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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.

Friday, 19 May 2017


APRIL 25th 1947

As per a previous post, I have the original hard copy photograph in my possession and these images are high resolution scans of it. Scanned at 236.22 pixels per cm. and at 600 DPI for printing.

If you look carefully at this image you will notice that there is a definite shadow commencing about midway up on Pavel's right ear, it curves down perfectly to around the halfway mark of his right cheek then curves up again over the nose and then down the left side of his nose along the line of his mouth. You can see that more clearly on the marked up image a little further down the page.

What seems unusual about this image is that it suggests that there is more light beneath the shade of his fedora than there is on the lower half of his face. Maybe a 5 o'clock shadow. But going up and over his nose? Ideas welcome.

Unusually, the photograph appears to have been torn right down the right side as you look at it and not cut with scissors as you might expect.

Marked up image:

Rear of image:

There are a number of notations on here, most of which are quite legible but one beneath the time stamp is a little hazy. It reads:

'Received Daily Times' and the time stamp is 5 o'clock. I have adjusted the contrast on this image to improve the legibility of the typed description. 

Incidentally, the description has a cellophane type cover and the whole strip has been glued to the back of the picture.

The thought struck me that when examining the image, that just maybe Novikov and/or Fedosimov may have seen and handled this very image. My understanding is that this kind of photograph was taken by Pravda or similar Russian organisation.

Thanks to Clive for the input and discussions related to these pictures.


An Omnibus said...

As per my comment on the previous post, I definitely get an "uncanny valley" thing when looking at it.

In the absence of technical knowledge, to me it looks like the shadow you describe is almost more than that. Does a shadow explain the shape of the nose, which seems to have a "disconnect" along the horizontal line of shadow? My immediate thought was that it was a crude superimposition of the lower half of the face.

peterbowes said...

What are you blokes talking about here, an altered photograph?

Macro said...

I have been following your blog for some months and appreciate the information you and others have provided, and your efforts to solve this case. This is my first post, so please be gentle (-;

To me, the image of Pavel and Nikolai is a composite. It would appear that there are 2 or possibly 3 images combined. First there is the background airport image. Then in the foreground 2 human figures, Pavel and Nikolai have been transposed. The 2 figures may constitute one image, or less likely, the 2 figures are 2 separate images.

The indications for this relate to shadowing and the way the light falls. If we start on the far right of the image, in the background we can see the face of presumably the captain or other flight crew member. Notice the peak of his cap shadows the upper part of his face. This is consistent with sunlight from above, and consistent with the the central part of the image showing in the background the railing of aircraft stairs, where light is clearly coming from above, but the side of the stairs are darker and not in direct sunlight.

We would then expect to find the figures in the foreground with sunlight lighting their shoulders. This is not the case. The lighting on the figures of Pavel and Nikolai is quite flat, and it would seem to be coming from in front of them. This would appear more consistent with an indoor setting either at night, or where there is no natural light.

Also, if we examine closely in zoom the left hand side (our right side) outer rim of Pavel's hat, there is a tiny dark artefact sitting just above the rim. I would suggest that this is consistent with his image being clipped in some way from another image with a dark background.

If we accept the image is a composite, though I am happy to stand corrected by any wiser or older heads, then it was not necessarily through sinister motive, it could be that for technical or other reasons, the photo that the photographer wanted to capture was not possible to be taken, so the image was created by way of composite later. Though given the period, and the people involved, I would suggest a more clandestine motive was likely.

Gordon332 said...

Thanks for the comments, Pete I think that is the case and that the image for whatever reason as described by Macro, has been modified. It was interesting to examine the detaqil of Pavel's nose line, the shading gives the impression of it being a snub nose but when you look close it clearly isn't.

I recall a lengthy discussion with Professor Abbott about the use of photographic manipulation in the 40s and he was clearly against that notion but subsequent images have I hope convinced him otherwise.

Macro, I agree that the question is why would this have been done? Given that the image was provided by Pravda to AP then they would surely been involved in it's manipulation.

If this was created for clandestine reasons was it to give both men an alibi that they were together at the same time in the same place? It would not have been difficult to put and prove Novikov being at the airport by checking inbound passenger records but that would not have been the case for Pavel On that point Clive has been digging up some very interesting information on Pavel's movements whilst in the US as well as his involvement with the UN.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to work out some of the other markings:
1) Who stamped the date? The text says the phot is from the 24th April, so would 25th be when it was developed, or when it was sent to newspaper (it seems totally separate from the timestamp)?
2) I think the scrawl says something like "1 Col, [OA??] Novikov (Full Detail)" - I'd guess it was there before the typed bit (because it seems irrelevant if the typed stuff was there)
3) I assume RSE 47603 is the photo paper supplier or something?
4) The N-858-Nikolai is presumably just a reference for someone storing the photo (mildly interesting that it's his first name Nikolai rather than Novikov - and his first name isn't actually mentioned in the blurb
5) I guess pjm51705stf-jdc somehow references the photographer? If there was a '0' in front of the 7, I'd almost say that's a date in the middle - but why would it be 4 years later?
6) What's the big black thing behind Fedosimov - the plane's propeller? There's a small anomaly just over Fed's left (ie as we look at it right) shoulder - you'd assume it were the plane's window (or something), but it looks an odd proportion/shape/location for that

Anonymous said...

Marco: sorry if this is stupid (I know very little of photography) but could lighting anomalies (in the 1940s) be caused by flash or similar? I know it appears like a daytime shot (the shadow under the plane), but for journalistic shots might they have always used flash irrespective of lighting?

Gordon332 said...

Good thoughts. response:
1. The time stamp has Received Daily Times beneath it. I would guess that was a US news paper at the time, can't find any trace at the moment. the date stamp may have been when it was submitted? I believe the photo was taken by PRAVDA or similar USSR agency.
2. The actual words are:
'1 Col On (obliterated) Novikov Full Depth'

3. The number may be a date stamp, 47 6 03, which is interesting, could relate to the photo paper as you suggest

4. Given that the assumption on PRAVDA is correct, then the journalist/photographer would have known him as Nikolai?

5. The serial number shows up as (p jm51705stf-jdc) 47, so there is a space between p and m. Perhaps this is an AP Wirephoto reference?

6. The big black thing has been discussed at some length with Clive. Initially I thought it was a set of mobile boarding stairs but Clive was I think right in saying that it was the wing tip, if you search Google for pics of a 1947 Super Constellation aircraft you will find many pics from various angles including a number that have the same shape and appearance. The small dark triangle adjacent to Pavel's left shoulder I suspect is part of the flaps on the wing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gordon, I think the small, dark triangular shape, on Fedosimov's left shoulder, is the corner of the wing flap. The code 'RSE 47603' could that be the i.d. of the actual photographer? Perhaps with AP using so many 'snapper's' they each had their own code number. Perhaps 'N-858' meant that the photo was to indexed under the letter 'N' as for 858, possibly refers to a file number? But why just 'Nikolai'? The thing that comes to mind is that Novikov had employed a personal photographer to take a photo for his own personal collection-why not write on the back Novikov, N? And 'Full Depth' meaning not a face close-up? CliveT

Macro said...

RE: Whether the photo lighting anomalies could be caused by a flash, if we look in the far right of the photo we can see what looks to be the shoulder of someone wearing a coat in the background. Notice how the light falls on the top of that person's shoulder. Contrast that with Nikolai's shoulder in the foreground, where there is no apparent light from above. I think even with a flash from the front, we should still expect to see some remnant of the bright daylight from above,on his shoulder, unless he was in the shade of some other object not shown.
RE: Photographic compositing techniques, and their usage in the '40s, I am a bit young to know, but I do know from high school and university photography in the '80s, that these techniques are not too difficult. Using an enlarger- an optical apparatus not unlike a slide projector, a sheet of photographic paper is exposed to the enlarged image from the negative for a few seconds. In this case to get a composite image one would first mask a section of the photographic paper using tape or masking liquid, then expose the visible part of the paper to the negative in the enlarger. Then remove the masking, and cover instead the other part of the photo that you just exposed. Then put the second negative in the enlarger and expose that on to the section that was masked during the first exposure. You should then have a composite image such as this. I cannot say that that is how this image was created, it may well have been by another technique. I am by no means an expert in this area.
RE: The motivation for creating such an image, I could only speculate. Perhaps some type of sign to an intended audience? Maybe the signal to a number of operatives? Someone who knows about spy craft would be much better placed than myself.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Gordon, I can see the flap now you mention it :P

Anonymous said...

Hi Macro, Just a possibility but, on a level with Fedosimov's mouth and to Fedosimov's left hand side is two light markings under the wing. They could well be the reflection of the aircraft stairs, in the background, reflected on the underside of the aircraft's Port aileron? CliveT

Anonymous said...

"Full Depth" apparently, means in photographic terms that the background is in focus, which, in this photo, it is clearly not! Interesting thought Macro, that the publication of a photo with both Fedosimov & Novikov together was meant to signify something to someone, what could be more "innocent" than to use a photo of an airport meeting which would be seen by hundreds of readers as nothing more/nothing less. CliveT

Gordon332 said...

A bit like one way messages from newspaper ads. A Tudor Gold watch comes to mind but why limit it to ads? Good thinking...