The Surgeon's Photograph
19th April 1934

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The Surgeon's Photograph

The Surgeon's Photograph

The Surgeon's Photograph as normally presented - heavily cropped

Possibly the single most iconic photograph of the Loch Ness Monster - and the image that has probably done more to cement the image of a long-necked creature in the public imagination - the "surgeon's photograph" has long been a source of controversy. While few now would continue to cleave to its authenticity, it remains indelibly linked with the mystery of the loch.

The photograph was taken during the first flurry of monster mania in 1934. The Daily Mail (then as now given to the sensational) had hired a famed hunter - Marmaduke Wetherell - to track down the monster. His quest yielded sensational results within just a few weeks, when he discovered enormous footprints leading into the loch. More sensationally still, they were revealed to be those of a hippopotamus - whose dried and stuffed feet were commonly used as ornamental umbrella stands.

Embarrassed, the big game hunter slunk away from the limelight - but as events would later reveal, he did not end his involvement with the monster.

It was in April 1934 that this famous photograph surfaced. Taken by a respected London surgeon - Colonel Robert Wilson - the photo became an overnight sensation. Immediately, scepticism abounded in some quarters, but with the surgeon himself remaining taciturn the image stood alone.

Finally in 1984 on the 50th anniversary of the photo Stewart Campbell carried out analysis (published in the British Journal of Photography) and determined that the object was mere inches high - hardly the vast submarine creature claimed. Campbell assumed that the image was either the tail of an otter or a marine bird. In fact, the uncropped image (see under the 'images' tab) which was rarely shown served to make the creature appear much larger than in the classic cropped version favoured by the press.

In 1994 however, these assumptions were proven to be false. The truth was finally revealed by Colonel Wilson's 90 year old step-son who told how the Colonel, in tandem with none other than Marmaduke Wetherell, had approached him to make a 'serpent' that could be attached to a toy submarine - the idea being to gain vicarious 'revenge' on the press for unmasking his previous hoax. Wilson's role was to act as an impeccable front for the hoax.

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Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 9th October 2013 | © Weird Island 2010-2019
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