Robert Rines died yesterday. Rines was a classic type, the intelligent, oddball inventor seized by a singular dream that came to run roughshod over the rest of his life. So why was Rines famous? Because his white whale was the Loch Ness Monster.
“There are few of us willing to risk our reputations on something as improbable as this, judged with such ridicule,” he told Boston Magazine in 1998. “Scientists think there are other things to do for fame and fortune than something this crazy. So we do it quietly as a private venture and don’t have to hear that we’re ‘crazy people chasing monsters and wasting public funds.’ “
I never met Rines, but I have been inspired by a disciple of his, Ivan Mackerle, a Czech crytozoologist whom I profiled several years ago. (Read it.) Mackerle met Rines in the 1970s at Loch Ness, after receiving rare permission to go to Scotland from the Czechoslovak government. Mackerle was poor and young; he and his friends rigged a boat of tubing and rubber.
Mackerle then returned to Prague and spent his time as a freelancer, lecturing about his trip to Loch Ness and this man, Rob Rines, who was devoting fantastic equipment to the search for Nessie. Mackerle devoted the rest of his life to cryptozoology, despite the stubborn refusal of monsters to exist. Such dedication in the face of constant, unrelenting failure? Pure romance.