“The most savage controversies are about matters as to which there is
no good evidence either way.”
— Bertrand Russell
Part 1: [Penned March 2001, but lying around since then]
Tempis Fugit… Some Blather readers may remember the ‘Norway’ fiasco,
back in the summer of 1998, when I travelled to Norway, in search of
lake monsters and mayhem. Those of you who don’t remember, check out
As expected, weird aquatic beasts were thin on the ground in Norway, and even more sparse in the water, but the chaos was abundant, the company was mixed, the craic mighty, the lunatics were depressing, and the post-expedition fall-out diabolical, with Swedish lake monster hunter Jan-Ove Sundberg annoying anyone who he seemed to think had anything to do with him *not* finding a lake monster in Lake Seljord.
A concise record of the madness of those crazy seventeen days is still circulating on the Discovery Channel, on a programme called ‘The Search for the Serpent’. It’s less of a documentary than a fly-on-the- wall drama, and I do recommend checking it out, for the comedy value, if nothing else.
It’s nearly three years later, and I’ve been happily minding lots of my own business, operating in a lake-monster-free zone. I’m damned if I care about UFOs any more either. I don’t even care about being branded a ‘satanist and pornographer’ by Swedish lake monster hunters anymore (I was always rather flattered by these accusations).
So why drag out all of these tired old tales? As I write, Mr. Sundberg is floating around on Lough Ree, in the middle of Ireland, in search of a lake monsters. Can visiting the Shannon really qualify as an *expedition*? I don’t know whether to laugh or despair. Will we never be set free?
The first mainstream mention of the ‘Lough Ree monster’ story was in *The Irish Times* of March 15th and was put together by Midlands reporter Tim O’Brien, who seems to have considerable faith in the claims of the aforementioned Swedish gentleman, and his organisation, GUST (Global Underwater Surveillance
According to Mr. O’Brien, ‘the team’s approach of lowering listening devices into the water of Loch Ness won it critical acclaim from the scientific community’. As the hydrophone (an underwater microphone) was invented *donkey’s years* ago, I doubt that too many scientists were hyperventilating about the recent dipping of one in Loch Ness. The GUST website, has quotes from various scientists, hydrophone experts etc., none of which seem to be giving anything like ‘acclaim’, or any definite conclusion as to the origin of the hydrophone recordings.
Despite this, The Irish Times article goes on to say that ‘analysis would suggest the movements resembled a plesiosaur – a legendary aquatic creature about which there is little hard evidence but repeated claims of sightings from around the world’.
Mr. O’Brien (and/or Mr. Sundberg) may well be unaware that not only was the plesiosaur a very real animal (and not at all legendary), but it has been extinct since the Jurassic Period, and is known only from its fossil record. Indeed, as stated, the plesiosaur *was* a marine reptile, and plesiosaur fossils *have* been discovered in Scotland, but I don’t see how Mr. Sundberg can take some unidentifiable recordings and extrapolate them to suggest they sound like the movements of an animal that has been extinct for 150 million years or more.
But back to Lough Ree – The *Irish Times* article covers some of the known history of ‘monster’ sightings on Lough Ree – the most notable of which was in 1960. Three Catholic priests, Fathers Richard Quigly, Matthew Burke and Daniel Murray were fishing on Lough Ree when one of them spotted a large black animal swimming up the lough. *Mystery Animals of Ireland and Britain*, by Graham J. McEwan, and Peter Costello’s *In Search of Lake Monsters* both document the Lough Ree sightings, and the latter, along with *The Irish Times*, note a ancient precedent – St Mochua of Balla’s reference to a stag which was pursued to an island in Lough Ree, but was safe there as none of its human pursuers were keen to do battle with a fierce monster said to live in the lake.
What the priests allegedly saw, is recorded by Costello: “It was moving… It went down under the water and came up again in the form of a loop. The length from the end of the coil to the head was 6 feet (1.81m). The was about 18 inches (45cm) of head and neck over the water. The head and neck were narrow in comparison to the thickness of a good-sized salmon. It was getting its propulsion from underneath the water, and we did not see all of it”.
A sketch exists, which shows two objects breaking the water, one is a hump, the other a long neck-like protrusion. The priests later made a more detailed report, which may be added to the Blather site at a later date. However, their report was not the first of modern times – over the previous 30 years, several anglers claim to have been towed by a a strong unseen creature until forced to cut their lines. Other witnesses are mentioned, but nothing on par with the sighting of the three priests.
Colonel Harry Rice, in his ‘Thanks For the Memory’, wrote how a friend had seen the creature some eight years previous [to the sighting by the priests], and had described it as looking “for all the world like a dozen barrels of porter strung together”. Peter Costello’s *In Search of Lake Monsters* records more hilarity… at a Westmeath County Council meeting, the creature was identified as one “Councillor D’Arcy out for a swim”, and a member of the Irish Inland Waterways Association was recorded as having proposed the monster was a Russian midget submarine, dropped from a jet that had been seen over Athlone the week before.
More sober suggestions include misinterpretations of an otter – or even a female with some young, a line of ducks, or a large fish. But these are explanations which, while infinitely more probable, lack the comedy and romanticism of the notion of an extinct marine reptile haunting the waters of Lough Ree.
Part 2: [Now that I’ve gotten off me backside]
April 2001: I accidently caught a few TV news snippets of Jan’s fun-and-games at Loch Ness… one on ITV, one on TV3, one on RTE. Two of the pieces showed a ‘confrontation’ between Jan and that white witch bloke Kevin Carlyon. Curiously, one TV channel showed the confrontation with the camera view from behind Carlyon, the second with the view from behind Sundberg. However, in each case, you couldn’t see the other camera, and the dialogue seemed slightly different. Were Sundberg and Carlyon staging confrontations? Maybe.
Early June, 2001, news reaches me that one of the tabloids, *The Sun*, I think, had one of their hacks throwing hamburger meat into Lough Ree, to coax the monster into showing itself. This ploy didn’t work, probably because a) any such beastie would may be a vegetarian, and b) it would probably be better to off it fast food after it had spent a Friday evening in a pub in Glasson. Supermacs, in Athlone, anyone?
Fast forward to this week – June, 2001. Tim O’Brien, in *The Irish Times* of Thursday, June 28, 2001, prints a photo of Jan and friends, adrift upon an unsuspecting Shannon lake. The team of Nick Sucik, Espen Samuelsen and Sundberg claim to have ‘detected the movement of a large, unrecognised animal in the water’, but we presumably have to be content with that… because we’re told little else other than the data was collected with a hydrophone. Jan was quoted as saying that “It was very faint, but it was an animal sound, not a boat, and it was not in our library of known creatures”.
On another note, Nick Sucik is named in the article as a ‘marine biologist from Hawaii… the last time I spoke to Mr. Sucik, he was fresh out of the U.S. Marines Corps (he had apparently been planning on getting kicked out), and just finished a tour of duty in Hawaii. He’s not *from* Hawaii. And the U.S. Marine Corps is an organisation probably better equipped to deal out biological warfare, than indulge in the study of marine life.
Interestingly, in the same issue of the *The Irish Times*, also in the ‘Midlands Report’ section by Tim O’Brien, comes the news that two dogs have recently died due to ingestion of toxin poisoning in Lough Ree. How a ‘monster’ is expected to exist in such a situation is anyone’s guess – Godzilla, anyone? Jan, on his website, says that they are looking for ‘an eel-or snakelike animal, 3 to 10 meters long, evenly thick and muscular. It has the ability to move over land, from lake to lake, and could be aggressive’.
You have been warned, naturally.
A spokesperson for local campaign group Save Our Lough Ree said ‘people could suffer from nausea, headaches, vomiting and soreness and he expected the local authorities in the area to put up signs warning people not to bathe in the lake.’
This is presumbably due to the poisoning, not the monster hunters polluting the place…anyway, for those of you in Ireland, RTÃ‰1 is to screen a report on the expedition on Nation- wide on July 5th at 7 p.m.
Thanks to Dr. Duncan Cleary for sharing his paleontological
Lough Ree Monster chat on the Blather Forum:
*Lough Ree ‘monster’ detected*, *The Irish Times*, Thursday, June 28,
*Dog may have been poisoned by lake toxins*, *The Irish Times*,
Thursday, June 28, 2001
*The hunt is on for the Lough Ree monster*, *The Irish Times*,
Thursday, March 15, 2001
Map of Lough Ree
The Shannon Regional Fisheries Board
The catchment (Fig. 1) has a low population density
Water doesn’t freeze, gets to 5C
Hot and Cold Running Dinosaurs
Reptiles of the Ancient Seas
The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland
IWAI – The Shannon Guide – Prehistory and the Middle Ages
Plesiosaur remains in Scotland: Geology of Eigg
The Shannon Dolphins
Lists of Irish ‘lake monsters’
Louis-Ferdinand Céline – *Journey To The End Of The Night*
(Reviewed by Barry Kavanagh)
William Shaw – *Spying in Guruland*
(Reviewed by Barry Kavanagh)
Kieren Barry – *The Greek Qabalah*
(Reviewed by Barry Kavanagh)
Franz Kafka – *The Complete Short Stories*
(Reviewed by Barry Kavanagh)
Alan Moore interview – by Barry Kavanagh
Blather is proud to present a lengthy and in-depth interview with this world-renowned comics writer. Born in Northampton, England, in 1953, he was nothing short of seminal in the 1980s with Watchmen and nothing less than monumental in the 1990s with From Hell. He talks about his comics work in great detail, as well as his non-comics writing, his CDs and his interest in the occult. Full of insights, his conversation touches upon many other social and cultural subjects.
Signum: The Confabulous Mind
daev on the foibles of human memory
Alfred Jarry: Absinthe, Bicycles and Merdre
daev’s Cycle Race reports, @irishcycling.com
*Limiting the unlimited*, daev on the recent Esat NoLimits debacle
Dave (daev) Walsh
July 3rd 2001