History

Does New 'Loch Ness Monster' Photo Seal the Deal?

A new photograph claimed to be of Nessie is making waves -- but is it a monster?

Image: A classic view of the Loch Ness Monster, near Inverness, Scotland, that was taken in April 19, 1934. It was later revealed as a hoax (Getty)

A recent photograph claimed to be of the elusive Loch Ness monster is making waves and stirring controversy online.

The Huffington Post explained the story behind what many people are calling "the most convincing Loch Ness Monster photograph ever": Whiskey warehouse worker -- no jokes please -- Ian Bremner "was looking to photograph some red deer, but instead found what he says could be Nessie having an afternoon swim, he told 'The Scotsman.' 'This is the first time I've ever seen Nessie in the loch. I would be amazing if I was the first one to find her,' Bremner said." He claims that he didn't see the strange creature at the time, but only noticed it upon returning home and reviewing his photos.

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The Loch Ness monster first achieved notoriety in 1933 after a story was published in a local newspaper describing not a monstrous head or hump but instead a splashing in the water that appeared to be caused, the photographer said, by fighting ducks. A famous photograph showing a mysterious head and neck in silhouette brought Nessie international fame, but was later revealed to be a hoax.

Most photographs of Nessie, like those of Bigfoot, are famously blurry and ambiguous: Is that blob a shaded tree stump or a Bigfoot leg? Is that dark curved thing in the water a wave or the back of a lake monster? It's usually hard to tell what, if anything, the image is of.

Bremner's photo is far clearer, better lit, and sharper than previous Nessie images. Some are suggesting that the new photo may even conclusively prove the beast's existence. In this case, however, the new photo's clarity is its undoing. A closer look reveals why.

According to the "Express" newspaper (headlined "Loch Ness Monster FOUND at Last? Astonishing New Photo of Nessie") the photo "shows a two-yard long silver creature swimming away from the lens with its head bobbing away and a tail flapping a yard away, preparing to swim further on." Others, however, have a different interpretation: instead of a single six-foot serpentine monster they see several smaller animals caught leaping in a single line -- as otters, seals, and other aquatic animals sometimes do.

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Sharon Hill, a science educator and editor of the Doubtful News site, notes that the image looks very much like seals -- which are known to live in Loch Ness. In an e-mail to Seeker.com, Hill explained that "This photo actually provides good evidence to show what lake monster sightings might really be: known animals going about their business. However, I'm not convinced that this photo was taken at Loch Ness and that it has not been manipulated. Bremner's story doesn't hang together. Seals are not that common in the Loch, though they have been seen before."

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Hill cautions that many people are eager to get media attention or compensation for such photos, creating an incentive to sell and share "mysterious" photos which may in fact have a plausible mundane explanation.

Hill also finds the photographer's claim that he didn't notice the "monster" in the image until later somewhat suspicious, noting that "It seems very strange he did not notice this object, since it's in focus." Indeed, the depth of field seen in the photo suggests that the camera (and therefore the photographer, unless he wasn't looking through the viewfinder at the time the photo was taken) was focused exactly where the animal(s) appear. It would be a remarkable coincidence if the camera just happened to focus where the water splashing was, yet Bremner had no intention of photographing what he captured.

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In 2014 a lack of recent Nessie sightings led some to speculate that the venerable aquatic monster (or monsters) had died out. Nessie lovers-not to mention the Inverness Tourism Board-have little to fear. Future reports, sightings, and photographs of the Loch Ness monster (or at least something claimed to be it) are certain to continue. There are enough things in the lake that can be mistaken for a monster (large fish and odd waves, for example) to keep the sightings going and the tourist dollars coming.