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Water Horse, Nessie, and Sex

Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 15th, 2007

wilson 2

Adrian Shine, whom I understand is English not Scottish, was on NBC’s “Today Show” on Friday, December 14th. The guy almost sounded like a true believer from the Highlands. He was there to talk about the evidence for the Loch Ness Monster, and to promote the new movie, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, opening on Christmas Day.

Being part Scottish, I’ve always liked the name “Water Horse” for these critters, and used it a good deal in one of my cryptozoology field guides. I think the “Water Horse” theory makes a lot of sense, and I was delighted to hear this movie using this name was going to be made.

The movie, of course, is based on the book of the same title by Dick King-Smith. Adrian readily admitted the movie is for children, but as was obvious from his “Today Show” appearance, it gives an opportunity for all of us to talk about the reality of the Monsters of Loch Ness.

I only bring this up because I also had just read Darren Naish’s newest little contribution to cryptozoology, entitled “Really: photos of the Loch Ness monster,” over at his Tetrapod Zoology blog.

Well, of course, old buddy Darren has every right to be a debunker about these photographs, for it is the rare picture of a “monster” from Loch Ness that turns out to be anything of much worth to zoology.

However, I was surprised in one or two places in his essay, so I thought I’d mention a couple things.

First off, I have to take Darren Naish, the blogger, to task for not trying harder for some hits. He jokingly remarks: “In, as usual, a desperate effort to bring in the hits, I thought I’d go nuts and see what posting about the Loch Ness monster might do for my stats. Hey, maybe I could throw the word sex in there as well. There: sex, there, I said it again.”

What I immediately noticed about Naish’s blog is that he has not mentioned the new movie, Water Horse, which would have helped him get hits too. LOL.

But more amazingly, I can’t see one place in his blog where he calls this cryptid he is talking about by the more informal name, “Nessie.”

For Dr. Darren Naish, it’s “Loch Ness Monster” this and “Loch Ness Monster” that. :-) Doesn’t he know most people type in “Nessie,” when net searching, before they go looking for stuff on the “Loch Ness Monster”?

I’m kidding around a bit here, but there’s a scholarly skeptical side to my comments too. It reminds me of how Dr. Grover Krantz told everyone that Bigfoot would be seen as more credible if we all started calling them “Sasquatch,” exclusively.

Darren, next time try using “Nessie” for more hits, if that’s what you’re after.

As to the business about sex, well, I’ll get to that in a minute.

But now to some items of substance here.

Naish, who does not waiver in some of his declarations, writes: “The famous Rines-Egerton flipper photos (there are two) are undoubted fakes.”

The use of the word “fake” is a harsh one, as used by Naish. Fake tends to mean that someone was trying to put a hoax over on people. I’m not so sure that is what happened. Perhaps a mistake, an excited bouncing along with the evidence, or even a difference of interpretation? But an outright “fake”?

With reference to these flipper photos, Naish then soon writes: “Exactly who did the enhancing remains unknown so far as I know.”

How can this be? How can he not know? (Well, maybe he hasn’t lived and breathed cryptozoology 24/7 like I have for 50 years, and he has decided to have a life, ha ha.) Anyway, Naish sources Dick Raynor’s piece on the photos, and even there one can read what is commonly known, which is the photos were “enhanced at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena,” California.

If any enhancement blame is to be placed, it cannot fall to Rines and Egerton, but to JPL.

Next, I wish to make a couple points about Darren Naish’s treatment of the best known image of the Loch Ness Monster. This is the “photo” that, despite Adrian Shine being a Nessie skeptic, for example, still is used to get people to come visit Shine’s exhibition on the shores of Loch Ness.

wilson 2

I’m talking, of course, about the above image, the “Surgeon’s Photo” (even though there are two), which we usually see cropped, as at the top of this blog. It gets its name from Colonel Kenneth Wilson, who was known as the “Surgeon” because he had a medical practice in London.

The picture became famous as the “Surgeon’s Photograph” and is probably one of the most recognizable photographic images in the world – certainly within cryptozoology.

Of course, however, there were two photos (as below, uncropped):

wilson 1

wilson second

Here’s what Naish writes about these photographs:

Easily the most iconic Loch Ness monster image is this one: the so-called Surgeon’s photo, or the Wilson photo. Taken in April 1934 by, supposedly, London-based gynaecologist Robert K. Wilson while he was on holiday, it shows a dark, erect-necked object surrounded by ripples. Analysis of the wave patterns around the object indicate that it is about 1.2 m tall (LeBlond & Collins 1987). Some people say that the photo was taken on April 14th, others say April 1st. The version we usually see of this photo is cropped: the original image – shown here – is much larger, shows the opposite shore of the loch, and makes the ‘monster’ appear much smaller. A second photo is supposed to show the head alone as the object is submerging, but it looks nothing like the famous first image and I see no reason to think they really were taken within seconds of each other as has been claimed.During the 1990s it was argued that the photo was a hoax perpetrated by Ian Wetherell and his stepbrother Christian Spurling using a toy submarine with a carved monster head mounted on its top (Boyd & Martin 1994, Martin & Boyd 1999). Wetherell was the son of Marmaduke Wetherell, the big-game hunter hired by the Daily Mail in 1933 to investigate the monster: he identified some footprints as having been created by the animal, but they were actually fakes made with a dried hippo’s foot. Wetherell senior then became fired for making such a rash mistake, and apparently planned to exact some sort of revenge. Wilson was co-opted as the alleged photographer because of his respectability, and agreed to be involved as he was ‘a great practical joker’. Some people have expressed scepticism about the Spurling and Wetherell story (e.g., Smith 1994, 1995, Shuker 1995, Bauer 2002) as there are various inconsistencies. Whatever the truth, I’m confident that the photo is a hoax and can’t take seriously the idea that it might depict a real animal.Darren Naish, “Really: photos of the Loch Ness monster.”

loch sub

I don’t think its all this simple. Maybe the wave action did change during the taking of the four photos? Perhaps there’s a more mundane answer here? My problem with all of this business about it being a hoax, the toy submarine that has been as hard to show existed at that time as a Nessie, and all, is various details of this that are conveniently brushed aside.

First and foremost, let us return to sex. It seems rather obvious, even from material acknowledged in the highly debunking work, David Martin’s and Alistair Boyd’s book, Nessie: The Surgeon’s Photograph, there was an excellent reason the good Colonel Kenneth Wilson was not too open about the details of his holiday at Loch Ness. It appears he was there with a lover, and having an affair.

Yes, the sex has been taken out of the Loch Ness story, so let’s put it back in.

While authors have even been shy about giving forth with what Wilson said he was doing on the shores of Loch Ness – taking a break to urinate – perhaps he was doing something else? Maybe he was being, well, a sexual primate? And with the attractive person he was with? Talk about being placed in a compromising position while seeing a Lake Monster; Wilson must have not known what to do when he saw what he saw. When he snapped off the four photographs while on his secret adventure with his lover, this must have put him in quite a pickle. What to do? What to say? How much publicity do you think he really wanted? Why do you think it’s known more as the “Surgeon’s Photo” than “Dr. Kenneth Wilson’s Photo”?

Next, there’s the matter of ignoring what many of us have said about these photographs for a long time.

I must start with how Wilson talked about the animal he saw. He never said it was a “monster.” He was curious as to what it was, but seemed very careful to only mention it was only some kind of animal that he did not recognize.

otter1

My reading of the early opinion of this object, from zoologist Maurice Burton and others, was not that it was the head of some prehistoric animal, so much as the head of a water bird or the tail of a mammal diving into the water. I have said and written for years that the photo was never that important (other than as an icon), and probably was nothing more that the misunderstood image of the head or the tail of an otter.

Yes, folks, I think the “Surgeon’s Photo” is of an otter.

It is rather melodramatic to create all the involved storytelling of a deathbed confession (which never happened) and a toy submarine about images that may have more to do with the normal wildlife of the loch than hoaxing. Something about a razor mentioned by skeptics comes to mind.

loch elephant

I’m glad to read later in the comment section of his blog that Darren Naish has acknowledged that the “toy submarine” story itself is probably a hoax, and the “Loch Elephant” theory is silly.

For another good website on Loch Ness Monster or Nessie photos, from another skeptic, see: Tony Harmsworth’s Loch Ness Information Website

Skeptic cryptozoology can take into account that the photographic evidence from Loch Ness is horrible, but still retain the possibility of a small population of unknown animals who visit the lake from the ocean, overland, may have existed there for centuries. The water-kelpies and water-horses certainly may be very real.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


45 Responses to “Water Horse, Nessie, and Sex”

  1. Kryptos responds:

    Hmm, I never knew that the “deathbed confession” was a hoax as well LOL. Thanks for the info!

  2. Loren Coleman responds:

    Yes, various Loch Ness investigators like Princeton’s Richard Smith remind us that the debunkers have overblown the use of funny timelines and forgotten details (there was no death bed confession for the “tale” were given two years before the guy died, plasticwood of the type said to have made the toy submarine didn’t exist in 1934, and everyone forgets the second photo in the submarine fantasy).

  3. kittenz responds:

    I have never seen anything that convinces me that Nessie, or any other “lake monsters”, are real creatures of as-yet unknown species. On the other hand, I don’t think that all the large, deep, cold-water lakes have been explored nearly thoroughly enough to say that no such creatures exist.

    The “surgeon’s photo”Nessie has been hypothesized by various authors to be everything from a giant freshwater snail or slug, to a seal or seacow, a large fish of either known or new species,a plesiasaur, a relic species of ancient whale, a medieval-type dragon, an outright hoax, or even a swimming elephant. The idea that the photo is that of an otter makes more sense than any other.

    I’m a hopeless romantic :) . I, too, like the terms “kelpie” and “water horses”. I WANT to think that there is are “lake monsters” and that they are previously unknown species of large animals. Maybe truly conclusive evidence will come to light some day to prove their existence.

  4. Rappy responds:

    Interestingly enough, Loren, the I thought of what your opinion might be on Darren’s Nessie blog when I first read it. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. kittenz responds:

    BTW I really like Darren Naish’s blog, Tetrapod Zoology. He’s very witty and his blog is really informative. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he posts, but I have learned a lot from his blog.

  6. squatch-toba responds:

    There is a certain sort of sadness when these old photos & reports are shown to be hoaxes, or at least very doubtful. Nessie holds a sort of special place in the hearts of cryptos’ everywhere. I hold out hope that something will be found there, personaly I like the long-necked seal idea.

  7. springheeledjack responds:

    I guess I was with Loren on the Surgeon’s photo. While it was the flagship for Nessie for a long time (hey I used “Nessie”, more hits for me), for me it was always an anomaly that I could not quite fit in with the rest of the data and, so, just let it sit there.

    For me, the evidence for Nessie falls more to the eyewitness testimony (oh here, now I just opened said can of worms), but not even the body of sightings so much as the number of times it has been observed by multiple witnesses, the famous water bailiff who had multiple sightings, and the number of times over the years it has been seen on land, to name a few.

    The similarity of accounts (even giving room for individual variances in description), and the patterns of sightings gives creedence to the idea that there is a critter in Loch Ness that is not an established or known animal.

    Back to the Surgeon’s photo, though, while that has become the mascot symbol for Nessie, even when the debunking started on the photo, it never really had that much impact for me because it was not the cornerstone of the case for Nessie, as far as I am concerned.

  8. Artist responds:

    An otter??? Really??? An OTTER?
    I knew it – been saying it all along!

  9. red_pill_junkie responds:

    For me, the evidence on Nessie lies with the sonar readings depicting large masses that could be attributed to living aquatic beings.

    For the life of me, I have never, EVER understood why in every “serious” attempt to investigate what might be out there in loch ness they always use motor boats. Hellooo? Haven’t you thought of the possibility that the SOUND of those loud engines might scare any potential unknown animal? particularly if that animal might depend more on hearing or some sort of eco-location than sight, which makes a lot of sense in a murky environment such as the loch, where divers can’t see what’s in front of them after a 2 m distance?

    My advise to any potential Neesie hunters? get a sail boat, or a row boat :-)

  10. Sunny responds:

    The pestering has already begun in my house to go see The Water Horse when it comes out. “Mom, I wanna see it” “Mom, can we go see it after we open our Christmas presents?” etc., etc., etc.

    Whether you believe or not, it looks like a wonderful movie — and there’s always the fun of believing “what if?” and “just maybe”.

    The rash of announcing the discovery of animals previously undocumented by science is more than enough evidence that we don’t know as much as we’d like to think we do about this world that we live in.

  11. Lesley responds:

    The previews for the movie look great! I also can’t wait for the marketing so I can pick up all kinds of water horse related items!

  12. Ceroill responds:

    I remember years ago, when I first read a book on Lake Monsters, I read about the theories that they could be long necked seals, or otters. At that time, I was so enamored of the plesiosaur model that I felt almost insulted as I read those ideas. Then came the zeuglodon theory, and that one I could stomach. As I matured, though, I became more accepting of the less plesiosaurish ideas of what could be in all those lakes.

    The movie does look like fun. I just hope the beastie doesn’t begin to talk and call the kid Beanie…

  13. LiberalDem responds:

    Good article, Loren. Thanks for posting it!

  14. Lyndon responds:

    More food for thought regarding the surgeon’s ‘hoaxed’ photo.

    I must admit, I did fall for the hoax confession/toy submarine story when it came out. I was sucked in by it and thought that was the bona fide explanation and hadn’t really thought about the surgeon’s photo too often since then.

    It appears, then, that there is much to question about the hoax/toy submarine claim. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

  15. mystery_man responds:

    This photo will always remain iconic I think, regardless of how much it is debunked. I too think it is of a more mundane animal. Why come up with all these stories of toy submarines and such, when what we see could just as easily be a water bird, or a, wait for it….. otter? In my opinion, there are plenty of mundane explanations for this photo that hold just as much weight as the idea that this is of a large lake monster. I don’t think this photo was necessarily a hoax, but rather a misidentified ordinary occurrence.

    I’m really glad that Mr. Naish agreed that the Loch elephant theory is silly. I was reading the article, dreading that that one would come up as an explanation. People still bring that one up from time to time. Sigh.

    Anyway, regardless of the hoaxes and misidentifications out there, I still have always thought that it still does not mean there definitely no Nessie. Personally, I am skeptical of Nessie for a variety of reasons, but not because of the hoaxes. To me, it doesn’t do a whole lot of good to focus only on the known hoaxes and fakes and I think more attention should be directed at some of the more baffling and unexplainable cases. Regardless of the reservations I have on its existence, I will admit that think there is enough curious and tantalizing circumstantial evidence that if someone wants to follow it up then more power to them.

    Wait, I just changed my mind. That’s not an otter in the picture. It is a beaver with mange. Or a fox squirrel. :)

  16. mystery_man responds:

    Another thing, I might be mistaken, but I think it was this photo that really popularized the mainstream image of Nessie as an underwater dinosaur and brought the word “plesiosaur” into the general public’s vocabulary when discussing Loch Ness. Am I correct?

  17. AleksandarLovcanski responds:

    Hi Mr. Coleman,

    First of all I would like to say that I find this forum very interesting and useful as a place where people can exchange arguments, opinions and data.
    Although I agree with some of the comments given above, I would still like to point out some of the contra arguments.

    L Coleman wrote:

    ‘…there was no death bed confession for the “tale” were given two years before the guy died, plasticwood of the type said to have made the toy submarine didn’t exist in 1934, and everyone forgets the second photo in the submarine fantasy…’

    The ‘death-bed-confession’ claim is usually referred to by journalists and news reporters, and not by investigators who have thoroughly studied the problem (e.g. D Raynor, A Shine, S Campbell, etc.).
    As for ‘plastic wood’, it should be acknowledged that artificial (man-made) plastic substances have been produced since the mid 19 century. C Spurling was an old man when he revealed the hoax, and thus might have not remembered the exact material used. There were plenty of other methods that could have been employed (e.g. a carving of a lighter wood, papier maché, a mixture of wood shavings, glue and plaster, etc.).
    The second photo was clearly not taken at the same time as the more famous one. There are several clues to this. First, the angle of photography is obviously different in two photos. Whereas in the famous photo the angle of the camera to the water is at around 19 degrees (S Campbell, ‘The Surgeon’s Monster Hoax’, British Journal of Photography, 20 Apr 1984), in the second one it appears to be closer to 37degrees (my own calculation)! This can only mean that the object in the second picture was much closer to photographer than the object in the first one (alternatively, the photographer must have stood much higher over the water). Secondly, the object in the second photo is out of focus, but R K Wilson doesn’t mention that he changed lenses during the episode. In fact, he claimed to have made four exposures during the time of photography (C Whyte, More than a Legend, 2nd rev. ed. 1961, pp.6-7), thus it is obvious that he meant that he have taken all four of them in a sequence, using the same camera settings. Consequently, his verbal account is inconsistent with the photo. Thirdly, both of the photos were presumably taken in a matter of seconds (as can be deduced from the Wilson’s testimony), but they seem to show different surface conditions. It seems very unlikely that the surface conditions would change so quickly to account for these differences in appearance. Based on all of this, I conclude that the second photo was probably taken at a different time than the first one.

    springheeledjack wrote:

    ‘…the famous water bailiff who had multiple sightings, and the number of times over the years it has been seen on land, to name a few.’

    You are probably referring to Alex Campbell and his numerous sightings. Unfortunately, his ‘best sighting’ (head, neck, humps) can be explained as ‘nothing more than a few cormorants’, which at first glance looked ‘just like the body or humps of the Monster’ (R T Gould, The Loch Ness Monster and Others, 1969, p.111).
    Now, if even his best sighting turned out to have a simple explanation, then why not all of the remaining 17 (he claimed a total of 18 sightings)? If an experienced person, such as Mr Campbell, got it wrong, what can we say about the majority of others who didn’t have such experience?

    The majority of the alleged land sightings seem to describe a different animal.
    ‘The similarity of accounts (even giving room for individual variances in description), and the patterns of sightings gives creedence to the idea that there is a critter in Loch Ness that is not an established or known animal.’
    I have been collecting reports about monsters in Loch Ness for more than 7 years, and at this time I know of more than 1000 reports. I cannot agree with the claim that there is a ‘similarity of accounts’. Eyewitnesses have been describing plesiosaurs, giant fish, multi-humped sea serpents, crocodiles, giant frogs, camels, elephant-like creatures, giant otters, hippos, monsters with huge heads and mouths, monsters with small heads, gigantic eels, slugs, amphibians… This variety of claims tends to support the hypothesis that eyewitnesses have been observing many different natural phenomena.

    mystery_man wrote:

    ‘Another thing, I might be mistaken, but I think it was this photo that really popularized the mainstream image of Nessie as an underwater dinosaur and brought the word “plesiosaur” into the general public’s vocabulary when discussing Loch Ness. Am I correct?’

    Well, one of the first suggestions that the LNM might be some kind of a prehistoric reptile was published in a letter to the Morning Post (14. Oct 1933), and the idea of plesiosaurus was taken up after the Spicer sighting (22 July 1933). Later, Arthur Grant’s land sighting (5 Jan 1934) gave further impulse to the plesiosaur theory. However, it is true that the ‘Surgeon’s photo’ popularized the mainstream image of the Monster.

    Regards,

    Aleksandar T Lovcanski

    PS: please excuse my rough English, for I am not a native speaker.

  18. red_pill_junkie responds:

    Very good comments Mr. Lovcanski! :-)

  19. greatanarch responds:

    Darren is right: ‘fake’ is the only word for the published versions of the Rines flipper photos. Notice that Dick Raynor’s piece only says that the photos ‘…were said to have been enhanced at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena!’, not that they actually were. Around that time I was involved in image processing myself, and studied the various techniques that JPL used on Mariner images of Mars in order to get useful ideas for my own work, and I have some feel for what can be achieved (or more accurately, what could be achieved in the early 70’s). I do not believe that the ‘enhanced’ image on Raynor’s site can be derived from the original by any combination of techniques: features have clearly been added. I would challenge anyone today to process the raw images and extract a plausible flipper from them.
    Certainly neither JPL (if they ever saw them) or Rines would have faked them. My guess is that some magazine or newspaper editor touched them up, and the result was picked up by media who never realised that they been tampered with.

  20. Scarfe responds:

    I know very little about the history of the Loch Ness Monster. How do we know the alleged death-bed confession never happened? Loren, any sources on that one?

  21. dogu4 responds:

    Lately I wonder whether, with all the research that’s gone on in these lakes using sonar and nets and cameras trained on the surface, if any researchers have ever anchored the carcass of a big animal like a cow onto the bottom and observed it to see if some kind of scavenging animal, living under the deep silt typical in these lakes, signaled by the chemical signature of decay, would be roused to take advantage of it. There are lampreys and hagfish that do have those kinds of life patterns and that do occupy similar niches in the environment of muddy alluvial fans in the deeper ocean margins waiting for periodic floods to sweep detritus within their effective surroundings, and maybe a similar species, somewhat pre-adapted for it, might find the relatively infrequent and sporadic, but uncontested, occurrence of a big animal on the bottom of these lakes just frequent enough (presuming sparse population densities and commensurate low competition pressure, suitable for long life typical of the cold dwelling slow growing bottom fish) to support a species adapted for the kinds of habitat that these once ocean-connected post glacial lakes typically provide.

    If there were a population such as that, they would be relatively invisible to the trophic input/output models and hence the opinions of lake-ecologists who dismiss any population of larger animals living in the lake because of low productivity of prey.

    Similarly their appearance wouldn’t necessarily be predicted by seasons, but rather by relatively random occurrences of nearby food at which time a trip to the surface for mating or relocation might bring them briefly and serendipitously within reach of our feeble attempts to record and identify the animals we see in context of the animals we know.

  22. mystery_man responds:

    AlexsandarLovcanski- Your English is excellent. I would not worry about that.

    Very good information and well written post. You bring up something that I meant to say myself earlier about the uniformity of sightings. I agree with you. One thing I’ve noticed about many of the reports I have heard is how much they can differ from each other. The reports can vary wildly in their descriptions and indeed this lack of uniformity is one of the reasons I remain skeptical about Nessie. I have no problem entertaining the thought of an unknown animal in the Loch, but to propose that there are a multitude of large, undiscovered species hiding in its depths without leaving any tangible evidence is a bit far fetched in my opinion.

    I think some of the discrepancies go beyond individual human error and therefore I feel we face the potential problem of bad reports corrupting the data, with a wide range of perceived phenomena behind the accounts. This is not to say that I think Nessie CAN’T be there, I just think it is hard to sift through the reports to find out exactly what creature we might be dealing with when the physical descriptions deviate from each other so much.

  23. mystery_man responds:

    Dogu4- Very interesting idea. I suppose your idea is perfectly valid and feasible. I would be pretty interested in seeing the outcome of any such experiment myself.

  24. AleksandarLovcanski responds:

    Messrs red_pill_junkie and mystery_man, thank you for your kind remarks.

    Mystery_man wrote:

    ‘I think some of the discrepancies go beyond individual human error and therefore I feel we face the potential problem of bad reports corrupting the data, with a wide range of perceived phenomena behind the accounts.’

    This is exactly the problem I had in mind when I mentioned very many different descriptions of the ‘monsters’ from Loch Ness. Different observers tend to see different monsters. This is partly because their preconceptions about what the monster is supposed to look like, differ (this is especially relevant to the reports from the early ‘30s when witnesses knew about the ‘monster story’ but didn’t quite know what to expect in regards to the ‘creature’s’ appearance. It was only after the ‘Surgeon’s Photo’ that the long-necked archetype was formed). Another reason is that people observed various natural phenomena under different (weather) conditions, usually at great distances.
    Therefore, various objective stimuli combined with both visual and mental errors in perception can, in my opinion, explain all of the sightings.

    Scarfe wrote:

    ‘I know very little about the history of the Loch Ness Monster. How do we know the alleged death-bed confession never happened? Loren, any sources on that one?’

    As L Coleman correctly noted, there was no ‘deathbed confession’. This is because Mr Spurling passed away some time after he admitted that the photograph was a fake (and not immediately after the confession). However, I’m not quite sure what constitutes a ‘death-bed confession’? It is my understanding that this term is only used metaphorically in order to emphasize the importance of a claim made by a person who is close to his/hers final hour. It is not necessarily used too literally. Mr Coleman wrote that ‘there was no deathbed confession for the “tale” were given two years before the guy died…’ As far as I know, David Martin and Alastair Boyd published the story of a hoax for the first time in 1994 (The Sunday Telegraph, 13 March 1994; in BBC Wildlife, April 1994, and in their book Nessie: The Surgeon’s Photograph Exposed, 1999) and this was four months before Spurling died. Spurling was interviewed by the two authors in late 1991 – little over 2 years before his death.

    A T Lovcanski

  25. DARHOP responds:

    Excellent post Loren. And great comments from everyone. And as mystery_man said, your English is great Mr. Lovcanski. Welcome to CRYPTOMUNDO the best cryptozoology site on the web. You sound like you know a thing or two about Nessie and the lochs. All info on this subject is greatly appreciated. Thanks for your comments.

  26. Loren Coleman responds:

    Of course, it does not matter really when the alleged tale of the hoax was published. What counts is not the timing of when the story was shared in 1994, as the individual making the claims had already died in November 1993, but that the interview was actually gathered in 1991.

    The whole creating of this “death bed confession” myth in conjunction with this alleged Loch Ness toy sub story merely enhances a tale that is nothing more than hearsay.

    People have been getting the timing off with regard to this factor, apparently for years, as if the death and the confession were remarkably close in time. They were not.

    I just went on the internet, and in micro-seconds plucked out two examples of this mythos.

    “Christain Spurling later admitted that he had taken part in a hoax. He made the confession on his death bed in 1993 when he was aged 90.” – (www.scotland-calling.com/)

    Comments by a Michael (http://www.hometheaterforum.com/):
    “How was the information about the faking of the photo discovered? One of the people that was involved with the hoax made a death bed confession in 1994 to that effect….One fact that we can rely on is that the originator of the most famous photo of the Loch Ness Monster (the one that started this whole thing) admitted on his death-bed that the whole thing was a hoax.”

    This goes to show that people have begun to repeat this business as if it is fact.

    Just because someone told a liar’s tale in 1991 and died in November 1993, can hardly be translated into a “death bed confession.” But it sounds good if your point is to act like someone is coming clean, doesn’t it?

  27. AleksandarLovcanski responds:

    L Coleman wrote:

    ‘I just went on the internet, and in micro-seconds plucked out two examples of this mythos.’— ‘This goes to show that people have begun to repeat this business as if it is fact.’

    These examples prove my earlier statement that the ‘death bed confession’ is referred to by those who are not so familiar with the story behind the ‘Surgeon’s Photo’. Serious students of the Mystery do not make such mistakes.

    ‘Just because someone told a liar’s tale in 1991 and died in November 1993, can hardly be translated into a “death bed confession.” But it sounds good if your point is to act like someone is coming clean, doesn’t it?’

    It does, but as I said, none of the serious investigators (who support the hoax hypothesis) use this as their argument.

    C Spurling’s testimony agrees with all the facts known about Marmaduke Wetherell and his business at the Loch in December in 1933. It also explains peculiar behavior of the alleged photographer (R K Wilson) who in a letter to Constance Whyte stated that ‘I am not, even to this day, quite sure that I was not, entirely unwittingly, the victim of a trick.’… ‘add that there is a slight doubt or suspicion as to the authenticity of the photograph…’ and ‘I want you if you can to form your own opinions as to whether this photograph is likely to be genuine or not…’ (Martin and Boyd 1999:62-4). And finally, it agrees with an independent mathematical analysis which showed that the height of the ‘monster’s’ ‘neck’ was only about 0.7m above the surface (Campbell 1984).

    There is plenty of circumstantial evidence which supports Spurling’s claim. One would need to produce evidence and a motive in order to show that Spurling was a liar.

    Thank you for your positive comments Mr DARHOP

    A T Lovcanski

  28. Loren Coleman responds:

    A. T. Lovcanski writes, regarding the “deathbed confession” and such:

    None of the serious investigators (who support the hoax hypothesis) use this as their argument….C Spurling’s testimony agrees with all the facts known about Marmaduke Wetherell and his business at the Loch in December in 1933….There is plenty of circumstantial evidence which supports Spurling’s claim. One would need to produce evidence and a motive in order to show that Spurling was a liar.

    Perhaps Michael Newton says it best in his Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology (2005, page 447):

    We might rightly question why the hoax report was published only after Spurling’s death, when he could not be cross-examined, and why the two “detectives” allowed various authors to claim that they “got the truth out of [Spurling] not long before his death.” Any suggestion of an old man “clearing his conscience” at death’s door is both inaccurate and deliberately misleading.

    Newton produces an excellent overview of the questions that remain in Spurling’s story, including how the tale of photography in a small inlet is “plainly false,” the “double standard of evidence” by Boyd and Martin, the fact Spurling appeared unaware of the second photo, the retreat of Dr. Wilson not matching the actual history of his openness, and how Karl Shuker and others’ research revealed that the “plastic wood,” the patented medium Spurling claimed he used, did not exist in 1934.

    Of course, Spurling would have known about some facts of Wetherell’s other deceptive activities at Loch Ness in 1934, but that proves nothing.

    As Newton correctly puts it,

    On balance, the motives of Spurling, Boyd, and Martin are less important than the media’s reaction to their tale….We find “objective” reporters on every contenient abandoning any semblance of critical thinking to take Spurling’s tale at face value.

    Just because Spurling creative storytelling appears to match the end results visible in the Surgeon’s Photograph does not make it any more real than the testimony of anyone who says they have seen the Monster in the Loch.

    BTW, for those unaware of the affinities of Alastair Boyd and David Martin, they were members of skeptic Adrian Shine’s Loch Ness Project.

  29. Benjamin Radford responds:

    Loren

    Joe Nickell will be delighted to know you share his opinions about otters and lake monsters– at least in this case!

  30. springheeledjack responds:

    This site is like the New York Times…miss a day and you miss a lot…sheesh.

    I don’t agree with Lovcanski. One, Alex Campbell (couldn’t remember his name thanks), it could have been cormorants, but that is a disputed report. More importantly, when you take one argument, such as that particular report and then extrapolate it to discredit an entire string of sightings, that is hardly a valid way of doing research.

    That is a common pseudo-logical “faux pas” of the debunking crowd. It is not a valid argument to take one case and then apply the results to the rest of the data…just a cheap way not to have to deal with the rest of the data you don’t want to deal with.

    As for the variance of sightings, again I disagree. When I am reading the descriptions, and let’s go head for example…I’ll give you, there are a lot of analogies or differing descriptions in and of themselves: sheep’s head, dog’s head, snake like head, etc. However, the importance of the information is that the head description in those cases is similar in that all of the witnesses are describing something with a smaller head, roughly rounded and without a lot of other details.

    I believe people relate to what they know, and when they come across something outside of their experience they try to come to terms with the new phenomenon by relating it to what they do know. Thus, you get the wide range of comparisons to different animals. Again, however, the actual relation is not so important as the similarities in what is actually not being said–the fact that the critter in question seems to have a smaller head than say a crocodile, elephant, whale, etc.

  31. mystery_man responds:

    springheeledjack- I agree that you can not use one bad report to brush off all other reports and I do think each account must be looked at in kind. But I think there are probably quite a few bad reports or misidentifications mixed in with the potentially real sightings. There HAVE been hoaxes, and I’m sure there HAVE been many misidentifications of mundane occurrences, so this has to be accounted for and every angle has to be pursued. The believer cannot take the leisure of accepting all data at face value and denying the possibility of water birds, otters, and so on. To not be mindful of this is also not a valid way to do research. I think some proponents fall into sort of the same “faux pas” you spoke of, by taking one unexplainable sighting and trying to apply it to others. In my opinion, each account has to be looked at on its own merit without favoring a certain outcome.

    I also tend to think the variances are a little more complicated than you described. A lot of animals have heads smaller than an elephant or a whale, so I don’t see how head size narrows it down into a similar creature being described. Many reports seem to describe very different animals with regards too not only head size, but method of locomotion, body size, appearance of the body, and so on. Some reports do describe a huge head, some a smaller one, some a multi humped serpent, some a giant slug, some a crocodile-like creature, something reptilian, something amphibian, long bodies, short bodies, tail, no tail. A lot of these reports are far from uniform in my opinion and this should be given some consideration.

    I don’t think people have such wildly bad observational skills that they could be morphing the same type of creature into so many different descriptions. There are other instances of different cryptids (such as sasquatch) that are more or less described in the same or very similar way in most reports, and the same goes for animals that were previously cryptids that were discovered (such as the gorilla) so why should there be a sudden inability to accurately describe the same type of animal and have so many different appearances reported when it comes to Nessie? And if witnesses are comparing a strange phenomenon with something they know, who is to say the cause of that strange occurrence is a lake monster and not something else such as odd wave patterns or even otters? Can you say for sure that these are unacceptable options in every case? I think it is quite feasible that a variety of other more mundane phenomena could be at the root of some of the sightings and that it might help to explain the discrepancy between some accounts.

    I am open to the possibility of an unknown creature living in the Loch, and think a lot of sightings could be genuine, but in my opinion, which sightings were potentially caused by this creature and which were not remains to be seen. I think that compared with a lot of other cryptids, the creature is described in many differing ways and because of this, care must be taken to analyze the reports.

  32. AleksandarLovcanski responds:

    L Coleman quotes Newton as saying:

    ‘On balance, the motives of Spurling, Boyd, and Martin are less important than the media’s reaction to their tale….We find “objective” reporters on every contenient abandoning any semblance of critical thinking to take Spurling’s tale at face value.’

    At least, I agree with this statement, which can generally be applied to all the matters processed by media (from politics to the environmental issues) and not just to problems of Loch Ness. Journalists are known for their generalisations and imprecision.

    Most of the other issues raised by M Newton could be ascribed to the fact that Mr Spurling was 89 years old when he was interviewed! Surely we cannot expect of him to remember every single detail after almost 60 years from the event in question. We also need to take into account that he didn’t invite media to tell them their tale. He was located by two researchers and persuaded to share his knowledge about the ‘Surgeon’s Photo’. If they haven’t done that, he would have died without revealing the truth. This and other circumstances and facts that I have referred to in my earlier posts confirm the hoax claim, in my opinion.

    However, I do respect other researchers’ views and arguments who question this explanation (e.g. L Coleman, R Smith, M Newton and others). This is just the critical thinking we need when analysing claims of this sort. Only by testing the proposed hypothesis against the available evidence can we arrive to the truth (or at least to approximate it).

    Springheeledjack wrote:

    ‘One, Alex Campbell (couldn’t remember his name thanks), it could have been cormorants, but that is a disputed report.’

    The claim that A Campbell saw a group of cormorants is not disputed at all. In fact, Campbell himself admitted this! In a letter to his employer (Ness Fishery Board) he retracted his earlier statement that he saw a 30ft, humped-back, long-necked monster, and explained that as ‘the light was improving all the time… and in a matter of seconds I discovered that what I took to be the Monster was nothing more than a few cormorants, and what seemed to be the head was a cormorant standing in the water and flapping its wings, as they often do…’ (Gould 1969:111).

    ‘More importantly, when you take one argument, such as that particular report and then extrapolate it to discredit an entire string of sightings, that is hardly a valid way of doing research.’

    I disagree. In science, this method is called logical induction (where a single case is used to describe and explain a group of similar cases, thus inducing the conclusion based on an individual event onto the group of similar events), and it provides a valuable tool when analysing a group of similar reports. Only one of Mr Campbell’s 18 sightings mentions the head and a neck (accompanied with the humped back. Although one more mentions just a neck.), while the remaining 16 usually describe only humps (in one instance only the strange sound was heard, which was attributed to the unseen ‘monster’). Now, if a 30ft monster with a long neck can be explained away as a group of cormorants, then what are we to conclude about Campbell’s, rather ‘modest’, observations of single ‘humps’ (e.g. his 1955/56, 1958, 1964 accounts, etc.)?

    ‘That is a common pseudo-logical “faux pas” of the debunking crowd. It is not a valid argument to take one case and then apply the results to the rest of the data…just a cheap way not to have to deal with the rest of the data you don’t want to deal with.’

    I want to deal with all the data. As I stated earlier, I have collected more than 1000 reports, but it’ll take me years to analyze every single one of them. In the meantime, however, I think it is rational to derive a conclusion based on the examples I have already analyzed.

    ‘I’ll give you, there are a lot of analogies or differing descriptions in and of themselves: sheep’s head, dog’s head, snake like head, etc. However, the importance of the information is that the head description in those cases is similar in that all of the witnesses are describing something with a smaller head, roughly rounded and without a lot of other details.’

    One of the common misconceptions is that the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ is supposed to have a long neck with a small head. This is the famous image popularized after the publication of the Surgeon’s Photo. But the percentage of the sightings which mention long necks is not so impressive. In fact, the number of cases where a longish vertical object above 3ft in length was observed amounts to only about 29 percent of the total number of sightings between 1962 and 1971 (see Mackal 1976:344). Now, this analysis did not take reports from the 1930s into calculation where most of the long necked sightings have occurred. But based on my list, very few sightings from 1971 to the present mention long necks. Most mention just single humps.
    Apart from ‘long-neck-small-head’ reports, there are those that describe huge heads with short or no necks (e.g. John McLeod, circa 1908; Alfred Cruickshank, 1923; Anonymous, circa 1930; Mrs MacDonald, 1932; some pilots, May 1933; A Ross, June 1933; group of workers, 24 June 1933; Mrs M MacDonald, June 1988, etc.).

    When making a claim it is important to document it, as I just did.

    A T Lovcanski

  33. Loren Coleman responds:

    A. T. Lovcanski’s inconvenient shortfalls in Spurling’s story may not be fashioned from any realities. He says: “Most of the other issues raised by M Newton could be ascribed to the fact that Mr Spurling was 89 years old when he was interviewed!”

    How does one say they built something with plastic wood that didn’t exist on a toy sub that no one can find in any antique toy catalogues unless the tall tale teller is retro-locating more recent experiences back to 1934 to construct a story? How does one who is involved with the hoax not know there were two photos produced, instead of one, unless that individual is lying about the whole thing?

    Clearly, the kind of details that Spurling came up with would tell us he was spinning a well-thought out yarn, or telling us something he wishes us all to take as reality. It may be easy to try to blame Spurling for a foggy memory because parts of his story do not check out, but I think that is merely playing fast and furious with the facts of the case.

    Do the following details shared in the press in 1994 sound like we are to believe that Spurling had a faulty memory?

    Ian [Wetherell], then 21, was sent out to buy the raw materials – a toy submarine and several tins of plastic wood. Christian, the son of a marine painter, was a keen model-maker. “All I got was a message from Wetherell saying ‘Can you make me a monster?’ ” he recalled. Wetherell’s sons worked out the details together. “I said ‘well, it’s a monster so it’s got to have long neck, I suppose,” remembered Christian. “I just sat down and made it. It was modelled on the idea of a sea serpent.” The “monster” took eight days to make. The head, neck and body were built over the conning tower in stages as the plastic wood hardened with a space for the clockwork key. Lead soldered underneath gave it stability. by James Langton, The Sunday Telegraph, March 13, 1994, Sunday, “Nessie and Big-Game Hunter’s Monster Ego: Clockwork submarine and plastic wood fashioned a legend.”

  34. jerrywayne responds:

    When the world was young and I was enchanted with Nessie, I wrote Ms. Whyte and Dr. Burton and they kindly replied. Burton had been floating the idea that Loch Ness harbored a super otter which explained the phenomena at the loch. He wrote this American kid and informed me he had changed his mind and that he now believed the famous “Surgeon’s Photo” was of the tail of a diving otter. I didn’t believe it.

    Now, our kind host Loren has publicly stated a similar conclusion. I still don’t buy it. The notion that our “surgeon” was enjoying a bit of carnal knowledge when he happened to spy an otter in the loch is a fetching idea, if from afar. That he just happened to snap a picture of said otter just as it dived, tail erect, seems also fetching, from afar. (I think it was the unknown Daily Mail editor who originally cropped the famous picture who may be the unsung hero of the Nessie legend.)

    No, I go with the “deathbed confession” account. I have seen two independent recreations of the “Surgeon’s Photo” using the technique suggested by the confession. Both are virtually identical to the original. Case closed, as far as I am concerned.

    As for the “Water Horse”, need it really be pointed out that the kelpie is a Celtic myth, a supernatural shape shifter that should have nothing to do with a flesh and blood cryptid?

  35. AleksandarLovcanski responds:

    This will probably be my last post on this subject, for I think we will have to agree to disagree.

    L Coleman said:

    ‘Clearly, the kind of details that Spurling came up with would tell us he was spinning a well-thought out yarn, or telling us something he wishes us all to take as reality. It may be easy to try to blame Spurling for a foggy memory because parts of his story do not check out, but I think that is merely playing fast and furious with the facts of the case.’

    ‘Do the following details shared in the press in 1994 sound like we are to believe that Spurling had a faulty memory?’—

    Obviously I cannot speculate about the exact degree of accuracy of Mr Spurling’s memory, for it would be unscientific and unethical to do so. However, what I can do is to point out that human memory in general tends to be faulty, especially after long time has passed from the event (stimulus) stored in it. One should discern between short-term memory and a long-term memory. Obtaining a memory of some objective event is a very complex mental process and should not be underestimated. As Dr Elizabeth Loftus explains in her excellent book (Memory, Menlo Park,Mass.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1980), the incoming information (stimulus) first needs to be detected by a sensory register, from where it is temporarily stored in a short-term memory, and finally deposited in a long-term one. Of course, during this process many changes as to the nature or the characteristics of the perceived event may occur (pp. 13-34). Regarding very long-term memory (which stores recollections from a distant past) in elder people, Loftus says:
    ‘… in more recent experiments, comparable memory items were used. Even though the memories of older people in these studies were surprisingly good, their results were poorer than those of their younger counterparts in recalling and recognizing events from the remote past [my emphasis]… As expected, the longer it had been since the news item occurred, the poorer the recollection of it. However, it was also found that older adults (over fifty-five) did not perform as well as those under forty [Spurling was 89 when he recalled his story!]. This also occurred when the subjects had to recognize well-known faces; performance declined with increasing age…’ (p.115).

    Therefore, unimportant details were forgotten or have been embellished through the passage of time, but the essence of the story was recollected by Spurling in 1992 – 60 years after the event. Independent examinations of the photos (their angle of photography; dimensions of the object, etc.), letters from R K Wilson himself, and other aspects, all tend to corroborate Spurling’s testimony.
    One should always go for the simplest and most obvious explanation (Occam’s Razor).

    L Coleman also said:

    ‘BTW, for those unaware of the affinities of Alastair Boyd and David Martin, they were members of skeptic Adrian Shine’s Loch Ness Project.’

    The fact that Messrs Boyd and Martin were members of the Loch Ness Project doesn’t mean anything. In fact, Boyd himself believes in the existence of a monster in Loch Ness! He and his wife had a sighting back in 1979 and remain convinced that they saw a big animal (see for example S Campbell’s The Loch Ness Monster: the Evidence, 1986, pp.26-7). As a believer, Mr Boyd found out the truth behind the ‘Surgeon’s Photo’. This can only add to his credibility.

    Jerry Wayne wrote:

    ‘… I go with the “deathbed confession” account. I have seen two independent recreations of the “Surgeon’s Photo” using the technique suggested by the confession. Both are virtually identical to the original. Case closed, as far as I am concerned.’

    Indeed, I am aware of at least three different reconstructions of the photograph which all ended up with quite convincing results (one was conducted by A Boyd in about 2001; the other one was by M David in 2006 and the most recent one was demonstrated by A Shine in his 2007 booklet, see pp. 10-11).

    I would very much like to see pictures of otters performing a ‘long-neck’ pose with their tails, identical or similar to the object in the Surgeon’s Photo. I know of only two photographs (see Plate 15(d) between pages 132 and 133 in Binns’ The Loch Ness Mystery Solved; and Steuart Campbell’s 1984 article in the British Journal of Photography, 20 Apr 1984, p.410) where otters’ tails are sticking out of the water, none of which resembles the ‘neck and head’ in the Wilson’s (or should I say, Wetherell’s) shot.

    A T Lovcanski

  36. Loren Coleman responds:

    Lovcanski wrote:

    Therefore, unimportant details were forgotten or have been embellished through the passage of time, but the essence of the story was recollected by Spurling in 1992 – 60 years after the event. Independent examinations of the photos (their angle of photography; dimensions of the object, etc.), letters from R K Wilson himself, and other aspects, all tend to corroborate Spurling’s testimony.

    As is the case with any hoax explanation, it is always easiest to construct and match a story with already existing evidence after the fact of that evidence being in existence.

    As Richard Smith and others have shown, the “corroboration” of Spurling’s yarn is relative and does issue forth from a belief system that reinforces the debunking points of view that wish to be supported.

    I find it amazing that the support of the shaky Spurling story is being defended, even with the aggressive assaults against the notion that the photos may have been nothing more than that of an otter or seal.

    That has been a part of this that I find incredible to watch unfold.

  37. AleksandarLovcanski responds:

    Mr Coleman,

    There was absolutely nothing ‘aggressive’ in my posts. All of my claims were thoroughly documented and logically coherent. In fact, I did say that I respected yours’ as well as other investigators’ opinions and arguments. I would not post on your blog if I didn’t respect you and your work (I read some of your books too with great interest).
    There’s no reason to be aggressive or insulting when one rationally discusses any problem. It is only when emotional statement are made that the ground for insult is being set.

    I thought my contribution to the forum would be appreciated and not taken as ‘aggressive’.

    Regards,

    A T Lovcanski

  38. Loren Coleman responds:

    I have sincerely appreciated and enjoyed this exchange. Please do not read me incorrectly.

    Linguistically, I was not placing any negative or harsh connotations on the use of the word “agressive.”

    I was using the word to befit the meaning of being “assertive, bold, and energetic.”

    Intellectual primate aggression, I feel, can be important and stimulating within the interaction of ideas, and my apologies if I have been misread.

    If anything, I only become engaged beyond the writing of a blog when I see something of interest that fires my passion.

    This blog’s comment section, which I denoted, in my frame of reference, had some positive aggressive energy associated with it.

  39. mystery_man responds:

    I have found this exchange between Loren and Mr. Lovanski to be fascinating. I believe this is probably the most I have ever seen Loren post in the comments section. :) I’m glad he did. I greatly appreciate the input from both sides and have learned a tremendous amount about this topic. Thank you both for taking the time to engage each other on the matter, I have enjoyed reading both of your posts immensely.

    Mr. Lovanski, your input is much appreciated by me and I respect the amount of research you have obviously done into these things and your knowledge about the Loch Ness phenomena. I hope to see more of your postings on this site in the future. By the way, I still find it hard to believe that you are worried about your English, as it is really very good!

  40. DARHOP responds:

    I too have enjoyed the exchange between Loren and Aleksandar. Like mystery_man said. I have learned some things during this much appreciated debate. Aleksandar you do sound really knowlegeable on the subject of Loch Ness. From what I have read it sounds like you have done your research very well. So please, keep your comments coming on this, and any other crytids you may be knowlegeable on. People like myself that visit this site thrive on this stuff. Thanks!

  41. Ceroill responds:

    I agree, DARHOP. Alexsandar, your posts are very interesting and informational. Good to have you here.

  42. KurtB responds:

    I met Robert Rines and Harold Edgerton at Loch Ness in 1976. They were highly educated and respected men from the faculty of one of America’s premier scientific establishments, M.I.T. Neither was a “faker” and neither was easily fooled. For me, the Rines photos have never been convincingly dismissed.

    The fact that Dick Raynor has posted a lengthy rebuttal of them doesn’t mean anything. Dick Raynor is neither an expert nor a scientist. He’s an amateur investigator and nice guy who drives a tour boat on Loch Ness. None of his assertions are any more compelling than the photographs themselves. Same holds true for Adrian Shine. Nice guy, interesting, but not a scientist. He is usually referred to as a “naturalist”, although I’m pretty sure that title requires more credentials than he possesses. Dr. Edgerton, on the other hand, was a scientist (inventor of the strobe light among other things). Rines was a patent attorney (as he is rich I assume he was a good one) who taught patent law at M.I.T. As a faculty member he had access to a premier selection of the best minds available in a wide variety of disciplines. His camera and sonar gear were constructed in M.I.T. labs and tested in the giant ocean tank at the New England Aquarium. Not many people are given access to resources like that and it’s safe to assume that he wouldn’t have been given access to them had he been a charlatan, practical joker, or blind believer.

    As for the Surgeon’s photo, I don’t consider this one case closed either. A death bed confession, serious inconsistencies in Spurling’s story, and a disregard for the second photo hardly make for a rock solid case.

    It’s interesting to note how the theories offered against Nessie wind-up being more convoluted and poorly supported than those in favor of her existence. When questioned about this most skeptics will claim that the burden isn’t on them to prove anything. That may be true up to the point that they enter the debate and start publishing blogs, books, and articles. From then on they can be be held to the same standards of scholarship as Nessie’s proponents.

    Occam’s Razor tells us to favor the simplest answer that makes sense. It doesn’t, however, require us to accept theories that do not make sense because they seem more prosaic and conventional than the paranormal or pseudo-scientific alternatives. A theory in favor of Nessie’s existence would satisfy Occam if none of the simpler alternatives made logical sense.

  43. jerrywayne responds:

    Great comments. However, I do want to consider KurtB’s comments.

    !. Robert Rines is “highly educated” and a “respected” “faculty [member] of one of America’s premier scientific establishments, M.I.T.” Poor Dick Raynor is but a mere “amateur investigator” whose view of the Nessie issue “doesn’t mean anything.” Likewise, Adrian Shine is “not a scientist” and doesn’t have the credentials to call himself a “naturalist.” This set up of the issue is a wee bit slanted.

    It apparently counts for nothing that Raynor and Shine have spent decades of investigation at loch side. Conversely, published reports of Rines’ employing a psychic in his quest for Nessie, or his stated belief that Nessie may be albino, apparently do not count against his scientific credentials.

    2. The Rines’ underwater photos are dismissed because they do not appear to show an animate object. The “flipper” photo looked interesting until it was revealed that it was highly “enhanced” and hence altered. The original photo (publicized later) does not look like an animate object. The “head” photo and “neck and body” photo are embarrassing. They do not look like an animate object, and they certainly don’t look like different shots of the same object. Raynor has published photos of waterlogged tree stumps that are uncannily similar to the Rines’ “head” photo.

    3. I have been on both sides of the Nessie issue, first as close to a “true believer” as one could be, and later as an open minded skeptic. I remember when I was enchanted by Nessie, any fuzzy or (probably} hoaxed picture from Ness would mesmerize me. Why? Because it would confirm what I believed. Similarly, even though the the Rines’ photos are dubious, folks cling to them because they allegedly confirm (and conform to) their pro-Nessie beliefs.

    4. The only way skeptics could show conclusively that Nessie does not exist would be to drain the loch. That will not happen. So, in lieu of that event, skeptics can only look at the evidence of sightings, and those are generally problematical.

    5. I still believe two events at Ness are promising for Nessie advocates. The Dinsdale film is one. Generally, skeptics dismiss the film as showing a boat at a distance. This well may be the true explanation. The “creature” does seem to ride too high in the water for a subsurface swimming animal. On the other hand, it does seem to submerge (a mirage?), something a boat couldn’t do. And we do have Dinsdale word that he viewed the object through binoculars before filming. He said he saw a humped back of a large animal. He may have been mistaken, but he was a very honest fellow.

    The other event at Ness that is intriguing is the “over turned boat” sightings phenomena that occurs at Ness. Most Nessie sightings I think can be attributed to standing waves, water fowl, mirages, (yes) otters etc., but what accounts for people seeing an “over turned boat” that begins to move or submerge?

    6. I don’t think the lesson we should learn from the recent Holmes film has been recognized yet. His film shows the classic Nessie image and I believe it can match up with many sketches of Nessie made by observers. This is important because the film may very well be of an (yes) otter.

  44. dogu4 responds:

    In comment #4 it is suggested that only by draining the lake would there be proof, but in fact all that would prove is that it’s not swimming around in the water column at that time. If there were a large animal that lived not so much in the water but in the fine silt that covers the bottom with a thick layer of mud, waiting for a decaying carcass to emit the signal that food was available as it would if it were a giant kind of hagfish, one would still not see a creature.
    I’m curious as to whether anyone has ever observed what happens to a carcass of a big animal as it is consumed by the lake’s biology.

  45. KurtB responds:

    Thanks for your observations Jerrywayne.

    Don’t get me wrong, Shine and Raynor are nice men with good intentions. But are they experts when it comes to the Loch Ness Monster? If so how does one become a Nessie expert? What exactly are the qualifications? Which schools offer a degree program? I would certainly take either of these men at their word when it comes to objective comments on Loch Ness dealing with its weather, commonly seen animals, surface conditions, ect. But what in their resumes qualifies them to make subjective judgments about Nessie evidence that are more valid than anyone else’s?

    Whatever you think of Rines (and there are certainly some bad things to say about him) my point was that he had enough drag in the 1970s to roam the halls at M.I.T. and bring together some serious brainpower and technical support, including Harold Edgerton. Is he one of the great minds of our time? Of course not, but he isn’t a hoaxer either and he deserves credit for putting together the most comprehensive invasive search for the LNM ever conducted.

    As for the flipper photo, this is one of those topics that can generate hours of good debate. There were apparently three versions of the photo. The raw image, a version enhanced at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and a third enhanced version that appeared on the cover of “Nature”. My feeling is that the original raw image is interesting in itself and yields some useful information. The JPL enhanced version highlighted this detail using accepted methods and I have not read any criticism of their work. In fact, it has since been successfully duplicated. It’s the third version that causes problems. It is clearly an airbrushed version of the JPL enhancement. Was this Rines’ doing or the work of a magazine editor? Who knows. Regardless, Rines shot himself in the foot by throwing his evidence to the media before giving the scientific community a chance to study it. However, this shouldn’t detract from the fact that enhancement number one is an incredibly compelling photograph. Again, I’ve never heard anyone question JPL’s work on this photo. I’ve also never heard anyone explain what known living animal has a fin shaped liked the appendage in the photo.

    Don’t forget, however, the other Rines photos. Even if you go with Dick Raynor’s assessment of the “Gargoyle Head” as a tree stump, that leaves the body/neck shot and the shot of the animal from the rear quarter as it moves away from the camera. Skeptics can pick apart any of these photos individually. But I wonder what the chances are of obtaining four separate underwater photographs in Loch Ness on two different occasions of various prosaic phenomena (suspended silt, tree stumps, bubbles) that by sheer coincidence happen to bear more than a passing resemblance to what certain portions of the Loch Ness Monster are supposed to look like according to the anecdotal evidence? Even if you accept all the criticism of the way the photographic and sonar equipment was employed, I think the odds would favor the existence of the monster over the convergence of so many unlikely events.

    Merry Christmas!



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