Original Emmerichs Photos
Regular readers will know that last year Klaus Emmerichs and myself kept in regular phone contact to discuss the various details of his sighting - and photographing - of a thylacine in Tasmania on 3 February 2005. Some of our last communication was with regards to my inclusion of illustrations of his photographs in the article "In Search of Rare Carnivorous Marsupials: An Examination of the Evidence for Their Survival" published in Craig Heinselman's book "Elementum Bestia".
At that time - late 2006 - I knew Klaus was hoping to return to Australia for a second time since his now famous sighting, but was uncertain - for health reasons - whether he could make the trip. Nevertheless, he and Birgit Jansen did come back to Australia in February this year and headed to Tasmania in search of the thylacine one more time. I had heard from third parties that after their time in Tasmania the couple headed over to the mainland. I had not heard anything since 2006 and as weeks turned into months this year, I was beginning to wonder whether we'd ever contact each other again.
As it turns out, Klaus and Birgit were again circumnavigating the Australian mainland by road and to my surprise and delight I received a communique via Where Light Meets Dark a week ago reading:
"VERY URGENT!!! VERY URGENT !!! VERY URGENT!!!
Hallo Chris, we are in the next week in the near of your place. Please, we want to show you the original Photo. Give us your telefon- or mobilnumber to Birgits e-mail
Klaus Emmerichs and Birgit"
Having no mobile phone and only irregular internet access made communication difficult, even just this past week. However, I left work early Wednesday in order to drive south out of Sydney to meet the pair at the township of Bowral for dinner. Due to phone boxes cutting in and out all I knew was they expected to arrive at about 5pm and I would arrive sometime between 4.30 and 5.30. I wasn't entirely certain of the make or model of their vehicle, only half sure of their registration plate; they didn't even know what I would be driving and we didn't have a meeting spot arranged.
I needn't have worried - they parked prominently just inside the northern outskirts of the town. I tooted, turned around and pulled up beside them. It turns out they'd been waiting only ten minutes. And so, at last, we could chat face to face and talk plainly about their sighting, the photos and many of the other incredible stories they had to share about their travels through our Great South Land.
I'm sure the local bistro didn't know what was coming when we sat down for dinner. We spent the next five hours engaged in conversation and almost oblivious to anything else going on around us. I'm sure the waitresses had to come up to us numerous times before we'd even thought to look at the menus :)
Klaus and Birgit's Travel Map - click to enlarge
Here is one of the many maps that Klaus and Birgit had, this one showing some of the detail of their trek this year. Some of the highlights for which Klaus and Birgit showed me photos included their meeting numerous Aboriginal groups in central Australia, discovering an animal in Tasmania which for all purposes looks like a gigantic leech, except bright canary yellow, a legless and blind lizard they discovered under the sand in outback Western Australia and what appears to be a large and aggrevated mouse spider in Tasmania.
I do hope to follow up some of their animal photographs - especially the leech and legless lizard as these look like nothing I've ever seen before. I'm no expert on either family of animals (although I am in contact with people who are) and they may well be known species, but I can't help wondering - especially given their remote locations - whether these two might be something new.
One further intriguing photo they showed me was of a footprint, about
10 to 11 cm long (about 4 inches)
[22/5/07 Correction - 8 to 9 cm long (about 3 inches)]. They laid their (German number) mobile phone next to it for size and I drew a sketch of their photo. In time they hope to send through some of these incredible photos to me - the couple will be travelling back to Europe shortly - and I am almost certain I will be able to share them here after chasing up the unusual species. Judging from illustrations on Paul Clacher's page on footprints
, these were likely a dingo's prints.
Also dingo-related they showed me a couple of photos showing a jet-black dingo they found in the outback. The animal ran a steady 40 to 45 km/hr (24 - 28 miles per hour) for about five minutes in front of their vehicle.
Whilst on the subject of "black", they relayed a further story, from north-west western Australia of a giant black cat. The animal was moving in a posture indicating that it was stalking prey, yet to the shoulder was still about 60 centimetres (23 - 24 inches) tall. The cat moved quickly off the road before they could activate their cameras however, but through a variety of discussions I've had with researchers in Australia, it should come as no surprise that a large black cat has been seen. Exactly what species of cat this was, we will probably never know. We have already seen in a previous article at WLMD regarding the Gippsland cat shot by Kurt Engel
that domestic ferals (identified by DNA analysis) grow to world record size in Australia.
Another sight that greeted the pair were flocks of orange-bellied parrots in Tasmania. This species is supposed to have been reduced to just 180 mature birds
in the wild, yet their claims (if the species was correctly identified) put that figure in doubt - it may well be higher than this.
Of course, the discovery of an unknown population of orange bellied parrots in Tasmania would be incredible news. I do plan to follow up that information with Klaus and Birgit. They said they did take photos of these flocks of birds, but as our time was short, and as they had well over 1000 photos on their various memory cards (which we could only view on the cameras' screens), we didn't get to see these photos that night.
Putting other cryptids, possibly new, interesting and rare species aside, we come to the question of the thylacine.
Klaus and Birgit with their Ricoh Caplio R1 camera which still contains the thylacine images embedded on internal memory - click to enlarge.
Early in the evening, Klaus started to show me photos of their home, family and the area near where they live in Germany, on one of their digital cameras. There were photos of deer on forest paths, mushrooms, lakes, swans and gardens. After viewing several photos he dramatically opened the memory card cover, ejected the card onto the table, closed the cover and re-started the camera. As I documented previously, the camera manual states that images cannot be stored on - or accessed from - the internal memory while a memory card is in place.
Presently he started to show me photos taken in Melbourne during the last days of January 2005 before their flight to Tasmania on 1 February. Before long, there we were - the thylacine!
On first impression I was surprised that the colouration was essentially the same as the images which were earlier circulated on the internet. I had come to believe (and stated as much in online discussions) that the strange colouration was added subsequent to the photograph being taken, but before publication in the Sunday Tasmanian newspaper. I now stand corrected on this matter.
Bearing in mind that I was only able to view this original image on the camera screen itself (with the benefit of being able to zoom in on any section), there were yet a few important details which did come to light. Firstly, there is far less ambiguity between those parts of the image which are clearly green due to foliage and those which are clearly yellowish, due to the thylacine's paler fur colour. This was particularly important in the area of the thylacine's head.
As some readers will recall, an overlay was created some time ago using the poorer-quality newspaper scans and a photograph taken by David Fleay in the 1930s. It seemed that Klaus' thylacine matched the Fleay photograph in many regards, including the position of the animal's left ear. In earlier phone conversations, Klaus continued to insist that you could clearly see one ear lying flat, and the other standing erect in the original photo. Because of how clearly the animal's left ear appeared
to stand erect, I presumed it was the right animal's ear which was lying flat - something which is somewhat obscured by the vegetation in the scanned images.
As it turns out, you can see in the original photograph that the left ear does not
appear to stand erect in the same way as in David Fleay's photo. Despite the image still being of poor quality, the animal's left ear clearly looks different in the original image than it does in the newspaper scans.
There was still further information to be obtained from this corner of the photograph. The version printed in the newspaper is a cropped version of the original, and the cropping unfortunately did exclude a portion of the animal. In other words, there is additional, essential information recorded in that corner of the photograph, which was not printed in the newspaper.
At this point I would have loved the opportunity to view the photo on a computer and to have been able to really zoom in close on a large screen and make comparisons with the Fleay photograph. I recorded previously that not only did the Emmerichs' thylacine's stripes match Fleay's thylacine (which does not
of itself discount the Emmerichs thylacine), but two prominent patches of pale fur on the animal's right shoulder also aligned with the Fleay photograph. As you move up from the shoulder onto the neck, the fur becomes dark in both photos. Moving higher still, to the ears, the evidence became inconclusive - due to the animal being partly obscured by plant foliage and the difficulty in discerning which portions of the image depicted foliage, and which depicted pale fur.
In the Fleay photograph, the animal's right ear is represented by a thin pale line (corresponding to the edge of the ear) running from top-left to bottom-right, on a fur background which is clearly dark. In the Emmerichs photograph the right ear shows a much larger, and circular, pale region.
In addition to both ears seeming to differ from Fleay's photograph (noting again the camera-screen resolution at which I was able to view the image), recall that my initial investigations seemed to indicate the animal's tail was at a slightly different angle with respect to the right hind leg, in each Emmerichs photo.
Taken together, these data seem to strengthen the argument that Emmerichs' thylacine is in fact in a slightly different posture to Fleay's.
This brings us to other pertinent questions which have remained open since the newspaper scans were first made available to us. What of the bizarre colouration and those date format inconsistencies which were highlighted in the media?
The question of colouration remains intriguing. Media reports indicated that Klaus and Birgit had had the camera set to a "night scene" (or similar) mode which was accounting for the strange colouration. We didn't discuss this aspect of the camera setup and I cannot add anything new to this question, except that two further photographs were taken with the camera six minutes after the thylacine photos. These later photos show gravel, rocks and water as might be expected along the creek bed where the thylacine was photographed, but the colouration of the images appears normal. In the Sunday Tasmanian article of 16 April 2006, it quotes Klaus:
""I turned the camera on and it makes a noise when I turn it on and his head went up, I made one shot and then I take a second shot and he goes off in the bush.
"It was only about 30 seconds."
Mr Emmerichs said he went and got Birgit to look.
"It was an animal I never see before, so I got her and she came down to the water..."
The creek was only 20 meters from the car, so it is entirely reasonable to think these two photographs were taken six minutes after the sighting when Klaus returned to the creek with Birgit. I asked Klaus about why he took the two images of the creek and he replied they thought there might be footprints in the gravel, which is why he took the photos.
These two photos showed definate patches of sunlight on the ground. I immediately wondered about that being possible in Tasmania at about 7.30pm on the night in question. Using the Australian Government's Geoscience Australia service for astronomical information produced the following results for Hobart on 3 February 2005:
"Hobart Lat=-42°52'00" Long=+147°19'00"
TIMES OF SUNRISE AND SUNSET
(for ideal horizon & meteorological conditions)
Time zone: +10.00 hours
03/02/2005 Rise 0516 Set 1933
TIMES OF CIVIL TWILIGHT
(for ideal horizon & meteorological conditions)
Time zone: +10.00 hours
03/02/2005 Rise 0444 Set 2005"
The sun set was at 7.33pm, for ideal horizon and meteorological conditions. The civil twilight was at 8.05pm. Sunset "is defined as the instant in the evening under ideal meteorological conditions, with standard refraction of the sun's rays, when the upper edge of the sun's disk is coincident with an ideal horizon." and civil twilight is "defined as the instant in the evening, when the centre of the sun is at a depression angle of six degrees (6°) below an ideal horizon. At this time in the absence of moonlight, artificial lighting or adverse atmospheric conditions, the illumination is such that large objects may be seen but no detail is discernible. The brightest stars and planets can be seen and for navigation purposes at sea, the sea horizon is clearly defined.".
Taking these details into account, noting that we cannot know how accurately the time was set on the camera, and that they were north and about 50 kilometers west of Hobart (meaning the sun would set marginally later), it is possible that direct sunlight was visible at about 7.30pm.
Elsewhere in the same article, "Mr Emmerichs ... said the images are blurry because he used a function called night vision which simulates a slow shutterspeed and allows pictures to be taken without flash in poor light. The function consistently produced blurry images and so the couple stopped using it."
I am not certain when this functionality was disabled, but it was either immediately following the thylacine images, or else the inconsistency between the thylacine and subsequent images was due more to environmental conditions than the camera's settings. This again may be possible. Recall that before ejecting the memory card, Klaus showed me photos of deer on a track in a forest in Germany. This environment was particularly green and I specifically revisited these photos during our meeting in order to examine the quality of the images. It is true that they were in general clearer than the thylacine images (although the deer in the distance were still somewhat blurry), but the clarity was not perfect and the general colouration (in terms of the shades of green) matched the thylacine images quite well. In other words, taking photographs in a similar environment in Europe produced images of a similar, but slightly better, quality. The deer images were taken mid morning, whilst the thylacine images were taken just prior to sunset.
You can view photos of the Ricoh Caplio R1 camera model, together with over 1000 sample images, at Pbase.com. These may give you an idea of the quality of images possible with this camera, although bear in mind, users of the Pbase service are unlikely to upload their worst quality images. Warning: also take note that Pbase does host adult photography and I found at least one example depicting nudity whilst I searched for a sample image for this article (see below). More such images may well be amongst the 1000+ samples.
One more point should be made with regards to the photos' colouration - and that is to recall that Ricoh has already confirmed that the only way images can result on the camera's internal memory is via the camera taking a photograph. It is very unlikely, if not impossible, that the Emmerichs photos were created using image editing software, and my geometric analysis supports the proposition that Klaus photographed a real three dimensional scene.
The Sunday Tasmanian article also mentioned that "a strange play of light has also been suggested as flash flare off a shiny surface" as if - I presume - the photo was of another photo, cardboard cutout or other printout. One detail which might dispel this theory is in the angle of the tail, discussed earlier. Whilst this slight change between photos might be acheivable by changing the camera angle, a close investigation of the original images would be required to decide for certain whether the "photo of a photo" remains a real possibility. A second point to note is that Col Bailey has himself visited the site and never questioned the existence, for example, of the enormous log lying in the foreground. There was never any communicated doubt in his mind about the location.
And finally, to discussion about the dates. As the Sunday Tasmanian put it:
"Another criticism of the images is that there is a discrepancy with the consecutive dates of the images.
The photograph before the first thylacine image uses the abbreviation JAN for January.
But the thylacine image uses the numeral 2 instead of FEB for February.
Mr Emmerichs said the discrepancy was caused by Birgit changing the format while on the plane to Tasmania.
The camera was still set on German time and date and she tried to reset it coming into Tasmania."
In my own article in Elementum Bestia I found this to be the single most pressing question - how could the couple have travelled from Melbourne to the thylacine over the course of at least three days without there being any other photos before the thylacine image? As the article states, the photo before the first thylacine image was dated in January. The thylacine image was taken February 3rd. What happened on February 1 and 2? Where are those photos?
The answer lies again in recalling the thylacine image resides on the camera's internal memory. As I wrote in earlier articles, the camera was a birthday present, bought for Birgit by Klaus in November 2004. They first used it on their holiday to Australia in January 2005. They were taking photographs of flowers and other scenes in a park in Melbourne immediately prior to their trip to Tasmania when the camera's internal memory filled up.
Neither had thought to load a memory card into the camera. Birgit recalls asking Klaus what kind of a camera he bought such that it could only take a few photos and then wouldn't work anymore. They then realised that they needed to install the memory card - an accessory they already had, but had not used.
They did so. Klaus was uncertain whether the memory card was loaded in Tasmania or Melbourne, but Birgit was quite certain she did this in Melbourne before their trip to Tasmania. She then continued taking photographs in the park in Melbourne and the next day they flew to Tasmania.
On that flight, and with the memory card in place, Birgit adjusted the camera's date settings after realising all their photos showed European dates and times instead of local times. This claim was borne out by the images taken in Melbourne which I personally viewed: despite bright daylight and strong shadows, the photos showed timestamps correlating to 4 o'clock through to 6 o'clock in the morning.
As Klaus recounted to me in phone conversations last year, after arriving in Tasmania, they continued taking many photographs during the first two days of their trip. That memory card was somewhat smaller than those they have used in trips since then and they made it their custom every few days to delete any photos which were not worth keeping. Although I didn't explicitly confirm it with them, this is the likely explanation for how additional space was made available on the camera's internal memory. In any case, the memory card filled up late on the afternoon of the 3rd of February. They again removed the memory card and the thylacine images were the first two photographs taken back on the camera's internal memory.
I immediately suggested to them that this would mean that the memory card contains images from Melbourne showing lettered months ("JAN"), and then showing the numbered months ("02" for Feb) for images in Tasmania. That memory card is presently in Germany and they couldn't check it during our dinner, but plan to do so. Finding this to be the case will of course support their original claim that Birgit changed the time on the camera during the flight, and that this is the most likely time at which the timestamp format also changed.
For clarity, I'd like to point out that the dates in question are depicted as part of the image itself, in orange, in the lower right corner. One of the photos published in the Sunday Tasmanian shows this date. This present discussion does not relate to any embedded EXIF information in the file, nor to the file's creation or modification dates. Using orange dates in the lower right corner became popular with film cameras and some digital cameras include the optional functionality to mimic this effect. There is at least one example photograph at Pbase depicting this functionality. In that case - a park scene - the date format uses numerals for the month.
Where does this leave us?
At the very least I can confirm that one newspaper image is cropped in such a way as to exclude a portion of the thylacine which is visible in the original. One of the newspaper images (I think it may have been the same one) is cropped in such a way as to exclude much of the foreground, which itself may contain useful information also.
In addition, the animal's left ear appears significantly different in the original than it does in the newspaper version.
The animal's right ear - although I cannot be certain without thorough examination using a computer - does appear different than the animal in Fleay's photograph.
The colouration is still perplexing, especially in context of the subsequent two photographs, but I have to accept Ricoh's testimony that the image can only reside on internal memory if the camera itself took the photograph. Therefore there can be little doubting that the image is actually a photograph taken by that camera.
Given it is indeed a photograph, Col Bailey raised no doubts about the scenery or location, seemingly setting aside any idea of photographing a photograph or other digitally created printout.
The date discrepancy may be reasonably dispelled. Production of the images on the memory card in question would support their claim to changing the time - and most probably inadvertently the date format - on the flight to Tasmania.
I have received feedback from readers claiming the foliage depicted in the photos is from a plant species not found in Tasmania. I have no way of substantiating this claim but welcome reader feedback. In separate images taken on their holiday this year, Klaus and Birgit have captured Australian plants which do look similar, though not identical.
In writing this conclusion I feel a bit like a juror asked to judge on allegations of fraud, but to be fair, all the evidence is not yet in. Nevertheless, at this stage, and along with the forensic scientists and Nick Mooney who have all viewed the original image, I too cannot say this is a hoax.
I feel there are still further valid avenues of enquiry. Having the original images available for an extended period of time, on computer, would be most helpful. Seeing the location first hand might appeal to my personal jusgement on the matter, but I have to accept Col Bailey's having visited the site himself. If readers could send me photographs irrefutably taken in Tasmania at about 7.30pm on 3 February 2005 for comparison of lighting conditions, these also might help. Finally, I would like to acquire a Caplio R1 camera for myself in order to explore the various pre-programmed modes available and the effect these have on the final image in low light conditions.
On balance of the evidence to date - and there may be more to come - I have to conclude these are either genuine photos or a most elaborate hoax beyond my ability to discern at this stage. Put plainly, I have no reason to doubt Klaus and Birgit.
There are certainly less holes in the story than many might believe. Every criticism does in fact have a justifiable explanation, but a few of these criticism warrant further investigation - such as exploring the "night scene" mode of this camera model first hand.
Regarding even the possibility of the thylacine living on in Tasmania, Klaus explained to me: there are still vast areas of wilderness in Tasmania and very very few people wandering them, especially at the time when thylacines awake - at night.
In the words of Col Bailey,
"To believe the animal still exists, it is imperative that one ventures into these areas and to see for oneself. For to see first hand the nature of this wilderness, is to believe implicitly that the thylacine could still survive.
I don’t mean to fly over it in a helicopter and pass a judgement based on that alone. Or to sit in one’s ivory tower in the city and with a wave of the hand over a map declare it impossible for the animal to still exist. Or to read a book or two on the subject and be led astray by what others may have foolishly declared. To do that is sheer ignorance" (emphasis mine).
Again, I thank Klaus and Birgit for their time, and I look forward to sharing some of their extraordinary wildlife photos with readers of Where Light Meets Dark in future!
Finally, please note that I accept that a photo will almost certainly never constitute acceptable proof of existence for the thylacine, and again, I clarify that I am no expert in digital forensics, but the above conclusions were drawn in good faith.
Footnote (added shortly after publishing this article): To be fair, the two most troubling elements that remain are the strange colouration and the percentage of the animal which does resemble the Fleay image. To address the question of colouration I would like to see the images on the blue memory card which were taken immediately before the thylacine images. To address the question of the similarity to Fleay's photo I would like to see at a minimum the top-right corner of the photo which shows the ears, but preferably both entire photos.