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Photos of the Loch Ness Monster, revisited

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Some of the 'great' Nessie photos. From left to right: the 'Surgeon's photo' of 1934, the 'Loch Ness Muppet' image of 1977, and the George Edwards image of 2012 (or thereabouts...).

The Loch Ness Monster – Nessie – is always there; no matter what people say, and no matter what evidence fails to come in, it never goes away. I’ve participated in several TV documentary on the LNM in the last few years and all – no matter how many sceptical scientists they feature, no matter how many negative points they cover – work hard to leave the case open, as if we can still hold out hope that a giant, undiscovered aquatic animal awaits discovery in the loch. In reality, there’s no reason at all to think that it does.

Just to prove that international interest in the monster remains, new photos get their fair share of media attention every few years, and within recent months another supposedly interesting image appeared. It was quickly shown to be yet another hoax, as discussed below. The article here is a revamped version of one that appeared on Tet Zoo ver 2 in December 2007. Oh, and now is a good time to mention sceptical approaches to cryptozoology since Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero have just published their new cryptozoology-themed book Abominable Science! Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids. I haven’t seen the final published product yet, but I was a reviewer (and blurb-writer) so am familiar with its contents. I certainly agree with them on the subject of Nessie. Anyway…

The Surgeon's photo as it looked in or prior to 1987 when photographed in the picture library of Mail Newspapers. Huh, history has not been kind. The tatty edges even make it look at if somebody deliberately made it look as beat-up as possible.

I will begin by essentially repeating what I just said above: there is no good evidence supporting the existence of any large unknown animal in Loch Ness, and I am of the opinion that sightings and photographic and sonar evidence can be satisfactorily explained as mistaken or embellished encounters with known animals (including swimming deer, water birds, seals, and small cetaceans), waves, or optical illusions. I say this, not because I’m a knee-jerk debunker who cannot accept the idea that a big unknown animal might exist in a big body of water, but because I am familiar with the evidence, such as it is, and find it wanting. The expectation that there’s an unknown animal in Loch Ness almost certainly explains the recent history of sightings. In other words, any weird bump or lump or shape that emerges from the loch is identified as a monster. Contrary to some sources, there is no tradition of sightings, nor are their old historical reports or anything like that pre-dating the 1930s (Magin 2001).

Another less-cropped version of the Surgeon's photo, though note that it shows less of the opposite bank than the original. Also, the big crease visible on the right side of the full photo shown above isn't present here, suggesting that it was made after the image was photographed in the condition shown here.

Easily the most iconic Loch Ness Monster image is the one shown here and above: 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 indicated to LeBlond & Collins (198) that it’s about 1.2 m tall, though I personally suspect that this is an over-estimate. 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 had identified some footprints as those of the monster, but they were actually fakes made with a dried hippo’s foot. He 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 Spurling and Wetherell’s confession (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.

This too-good-to-be-true photo was taken in May 1977 and was initially used in some publications as striking evidence supporting the monster’s existence. It’s one of two photos, the second of which shows the animal with a much straighter neck. A third photo – identical to the second one but showing the creature heading in the opposite direction – surfaced (ha ha) in 1983 and originated from an anonymous source (Bord & Bord 1987). There have been suggestions that all three are manipulations of the same image, either switched or somehow stretched relative to the original. In the best known of the images (shown here), sometimes affectionately termed the Loch Ness Muppet photo, the ‘monster’ is translucent (yes, I said translucent). Note the white spot down at the base of the neck.

Tony Shiels's 'Elephant squid', here beautifully painted in colour for the attention of well known authors Janet and Colin Bord. Image from John Fairley and Simon Welfare's 1987 Arthur C. Clarke's Chronicles of the Strange and Mysterious (Collins, London).

The photographer is sometimes referred to as Anthony Shiels. However, Shiels isn’t just any old naïve tourist, but Tony ‘Doc’ Shiels, the famous Irish psychic entertainer, self-proclaimed Wizard of the Western World, author and artist. He is associated with several proven hoaxes, including photos of Morgawr (a Cornish sea monster) that turned out to be plasticine models. Apparently little known is that Shiels used these photos to promote a, shall we say, interesting theory about the Loch Ness Monster: namely, that it’s a gigantic freshwater cephalopod that has a sort of proboscis that stick out the top of its head and mimics the head and neck of a long-necked water monster. The white blob is actually one of the squid’s real eyes (though the idea that it’s a beer can has also been mentioned on occasion…).

Shiels produced an article in Fortean Times on the Loch Ness squid – he called it the elephant squid – but I can’t seem to find my copy (does anyone have the citation?). Oh yeah, the translucency of the image results from the way the model was superimposed onto the water – though I’ve heard that it’s actually a genuine feature, reflecting the fact that Nessie isn’t just a giant freshwater cephalopod, it’s also a ghost. And no, I don’t think any of this is meant to be taken seriously.

The adjacent image is also iconic: it’s P. A. MacNab’s photo, taken in July 1955 but not made public until 1957 when it was published in Constance Whyte’s book More Than a Legend. MacNab was, so he said, about to photo Urquhart Castle when he noticed a disturbance in the water. He quickly changed lenses and took one picture; his son was with him at the time but didn’t get to see it as he was busy looking at a car engine. This story is suspicious, as is the photo: the creature must have been stupendously big (the part of it above the water is more than 18 m long, based on comparison with the castle), and, partly as a result of this, some authors have even suggested that the image showed two monsters: a big male followed by a smaller female perhaps. The creature(s) is also notably (read: suspiciously) dark compared to the other dark objects in the photo. The story became properly undone when Roy Mackal obtained a copy of the negative from MacNab and found a number of major discrepancies between the copy published by Whyte and the one supplied by MacNab. The two images differ in the exact position of the castle’s reflection and in the presence of a clump of trees in the lower left corner. MacNab is on record as saying that he took two photos with two different cameras (Witchell 1974, pp. 87-88), but this can’t explain things as the ‘monster’ – which MacNab says was definitely moving when he photographed it – is in exactly the same position in both.

Peter O’Connor’s photo, taken in May 1960, has always been one of my favourites because it looks so plausible (ish). The story is that O’Connor, camping on the shore of the loch, got up in the early morning to relieve himself. He saw the creature, waded out waist-deep into the water, and took the photo. Apparently, he was able to get so close because – trained as a Royal Marine Commando – he could walk through water without making a sound (Binns 1984). O’Connor has often been regarded as a suspicious witness because, in 1959, he’d claimed that he was going to lead an expedition of 60 people – kitted out with harpoon, spearguns, canoe-mounted machine guns, bombs and a machete – to kill the creature.

The image is problematical: the creature appears to be stationary, rather than moving forward as O’Connor said, the lighting shows that the flash came from about 4 m above the water surface, not close to water-level as it should have, and we should be able to see light in the background given that the photo was taken at 06:30 in May. Maurice Burton reported in New Scientist that, on visiting the spot where O’Connor took his photo, he discovered three polythene bags, a ring of stones tied together with string, and a stick which looked exactly like the alleged monster’s head.

Whether you call the 'flipper' photos 'hoaxes' or not is down to personal preference: whatever, they definitely represent substantially retouched versions of mud on the loch floor. Above is one of the 'flipper' photos: below is the original version, showing the loch floor but with a streak and other details of the image creating the vague impression of a diamond shape. Images (c) 1972 Academy of Applied Science/Loch Ness Investigation Bureau.

Originally mooted by some as compelling evidence for the biological reality of the Loch Ness Monster (Dinsdale 1973a, b, Witchell 1974, Mackal 1976, Scott & Rines 1975), the famous Rines-Egerton flippers photos (there are two) are undoubted fakes. We now know that genuine photos of the muddy bottom of Loch Ness were ‘enhanced’ in order to create the impressions of fin-shaped objects. This was suggested by Binns (1984) but has since been confirmed by Adrian Shine (respected long-time investigator of the Loch Ness Monster phenomenon) and Dick Raynor (go here for more). Exactly who did the enhancing remains unknown so far as I know. Needless to say, these facts negate the various interesting ideas that have been based on the details of the alleged flippers. Because the flippers seem to have a stiffening rib that runs along the midline, they are, with the possible exception of lungfishes, unlike those of most other aquatic vertebrates. Shine (1989) noted that the fins of Loch Ness animals might not be the main propulsive organs for this reason and, noting the similarity with Australian lungfishes, suggested that the fin anatomy might indicate the creature to be a fish that crawls on the loch floor, rather than a tetrapod that frequents the water column. Often overlooked is the extraordinary size of the ‘fins’: each was estimated to be about 2 m long.

Peter Scott illustrated Nessie on several occasions, including in some spectacular colour paintings. This illustration shows his interpretation of the two 'flipper' photos. Scott 'believed' in the reality of the LNM and claims that he was in it for a laugh do not take account of what he said in books, articles and interviews.

Remarkably, Peter Scott and Robert Rines used these photos as the main basis for the formal description (in Nature!) of the Loch Ness Monster as a new species they named Nessiteras rhombopteryx (Scott & Rines 1975). It’s well known that Nessiteras rhombopteryx is an anagram of ‘monster hoax by Sir Peter S’, but this is surely a coincidence: Scott and Rines both wrote quite a lot on the Loch Ness Monster (e.g., Scott 1980, Rines 1982), and there is every reason to think that they were actually quite convinced by the putative reality of the animal. Scott proudly wrote of his ‘I believe in Nessie’ t-shirt and Rines countered the anagram claim by noting that Nessiteras rhombopteryx is also an anagram of ‘Yes, both pix are monsters, R’. In other words, it’s blissfully naïve to think they pulled off the naming of the animal as a one-off stunt done for laughs.

A few other alleged Nessie photos were taken by the underwater camera of the Robert Rines Academy of Applied Science /Loch Ness Investigation Bureau expeditions, including the famous ‘gargoyle’s head’ image and another that has been intimated to be a moving, long-necked animal with appendages. These images almost certainly represent cases of pareidolia: the ‘gargoyle’s head’ image is most likely a gnarly tree-stump on the loch floor.

Cropped version of the George Edwards '2012' photo. Having Urquhart Castle in the background is a nice touch.

Screengrab from a documentary in which the hump is placed in the loch. I think that's Steve Feltham.

The newest ‘good’ photo appeared in the global media in August 2012 and was supposedly taken by George Edwards in November 2011. According to statements made to the press, Edwards wanted to have the photo verified before releasing it and asked friends in the US military to check its authenticity. In fact, the image had already been on sale as a postcard since June 2012. Well-known LNM investigator Steve Feltham went on record to say that the hump is one and the same as the object made for the 2005 documentary Loch Ness: The Ultimate Experiment, and that seems to be true when you compared images of the hump (which still exists) with the object in the photo. Indeed, a 2011 documentary even includes footage of the same hump sitting on the deck of Edwards’s boat. It’s case closed on this one as well – it’s definitely a hoax, and you can see a very detailed examination of the object’s size, position in the loch and so on here at Dick Raynor’s site.

There are various other LNM photos of course, and also several bits of film. Then there are the several land sightings, and the fossils, whale bones and dead conger eels that have been found at Loch Ness. However, the images you’ve seen here are the ‘classics’, the ‘best of the best’ and, as I’ve said here, all are unsatisfactory or problematic or definitely hoaxed. So that’s that! We move on.

For previous Tet Zoo articles on the Loch Ness Monster and related aspects of cryptozoology, see…

Refs – -

Bauer, H. H. 2002. The case for the Loch Ness “monster”: the scientific evidence. Journal of Scientific Exploration 16, 225-246.

Binns, R. 1984. The Loch Ness Mystery Solved. W. H. Allen & Co, London.

Bord, J. & Bord, C. 1991. Modern Mysteries of Britain. Diamond Books, London.

Boyd, A. & Martin, D. 1994. Creating a monster. BBC Wildlife 12 (4), 22-23.

Dinsdale, T. 1973a. The Rines/Egerton picture. The Photographic Journal April 1973, 162-165.

- . 1973b. The Story of the Loch Ness. Allan Wingate, London.

LeBlond, P. H. & Collins, M. J. 1987. The Wilson Nessie photo: a size determination based on physical principles. Cryptozoology 6, 55-64.

Mackal, R. P. 1976. The Monsters of Loch Ness. The Swallow Press, Chicago.

Magin, U. 2001. Waves without wind and a floating island – historical accounts of the Loch Ness monster. In Simmons, I. & Quin, M. (eds) Fortean Studies Volume 7. John Brown Publishing (London), pp. 95-115.

Martin, D. & Boyd, A. 1999. Nessie – the Surgeon’s Photo Exposed. Martin & Boyd, East Barnet.

Rines, R. H. 1982. Summarizing a decade of underwater studies at Loch Ness. Cryptozoology 1, 24-32.

Scott, P. 1980. Observations of Wildlife. Phaidon, Oxford.

- . & Rines, R. 1975. Naming the Loch Ness monster. Nature 258, 466-468.

Shine, A. 1989. A very strange fish? In Brookesmith, P. (ed) Creatures from Elsewhere. Macdonald & Co (London), pp. 66-70.

Shuker, K. P. N. 1995. In Search of Prehistoric Survivors. Blandford, London.

Smith, R. D. 1994. Nessie not a hoax. BBC Wildlife 12 (8), 81.

- . 1995. The classic Wilson nessie photo: is the hoax a hoax? Fate November 1995, 42-44.

Witchell, N. 1974. The Loch Ness Story. Terence Dalton, Lavenham.

Darren Naish About the Author: Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at darrennaish.wordpress.com. He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at tetzoo.com! Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. llewelly 9:31 am 07/10/2013

    ” … small cetaceans …”

    … in Loch Ness?

    Wouldn’t that be a remarkable discovery, if there was any evidence?

    by the way, real lake monsters do not drink canned beer.

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  2. 2. weirdisland 9:40 am 07/10/2013

    Ah – there’s something very lovely about those early black and white pictures in particular. Do you have any feelings about the Dinsdale film? Looks awfully like a small boat to me, but that’s an argument that’s raged for a fair few decades… ;)

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  3. 3. weirdisland 9:42 am 07/10/2013

    Oh – for anyone reading who is unfamiliar with the Dinsdale film (which would be surprising, given its ubiquity!) it’s here: http://www.weirdisland.co.uk/animals/lake-monsters/tim-dinsdale-loch-ness-monster-film.html

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  4. 4. Andreas Johansson 10:15 am 07/10/2013

    ‘Sfunny how small the Surgeon’s photo monster looks in the less-cropped photos. I find it hard to believe it’s as tall as 1.2m, tho I hasten to disclaim any particular expertise in size-determination from photographs.

    Monday’s xkcd is also apposite: http://xkcd.com/1235/

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  5. 5. naishd 10:50 am 07/10/2013

    Re: cetaceans in Loch Ness (comment # 1). Some sightings and photos of the “Loch Ness Monster” actually happened in the River Ness, and some seem to show small cetaceans. So, some “Loch Ness Monster” accounts are based on sightings of cetaceans.

    The Dinsdale film (comments # 2 and 3): I’m pretty sure it’s a boat, as are many other people. It looks like a boat and even follows the same trajectory as did many other similar-sized boats on the loch. The JARIC report was always over-emphasised… some vague conclusions about it being “an animate object” or such. Err, doesn’t “animate” mean “capable of movement”? Poor Dinsdale; I respect his legacy but always thought him too keen to over-interpret poor evidence.

    Darren

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  6. 6. Dave S 11:33 am 07/10/2013

    Darren, would you care to comment about Jeremy Wade’s hypothesis that the Greenland Shark is behind Nessie and the Lagarfljót Worm sightings?

    Dave

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  7. 7. naishd 11:37 am 07/10/2013

    Dave: I hadn’t heard of that hypothesis until now. I’d say that we don’t need it, since there simply isn’t a body of unexplained Loch Ness Monster sightings – the accounts are vague allusions to humps and bumps in the water and necky things: these can be explained as waves, waves and sightings of birds and such. If people were seeing >sharks<, wouldn't they be describing dorsal fins and tail fins and so on?

    Darren

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  8. 8. Dave S 12:01 pm 07/10/2013

    Darren,

    I couldn’t do justice to Wade’s arguments and would recommend you watch the episode. Apparently the Greenland Shark doesn’t have much in the way of prominent dorsal and tail fins. Irrespective of whether its true its nice to see a new candidate that is more plausible than plesiosaurs and more exciting than sturgeon. Although somewhat dramatic (for understandable TV purposes) the River Monsters Loch Ness episode is still good fun to watch. It’s always nice to be exposed to animals that don’t get much coverage elsewhere.

    Dave

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  9. 9. Cameron McCormick 12:15 pm 07/10/2013

    RE: Greenland Sharks — I suspect some people inferred their presence in the St. Lawrence meant they were inhabiting a freshwater river. Tracking data reveals they stick to areas with a salinity above 25 ppt:

    Stokesbury, M. et al. (2005) Movement and environmental preferences of Greenland sharks (Somniosus microcephalus) electronically tagged in the St. Lawrence Estuary, Canada. Marine Biology 148 159–165

    Any word on when Paxton’s Loch Ness monster morphology analysis is going to be published? I remember reading through Mackal’s book and being amazed at how many sightings were just blobs in the water (with even long necks being rare) but it would be nice to see some actual figures on this.

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  10. 10. SteveinOG 12:30 pm 07/10/2013

    Probability of monster: .01%

    Probability of people who like monster stories: 99.9%

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  11. 11. kfreckman 2:28 pm 07/10/2013

    There’s one thing that always bothered me about the ‘Surgeon’s Photo.’ In 1999, I came across an older book (published in the 40s, I think) and I think it was called “A Loch Ness Monster Compendium.” The oddest thing was it explained that Wilson actually took 4 photos, though 2 did not come out.

    Besides the famous image, a second image is blurred, but the black outline looked more a water fowl either taking off or landing in water. So I’m inclined to think that those photos may have been a bird that was misidentified instead of the attempted hoax we’ve heard so much about.

    Just something to chew on…

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  12. 12. DT-wxrisk 3:35 pm 07/10/2013

    DARREN

    I have been a big fan of nessie since I was a kid but most of the reports have been hoaxes or something else.

    Over the years it seem to em that the BEST or only viable explanation is the Ocean sturgeon. I presume you have given this some thought.

    1 sturgeon are known to live as long as 200 years
    2 The Humps/ boney plate on its back and the ” tusks”
    the fish is know to have
    3. it looks “prehistoric”

    4 in 1987 one was caught in russia with a measured length of 9m/27 feet
    http://www.cryptomundo.com/wp-content/uploads/fishjpg1.bmp

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  13. 13. Oenitholestes 3:56 pm 07/10/2013

    Obviously, all pictures show elephants swimming underwater, snorkling with their trunks. Except for the one that show giraffes.

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  14. 14. David Marjanović 5:23 pm 07/10/2013

    Tracking data reveals they stick to areas with a salinity above 25 ppt:

    …where by “ppt” you mean “permil”, not “parts per trillion”.

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  15. 15. CS Shelton 5:44 pm 07/10/2013

    Is there even a need for explanation, given the amount of dishonesty and self-deception exposed over the years? Isn’t that explanation enough? Do we need sturgeons?

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  16. 16. SRPlant 6:30 pm 07/10/2013

    For anyone interested in this subject Werner Herzog’s “Incident at Loch Ness” is essential viewing.

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  17. 17. Monica Metzler 9:22 pm 07/10/2013

    This is a wonderfully thorough explanation of a topic I’ve only ever paid slight attention to. Thank you. It seems this recent XKCD.com entry is perfectly relevant to your point:
    http://xkcd.com/1235/

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  18. 18. Yodelling Cyclist 10:37 pm 07/10/2013

    On a tangentially related cryptozoological note: I’ve been listening to the Monster Talk podcasts, and I’m wondering if Darren has changed his opinion about Orang Pendek?

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  19. 19. Chabier G. 4:48 am 07/11/2013

    After years hearing, and sometimes investigating, about unknown creatures seen by eyewitness (giant snakes, alien cats, etc) or really extant but very scarce ones “seen” everywhere (as Iberian Lynx in Spain)and aberrant behaviours of well known animals (“killer” griffon vultures in Aragón), I have come to a conclusion, the real subject of investigation isn’t the field, but Human mind and, sometimes, sociopolitical situations.

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  20. 20. jamesrav 2:36 pm 07/11/2013

    the ‘ultra enhanced’ Rines photos – were they in Nature or a Scientific American article? I recall that issue while in High School, wanted to shout from the rooftops “here’s proof!” – now glad I did not. Shocking that a distinguished scientist like Rines would have gone along with such photo manipulation, I guess he felt it wasn’t his specialty, so why doubt the professionals (?)

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  21. 21. naishd 6:46 pm 07/11/2013

    Re: orang-pendek (comment # 18). Conclusions on the identifications of hairs should ideally be based on both morphological and molecular data, since either one on its own can be misleading. Based on the morphological results I’ve seen, the hairs in question look absolutely like those of a primate that is closer to orangutans than anything else, but not an orangutan. However, the molecular results flatly contradict this, indicating that the hairs are human. It’s hard to talk about any of this since the results seem to be in limbo and I don’t know what’s happening as goes getting it published – it’s all become a big confusing mess.

    Of course, I’m more than happy to admit that the morphology-based identification may have been wrong.

    Darren

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  22. 22. naishd 6:49 pm 07/11/2013

    Jamesrav (comment # 20): the enhanced Rines ‘flipper’ photos were both published in the 1975 Nature paper; I’m not sure about an appearance in Scientific American but don’t recall publication there. So far as I recall, the biggest version of at least one of the images are in Dinsdale’s 1973 article, cited above.

    Darren

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  23. 23. Yodelling Cyclist 7:19 pm 07/11/2013

    @Darren: Thanks for the response. I remember a spate of news reports that seemed to indicate that Orang Pendek was on the verge of confirmation a few years ago, then it all went quiet. Very curious as to what’s still going on there.

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  24. 24. jamesrav 9:12 pm 07/11/2013

    Perhaps it was Nature, or maybe National Geographic. I seem to recall it was either the cover story or the 2nd big story of the issue – shouldn’t be hard for me to locate on the web. I definitely remember the ‘gargoyle’ shot and the ‘full body’ shot, along with the flipper shots. Some major photoshop done in the 70′s :) So, sadly, I long ago lost a monster but understand the British Isles much better – this was (and continues to be, although dropping fast) a reflection on the sensational segment of their print media, a fervent hope they had a ‘monster’ in their midst, and of course tourism.

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  25. 25. Hydrarchos 8:48 am 07/12/2013

    What about the Hugh Gray photograph (the one in which a lot of people seem to see a dog with a stick in its mouth)? I have seen claims that it actually shows something resembling a very large salamander, with people pointing out a mouth, tail, webbed feet, etc.

    I’m not sure that there is anything in it (dog or amphibious cryptid) that isn’t just pareidolia, but my impression was that it was one of the most famous and heavily discussed LNM photos…

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  26. 26. David Marjanović 9:50 am 07/12/2013

    Based on the morphological results I’ve seen, the hairs in question look absolutely like those of a primate that is closer to orangutans than anything else, but not an orangutan. However, the molecular results flatly contradict this, indicating that the hairs are human.

    How human exactly…?

    On the other hand, isn’t there a huge variation in human hair? I know there is in hair thickness (pers. obs. under microscope).

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  27. 27. Yodelling Cyclist 9:52 am 07/12/2013

    Well, one thing can be learned from all this. Charlie Sheen is clearly a TetZoo fan :-) :

    http://www.tmz.com/2013/07/10/charlie-sheen-loch-ness-monster-scotland/

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  28. 28. vdinets 1:44 pm 07/12/2013

    When I was a small kid, I always wanted to go to Loch Ness because I was sure I would see the monster. I noticed from literature that the people who saw it were the ones who wanted to see it the most, so I thought I had a really good chance.
    Unfortunately, I only got there thirty years later, by which time my mind had been poisoned by skeptics, so my desire to see the monster wasn’t so sincere anymore and the creature didn’t show up.

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  29. 29. Nessiteras 5:59 pm 07/14/2013

    I am not particularly impressed by some aspects of this analysis, but the one thing I wanted to ask was how Darren or anyone else has proven that people someone see monsters instead of logs, boat wakes or birds. Where is your proof? Just asserting it is not enough!

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  30. 30. David Marjanović 11:04 am 07/15/2013

    Proof? Proof is for maths, formal logic, and American alcohol. In science, all you can do is show that an idea explains the data better – with fewer extra assumptions – than every other idea.

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  31. 31. naishd 11:49 am 07/15/2013

    Nessiteras (comment # 29): thanks for the comment. I’m confused by your question. Are you saying that you want me to _prove_ that people have seen monsters? (If that isn’t what you mean, please note that it is what you say). Well, I can’t prove that they’ve seen monsters (in the strictest sense of the term), and I’ve argued above that they almost certainly haven’t.

    Darren

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  32. 32. CraigYork 2:47 pm 07/15/2013

    Always a pleasure to see you writing on the cryptozoological. Of the notion’s of Nessie’s identity that have come along down the years, my favorite
    remains F.W. Holiday’s colossal slug from The
    Great Orm of Loch Ness
    , as improbable as
    it was. Though I’ve lived long enough to remember
    when many of these photos first made the news, its
    still a little saddening to let go of the idea of
    “The Loch Ness Monster”, but I think the shore-to-shore
    sonar sweep of the Loch some years back that finally convinced me that it was a lovely story, but thats about it. The ‘Elephant squid’ was a new on one me, though I confess I haven’t kept up with FT like I used to – I’ll see if I can find the article. Again, Thanks.

    Link to this
  33. 33. Heteromeles 6:42 pm 07/15/2013

    The only proof for a monster in Loch Ness is a dead body of a monster available for dissection and preservation.

    Absent that, good old Occam’s Razor strongly suggests that the evidence supports the lack of a monster. The presence of a monster would rather thoroughly upset the science of ecosystem ecology (to unpack for the novices, there isn’t enough food in the Loch to support a breeding population of large beasts of any sort, period). Given how well ecosystem ecology works elsewhere, we need a dead monster in hand to overturn this rather important bit of science. Mere pictures and rumors simply won’t do, especially since the photographic evidence has been largely debunked (see above). The simplest explanation is that there’s no monster, just a bunch of artistic types having fun.

    Now, I’m not against the Loch Ness tourism promoters suggesting there’s a mystical critter out there in those peaty dark waters, but that’s commercial fantasy, not science.

    Link to this
  34. 34. David Marjanović 10:09 am 07/16/2013

    Also, the Loch is hardly 10,000 years old.

    Link to this
  35. 35. kienhua68 4:00 pm 07/16/2013

    Another total waste of time. Use of modern camera surveillance equipment, should be set up to see if anything is really in there.
    Being there is no real science behind any of the material offered, why bother? Really why?
    Is this a science based magazine? Or just a science tabloid?

    Link to this
  36. 36. naishd 5:13 pm 07/16/2013

    kienhua68: you are leaving a comment on a blog called Tetrapod Zoology, currently hosted at Scientific American Blogs but otherwise an independent entity. You are not reading an article in the published magazine known as Scientific American.

    Darren

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  37. 37. BilBy 8:41 pm 07/17/2013

    kienhua68: Are you new around here? Why not read some of Darren’s other posts and publications about cryptozoology before coming along and having a hissy fit.

    Link to this
  38. 38. David Marjanović 6:44 am 07/18/2013

    Come on, that’s not a fit… I’ve seen fits in blog comments. Even starfarts. :-þ

    Link to this
  39. 39. Nessiteras 5:42 pm 07/23/2013

    “Proof? Proof is for maths, formal logic, and American alcohol. In science, all you can do is show that an idea explains the data better – with fewer extra assumptions – than every other idea.”

    Your assumptions are not valid and do not explain the data better.

    Link to this
  40. 40. naishd 9:06 am 08/24/2014

    It’s not clear which of David’s assumption you’re referring to, Nessiteras. But they do indeed “explain the data better”, since (1) we know that people make extraordinary observational gaffs all the time, and (2) evidence for a large, unknown animal in Loch Ness has yet to be presented.

    Link to this

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