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Reflections on Tim Dinsdale's 1960 film. by Dick Raynor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Reflections on Tim Dinsdale's 1960 film.

23rd April 2010

A day, and a man, remembered.

 It is now ten years since this page was originally uploaded, and fifty years today since Tim Dinsdale took his film. In the intriguing story of the Loch Ness monster this film most significantly gave credibility to the search and the JARIC analysis gave official government recognition of "something", fifteen feet long and five feet wide, out there on the loch. It made investigation at Loch Ness respectable. 


                         Tim Dinsdale, self portrait, 23rd April 1960.

On April 23rd 2000, while I was out on the first cruise of the year for the new "Nessie Hunter", and attempting to photograph mergansers near the "Cobb Milepost", a few people may have heard the distant chimes of the clock of history.

It was exactly forty years since Tim Dinsdale took his famous film. As "Nessie Hunter" went on its maiden cruise, Hugh Rowand had, forty years earlier, just returned from the filming of the "comparison" sequences.

Much of what is happening at Loch Ness today stems directly from the events of 23rd April 1960.

There are still people here trying to discover the truth. We may be outnumbered, but we are still here!

Those of us who were privileged to work with him can imagine his comment and infectious laugh today..." Ha! Forty years? Was it really forty years ago? You know, apart from everything else, it has been tremendous fun, hasn't it?  Ha!"

It has, and he is missed by his friends. He should have been out on the loch with us today. Perhaps he was.

The photograph above was taken on the last day of his first expedition, 40 years ago today. I have scanned it from his first book "Loch Ness Monster", Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961, which cost me all my pocket money. I don't think he will mind.

Postscript, April 2002

When I first wrote this page I said "much of what is happening at Loch Ness today stems directly from the events of 23rd April 1960." Perhaps I should explain why this is so. In the late 1950's there were a few people in the scientific community, (notably Dr Denys Tucker, a leading authority on eels at the British Museum [Natural History]) who were making a  case for a thorough  scientific investigation at Loch Ness. It was in this environment that the new investigations began.

The first large-scale attempt of the 1960's, the "Oxford & Cambridge Expedition" led by Peter Baker, arrived at the loch at the end of June 1960, just two weeks after Tim's film had first been revealed in the Press and shown on the BBC "Panorama" programme on 13th June.  Following the showing of his film, interest in the subject grew, and early in 1962 the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau was set up. This was to act as a focus for investigative effort for the next ten years, drawing expertise from around the world, and giving logistical support to the first few years of work by the Academy of Applied Science, and also British investigations by the Loch Morar Survey and its precursor Morarscan.

When the baton was handed on to the Loch Ness and Morar Project, led by Adrian Shine, in the early 1970's, a continuity was maintained which persists to this day.  Photographs and records of the work were put on display at the Loch Ness Investigation headquarters at Achnahannet, which in 1972 attracted over 50,000 visitors to its wooden display hut - designed and built by Rip Hepple - and this obviously demonstrated the demand for information which now sustains two large visitor centres in Drumnadrochit, and a desire to get out on Loch Ness which sustains eight vessels providing boat trips and numerous boat hire companies.

Not a bad legacy.


Postscript October 2003

The development of new technologies has an interesting effect on "monster" sightings. The weaker the original material, the longer it survives. While some students of this subject prefer to analyse the eye-witness reports, attempting to divine new information from ancient texts, I prefer to study the objective evidence - the photographs, films and videotapes. Tim's film was taken over 40 years ago, and was studied using standard methods of the day. The JARIC Report published by the LNPIB was based on optical enlargement of the original 16mm film frames. Few people had access to video recording equipment, and we all relied on the JARIC Report as the source of our information. Times have changed, and the film has been shown frequently on television. In the 1980's Adrian Shine and others noticed some previously unseen detail in the film, when viewed in video form. In a review of Ronald Binns' 1983 book "The Loch Ness Mystery Solved", published in "Cryptozoology", Vol 4, 1985, he quoted Binns statement "(Dr Maurice) Burton was undoubtedly wrong in identifying the mystery object in Dinsdale's film as a local fishing boat" , and then adds the comment "A little contrast adjustment as the "wake" passes across the field of view is all that is required to determine whether Burton was right".


Adrian Shine and other members of the Loch Ness & Morar Project had noticed a pale blob, recurring in many frames, consistent with the position a helmsman would take up when in a typical angler's boat. If the film did show the wake of a submerged object, then there should be no object consistently visible 3 or 4 feet above the water surface, about 10 feet behind the head of the wake. This persuaded him that the object filmed had indeed been a boat. The video was viewed on a normal domestic television, and photographs were taken of the screen with the vcr paused. See also the additional comments at the foot of the page.

He has kindly supplied me with three screen shots, and given permission for me to reproduce them here. I have overlaid a white "V" pointing down to the blob in each of the frames, and invite readers to come to their own conclusions.

As mentioned above, JARIC's study of the film was made using optical enlargement, but the resulting image was viewed using the "Mark I eyeball", and contrast variation is not one of its features. At the time, neither Tim Dinsdale, nor JARIC, nor anyone else involved in studying Loch Ness phenomena could have been expected to notice this blob. Today, however, no serious student should miss it.

This observation in no way detracts from Tim's tremendous contribution to the Loch Ness monster story. He was loved and respected by all who knew him, and inspired many, myself included, to follow his guiding principle - the search for the Truth.


Another postscript, 23rd April 2010

  • It is now ten years since this page was originally uploaded, and fifty years today since Tim took his film. In the intriguing story of the Loch Ness monster this film most significantly gave credibility to the search and the JARIC analysis gave official government recognition of "something", fifteen feet long and five feet wide, out there on the loch. It made investigation at Loch Ness respectable. 



Additional processing of frames using Image Stacking


The main problems facing researchers wishing to study the film are the slight softness of the "monster" sequence when compared to the comparison film of the boat taken later the same day, and the graininess of the film image itself. I have long felt that the slight lack of sharpness could be explained if Tim had filmed the object through the glass of the passenger side window, but there was little that could be done about the bigger problem - the graininess of the film itself.

But now there is. 

First it is important to understand that the "grain" in the film is caused by the crystalline structure of the light-sensitive emulsion, and it is not usually a problem unless we wish to enlarge single frames. The grain is random, it is different on each frame, and we don't normally see it. However, when we enlarge a small part of the film to a great degree the details we are hoping to see are about the same size as the random "grain" images, so details are hidden.  This is where the magic of Image Stacking can help.

Remember that the grain in each image is random, but "real things" in the image will be in the same place (more or less) in successive frames of a  movie film. The grain is termed "noise",  the real things are termed "signal", and Image Stacking improves the signal to noise ratio - the "SNR". In its modern, digital, process it is done like this: A number of consecutive frames are scanned into a computer and then laid on top of each other in a program like Adobe Photoshop, with each frame made almost completely transparent. These images are assembled in "register", which means some object clearly visible is always in the same place in the new image. As more and more frames are "stacked" on top of each other the random film grain blends into a mid grey tone, but "real things" which are darker or lighter and present in all frames  will build up in intensity. It seems magical and it is, kind of.


When Adrian Shine performed an Image stacking experiment on some frames (over 100) of the Tim Dinsdale film the results were quite clear, and he went on to stack frames of the comparison boat sequence as a control experiment. The results,  shown below, are taken from his 2006 booklet titled "Loch Ness", ISBN  978-0-9553115-0-5  are reproduced here by permission of the author.


The pale object at the front of the boat is the licence disc, which is usually yellow or orange and so is often the brightest part of the boat. A similar disc on a similar boat is shown below - photo reproduced courtesy of Adrian Shine. At 9 a.m. the sun is in the south-east, directly behind Tim Dinsdale's filming location, and the licence disc would have been acting almost like a mirror.


Some Further Measurements of the 1960 Loch Ness film by Tim Dinsdale

Dick Raynor- 3rd July 2013


It will be remembered that it was the 1965 "Photographic Interpretation Report - Loch Ness",  produced by the Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre, which gave us the conclusion that the object in Tim's film was "probably animate". As mentioned above, it has been known for 25 years that their measurements were flawed by inaccurate height data for the camera site and inaccurate timings for the speed calculations.  Their conclusion that the object was "probably animate" was based on the fact that a non-planing boat hull around 14 feet long could not achieve their calculated speed of 10 mph, but tactfully avoided the problem of how an aquatic animal could do so on the surface with a substantial part of its body above the water, for a period of several minutes. In the pictures below I will attempt to demonstrate that the true speed of the object was within the achievable range of an angler's boat.


JARIC themselves point out that speed measurement of an object going almost directly away from the observation point is very imprecise, so I will not attempt it. Instead, I will use a portion of the film where the object is proceeding in a south-westerly direction with a section of recognisable shoreline behind it.  The frame numbers in my study will be different from those used by JARIC, but are consecutive.

Frame 831

In this frame the shoreline is visible, the object of interest is at right- centre, and the white blur at top left is a vehicle which passes through the film frame in just over three seconds. The spot height of the road level is marked on Ordnance Survey maps as 28 m above sea level. There was a wall or embankment about 1 metre high which can be seen on Google Street View, making the lowest visible part of the vehicle about 29m a.s.l., and the loch surface is usually about 16 m a.s.l.  This means that the visible height between the shoreline of the loch and the base of the vehicle is about 13 metres. After correcting the aspect ratio of the video image to the original 4:3 ratio I then found a section of the film which had no breaks for over 4 seconds and had clearly visible landmarks from which I could construct a scale bar - the yellow line in the photos. This bar is in the same geographic location in each of the five still frames, each spaced 25 video frames, or one second of time, apart. The scale bar length was chosen to span two clearly visible points on the shore, and its actual length at the range of the road from the camera - 1800 metres - is 55.5 metres. During the filming, the camera is moved to keep up with the moving object, but the scale bar stays "stuck to the background" so we can measure movement of the objects. The remaining four frames are shown below.


Frame 856


Frame 881


Frame 906


Frame 931

Readers are invited to make their own measurements and calculations. Mine are as follows:

From the base of the vehicle to the shore line is 86 pixels and is equivalent to 13 metres. The yellow line is 367 px in length, which is therefore 367/86 x 13 = 55.5m

The back of the vehicle travels 318 px  i.e. 318/367 x 55.5m = 48m in 3 seconds, = 16ms-1,  58 kph or 36 mph. JARIC calculated  39 mph.

The unknown object in the water travels  83 px  i.e. 83/367 x 55.5m = 12.6m in 4 seconds   = 3.14ms-1 BUT it is not as far away as the vehicle on the road. By my calculation it is 91 px below the shoreline and  so is at a distance of 1677 metres from the camera, and so its corrected speed is 3.15 x 1677/1800  = 2.9  ms-1, = 10.6 kph, = 6.6 mph.

 In paragraph 14 of their report, JARIC wrote "With small craft with 'non-planing' hulls, the maximum speed, regardless of propulsive power,  is limited by the waterline length e.g. the 14 ft boat with Seagull outboard at 6 1/2 to 7 mph is probably at or near its maximum possible speed.

Quite simply,  the object that was taken to be "not a boat" due only to its speed of 10 mph  now appears to have been travelling more slowly and within the range achievable by an anglers boat, and that must therefore become the most likely explanation.  The parts of the film used by JARIC in their speed calculations include breaks in the filming which were not noticed by them at the time.


But what of the boat used in the comparison filming? Below are two frames recorded 4 seconds apart and superimposed with the background images in register.

It travels  58 px i.e. 58/367 x 55.5 = 8.8m in 4 seconds = 2.2ms-1, BUT again  is not  as far away as the road, and rather closer to the shore than the earlier mystery object. I measure it to be 52 px below the shoreline and so at a range of 1718m.  This gives a corrected speed of 1718/1800 x 2.2 = 2.1  ms-1, = 7.6 kph ,=  4.7 mph.  JARIC gave it a speed of 6.5 mph but with no mention of the frames used as a basis  for the calculations. Subjectively, the comparison boat does not appear to be generating the same extensive wake as the earlier mystery object even taking into account the changed surface conditions. As a vessel approaches its "hull speed" it will be trying to climb its own bow wave and will appear to have a bow-up, stern-down attitude.  Mr Rowand's boat does not appear to show that, consistent with my calculated speed. The object in the earlier film would show a bows-up attitude if similarly ballasted.  Careful examination of the Loch Ness Project image stack shows a possible explanation - a second person near the bows of the boat. This would help keep the bows down while also creating a periodic splashing as described by the observer at the time.




Frames 1520 and 1620


Comparison boat (centre)  overlaid on mystery object  (right). Images taken from Tim Dinsdale's Loch Ness Monster, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961.



Above is a composite image I have made. Tim Dinsdale's exact filming location presently has no view of the loch due to the trees. This background photo was taken from Foyers Pier, directly below the original location. The view of the far shoreline will be nearly identical to the view from higher up the hill, but the foreground perspective - the water view - will be different and the loch surface takes up more of the picture area in the original film.  I do not claim  that the  film frame overlay is in the exact location of any particular sequence in  the 1960 filming, but in any case the camera was moved around  during the film. It is however to the same scale with the shoreline, road level and rock-face in the same locations. The large circle is the area viewed through Tim's 7 x 20 binoculars.

Supplementary material


Report on a Film taken by Tim Dinsdale




Some ten years ago Adrian Shine, F.R.G.S. circulated his own private paper discussing the content  of Tim Dinsdale's 1960 film to the technically literate community interested in the study of Loch Ness phenomena. I reproduce a link to it here - dinsdale paper 2003 V2.pdf

As numerous scientifically minded, clear thinking  individuals have concluded over the past 100 years, there are some interesting and perhaps unexplained phenomena being exhibited at Loch Ness. I expect that  more of them will ultimately be explained by physics than by zoology. DR.


Updated on 08 July 2013

Reflections on Tim Dinsdale's 1960 film. by Dick Raynor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at