The Nessie database

Here is a nicely balanced piece about looking for the root cause of Loch Ness monster sightings.

3: The truth is down there: looking for answers in the Nessie Files | Herald Scotland.

FOR the first time, a comprehensive database of all reported sightings of the Loch Ness monster is being complied.

The creators of the Nessie Files hope their work will shed light on the hundreds of strange sightings of the mythical creature.

Dr Charles Paxton, an ecologist and statistician at St Andrews University, who is carrying out the project, has so far uncovered around 853 reported encounters with Nessie over the past 80 years.

He will undertake a statistical analysis to see if there are any distinct clusters or patterns which could be explained by natural phenomena, such as a site where unusual waves are frequently formed.

Paxton takes a scientific approach by collecting 80 years’ worth of sightings report data and analyzing it for clusters. One cluster that should be expected is that based on media reports. That is, when a new sighting is reported, do other sightings follow? That sort of media contagion has been seen before in what UFOlogist coined as “flaps”. It appears to be a cluster that represents something real but that may only be that more people are out looking for what they expect to see. Anyhow, Paxton is attempting a comprehensive database which is worthwhile effort. Paxton also is of the opinion that there is likely not a monster behind these sightings but that reports may represen natural phenomena like a wave.

Dr. Paxton plans to publish on his work.

For a new journal on cryptozoology that adheres to scientific standards of publication, check out volume 1 of the Journal of Cryptozoology.

Tip: The 21st Floor

The Surgeon's photo of the Loch Ness monster. Known to be a hoax (click on picture)

The Surgeon’s photo of the Loch Ness monster. Known to be a hoax (click on picture)

  4 comments for “The Nessie database

  1. March 17, 2013 at 10:46 PM

    Very cool! I have played around with “sea serpent” reports and cladistics (which *has* applications outside of animal relationships, I should add), although I could not recover any significant relationships. This isn’t surprising since I ran into some difficulty with coding (should eyewitnesses be taken totally literally, or should similar descriptions like “elongate” and “eel-like” be lumped?) and, of course, eyewitnesses are unreliable and it’s likely the reports were due to a multitude of mundane phenomena. I’d be highly curious what methods Paxton is using (phenetics?) and if he is able to recover patterns with such enormous sample sizes.

  2. March 18, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    I love reading about cryptids, but I get frustrated reading all these credulous reports. I’ve got Joe Nickell’s book, and all of Ben Radford’s books, and the new Bartholomew book, but I can’t find much else. Is there a lack of skeptical literature on these?

  3. spookyparadigm
    March 24, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    Henry Bauer’s The Enigma of Loch Ness: Making Sense of a Mystery may be one of if not the earliest skeptical approach to the story. However, Bauer does not completely dismiss it, and is open to evidence that in subsequent decades hasn’t really held up (the Rhines photos)

    http://www.scientificexploration.org/journal/jse_16_2_bauer_1.pdf

  4. Michael
    March 25, 2013 at 1:14 AM

    What about the Hugh Gray photo?

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