A WARNING: Those site visitors of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Culture should be aware that there are photographs and images of the deceased.

The author of this blog is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers and as such the views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent the views and opinions of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, its staff or Directors.

Learn more about the Association including membership requirements at

The Somerton Man Case. The body of a man found on an Australian beach close to a major Atomic Testing ground, he was probably poisoned, a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and an unbroken Code page found and associated to him. Set against a Cold War background in 1948, was this man a spy? We think so and this blog focuses on the evidence that was left behind and in some cases missed, the Code page, Dry Cleaning numbers, A Poem and a small, torn piece of paper bearing the words TAMAM SHUD.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Somerton Man, Was his Picture Real or Was it Faked?


There were a number of images of the Somerton Man distributed after his death, in fact, to be more precise, the pictures were taken after his autopsy.

In this post the focus is on the official image distributed by SA Police at the time. I am putting the following images forward for everyone's consideration and review. I will start by saying that there is something amiss with this Police image:

At this point if you could take a close look at the profile in the headline and then let's move on to this next shot.

This image simply corrects the positioning so that we are now seeing a vertical version plus, I have increased the size of the image so that we can see the individual pixels. Look more carefully now at the side of the cheek between the lower lobe of the ear and a mid point on the chin, you should see an almost straight line that connects the two points, we will see more of that shortly.

In this next image I have marked up the areas of interest and they show a number of points worth considering.

Firstly, and with apologies for the gory aspects, the circled area at the hairline shows where the skull cap has slipped back after the autopsy.

Next there are a series of X's that commence from just beneath the circle and then progress down past the front of the ear and then in an almost straight line along the jaw to a point central to the chin. just join the X's to see what I mean.

Now here's a comparison image showing the marked and unmarked versions alongside each other:

The idea here is to illustrate clearly how the line appears on the forehead and then progresses down to the ear, across the front of the ear and then directly down to the centre of the chin.

Notice also that the neck and forehead show wrinkles and signs of age but both stop abruptly at the line highlighted. This suggests to me that this image has been altered and that it is quite possible that what we see here is a young face superimposed on an older head.

I must stress that I have not interfered with or altered this image in any way apart from increasing it's size.

So, how could this have been done given that in the 1940's the smart tools and software we have today did not exist? A simple answer is that skilled photographers could create a 'Montage' by cropping images and then manipulating the cropped parts to achieve the desired results.

Below is how this 'montage' effect can be achieved today.

In this image I have cropped the area that has been outlined so that only that area is visible.

As you can see it's a much smaller image of the Somerton Man's face and again in my view it seems to show quite a 'young' looking face.

Next, here's a head shot of a man taken in the 1930's, this man has nothing to do with the case as far as I know.

What we will do now is to 'superimpose' the Somerton Man's face shown above onto this man's head structure.

To do this I used Gimp and some simple tools that it has including, 'move', 'rotate' and 'smudge'.

Here's the resultant 'superimposed' image, I have deliberately left the original texture and shading on the Somerton Man face portion as this is purely an example image.

It is quite possible to match the colours and shades and then blend the two images together.

Is it possible that the lines we can see were caused by the application of Morticians wax, a common practice to improve the appearance of a corpse/ If that were the case, why did it stop in a straight line, from what I understand such 'wax' was applied much like make up and was meant to provide a smooth all round finish.

The question is clear, is the image of the Somerton Man as distributed by the SA Police in 1948 a genuine untouched image or was it altered by using the 'Montage' effect and a younger face included that replaced the real facial image of the Somerton Man? If that were to be the case it would certainly help to explain why nobody has been able to identify him in the 64 years since his death.

Another major aspect of the case to be questioned and yet another reason for the exhumation of his remains.

Please take the time and sign up to the petition calling for that to occur right here:


S. Michael White said...

Given the dark room expertise required to do an old-timey photoshop, it is alarming if the police actually went to that trouble in order to create a mock-up, later to refer to it as a "reconstruction".

I can definitely see the smears and discernible edges that you describe. Something that may warrant investigation, though, is that this version of the picture also seems to bear resemblance to water color painting splotches. Whenever liquid rests on a developing (or developed) photo, it can cause streaks and discoloration, particularly along the droplet's edges, especially if blotted in an effort to clean it.

Given the three stop-baths usually required to develop film, it's conceivable that there might have been a stain or even a stray droplet that landed dead center on what tends to be "curling" emulsive paper as it dries or even after the picture had been passed around in the police headquarters.

I'm certainly not a professional, but that line of thinking might be something worth pursuing. But because we're undoubtedly discussing international double-agents and such, I wouldn't be surprised in either scenario. These are some obsessively intriguing thoughts to chew on.

Gordon332 said...

Thanks for the comment, very valid information and much appreciated. Interestingly a search of Trove recently showed a South Australian newspaper article dated 3rd December 1948 in which it states that Jimmy Durham had reconstructed the photographs of the Somerton man. Most importantly, the article goes on to state that the death was not thought to be from natural causes. I mention this because many have said that it was not until later that it was thought he may have been murdered.
Once again, many thanks for your comment, I have checked your ideas with another photographer who was in agreement with you although he did lean towards the deliberate alteration of the image.

Here's the link to follow on Trove:

karl kushman said...

i probably missed it but isn't it true that the paper scrap was from a rather rare book and a couple blocks away they found the same book in the back of some girls car?

Gordon332 said...

I am ultra busy at the moment and I think your comment is worthy of a thought out response. I will get to it later this week, thanks for the comment.