Saturday 31 July 2010

The Surgeon's Photographs

Any one that is familiar with the subject of the Loch Ness Monster will know about the "Surgeon's Photograph" taken in April 1934 by Kenneth Wilson. In fact, the image this blog uses is an artist's impression of what may have been seen that day.

Or so it would seem to be Nessie but since the publication of "Nessie: The Surgeon's Photograph Exposed" in the 1990s by David Martin and Alastair Boyd everyone seems to have accepted it is a hoax and moved on.

As good a piece of investigative journalism as it is, some questions still nag in my mind and we will visit these as this blog progresses. But today I wish to focus on the second less well known picture associated with this event. The picture is reproduced below.

Now in the expose book this photograph is mentioned in a little detail. The story is that Wilson took four exposures to Ogston's the Chemist in Inverness for development. Two plates showed something and the others did not. The Daily Mail was offered both but bought only the first for publication. The second plate was not collected by Wilson and Mr. Morrison the chemist allegedly destroyed it but kept a print in his wallet for 20 years until it was published by Constance Whyte in her "More Than a Legend" book in 1957. It also seems that even the print is now lost from Whyte's collection and we do not even know what the original uncropped image looks like and any speculation about what is in that uncropped image remain only speculation which can be interpreted either way according to one's bias so I will say nothing further on that.

There are two things that need to be answered in my opinion. The first is the fact that Wilson took the undeveloped plates at all to be developed by a chemist who was not in on the alleged plot (the book makes no allegation on this point). Logic would dictate that to make sure the whole elaborate plot was successfully recorded on the negative, the development process also had to be done covertly so as to make sure the image was just right. It does not make sense to trust the final stage of the hoax to a third party who cannot be trusted. This leaves a question mark on the alleged modus operandi of the hoaxers. Furthermore, we are told that Wetherell destroyed the model after taking the pictures with no recourse to taking them again if the plates did not turn out well by their untrusted third party chemist!

Secondly, and more importantly, is the way the book treats the second photograph. It is summarily dismissed as having nothing to do with the first photograph, looks nothing like the first "creature" and the wave formation looks different and so on.

But one senses that the book struggles a bit here and an imaginary lawyer defending the Surgeon's Photo would have a field day with this. After all, the natural question to ask is "What did Christian Spurling say about the second photo?". Readers may recall that Christian Spurling was the main character in the expose book who confessed that the whole thing was a hoax he took part in with his step-father Marmaduke Wetherell.

Okay, so Alastair Boyd and David Martin would have asked him about the second photograph. It is unthinkable that they would not have asked him about it in their five hour visit. They knew the second photograph was part of the story and it is a certainty they asked about it. What does the book say that Spurling said about the second photograph? The answer is not a word. If Spurling had said it was a fake too then the authors would certainly have mentioned it in their dismissal of it.

They do not and I put it to you, readers, that the reason Spurling is not quoted as saying it was a fake was because he knew nothing about it. But he was involved in the plot - how could he not have known about it if he was the one who made the fake model? After all, it was one of the four negatives submitted by Wilson for development. How did it come to appear on the plates when the toy submarine with a fake head and neck on top clearly could only produce the first more famous picture? Did the plotters produce a second fake monster in the act of submerging? That is the main question. If Spurling's story is correct, there should be no second photograph so we have a slight conundrum here.

Until we can get to the bottom of the story of the second photograph, I will accept Alastair Boyd has got it right ... but I still have this nagging feeling!

We'll visit this famous story again in later blogs.