In the beautiful sunlight at Studland Bay’s Knoll Beach this morning, I suggested to my son that we build a sand sculpture together. But of what?

Naturally, I proposed that we make a man-sized Lego minifigure (because that would be cool), while he proposed that we carve ourselves a virtual Somerton Man. (That’s my boy!)

It should be no surprise that we ended up doing both at the same time – i.e. a life-size Somerton Man Lego minifigure sand sculpture – which was of course a lot of fun.


If you look closely, you can see his tie and a half-smoked cigarette dangling loosely from his yellow brick lips:


Is it art? No, but we had fun making it. I somehow doubt anyone on the beach realised what it was depicting, but who cares?

Anyway… later in the day, this whole thing sparked a much bigger idea in my sun-addled head. Why not hold a Virtual Somerton Man beach sculpture contest, so that everyone else has the possibility of showcasing their sand-based interpretations of this enduring South Australian mystery too?

So here it is: the 2015 Virtual Somerton Man Beach Sculpture Contest, which will run until 31st December 2015. Email me your pictures, or InstaTweetBookGram them (or whatever), but leave a comment here with a link to your masterpiece and I’ll collect them all together for a vote at the end of the year. I’ll try to track any #somertonman Tweets too, just in case a contestant is so technologically advanced that other forms of communication are too far below them. 🙂

For a bit of spice, I’m donating a non-virtual real-world prize: the winner (assuming anyone enters) will get not only their very own copy of Gerry Feltus’s excellent book The Unknown Man (on the Somerton Man mystery, if you couldn’t guess), but also a glorious victory to boast about forever!

So what are you waiting for? Get sculpting! 😉

50 thoughts on “2015 Virtual Somerton Man Beach Sculpture Contest…

  1. ” … a half-smoked cigarette dangling loosely from his yellow brick lips:”
    Bring your son in tight, Nick, there are things the kid has to know if he wants his old man to win the sand castle contest, which, by the way, is ‘hugely’ symbolic of some of the old boys earlier attempts at bringing some life to the subject – what I’m getting at here, Nick Jnr., is that the half-smoked smoke was on the bloke’s collar, not hanging off his upper lip. Ok?
    Detail, son, it makes all the difference. Thank you and good evening.

  2. Pete: cut the kid some artistic slack! You and I know that the cigarette was found wedged between his cheek and his right collar, but try doing that with a Lego minifigure sand sculpture and see how far you get. 😉

  3. Pete on April 8, 2015 at 1:40 pm said:

    Slack …. Shmack, plus you don’t have his head up on a rock so there’s the lividity problem sacrificed to win 1st prize .. and where’s the Rudolph Nureyev calf muscles?
    It’s a nice try sprout, but your technical advisor needs some work.

  4. Pete: until such time as you lift a finger to make a better Somerton Man Sand Sculpture, the boy’s got you beaten without even a fight.

    So… are you gonna make a real battle of this, or just content yourself to (virtually) kick over other people’s work?

  5. Thank you, Nick, but I’m not here to participate in the competition, just the conversation. By the way, have you ever tried to confirm more ‘spidery writing’ under the code letters? I’d hate that subject to disappear into the subterranean passages of your sandcastles.

  6. pete: I’ve put in a request for a better scan, I think that’s the proper place to start to try to move the discussion forward out of this is-it-isn’t-it microwriting rut.

    Shame about your sandcastle non-participation: anyone would think Australia was short of sandy beaches or something. :-p

  7. Fair enough .. Maybe I can fashion something out of red mud, the beach is distant these days.

  8. qualis-libet on April 9, 2015 at 7:34 pm said:

    I dare to say that the Reddit discussion about Ronald Francis with Byron Deveson, Derek Abbott and your humble servant will be of interest to you. First, we have got some interesting results. Second, your words about the conversation with Feltus seems to be a vital piece of information; the full and correct quote will be useful.

    P. S. I couldn’t post the link because of the spam filter.

  9. GF P105 –

    “The following morning [July 23rd] Francis went to the Adelaide Detective Office and showed the book to Detective Sergeant Leane, who could not believe what he was seeing. […]

    Leane listened with interest to the circumstances leading to how the book was located. When Francis requested that his identity not be disclosed, and gave his reasons why, it was not a difficult decision for Leane to make, and he readily agreed to the request. He [Leane] knew he [Leane] would be hounded to reveal the identity of the person and curious people would continually speculate on the subject […] : not revealing the identity was not going to complicate matters.”

    What do you read into that, qualis-libet?

  10. qualis-libet on April 11, 2015 at 8:42 pm said:

    In brief, I would make two points.

    (1) If the information that «Feltus claimed to have talked relatively recently (in the last year or two) with the man who found the Rubaiyat» (Nick Pelling, 2015) is correct then Francis was still alive in 2000-s and we could eliminate all possible candidates except one judging by their dates of death. The details were posted in the new reddit Tamam Shud thread.

    (2) In the interview Brown told Littlemore: “It wasn’t until ah – I think it was the 24-th th July in 1949 either a Doctor or I think it may have been a chemist – had his car parked in Jetty Road, Glenelg, near the Pier Hotel and ah – he ah – had discovered er – this book in his car…” (The Somerton Beach Story. Part. 2. P. 39-40. – National Archives of Australia. Barcode 7937872). His words about the location weren’t included in the film for good reason. If Brown is right it leaves us with only two candidates: Lionel Peter Nunn, chemist of Pier Pharmacy, who died in 1979, and Robert William Fox, chiropodist of the same place, who tentatively died in 2003 so Feltus was able to talk with him.

    Why did Leane conceal Francis’ identity? Maybe, the man was just afraid that the newspapers would ruin his name’s credit because of connection with the criminal case.

  11. QL: why would Feltus betray Leane’s wish to keep the name out of the papers?

  12. qualis-libet on April 13, 2015 at 9:49 pm said:

    Feltus didn’t reveal his name. Ronald Francis is just a pseudonym and we still haven’t known his real identity. There is some evidence but it is inconclusive. Possibly, he is Robert Fox, however, there are other opportunities.

    Feltus used pseudonyms silimar with real names (cf. Tessie Johnson with Jessica Thomson). I think this was some kind of game for him.

    He is obliged to keep the names secret but he reserves to himself right to give hints to his readers. “GF is a canny old boy”, as you said.

  13. GF was obliged to keep ‘Francis’ real name secret for the same reasons as Det Sgt Leane.
    My interest is in who ‘obliged ‘him to do so.

    I accept GF’s reasons for inventing names for (1) Prosper (no involvement, keep the family name out of it). (2) Jessica (no proven involvement other than a suspected personal attachment to SM) (3) Jessica’s friend ‘Joy’ at the Clifton Gardens (no involvement, keep her name out of it). Ditto Joy’s boyfriend.
    All of which are good and moral reasons and what we would expect of the honourable Feltus.
    The difference with ‘Francis’ is that there was involvement, and that’s why his real name was left out of it.
    Dire complications would have arisen for Det Sgt Leane if ‘Francis’ real name were to be known.
    This leads me to believe there could be no possible lead in the ‘Francis’ invention either in his name, his memory, his professional occupation,his workplace, his car or profession.

    That’s not how you keep secrets if you want to protect yourself.

    GF himself told me that Leane would have been ‘hung, drawn and quartered, and possibly lose a testicle’ if he disclosed ‘Francis’ name.
    You are looking in the wrong direction QL, and thanks for the discussion, so far.

  14. qualis-libet: rest assured that I don’t quite share Pete’s opinion in this matter, nor do I share his certainty or closure. 🙂

    As far as ‘Ronald Francis’ goes, I’ve reported what Gerry Feltus told me, and believe that what he told me he said in good faith. Personally, I would be unsurprised if ‘Ronald Francis’ turns out to have been the chiropodist Robert William Fox: Gerry was imprecise as to when he had last seen the man (who had been in poor health), and the sharedness of the two names’ initials does seem to be fairly distinctive. 😉

    As for Prosper and Jessica, I think that we should probably accept that one or both were very likely involved with the Somerton Man in a fairly direct way, though what that way is remains to be determined. 😉

  15. I read that as an apology for having my response on your website, Nick.
    How’s the search for radio-active sailors travelling .. ?

  16. Pete: all that bothered me was your cutting and pasting your own comment left here onto your own site. Basically, I didn’t want anyone accidentally thinking it expressed my opinion (because it didn’t).

    As far as the rest of it goes, the connection with Risdon has gone fairly cold; but I’d still very much like to talk with anyone who knows more about young Fred Pruszinski’s jaunt to Somerton Beach. The archival problem issue there is that the NSW Police have reorganized the way they respond to historical queries, making it more difficult for non-Australians to submit a request. But I’m sure I’ll find the right way of handling that before very long.

    Of course, I’m still looking forward to Derek Abbott’s students’ second round of Somerton Man hair analyses, which should be due in the next few months. If we can identify the specific ratio of lead isotopes present in it as being typical of (say) Broken Hill or Tasmania, that could point us more firmly in the right direction, all being well. 🙂

  17. Well, that’s all cleared up, is it? I thought that by putting my initials on the end of the post might have alerted someone as savvy as you that I was the author. It wasn’t as if I’d hidden it in a code, or something.

  18. bdid1dr on April 15, 2015 at 2:53 pm said:

    Not just lead isotopes, Nick: uranium and cobalt.

  19. Nick: how do you see an SM connection with Prosper that excludes Jessica?

  20. qualis-libet on April 16, 2015 at 8:47 pm said:

    2 Nick Pelling

    Thank you for the answer. I suppose you were in correspondence with GF about Ronald Francis a year or several years ago, didn’t you?

    2 Pete Bowes

    Policemen are dissimilar from politicians or spies. They tend to conceal information not to spread misinformation. If Leane had intended to withhold evidence he would have said nothing, possibly, he would have only acknowledged that the man who had found The Rubaiyat was the Glenelg dweller.

  21. qualis-libet: Jan 2014, for what it’s worth. 🙂

  22. QL: The rubaiyat was crucial evidence in a murder / suicide enquiry – DS Leane may have been pressured to say something ‘substantial’ when it finally surfaced – after all, he had the Clelands to deal with.

  23. qualis-libet on April 17, 2015 at 9:24 pm said:

    2 Nick Pelling


    2 Pete Bowes

    It was enough to say that the man had been a local dweller.

    The cover story would be more plausible than the truth. The story told us by the detectives about the car, brother-in-law etc. is quite odd and unusual. The experienced police officer would have concocted more simple, consistent and plausible narrative if he had tried to to make up a tale.

  24. The cover story … thank you for that QL. What do you think the cover story was covering up?
    Nick hasn’t any opinion on the matter at all, so perhaps you could dare to pen a speculative thought.

  25. qualis-libet on April 18, 2015 at 11:00 pm said:

    As I have said, I don’t think the sources tell us the cover story. I prefer to assume that Ronald Francis was a businessman of Jetty Road, apparently, a doctor or a chemist.

    Brown said that his car had been parked near the Pier Hotel, and his words sound plausible. The location is situated near the intersection of Jetty Road and Moseley Street, and all we know who lived in this street.

    A strange thought occurs to me.

    Legally, the book found in the car could be defined as an abandoned property. Depending on jurisdiction, the finder of such property may acquire certain rights on it. Theoretically, Francis had a chance to lay claim to the book and retrieve it from the authorities.

  26. QL: how does identifying, or confirming that Francis was the fellow who handed over the rubaiyat help in identifying the body?

  27. qualis-libet on April 19, 2015 at 9:25 pm said:

    Most likely, we will get nothing from it, apparently, his car was randomly chosen.

    It’s an interesting task nevertheless to find him out. Perhaps, he recovered the book from the police, retained the photographs of it or wrote the memoirs about his involvement in the case. 🙂 Perhaps, his relatives know some denials. Having him identified, we will reconstruct more precisely the Somerton Man’s supposed itinerary and finally disprove that they were linked.

  28. Thank you for your responses, Derek. This is your position (and Nick’s), as I see it – that despite DS Leane’s expressed wish to keep the identity of the finder of the rubaiyat confidential (GF P105) – you both accept that ex detective Gerry Feltus exposed him, and on the same page – if not in the full detail, then in a manner that could have him traced.
    I find that impossible to believe.

  29. pete: until someone has definitively managed to trace the man, I’d say that Gerry did a pretty good job. I find that entirely possible to believe. 😉

  30. Why would he do it?

  31. pete: why would who do what?

  32. This is like leading a child through a maze – Why would Feltus ‘hint’ at the identity of the rubaiyat donor when he has always known his identity?
    Derek asserts that GF is playing word games with his readers, is this what you think, Nick?

  33. pete: it’s just the same as ‘Tessa’ and ‘Prestige’, which were GF’s word games with his readers. So why wouldn’t ‘Ronald Francis’ also be some kind of minor, insignificant word game?

    You’re not leading me anywhere, I’m just trying to understand where you think GF’s not revealing the name somehow became a move in a conspiratorial chess game. GF hasn’t revealed the man’s true name, so how is GF party to anything?

  34. Nick, both you and DA think that Feltus is playing word games with Francis – I don’t. let’s leave it at that.

  35. qualis-libet on April 21, 2015 at 8:21 pm said:

    Are you serious?

    Your suggestion flatters my self-esteem but I am not Abbott. I am not Australian, and English isn’t my native language. I hold different views from Abbott on many aspects of the case.

  36. Fair enough QL – my apologies.
    I’ve cut and pasted my response to Nick from another site and wonder whether you’d care to agree or disagree with the sentiments.
    “DS Leane was handed the coded rubaiyat by a ‘mystery man’ who wanted his name kept out of the papers, so a ‘Ronald Francis’ was invented to accommodate his request and GF wrote it up as such.
    Leane’s stated reason for agreeing to the mystery man’s request for anonymity was that he (Leane) would lose his manhood if he (Leane) made known the mystery man’s real name.
    Nick, on the other hand, believes that GF is playing word games with his readers, and is hinting at the mystery man’s real name in his book – in other words – GF is white-anting DS Leane and attempting to give the game away to his readers.”
    This, to my mind, would be a betrayal of confidence, something I would never give GF credit for – what do you think QL?

  37. qualis-libet on April 22, 2015 at 8:16 pm said:

    I don’t think that Feltus had betrayed somebody’s trust.

    He is in his own right to play games and give hints. Even if he did so, he circumvented the rules rather than broke them.

    Leane had some reasons to conceal Francis’ identity in 1949 but it was many years ago. By now these reasons may have lost their force in full or in part.

  38. QL, if you think that the Leanes’ reasons for secrecy have diminished with time then you must know what they are, or have some suspicion – and you may not know it but this isn’t the site for speculation – they are dealt with elsewhere, a little lower on the Tamam Shud investigative hierarchy .

  39. pete: I have to say that you’re coming across as fairly dogmatic here. It’s 60+ years on, almost all of the people who worked on the case at the time are dead, so everything inevitably loses whatever sense of import it once had.

    Suspicion is good here too, but it needs a little bit of flagging or else it pollutes your thinking. For example, I clearly flagged the notion that Gerry Feltus might have been playing word games with ‘Ronald Francis’ as my suspicion, but you seem to have taken it as something far more.

    Even though Gerry Feltus kind-of-flagged Jessie and Prosper by calling them ‘Tessie’ and ‘Prestige’, it took an entirely separate type of enquiry to identify them for certain. Do you think Gerry was breaking confidence by giving them pseudonyms? And if we still cannot reliably identify the alleged ‘chemist’/’doctor’ after all this time, how exactly has Gerry broken any confidences by calling the man ‘Ronald Francis’?

  40. Nick: when GF wrote the book he had to mention Jessica and Prosper because of their integral part in the matter, and to my thinking he covered them because it was the decent thing to do. It’s obvious he had some sympathy for the woman. The reason nobody has had any success with ‘Ronald Francis’ may be because it is not a hint at all. You are the one who is following the Francis theme, not me, and you should ask that question of yourself.

  41. Ronny F on April 23, 2015 at 8:34 pm said:

    Ronald is an anagram of Arnold.

    Francis not Deutschland.

    Now there’s someone who would not want to attract attention.

  42. pete: I don’t see any reason not to accept Gerry Feltus’ account, to the point that I don’t believe I’ve posted even once about ‘Ronald Francis’ on Cipher Mysteries. I’ve read your various posts on the subject, but still completely fail to see what conspiracy I’m missing. Oh well!

  43. Fair enough, Nick, this is like a chess game where nobody gets anywhere – however – if we give GF’s ‘Mr. Francis’ the pub test, i.e.; what could would a businessman / chemist / doctor have over the Detective Sergeant in charge of the investigation that would have him compromise the investigation by withholding information? And further, have that personal / professional burden of his accepted by GF and given an indeterminate life in the book? In other words; if DS Leane was on the take, consorting with criminals, in the drug business, aiding and abetting etc etc – do you think that GF would assist him in covering it up? I thinkest nottest, something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and Ronny F’s comment is still on the money. Remember how Derek Abbott mocked my notion that SM might be Deutsch because he was (according to the traitor, liar and scoundrel Kim Philby) too short by 4″ … ?
    Would you like to chat about that, Nick, now that Mr. Francis is dead in the water? I’ve been laying down some thoughts, here and there.

  44. pete: if you think something doesn’t add up, feel free to pursue it all you like – I’m not yer dad. 🙂

    Personally, I haven’t pursued the ‘Ronald Francis’ angle to date because it doesn’t even remotely lead me in any of the kind of directions it leads you in: but everyone’s different, right?

  45. That’s an amusing play with words, Nick, something you do often. Let me get it right: You are not pursuing the Francis angle to date because it doesn’t go the way I want it to go, have I got that right?
    – and personally, I’m thankful we are not related in anything but the English language, and I have my doubts there.

  46. pete: I have not pursued the ‘Ronald Francis’ angle to date because to my eyes it doesn’t seem likely to be even slightly fruitful.

    And I’m still not yer dad. 😉

  47. qualis-libet on April 24, 2015 at 9:47 pm said:

    It’s obvious he had some sympathy for the woman.

    Personally, I got an impression that GF suspected Jestyn in murder, apparently, with Prosper Thomson as an accessory to the crime. Of course, in spite of this fact, he could have some sympathy for her.

    The reason nobody has had any success with ‘Ronald Francis’ may be because it is not a hint at all.

    May be, may be not. If you excuse my lack of modesty, I will say that your humble servant and Byron Deveson achieved some success with Jetty Road doctors, particularly Robert Fox.

  48. Ronny F: 😉

  49. bdid1dr on May 13, 2015 at 4:03 pm said:

    Murray, being a very common Australian name, you may want to try to find a certificate of marriage between a “Murray” woman and a Shackelford man. The man disappeared right about the time the deceased man was found on Somerton Beach. Not too long after his disappearance, his pregnant wife and two children migrated to the US, and lived for a while with Murray relatives. Her third child was born at White Sands.

  50. John sanders on April 8, 2017 at 4:50 am said:

    Bdid1dr ‘Lo Bobbie P. and to all the good folk in San Raf. Regarding your last post on this thread; are we talking about Noelle, Aileen or Norma Taylor. By the bye, in Australia the word Murray, Murry or even Murrie does not necessarily refer a surname, as these days we tend to use this form of the word to describe our own indigenous people, which thankfully is not deemed to be offensive. You’ll notice that I’ve just defended your honour and integrity again, over at the lead mine this time, but that thread now seems to be on its last legs. so hopefully you might have something more to say about the Shackelford mystery..jes

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