It seems wrong not to talk, at least briefly, about the latest lake monster picture that’s doing the rounds. It’s a poor-quality mobile phone photo of a humped object, taken in England’s Lake Windermere by Tom Pickles while he was kayaking as part of a team-building exercise. Here it is… (or, rather, here is the uncropped image… read on)…
Pickles described the object as “a giant dark brown snake with humps measuring three car lengths”, and regarded it as somewhat seal-like in skin texture but with a “completely abnormal” shape.
Apparently, it moved rapidly, with an undulating motion. Pickles wasn’t the only witness – it was also seen by his colleague Sarah Harrington. She described it as “like an enormous snake” (but, I think, only after a journalist asked her “Was it snake-like?”).
Since about 2006, Lake Windermere has produced about ten ‘lake monster’ sightings*: these have led to a sort of faux-tradition and the name Bownessie (after Bowness**, the town adjacent to the lake) has been invented for the supposed creature (the name ‘Winnie’ has been used as well). Virtually all of the ‘sightings’ have been of fairly mundane wakes and mystery waves encountered in the middle of the lake (one such image, by photographer Linden Adams, is shown below: no idea what it is). You can see most of these recounted on youtube: they’re variously indeterminate or possibly show diving birds. Witness Steve Burnip described a giant, eel-like animal with a distinct head. Burnip is a university lecturer, a fact always mentioned in media reports as we all know that university lecturers make better eyewitnesses than ordinary people. It’s always possible that he did see an eel, and in fact some sightings of this and other lake monsters could well be of large eels seen at the surface (without any obvious frame of reference, even an eel of a metre in length could look very large).
* There are rumours of sightings that go back much further, but there always are. Rumours, I mean.
** By curious coincidence, a body of water called Bowness Lagoon in Canada is also associated with a monster: a catfish-like or eel-like water creature apparently seen in 1942 (Newton 2005).
As usual with lake monster photos, there isn’t much we can say about the new photo. You can’t tell what it is: the wakes show it’s really moving, but there’s no reason to think it’s an animal. If it is an animal, it’s something totally new to science: there are no known animals, living or dead, that have four, tightly bunched dorsal humps. The bunched-together look of the four humps indicates that any sort of undulating movement, as reported by one of witnesses, would be unlikely. It’s been said that there’s no obvious indication that the photo is a photoshop mock-up – I’m not really sure how you can determine this, but I don’t think we need to seriously consider the idea of digital trickery. If you think that the image is a fake, then the far more likely possibility is that it represents an object that was photographed in the lake. It has a sort of rubbery look, so an inflated device of some sort would be most likely. The photo shown at the top could actually be a slightly cropped version, and it seems to be the one that’s getting used most widely. Here’s what might be the original, slightly larger version…
This larger version is interesting, because it includes something as far right: something we don’t see in the possibly cropped version…
What is that dark blob? I have no idea. You can see it (at even larger size) on the Sun’s coverage of the story. Note that the far right edge of the picture has a different pixel quality than the rest of the image. I have no idea what this might mean and would welcome your thoughts.
What have people in the cryptozoological community said about the photo so far? The most commonly encountered opinion (in my experience, at least) has been that it’s a fake, most likely something constructed from tyres or inner tubes. I don’t like accusing people of outright fakery, but this is obviously more likely than the idea that a morphologically novel species of new, large animal awaits discovery in an English lake.
At Cryptomundo, Loren Coleman has asked questions about Pickles and Harrington. He’d like to learn more about them, I think because he’d like some idea of how trustworthy they might be. While googling for Bownessie I was amused to find that the Windermere Lake Cruises company has offered an award to anyone who can get a good Bownessie photograph for 2011. Apparently, they’re not too impressed with Pickles’s new photo and might not be paying up.
For previous Tet Zoo articles on lake monsters, see…
- Really: photos of the Loch Ness monster
- The sad death of the Lake Khaiyr monster
- Best lake monster image ever: the Mansi photo
- Filming Migo, the monster of Lake Dakataua
- A ‘lake monster’ caught on film at Lake Champlain
- The Loch Ness monster seen on land
Ref – –
Newton, M. 2005. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology. McFarland & Company, Jefferson (N. Carolina) and London.