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.


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.


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. 


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