- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2000

BLACKSBURG, Va. Henry Bauer watched the murky waters of Loch Ness from his usual spot again this summer.

Binoculars at the ready, Mr. Bauer sat at a picnic table high on a steep hill in Scotland above Urquhart Bay near the cottage he rents for two weeks each year.

The former dean of Virginia Tech's College of Arts and Sciences is well-known for his "constructive criticism" of policies at Virginia Tech and other institutions of higher learning. The retired chemistry professor speaks out against political correctness, affirmative action, big-time college football and administrators, whom he has called "self-serving, spineless, convictionless lackeys."

Loch Ness is a long way from all that. Although higher-education issues might have popped into his head once in a while, he also got a chance to relax, read and watch the water.

He was watching for a dark hump to break the surface or maybe for a reptilian head to come up for air waiting to meet a creature he has sought for almost 30 years.

In his book "The Enigma of Loch Ness: Making Sense of a Mystery," he tried to take a neutral stance as he explored the scientific controversy.

Mr. Bauer's not really neutral, though. He believes in the Loch Ness monster.

Back in Blacksburg, Mr. Bauer says this year's trip, like the 20 or so before it, ended without a monster sighting, but he doesn't seem too upset.

He's already planning for next year. Because he has mostly retired from Tech, he and his wife will be able to go in the fall instead of summer for a change.

If nothing else, it makes for a nice, relaxing vacation, he says. "We've come to really enjoy just being there."

Far from being surrounded by monster hunters, he says, the 22-mile by 1-mile loch is very rural and mostly deserted.

"When I'm there I find it much harder to believe that they're real animals than when I'm sitting here, because it's such an ordinary scene."

He has had some heart-stopping false alarms.

Once he actually saw a head pop above water and quickly disappear, but he thinks that was just a seal. Another mysterious sighting may have been just a family of ducks in the distance.

He admits that the monster might not exist, but he still maintains faith despite disappointments.

"I think I've got a chance, but it's not a very big chance," he says. "I still compare going over there to buying a lottery ticket. If you don't go over there, you won't see it; that's for sure."

Mr. Bauer says he believes there is a breeding population of some sort of creature in Loch Ness but that there's no good explanation of exactly what the creature is. Like many, he thinks it may be similar to a plesiosaur, a flippered, long-necked dinosaur that, like other dinosaurs, is believed to have been extinct for millions of years.

"There are all sorts of reasons why a thing like that cannot exist," he says, which is what makes the mystery so interesting.

Mr. Bauer bases his beliefs on a film taken by Tim Dinsdale in 1960 from about a mile away. Some say the film, which often is viewed frame-by-frame and greatly enlarged, shows a boat. Others, like Mr. Bauer, see something more.

"You see this thing moving away from you," Mr. Bauer says, "a black triangular hump."

He met Mr. Dinsdale in the early '70s and feels certain the man would not have faked the film. He calls it an "unassailable bit of evidence."

Mr. Bauer admits he has an affinity for unorthodox ideas, whether they're about monsters or college administrators.

"I guess I am kind of naturally contrary," he says.

He speculates that his anti-authority attitude might have developed in childhood. He was a Jewish schoolboy in Austria when the Nazis took over. His family escaped to Australia, but not before he saw firsthand the damage caused when the mainstream accepts one idea and differing viewpoints are stomped out.

"I think you can make a pretty good case that it's not worth just accepting whatever is the standard," he says.

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