Emmerichs thylacine - summary of the analysis

A quick summary (part 8)

A lot has been written here on Where Light Meets Dark, but for those who want the quick rundown, where exactly are we?

As soon as there was mention that Klaus Emmerichs took two photos of the thylacine my hopes went up because if the camera moved significantly between photos, then it should be possible to model the scene that appears in them. That is the main subject of this blog at present. [28/10: note that the aims of WLMD have now expanded somewhat.]

Once the photos were published at Cryptomundo, an international community of interested parties examined them and started to constructively (and perhaps not so constructively) comment on them.

In particular, Alton Higgins provided a series of images which overlays David Fleay's 1933 photograph onto one of Klaus Emmerichs' 2005 photographs.

At this point, most people felt that the correlation was so great that Emmerichs must surely have produced a hoax photo using Fleay's original.

Next, I began publishing my thoughts, Alton and I began communicating, and he provided a new series of images, published here at Where Light Meets Dark, comparing the position and spacing of stripes on different thylacines.

The result was that many thylacines show the same spacing and positioning of stripes along the spine despite the fact that research shows enormous variability in stripe length, direction (forwards or backwards), number and termination (single line or forked).

In other words, we should not be surprised if a 2005 thylacine shows the same pattern of striping near the spine that a 1933 thylacine does. Emmerichs' photos cannot be dismissed on these grounds.

In the past few days I have acquired further information about Emmerichs' photos. In particular, Col Bailey (who has spent nearly 40 years interviewing both post-extinction witnesses and pre-extinction thylacine trappers) published a piece in the Tasmanian Times clarifying Emmerichs' story.

(In adding my comments to that article, I drew the attention of Tasmanian Times editor Lindsay Tuffin, to Where Light Meets Dark, resulting in a new article where further reader discussion may be found.)

In April 2006, Emmerichs returned to Tasmania hoping to capture video footage of the thylacine. During this visit he spoke at length with Bailey regarding the photos and the location at which they were taken.

One clarification coming from that article is that the Ricoh camera used for the photographs contains 12 megabytes of internal storage for photographs. According to Bailey, Ricoh has confirmed that data cannot be transferred from a PC or other external source onto the memory chip; it can only get there if it was captured by the camera itself.

As Emmerichs' claimed from the beginning, this lends weight to the argument that the photographs are genuine.

Returning to the image analysis presented here at Where Light Meets Dark, I have so far concluded that the scene appears consistently constructed between the two photographs; that is - these do appear to be two genuine photographs of a real forest scene. Note also that Bailey has visited the exact location at which the photos were taken and there has never been any question that the scene depicted really exists.

  • I conclude that the scene is consistent between shots and that these are genuine photos of a genuine scene,
  • Bailey (with nearly 40 years interviewing experience) testifies to Emmerichs being an honerable man whom Bailey trusts entirely in this matter,
  • Ricoh confirms that data can only get onto the in-camera memory chip if it was captured by the camera itself, and
  • Higgins demonstrated that we cannot dismiss Emmerichs' photos on the basis of similarity in striping pattern near the spine with any other known photo.

What then, is the likelihood of these photos being genuine? What is the likelihood that they are a hoax?

In order to be a hoax, Emmerichs would almost certainly have had to take two real photographs of something resembling a thylacine, in situ. According to a Sydney Morning Herald article, "the Herald's photographic managing editor, Mike Bowers, conducted his own experiments" to this effect.

One question I still hope to answer is whether the thylacine moved between photos, because if it did, then this would be one final detail in the most elaborate and convincing hoax ever conducted regarding this species.

Alternatively, we would have to conclude that it is highly likely that Emmerichs' photos of a thylacine are genuine.

Answering that vital question - "did the thylacine move?" - should certainly be possible so long as there is enough data in the photos.

At this stage, I feel the quality of the images I am working with may well let me down. Bailey has clarified that the images published in April 2006 were intentionally modified in order to protect the integrity of the originals.

Access to the original images would almost certainly improve the accuracy of measurements undertaken in this analysis, but understandably, these are being closely guarded.

My offer to Emmerichs to analyse the original images still stands, although as has been clarified in my communication with him - and now to the Where Light Meets Dark readers here - I am not a professional in image analysis. I have conducted this work so far in good faith, and am open to constructive criticism regarding my process. (Please submit a comment if you would like to do so!)

Finally, in initial media reports, there was mention of Emmerichs' photo closely resembling a well-known 1930s photograph. Whilst various key players in this story have already made this comparison, I have yet to acquire the specific 1930s image in order to do likewise.