Loch Ness Monster: Is it a seal or not?

Great debates are afoot concerning some 10 seconds of video footage of what is being claimed to be the Loch Ness Monster. The defenders are the curiously monikered *Loch Ness Monster Fan Club*. The detractor, apart from some seemingly nameless ‘wildlife watchers’, is none other than Chris Packham, presenter of BBC’s ‘X Creatures‘. He and the mysterious OTHERS are claiming that it’s a seal. Having not yet seen in the footage, my writing anything about it seems akin to performing tennis commentary whilst blindfolded, but there’s other issues involved. . .


Great debates are afoot concerning some 10 seconds of video footage of what is being claimed to be the Loch Ness Monster. The defenders are the curiously monikered *Loch Ness Monster Fan Club*. The detractor, apart from some seemingly nameless ‘wildlife watchers’, is none other than Chris Packham, presenter of BBC’s ‘X Creatures‘. He and the mysterious OTHERS are claiming that it’s a seal. Having not yet seen in the footage, my writing anything about it seems akin to performing tennis commentary whilst blindfolded, but there’s other issues involved. . .
The Scotsman (a paper I’ve already slagged off before for referring to students of cryptozoology as ‘so-called crypto-zoologists’) informs us of the excitement amongst ‘Experienced Loch Ness Monster spotters’. . . without criticising the individuals referred to, I would tend to doubt the claims of persons who apparently experienced in spotting something not yet proven to exist. Is this subtle irony on the part of the Scotsman?
The footage was captured by Geoff Mitchison from Newcastle-upon-Tyne while he was filming his wife Miriam and their eight-year-old son, Craig. Oddly enough, they were on board the boat *Nessie Hunter* when the beastie was spotted in the lake, near Castle Urquahart.
“It was only there for a few seconds and it wasn’t going very fast, but with the ripples it looked like the bow of a boat going through and then it was gone.”
Gary Campbell, of the aforementioned ‘fan club’ claims that the creature is definitely not a seal – “However, the more you look at it the more you realise it is not behaving like a seal and doesn’t even look like one. The head is a different shape, there is no evidence of a seal-like body, and the way it dives down is very uncharacteristic of seals.” He even asked the EXPERTS, who “aren’t sure”, which is apparently a “sign that we really might have something special here”.
(The Scotsman – September 10th 1998)
Could the mysterious EXPERTS please step forward?
While there’s a good chance that Chris Packham and others are right about the seal, I wonder about the amount of exposure Packham is currently receiving. I’m sure he’s a quite a likeable chap, and we may even get on famously if our paths cross, but he’s doing a remarkable job of getting up people’s noses at the moment with his sweeping statements. I’m not saying that his conclusions are ultimately disagreeable, it’s his methods of reaching and presenting them that raises *my* ire.
Richard Greenwell, Secretary of the International Society of Cryptozoology has sent a letter of complaint to the BBC following Packham’s ‘Bigfoot’ article in the September issue of *BBC Wildlife* magazine. His greatest sin seems to be that of insensitivity, clambering all over evidence, usually treated with kid-gloves by researchers, and making off-hand comments (Blather was guilty of anti *BBC Wildlife* behaviour some time back). In the first episode of *X Creatures*, he was appallingly dismissive of the Yeti — although he was deservedly to be enthusiastic about the Orang-Pendek, ‘little man’ of Sumatra, an ape which reportedly walks in an upright position. Last week’s episode on the giant squid was fascinating, if a little over-dramatic in its foray into James Cameron territory.
[For more on the Orang Pendek, see Loren Coleman’s updates:
Sumatra Special Report #1
Sumatra Special Report #2
On last night’s episode of *X Creatures*, he seemed to relish the experience of smugly stating ‘So, there is no Loch Ness Monster’. His reason was acceptable, that there is no evidence of a breeding population. He does acknowledge however, the fruitlessness of his words, as it will do little to prevent people from looking at the loch in the hope. . .
It’s not easy to prove a negative, and while I would agree that the lack of a breeding population is rather damning evidence against the existence of such an animal, I *personally* wouldn’t feel so sure about saying ‘there is no Loch Ness Monster’.
Again, *personally*, I wouldn’t even be so sure that the Loch Ness problem, as with other apparently improbable lake monsters, is a entirely a zoological one. To probably misquote Robert Anton Wilson , as I can never remember which book it’s from:
‘How many people does it take before a mass-hallucination is not a mass-hallucination anymore?’
Nessie may not exist for zoology, but it certainly exists for some folk.
(thanks to Loren Coleman)
Dave (daev) Walsh
11 September 1998

daev
Chief Bottle Washer at Blather

Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and “known troublemaker” Dave Walsh is the founder of Blather.net, described both as “possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River”, and “the nicest website circulating in Ireland”. Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.