April 21, 2014

80th Anniversary of the Surgeon’s Photograph

April 21, 1934 was the day that the most famous alleged photo of the Loch Ness Monster, the “Surgeon’s Photo”, was unleashed upon the world by the news media, creating a sensation that continues down to the present day. Conflicting reports give the date the photograph was actually taken as either April 1 or April 19th, though most researchers believe the 19th to be accurate. A London gynecologist and RAF soldier, Lt. Col. R.K. Wilson, claimed to have taken two photographs with a quarter plate camera, somewhere in the vicinity of Altsaigh Tea House on Loch Ness. Thought by many (some still) to be prima facie evidence for something resembling a plesiosaur living in Loch Ness, 1994 brought strong allegations that the object in the photo was in fact a toy submarine fitted with a plastic wood head and neck. The convoluted hoax claim is dealt with in detail in Alistair Boyd and David Martin’s 1999 book NESSIE: THE SURGEON’S PHOTO EXPOSED. Compelling counter arguments are to be found in the writings of New Jersey Author/journalist/cryptozoologist Richard Smith and in Karl Shuker’s IN SEARCH OF PREHISTORIC SURVIVORS (1995). Others simply believe it is a known animal photographed at an unusual angle. There are historically two photographs (both cropped images above). An uncropped version of the first photo still survives. An interesting exploration of the validity of the “Surgeon’s Photo” can be seen in the PBS documentary NOVA: THE BEAST OF LOCH NESS (1999):

Scott Mardis About Scott Mardis
Scott Mardis has been an active field investigator of the Lake Champlain “Monster” since 1992. He is a former sustaining member of the defunct International Society of Cryptozoology and a former volunteer worker in the Vertebrate Paleontology Dept. of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences (1990-1992). He co-authored a scientific abstract about the Lake Champlain hydrophone sounds for the Acoustical Society of America in 2010. He currently lives in Bradenton, Florida.

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