"The Beast of Loch Ness"
NARRATOR: Tonight on NOVA, a mystery on the icy depths of Loch Ness.
__: We saw this black hump, come out of the water.
__: About 30 feet in length.
NARRATOR: Eye witnesses bring the legend of Loch Ness to life. Can science bring proof to the surface? Is Nessie a prehistoric monster or an elaborate hoax? An expedition launches a search for the answer. The beast of Loch Ness. ...("NOVA" theme music)... Major funding for NOVA is provided by the Park Foundation, dedicated to education and quality television. And by Iomega, makers of personal storage solutions for your computer so you can create more, share more, save more and do more of whatever it is you do. Iomega. Because it's your stuff.
This program is funded in part by Northwestern Mutual Life, which has been protecting families and businesses for generations. Have you heard from the quiet company? Northwestern Mutual Life. And by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and viewers like you. ...(music)....
NARRATOR: In the remote highlands of other Scotland, there is a place of haunting beauty. Steeped in mystery. Loch Ness. Beneath this wind-swept surface, lies one of the world's deepest bodies of water. It is a cold and forbidding environment. Drowning victims sink without a trace in the icy depths. Divers fear becoming disoriented in the eternal night, ever mindful of the legend of Loch Ness.
Many centuries ago, the people of these hills believes that a beast roamed these waters. In this century, thousands of sightings have brought the legend to life.
__: I'm driving along the Loch site, glancing out of the window, and I saw this, as I say, described to me like this boiling in the water. And I looked up at the Loch, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw this black hump came out of the water.
__: About 30 feet in length, and nearly ten feet in height from the water to the top of the back.
__: It seemed as it had been still and started to move off. But there was a neck.
__: And it flipped over, just flipped over like that, crashed down, and you could see it.
__: There's the chance I've seen something in the water, but what is it?
NARRATOR: Is this what they are seeing? A photograph taking in 1934 shows an unknown animal, or an elaborate hoax. This film was shot by an aeronautical engineer in 1960. When computer processed for NOVA, it shoes a featureless back hump, quite different from the boat, filmed later that day for comparison. Both are moving at ten miles an hour. Photographic experts at the Royal Air Force concluded that the hump is at least six feet wide and five feet high. Probably an animate object.
Is there something here? Many have tried to solve the mystery without success. But the quest continues.
__: Okay, let's go. ...(music)...
NARRATOR: Today, a new expeditions arrives to search the Loch. The leader is Bob Rines. Rines is a man of many accomplishments: A respected patent attorney and founder of a law school, he was trained in science and engineering at MIT, and helped in them development of both radar and sonar. But his true passion is a pursuit few scientists take seriously: The hunt for the Loch Ness Monster.
RINES: If you don't have an open mind, in my judgment, you're not a scientist. If you don't have ideas, if you don't have adventure, if you don't have an open mind, you'll never make a discovery. And I think there's a misconception that science has to be something rigid, something sponsored by NASA or the government, or millions of dollars. A scientist is a scientist; I don't care where you put him.
NARRATOR: Rines' longtime partner in the search is Charles Wyckoff. A photographic innovator with over 60 patents to his name, Wyckoff created the film stocks that captured the first images of atomic bomb explosions and moon landings. It took time for this scientist to warm to the idea of the Monster.
WYCKOFF: At first, I thought it was myth, and then I became an agnostic. And then, pretty soon, I said, "Gee, you know, there's more to it than that. I guess there's something down there." And I got really intrigued. And the more instrumentation I cooked up, the more intrigued I became.
NARRATOR: For these two men, this expedition might well be the final chapter in a quest that began some 30 years ago, when Rines became intrigued by the mystery on a chance visit to Loch Ness.
RINES: We can still do it, can't we?
__: ...(inaudible) ...(music)...
NARRATOR: As a lawyer, used to dealing with eye-witness testimony, he found the accounts of sightings persuasive.
RINES: I just got this strong feeling everybody was not lying. Everybody wasn't a fool, that there was something there.
NARRATOR: His hunch turned to conviction in the summer of 1972, when he and his wife, Carol, had an experience that would ever haunt them.
RINES: We came out on the field and looked down, and there was this big, grayish hump. It went out against the wind currents into the ...(inaudible) Bay, it turned around and came back right in front of us, and sank.
NARRATOR: The sighting inspired Rines to mount an expedition, combining old technologies in new ways. He aimed a sonar out into the depths and nearby, placed a camera with a strobe light to take pictures every 45 seconds. After weeks of waiting, the plan finally paid off.
RINES: Early in that morning, about one o'clock, we began to see the salmon jumping all over this bay. The rivers were dry so they couldn't go up to spawn. And we could see it on the sonar, too, you'd see fish moving, and then a big target came in on the sonar, and were praying that we were just the right distance that the edge of the camera could pick up something if we were lucky.
NARRATOR: For thousands of frames, there was nothing. Then, suddenly, three frames showing an object reflecting the strobe light back at the camera. After computer enhancement at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the image revealed a flipper-like shape some six feet long.
RINES: We got at least three frames, corroborated by similar images on the sonar target. That was a thrill.
NARRATOR: Rines' excitement was shared by his mentor, Harold "Doc" Edgerton, a legendary figure at MIT, the inventor of both strobe photography and side-scan sonar. Edgerton would be an active participant in Rines' later expeditions. New sonar hits and this image, in which some see the body and neck of a large animal helped to win an other important convert, one of Britain's most respected naturalists, Sir Peter Scott.
SCOTT: What is a body of evidence, which I am prepared to accept, which cannot be explained in terms of known phenomena.
NARRATOR: With the support of Edgerton and Scott, the idea of the Monster gained new credibility. In 1975, Rines and Scott were invited to write an article in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature.
They were also given the chance to present their findings in a highly charged hearing in the House of Commons.
RINES: Our sole objective, to get the zoological community all over the world, wherever there are other scientists, to analyze what we have produced, and, indeed, to debate what these things may be, and to get sufficiently interested, that scientists dare to come to Loch Ness.
NARRATOR: For a moment, Rines had the attention of the scientific world. But his case for Nessie was soon embroiled in controversy. The flipper photo, already computer-enhanced by NASA, somehow became this image, raising doubts about its validity.
Even more controversial was Peter Scott's bold conclusion, based on the eye-witness sightings, and the shape of the flipper, that Nessie was a Plesiasaur, (?) a pre-historic aquatic reptile, believed to have died out some 65 million years ago. Zoologists at the British Natural History Museum ridiculed the idea.
__: It seems to me that we've been invited to accept that in a relatively small body of water, in what is from the zoological viewpoint, one of the best explored countries in the world, we have a population of large predatory reptiles which could be warm-blooded, and which might even be carnivals with snorkels. Now, this, I find very difficult to take.
__: We shall shy a little bit of the Loch. One of my predecessors at the museum was actually sacked from his job for going up on the Loch, and probably the monster here has had a very bad effect on science in that many scientists had a nervous twitch when the Loch was mentioned, for reasons you'll quite understand; it could be the kiss of death to your career.
__: I think they got frightened. Those who make their living from this, the zoologists, are not ready to believe, on the basis of one picture, that something that should have been dead 65 million years ago is still existing in some form at Loch Ness, Scotland. ...(bag pipes)...
NARRATOR: As the years passed, with no follow-up by zoologists, Rines felt growing pressure to settle unfinished business. With only Wyckoff left of the original team, it is now or never.
RINES: Recently Charlie and I looked at each other. As a matter of fact, on his 80th birthday. He says, "Oh my God, Edgerton is dead, Sir Peter Scott is gone, Carol Rines is gone, and here we still are." And I said, "I think we owe it to them to go back with improved technology and try to duplicate the experiments where we were successful before, just to see if there's still something left in that Loch. And if there is, to have a bag of tricks to do much better to try to photograph it.
NARRATOR: But searching Loch Ness is harder than it looks. Stretching 24 miles from the Cross-Scotland Caladonian Canal to Inverness, where the river Ness empties out into the sea, the Loch fills a deep chasm with sheer walls that plunge 800 feet down, making it the largest body of water in the British Isles.
To search this vast expanse, Rines has assembled a team of volunteers from the world of science and engineering. The sonar experts, oceanographer John Fish, and marine biologist Arnie Carr, are partners in American underwater search and survey, one of the leading sonar companies in the world.
__: I specialize, and my partner specializes in locating hard-to-find underwater targets. So I just view this as another opportunity to look in a body of water we haven't been in before.
NARRATOR: High above the Loch, Fish and his assistant install a relay station for their global positioning system, a key tool in Rines' new, more aggressive search strategy. Instead of waiting for the Monster to come to him, this time, Rines will sweep the Loch with sonar. If the sonar team finds a target, the GPS will give them a precise location. The camera team, close behind in a second boat, will then move in and attempt to capture the target on film.
WYCKOFF: I made a slight change in the camera, so we'd better make sure this thing is going to fit alright.
NARRATOR: Getting pictures will take all of Wyckoff's ingenuity.
WYCKOFF: You got the frame?
NARRATOR: Loch Ness is filled with peat particles washed down from the surrounding hills. The yellow haze limits visibility to a few feet.
WYCKOFF: It's like driving down the road at night in a fog. Your headlights create this fog and you can't see the road. Now if we could separate the headlights off to the side, you'd have a better chance; you'd see the road. So I'm doing the same thing here. I'm separating the light source from the camera.
NARRATOR: With most of the expedition's limited funds devoted to sonar, Wyckoff and his colleague, Sheldon Apsol, (?) have had to improvise. In the best MIT tradition, they have assembled a rig with a low light video camera and car headlight mounted on an aluminum frame left over from an expedition in the '70s.
WYCKOFF: We don't own very much of the equipment. We're known as "scroungers." And most of us are MIT, and that's a natural thing at MIT. ...(laughter)
__: So all this stuff that looks like it came out of somebody's garage actually works?
WYCKOFF: It actually works, yeah. It worked 20 years ago; it will work now.
NARRATOR: The final team member will play a very different role.
RINES: Hey, hi Adrian.
SHINE: It's been a long time. What are you up to?
NARRATOR: Local naturalist, Adrian Shine, came to the Loch 20 years ago in the hope of solving the mystery. But his research has convinced him that there's no monster here.
SHINE: You don't give up, do you?
RINES: Never give up, never give up.
NARRATOR: Despite their strongly opposing views, Rines has asked Shine to lend his expertise to the expedition.
SHINE: I've been granted an input to this expedition, as a sort of resident skeptic. And it's a role that I am actually fulfilling to what extent I can.
NARRATOR: With the preparations completed, Rines, anxious to get started, briefs the team.
RINES: Now, the time has come for us to get going. We've only got five days with all the equipment, for purposed we basically came here for. We've got to scour this lake.
NARRATOR: A quarter of a century after his first attempt, Rines is back in the hunt.
RINES: ...(inaudible) would call me every couple of months, when are you going to give up what you're doing, you're crazy, practice law, do something worthwhile. I identify with what these big things are that shouldn't be there in Loch Ness. I just didn't listen. Now, I'm listening, I hope it's not too late.
NARRATOR: The lead boat is packed with high tech gear. Attached to the hull is a fish-finding sonar pointing straight down from surface to bottom. It will supplement the expedition's primary search tool, Sidescan Sonar. While it looks like Edgerton's original device, today's model is far more sophisticated. Pulled below and behind the boat, the Sidescan tow fish (?) sends out a sound impulse or "ping" in a 180 degree arc.
Sound waves traveling through the water reflect of objects in their path. Signals arriving back at the tow fish are sent up the cable to instruments on the boat, which gradually build up an image of the underwater environment. Any unusual mark on the printout will alert the operator to a potential target.
As the sonar team begins its search, the mood is optimistic. In a lake where the largest known fish is a salmon, reports of moving sonar targets, up to fifteen feet long, have persisted over the last ten years.
The most ambitious search ever made of Loch Ness was Operation Deep Scan in 1987. A flotilla of boats mounted with fish-finding sonar, spend a week sweeping the Loch. Most of the targets they encountered had a logical explanation, but not all. Expedition leader, Adrian Shine.
SHINE: Three contacts we still can't explain, but that does not mean we never will explain them. :
NARRATOR: In 1994 the British Natural History Museum took part in Project Urchin, the first major effort to study the ecology of the Loch. Monsters were not on the agenda. Yet its sonar experts said they too found large moving targets.
__: It's hard to say exactly what it was, but for at least seven, eight, nine minutes, but it's very difficult to say exactly waht it was.
__: They did find all sorts of interesting sonar targets, including moving targets. We have no idea what they were.
NARRATOR: Well Rines' systematic sonar sweep is going smoothly, Wyckoff is rediscovering the difficulty of taking pictures in Loch Ness. Moisture has seeped in and ruined the camera. They will have to send for a replacement; the timing couldn't be worse.
Aboard the sonar board, the fish finder has picked up a large target.
__: Very big echoes here on the surface.
__: They're not that deep, they're only about, what, 20 meters down.
__: We haven't seen anything like that before.
__: No, I've never seen it quite as big as that before.
__: The side scan (?) might pick that up. If it's not directly over it.
NARRATOR: If the side scan picks up the target, it may reveal more. But interpretation can be difficult. With sound waves bouncing off the steep sides, the Loch is notorious for generating misleading sonar images. Even changes in the water temperature or thermal can create apparent targets where none exist.
__: That target should have been here by now. I see ...(inaudible) returns. I don't see anything in the water though.
__: Could it be our beam is too low?
__: I think it is. We may not have gone over it yet. It may be right there, but I think our fish is too low in the water. It's much closer to the bottom. The target we're seeing on the sonar was high.
NARRATOR: Whatever the target was, the tow fish passed beneath it and failed to pick it up.
__: And range to the camera, we have a whopping big target on Gordon's sonar, but unfortunately non on the side scan because—
NARRATOR: Still, it's a tantalizing start. Even Arnie Carr is beginning to believe there may be something here.
CARR: I think there's a phenomenon here or something that is really interesting, really, I would like to get an answer to. And we had a target today. It didn't look like a thermal to me; it looked more biological, but I don't know what it was.
NARRATOR: For Rines, this unconfirmed hit is an encouraging sign. Could the creature he and thousands of others believe they have witnessed still be here? ...(music)... The sightings began when a new road gave travellers their first good views of Loch Ness. It was here in 1933 that two local residents reported seeing an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface. An account of their sighting in the local paper brought the news of the beast to the rest of the world. The Loch Ness Monster has been a media phenomenon ever since.
__: Loch Ness, on which the eyes of the world are focused, the reported haunt for previous direct monster or monsters, and the newly-founded venture ground of modern Gullivers.
NARRATOR: The Intrepid, armed to the teeth, set out to capture the beast, to no avail. Capture an image proved to be the next best thing. Some photographers resorted to outright fraud. Others succumbed to the Loch's powers of deception. Boat weights (?), wild life, and floating debris have all been mistaken for monsters. But one photograph stood above the rest. ...(music)....
Taken in 1934, and attributed to a reputable London surgeon, Dr. R. Kenneth Wilson, it seemed to show an unidentified animal surfacing at Loch Ness. For 60 years, it was the definitive image of Nessie. Until 1994, when a story broke claiming this classic photo was actually an elaborate hoax. The man responsible for the story was Alastair Boyd, a Nessie believer. In 1979, Boyd saw what appeared to be a huge animal in Loch Ness. That experience made him question the surgeon's photograph.
BOYD: I was suspicious of a hoax, actually, to begin with, because I'd always felt that firstly, the water texture in the surgeon's photo indicates to me that we're looking at a small object, probably no more than a foot high, and these are ripples, rather than waves.
NARRATOR: Boyd's investigation led to man named Christian Sperling, who claimed that he and the surgeon, Dr. Wilson, had been part of a plot to dupe a London newspaper. The object in the photograph was a one-foot plastic neck that Sperling had grafted to a toy submarine. This confession dealt a powerful blow to the Loch Ness Monster.
SMITH: We don't know exactly where Wilson was when he took this photograph, or claimed to take the photograph, but he—
NARRATOR: But to American journalist, Richard Smith, the confession didn't ring true. With Rines' support, Smith has come to Loch Ness to find out if the hoax story may, itself, be a hoax.
__: It's extremely important to the Academy, to us, to the public, to know, is the photograph possibly real, is the photograph possibly a hoax.
SMITH: My research has shown that the circumstances, as best we know, surrounding the Wilson photo, are consistent with Wilson's stories. I think that I'm willing to go out on a limb, as it were, and do this investigation. I think it's certainly worthwhile, no matter what the outcome is.
NARRATOR: Is this a one-foot model, photographed from up close, or the four-foot neck of a living animal, shot from a distance? To find out, Smith has built floating necks, one and four feet high. His plan is to photograph them from different vantage points to see which one matches the original photo.
SMITH: We're going to be two miles this side of ...(inaudible).
NARRATOR: Smith's experiment is possible only because the discovery of a new version of the surgeon's photo.
SMITH: One thing that's absolutely crucial to understand is that the familiar Nessie image, the familiar surgeon's photograph, is actually a cropped detail of a central portion of a much wider view.
NARRATOR: The narrow strip of the far shore line, and the absence of near shoreline show how the picture was framed. And the ripples around the object provide another clue.
SMITH: The circular disturbance is also very interesting, because it's being used to calculate the angle at which the picture was taken, assuming that that's a round disturbance in the water, but of course, we don't see it round because we're at an angle, it turns into an ellipse.
NARRATOR: Analysis of the ellipse shows that the camera was pointing at an angle of 19 degrees down from the horizon.
SMITH: Has this area changed a lot? Has the terrain different now?
NARRATOR: Using these clues to guide his experiment, Smith has recruited a surveyor and a professional photographer to help him duplicate the surgeon's photo.
__: And put on the ranger finder, there we are.
__: Nineteen degrees.
__: Excellent, let's see what we've got. And that's very close, I think it's dead on to the original scene.
__: Move it a little bit to this direction.
NARRATOR: Down on the shoreline where Sperling said the photograph was taken, Smith tests the "one-foot" model.
SMITH: Is this matching the original photograph at all?
__: Yeah, the scale of the object is right, but it's far too far away.
SMITH: So higher up in the picture?
SMITH: So it seems like the problem is that when we get this thing more positioned that it's actually in the photograph, it becomes too big.
SMITH: And this is the four-foot high target that's at, as I recall, this is at the three-foot elevation.
NARRATOR: The next morning, the team get their first look at the prints. To Rines and Wyckoff, the one-foot model doesn't match the original photo. The four-foot model is more convincing.
__: These closer, more like the four-foot model, but I don't know why. (?)
SMITH: I think I may have a reason for that, which is, when you put together the basic elements, the kind of camera Wilson claimed to have used, the kind of position where he believed he was, and a target of about the size he reported, you come up with a photograph that he claimed to have taken. This is certainly, although not proof, it is, I think, some very compelling evidence that perhaps, the original testimony of Lt. Col. R. Kenneth Wilson was genuine.
NARRATOR: Smith is convinced; now it's up to the doubters.
__: It could be very possible that they could come up with a photographic experiment in which their picture will look a lot more like this. And I hope that will happen, but it needs to be done. ...(music)...
NARRATOR: A short way down the Loch, Alastair Boyd decided to take up Smith's challenge, with the ever skeptical Shine lending a helping hand.
__: This looks about ideal, doesn't it?
NARRATOR: With the one-foot styrofoam model, they hope to prove the photo was a hoax. They too are careful to angle their camera at 19 degrees.
__: Okay, just coming into frame, just back off slightly. That's good.
NARRATOR: On the left is the recreation. On the right is the original. Despite the near identical images, Smith has reservations.
SMITH: See, now, this is a very interesting experiment, and you know, you're getting something which is certainly very close. One problem that I've always had, and it's certainly very much demonstrated by this is the ripple patterns around the object.
__: You can't reproduce them.
SMITH: I don't see them in the photographs.
BOYD: We're not getting ripple patterns.
NARRATOR: Boyd's experiment shows that a one-foot model can produce an image much like the surgeon's photo. The picture might be a hoax, but Boyd has no doubt that the creature in the Loch is real.
BOYD: I know that the thing I saw was not a log or an otter or a wave or anything like that. It was a large animal, it came heaving out of the water, something like a whale. I mean the part that was actually on the surface when it stopped rolling through was at least 20 feet long. It was totally extraordinary. It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen in my life. And if I could afford to spend the rest of my life up here looking for another glimpse of it, I would. ..(music)...
NARRATOR: Day three of the expedition. With the camera still out of commission, Wyckoff has joined Rines aboard the sonar boat for a night run.
WYCKOFF: I just hope we get something in light. Because I almost feel in my bones that something is going to happen.
RINES: You feel it, I feel it too.
WYCKOFF: That's where we'll get it if we get it.
NARRATOR: Tonight they will concentrate on Urchin Bay, where the ruins of a fourteenth century castle overlook the deepest part of the Loch.
RINES:And of ceruse, this is the time, this is the circumstances in which the academy has had luck, back in 1972, and I think things are coming in.
NARRATOR: After several hours of routine searching, there is a flurry of activity.
__: We've got a target. ...(simultaneous conversation)....
NARRATOR: A number of targets have appeared on the print-out. One catches Arnie Carr's attention. He estimates that it's five meters, or sixteen feet long.
CARR: One-eighty to port, and do a reciprocal of what you've already done.
NARRATOR: Using the GPS relay system, they come about to search the same area again. If the target is still there on the second pass, it's probably stationary debris. If not, it's moving.
__: Gentlemen, we may just ...(inaudible) and what we expected to do is we get a quick reciprocal to come back over that target with the sonar, and we couldn't see it, it was gone. And so we saw it one time, went over the same area, didn't see it again. It's moving. ...(music)_...
NARRATOR: To marine biologist Arnie Carr, the size and density of the mark on the print-out indicate a large, solid mass, very different from a school of fish.
CARR: It's an unusual target, especially the density. I mean a moving target we've had before, but one with such a density we haven't had. Well, if you get into, like, a whale or something like that, yes, you will find something that dense. Some of the whales, obviously, will be larger, but five meters is not small.
NARRATOR: Carr's analysis makes photographic back-up essential. The next morning Wyckoff's team is back in action. They've replaced their video camera with a professional underwater model.
WYCKOFF: This camera is a much more sensitive camera, so we can see father under water, and it will go deeper. The other camera was limited because we had a scuba diver's housing for it. We could only go down, maybe, 150 feet. With this, we can go down to several hundred meters.
__: This definition we're getting is just fantastic.
__: It really is.
NARRATOR: With the new camera performing even better than expected, the expedition is back up to speed. There is a sense of anticipation that the long search is about to pay off with an exciting zoological discovery. ...(music)... If Nessie is an animal, as the eye-witnesses say, the implications extend well beyond Loch Ness. Long necked monsters have been reported in northern lakes all over the world, from Lake Ciarre (?) in Siberia, to Lake Champlain in North America. Could these other lake "monsters" be flesh and blood too?
A small group of investigators believe these creatures might, in fact, be species as yet undiscovered by science. They call themselves cryptozoologists.
__: —Lake Champlain, the descriptions seem to be much more serpentine, slender, longer—
__: Like this one here.
__: Yeah, but not like this.
NARRATOR: Cryptozoology is dedicated to the study of cryptids, or unknown animals. In almost every case, the search is triggered by eye-witness reports, a source of evidence most scientists disregard.
__: Eye-witness evidence is completely useless in science. For science something has to be repeatable. And for repeatability, you have to have a specimen. You talk tan eye witness, you've got no repeatability there. You can't go back in time and check what they saw.
NARRATOR: But eye-witness evidence sometimes leads to remarkable discoveries. The Okapi in 1901; the mountain gorilla in 1912; and in 1994, the pseudo oryx in Vietnam. These were brand new species unknown to science.
RINES: Science somehow has this blind spot. They've got to learn to evaluate eye-witness responses, emotional responses and other things that are very real. That may not be anywhere near 100 percent accuracy, but they deserve to be fit into the total totality of the evidence.
NARRATOR: Rines' conviction is shared by Roy Mackal, a pioneer in the field of cryptozoology. Mackal, a molecular biologist by training, came to Scotland in the 1960s and joined a local group of enthusiasts who kept a constant vigil on the Loch. His work helped persuade Rines that there was something here worth investigating.
MACKAL: I came because I was curious, and all we had, basically were a few still photographs, some of which have since turned out to be frauds. But the eye-witness observations, while at least valid evidence, nevertheless, in some cases, were very compelling.
I wonder if you could sketch the outline of what you saw, just, make a water a line, and then sort of sketch what you saw.
NARRATOR: It's been 30 years since Mackal interviewed eye-witnesses, and the descriptions remain the same. ...(music)... Long before Sir Peter Scott, when the Highland tourist industry made it popular, people were convinced that Nessie was a prehistoric relic.
__: I went into the house, got out my book of prehistoric creatures, and the nearest I could liken it to was a plesiosaur. (?)
NARRATOR: Plesiosaurs were cold-blooded marine reptiles that co-existed with the dinosaurs during the Jurassic and Crutatious periods, feeding on fish in the warm inland seas.
__: They looked like giant turtles with long necks. They swam rather like penguins. If you could imagine a giant penguin with four limbs going up and down, you've got a plesiosaur. As far as we can tell they dies out 17 million years ago.
NARRATOR: But the oceans are home to a variety of prehistoric relics. From the massive megamouth shark, discovered in 1976, to the coelacanth, a fish once thought to have died out at the time as the plesiosaurs.
__: The coelacanth is a very remarkable fish, because it's a form that was thought extinct for 60 to 80 million years. And all of a sudden, it was found alive, the form was found alive in 1938. It proves that if it can happen once, it can happen again.
NARRATOR: Could a small population of plesiosaurs have escaped extinction, taking up refuge in Loch Ness? The Loch's geological origins hold the answer. Loch Ness straddles the Great Glen, a massive geological fault tat nearly cuts Scotland in two. As the land masses on either side of the fault slid by each other, they created and area of shattered rock or breccia. Each time an ice age descended on the northern hemisphere, the glaciers returned, repeatedly carving out this breccia to form a deep basin.
__: As the ice moved down from the tributary valleys on either side of us, it got confined into the valley created along the fault, and it accelerated. And this acceleration deepened the flow of the Loch. So we've got successive major glaciations, and during each one, it gets deeper and deeper and deeper into the fault, along the line of the fault. And then it opens out, the ice opens out at Inverness, and so it ceases to erode down, and so that's why we've got an enclosed basis over 800 feet deep in this locality.
NARRATOR: Plesiosaurs could not have survived in Loch Ness since the age of dinosaurs, because for much of that time, it was a solid block of ice. When the glaciers finally retreated eleven thousand years ago, they left behind a deep pool of frigid water and a shallow passage to the sea: The River Ness. Could Plesiosaurs have used the river to enter the Loch since then? It's an unlikely scenario. Even if they had somehow escaped extinction in the open oceans, these cold blooded reptiles would have had to adapt to the near freezing temperatures of the Loch Ness.
__: After carefully considering all of the evidence, most importantly, sonar contacts which give some idea of how these animals moves and how fast they can swim, this convinced me that we had to have an aquatic mammal.
NARRATOR: Warm blooded mammals have the metabolism to thrive in cold water. And one primitive species of whale had a serpentine neck. It's known as an archeocyte. (?)
__: It's just a long snake-like whale known from the fossil record, thought to be extinct for 18 million years. But clearly some have survived, and this is not a surprise, because we have other animals which were thought to be extinct 70 million years ago, and they're alive and well.
NARRATOR: But can Loch Ness sustain a breeding colony of these animals? ..(music).... Adrian Shine and fish biologist Alan Butterworth have set out this morning to explain the Loch's ecology.
BUTTERWORTH: Loch Ness is a huge body of water, more water in the whole of England and Wales put together. It's very unproductive. There are very, very few chemical nutrients, fertilizers to start the food chain off. And the little microscopic plants have got another problem, as well. There's very little light penetration, and I'm going to just show you here. This is called sucky disk (?) and it goes down and I've got to see where I lose sight of it. So it's going down in the water, you can see how brown the water color is. It's dark about four meters down. Now that's pretty poor.
NARRATOR: The dim light stifles plant growth, and in effects it ripples up the food chain, starting with the tiny plankton that feed on vegetation.
__: Well, we're right in the middle of the Loch, we're in the deepest part of the northern basin and what we're looking at is the food sources that are fit to live out here.
__: I'm pulling up through some 30 meters of water, that's just about down to where the plankton do by day, they migrate downwards by day..
__: Well what's happened, there are not a lot of animals in there. And when you think that that's from three cubic meters of water, there's not a lot there to feed on. So the food supply is very poor.
NARRATOR: Because of this limited food supply, the number of fish living in Loch Ness is surprisingly small for so large a lake. But there's another possibility: Migratory salmon which pass through the Loch on their way to spawn.
__: You'll get quite large numbers passing up close on the shore. And these can be big fish, they can weight up to 20 or 30 pounds. And we can work out, at the most, there will be something like fifteen tons of salmon passing through the loch within a monthly period. That is still not a lot of food to support a population of large predators.
NARRATOR: There is only one other plausible explanation for what Nessie might be: A visitor from the sea.
__: There is one creature, very reptilian in appearance that is actually the largest fish you will ever see in fresh water, where it eats nothing. I think it's possible that the tradition itself was begun by Baltic Sturgeon, making the occasional entrance to the Loch, not finding mates, and then going away again.
NARRATOR: A large sturgeon could pass in and out of the Loch undetected, as could a large eel. Eels have been known to reach ten feet in length in the open ocean. Either one would explain the sonar hits. ...(music)... But the eye-witnesses don't buy it.
Cameron: I, along with a friend, was on the south shore of Loch Ness fishing for brown trout. I saw an object surface that was a large black object, a whale-like object, going from infinity up, from the ground onto a block end.
NARRATOR: Retired Chief of Detectives for Inverness, Ian Cameron, along with seven other people, reported one of the longest sighting on record, lasting almost an hour-.
CAMERON: The nearest thing would be, sort of the back of a ...(inaudible) elephant, if you cut bits off and replaced it.
__: Have you ever gone out on the Loch in a boat?
CAMERON: Not on your life. I wouldn't go out on a small boat on the Loch Ness if you gave me the whole ...(inaudible).
NARRATOR: Day five, the Loch is flat calm, a good day for Nessie-hunting.
RINES: This is the last day with Arnie, and the towing side. After that, we have to do fixed side. (?) So we've got to make the most of the day.
NARRATOR: By now, Rines has complete faith in his battle-tested sonar team. The pressure is on the untried camera crew.
RINES: And you guy got to be ready. The minute we hit that target come. ...(music)...
NARRATOR: For today's last push, Rines has decided to focus, again, on Urchin Bay. Late in the morning, the boat's fish finder records a target at a depth of 25 meters.
__: What have you got?
__: What is it, about ten meters, twenty meters?
__: It's about twenty-five meters.
__: Twenty-five meters, we might pull that out on the sonar.
__: Well check it.
__: ...(inaudible) Can you get over here with the cameras.
__: We're on our way.
__: I've got two targets in the mid-water area over here, on-board, about 60, 65 meters.
__: Are you folks picking up anything now?
__: We find a couple of targets off your port side, maybe a bout 50 meters.
__: Towards us! As fast as you can, please.
__: The camera flips over if we go too fast.
__: Pull it out and come over, then.
NARRATOR: This is the expedition's biggest challenge, imaging a moving target under water.
__: Three main targets and they spread out.
__: If they moved off in that port side over to the left, they could probably pick it up with a camera. We're getting a mid-water target, here. Eighteen meters or so, the port of us, come as fast as you can.
__: I'm answering a target, I'm answering a target. (?)
__: Look at all those fish.
__: That small number of fish may be tracking larger predators.
__: The small number of fish maybe be followed by some hungry predator.
__: We've seen the small number of fish, but we haven't seen the hungry predator.
NARRATOR: Minutes later, the target is out of range. Just when they seem closest to an answer, the team runs out of time. Wyckoff has learned the hard way that tracking and imaging a moving target in the murky waters of Loch Ness requires resources well beyond the means of this expedition. And something even money can't buy: Luck. But Rines has achieved his primary goal, finding out if there is still something here.
RINES: We certainly weren't arrogant enough to think that we can cover every single spot in this lake and look in there and find a target. But what we did is the most probable things, at least in our judgment. And if we can intrigue, and I think we have intrigued, this new generation to carry on if there's enough excitement here about what we're doing, we will have accomplished a lot.
__: I don't think Bob Rines is crazy. He's obsessed, obviously, but I think the obsession is natural. It's a human instinct. There's something here that needs to be answered, something here that needs to be proven. ..(music)...
NARRATOR: Reports of monsters in Loch Ness demand skepticism, especially given its long history of hoaxes. And the evidence from biology and geology seem to rule out Plesiosaurs or any other large, resident predator. But a lake so deep could well have a few secrets left. Someday, a more plausible explanation may emerge. Perhaps an occasional visitor from the sea. Until then, the unexplained sonar hits and the conviction of the eye-witnesses will keep the legend of Loch Ness alive.
__: It was just big, I think that's the best way to put it. So it certainly wasn't a seal and it certainly wasn't a fish. And all I can say is, looking at the Loch, is that somewhere in there is the Loch Ness Monster, and as far as I'm concerned, I've seen it.
__: Though I remain convinced of the sincerity of many of the eye-witnesses, a majority of sightings are actually boat weights, and all the other hosts of illusion that you can get on Loch Ness, particularly on a calm day.
__: I saw it and I'm not going to be dissuaded. I know, and it wasn't just, you know, an imagination, and I'm a sane guy. I've got no axe to grind. As I say, I sell pet food. What use to me is the Loch Ness Monster?
__: Yeah, I could wake up tomorrow and find that they Loch Ness Monster has just crawled ashore with a large sign saying, "Fooled you again." It wouldn't be the first time scientists have been wrong; we've been wrong before and we're going to be wrong again. And maybe there's something about Loch Ness we don't know after all. ...(laughter)
__: No way am I even attempting to convert anybody to the religion of the object of Loch Ness. But I saw it, and nothing can take that away. ...(music)... (end)
The Beast of Loch Ness
Produced and Directed by
Associate Producer & Archivist
Director of Photography
Digital Film Processing
Special thanks to Robert H. Rines and the Academy of Applied Science.
NOVA Series Graphics
Post Production Assistant
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Post Production Supervisor
Senior Science Editor
A NOVA Production
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