In 1934, Dr Robert Kenneth Wilson claimed he was looking at the loch when he saw something in the water. He grabbed his camera and snapped five photos. After the film was developed, only two exposures were clear. The first photo shows what was claimed to be a small head and back. The second one, a blurry image, attracted little publicity because it was difficult to interpret what was depicted. The photograph was published in the Daily Mail on 21st April 1934.
The photograph became famous the world over for being the first clear photograph of the monster and, of course, the Daily Mail had found it.
The photograph was accused of being a fake in the Sunday Telegraph on 7th December 1975. Dr Wilson’s refusal to have his name associated with the photograph led to it being called “Surgeon’s Photograph”. The strangely small ripples on the photo fit the size and circular pattern of small ripples as opposed to large waves when photographed up close. Analysis of the original uncropped image raised further doubt.
In 1979 it was claimed to be a picture of an elephant. Other sceptics in the 1980s argued the photo was that of an otter or a diving bird.
In 1993, the makers of Discovery Communications’ documentary Loch Ness Discovered analysed the uncropped image and found a white object was visible in every version of the photo, implying it was on the negative. It was believed to be the cause of the ripples, as if the object was being towed, though it could not be ruled out as a blemish on the negative.
Finally, in 1994, Christian Spurling confessed to taking the fake photographs. Essentially, it was a toy submarine bought from Woolworths with a head and neck made of plastic, built by Christian Spurling who was the son-in-law of Marmaduke Wetherell, the big game hunter who had been publicly ridiculed in the Daily Mail. Spurling claimed that to get revenge, Marmaduke Wetherell committed the hoax, with the help of Chris Spurling (a sculpture specialist), his son Ian Marmaduke, who bought the material for the fake, and Maurice Chambers (an insurance agent), who asked surgeon Dr Wilson to offer the pictures to the Daily Mail to embarrass the newspaper for having ridiculed Marmaduke Wetherell.
For more than 60 years, Marmaduke Wetherell and his friends had the last laugh on the Daily Mail for ridiculing him for the Loch Ness Monster’s footprint. Every time that photograph was published, or shown on television, they must have had a quiet little laugh to themselves. Furthermore, we think that is a pretty cool way of getting your own back!