Thursday, October 10, 2013

On the bonnie, bonnie banks of ould Loch Ness

Personally, I think it would be ultra-interesting if, in my lifetime, “they” found out that the Loch Ness Monster actually exists. And that there are more than one of them. After all, who wants to be the last of a line? And who wants to be swimming around a cold, dark lake in the Scottish Highlands for a million years without any companionship?

Sure, mysteries are nice and all that, but how cool if, all this time, there’s actually been a dinosaur-ish creature hanging around? And they were able to take its DNA and clone it. And, over time, shrink Nessie down into miniatures that people could keep in their aquariums.

In the meantime. Nessie is both a monster tourist attraction and the center of a bit o’ controversy involving the local tourist industry, including the Chamber of Commerce.

The controversy surfaced when, last summer, an alleged photo of Nessie was snapped and off-the cuff vetted by Steve Feltham, who has been a “full-time monster hunter for 22 years.”nessie

Feltham is something of an eccentric, living in an unplumbed, ungridded retired bookmobile, and earning his keep selling cartoon Nessie models. But, as the millennials say, he is following his passion.

Having hung around Loch Ness for so long, eyes on the prize, Feltham is an expert on Nessie.

Thus, when the photo, taken by tour guide George Edwards, emerged, it was only natural that a reporter would call upon Feltham to pass judgment on it.

"It is the best photograph I think I have ever seen," he told the journalist at the Inverness Courier. (Source: WSJ)

Based on the as-positive-as-it-gets ID, the Nessie shot became:

…the centerpiece of [Edwards] tour company which operates out of Nessieland, a Loch Ness tourism center. He sells postcards of his photos to passengers for 50 pence (80 cents) apiece.

Meanwhile, Feltham began experiencing photo-identifiers remorse:

He says he soon realized the photo was actually of a 6-foot-long fiberglass hump used as a prop in a documentary filmed on Mr. Edwards's boat in 2011.

Other experts weighed in, agreeing that the photo was a fake-o.

The photo back-and-forth may not have exposed the “real” Nessie, but:

It has exposed a bitter truth: Some key players in the Nessie industry don't believe the Loch Ness Monster exists.

In this corner, George Edwards, he of the photo and tour boat, who’s more than annoyed that many of his passengers have visited the Loch Ness Center and Exhibition, where they’ve been informed  – say it ain’t so! – that “the monster may not be real.”

Edwards has lodged a complaint with the Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce, pointing out that, given the “decline in tourism across Scotland,” this was no time to be telling his tourists that “Nessie is a myth or a figment of the imagination."

While Edwards was taking his high road/low road, another tour guide – Tony Harmsworth, who also maintains the local Chamber of Commerce web site - lashed out at Edwards, accusing him of:

…treating tourists like gullible fools and sending them away with "their heads full of garbage."

The Chamber made Harmsworth delete his criticism of Edwards, prompting other Chamber members – including the Loch Ness Center and Exhibition – to quit in protest.

Robert Cockburn, the Chamber chairman, says the group is officially neutral on Nessie's existence, and he is ambivalent on the Loch Ness Center's resignation.

(A side note on British surnames: Harmsworth and Cockburn are both up there in terms of excellence, are they not? In her Peter Wimsey books, Dorothy Sayres has a character named Harry Gotobed, another excellent moniker.)

So the battle lines have been drawn, with the purists, which would include the Loch Ness Center, vs. the BS-ers which would include Nessieland, where:

…tourists are regaled with tales of monster sightings and secret passages in the loch where Nessie may be lurking; the Loch Ness Center casts the monster as a myth. When it talks about supposed sightings of the monster since 1933, it plays circus music in the background.

As if one would not have been able to figure out by name alone which center was going to play faster and looser with the truthiness of the Loch Ness Monster. (Nessieland? Come on!)

Edwards compares Nessie-deniers to someone telling kiddies visiting Disneyland that Mickey Mouse isn’t real.

The truth squad counters that “tourists would rather know the truth than be misled.”

By the way, Edwards finally fessed up and admitted that the photo initially vetted by Feltham was one that he had faked. He does maintain that an earlier picture he’d taken was the real deal.

Eventually, science and technology will out, and we’ll discover what, exactly, people have been seeing in Loch Ness all these many years. I’m rooting for monster!


For those seeking more information, here’s a link to the official (?) Nessie site. If the camera’s working, you may even be able to watch for a siting in real-time. Let me know if you see anything interesting.

1 comment:

Frederick Wright said...

Hard to believe that this credulous nonsense has survived to the modern age. There are many reasons to visit Scotland - it is a gorgeous country, with fine people, exquisite cuisine, rich culture, and even some tasty spirits. No one needs to be duped into going by tales of mythical creatures.