Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ivorybill Photo Hoax

Anybody can do this.

For the past couple of weeks there's been some buzz on certain blogs about a blurry "possible" ivorybill woodpecker color photo taken in 2007 by Steve Sheridan (the image above is not it.) All links to that photo are now down, as far as I can tell. It was supposedly reviewed by a team of 20 experts for 18 months, and apparently nobody concluded (or even seriously suspected?) it was faked. There were elements to it that I thought looked odd, but of course hindsight is 20-20, and I was certainly intrigued, and I really hoped it was legitimate. Well, the cat's out of the bag, and apparently Sheridan has confessed. I hope (OK, even suspect) there are still ivorybills out there, but this kind of behavior from an individual previously regarded as a serious searcher only lessens hopes. An anonymous commenter to a recent Ivorybills LiVE! blog post (before the hoax was revealed) pretty much echoes my feelings on this:
"Perhaps some people enjoyed this exercise, but I found it discouraging. I believe the IBWO is out there because my BS-detector told me to trust some of the strangers who said they saw it. This search has been a big preoccupation of mine for years. However, a developing parallel between this and Bigfoot (which I don't believe exists) is a sub-culture that includes expert ambiguous evidence analysts on the internet with a never-ending supply of ambiguous “evidence” to analyze. It's creepy, and it makes me wonder if I'm really a chump for spending the time, money and energy I have on this search."
Sheridan will forever be remembered by ivorybill buffs as a fraud. The last putative color photo of the bird seriously put forward was taken in Louisiana by Fielding Lewis in 1971, and can be viewed here (.pdf). Lewis was accused by some of faking this photo, but he maintained until his dying day that it was legitimate.

ADDENDUM: Sheridan has apologized here, but the damage is done. Now what will happen if/when someone comes forth with "good" photo evidence? Forget about still photos. Even a National Geographic documentary-quality video of adult ivorybills feeding young at the nest cavity will be doubted by some, because a skilled CGI tech can realistically simulate anything these days. Look at this:

1 comment:

David Steen said...

I don't understand his motivation.