80th Anniversary of the Surgeon’s Photograph

Posted by: Scott Mardis on April 21st, 2014

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.

2 Responses to “80th Anniversary of the Surgeon’s Photograph”

  1. Goodfoot responds:

    Since an analysis some years ago demonstrated the image of “Nessie” found some transparency to the image itself, I’ve paid little mind to it. I would be interested in an article on how it would have been faked, but none have been forthcoming.

    To me, it’s an interesting curiosity, and nothing more.

  2. John Kirk responds:

    I would hardly say Martin and Boyd’s book is convoluted. The authors have laid out clearly and concisely how the event was perpetrated. Spurling was forthright and his comments merely lend support to Ian Wetherell’s statements in 1975 that this was the group behind the fabrication of the Surgeon’s photo.

    It is always overlooked by Surgeon’s photo supporters that as far back as 1969 and I believe it is in Ronald Binns’ book, that R. K. WIlson’s own son stated that his father was in on a hoax. Boyd and Martin’s account of events is accurate, the trail led them to find more and more proof of the conspiracy to get back at the Daily Mail after the abandonment of Wetherell after the spoor fiasco.

    The old saw that there is the second photo to enter into evidence is immaterial. There is no evidence whatsoever it was even shot at Loch Ness, the water conditions are entirely different as is the shape of the “head” in the second image. There is not one compelling argument against the evidence adduced by Boyd and Martin that I have ever seen. I doubt if any will be found as this has all the hallmarks of an open-and-shut case.

    As a proud Scot, nothing would please me more than to have the Loch Ness monster proven, but even I – whose ancestors are from the southern highlands -have run out of patience with the endless stream of hoaxes, poor science and lack of solid proof for an animal I would love to see exist – if only for purely Scottish reasons.

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