Thursday, May 29, 2014

Analysis of the Paula Schuman Picture: Profile of A Loch Ness Mystery Animal?

While the search for the alleged unknown animals of Loch Ness has lasted for multiple years, a small amount of potential data has surfaced to the public eye in more recent times. Some consider the Paula Schuman image to be evidence for the reported animals' existence into the 21st century. (Artwork is by Thomas Finley)
While I have hinted at several articles in the works for this blog, I have not been able to complete them at the current time. This is due to the several other activities which I have going on in my everyday life; activities which are of far more importance than publishing for this blog. I have recently succeeded in being hired at the local zoo and, while I consider this to be a dream job finally obtained, it is yet another form of aforementioned activity. But thus is the busyness of life, and I will continue to publish here when time allows. So please bear with me and continue to peruse here even though posts will be few and far between for quite some time. To help fill in one of these gaps, I have decided to post an article by Scott Mardis which he recently shared with me. This superb write-up comments on an image taken by Paula Schuman via a Loch Ness online underwater camera. Ms. Schuman reported that the "animal" appeared to be feeding on something and was hiding behind a pillar. While there are those who have noticed its similarity to the frontal view of a Cryptoclidus skull, others have suggested that the object is simply weeds or a trout. I am currently unable to come to any solid inference myself, but I have also written some brief observations below the text of his article.

This is a guest post by Scott Mardis. Scott has been an active field investigator of the Lake Champlain “Monster” since 1992. He is a former sustaining member of the defunct International Society of Cryptozoology and a former volunteer worker in the Vertebrate Paleontology Dept. of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences (1990-1992). He co-authored a scientific abstract about the Lake Champlain hydrophone sounds for the Acoustical Society of America in 2010. He currently lives in Bradenton, Florida



Paula Schuman’s 2002 "Nessie" Photo: What Is It? 
By Scott Mardis

Between 1999 and 2003, the website Scotland Online maintained video cameras (both underwater and on the shore) with live streaming video at Loch Ness. Several claimed sightings and video captures of alleged Nessies from these cameras occurred during this period. In 2003, for reasons unclear, the plug was pulled on these cameras. A petition to get these cameras restored is online at this address. Limited space here prevents a thorough review of all the webcam images but we will address one of the more intriguing ones, the Paula Schuman image of 2002. The back story is somewhat mysterious but two old webpages provide a little information: here and here. My efforts to track down Paula Schuman for further info have so far been fruitless. With so little information to go on, we should be cautious in readily accepting this photo as evidence for an unknown animal in Loch Ness. Does it look like a Nessie? Does it look like a plesiosaur? Why, yes it does, strikingly some might say. Below is a montage comparing Schuman’s image with an actual fossil of the Jurassic plesiosaur Cryptocleidus oxoniensis. The lower right image is the Schuman image overlayed on the Cryptocleidus skull.
The object in Schuman’s picture also resembles the "muppet face" Nessie in Anthony Shiel’s infamous 1977 Loch Ness photos. The photos are generally thought to be an audacious hoax (probably a clever painting on a sheet of glass) and Shiel’s statements concerning them over the years have done nothing to enhance their credibility as evidence.
However, Schuman’s picture also resembles objects in stills from John Gillie’s 2002 Loch Ness video, for which no hoax allegations have been made.
The background visible in Schuman’s picture is consistent with the back ground of other images filmed with the Scotland Online underwater camera that was located at the end of Temple Pier, Urquhart Bay, Loch Ness, described by long-time Loch Ness researcher Dick Raynor at this link.
It is difficult to scale the object but it is conceivable that it could be a small aquatic animal such as an eel, a fish, a newt or a toad. Or even a baby plesiosaur.
It is what it is, whatever the hell that may be. Realistically, there is not enough space here to discuss all of the potential interpretations, either exotic or mundane.

My brief comments regarding the content of Scott's article are as follows. While the image at the top right in the underwater camera image compilation bears slight similarity to the apparent "snout" on the object in the Rines "head and neck" photograph of 1975, I see no reason to interpret the other images (with the exception of the Schuman picture) as actual animals. It is worth noting that similar facial profiles have been described for some reported "sea serpents". If the mystery animals of Loch Ness are long-necked "sea serpents" which are making occasional visits to the loch, as hypothesized by researchers such as Dale Drinnon, myself, and a recent proponent who has written an excellent article on the matter, then it would be expected that anecdotal and/or photographic data from the two environments would be of a similar nature. Two unidentified marine animal reports which entail a facial profile similar to that apparent in the Paula Schuman image are the accounts by the Groves family and Joan Borgeest (which I have written about before). As a rehash of the details behind these reports, I have reproduced my summarization of them below (based off of the accounts found in Heuvelmans' In The Wake of The Sea-Serpents).

"While the allegedly unknown animal seen off the Isle of Man by Major W. Peer Groves, his wife, and their children in 1928 could be initially dismissed as a mangled recounting of a known pinniped, it is worth noting that Michael (Grove's son who shared details of their encounter with Bernard Heuvelmans) was an oft traveler and was knowledgeable in zoology. The observation also apparently took place at a fairly close range and lasted for a lengthy period of time. Michael drew Heuvelmans a sketch of the witnessed animal which had a distinctly diamond-shaped head, large eyes which were described as gentle-looking, a wide mouth, a cylindrical neck, and sparse long whiskers. The account which Major Groves originally gave to the Daily Mail in 1933 included features such as the head being about as large as that of a bull with a long snout similar to that of a dog. The "sea serpent" reportedly seen by Joan Borgeest while she was on the coast of Easington, England around 1938 has a striking similarity to the Isle of Mann animal, although it does seem to have displayed some more reptilian characteristics. The animal was described as having a green colored body, a rather flat head, large protruding eyes, a mouth which opened and shut as it breathed, and movement through a 'humped glide'. It was approximately 100 yards away from Mrs. Borgeest and dived once she called out to other people nearby."
Image Source
Image Source
There are two eyewitness accounts from British Columbia which I have found to bear similarities to the apparent facial profile of the Schuman image, as well. I have reproduced the eyewitness sketches and accompanying details of these sightings from the CaddyScan website below.
Image Source
Image Source
Regardless of compelling similarities, Occam's Razor would suggest that the best identity which can be inferred from the ambiguous image is that of a small animal such as a newt or eel. This seems especially probable considering the shallow depth which the camera apparently resided in. However, as hinted at by Scott Mardis, further data suggesting a large animal with such an appearance in Loch Ness could lead towards strengthening the possibility of it being something along the lines of the long-necked "sea serpents" and "lake monsters" reported across the world.
Comparison of the Paula Schuman image to various newt profiles, by Scott Mardis. I feel that the object in the web cam image is most likely such an amphibian, or some other small animal.

7 comments:

  1. I'd never paid close attention to the Schuman photo before, and wish I had because it's really quite interesting. I fully agree with Scott, this is most likely an amphibian, but which one? Of the four newts found in Scotland, the smooth newt and palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticusare) are the common ones, but I don't believe any have been photographed in Loch Ness before. Not surprising really as even the common toad has only been caught on camera in the Loch once! And if common amphibians are so hard to photograph... think about that. Anyway, this little fellow is totally consistent with the palmate -- in the last collage that's the one in the lower right with its mouth so wide open. Especially notice how flat-headed the palmate is -- you can draw a straight line across the top of its head from eye socket to eye socket. That's identical to what you've got in the Schuman photo. Now the palmate is tiny -- this one must be almost nose to nose with the lens. That might sound disappointing on the surface, but I wouldn't undervalue the significance of photographic proof salamanders are in the Loch. That common toad, by the way, was found at a depth of several hundred feet.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Steve. You always give very valuable input. The inference that the image probably shows a newt is mine, not Scott's. He is open to the idea but is equally or possibly more open to others. Very good observations regarding the palmate; I noticed some of these features as well but never made a connection to a specific species.

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  2. Always a pleasure -- there is so much great content here. I see I missed where Scott's text left off and yours resumed, but no harm I hope :) And thanks for the mention over at GB's blog.

    I admit when I first saw the Schuman photo and Gillie's stills somewhere in the past year I mistook them for being part of the same set. Not sure the commentators at GB's blog have all worked that out yet.

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    1. Thanks; anytime. Yeah, a lot of them seem to be questioning whether the images are even from Loch Ness at all. I don't think they are aware of the shallow depth which the cameras were placed in.

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  3. As mentioned on the waterhorse blog, I have located an old day/night security camera and a housing in my shed, so now ( until it breaks) you have a new underwater webcam from the same location as in olden times. try
    http://www.lochnessinvestigation.com/cameras2.html or
    http://www.lochnessinvestigation.com/cameras.html

    The camera has a rare Hoya #9 Cryptoblur filter so no extra "enhancement" is required. I have another camera in the pipeline but it will not be anywhere near as blurry as this one. Enjoy.

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  4. Hi! I'm Paula Schuman, or I was until I married in 2013. I caught this shot of the strange thing while watching the web cam that is no longer available unfortunately. It happened while I was chatting on IM with my sister. I found it interesting, and was never able to get another shot after that, and then of course as you are all aware, the site shut the cam off. I really have no further information, and the shot you see is all I was able to see myself. I do recall it did kick up an extreme amount of sediment at the time it was thrashing around and the entire camera would go dark, then come back to a fuzzy focus as you see in the pics. I couldn't tell you how big it was, but it did get close in to the point where it blocked out the view a couple times, then would leave, and come back. This all took place in a very short period of time; maybe in about 20 seconds or so. I noticed after it was over that some carcass of a mutilated fish was floating about in pieces that it had literally torn to shreds. If you would like to contact me, please feel free at peschuman@msn.com. Thanks and good luck

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