Friday, April 18, 2014

Nessie Spotted By Satellite?

For some time now I've been putting forth the hypothesis that if the Loch Ness Monster exists it most likely is a very large sturgeon. Recently an anomaly was spotted in the loch by amateur monster hunters using satellite photos. It's hard to say, though, whether the image is some sort of photographic artifact or an actual picture of a creature swimming just below the surface.

The location was just south of Dores, were beamed from Apple's satellite map app and could only be viewed on some iPads and iPhones.

The hunters Peter Thain from Northumberland and Andy Dixon County Durham, were amazed by their find.

Mr Dixon said yesterday: 'It was purely by accident that I came across the image. I was trawling through satellite transmissions of different parts of the country and I thought I would try Loch Ness.

'I could see something big under the water and I saved it to my phone. My first thought was that it was the monster and I contacted Gary Campbell of the Official Loch Ness Monster Club.

I was a believer in Nessie even before this but I had never been. Now I am so excited, I can't wait to get up north and pay a visit - with a camera of course.

'Unfortunately I have not seen anything since but I will keep looking.'

The outline of the object in the loch does closely resemble a sturgeon viewed from above. However, the one problem with that hypothesis is that the object is about fifty feet long. The largest sturgeon ever caught was about half that size. There is only one known fish species that is thought to grow that large, the whale shark, which is a filter-feeder native to tropical oceans. Such a fish could not survive in the cold fresh water of Loch Ness, even though it would have a similar outline.

Here's the image blown up. As you can see, the shape is consistant with that of a very large fish. If it were half the size I'd just call it a sturgeon and be done for the day, and it would probably be useful to see if the original satellite photo could be tracked down. Sometimes when images are mixed together to form a larger composite scaling errors can occur that change the apparent size of an image. But if the original does in fact show that the size is accurate, one of two possibilities presents itself.

First off, this could be a new species of sturgeon. Sturgeons and sharks are both ancient fish, and I don't know that there's any biological reason that a sturgeon the size of a whale shark couldn't exist. Still, since sturgeon are routinely fished for their eggs, it seems strange that such a large species would be missed for so long. The only creature that size known to have remained undetected into the modern era is the giant squid, and it only did so because it is native to very deep parts of the ocean.

Otherwise, we probably are looking at some sort of anomaly in the photograph. It could resemble a somewhat odd boat wake, except that no boat is visible. But perhaps this is a case where two photos were knitted together in precisely the right way to keep the image of the wake but lose that of the boat. This is another case where reviewing the original photo would be helpful, because if the "monster" appears right at the edge of the frame a splicing anomaly of this sort is a definite possibility.

Whatever the image is, it's a testament to modern technology that it was ever spotted at all. I remember studying cryptozoology as a kid back in the 1970's, and there were always more questions than answers given the fragmentary nature of the evidence. Today, not only do many of us carry camera phones around all the time that have cameras that would have been considered amazing back then, we also have access to technologies like the satellite photography that produced this image. As a result, we move closer to solving mysteries like this one every day.

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Scott Stenwick said...

So I suppose Nessie is a member, then? How did she ever find her way to Nigeria for initiation/appropriation? I've speculated that she might be sea-going sturgeon, but Africa is a pretty long swim from Scotland.