science at loch ness
Communications Technology
February 1988

By Isaac S. Blonder

Chairman, Blonder-Tongue Laboratories Inc

The average human, from the assumed superior stature as a literate learned judge of nature and human foibles, immediately identifies any departure from familiar objects and normal  behavior as fraudulent and hallucinatory. This happened to me on two occasions: when I first advocated pay-per-view (30 years ago) and my excursions to Loch Ness in search of the elusive monster (commencing in 1970). Professor Harold Edgerton—you must know of him!—and confirmed Nessie hunter, once said, "If I believed the statistics, I would never have started most of I the things I have done."

Of the 3,000 documented sightings of Loch I Ness, about 300 have survived the most skeptical evaluations. The first recorded observation concerned St. Columba (in 565 A.D.) who commanded the monster in the name of God to "go back with all speed :' and thereby saved the life of one of the heathen Picts. However, no recent reports depict Nessie as a menace to humans. Some mid-century sightings refer to water kelpies (water horses), and an old map dated 1325 carries an inscription concerning "waves without wind, fish without fin, and a floating island." A Loch Lomond map (1653) noted that "the fish they speak of as having no fins are a kind of snake and therefore no wonder". Modern sightings of Nessie were facilitated by the construction of a new road in the 1930's on the west shore of Loch Ness.

What was it that convinced the many reputable scientists who have volunteered their time and money pursuing the elusive monster?

1) The multitude, integrity and variety of witnesses who, independently and with our collusion, describe similar "beasts"?

2) Still photographs taken by Hugh Gray, F.C. Adams and Lacklen Stuart; underwater flipper, body(?) and head (?) shots by Robert Rines (The famous 1934 Wilson photo is still involved in controversy over its resemblance to a cormorant.)

3) A movie? Of the known 22 movies the following are impressive: G.E. Taylor, 1938; Tim Dinsdale, 1960, certified by the official British JARIC as depicting an animate object; Richard Raynor, 1967, not only filmed but seen by many credible witnesses.

4) Sonar? Just about every monster hunter, equipped with sonar, has recorded large echoes, indicating the presence of live targets dwarfing the largest recorded fish caught in the Loch. A few examples: In 1968, Professor Tucker of the University of Birmingham, England, observed large objects rising and falling at a rapid rate (5-7 mph) as well as in horizontal motion. In 1969 Robert Love (financed by the Field Foundation) tracked a target for three minutes and 19 seconds, during which it moved at speeds of 2-4 mph in a looping path. Both of these observations were conducted with the objects at depths of 200 to 600 feet. Since the sonar beam must reflect from a density transition such as an air bladder, the animal would have to be very large to return a usable echo at those depths.

In 1969, Canada's submarine Pisces picked up a sonar target at a distance of 600 feet while hovering 50 feet off the bottom at a depth of 520 feet. The submarine headed toward the target, which rapidly disappeared from the screen. The Pisces' maximum speed—2 knots! In 1970, Marty Klein, Academy of Applied Science (MS), towed aside-scan sonar 100 feet under the surface for the entire length of Loch Ness, recording large moving targets, abundant fish and a bathtub-shaped bottom. In 1972, Robert Rines of the US took an underwater photo of a flipper (or tail); at the same time the sonar recorded large objects passing by. I was in an adjacent boat at the time recording with hydrophones—no luck on my part!

Over the years many groups have scoured the waters of Loch Ness with diverse scientific apparatus, most of the time with insufficient funds.

To name a few out of the many: University of Chicago Professor Roy Mackal, the BBC, The New York Times, National Geographic, Dave James of the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau, World Book (Field Foundation), AAS (Rines), NBC and the Japanese. Two these teams I can personally vouch for my nephew Jeffrey who volunteered to serve with the World Book team of Bob Love and Profess Mackal in 1970. As a member of the AAS, I have spent more than 12 summers at Loch Ness. Come up and hear my hydrophore stereo recordings some time!

Best-laid plans

Why, then, has Nessie eluded the best laid plans of many of the world's best scientists? You too, can travel to Scotland with a low-cost sonar and see a large echo at 600 feet below. What is your next move? Please don't hide your expertise. Give any one of the teams a ring—they'll answer the phone!

Finally, in 1979, a really great idea died literally—before its time. The AAS located a train with a pair of dolphins named Susie and Sammy. Professor Harold Edgerton, in his MIT lab turned out a miniature strobe and 35mm came harness rig. For weeks in Florida the train taught the dolphins to pick up the harness, search out any large object in the area, approach within 40 feet, actuate the mouth switch (where upon the camera takes 30 pictures and sets a buzzer) and return to the base for reloading. From Florida the dolphins were flown to Boston for cold-water conditioning. All went well until suddenly one of the dolphins died. End of experiment! It seems that no more dolphins could I caught for performances in the United States do to an act of Congress passed with pressure from concerned environmentalists. Nessie, your secret is safe, until we can get dolphins from Europe who are not subject to the act!
  Copyright  Isaac Blonder
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