An intriguing report, but what I found really astonishing is that apparently not one of the fifty-odd people and crew on board had a camera with them!? I've not yet read the report in detail but the only reference to a photo that I can find is the statement in Chapter 3 that:
"...There are several other oddities worth noting in the Project Blue Book file. On one typed sheet a brief reference is made to study of a photograph. There is no explanation..."
Martin SHOUGH replies :
An interesting point, Graham. Of course this was 1954. Society was not flooded with cameras in the way it is today. Nevertheless half a century of popular photography had placed at least a Kodak "Box Brownie" in many - perhaps even most - moderately affluent households. 35mm cameras were widespread. Edwin LAND's first Polaroids had been on the market for about 6 years.
This was also not an economy flight, but a luxury flight for well-heeled travellers, some of whom were employees of BOAC. One might intuitively expect that the probable rate of camera possession per passenger mile would have been greater on this flight than most. The aircrew had space, relative comfort and excellent visibility on the flight deck.
There is the counter-argument that affluent frequent flyers might be less likely to sit with cameras easily accessible in hand luggage since the novelty of flight has worn off for them and they may be focused on business or, in some cases, so jaded that even the "champagne and caviar run" is merely an opportunity for sleep. Some of the passengers were reportedly asleep, and there is no reason to believe that all of them were witnesses.
It is also possible that passenger photographs do exist. These people were not by and large reached by journalists. I'm aware of only one passenger account recorded in a contemporary local newspaper. The focus was firmly on the crew of the Stratocruiser, and in particular Capt. HOWARD. And some witnesses may well have preferred not to be publicly associated with photos of what even Capt. HOWARD was averring must have been an "intelligently controlled machine" - i.e., a flying saucer.
Nevertheless, the incident was front page news around the world. The press and BBC TV and cinema newsreels generally treated it seriously. It remained a prominent case for decades, having I think a slightly special status for the twin reasons that Capt. HOWARD
and his crew were so highly respectable and that there was always the feeling that the objects might have been some sort of rare and unexplainable yet natural phenomenon. This of course was the conclusion of the influential CONDON Report in 1969. If any passenger photos do exist it is somewhat surprising that in five decades no rumour of one has emerged.
So, one lesson that should be drawn from this case - a lesson which ought to help calibrate our expectation in similar circumstances - is that in 1954 a genuinely unusual phenomenon could be observed at leisure for many minutes by perhaps tens of affluent, generally (and technically) educated witnesses, having at least an average percentage of camera-ownership, without even one photograph being taken.