Klaus and Birgit's story
Initial media reports on Klaus Emmerichs 2005 photos of a thylacine in Tasmania described various criticisms of both the photographs and the story behind them.
Certainly one popular question amongst blogsters and online commentators ran along the lines "how on Earth can you see a thylacine and not know you're seeing an extinct animal?"
The fact that some reports painted the situation more ambiguously than Emmerichs felt was actually the case, was frustrating to Emmerichs. English being his second language did not help his situation any.
On Klaus and Birgit's return to Tasmania in April 2006, they met with author and thylacine researcher Col Bailey. One result of their discussions was Col's posting at the Tasmanian Times online to clarify many aspects of the German tourists' story.
I will not re-describe these details here, suffice it to say that Bailey's article is well worth the read if you haven't read it already.
Tourists who knew almost nothing of their destination?
So to the question - how did Germans Klaus and Birgit come to be tourists in Tasmania, knowing almost nothing of their destination?
The answer is literally due to fate.
The 2005 thylacine photos were taken in early February, however Tasmania was never their intended tourist destination.
Three months earlier, in November 2004, Birgit celebrated her 40th birthday and Klaus bought her the now-famous Ricoh digital camera. Neither were particularly familiar with digital technology of any kind, including the new birthday present, and also including computers.
Klaus began using computers about three years prior and knows just enough to check and send email and very little else.
Along with the new camera, plans were made to travel to Sri Lanka. Holiday leave was arranged, travel plans scheduled and flights booked.
Three days before their scheduled departure however, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, and the resulting tsunamis devastated countries around the region - including Sri Lanka.
Needless to say, their travel to Sri Lanka was cancelled. Still, the couple was determined to take an overseas break and Australia was chosen as the destination primarily because Klaus' brother already lived there. Klaus had last visited Australia in 1986.
For the most part of January, Klaus returned to work before they caught the first available flights down to Melbourne. Because of the late scheduling and Klaus' return to work in January, neither of the pair spent much time, if any, researching their destination.
After a few days spent with Klaus' brother, they decided to take a trip to Tasmania. The answer, then, as to how they came to be tourists from the other side of the world who knew very little about their destination is in the fact they only decided to visit Tasmania one or two days before actually flying in.
(After touring the Island State for two weeks the couple flew to Port Douglas which was, ironically, the location near which Steve Irwin was filming when he (Irwin) was killed by a stingray in September 2006. Cryptomundo reports that Irwin had travelled to Tasmania himself, in search of the thylacine. In another strange twist of fate, Terri Irwin happened to be trekking at Cradle Mountain at the time, near to where Klaus Emmerichs took his photos of the thylacine. Ironically too, just a few days earlier, I had emailed Steve and Terri with the suggestion of searching for the thylacine on the basis of Klaus' photographs. At that time I was unaware they had already visited Tasmania for that purpose.)
Returning to the story of Klaus and Brigit's journey to Tasmania, Bailey has already mentioned (see link above), that their return flights to Germany were booked in advance. Once they captured photographs of the thylacine they did begin to make enquiries and learned that the animal was supposed to be extinct. When back in Melbourne, they showed the photographs to Klaus' brother who confirmed them as a thylacine. With return flights booked, a business to run back home, and a poorer command of English than Klaus' brother (who has lived in Australia for some number of years) they returned to Germany, leaving copies of the photos with Klaus' brother to follow up with authorities.
However at this point the story is already well documented by Bailey, including the fact that they only discovered back in Germany, that the photos still resided on the camera's internal memory. Ricoh was approached and confirmed that the memory cannot be written-to by a computer; any photos stored there must have been taken by the camera itself. What can be added to the picture today, is the knowledge that Klaus and Brigit's computer and digital camera skills were, and very much still are, at an introductory level.
Secondly, they knew very little about Tasmania and the thylacine, simply because they hadn't prepared to visit Tasmania until one or two days before actually flying in.