There have been countless pieces of photographic evidence of alleged UFOs put forward over the decades. At times they seem to be pretty much a dime a dozen, some of them held up as possibly real, others obvious hoaxes. Over the years there have been some photos that, regardless of their credibility, have managed to become much discussed and iconic, even after they have been proven to be faked. One series of such controversial photos emerged in 1993, and would cause quite the stir that reverberates through the field of Ufology to this day.
One morning in March of 1993, 69-year-old Eric Thomason got up and headed out to Maslin Beach, in Southern Australia, along with his son’s camera equipment, a Kodak S50 with a Fuji 100 ASA-film. His destination was an old abandoned mine called the Maslin Old Quarry, in order to take some photographs, as well as take some photos of the sunrise at a cliff called Ochre Point. Despite having no formal photography training and being a complete novice, he was planning to submit his photos to a photo contest in the magazine Southern Times-Messenger, but he was immediately disappointed to arrive at the beach to thick cloud cover that obscured the sunrise. He decided to come back and try again the next day, but it was similarly cloudy, useless for taking photos, but as he stared out over the cloudy grey sea in frustration, he saw something very odd.
As he looked out over the water from his vantage point high on the cliff, he claims that a strange object rose up from beneath the waves, and he could see it so clearly that the water dripping off of it was clearly visible. He would estimate it as being about 40 meters in diameter, He watched in awe as the mysterious object floated over the water and began hovering in his direction, and he would say of the appearance of this bizarre sight to the Swedish UFO magazine UFO-Aktuellt :
I saw a movement on the surface on the water, and something looking like the tower on an atomic submarine emerged. I could feel water dripping from the craft. When the object rose from the water, I was able to see how three legs were pointing out from the hull. I was also able to see how it was spinning, and how the three legs were pulled in.
He took his first photograph of the object, which was at this point apparently about 400 meters away, and things would only get stranger from there. As it grew closer, he says that he was afraid that the object would do something to him, perhaps even abduct him, as it was getting a little too close for comfort, so he started making his way down the slope. It was then that he saw a second smaller object, which took up a position under the larger object, after which it rose up into it. Throughout this all, Thomason was taking photos, and he explains how the scene played out:
I had heard of people being abducted by UFOs, so I climbed down a slope nearby. From there I could see how the light-grey object came flying somewhat south of me, and came to a halt over the mine. At that very moment I spotted yet another object, north of the first one. That's when I snapped my second picture, but since the light from the sunrise was straight into my view-finder I moved a little to the left. I could see three lights on the exterior of the larger object and how it shone around the opening. Shortly after I'd taken the fourth and last photograph the larger object rose straight up and disappeared over me. When that happened, I could feel water dripping from the craft down on me.
After this he hurried home, not telling anyone about what he had seen. He quickly had his film developed, wondering if the objects had even managed to show up in his pictures at all, but the photos proved to be remarkably clear. He even managed to notice a third object in the pictures that he had not noticed in his initial excitement during the encounter. He would say of this:
When the film had been developed, I noticed yet another object on the first photograph, which I hadn't seen during the incident itself. A black dot in the distance, halfway between the object and the edge of the photograph, which might have been an airplane several kilometers away, or the smaller object on its way to intercept with the larger one.
Despite the amazing photos he had taken of what he claims to be UFOs, he did not come forward with his story for two months, not even telling his own wife, thinking that no one would believe him and wanting to avoid ridicule. It was only after watching a UFO program on TV that he decided to come forward to tell his strange story, first going to UFO-Aktuellt, after which his story made the rounds in other news services. The pictures he had taken were widely circulated and they had people mystified at the time, as they were some of the clearest photographs of alleged UFOs ever taken up to that point. To the general populace it was all pretty damn spectacular, and he even claimed to have sent the negatives to be analyzed by Kodak, drumming up even more interest. However, of course the skeptics were not far behind in all of this.
One of the main criticisms of the Maslin Beach photographs is that they are almost too clear, and appear to be very staged, indeed they seem to be pretty well-shot for a man who claims to have had no photography experience, snapping pictures at moving objects while cowering in fear of his life. Making the startling clarity even more suspicious is that the camera he claims to have been using was a Kodak S50, which was a cheap camera with limited features, featuring pretty much a shutter button and that’s about it. No focus control or zoom in feature, nothing, and they have a large depth of field. In the first photo, which was allegedly taken from a distance of 400 meters away, the object is perfectly clear, while the background is fuzzy, but this doesn’t make sense because on that particular type of camera the object and horizon should both be equally in focus. Another criticism was that several people brought up the fact that the objects look suspiciously like a part of the ventilation system for private boats, nearly identical, in fact, although no one has been able to find a part like this that is an exact match. There were even those who pointed out that a string is vaguely visible in the first of the series of photos. In short, they just look really fake. The consensus was that he had built fake UFOs from both parts and staged the fake pictures, possibly even using some sort of remote-controlled craft but through it all Thomason has stood by his story and insisted his photos are genuine.
Looking at these photos now, they seem to be certainly faked, despite those who still continue to defend them. However, they are important in that they show just how far some hoaxes can go. At the time these were released, they made huge waves, and a lot of people bought it. Such fakes serve to dilute the worth of photographic evidence, especially in more modern times in which it seems to be getting easier and easier to fake such things. It has all caused us to be more vigilant and to keep our wits about us. Hopefully, this will make us better able to ferret out the hoaxes from what is possibly real, but it is still unfortunate that these hoaxes continue to happen, and because of them it doesn't seem like photos alone will ever be accepted as hard evidence for UFOs.