We'd been thinking about putting these three articles together for over two years, had them lined up on the hard drive-- but for some reason, had just never gotten around to it. Maybe it's because we think the point might be a little too subtle.
Anyway, as reported back on July 16, 2003, a pensioner had made worldwide headlines by finding part of a fossilized plesiosaur backbone at Loch Ness. The find had subsequently been verified as such by the Scotland Museum.
Of course, Nessiephiles went crazy. A genuine plesiosaur fossil at Loch Ness?! Proof positive, they thought! As we said, the news was published worldwide.
Not a few days later, on approximately July 29, 2003, a new headline went around the world-though admittedly with a bit less fanfare..."Nessie Fossil a Hoax, Scientists Say".
Well, I thought; did they examine the fossil and determine it to be a fake; or was the pensioner found to have had a whole closet full of fake as yet unpainted plesiosaur backbones; or did a witness come forward to say he saw the fossil being planted; perhaps a tiny, made in Taiwan label had been found on the back of the fossil?
Well, no. It turns out that the scientists knew it was fake because it went against the paradigm. Plus, the Loch Ness monster is too fringy for mainstreamers to put up with. Plesiosaurs had died out too long ago they reasoned....millions of years ago to be exact --but the lake according to the paradigm was only 12,000 years old.
Not only that, the fossil showed signs that it had spent some time in the sea--and the Loch was freshwater--and had never been connected to the sea. There were a few more paradigm generated fossil busters, as well.
A hoax had been perpetrated but like Sherlock Holmes and Watson, they, the scientists entrusted with keeping the paradigm safe, had solved the problem , no doubt while leaning back in their comfortable chairs whilst puffing on their pipes-- without even ever having had to actually examine the fossil in question. However....
On July 31, 2003, a mere two days later, largely unnoticed and completely ignored.. another scientist(Bob Rines, of the Academy of Applied Science) was announcing his "surprising" discovery about Loch Ness after two years of research,along with geographer, Frank Dougherty, which completely blew away the paradigm's rationale and the basis for calling the fossil find a hoax. Of course by that time, everyone had moved on ....and Mr. McSorley was left to be seen by much of the world as a faker..
Don't mess with the paradigm --if you can't do the time. That's how science works...
Examples of the three articles are reprinted here, each in their own columns from left to right in chronological order.
July 16, 2003: Pensioner Finds 'Nessie' Fossil
The plesiosaur: The long-necked, carnivorous sea reptile which ruled the world's seas between 200 and 65 million years ago - during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods - bears a striking resemblance to modern images of the Loch Ness monster.
Experts have described the find as extremely interesting, but stressed that it is not related to the famous creature.
Loch Ness did not exist until the last Ice Age - which finished about 12,000 years ago.
The find is very interesting because nothing of its nature has ever been discovered on the shores of the loch before.
The fossil clearly shows four perfectly preserved vertebrae, complete with spinal chord, and blood vessels, set in grey limestone.
Scientists at the National Museum of Scotland confirmed that the find - the first of its kind in Scotland for more than a century and the first ever at Loch Ness - is evidence that the 35-ft-long monster once existed in the area.
Nessie hunters, who are keeping the exact location of the find a closely guarded secret, will now search the area further for more extensive remains.
Mr McSorley, 67, found the fossil after stumbling in shallow water near the bank of the loch.
"I literally tripped over the fossil in the water," he said. "When I put my hands down to steady myself I saw something unusual and picked it up.
"Once I had cleaned off about an inch of green algae, and I could see the texture of the bone, it became clear I had an important fossil. "
Gerald McSorley discovered the fossil. Mr McSorley, a former scrap merchant, added: "I have always believed in the Loch Ness monster, but this proves it for me.
"The resemblance between this and the sightings which have been made are so similar."
Dr Lyall Anderson, a curator at the National Museum who has examined the fossil, said it formed part of the backbone of a plesiosaur which would have existed in Scotland between 150 and 155 million years ago. He said: "The find is very interesting because nothing of its nature has ever been discovered on the shores of the loch before.
"It could be that further remains exist in the same area. "The closest we have is the discovery of plesiosaur fossils at Eathie on the Moray Firth 150 years ago." Gary Campbell, the president of the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club, said it was possible that it was a fossil which originated in the local area.
"On the other hand it could have been planted - probably not by the man who found it, but we have a history of things being planted on the loch conveniently for people to find," he speculated.
July 29, 2003: Loch Ness Sea Monster Fossil a Hoax, Say ScientistsJames Owen in England for National Geographic News
The fossil belonged to a plesiosaur, a fearsome predator that ruled the seas between 200 and 65 million years ago.
Measuring 35 feet (11 meters) head to tail, with a long, serpentine neck, the reptile eventually died out with the dinosaurs.
Or did it? Many people believe it alive and well, if rather shy, having sought refuge in Scotland's largest freshwater loch. These days it goes by the name of Nessie, the Loch Ness monster.
Of course, there are still plenty of skeptics, and four fossilized vertebrae, complete with blood vessels and spinal column, is the sort of thing that could help convince them.
The fossil was found by retired scrap metal dealer Gerald McSorley, from Stirling in Scotland. The pensioner said he chanced upon it when he tripped and fell in the loch.
He told the world: "I have always believed in the Loch Ness monster, but this proves it for me. The resemblance between this and the sightings which have been made are so similar."
His discovery was confirmed by staff at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Yet they still had their doubts.
Lyall Anderson, one of the museum's palaeontologists, said: "The fossil is definitely that of a plesiosaur—a very good example. And I believe Mr. McSorley when he says he found it where he did. But there's evidence to suggest it came from elsewhere and had been planted.
"The fossil is embedded in a gray, Jurassic-aged limestone. Rocks in the Loch Ness area are much older—they're all crystalline, igneous and metamorphic rocks." Anderson says the nearest match for this limestone is at Eathie on the Black Isle, some 30 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of Loch Ness.
He added: "The stone has been intensely drilled by marine organisms. It seems likely the specimen was on a seashore until relatively recently."
Richard Forrest, a plesiosaurus expert at the New Walk Museum in Leicester, England, said: "The fossil's general appearance, and the presence of holes made by burrowing sponges, shows it has spent some time in the sea, probably [with] beach pebble[s]. Yet Loch Ness contains freshwater."
Gary Campbell, president of the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club, added: "I think it's almost certain the fossil was placed there deliberately. There are very few public access points to the shore and the fossil was found by a layby where lots of tourists stop. As far as we're concerned it was left for someone to find."
Campbell, whose life is insured against him being eaten alive by the monster, to the sum of £250,000 (U.S. $400,000), says numerous other Nessie-inspired hoaxes have taken place in this area.
Two years ago conger eels were dumped in the loch after being caught by sea fishermen, presumably in the hope they would be mistaken for miniature monsters. One measured over six feet (two meters) long. However, Forrest says there could also be an innocent reason why the fossil turned up here.
He said: "A plesiosaur limb bone was found near the same spot some years ago. It turned out it belonged to a local tour operator, who used the fossil as a demonstration piece. He'd left it on a rock and forgot about it."
With Nessie's true likeness still shrouded in mystery, Anderson says the plesiosaur is the creature that most commonly springs to mind, adding: "It's an image many people are familiar with and they often try to pin it on the Loch Ness monster."
But palaeontologists say this is wishful thinking. While plesiosaurs died out many millions of years ago, Loch Ness is less than 12,000 years old, having been glacially excavated during the last ice age. Forrest gives other reasons why the two aren't one and the same.
He says plesiosaurs, being cold-blooded reptiles, wouldn't generate enough internal body heat to survive the loch's cool temperatures. And even if they could, there wouldn't be enough food for them to survive.
Forrest also points out that plesiosaurs breathed air and would need to surface several times a day, at the very least.
"Despite this, I haven't heard of any sightings that sound anything like a plesiosaur," he said. "People usually refer to a series of undulating humps. The plesiosaur, being a reptile, wouldn't undulate but move from side to side. Such sightings are much more likely to come from mammals—such as a row of otters swimming across the loch."
Forrest concludes: "My own view is that reports of the Loch Ness monster are very good for the Scottish tourist industry, but not backed up by any real evidence. One thing is for sure: even if there is a large animal in Loch Ness, it's not a plesiosaur."
The Loch Ness monster legend is said to date back over 1,400 years, when Saint Columba encountered a strange water beast in the region. But it kept a low profile until 1933, when a new road made the loch more accessible and gave clear views from its northern shore.
A flood of reported sightings soon followed, the first coming from an innkeeper at Drumnadrochit.
That same year saw the publication of the most famous picture of Nessie—its neck and head rising from the loch's murky waters. Taken by a respected gynaecologist, Colonel Robert Wilson, the monster became an overnight sensation.
In 1994 Wilson's photograph made the front pages again—when exposed as one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th century. Christian Spurling confessed shortly before his death that the grainy, black-and-white image actually showed a piece of plastic attached to a toy submarine.
Spurling made the model for his stepfather, Marmaduke Wetherall, who, along with Wilson, wanted something to show for their monster hunting expedition. It seems the hoaxers have been trying to match their success ever since.
July 31, 2003: LAKEBED EVIDENCE HINTS AT PRESENCE OF THE LOCH NESS MONSTER
"An accidental discovery in the depths of Loch Ness could finally force the scientific community to acknowledge there could be a monster out there."
"New evidence revealed in Inverness last night (Thursday, July 31, 2003) by Bob Rines, of the Academy of Applied Science, challenges traditional thinking of the loch always being a freshwater lake."
"While pulling up anchor on their research boat in August 2001, a scientific team stumbled across the discovery that could change thinking on a large portion of Scotland's history."
"Retired Inverness geography teacher Frank Dougherty noted the clay on the anchor was different from other deposits found in the Urquhart Bay area of the loch where they were working."
"Carbon dating and amino acid testing of the clay indicated that marine life within the loch dated from 12,800 years ago--suggesting a warm-water break in the glacial conditions at about that time. Items dating from about 125,000 years ago were also revealed in the testing."
"Mr. Rines said, 'This discovery could rewrite the history books on how Scotland was formed. It had always been assumed that the ocean was never in the Great Glen. That's just not true.'"
"The findings will certainly reopen a debate traced back to" the 1970s "when an eminent scientist of the time claimed there was evidence of seawater having been in Loch Ness--but this was disputed by many of his peers."
"Mr. Rines added that the discovery--corroborated by institutions on both sides of the Atlantic--could shed light on some of the theories as to how a Loch Ness Monster could have got into a landlocked stretch of water in the first place."
"He added, 'Much of the scientific community thought Nessie believers were bonkers because they knew the sea was never in here. How could big animals get in? I believe this evidence answers that question.'"
"Loch Ness project leader Adrian Shine accepts that, on current evidence, any creature in the loch would have had to survive a millenium of icy conditions and a great flood."
"'In the 1960s, the monster-hunters had the idea that animals could have come into this fresh water and become trapped in some way,' he said, 'This business about big, big animals becoming trapped in the loch is a bit of a red herring.
We were fully glacial again 11,000 years ago-- the loch was freezing in winter--and I don't know how such creatures would have been breathing.