"N"



Steuart Campbell. The Loch Ness Monster: The Evidence. Aquarian, 1986.


This title continues the ASSAP/Aquarian 'Evidence for' series by tackling one of the most difficult subjects. Not that the evidence itself is so difficult to assess in comparison to such subjects as life after death it's a doddle , But rather that the subject provokes such a wide range of responses, which often hinder the general public, at whom this book is aimed rather than the experienced Fortean, from taking It entirely seriously. At one extreme is the single-minded fanaticism of the monster-hunters camped for years on the banks of the loch: at the other is the popular image which incorporates 'Nessie' into a mish-mash of kilted haggises and Harry Lauder which seems to symbolise Scotland for many. This has made even the very name 'Loch Ness Monster' rather suspect to serious researchers, who tend to use the more generic 'lake monsters'. Campbell, in a search for a neutral label calls the phenomenon 'N', which certainly does away with any problems of definition.

Campbell stick strictly to an analysis of the evidence, allowing no personal interpretation until the final chapter, which is clearly labelled as such. He examines at evidence from eyewitnesses, photography (movie and still, above and below water), sonar and radar, as well as evidence from other lakes claiming similar denizens. As we would expect from this author the examination is hard, but fair. Data such as Doc Shiels' photograph, which has attracted some derision in other quarters because of the source from which It originated, is here looked at in exactly the same way as photographic evidence from any other source. Campbell is not very impressed by the Shiels photograph, but then he's not very impressed by any of the others either.

It is interesting to read a fuller account of the Rines underwater photographs, and be given the opportunity to compare the original photographs with the published versions which seem to have undergone several stages of manipulation. This book provides an overview of the widest range of evidence in the most compact format I think it would be possible to devise, and I would recommend it to anyone suffering from a surfeit of the kilted haggis school of Loch Ness reporting.

I must however take issue with a particular piece of unnecessary pedantry that the author imposes on us in his introduction. Besides calling' the monster 'N' (a shrewd move) he calls all lochs and lakes 'L'. This is because the habit of English writers calling Scottish lakes 'loch' is "sheer linguistic snobbery, exhibited by people pretending to know Gaelic. Since I write In English I shall use the English word for 'a large body of water entirely surrounded by land'. But then to avoid describing Loch Ness as 'Lake Ness' I shall abbreviate ... to 'N'"
This is sheer linguistic posturing. I am not a French writer, but I'll quite happily write about 'Champs Elysee' rather than 'The Elysian Fields'; or 'Rue Montparnasse' instead of 'Mount Parnassus Street', and risk accusations of snobbery. - John Rimmer. Magonia 23, July 1986.



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