Posted by: Craig Woolheater on May 4th, 2011
Henry Bauer has something in common with me, and most probably with you — he’s never seen the Loch Ness Monster.
In his case, however, it isn’t from lack of trying. The Virginia Tech science professor emeritus has made a number of trips to Scotland hoping to catch a glimpse of the world’s most elusive aquatic beast, only to be disappointed. But not disheartened.
“Almost all of the sightings have been random,” he said, “and they tend to catch people by surprise.”
In other words, you can’t meet “Nessie” by appointment. That is, if he or she actually exists.
There appear to be three possibilities:
1. The Loch Ness Monster is nothing but a figment of some Scotman’s imagination, a legend that has morphed into a mass hallucination among the believers.
2. There was a Loch Ness Monster once upon a time, but now it’s dead.
3. A family of Nessies still occupies the mile-wide, 20-mile-long lake, and it’s only a matter of time before their existence is proven.
Bauer describes himself as “about 95 percent certain” of the third option. He will be one of the speakers at an “UFOs at the Lake Conference” at the Mariner’s Landing Resort on Smith Mountain Lake, which is a neat coincidence. A movie in production called “Lake Effect” has been filmed there, and one of its components is a Nessie-style monster.
The producers of “Lake Effect” didn’t enlist Henry Bauer as a technical advisor, but they should have. As the pursuit of Nessie has changed from hobby to obsession, he has read everything he can find on the beast, pro and con.
“I’m a scientist,” he said, “and so I have an open mind, both ways. I’m just trying to help get at the truth.”
The initial spark for Bauer was a chance encounter with a book by Tim Dinsdale, described as the only person ever to capture the Loch Ness Monster on film. You’ve probably seen a famous still photograph from that footage, a grainy image of what appear to be eel-like loops protruding from the water of the Loch.
Naturally, that photo has come under withering fire from debunkers. It’s a boat, it’s a sturgeon, it’s an imperfection in the film.
“I took a year’s sabbatical in 1972,” Bauer said, “to study at the University of Cambridge in England. Naturally, I took a side trip to Loch Ness, Dinsdale happened to be there, and I met him.”
Bauer leans toward the theory that the Loch Ness Monster (or monsters) is a prehistoric creature that somehow became landlocked when the Ice Age closed off Loch Ness’ former connection to the ocean.
“There is another body of water called Loch Morar, also near the ocean, and there are legends surrounding creatures there, too,” Bauer said.
If you’re picturing Loch Ness as a small body of water, think again. This is no glorified farm pond.
“It’s 700 feet deep at one point,” Bauer said.
Nor is it surrounded by Loch Ness Monster tourist attractions.
“There aren’t any summer cottages and only a few hotels,” Bauer said. “The local planning committee is very conservative, and they want to keep the place pretty much like it’s always been. You can buy a Nessie doll in some stores, but that’s about it.”
Obviously, there are Nessie questions with no current answers. Since there have been sightings since the 1930s, the creature either has a very long life span or it has reproduced. And if one of the beasts has died, why was no carcass ever found?
On the other hand, Bauer said, no one has been able to explain certain sonar findings that appear to show large objects in motion.
For all its size and presumably carnivorous diet, Nessie has never tried to eat one of its human neighbors, or even a tourist. Rather, the beast seems reclusive and shy, appearing only by chance and disappearing just as quickly.
Or else this is all a hoax. Like any true scientist, Henry Bauer just seems to be enjoying the puzzle.
“I guess you’d say I’m into oddball science,” he said with a chuckle.
The itinerary for the May 7 event at Mariner’s Landing also includes representatives from the UFO Club of Virginia Beach and Virginia MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network), a man who claims to have been abducted by aliens, a licensed social worker who has counseled individuals who claim to have been abducted, and Phil Reynolds, an expert on the Mothman Mystery (among other things, a movie starring Richard Gere) from West Virginia.
The cost is $49 for the day, with lunch, $69 with lunch and dinner included. And you don’t have to be a believer in any of this, just interested.Darrell Laurant
The News & Advance