, to my less than expert eye, the image looks "in situ" based on contrast and light considerations. It is darker than the waves around it, but that is more an argument against it being a wave than a digital artifact.

Moreover, Jonathan is not a tourist seeking five minutes of fame. He is involved in various public events in Greece as a researcher and it would be plain stupid to put all this on the line for a fake photo. Indeed, why not make it a better photo and add a sequence if one was intent on fooling people?

Others may wish to comment, but please state your reasons rather than just state your opinion!


So what could it be? How about I go out on a limb and suggest it is the Loch Ness Monster? Considering the estimated dimensions, this looks more like the head and neck of the creature than its main body. Jonathan has suggested he can see the head looking back at him but I have reservations about that interpretation. In fact, to me the object looks somewhat similar to the photo taken by Sidney Wilson back in 2007 (below). However, I think Jonathan's is a better picture and again we have to be wary of the effects of pareidolia. Indeed, the Wilson image looks like a polar bear's head to me!

I do agree with Jonathan that the picture could be interpreted as a head with two white horn-like projections being visible. It could even be argued that two eyes can be made out and a muzzle of some description. What can be seen is to some extent dictated by the viewer.

But in my opinion, the proposed head is too large to fit what we know about the head and neck of the Monster from the witness database. By and large, the classic head is lacking in features and sometimes is no more than a continuation of the neck. I say that without going into detail about what this "head" may actually be. Moreover, the proposed head gives the impression of looking back in the direction it appears to be travelling in which looks quite un-animal like behaviour to me.

The other question to ask is how big the entire creature is for a head in this size range? Now when I say the head is too big, I mean in terms of internal proportions rather than absolute size. If we assume a 0.6m (1ft11in) head height from the picture, I would estimate the entire size based on a rough and ready plesiosaur body shape to be 12:1 overall giving us a 23 footer (a respectable size for a Loch Ness Monster).

Jonathan is a member of the sizeable community of paranormal researchers and is open to such an interpretation for Nessie, so that does offer a wider latitude in interpreting the picture.  However, there are some recorded sightings which claim to see larger heads and I would neither wish to be dogmatic or claim the final word on that matter. In fact, the head and neck reported by J.M. Ballantyne in 1965 is a good example in that regard (sketch below).

On the subject of backs, there was one back sighting that immediately came to mind when I saw this picture and that was the Commander Meiklem report from August 1933. He saw a ridged back in the relatively shallow waters of Inchnacardoch Bay. I say that because there is the appearance of something ridge-like running along the top of the object.

But Meiklem's object was at least the size of a "cart-horse", this is a lot smaller. Back ridges are occasionally reported by witnesses but they are not a universal feature of Nessie morphology which leads me to speculate whether it is a feature that is specific to age, gender or season.

Or could it be the back of a juvenile Nessie? If we know little about the Loch Ness Monster, then we know even less about alleged little Nessies. Do they even exist? One presumes so biologically but next to nothing can be said about them from the witness record. I addressed this subject in a previous article.

But if I suggest that this is the rear view of the head and neck then could the proposed ridge be more akin to the mane of the legendary water horse? Again, we have reports of mane like structures being reported by witnesses. And again, they are not a universal feature of the witness record and so I presume they are also gender, age or season specific. The problem is similar to the old tale of the blind men and the elephant. What exactly are we looking at? Neck, back or perhaps even tail?

One aspect of reported manes is that they tend to "flop" down over the neck while this apparent mane looks more erect. Can these mane like structure be raised in the manner of a courtship or territorial display? Yes, I know, speculation.

It is this mane or ridge like structure that distinguishes the object from any proposed wave, log or other object but the picture highlights an ongoing issue. This was taken at a mere range of about 100 feet but still there is no unambiguous data to extract. By unambiguous, I mean acceptable even to sceptics (but perhaps I use that term too optimistically).

Admittedly, the object's relatively small size is a hindrance, but how close does one have to get to this creature to get the picture that gets the whole world talking? If it had been a classic ten foot hump then we would get closer to that scenario.

In conclusion, I think this is a picture of the Loch Ness Monster. I think it tells Nessie researchers a bit more about the creature's morphology but does not provide the slam dunk evidence.

To rephrase some words mentioned above, if someone offers a more logical explanation I will be pleased to learn from it.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Two Books and two Kelpies

Christmas is coming and I noticed two books related to the Loch Ness Monster which might be of interest to readers. The are both novels and so won't make it into my Nessie bibliography but a good read is a good read.

The first is "Wonder of Ness" by James Jeffrey Paul. Some may recall James as the man who recently donated his collection of Loch Ness Monster books to the Inverness Library. His book is reviewed here by Kirkus Reviews and you can find out more at Amazon.

Amazon previews the book thusly:

"To some, Loch Ness is a joke. To some, it is the most important thing in the world. A major new expedition has been formed to locate the elusive creature of Loch Ness. Suddenly it seems as if everyone in the world is rushing to join the expedition, and for every conceivable reason. For each of them, it will be a journey into wonder--and a plunge into mystery, terror, and his own personal heart of darkness. A grand symbolic adventure in the tradition of Moby Dick and The Hunting of the Snark."

The second book is entitled "The Loch Ness Legacy" by Boyd Morrison. His book is discussed by the Highland newspaper, the Forres Gazette here and is listed on Amazon though strangely they list it unavailable despite an August publication date. His own website also promotes it. I haven't read these books myself, so offer no comments either way!

And, finally, before the Loch Ness Monster there was the Loch Ness Kelpie. In recognition of that ancient Highland terror, two 100 foot high Kelpie statues have been unveiled near Falkirk and have received national attention. They're looking good and I hope to visit them some time!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Problem With Nessie Photographs

You might think the title suggests this is an article about debunking Loch Ness Monster photographs. But it is not, it is rather the problems researchers such as myself have in accessing what is presented as evidence for the creature. Take a look at the four pictures below of the Hugh Gray picture (which just turned eighty years old).

This highlights the first problem with trying to assess Loch Ness Monster pictures - the quality of the reproduced image.

The first picture is the best one and is called the Heron-Allen image but more often than not it is the inferior over-contrasted third image that has made its way into the literature. Ted Holiday used image three for his detailed analysis in "The Great Orm of Loch Ness", but it is my opinion that if he had had access to the Heron-Allen image he would have come to a very different conclusion about what that picture showed - a fish like head gawping at us on the right. 

But to be fair, some newspapers at the time did faithfully reproduce the untouched image. For example, the Daily Record was so impressed by the image that they decided not to put it through their normal retouching process which would have "enhanced" what they though were relevant features. The 1934 Gould book reproduced that native image. In fact, so used were readers to seeing such retouched pictures that the editor saw it fit to put a clear statement in the article that the picture was completely untouched.

Not so lucky were readers of the Aberdeen Press and Journal who were subjected to image number two which is a travesty of photographic reproduction. It is in fact what the picture looks like after going through the retouching processes of the time and gives a wrong impression of what is in the picture. However, the Press and Journal repented of their deeds and showed the untouched picture the next day!

Image four is one for the future. It is also a retouched picture by Tony Harmsworth which he created to try and demonstrate the presence of a labrador dog in the picture. He was not being deceptive and was upfront about his effort. However, Tony, I would say the chances are well odds-on that this picture will eventually end up on some website touting it is as a faithful reproduction (if it hasn't already).


The second problem with Nessie photographs is the zoom-in symptom. Time and again we see pictures which zoom in to get a close up of the beast or so called beast. The Hugh Gray picture above is a zoom in but it is not the only one. The Surgeon's Photograph is typically displayed as below.

When the Daily Mail first printed it in 1934, it was typically a zoom in to increase the "Wow!" factor.

But the actual, uncropped image seemed to disappear from view for years until it was discovered in the 1980s (correct me if I am wrong on that point). Now we have a frame of reference and a better idea of what is going on. When you have an uncropped picture and know something about the camera, you can extract more information about objects in the picture which can be used to support a given opinion of the picture.

It's a problem that pervades many Nessie pictures and can prevent further progress on whether the picture is the genuine article or something else. Photographs which suffer from this lack of frame of reference are the Hugh Gray and F.C.Adams pictures but others get printed blown up and getting the original can be next to impossible.


But it gets worse when we realise that some pictures just seem to have been completely lost to researchers or are locked up somewhere gathering dust. This is especially applicable to motion pictures. For example, where is the G.E. Taylor film of 1938? A still is shown below but that is just not good enough!

What happened to Peter MacNab's second photograph? And where is the first ever purported film of Nessie taken in December 1933 by Malcolm Irvine? This is not to be confused with his 1936 film which can be viewed here (8m19s in). I would also count the various films and photos captured by the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau in this regard. They are not lost, but are beyond public access.

So, never mind apocryphal tales about sensational films by MacRae and Currie locked away in bank vaults. What about the films and pictures we do know about? It's bad enough trying to convince the world with what we have only to be disadvantaged by this as well.

Such is life. Other historical researchers in other fields will no doubt bemoan the lack of access they have to various items. So I do not regard Loch Ness Monster research as especially obstructed in any way.

Note I haven't even got on to the subject of accessing original negatives, but to be fair, I should not expect so much.

Anyway, back to researching the photos we have. I hope to publish an analysis of the latest photograph by Jonathan Bright next week.