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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 30th June 2001
Issue No 238

A Case of the Shakes?

Decades of argument about whether Loch Ness is inhabited by a dinosaur like monster have been put in doubt by a new theory advanced by Dr Luigi Piccardi of the Centro di Studio dell' Appennino e delle Catene Perimediterranee in Florence.

The first record of the monster in the seventh century was inspired by an earthquake, according to Dr Piccardi, a geologist who specialises in seeking links between myths and geological phenomena. He argues that the most convincing of the many thousands of recent sightings agree on few details except that the monster creates a huge splash and commotion in the loch similar to the wake of an earth tremor. Dr Piccardi presented his theory in Edinburgh at Earth System Processes, a meeting organised by the Geological Society of London and the Geological Society of America. The scientist, who believes studies should be conducted to link seismic activity with unusual water movements in the loch, has not yet discussed his paper, Seismotectonic origins of the monster of Loch Ness, with Nessie hunters. He admitted that he will be relieved if they merely listen and don't become Piccardi hunters. It is no coincidence that Loch Ness is positioned directly over the fault zone of the most seismic sector of the Great Glen Fault, the major active fault in Scotland, said Dr Piccardi. Still active, the fault was responsible for a major quake as recently as 1901. And a huge earthquake in Lisbon in 1755 triggered a small tidal wave in the loch when the fault channelled its energy, he said. The first recorded mention of the monster appeared in the seventh century in Adomnan's Life of St Columba, the saint who converted the northern Picts. The Loch Ness Monster is thought to derive from a primitive cult of water horse, sacred to the Picts. St Columba chased off the ferocious monster on the loch by forming the saving sign of the cross in the air. He said that the Picts' beast was not their creation but originated from the hippocampus of Greek mythology (hippos, horse, kampos, sea monster), the sea horses that drew the chariot of Poseidon, the god of earthquakes. "They called Poseidon the earth shaker," said Dr Piccardi. "Loch Ness is exactly on the fault zone. When there are small shocks, it can create a commotion on the water surface. Along the fault there can be gas emmissions, which can create large bubbles on the surface," he said. "There are many surface effects which can be linked to the activity of the fault." There have been more than three and a half thousand Nessie sightings. Of those, some are due to natural explanations, others are due to hoaxers. If these are excluded to leave relatively few reliable accounts, what is usually described is a violent commotion or anomalous wave, and the beast is inferred as the cause. Few describe Nessie, and if they do details do not match, Dr Piccardi added. The first locally recorded sighting was in 1868, which spoke of a huge fish. But the phenomenon did not really take off until 1933 when Mr and Mrs Mackay reported seeing a massive creature disporting itself in the loch for over a minute. The following year the first "photograph" of the creature was taken.

Nessie says....   Nessie says...."Och this Dr Piccardi disnae ken whit he's talking aboot. The bubbles and commotion in the loch is me having my bath and scrubbin' my back and the noise that's heard is me singing while I wash. Daft man."

Helpline Launched

A Highland animal hospital is coming to the rescue of wildlife with a new emergency helpline. Skye Environmental Centre's animal hospital, at Broadford, has printed a useful postcard-sized information card, with two emergency numbers and a step by step wildlife advice code on it. The six point code explains what to do if people come across an injured or orphaned bird or animal, namely seek advice from the centre or the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. While it encourages a caring attitude, it also warns of the pitfalls of interfering with nature too much. Even the most animal friendly person can come between a parent and baby, sometimes with tragic consequences. And even the cuddliest seal can inflict a sharp bite on an unwanted helper, possibly leading to the little known "seal finger" disease, which can hospitalise the victim. The cards are to be distributed to libraries, post offices and tourist information centres throughout the Highlands, so that visitors and locals alike will have this important information at their fingertips. Head of operations Paul Yoxon said: "The aim of the cards is to make it known in the Highlands and Islands that there is a facility that can take in injured animals and give advice."

Historic Castle Opens Up.

A popular tourist attraction, known as the most romantic castle in the Highlands, has opened up. Cawdor Castle, between Inverness and Nairn is now open seven days a week for the season. The castle, which dates from the late 14th century, was built as a private fortress by the Thane of Cawdor and features in Shakespeare's play, Macbeth. Staff say they have already been inundated with inquiries about opening times. Cawdor Estate chairman, the Dowager Countess of Cawdor, said: "Cawdor now has three gardens open to the public. "One is the 17th century walled garden, with a paradise garden, orchard and knot garden. The flower garden has a Victorian feel about it, where plants are chosen out of affection rather than affectation. "The wild garden on the banks of the Cawdor burn is particularly beautiful in the spring, with a good collection of rhododendrons." She added: "Our redesigned and enlarged gift shop is well known for the extensive range of goods made specifically for Cawdor Castle. "The bookshop caters for children and scholars and has a large selection of Scottish books. "The new wool shop has a good range of designer knitwear, including cashmere and children's clothing."

Stone Age Kitchens Uncovered

Fresh evidence has come to light on the way of life for Stone Age man in the Inverness area with the discovery of at least 35 cooking pits, some of which are about 4000 years old. The pits, which are between Slackbuie and the Stratherrick Road roundabout, were discovered by an archaeologist working alongside the contractors building the next stage of the Southern Distributor Road. Initially, five egg shaped depressions were discovered. Measuring two metres by one metre and about 30cms deep, they are mainly aligned in a north west to south east direction. The pits, thought to date back to 2000 BC, were found to contain charcoal-rich soil and stones cracked by heat, indicating that they were once part of a cooking area. As excavation work continued, about 30 smaller pits - probably from a latter date - were uncovered to the east of Inverness Royal Academy. John Wood, Highland Council's senior archaeologist, who has studied a preliminary report on the find, said the older pits would be fairly contemporary with a chambered cairn near Culduthel Farm Cottages. "To get a scattering of little pits like these over a small area is quite unusual," he said. The prehistoric cooks would possibly have heated stones on a fire in the pit and then poured in water creating a large amount of steam. The meat may then have been added to the pit to cook. A site record will be sent to the Royal Commission of Ancient Monuments in Edinburgh for its archives. Historic Scotland, along with Highland Council, will also receive copies. Apart from the pits, a few artefacts have been found, including flint flakes and possible shards of pottery.

Good Progress

A tiny nine week old otter cub who was rescued by a pet dog after being separated from his mother is making a good recovery. The cub, who has been named Rhynie, was taken to an international otter sanctuary on Skye, to recover from his ordeal. Rhynie was discovered by Dave and Christine Hayes in an area near their home, at Huntly, when their dog found him while out for a run. The couple waited and watched to see if the otter's mother would return, but when it became clear she was not coming back, they took him indoors. Mr and Mrs Hayes met a representative from the International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) and Rhynie was taken to the fund's headquarters at Broadford, where he will be monitored over the next year before being released back into the wild where he was found. IOSF director Grace Yoxon, who has been carefully watching Rhynie's progress, said: "He is doing very well and has progressed from substitute milk to fish soup. The next stage will be to feed him small pieces of fish. He has been kept indoors at the moment, but eventually we'll move him out to an outdoor pen, away from people so he can be kept wild and not tamed by human contact. He will be released after a year, because that is the amount of time they spend with their mother's anyway." She added: "We monitor them initially after their release, but you really have to let them get on with things." The IOSF, started in 1993, has otter conservation and rehabilitation projects in operation in places as far away as Argentina.

Home of Golf Challenge

St Andrews is facing a challenge for its title as the Home of Golf. The first recognised rules of golf were written in the Edinburgh suburb of Leith 10 years before St Andrews had a golf club. The rule book was drawn up at Leith Links in 1744 by the Gentlemen Golfers of Edinburgh, now the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, based at Muirfield. The document, containing 13 rules, is held in the National Library of Scotland and copies hang on the walls of Muirfield. The Society of St Andrews Golfers was formed in 1754, and became the Royal and Ancient Golf Club a full 80 years later. St Andrews took over responsibility for the rules and has long been recognised and marketed as the official home of golf. But now business and tourism leaders in Leith plan to promote Leith as the birthplace of golf. They hope the move will attract thousands of tourists to Leith when the Open comes to Muirfield next year. But golf officials in St Andrews have warned that the claim would lead to confusion among foreign visitors. The Leith Initiative for Tourism hope to establish a permanent exhibition and recreate ane of the early fairways which existed on the Leith Links, as well as an old putting green.

Sign Off

Staff at Moray Firth Radio in Inverness recently waved goodbye to their longest serving worker. Although Donnie Aird will not be severing all links with the station he will be taking a back seat in the future. It is the end of an era for MFR as Donnie managed to keep the station's engineering department going on a shoestring budget. MFR is now prospering under the umbrella of the Scottish Radio Holdings group, which runs stations all over Scotland. Mr Aird is the first person who has been at MFR since day one to retire. He explained: "I have been involved since 1979. I remember the day the building wad opened in 1982. "It was a dream come true for all the people involved in the early stages. "Many people said it would never work but they have been proved wrong." Mr Aird added: "I have seen a few changes over the years. "I see a lot of people on national TV and hear them on the radio and it makes me proud to think that they all started here. "I am not retiring completely but I will be coming in for a couple of days a week in future." Mr Aird said that one of his favourite stories over the years was the night that MFR had a power cut which switched off the power and the back-up generator was also down. He said: "I wired up two car batteries which kept the station on air. "Candles were lit in the studio and we had to call one of the directors to play tunes on his guitar."

Charity Event

Napoleon and Beethoven were given the VIP treatment when they paid a visit to the SSPCA's new Inverness Animal Welfare Centre on the outskirts of Inverness. The two impressively named cocker spaniels, together with springer spaniel pal Lucy, were there with owner Michelle MacRae to hand over a 279 cheque to thank the animal charity for looking after them. All three of Michelle's spaniels are rescue dogs and she was delighted to be able to do something to support the new centre at the former Inshes Kennels site.

Political Roundup

Top Award for Holyrood Rejects

Architects rejected in the contest to build the Scottish Parliament have won an award for building of the year. Michael Wilford and Partners were honoured for their Lowry Arts Centre in Salford Greater Manchester. The building, opened last summer, was completed on time and within budget. The Holyrood Parliament, on the other hand, is behind schedule and the cost is set to reach nearly six times the original estimate. Michael Wilford and Partners were passed over to build the Parliament in favour of Catalan designer Enric Miralles, who has since died. SNP MSP Margo MacDonald said: "I was never happy with the so called competition to select the architects for Holyrood. "The rejection of firms such as Michael Wilford who have just proved their expertise, simply reminds me of those concerns."

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Showers am. Sunny spells increasing pm. Winds fresh SW-W. Temperature 15c to 21c.
Saturday Night
Dry clear periods then cloudy with mist/rain. Winds mod/fresh SW-W. Temperature 9c to 13c.
Mainly cloudy skies with some bright spells and either a few showers or patches of rain, blustery in the W.
Early rain followed by blustery showers. Becoming brighter as the day goes on. Fresh SW'ly winds.

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This is Caledonia ( Caley for short ) A Ness-Scape family member and mascot. She is a White German Shepherd. Caley has decided to take over the editing of Nessie's Loch Ness Times, and she's sure she'll make a good job of it. What do you think?

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