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"The 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 in 1988

By Paul Niemann

[NOV. 2, 2006]  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 inventor.

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.

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The 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]

Paul Niemann may be reached at

Copyright Paul Niemann 2006

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