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Saturday, 14 April 2012

What Is Nessie REALLY?

In his preliminary analysis of the reports of the Loch Ness Monster done as a prelude to his first trip to Loch Ness, Tim Dinsdale came up with a number of statistical abstractions. His results in the category of hump sightings for example, break down into rough thirds (at a diminishing quantity per each third) for two humps, one hump or three humps (roughly half each out of that third) and then for multiple humps up to as many as a dozen in a row. Dinsdale's drepiction of the different categories of humps is illustrated in his figure 2 reprinted above. Mackal's 1976 analysis for a larger number of sightings in the same location also give about the same statistics, but Mackal discounts all reports of humps consisting of more than six in number as being due to standing waves. This is the first major break in the analysis of reports. Shortly before this, Heuvelmans' In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents had come out, and it mentions in the text that the "String of buoys" categories Many-humped and Super-otter were based on mistaken observations counting the wake as the body of the creature, and he also mentions that explanation as a confusion in the Longnecked category.

Indeed Roy Mackal printed the second illustration following in his book on the Loch Ness Monster on the famous sighting he had previously documented in his earlier book on the Great Sea Serpent. The game should have been up at that point because it showed once and for all that what people were describing as a long string of humps was actually an illusion caused by the waves forming in the wake of an object moving in the water. Experiments would also show that you get much the same effect from any number of different causes so long as you basically have the same sort of a wake.
Because of this you have string of buoys wakes being left by fishes and whales of various sizes and also by boats. and the row of hump-ripples can be as small as a few feet long or seemingly stretch for miles. Adding the number of sightings from Dinsdale that are merely described as wakes to the assorted hump sightings makes the category the decided majority of Loch Ness Monster cases.

The conclusion to be drawn was clear. NONE of the string-of buoys reports were to be trusted and even the more basic reports of one to three humps would have to be scrutinized before they would be fit to call reliable evidence. The entire string of buoys categories of Heuvelmans' sea serpents would have to be dropped. At the same time, one of the demonstrable causes of the string of buoys wake effect was the Longnecked sea serpent, as in the fifth drawing down from the top in Dinsdale's fig 2. In which case the determininative characteristic for the creature was the long neck and not the humps

This early set of sightings at Loch Ness emphasizes the reports that are actually caused by wave actione could still have been causing that wave action.

Determining sightings of the type statistically also put several of the sightings featuring a small head and large body together, with or without also mentioning the long neck as well. These reports were statistically consistent world-wide as shown by different comparable analyses done for each location separately. However the string-of-buoys reports were also alarmingly consistent statistically and they also turned out to be world-wide in distribution. The Plesiosaur-shaped pattern did prove to be consistent and an analysis of only the Longnecked category reports of Heuvelmans also resulted in much the same statistics. But it began to become apparent that worldwide and in any large number of reports, the reports specifying the long neck observations were in the minority. Several locations (including Lake Okanogon) had very few or no verifiable reports of long necked "Periscopes" over a yard or two long, and it also became obvious that even at Loch Ness they were not a consistent feature of reports at all times. At Loch Ness, long periods could go by when no observations of "Periscopes" would be made at all and when they did occur, the observations tended to come in bundles together.

Nessie from Scotland and Nahelito from Argentina. In both cases the heads of the creatures have been said to be pieces of wood, but this comparison DOES go to show that the reports of the type are remarkably similar worldwide

Taking the raw statistics alone it seems that in the long run and worldwide the consistent pattern IS the string-of-buoys series of reports and that category should be regarded as the background noise that researchers should be aware contaminates all collections of data we have on record. As such it must be emphasized that what most people have meant historically by the terms "Sea-serpent", "Ogopogo", "Nessie", "Champ" and so on has been the standing wave phenomenon, ie, the background noise reports and not the legitimate "Creature" reports at all.
On the other hand, many experts have been making estimations about "The Creature" that was supposed to be at the bottom of all of these reports. In the examples below, each of the experts had made a SeaSerpent model that was supposed to have included a population (or only stray individuals) that wandered  into Loch Ness.
These reconstructions are by Oudemans, Sanderson and Dinsdale in chronological order from top to bottom. They are all basically rather similar except for the ever-shrinking length of the body and the tail. That great length was categorically stated to account for the lengthy reported trains of humps, the effects of the waves in the wake. That was the mistaken effect of taking all of the reports together and NOT excerpting the background noise out of the main body of reports.

Below is Dinsdale's reconstruction for the Loch Ness Monster (leaving the humps off) and below that are my own comparable Longnecker reconstructions. An excerpt from Gould's book explaining his reconstruction is below, and it siffers from Dinsdale's mainly in having a longer tail (Gould directly states this is to account for some of the "String of buoys" reports) And at the bottom there is one of the reports from Gould allegedly showing the shape of the humps changing on the creature's back. This may be due to the type of flexible (boneless) fatty hump on the back that Bernard Heuvelmans describes in his discussion on the LongNecked Sea-Serpent.

Currently there just might be some new  Longnecker sightings at Loch Ness but we seem to be coming out of a long dry spell for sightings. For many years the most common "Nessie" sightings seem to have been mistaken observations of wakes and other objects once again.


  1. Just to belabour the point, we just had this exchange on my Facebook page:

    Linda Thompson IDK...I always thought it was just standing waves.
    39 minutes ago
    Dale Drinnon Standing waves do not make the periscope effect, but they ARE responsible for the majority of the "Hump" sightings. The posting does include the specific statement that historically and generally speaking, the names "Loch Ness Monster", "Sea Serpent", "Ogopogo", etc, ALL refer primarily to standing waves. I had that in italics so people would notice.
    14 minutes ago · Like · 2

  2. My theory is that the Loch Ness Monsters actually live in the North Sea. However, sometimes, a group of baby "Nessies" wander up the River Ness, and grow up in the Loch. They then stay there, until they grow up to be adults. By the time they are adults, they are too big to come into the Loch, so they are pretty much stuck there. Then, after about 50-60 years, or so, they die of old age. Then, many years later, other juveniles might come up the River Ness (or the Caledonian Canal), and the entire story would then be repeated, once again.

    This would solve two very important aspects, of the Loch Ness Monster mystery. In my opinion, there is simply not enough food in the loch, to sustain a permanent breeding population of these creatures. So, if there is only a transient population, living in the loch, then, that would greatly help towards solving that problem, I think.

    Also, in some years, there are many sightings, while in other years, there aren't. For example, there were 17 sightings in 1996, 12 in 1997, 12 in 1998, 4 in 1999, and 12 in 2000. Then, once we get to the early 2000s, there are very few sightings. But then, in 2004-2008, sightings start to become just a tiny bit more numerous. However, in 2009 & 2010, there are very few sightings, indeed. There was only 1 in 2009, and 0, in 2010.
    However, in 2011, there are at least 4 good sightings.
    So, in other words, my theory would help to explain why, in some years, there are a lot of sightings, while in other years, there aren't really that much, of them.

    Also, as for Nessie's identity; I really do not think that the Loch Ness Monsters are plesiosaurs. Plesiosaur anatomy does not appear to reconcile all that well, in my opinion, with the features that are reported by the majority of the eyewitnesses.

    I think that the monsters of Loch Ness, if they exist, are most likely to be mammals. This hypothesis is supported by several witnesses, whom reported seeing hair, fur, whiskers, or a mane, on the creature, which they saw. Although I am not exactly sure what kind of animal they are, I would definitely say that the long-necked pinniped theory certainly appeals, the most, to me.

    So, what do you guys think, about my theories? Any replies, or constructive criticism, is very much appreciated! :-) !

  3. Dale, do you think that Nessies are plesiosaurs, or another animal that has convergently-evolved to resemble plesiosaurs?

  4. You are also laboring under the common misconception that all "Unknown" sightings at Loch Ness refer to one species of creature. In fact they do not and cannot. The problem is that "Loch Ness Monster" refers to anything which is seen at the Loch and which is unknown to the viewer. Somewhat alleviating the problem with invoking more than one species is the statement I make that one of them, the traditional water-horse, is definitely a known animal and it is a moose (or elk: the king of Sweden has been historically known to send elks to allied nations as gifts and this has included the UK) There is a large series of otter-like creatures which do NOT have particularly long necks and most skeptics say that these are merely ordinary otters: Others hold out for a giant unknown otter-like animal, presumably the same as Burton's Elusive Monster. I see reason for that creature to have been seen in Loch Ness historically also. Peter Costello in writing about Lake monsters generally mentions he thinks there is a Long-necked creature andcan otter-like creature involved in the sightings.

    Allowing the swimming elk and otter-like reports as present in the Loch neatly accounts for the mammal-like aspects of the sightings you mentioned. In fact I have no qualms or quibbling with these reports referring o mammals. However these creatures are not what the Layman thinks of as the Loch Ness Monster and the layman is thinking of the Plesiosaur-shaped Long-necked creatures.

    But even allowing for that what the Loch Ness monster most often IS is the same thing as what Ogopogos or Sea-serpents most usually ARE: a standing wave pattern at the surface.

    I see no way around the Long-Necked creatures NOT being mammals. Their necks are nothing like mammal necks, they ARE in fact Plesiosaur necks: the next-nearest long-necked "Sea-Serpent" categories have necks that are no more than half the length. Furthermore these creatures have "Dinosaurian" proportions of heads to bodies. They really are pinheads. The typical Long-neck sighting with a head the size of the head of a horse (say) has a body of several tons, many times the size of the horse's body. That is not normal for a mammal and I would say it is impossible for a mammal. Therefore a Plesiosaur is actually the best option. It has the Plesiosaurian neck and the "Dinosaurian" proportion of brain to body. Once again, this does NOT mean horse-like, horse-sized, hairy and hoofed animals or outsized otter reports (or seals or anything else) Those others can quite easily be mammals.

    1. There is a severe oversimplification about Freshwater monsters in general. The bulk of them in the Northern Hemisphere are actually Water Horses (Elk or moose) with a goodly number of otter reports included (either normal-sized or outsized) and there are large numbers of big fish sightings. The Long-necked reports turn out to be few and far between, more so the further inland you go, and ordinarily the reports only persist for a short while.

      So the ones that most people think of as "Typical" are not really typical, they are actually rather uncommon land although they are the largest single category of unknown sea serpents seen at sea, However, numerically the obviously most commonly seen category world-wide is the string-of-buoys or "Classic Sea-serpent" which is not an unknown animal at all it is a wave I the water or a wake, Hence my statement was quoted above that " Standing waves do not make the periscope effect, but they ARE responsible for the majority of the "Hump" sightings. The posting does include the specific statement that historically and generally speaking, the names "Loch Ness Monster", "Sea Serpent", "Ogopogo", etc, ALL refer primarily to standing waves. I had that in italics so people would notice."

      I still say that.

      Now if you are going to argue to me about Plesiosaurs you are going to have to be very, very careful because a lot of people have been trying to do that lately and they basically none of them have any idea of what they are talking about, either as the actual anatomy of Plesiosaurs is concerned, exactly which Plesiosaurs we are talking about (NOT ELASMOSAURS) or as to what the reports are actually saying; or indeed just exactly which reports are supposed to represent what. Most of the arguments I get are bad arguments, over-generalized, non-specific, poorly quantified and poorly researched, and usually just going on somebody else's say-so. And none of the arguments has any sense of proportion nor yet has done any sort of statistical analysis or any thorough survey and review that would actually justify their claim to be able to make any such remarks.

    2. Actually, I'm not against the plesiosaur hypothesis. Not at all. I think that a surviving plesiosaur is not that far-fetched, after all.

  5. I used to reject the plesiosaur hypothesis in favor of the long-necked pinniped hypothesis. But after reading some posts on Tyler Stone's blog, as well as on this blog, I have stopped supporting the pinniped hypothesis. I am now mostly neutral on the issue, although I am definitely leaning towards the plesiosaur.

  6. Sometimes I'm afraid to accept the plesiosaur explanation for sightings at loch ness because it is very often associated with young-earth creationism.

    1. Which is rather like rejecting good hygene because it is assiociated with certain religious groups

    2. Do a majority of the sightings at loch ness occur at close range?

    3. In that Loch Ness is an inland area where most distances come with more close range reference points to judge distance by, as opposed to sightings at sea which are unbounded and without such reference points, it only stands to reason.

    4. The majority of all sightings are well nearer the shoreline than toward the middle of the loch. The majority of sightings occur in areas where the depth of the water is from 50-300 feet, hence more to the edges of the loch instead of in the deeper waters (in the middle). That's something like 70% of the sightings and very close to shore, when the information can be checked

    5. The majority of sightings occur near the concentrations of human occupation, at the settlement areas, and fairly close to the shore. These are also areas where rivers go into the loch and fishes can be expected to be travelling in and out the river mouths. Slightly over half the sightings are in the bay areas. Nearly all sightings are of a hump or back under 30 feet long, and just about a third say the length of an overturned boat between 10-20 feet (usually 15). Over half of the sightings also say this back or hump rose only about a foot out of the water. The Periscope sightings of the head and neck are most frequently 3-5 feet out of the water (just over 50% of sightings where an estimation was made) and less frequent the larger sizes you go up. Most of these estimates are pretty definite and consistent and the estimates seem to be reliable under ordinary circumstances.

    6. In all of these instances the percentages of cases shown are for the sample where the statistics can be extracted, hence sightings of objects like upturned boats are given a certain percentage of the sightings when an object appears above the surface at all, and so on down the line.


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