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Nessie On Land: The Spicers Story

  • Written by lochnessmystery.blogspot.com
  • Published in Mysteries
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Was Gould that dumb? I don’t think so and I explain that in the next section. The reason why Lovcanksi needs the monster to only fill the road is readily apparent to me and is a classic case of changing the data to fit the theory. Quite simply, if the creature was indeed straddling the grass verges, the mirage effect would cease above the cool grass and the theory falls apart.

It is apparent that Gould’s sketch is not playing ball with Lovcanski’s mirage theory as he states further on regarding the air turbulence causing the undulating neck effect:

The otter’s tail was positioned lower than the rest of the body where such turbulence would be at its strongest, and this is why it appeared to undulate, albeit not as much as it is shown in Gould’s exaggerated drawing.

Tell you what, guys. Why don’t you sceptics tell Gould and Spicer how the drawing should have been done, draw a new one and we’ll all get in line? Changing the data to fit the theory is a mug’s game, you can do whatever you want to guarantee your desired outcome. Avoid it all costs, Loch Ness researchers.

Moreover, Lovcanski suggests that the magnifying lens effect of the inversion could make the otter look at least 0.4m tall. That is still a long way off Spicer’s estimated height of up to 1.4m and a bit unconvincing.

But ultimately, this theory suffers from the same problems as the deer huddle theory. It is a theory that is untested and consequently may have no validity at all. No scientist would embrace such a theory until it has gone through this testing phase, no matter how good the maths or physics sounds.

Now I understand Aleksandar lives in Serbia, so one cannot expect him to come over to Scotland and test his theory. But how you test this theory is unclear. Presumably one would have to identify the location of the Spicer event, wait for a hot day and pull an otter model across the road which was being filmed by an approaching car.
    
Perhaps this does not even need to be done at Loch Ness, if one reproduces the conditions from July 1933 adequately enough. Now, I have actually seen a heat haze on the Dores-Foyers road as I was heading north out of Inverfarigaig downhill towards what is called “The Wall”. There is a stretch of shaded road first which would not be ideal for heat hazes, but as that came to an end, I saw the heat haze ahead.    
    
In my case, I can tell you it was not very impressive and since I had been looking out for one to try and gauge its mirage worthiness, it was simply not hot enough to show no more than a slight shimmering of the road. Of course, I was going downhill and not up like the Spicers, so it was not like for like although the weather conditions would be similar to that July 1933 day.
    
The other problem is that I saw the heat haze on a nice, modern tarmacadam road. The bitumen in the tarmac is the item that heats up under the sun and re- radiates the heat. However, it is unclear what the composition of the road was back in 1933 as the road underwent an upgrade in the 1960s. It may well have been the case that it was no more than a dirt track as suggested in this picture of the road at Foyers in pre-Nessie times. If it was a non-bituminous road, I suggest Aleksandar’s mirage theory at best needs a major revision, at worst should be ditched.

MORE OBJECTIONS    

Moving on, various critics of the Spicers have raised objections to what they claimed to have seen over the years. I will go over some of them here, beginning with the estimated length of the creature. Darren Naish, in his “Hunting Monsters” (reviewed here) says this:
    
Over the years, the description became increasingly sensational. It started out as 2-2.5 m in length but gradually increased to 9m.
    
The aforementioned Lovcanksi also raises this as an objection and regards it as an “important discrepancy”. Regard it as important too, but only insofar as it exposes what passes as “research” in crypto-sceptic circles. Darren Naish’s use of the word “gradually” implies a process rather than an event in the manner of the proverbial “fish that got away” that gets bigger with the retelling.
    
Let us take a look at the chronological retelling of the tale of the length of the Spicers’ monster:
    
1. Inverness Courier August 1933: six to eight feet
    
2. Daily Sketch December 1933: no height given but about four feet high
    
3. London Times December 1933: no height given but four to five feet high
    
4. Gould book June 1934: at least twenty five feet long
    
5. Letter to Ted Holiday 1936: twenty five to thirty feet long
    
6. Whyte book 1957: body as wide as road excluding grass verge -- ten to twelve feet
    
Now I am struggling to see how there is growth in this retelling. There is no sign of Naish’s “gradually” growing length here “over the years”. In fact, I see rather a leap from 6-8 to 25-30 feet in a matter of months and that is it.  In fact, what I find most disappointing is that despite their claimed research, these critics deliberately hide from their readers the reason why the estimated length tripled. George Spicer wrote to Gould before his book publication and said:
    
After having ascertained the width of the road, and giving the matter mature thought in every way, I afterwards came to the conclusion that the creature I saw must have been at least 25 feet in length.
    
George Spicer had an advantage many eyewitnesses do not have, his monster was lumbering over a ruler-the road. When he discovered the true length of this ruler, the length of the monster changed accordingly. But because the sceptics omit this important fact, they give the impression to readers that Spicer was just making it up as he went along.
    
Deliberate deception or wilful ignorance? You decide, reader. Needless to say, in the subsequent lengths given, there is no logical inconsistency between “at least twenty five feet” and “twenty five to thirty feet”.
    
Now what about Lovcanski’s rewriting of the original data which squeezes the entire creature onto the road and not the surrounding verges? We have already said he had to do that to keep the creature in the mirage “zone” else his theory disintegrates. However, a look at the original accounts proves there is no need for such revisionism.
    
Lovcanksi’s revision hangs on Spicer’s sentence: “When on the road, it took up practically the whole width of it,” which Aleksandar literally takes to mean the entire visible creature. But how is this reconciled across the page where the road is said to be twelve feet wide but George Spicer estimates the length to be at least twenty five feet? What happened to the other thirteen feet? Are we to presume that George Spicer thought a tail at least thirteen feet long was wrapped behind the creature?
    
A look at the Gould sketch shows a body roughly equal in length to the neck. It is reasonable to assume George Spicer estimated a tail roughly of the same length, giving us a tail, body and neck each about 8 feet long. That means the neck extends beyond the road by about 4 feet and that is what we see in the sketch. Gould and Spicer made no mistakes when carefully executing the sketch.
    
The matter is resolved in Spicer’s letter to Holiday which states:
    
The body then came into view and this was roughly four of five feet in height. We did not see any feet  and I think its tail was curved round the other side from our view for convenience of going along the ground. There is no doubt it came down from the hillside. When it was broadside on it took up all the road. This I have measured and it is twelve feet wide.
    
And, again from the Whyte account:
    
The tail was evidently curled round on the further side, its tip having the appearance of something being carried on the animal’s back at the junction of the neck with the body. The creature stood about 4 feet high and the body was about the same length as the road is wide, that is 10 to 12 feet (excluding the grass verge).
    
Clearly, it was the body that took up the width of the road, not the entire length of the creature, Again, examining the Gould sketch, the body on its own is about the width of the road. Finally, if Lovcanksi was correct in his opinion, the height of the creature would only be about 2 feet high in his revised sketch, whereas George Spicer put it at 4 to 5 feet.

DISTANCE, WEIGHT AND SPEED
    
There is also an attempt to make some mileage out of the change in the estimated distance to the creature. In the original account, the distance is given as fifty yards. However, thereafter it becomes about two hundred to two hundred and fifty yards. Where this change comes from is not clear as it is not mentioned by George Spicer when he gives his reason for revising the length of the creature.
    
However, my money is on Mrs. Spicer as she told Gould when interviewed that she thought the creature was about 200 yards ahead. It looks like her estimate on that matter trumped her husband’s in Gould’s final analysis and it has stuck ever since.
    
Now, Aleksandar also tells us in his article that he calculated the weight of the claimed creature via water displacement of a model and came up with a weight of 10 tonnes.  He then asks how such a huge creature, weighing twice as much as two adult elephants could possibly get around terrestrially?
    
Now, I must admit I would like to see the model he made to come up with this figure. It also transpires this weight is not unsurprisingly based on the largest possible estimate of thirty feet. Be that as it may, I performed my own calculations minus the kitchen sink. The main body of the creature is roughly proportioned on an ellipsoid. The volume of an ellipsoid is derived from the formula where a, b and c are the three elliptic radii. Using the estimated height of 4-5 feet and body length of 12 feet based on the road width, we plug in radii numbers of 1.82m, 0.68m and 0.68m to get a volume of 3.52 cubic meters. Using Aleksandar’s vertebrate flesh density of 1000kg per cubic meters gives us a weight of 3.52 tonnes for the main body.
    
What about the neck and tail? No dimensions are given for the neck and so we estimate it from the sketch based on a body height of 4.5 feet to give a neck thickness of 0.27m. The neck length is estimated from the road width on the sketch to be 4m which compared to the usual monster metrics is quite long in proportion to the main body. However, applying the following formula for the volume of a cylinder gives an estimated neck weight of 0.23 tonnes. Now we have next to no information on a tail. I assume the creature had one, and all we have is the speculation that the tip of the tail is visible, but it could be something else. So, based on other reports, I can only hazard a guess and say it would be roughly the same mass as the neck which would give us a total body mass, not of ten tonnes, but of about four tonnes.
    
Comparing this number to known aquatic animals puts us in the upper range limit for the weight of male adult elephants seals and these are well known for the ability to move about on land despite their huge weight. So I am unconvinced by the over ponderous weight argument.
    
THE DASH TO THE LOCH
    
Allied to the weight argument is the speed argument. Lovcanski takes the view with others that the reason there was no monster in sight when the Spicers’ car reached the crossing point was because there was no monster, but rather an otter (or deer) would have simply vanished into the undergrowth.
    
This is said despite the claimed presence of depressed undergrowth consistent with a large weight ploughing through it. It is counter claimed this was simply a deer track, but apart from the weakness of the deer argument stated above, I am dubious of deer tracks running to dead ends at loch sides.
    
I suspect no actual calculations have been down to see if this dash to the loch was possible. The monster’s mission, should it accept it, is to get from the hillside to at least six foot of water before the Spicers’ car reached the exit point through the undergrowth.
    
Some numbers are required here. The creature first has to cross a distance from the hillside to a point where it again is out of sight to the observer. Assuming a road plus grass verge width of about sixteen feet and assuming the body plus neck fills this, then the creature has to travel thirty two feet to fulfil the observation window of the witnesses.
    
How long was it in view? The Spicers merely state seconds and so a range of 5-10 seconds will be used. Using these numbers gives a speed range of about 3 to 6 feet per second or 4 to 2 miles per hour, which is a speed well consistent with the full grown elephant seals previously mentioned.
    
How far did it have to travel to be out of sight underwater? Spicer told Holiday in 1936 that the loch “was only twenty foot down on the right”. How further out to get into at least six foot of water? Rupert Gould places the Spicer sighting near Whitefield and the 1904 bathymetric survey map of this region is shown below.   

To be continued