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Wednesday, March 03, 2010



You might be asking – what is the connection between lake monsters and meteorology? If you`re now thinking 'waterspouts' because of their appearance and behaviour, you`re right, particularly with this first case: The lake monster of the Lake of Ligny, France. This account from around 1760 appears as an appendix to my article `Flying snakes and jumping snakes – a worldwide survey` in the CFZ Yearbook 2010 pp 179. The appendix runs as follows:

'A flying snake or a waterspout? Another French enigma

'The following translation from the original French appeared originally in `Histoires` et Histoire du Pays D`Annot` by Jean-Louis Dannot (1988 pp.154-155) It shows a highly interesting confusion in the eyes and minds of the eyewitness observers to what is probably the misidentification of a waterspout, a meteorological phenomenon that can occur in thundery weather In 1837 the newspaper `Des Basses Alpes` wrote this story which could be listed under the heading of fantastic legends. The incident happened in the Lake of Ligny situated (? Word unclear) far from the village of `Aurent`. The accumulating clouds on the Lake of Ligny are normally the precursors of the frequent storms in the high valleys and the source of the pagan superstitions assigned to the presence of a monster

A very old man assured me that his grandfather (around 1760) was a witness of the appearance of the monster which he gave the name `Vouivre` he said: “ It was the day of St Fiacre: Every year all the people from the local villages went to the lake of Ligny and prayed to God to stop the storm from happening. My grandfather left his village at dawn. As she was siting at the lake shore for the procession suddenly the sky was covered with dark clouds which were whirling around themselves like a spinning top. In the middle of the waves of the bubling water , a huge green snake rose up with the head of a bull,the mane of a lion,the wings of a bat,and the cries resembled the crackling of thunder. As soon as the prayers of the procession started to be heard, the clouds and `Vouivre` faded like a dream.

And now in 1839, because there is no procession by the Lake of Ligny, the rain from the storm made ravines everywhere'
. (1)

In 1976 The Journal of Meteorology published an article by George T. Meaden (now of TORRO, the storm and tornado research organisation. He is a friend of mine.) titled `A Meteorological Explanation For Some of the Mysterious Sightings on Loch Ness and other Lakes and Rivers.`

In it Meaden says: "The saga of the Loch Ness monster is one of compelling interest for scientists and laymen alike If the `monster` should ever prove to be a previously-unknown aquatic animal, it would be a triumph for the zoologists who establish the truth via a live specimen or corpse. But if, as is more probable, no such monster has survived from prehistoric times, the saga at any rate appears to have the resources necessary for surviving a long time into the future. This is due to proven characteristics of human nature, for the monster hunt has long since aquired the stature of the interminable search for the unidentified flying objects ( UFOs)…The purpose of this article is to introduce into the discussion of puzzling lake apparations a meteorological phenomenon which has not been considered by previous writers on Loch Ness monsters. This is the so-called water-devil or water-whirlwind,and its occurrence will be shown to explain a particular class of previously unidentified lake phenomena very well. At the same time, some of the legends appear to be explicable in terms of waterspouts or tornadoes."

Meaden then gives the following example: `The 2nd June (1779) sitting by the water we saw a pillar of water rise as high as the tallest tree, and fall down again, after which it rolled along for a considerable space in large rolls as if a cask had been under the water, (and out of those rolls sprung up small strings of water, rising pretty high, as out of the strup of a razor) –The noise it made was such as a firework of powder makes when first set off,but much louder. The day was clear, fine sunshine and not a breath of wind.` (2)

Meaden then gives the example of Ogopogo: on p. 170 of Dinsdale`s first edition of The Loch Ness Monster a legendary water serpent called Ogopogo from Lake Okanagan, British Columbia, is described. This lake is much bigger than Loch Ness, being some 70-80 miles in length.

`Chief Timbashet...proceeded up the lake by the shortest possible route. Approaching the rocky point…waves were suddenly seen to arise around the canoe and in a fury of foam and spray,the Chief and his family disappeared – and were not seen again.The other Indians…knew at once that N`ha-a-itk (or Ogopogo)…had whipped up the engulfing waves by lashing with his tail.`

This and similar stories were intended to provide indirect support for the existence of inland water monsters. However, such stories are surprisingly common across the world, the reason for which is probably the comparatively high frequency of storms and waterspouts (they are much more commonplace than monsters) and the occasional resulting fatality. (3)

Later, we have the following account from Loch Ness in 1930, reported in the Northern Chronicle on June 14th 1933 and published by Dinsdale (4) `…we heard a terrible noise in the water and looking round we saw about 600 yards distant a great commotion,with spray flying everywhere. Then the fish – or whatever it was - started coming towards us and when it was about 300 yards away it turned to right and went into Holly Bush Bay and disappeared in the depths. Durings its rush it caused a wave about 21/2 feet, sufficient to rock the boat. My opinion is that it is an enormous eel, about 20 feet long. (5)

1. R.Muirhead Flying snakes and jumping snakes a worldwide survey. CFZ Yearbook 2010 p.179
2. G.T.Meaden. A Meteorological Explanation for Some Of The Mysterious Sightings on Loch Ness and Other Lakes and Rivers` The Journal of Meteorology vol.1 no 4 Jan.1976 p.118-119
3. Ibid p.121
4. T.Dinsdale Loch Ness Monster (1961) p.163
5. Northern Chronicle June 14th 1933

Bob Dylan Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)

Ev`rybody`s building the big ships and boats
Some are building monuments,
Others,jotting down notes,
Ev`rybody`s in despair
Ev`ry girl and boy
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
Ev`rybody`s gonna jump for joy.
Come all without,come all within,
You`ll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn


Aaron T said...

Possibly the clearest example of a water devil as opposed to spout on Loch Ness is that filmed by Gordon Holmes in 2007, discussed here. The descending vortex is agitating the surface to produce the matt effect.

The location is close to that of Ian Milne's Tor Point sighting and a north-westerly wind often produces surface anomalies in that area. Note the lack of v-shaped wash in both incidents. Was Mr Milne in a boat on this occasion, as in his 1932 seal sighting? Where is Holly Bush Bay?

Thanks, Aaron.

borky said...

"The following translation...shows a highly interesting confusion in the eyes and minds of the eyewitness observers to what is probably the misidentification of a waterspout".

Maybe there wasn't confusion - maybe either there was a monster drawn to the surface by the spout OR, given how tornadoes are known to generate intense electromagnetic fields due to their whirling, the witness' brain was influenced by such a field into hallucinating a monster.

The old man may even've had some understanding of this possibility, hence his calling it Vouivre which, if it's derived from vivus "alive, living" + parere "bring forth, bear", could be taken as meaning the seemingly alive force which brings forth 'monsters' - i.e., hallucinations, (a word itself possibly derived from roots which'd give it the meaning 'healing born of light').

Contrary to what a lot of scientists ensconced in their labs imagine, people who live off the land can't afford to confuse waterspouts with actual monsters.