WELCOME TO THE CFZ BLOG NETWORK: COME AND JOIN THE FUN

Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

A Special Offer

A Special Offer

New CFZ Titles at a bargain Price

        

Search This Blog

Loading...

Monday, June 07, 2010

HALF A DECADE ON

Five years ago today I had a doctor's appointment at 2:00pm and once that was over, Graham, my brother Richard and I got into my trusty olf blue Jaguar, and drove from my little house in Exeter to my father's house in Woolsery, North Devon.


I never left, and apart from three nights in August 2005, I have never been back to Exeter. My father was obviously in no fit state to look after himself and as my brother was a serving soldier stationed in Germany, and also had a wife and four kids, I had no real option but to uproot from my home of 20 years to look after him.


When he died I kept the house, acquired a wife and two step-daughters, and the rest is history. I know you have all heard the story several times before but it was five years ago today and so it bears repitition.


Why Graham is standing looking perplexed in this picture of the grounds taken by Mark N. years ago having flown the camera aloft on a kite, I have no idea....

KNIFE LIVEBEARERS


On my desk is a 30" tank containing a solitary female Ramarizi dwarf cichlid, a thriving colony of guppies, which are, nominally at least, the property of my eldest stepdaughter, and since Sunday night, six knife (or knife-edge) livebearers, an unjustifiably obscure species from Central America, which I have to say that I had never heard of before bidding three quid for an immature trio.


It is interesting to watch them alongside the guppies because although superficially similar, they are much sleeker and much more predatory in appearance, and swim in a much more determined and forthright manner.



In the picture the two lighter-coloured fish are fully grown female guppies, and I think that the difference between the two species is very marked.

LINDSAY SELBY: Loch Awe Monster

Loch Awe is a large fresh water loch in Western Scotland with a length of 35km and total surface area of 14.9 miles. It is known for being a good fishing loch, with large trout being caught regularly. There is a legend about its creation which concerns the holy well on Ben Cruachan.

The well had to be capped by a large stone every day after use. One day the attendant was too tired to replace the stone and fell asleep. When she woke up (apparently three days later) she found that the well had flooded the valley below and created Loch Awe.

There have been stories of a creature in the loch going back hundreds of years. The creature is said to come ashore during winter and can be heard growling and panting.

One of the few written accounts of this creature was written by Timothy Pont, who chronicled what he called gigantic eels in the loch. He said he was frightened to fish in the loch because of the large eels and they also frightened fishermen away from the loch. The eels were described these eels as being the girth of a horse and reaching huge lengths, such as 33 feet (11metres). The description sounds very much like the horse eels of Ireland.

We may scoff at the thought of such large eels but further up the western coast on the islands this report was printed in The London Times March 6, 1856:

The Sea Serpent in the Highlands


The village of Leurbost, Parish of Lochs, Lewis, is at present the scene of an unusual occurrence. This is no less than the appearance in one of the inland fresh-water lakes of an animal which from its great size and dimensions has not a little puzzled our island naturalists. Some suppose him to be a description of the hitherto mythological water-kelpie; while others refer it to the minute descriptions of the "sea-serpent," which are revived from time to time in the newspaper columns. It has been repeatedly seen within the last fortnight by crowds of people, many of whom have come from the remotest parts of the parish to witness the uncommon spectacle. The animal is described by some as being in appearance and size like "a large peat stack," while others affirm that a "six-oared boat" could pass between the huge fins, which are occasionally visible. All, however, agree in describing its form as that of an eel; and we have heard one, whose evidence we can rely upon, state that in length he supposed it to be about 40 feet. It is probable that it is no more than a conger eel after all, animals of this description having been caught in the Highland lakes which have attained huge size. He is currently reported to have swallowed a blanket inadvertently left on the bank by a girl herding cattle. A sportsman ensconced himself with a rifle in the vicinity of the loch during a whole day, hoping to get a shot, but did no execution.

So large Eels were not unknown in the Highland lochs in the past. Food for thought for those who think the Loch Ness creature is a giant eel.

LIZ CLANCY: Human Goat

According to April 2010's edition of Fortean Times (FT260) a hairless kid was born in Tororo, Uganda on August 24th 2000. It had two umbilical cords, 'one goat-like and one human' - how one could tell the difference is not stated.

Apparently the animal's 'testicles, trunk, head, ears, eyes, nose, mouth and lower jaw were all of human appearance' and it only survived an hour after birth.

FT included no picture of this particular case, though the photos of similar cases from Zimbabwe (see above) and Turkey were sufficiently gruesome, if you ask me.

RICHARD AND GRAHAM VISIT NOELLA


Many of you who attended the Weird Weekend between 2001 and 2005 eill remember the oldest member of the CFZ, Noela mackenzie. She is now 87, and living in an old folks' home in Torrington.


She is remarkably spry and alert for her age, and last week Richard and Graham paid her a visit.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

On this day in 632AD Muhammad died.
And now, the news:

World Cup gamblers 'smoking vulture brains'
Escaped elephant goes on tour of Zurich
Boy Matador, 12, Bullish After Narrow Escape
NY couple weds in shark tank, wearing wet suits

They could have saved money on a photographer by getting a shark to take a few snaps….

YESTERDAY WAS GREAT

Yesterday was smashing, and we had a very productive time. We attended a lecture about new species of killifish, and bought six new species of livebearer for the CFZ menagerie. Many thanks to Paul Vella for his kindness in financing the day.

All three of us had only about four hours kip on Saturday night and so I am still exhausted this morning.

I will go into more detail about our new fishes in the next day or two, but sadly more mundane things demand my attention.


RICHARD FREEMAN: The Monsters of Prague Part 16

The Daemon Hounds
Beside the Na Slovanech monastery was an old pagan burial ground. One day three monks observed some old bones being dug up there. They saw how the bones were not rotten and said that even mother earth rejected the bones of a pagan. They gave the bones to a dog. Just then the Bishop came by and disgusted at their behaviour, he told them that they deserved to become dogs themselves. The three monks were transformed into huge, daemonic hounds with fiery red eyes. They are said to haunt the area till this very day. They can only be freed, if a pagan strokes their ears.

MICHAEL NEWTON: “Nessie, R.I.P.?”

When celebrities die word circles the globe in a flash. Heath Ledger. Steve Irwin. Michael Jackson. Like it or not, the news is virtually inescapable. Even lesser, half-forgotten “stars” like Corey Haim and Gary Coleman demand attention as they slip into oblivion.

The Loch Ness Monster, Nessie to its friends, ranks equally with Bigfoot and the Yeti as a superstar of cryptozoology, known worldwide as the central figure of an enduring natural mystery. As such, its passing—if, in fact, the creature does exist, or ever did—should rate star treatment on a global scale.

And yet ....

The broad strokes of Nessie’s public history, spanning some fourteen-hundred years, are common knowledge. Its brush with Saint Columba, sometime in the mid-sixth century; Duncan Campbell’s encounter with “a terrible beast” in the 1520s; scattered reports of sightings between 1862 and 1930; then the opening of floodgates with construction of a road along the loch’s south shore in 1933. The rest, as someone said, is history.

But what of Nessie now, in the twenty-first century’s second decade?

No one believes the ancient fable of a lone, undying cryptid dwelling for eons on end in Loch Ness—or anywhere else, for that matter. If Nessie exists as a flesh-and-blood being, it must be mortal. And at some time in the not-so-distant past there must have been a breeding population.

But today?

Is Nessie dead and gone?

* * *

The first hint of Nessie’s demise was equivocal, at best, sparked by rumblings from the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club. In September 2007 club member Mikko Talaka warned Glasgow’s Sunday Mail of a “massive turndown” in Nessie sightings, rating it as “a potential crisis.” Steve Feltham, a fixture at Loch Ness since 1991 with his mobile home-cum-library, opined that the loch’s original population of twenty to thirty cryptids had dwindled to “the last half dozen,” which were “gradually dropping off because of old age.” Those grim forebodings notwithstanding, fan club president Gary Campbell assured reporter Billy Paterson, “From our point of view, Nessie and her kittens are alive and well.” (1)

Longtime researcher Robert Harvey Rines wasn’t so sure.

A true Renaissance man—attorney, physicist, prolific inventor, musical composer, university professor, founder of a private law school—Rines devoted nearly half his life to the pursuit of Nessie, after logging a personal sighting in June 1971. Thirty years later Rines photographed something resembling a large animal’s carcass in Urquhart Bay at a depth of 333 feet but subsequent attempts to locate the object proved fruitless.

By February 2008, at age eighty-five, Rines was prepared to throw in the towel. Branding his own Nessie sighting a “misfortune,” Rines had narrowed the scope of his inquiries to a search for skeletal remains, declaring Nessie dead. “Unfortunately,” he told Glasgow’s Daily Record, “I'm running out of age too.” (2)

Time ran out for Rines on 1 November 2009, but the mystery remained.

* * *
Media attempts to bury Nessie are old news in the Scottish Highlands, where hoaxes have contributed to public ridicule. Among the most notorious:
  • December 1933—Big-game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell faked “monster” footprints at Loch Ness, using an umbrella stand made from a hippopotamus foot.
  • July 1951—Forestry Commission employee Lachlan Stuart photographed bales of hay wrapped in tarpaulins, allegedly depicting three “humps” in the loch.
  • March 1972: Staffers from North Yorkshire’s Flamingo Park Zoo (now Flamingo Land Theme Park) dumped a dead elephant seal in Loch Ness, then “discovered” it and proclaimed it an unknown species.
  • October 1972 through July 1974: Frank Searle produced a series of dramatic “Nessie” photos, progressing from floating tree trunks to cut-and-paste dinosaur images.
  • May 1977: Showman Anthony “Doc” Shiels photographed a long-necked cryptid rising from the loch, its image so peculiar that critics have dubbed it “The Loch Ness Muppet.” (It has to be said, however that opinions are still divided on this photograph Ed)
  • May 2001: Persons unknown deposited two large conger eels—a saltwater species—in the freshwater loch, to pass as “young Nessies.”
  • July 2003: Pensioner Gerald McSorley literally stumbled over fossilized plesiosaur vertebrae at Loch Ness, embedded in limestone foreign to the Highlands—in short, another drop-off by unknown hoaxers.
  • March 2005: The supposed discovery of a “monster tooth” embedded in a deer carcass beside Loch Ness, soon identified as the antler of a muntjac deer, proved to be a publicity stunt for author Steve Alten’s new horror novel, The Loch.
Ironically, the modern era’s most successful effort to debunk Nessie appears to be a hoax-within-a-hoax. Since April 1934 one of the most persuasive bits of evidence for Nessie’s existence had been the “surgeon’s photo” snapped by Dr Robert Kenneth Wilson of a swan-necked creature rising from Loch Ness near Invermoriston. Debate over the photo’s authenticity spanned six decades until two members of Adrian Shine’s Loch Ness & Morar Project—Alastair Boyd and David Martin—published an exposé designed to sink Nessie for good. As told by Boyd and Martin, they had interviewed one Christian Spurling—stepson of late footprint hoaxer Marmaduke Wetherell—sometime in 1991, recording his admission of participation in a plot to fake the surgeon’s photo. Spurling claimed that he had built a model Nessie out of “plastic wood,” mounted it atop a child’s clockwork submarine, and staged the famous snapshot, employing Dr Wilson as a dupe to claim the credit. Despite the alleged involvement of five conspirators, the private joke remained a closely-guarded secret for fifty-seven years until Spurling, the sole survivor, finally broke cover. Boyd and Martin then sat on the story themselves until March 1994, revealing their discovery for dramatic effect on the eve of the Wilson photo’s sixtieth anniversary.

While journalists around the world were quick to seize upon the tale and trumpet it as proof of Nessie’s non-existence, simple fact-checking should have revealed glaring holes in the Boyd-Martin story.
  • While billed as a “deathbed confession,” Spurling’s tale was recorded two full years before he died in 1993.
  • Spurling’s “confession” fails to account for a second, rarely published Wilson photo of the creature, caught on film in a very different posture. When challenged on that point, Boyd and Martin hedged that “Christian was vague, thought it might have been a piece of wood they were trying out as a monster, but [was] not sure.” (3)
  • Spurling’s claim that the photo was snapped in a small Loch Ness inlet is clearly false, as uncropped prints reveal a shoreline in the background.
  • Published claims that Dr. Wilson “retreated” from his original description of the incident are likewise false. His testimony remained consistent from 1934 until his death in June 1969.
  • While various descriptions of Spurling’s toy submarine describe it as fourteen to eighteen inches long, an exhaustive review of antique toy catalogues reveals no wind-up toys in that size range offered for sale during the early 1930s.
  • Finally and decisively, the patented medium known as “plastic wood” did not exist in April 1934. (4)
On balance, it appears that Christian Spurling played his greatest practical joke in 1991 and exited laughing, while the global media swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.

01. The “surgeon’s photo”—hoax or evidence?

02. The other Wilson photograph, still unexplained.

* * *

BBC News was next in line to bury Nessie, in July 2003. Employing six hundred separate sonar beams, plus orbiting satellite technology “to ensure that none of the loch was missed,” the team went looking for a plesiosaur—allegedly “convinced that such an animal could have survived in the cold waters of Loch Ness, despite the normal preference of marine reptiles for sub-tropical waters”—but emerged from the survey to declare Loch Ness monster-free. (5)

03. Boat wakes on the loch. Monsters of the mind?

Expedition member Hugh MacKay said, “We got some good clear data of the loch, steep sided, flat bottomed. Nothing unusual I’m afraid. There was an anticipation that we would come up with a large sonar anomaly that could have been a monster, but it wasn’t to be.” Colleague Ian Florence was even more emphatic: “We went from shoreline to shoreline, top to bottom on this one. We have covered everything in this loch and we saw no signs of any large living animal in the loch.” (6)

True or false?

Enter Jan-Ove Sundberg, cantankerous and controversial founder of Sweden’s Global Underwater Search Team. Sundberg’s team delved Loch Ness three times between March 2000 and April 2001, once arriving with a trap that sparked protests from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Hot on the heels of BBC’s announcement, Sundberg contacted Erik Stenersen, product manager for Kongsberg Maritime, producers of the gear employed by BBC to declare Nessie missing in action.

The result was unexpected.

Stenerson declared that Kongsberg’s “simrad” underwater scanning gear had a maximum range of 325 feet, and was thus incapable of fully sweeping Loch Ness—whose registered depths range from 433 feet to 786 feet (some reports claim 812 feet) at the deepest known point. “If they did [scan the whole loch],” Stenerson said, “they used a technology we never heard about, but we are world-leading in the area.” (7)

As for tracking Nessie from the void of outer space, a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) declared that while “instruments on satellites in space, hundreds of kilometers [sic] above us can measure many things about the sea: surface winds, sea surface temperature, water color [sic], wave height, and height of the ocean surface,” they cannot track live animals running submerged. (8)

In sum, reports of Nessie’s death were premature.

* * *

Perhaps predictably, the next report of Nessie’s passing came via the Internet, on YouTube, chronicled by crypto-blogger Lindsay Selby in December 2009. The brief underwater video clip depicted an apparent carcass—or “a heap of mud,” in Selby’s opinion—with no specific markers linking it to Loch Ness or any other identifiable body of water on Earth. The clip has long since been removed from YouTube “due to terms of use violation,” but the independent Paranominal website (http://www.paranominal.com/) claims it was lifted from an episode of the documentary television series Deep Sea Detectives, originally aired by the History Channel on 25 April 2005. (9)

The fleeting YouTube furore sparked new rumblings from the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club. Increasingly discouraged by a dearth of recent sightings—and an episode of MonsterQuest titled 'Death of Loch Ness,' aired by the History Channel on 4 February 2009—club president Gary Campbell told reporters from Glasgow’s Daily Record and Edinburgh’s Caledonian Mercury that Nessie “may well be dead.” (10)

Despite that pronouncement, Campbell worried that “If people start to believe this, it might affect tourist numbers. Whether you believe in Nessie or not, the monster is one of the most important tourist attractions we have. Perhaps, though, the answers are to be found underwater instead of on the loch’s surface. Unknown sonar contacts happen all the time. Maybe Nessie is just keeping her head down.” (11)

Rather than abandon Scottish monster-hunting altogether, Campbell urged enthusiasts to try their luck at Loch Morar (home of “Morag”), Loch Arkaig, Loch Suaniaval on the Isle of Lewis, and other scenic spots.

* * *

Intrigued by Gary Campbell’s turnabout, and ever anxious for another chance to breathe clean Highland air, I embarked on my eighth trip to Loch Ness in April 2010. While never favoured with a sighting of my own, I’ve been enthralled by Nessie from my first childhood encounter with the beastie in a 1957 Reader’s Digest article.

That introduction—and Bigfoot’s headline premiere in California the following year—spawned a lifetime fascination with cryptozoology that has produced eight books so far, with three more in the works, and some two dozen magazine articles. I was married at Loch Ness in March 2003, during the same week when U.S. troops invaded Iraq—mission accomplished in my case, at least—and the place, overall, feels like home.

07. Nessie’s young enjoy a photo-op.
08. The author at Urquhart Castle.
09. The Royal Scot, captained by Nessie witness/researcher Richard Macdonald.

Nothing felt any different upon arrival for the latest expedition. If Nessie had indeed expired, the Scots seemed unaware of it. In one form or another—models, plush toys, key chains, T-shirts, pens and pencils, children’s books, headgear with long spiked tails, shortbread and fudge—the world’s most cheerful “monster” may be found at every turn, from Glasgow’s airport shops to its more familiar Highland haunts.

Ensconced in comfort at the lovely Inchnacardoch Lodge Hotel, outside of Fort Augustus, I proceeded to explore the countryside in search of evidence for Nessie’s passing. The classic starting point is Drumnadrochit, on the loch’s west shore, located at the foot of Glen Urquhart. Here, two Nessie exhibitions stand within a hundred yards of one another, although separated by a yawning chasm where their viewpoints are concerned.

One, the Loch Ness Monster Visitor Centre, greets all comers with a message clearly stating: “We Believe.” That much is obvious immediately, as a visitor embarks upon the tour—£5.50 per adult, £4 per child, or £14.50 per family—which includes classic photographs of cryptids and strange creatures from around the world, paintings by U.S. crypto-artist William Rebsamen, and a concluding cinematic presentation that combines historical background with eyewitness interviews, some including monks from the former Fort Augustus Abbey (now the Highland Club Scotland luxury self-catering apartments). Cruises aboard the Nessie Hunter may also be booked from the visitor’s centre, sailing daily from Easter Friday through till December 31.

04. The Loch Ness Visitors Centre, at Drumnadrochit.


05. Adrian Shine’s competing “official” exhibit.

06. The author with Nessie at Drumnadrochit.

Next-door to the “original” Nessie exhibition, attached to the Drumnadrochit Hotel, stands the “official” Loch Ness Exhibition Centre, launched by British adventurer Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes in the 1970s and run today by Loch Ness & Morar Project leader Adrian Shine. More sophisticated and elaborate than its neighbour—and slightly more expensive at £6.50 per adult, £4.50, £18 per family—Shine’s exhibit presents a relentlessly sceptical view of Nessie. In Shine’s view every photo taken of aquatic cryptids is a hoax; each of the several thousand sightings on record is either fraudulent or a result of mistaken identity.

But what is mistaken for Nessie?

Common candidates include boat wakes and wind-driven waves, floating logs, aquatic birds swimming in tandem, and the odd dog-paddling deer, but Shine himself suggests large fish. Sturgeon might fit the bill—and Shine, coincidentally, has tried his hand at rearing them in a pond near his own exhibition. “This is a bit embarrassing,” Shine said in January 2000, “and I would rather that there is not too much publicity about the fish. It is all part of an experiment I am conducting. The fish occasionally breaks the surface in the summer and is spotted by visitors and we are recording their description of what they see.” (12)

Nessie fan club spokesman Gary Campbell looked askance at Shine’s experiment, declaring, “It’s no wonder that he doesn't want any publicity. This experiment has the worst overtones of pseudo-science that have been seen at Loch Ness for years. What happens when the fish grows too big for the pond? It might be unfair to suggest that the fish may end up in the loch, be spotted and then be caught, thus proving Mr Shine correct all along, but the coincidences are a bit much to take.” Waxing conspiratorial, Campbell added, “It may be that he is raising a sturgeon because he didn’t like goldfish, or he may be moving into the production of Loch Ness caviar, but given the contempt with which he treats any theory other than his own, I think that something slightly more sinister may be going on.” (13)

* * *

Next stop: Urquhart Castle, where Scottish history and mystery collide. As with the first reports of Nessie, Urquhart Castle dates from Saint Columba’s time, when King Brude built an outpost for his northern Picts. The castle’s legacy of blood and fire spans four long centuries, from its capture in 1296 by England’s Edward I—“Longshanks,” of Braveheart infamy—to 1692, when supporters of William III frustrated Jacobite invaders by blasting the keep to smithereens.

Only photogenic ruins remain, maintained as a tourist attraction by Historic Scotland, but Urquhart has produced more than its share of modern Nessie sightings—nearly two dozen on record since the 1930s when a group of school children saw the monster on land, waddling over swampy ground to enter Urquhart Bay. Lachlan Stuart faked his hay-bale photograph at Urquhart Castle in 1951 and Doc Shiels snapped his “muppet” photo there, a quarter-century later.

Hoaxes aside, researchers still puzzle over Lorna Taylor’s photo of a rising head and neck, taken near Urquhart Castle in September 1995; a group sighting from the cruise boat Jacobite Queen on 19 June 1998; another from the Nessie Hunter on 5 September 1998; and a seven-witness sighting near the castle on 30 March 1999.

On 20 June 2000 Canadian monster enthusiast Gavin Joth spent his lunch break watching a Loch Ness webcam at work and captured several frames of an unknown object crossing Urquhart Bay. Analysts from the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club discounted fakery, along with the “usual suspects,” and Joth subsequently banked a £500 prize offered by William Hill bookmakers for the year’s best photo of Nessie.

On 23 May 2003 local auxiliary coastguard skipper George Edwards watched a six-foot creature paddling offshore from Urquhart Castle for two or three minutes in bright sunshine. Nine months later, on 5 February 2004, another webcam witness snapped Nessie at Urquhart Bay. Most recently, on 27 March 2007, tourist Sidney Wilson photographed two passing vessels from the rear deck of his own cruise boat, later noting the head and fin of an unidentified creature when the photos were developed.

As on prior excursions, Nessie declined to surface during my latest visit to Urquhart Castle, but I nurture no hard feelings. Hope springs eternal. The dark waters beckon, ripe with mystery and promise.

* * *

One local who harbours no doubts about Nessie’s continued survival is Richard Macdonald, captain of the Royal Scot tour boat based at Fort Augustus since 1983. Sailing hourly from April through November—£11 per adult, £6.50 per child, £33 pounds per family of four—the Royal Scot features sophisticated depth-ranging gear and boasts multiple sonar contacts with large unknown objects in transit, but Captain Macdonald’s personal accounts enter another realm entirely.

Despite repeated sorties on the Royal Scot, I saw Macdonald in action for the first time on 16 April 2010. Commanding the attention of an unruly crowd below decks, he reeled off details of personal sightings—the most recent occurring at 6:01 p.m. on 28 June 2007—and described a population of seventeen specific cryptids dwelling in the loch, identifiable by size and behavioural traits. The proof was on his mobile phone, in the form of multiple photographs, all but one reportedly snapped by Macdonald himself during years of research conducted, he says, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NASA.

Why MIT? Perhaps because Boston native Robert Rines spent years on the university’s faculty, conducted underwater searches at Loch Ness with MIT’s professor of electrical engineering Harold “Doc” Edgerton, and had an MIT distance learning center named in his honour during 1997.

Why NASA? That requires more of a stretch, for a federal agency whose mission is simplicity itself: “to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.” (14) How does that goal, pursued since NASA’s creation in 1958, mesh with studying Nessie? Does the strange overlap explain NASA’s eagerness to contradict the BBC in 2003?

In any case, Macdonald says his research is classified, with copies of his photos—one portraying an apparent severed tail—held exclusively by MIT, at NASA headquarters, and in his personal archive.

One of the photos on display this afternoon, however, is familiar. It depicts a rotting carcass dangling from a shipboard crane. Macdonald says that it was snapped off New Zealand in 1994, scientifically dismissed as a giant squid’s remains in an apparent effort to conceal “the truth” about sea monsters. He’s right about the venue but mistaken on the year and final diagnosis. In fact, the photograph depicts remains of a creature hooked by the Japanese fishing trawler Zuiyo Maru on 25 April 1977, subsequently identified as a decomposed basking shark from traces of the protein elastodin found in its rotting tissue. Objections to that finding continue in some quarters, particularly among fundamentalist Christians who seek proof of “young Earth” creationism in the possible survival of prehistoric reptiles. (15)

The Royal Scot’s captain offers no such religious trappings for his endorsement of Nessie. Macdonald, in his own words, has devoted his life “to study of these creatures,” and withholds opinions on their similarity to other cryptids seen around the world, including “Champ” at Lake Champlain and “Ogopogo” in British Columbia’s Okanagan Lake. To him the presence of a breeding cryptic population in the loch appears as certain as the bloom of heather during spring.

Is there, in fact, some covert study group in place? A classified project linking MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to the Royal Scot’s wheelhouse at Fort Augustus? For now, at least, the answers to those questions lie beyond our grasp.

* * *

Three days before my scheduled departure for the States, Mother Nature pulled another trick out of her hat, unleashing Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. I never glimpsed a speck of ash as it disrupted flights throughout the bulk of Western Europe, but I found my working holiday extended for the best part of another week.

There are, in fact, worse fates than being “stuck” in Scotland. Listening to crazed “tea party” loons at home, for instance, as they try to stop the clock on efforts to place U.S. health care on par with powerhouse states such as Singapore, South Korea, Cuba, and Brunei.

While waiting I was moved to wonder: how will any cryptids lurking in Loch Ness respond to Iceland’s drifting plumes of ash? Will those new deposits hasten extinction of a species still unrecognised, as Robert Rines suspected global warming had, years earlier?

Perhaps.

10. Nessie and friend follow the Royal Scot.
11. The Zuiyo Maru “sea serpent.” [Feel free to crop as desired]

And yet, as my flight belatedly lifted off from Glasgow International Airport, I could imagine Roger Allam as Lewis Prospero in V for Vendetta, bellowing a slightly altered version of his trademark battle cry across the Scottish landscape. It echoes from the Highlands, through the pass at Glencoe, to the world at large.

“Goddamn it, Nessie prevails!”

1 Billy Paterson, “Is Nessie Dead?” Sunday Mail (Glasgow), 30 September 2007.
2 Bob Dow, “Veteran Loch Ness Monster Hunter Gives Up.” Daily Record (Glasgow), 13 February 2008.
3 Michael Newton, Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology (McFarland, 2005), p. 447.
4 Karl Shuker, In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (Blandford, 1995), p. 87.
5 “BBC ‘proves’ Nessie does not exist.” BBC News, 27 July 2003.
6 Ibid.
7 Newton, Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology, p. 330.
8 Ibid.
9 Lindsay Selby, “Is Nessie Dead?” Still on the Track, http://forteanzoology.blogspot.com/2009/12/lindsay-selby-is-nessie-dead.html.

10 Diane Maclean, “Nessie is dead, long live Morag, Lizzie, etc., etc.” Caledonian Mercury , 11 January 2010. 11 Linda Engels, “The end of Nessie: Researchers fear Loch Ness monster may be dead.” Daily Record (Glasgow), 6 January 2010.
12 “Formally unqualified monster man grows his own Nessie,” Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club Nessie News, http://www.lochness.co.uk/fan_club/news.html.
13 Ibid.
14 “About NASA,” National Aeronautics and Space Administration, http://www.nasa.gov/about/highlights/what_does_nasa_do.html.

15 Malcolm Bowden, “The Japanese carcass: a plesiosaur-type animal!” http://www.mbowden.surf3.net/plsfin13.htm; John Goertzen, “New Zuiyo Maru Cryptid Observations,” Creation Research Society Quarterly Journal 38 (19-29 June 2001): 19-29; Pierre Jerlström, “Live plesiosaurs: weighing the evidence,” Journal of Creation 12 (December 1998): 339-346.







ILLUSTRATIONS: Note: With the obvious exceptions—Nos. 01, 02, and 10—I own all rights to the photos submitted. They should be credited to Heather Newton as the photographer.

LIZ CLANCY: Ugandan 'Jackalope'

This story rather reminds me of the infamous jackalope.

Apparently a booze-up was organised for all horned animals. The hare (alternatively a hyena or other animal) was jealous that he wasn't invited so wandered about till he found the carcass of a buck and wrenched the horns off it. (He must have been a strong lad!)

Next he searched for a bee hive, pinched some wax and stuck the horns to his head. He arrived at the party early in the morning (with his friend the ground hornbill - sounds like the word 'horn' was all that was needed for entrance).

The hare (like an idiot) chose to sit by the fire to imbibe his beer and had a rare old time but in time got hotter and the wax began to melt. Hare was discovered to be a bog-standard, hornless specimen, and kicked out of the party.

I, for one, am glad such strict rules are not applied to British nightclubs as it was hard enough waiting for 18 and 21 to go out to get sloshed without having to grow a pair of horns as well!

CHAD ARMENT'S NEW BOOK

My latest survey of North American mystery animals is now available from Amazon & Amazon UK.
Varmints: Mystery Carnivores of North America
ISBN 1-61646-019-9
682 pages, $29.95

Includes a review of the anomalies and oddities of our known native carnivores, and a state-by-state (and province) survey of sighting reports of felines (black, maned, striped, spotted, etc.), hyena-like animals and strange canids, giant polar bears, and more.

Cover image can be seen at:
http://www.coachwhipbooks.com/titles/varmints-mystery-carnivores.html

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

On this day in 1940 Tom Jones was born. As well as being one of the greatest singers in the world ever, Jones stared in the Sci-Fi film Mars Attacks. I know that is a very tenuous link to Forteana, but that’s the best I can do today.

And now, the news:

S. American critter found sleeping on Ill. porch
Music concert for dogs, no really...
The Dog Slum Of Brazil
Birds frozen in oil: image of a desperate summer
Fla. beekeeper stole bees from rivals
Cow at large negotiates its life back

What a ‘moo’-ving story…