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little-known stories behind well-known inventions"
Can this inventor prove that the Loch Ness Monster does -- or
doesn't -- exist
"Why would you want to go to
Loch Ness? It's just a big lagoon."
-- skeptical British locals
By Paul Niemann
I have a business partner named Joanne Hayes-Rines. She
is the editor and publisher of the magazine for inventors,
Inventors' Digest. Over the course of our six-year working
relationship, she has told me bits and pieces of her husband's work
as a pioneering inventor.
But it wasn't until after I saw a
segment on The History Channel showing a 1972 interview with Dr.
Robert Rines that I decided to find out more about his work as an
While serving as a lieutenant in Saipan during World War II,
Rines invented imaging radar in order to give the soldiers notice of
incoming enemy aircraft so they could defend themselves. After the
war, he received his law degree and later completed a Ph.D. thesis
in China, where he helped improve their patent system.
His early work with sonar ultimately led to the development of
the modern sonogram as well as the technology that was used in
finding the Titanic and the Bismarck. Rines was inducted into the
National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1994, and today he holds more
than 60 patents.
What does all this have to do with the title of this story --
something about the Loch Ness Monster?
The History Channel interview with Rines mentioned that he is one
of the world's foremost experts on the Loch Ness Monster. On June
23, 1972, Rines and three of his colleagues saw the back of the
monster for about 15 minutes. Later that summer, he and his team
captured the image of a flipper with an underwater still camera that
snapped pictures every 45 seconds.
When I backpacked around Europe in the fall of 1988, I had only
enough time and money to do one of two things on my last day in
England -- either visit Stonehenge or Loch Ness. When I asked some
of the locals for suggestions, half of them remarked, "Why would you
want to go to Stonehenge? It's just a bunch of big rocks," while the
other people said, "Why would you want to go to Loch Ness? It's just
a big lagoon." Armed with such valuable insights from the locals, I
decided that my time and few remaining tourist dollars would be
better spent at Stonehenge than searching for Nessie, because I knew
I could count on seeing a bunch of big rocks.
[to top of second column]
The Nessie.co.uk website says that Sir Peter Scott, who served as
chairman of the World Wildlife Fund, claimed that a combination of
underwater pictures and earlier film records convinced him that
large animals exist in Loch Ness. He gave them the scientific name
of Nessiteras rhombopteryx in order for them to be protected under
British laws. Translated, the name means "the wonder of Ness with
the diamond-shaped fin," which was a reference to the underwater
photograph that Rines and his team took in 1972. Later it was
discovered by doubters that the letters in "Nessiteras rhombopteryx"
can be rearranged to spell "monster hoax by Sir Peter S," but Rines
countered that the letters can also be rearranged to spell "Yes,
both pix are Monsters R."
We might never know if Nessie has ever existed, but it probably
won't be proven that the giant monster has never existed. The legend
of the Loch Ness Monster will always have skeptics unless the actual
monster is captured or the lake is drained.
So how does Rines respond to the skeptics who doubt his claim?
He just smiles.
Paul Niemann may be reached at
Copyright Paul Niemann 2006