photo © David Russell 2003
Fig. 1 - The necessity of aligning with the three sets of tramlines.
The formation is centered on a 'tramline' - more precisely, on one of the two wheel tracks. Furthermore, its outer perimeter fits neatly between the tramlines either side of the central one. These facts in themselves may not appear significant, but in terms of the 'manually-made' hypothesis, it certainly makes life easier for the setting out of the formation, as is explained below.
Even from a monochrome reproduction of David Russell's aerial photograph, it is clear that there is a difference between the condition of the crop in the formation as compared to that comprising the adjacent lodging. It is more apparent in the colour photograph, but to the experienced eye, the darker shade of the lodged crop indicates that it is older (i.e. occurred some time before the formation's arrival). Also apparent from the aerial photograph is that there is a central circular swirl in the middle of the design, its clean perimeter revealing that the crop in the triangular components is laid outwards from the central circle towards the surrounding ring (as, indeed, confirmed by Andy Thomas' report on the Crop Circle Connector web site <http://cropcircleconnector.com/2003/northmarden/northmarden2003a.html>).
The appearance in the photograph of the ring being wider on the left hand side than on the right is not a trick of perspective (this applies only to the 'top' and 'bottom' sides of the formation). The reason for this disparity is that from approximately the middle bottom of the formation (point A in the photograph), where it runs into a wheel track and then the lodging, the ring becomes slightly wider, until it meets the wheel track on which the formation is centered - B. At this point there is a noticeable step in the ring, making it narrower. At point C, again coinciding with meeting a wheel track, the ring once more steps down to a narrower width - in fact, returns to its original dimension.
An explanation for this oddity arises from the sequence of construction. If we assume the formation to be manually-made, the sequence would be, first, setting out the circumferences of the central circle and the ring (the latter requiring two circumferences, for the inner and outer diameters).
It should be noted at this stage that a seven-pointed star can only fit symmetrically between a central circle and an outer ring if they are of a certain proportion to one another - which is illustrated in Fig. 1, where the tramlines, being of equal width and distance from one another, provide the perfect template for setting out this proportion. Note the coincidence of the points of the star with the tramlines at 1A, 1B and 1C and the 'cleft' at 1D. This explains why the formation sits so neatly across three sets of tramlines: it makes the measuring guaranteed to work.
When it comes to flattening down the crop between the inner and outer diameters of the ring, however, at point A the outline outer ring would be 'lost' in the lodging, which begins at that point. In the dark, a human circle maker could become easily disorientated. This is indicated by the discernible 'bump' in the ring at point D in the photograph, which suggests a wandering to the left by the maker, corrected at E, on reaching the tramline and realising the mistake. This also explains the continuation of the flow of the ring (clockwise) 'into' the flow of the lodging (right-to-left in the photograph). A bold effort has been made in this instance, but not quite good enough. When the maker reached the central tramline (1B), he/she apparently realised that there was still a mismatch and tried to compensate, but not too obviously, thus continuing to flatten the ring further, but moving slightly towards the centre, ultimately, however, having to stop dead again at 1C, on the tramline, where there is a second misalignment. (This explanation would only apply if the crop in the ring were laid clockwise, as, indeed, it was.)
Another interesting 'anomaly' noted in Thomas' report is that of a segment of lodging overlapping into one of the flattened triangles (point E in the photograph): he writes, "One area of the southern star point is made up from lodging which begins in the standing crop between points and then sweeps into the flattened point to become proper circle lay. It does not overlay any pre-existing floor - there would be no pattern in-fill here without this lodging."
What this means is that either (a) during the flattening of this triangle an irregularly shaped clump was left standing, which was subsequently laid flat at an angle to the flow of the triangle, beginning from the standing crop, or (b) the lodging was already present, lying within the ouline of the triangle. Option (b) is clearly the more likely, especially when it is noted in the photograph that a whole broken line of patches of lodging extends from the top left to bottom right of the photograph, across the formation.
A note on 'gap-seeking':
This occurs when crop is pushed down (by whatever means or agency) and meets no resistance. Just as water will run into a crevice, stalks will fall into gaps in the standing crop - especially tramlines. An experiment in crop is easy to carry out: using hands, feet, a plank of wood or whatever - unless you first create a neat flattened circumference by walking sideways round a central pivot - if you try to make a circle by working outwards, the stalks will 'fan' or 'feather' outwards away from the direction they are being pushed in, hence the sometimes occurring 'saw-tooth' effect in formations (which have been created with no initial outline).
Thomas' report also notes that although the crop in the triangles flows away from the central circle towards their apexes at the ring, the perimeter of the central circle slightly overlaps the bases of the triangles, implying that the triangles were created first. Given the 'gap-seeking' effect, this overlapping should not have happened in the way it did: if the circle were laid after the triangles, there thus being no wall of standing crop for the stalks in the circle to lean up against, those stalks would have splayed outwards over the triangles quite dramatically. In fact, the very neat perimeter, as evident even in the photograph, indicates that the circle's perimeter was most likely gathered together manually after being flattened, the reason for this, presumably, being to disguise the ring around the central circle under the flattened crop, which would be discovered by diligent researchers (or simply for aesthetic reasons).
All these observations, in my view, indicate that this formation was manually-made, since this hypothesis neatly explains all the 'anomalies' in a clear, internally cohesive and coherent way.
Fig. 2 - To begin the star shape: seven equally spaced points are drawn around the circumference of the central circle. This is made easy by the use of the central wheel track, on which the whole formation pivots. 2A is the logical starting point. The length of the chord 2A-2B is predetermined by calculation and repeated round the circle.
Fig. 3 - Second stage of star-building: the first triangle is set out. Again, this is made easy by the use of the central wheel track. The apex of the triangle (3A) is on the track and the points of the base (3B & 3C) are already there (see Fig. 2). To position the apexes of the triangles, a third outline ring needs to be drawn between the first two, shown here in bold (and bearing in mind that the outlines of the two 'signature' grapeshot need to be drawn before this third ring).
Fig. 4 - Shown in bold: the process used to determine the apexes of the triangles. This is a repeat, on a larger scale, of the process used in Fig. 2 to determine the bases of the triangles. (Needless to say, the lines aren't actually drawn: a tape is merely stretched to the required length to determine the points.)
Fig. 5 - Star shape completed. All that remains is to flatten crop in triangles, around ring (leaving grapeshot, of course) and in central circle.
Fig. 6 - Showing the patches of lodging referred to in the main text.
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