Friday, September 30, 2011

Comments on the Zanthus case from Martin Shough


A technical glitch somewhere along the line meant that two comments by Martin Shough didn't arrive at the Blog. I therefore reproduce them below, by re-typing from emails from Martin.

"Hello Keith

Thanks for posting this interesting follow-up. It's a pity that it was left to you to do this job now when ideally it would have been done 40 years ago, as you say.

If I could just comment on the comments:

Yes it would be very interesting to see radiosonde profiles for that day. I wish you luck in getting hold of them. Hopefully your request will focus if possible on balloon localities to the NW of the sighting area, in the sighting direction, which could be more significant than conditions in the immediate vicinity of the plane because the ray paths might be passing for long distances through an hypothetical optical duct extending over a wide area far from the plane.

Connected with that, I'd point out that the (equally hypothetical) target(s) of this mirage - silhouetted peaks, or clouds etc -might conceivably lie at a distance of hundreds of miles from the plane, so the topography and weather of the immediate Zanthus area is possibly not so relevant.

Note a point made in my report on the Captain Howard case (possibly notes 83, or thereby 11RC) - that the radio signal loss during the Zanthus sighting could be consistent with a strong temperature inversion causing an optical duct. In dry air such as might be the situation at altitude in reportedly very clear blue skies over a region like this, radio and optical ducting onset would be much closer in time than would typically be the case (radio wavelengths normally being affected disproportionately by the relative humidity.) It could happen that radio waves were being refracted and prevented from entering the optical duct. When the duct broke down, or the plane emerged from it, radio and optical propagation might return almost simultaneously to normal.

Re Captain Gardin's late recollections of details which indicate vertical angular displacements that seems to possibly conflict with a mirage explanation - the 45 degree final ascent, and merging of the satellite objects from underneath - I am reluctant to place as much weight on material information recalled 43 years later that was not mentioned at the time. Capt Smith's account (I agree with you) did give the impression - not explicitly, but by (I would say) conspicuous omission - that observed motions were confined to a horizontal plane.

It may not be irrelevant that these new details tend to increase the strangeness of the event. No doubt Gardin encountered attempts by various people to explain the sighting - possibly including mirage-type theories, of which the original story was at least somewhat suggestive, it would be natural to want to defend a contrary opinion in which the witness may have invested some public and personal capital over the years (as possibly also hinted at by the 'psychic' revelations.) A similar temptation appears to have influenced Captain Howard (BOAC case 1954) in similar circumstances a decade or more after the event, as proven by detailed documentary evidence in my report on that case.

In respect of memory, I note that Captain Gardin now recalls that "the Sun was above the horizon" and sky conditions in the sighting direction was "clear blue sky." However your own findings are as follows.

'A check of the astronomical sky using a software program indicated that at 0940 GMT (1740 local) the Sun had set and was about 4 degrees below the ground horizon, some 20 degrees to the right of the aircraft's track.'

I look forward to your further work on this interesting case. Perhaps contemporary evidence will emerge that convincingly disproves the mirage theory."

Second comment on the finding of a contemporary newspaper clipping.

"Thanks for sharing this discovery. As usual with newspaper reporters we have to be cautious about the account. It quotes Smith: "He said that a big white object had flown on a collision course  with their Piper Navijo (sic) aircraft for 20 minutes" but if we are to credit Smith's own words in his own report of the RAAF file, this is utter garbage. The object(s) was/were not white, but dark grey or black. The objects were not at any time on a collision course, but on an apparent pacing course maintaining station. And the sighting lasted not 20 minutes, but 10 minutes. Not exactly ace journalism!"

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cold case - Canberra, Australia - 15 July 1965

Some internet UFO sources carry an item about a sighting on 15 July 1965, at Canberra, Australia. These accounts usually mention a UFO was sighted from Canberra airport for some time, before mysteriously vanishing.

I recently looked through my Disclosure Australia project material to see what I could find on this case.

Firstly, I located a copy of the RAAF's summaries of aerial sightings, and for 1965 found an entry:

"15 Jul 65 White spherical object, Canberra, ACT (Possible cause) astronomical."

Then, on file series A703, control symbol 580/1/1 part 4 folio 83, there was a one page telex, dated 16 July 1965. The sender was Headquarters Operations Command. The recipient was the Department of Air. It read:

"Restricted. AI32/CINTELLO for DAFI. UFO sighting Canberra airport 15 Jul. This headquarters has concluded that object was planet Venus. No further action will be taken."

So, the RAAF's conclusion was that the observation was of the planet Venus.

I tried to find a detailed investigation report from a civilian UFO group about the case, but turned up nothing. Some UFO newsletters did mention the event but referenced a newspaper article in The Australian dated 16 July 1965. On a visit to the South Australian State Library, I found the article.

(Source: The Australian newspaper number 313 Friday 16 July 1965, page 16.)

"While Earth was looking at Mars, somebody from out there could have been looking at us.

"An unidentified flying object was sighted over Canberra airport yesterday morning. And that put it in a position to eavesdrop Tidbinbilla.

"It was described as a metallic silvery object, hovering in the sky to the north-east at an elevation of between 20 and 30 degrees.

"Air traffic control staff in the main  control tower spotted the visitor about 11am.

"The officer-in-charge of Civil Aviation at the airport, Mr A B Lindeman saw it too.

"So did Flight-Lieutenant Weston, the RAAF base operations officer. But the first was an air-traffic controller Mr Tom Lindsey. He was scanning the sky to the north-east looking for a light aircraft due from Bankstown.

"Another controller, Mr A F Frodsham said it hung in the sky for about 40 minutes. He said it could have been a reflection from an aircraft. But there were no planes departing from Canberra at the time nor was there any record of other aircraft in the area.

"Mr Lindsey said there were definitely no civil aircraft in the area at the time. "I don't know what it was - your guess is as good as mine."

"Said Flight Lieutenant Weston "It's hard to say whether it was stationary. At one time it seemed to be approaching us but I'm not sure."

"He had never seriously thought about flying saucers before but he supposed they were possible. "There must be a reasonable explanation for it, but I wouldn't like to hazard a guess."

Mars paying a return visit perhaps."

The mention of Mars is in reference to Mariner 4's visit to the red planet. Tidbinbilla tracking station was the receiving point for the second picture to be beamed back from Mars.

My comments:

1. Based on the newspaper article the mystery object was located at about 20-30 degrees angular elevation in the north-eastern sky.

2. It was seen over a time span of 40 minutes.

3. It was reported as a "metallic silvery object."

4. It "hung" in the sky, and seemed to be stationary.

5. Could it have been the planet Venus?  Venus is sometimes visible in broad daylight. I have seen it around noon in clear skies myself. On these occasions it does look like a silver star in the sky. The question then is, where was Venus at 11am on 15 July 1965? Was it even above the horizon?

6. A check with an astronomical software program showed me that Venus was above the horizon. It was due north-east, at an angular elevation of 23 degrees. It was very bright, at magnitude -3.8.

7. So, Venus was in the specific location mentioned by all the observers in the newspaper article. Venus as the 'UFO' fits all the details given. Over a 40 minute period it would have moved roughly northwards, through an angle of some 10 degrees, which may not have been enough for ground observers to think, during a discontinuous observation (it would appear no one watched it continuously for the whole 40 minutes,) it was other than north-east at between 20-30 degrees elevation.

8. It is therefore reasonable, to suggest that this 'UFO' was in fact the planet Venus.

Zanthus sighting newspaper article located

During my interview with Walter Gardin, one of the pilot witnesses to the 22 August 1968, Zanthus, Western Australia, aircraft encounter, he mentioned he thought that there had been press coverage of the sighting. This morning, I visited the South Australian State Library newspaper collection to see if I could locate any press coverage. In fact, I found an article.

It appeared in The West Australian newspaper, Saturday 24 August 1968 on page 13. It was headed "Check on sighting." The text reads:

"The sighting of an unidentified flying object by two commercial pilots near Kalgoorlie on Thursday will be investigated by the R.A.A.F.

Mr Gordon Smith of Tuart Hill and Mr Walter Gardin of South Perth, made full reports of the sighting to Department of Aviation officials in Kalgoorlie.

Mr Smith said yesterday that he retained an open mind on what he had seen. He was sure it was not an aircraft or a satellite.

He said that a big white object had flown on a collision course with their Piper Navijo aircraft for 20 minutes before speeding out of sight. It appeared to emit several big-dish-like objects which kept within a few miles of the main object then merged with it again."

I have never seen this newspaper article cited in any UFO literature in connection with the Zanthus event. So, you read it here for the first time in 43 years.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Surveillance technology and mini-ufos

Dear readers

Jenny Randles from the UK has a very interesting article in Fortean Times issue 277 (August 2011 p.31.)

The article is about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs.) "Going back to the days when these craft were first tested - one might think in a more liberal environment than today's War on Terror - we find decade's worth of UFO sightings that would make more sense if interpreted in the context of UAV technology."

Jenny reports on a sighting on 4 May 2011 by 17 year old Laurance Baker of Widnes, Cheshire. "What made this story different was that the small oval 'craft' flew very low above the art design student's head and was - he insists - a structural device that he suspected to be 'stealth aircraft technology." He based his argument on the craft's unusual design. Modest in size but covered in black cell-like structures similar to scales and with an antenna at the rear that projected over the curved surface pointing forward in the direction the object was travelling."

Jenny then takes a look at other cases which might fit the UAV scenario.

27 August 1979. Two men flying in a Cessna aircraft in Surrey, went into a steep dive to avoid "a small dough-nut shaped object as it crossed their path. This object then travelled around the Cessna as if inspecting them...the description...includes reference to a honeycomb of small cells making up the outer structure, which rotated...Another pilot...had a more distinct view of the min-ufo the next was heading for nearby Farnborough, the home of experimental aircraft design..."

April 1984. A medical research scientist saw "...a hovering object made from a series of 'grid' structures...near the Lakenheath military base in East Anglia. I later discovered...that she had  probably seen a UAV that had temporarily gone out of control..."

"I have many other cases in my files and their locations cluster around military or BAE locations such as Warton in Lancashire."

Jenny notes "In 2007, a new hovering spy camera was unveiled that was even likened to a flying saucer at the launch...This device was based on a mini-helicopter with multiple rotors...including an antenna and a surface area made up of small, black, scale-like tiles."

"Moreover, some trade sources suggest that similar devices, have been sold to UK special forces recently for highly covert surveillance activities, that, needless to say, is not going to be discussed openly."

For information on BAE Australia click here. For an article on the use of UAVs by the Australian Army and RAAF click here.

Have readers come across any cases which might have been due to UAVs?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Zanthus - a paranormal connection

Dear readers

It's a warm and gusty day here in Adelaide, so I am taking a day off and visiting my local library to read science magazines. The subject of this post is the 22 August 1968, Zanthus case, which my co-blogger, Keith Basterfield has recently posted about.

I was reading Keith's posts, and although all the details were great to see, one aspect completely surprised me.

Walter Gardin revealed that during the event, and for six months afterwards, he felt that he was under the control of something/someone who was gathering information on people on Earth. This is an extremely unusual aspect to the whole event; which has never been revealed before. It took an interview 43 years after the event to uncover it.

Mentally digesting this revelation, I then recalled some information I'd read in Jacques Vallee's "Forbidden Science - Volume two." Documatica Research, LLC. San Francisco. ISBN 978-0-615-24974-2.

(1) In November 1974 (p273) Vallee reviewed the Herb Schirmer, 1967 abduction case. "There are several interesting things to note in connection with the case. First, there had been a knock on Schirmer's door at 10.45am that day. The dog rushed to the door and Schirmer opened it: there was no one there. In another curious detail, he never felt his body after the green flash." (One humanoid held a box which emitted a green flash.)

(2) In September 1977 (p397.) Vallee was talking to Father Gill (Papua, 1959 observation of occupants on a UFO) about his events. Over coffee, Vallee asked Gill "Do you ever dream about the 1959 incident?" then when Gill responded "Yes." Vallee further asked "Anything unusual about those dreams?"

"Funny you should ask that. Few people inquire about these details. I dream about something that happened an hour after the object flew away."

"He heard an explosion just outside the Mission building, in Boainai: his hair stood up. That's the moment, that always comes back in his dreams, he told me, rather than the sighting itself."

(3) In November 1978 (p447) Vallee had a discussion with Lieutenant-Colonel Larry Coyne (pilot in the Mansfield, Ohio helicopter event.) "After his sighting he remained 72 hours unable to sleep. A week later he had the experience of floating out of his body. And he began some personal psychic experiments."

The point that Vallee makes about these three cases is "So now we have a series of cases in which UFO observations have combined with paranormal effects that are never mentioned in the literature: Crutwell, Father Gill, Schirmer, and now Coyne." (p447.)


Could this mean that had we inquired of the witnesses in the 1966 Tully "nest" affair, or the 1980 Rosedale CE2 case, or any other Australian close encounter, that paranormal associations would have emerged?

Are readers aware of any other early (say 1950's-mid 1970's) Australian cases where paranormal events are part and parcel of the published event? If so, please share.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

One of the witnesses to the 22 Aug 1968 Zanthus case located and interviewed

So far, I have posted the details of the 22 Aug 1968, Zanthus, Western Australia case, as recorded in the RAAF's UFO files. However, upon reading those documents there were a few questions which arose in my mind, which I wanted to resolve. What was the size comparison of the small to large objects? How far to the left and right of the large object did the small objects travel? Were any radar observations made?

I was fortunate enough, the other day to be able to locate and interview, by phone,  one of the pilots involved in this event. Walter Gardin is now aged 77, being 34 when the event transpired. He was kind enough to answer my questions. Here then are my interview notes, which provide some interesting new details which have not seen the light of day in 43 years.

Interview notes with Walter Gardin 15 Sep 2011:

Q1 What first drew your attention to the formation?

We had heard that a balloon was to be flown from Western Australia to Sydney. I was flying the aircraft at the time, when I suddenly noticed an object out of the cockpit window. I looked again but nothing was there. I was reading a newspaper at the time. On looking up once again, the object was now present. Later I learnt that the balloon in questions had not flown on that day. So, the answer to your question is that I first thought it was a balloon I was seeing.

Q2 The statement said the formation was at the same level as the aircraft. Does this mean that you looked straight at it, as opposed to needing to look up or down from the aircraft's horizon?


Q3 There was one larger object and several smaller ones. If the length of the larger object was one unit, what was the length of a smaller object?

1/10th to 1/5th of a unit.

Q4 For the whole ten minutes of viewing, the formation maintained the same distance. Does this mean that the angular size of both the larger and smaller objects remained constant?


Additional information:

Walter was supposed to provide a position report to DCA Kalgoorlie, during the time they were out of radio contact with DCA Kalgoorlie. When Kalgoorlie failed to receive this report they were concerned that the aircraft may have crashed.

Q5 The statement reads "the smaller aircraft then flew out left and right." If the length of the larger object was one unit, how many units to left and right did the smaller objects travel?

About 30 degrees. Two smaller objects went to the right and four to the left.

Q6 "At 0950GMT the whole formation joined together." Does this mean that they became one, and only one object, which diminished in angular size?

Yes, they all merged. The smaller objects merged with the larger one by going in to it from underneath. The one object then departed by going upwards at a 45 degree angle from the aircraft's horizon. It diminished in size as if receding.

Q7 Was the Sun above the horizon at the time?


Q8 Was the Moon or any other object visible in the sky?

No. It was a clear blue sky in the direction of the formation.

Q9 The statement said the weather was fine. Does this equate to clear sky in the direction of the objects?

Yes. The weather was fine in that direction. Clear blue sky.

Q10 Was there any air turbulence at the time?


Further information:

When they arrived at Kalgoorlie, the police were present, as DCA thought that the aircraft may have crashed. Walter did not talk to them about his observations. He understood that Gordon may have appeared later, on TV or in the paper.

Q11 Kalgoorlie told you that there was no traffic in the area, when you asked them. Would this have been based on their radar observation?

Walter and I discussed this point and came to the conclusion that Kalgoorlie relied on aircraft identifying themselves as being in the area, rather than radar observations from Kalgoorlie.

Q12 Did your aircraft have radar onboard.


Q13 To your knowledge, was Kaloorlie in receipt of any other observations of unidentified traffic?


Q14 Did any RAAF personnel ever speak to you or Gordon about the observations?

RAAF did. Walter recalls someone telling them about a case involving the US Dewline and of a building in the US where they looked into UFOs.

Q15 Prior to 22 Aug 1968 what was your opinion of UFOs?

UFOs were "bull," ( that is he didn't believe in them.)

Q16 Did you change your opinion as a result of the 22 Aug 1968 observation?

Yes. After this episode I formed the opinion that there are other inhabited planets out there.

Additional information:

While looking at the formation, Walter had a strange sensation, which lasted for the next six months. He had the feeling that he was "in the control of people gathering information on people on the earth."

Q17 What radios were onboard the aircraft?

Two UHF and one VHF.

Q17 How many times did the cycle of smaller objects going outwards and inwards occur?

I saw it three times. Gordon twice.

Q18 Do you know if Gordon Smith is still alive?

I don't know. The last I heard of him he was at a flying school in Perth.

My comments:

Some very interesting information has emerged from this interview.

1. That the single, united object left at a 45 degree upwards direction. I had thought, from the statement given to the RAAF that the one final object had simply gone out of sight still on the aircraft's horizon.

2. That the smaller objects, when moving left and right of the main object had travelled through about 30 degrees away from the main object. This is a large angular distance. I double checked this fact with Walter.

3. The smaller objects were 1/10th to 1/5th the angular size of the larger object.

4. The smaller objects merged with the larger one by going into it from underneath. I had thought from the original statement that the smaller objects came in from left and right, i.e. along the same plane as the aircraft's horizon.

Given all the data, from both from the original 1968 documentation, and this interview, albeit it is 43 years later (why did no one follow this case up at the time?) I don't believe that the mirage hypothesis is valid.

In my opinion, this event represents an excellent example of the "core" UFO phenomenon, and deserved a scientific investigation at the time.

What do readers think?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cold case - Zanthus 22 August 1968 - Part three

What the RAAF did with this case:

Captain's Smith's statement was attached to a memo from RAAF Headquarter Pearce, Western Australia to the Department of Air, Canberra, dated 12 November 1968. This memo stated that Smith's account was received by Pearce on 11 November 1968.

The Department of Air sent a "message form" to Pearce (Flt Lt Martin) and asked Pearce to contact the Department of Civil Aviation in Perth "on whether UFO report filed with any DCA agency in this event. In particular did Smith or Gardin report facts to DCA. Request check Kalgoorlie on whether pilots radio reported on UFO on 22 Aug."

A telex passed from HQ Pearce to DOA dated 25 Nov 1968 stated "Ref UFO sighting on  22 Aug 1968. Enquiries with DCA Perth do not show any reports received. Am now making enquiries with DCA Kalgoorlie on sighting."

On 9 Dec 1968 a memo went from the DAFI to Flt Lt Martin at Pearce asking for a follow up on the DCA Kalgoorlie angle.

The response from Pearce came in the form of a telex and stated that DCA Kalgoorlie confirmed "that aircraft VH-RTO on 22 Aug at approx 0940GMT enquired from APKG if there were any known traffic Zanthus area. On being informed there was none the aircraft reported sighting of a UFO in company with six small disc like objects approximately ten miles north of track FT80 KAL on the same heading and keeping pace with them. The pilots of VH-RTO confirmed this on arrival APKG at 1038GMT. Before departing for Perth at 1138 they were advised to make a full report to RAAF Pearce."

My comments/analysis:

1. A check of the RAAF's own published annual summary of UFO reports received by them, fails to locate this case.

2.  To my knowledge, no additional information has ever come forward, either in the form of official documents, or further comments by the pilots concerned in the UFO literature.

3. I cannot find any record of any UFO group conducting an investigation.

4. Smith's report states that the initial observation point was 130nm East of Kalgoorlie. This puts the plane near Zanthus, a locality on the East-West transcontinental railway line.  An atlas puts Zanthus at latitude 31 deg 02 min latitude south and 123 deg 34 min longitude east.

5. The final observation point's location is not given. However, at a speed of 195kts and a duration of 10 minutes, the final point would have been approximately 100nm east of Kalgoorlie.

6. The aircraft was tracking 270 deg(m) and the bearing to the "UFO" was approximately 320 deg (m.) Smith's observation that "the whole formation maintained the same distance and bearing from our aircraft during the whole time of the sighting " implies that the "formation" was travelling at 195kts tracking 270 deg paralleling the aircraft's track at some unknown distance away.

7. A check of the astronomical sky using a software program indicated that at 0940GMT the Sun had set and was about 4 degrees below the ground horizon, some 20 degrees to the right of the aircraft's track. The Moon had set, and was some 23 degrees below the horizon. The planet Venus was 13 degrees above the horizon at a bearing some 15 degrees to the right of the aircraft's track. There was nothing astronomical at 50 degrees to the right of the aircraft's track.

8. I located one potential explanation for the event (click here.) In an article by Martin Shough about the classic 29 June 1954 BOAC Labrador sighting of a large object and several smaller ones, a possible cause was suggested of an unusual mirage. He lists a number of other similar sightings which includes the Zanthus event and comments.

"As with the BOAC Labrador case, the lateral movements of the smaller objects occurred in a very narrow band  ("without actually turning like a normal aeroplane would have to.") Interestingly, this happened at the same time the "main ship split into two sections" which might suggest that the inversion layer became thicker at that point allowing more objects to enter the mirage duct."

9. I did locate a photograph of the actual aircraft involved. Click here.

In conclusion:

This is a particularly interesting case, whether it was an unusual mirage as posited by Shough, or a "true" UFO.

The RAAF, which was the official body charged with looking into UFO reports, did not follow it up according to the official documents, despite the excellent witnesses.

Here was an excellent example of a "UFO" which deserved, but did not receive a proper scientific examination.

Cold case - Zanthus 22 August 1968 - Part two

Continuing on from the previous post - what the two aircraft captains thought they had seen.

The two page statement by Captain Smith continued:

"Notes on UFO

1. The distance from our aircraft of the UFO would be impossible to gauge, because the prerequisite to establishing distance is to know size, and the size of these objects are unknown. However, for comparison size, the main ship compared to that of Boeing 707from about 10 miles.

2. Immediately after the departure of the UFO radio communications were restored.

3. Neither Walter or myself had the presence of mind to check if any deviation existed in our magnetic compass or automatic direction finding equipment whilst in the presence of the UFOs.

4. The whole formation maintained the same distance and bearing from our aircraft during the whole time of the sighting.

Captain Gardin and myself discussed the sighting at length during and after and came to these conclusions:

Whether the UFOs were:
(a) Balloons.
(b) Gases.
(c) Trick of lights.
(d) Aircraft.

(a) If the sightings were balloons we considered it impossible to see these balloons from 30 miles, because this would have been the distance covered by the aircraft from the first sighting to the disappearance.

The UFO maintained the same distance throughout, whereas a free balloon would have a closure rate with us of 195kts our true airspeed and would have at least passed us.

(b) The same argument as above.

(c) If it were a trick of light, the colour of the UFO should have changed at somewhere or other, because the Sun had had a considerable traverse, coupled with our westward travel during this time. Also due to the last two facts any refracted light would have changed form dramatically, whereas the UFO had very little change of shape or colour.

(d) We concluded that the UFOs were in fact aircraft with the solidarity of aircraft except perhaps for the fact of the larger UFO ability to split and change shape slightly."

So, the two witnesses concluded that what they had seen were in fact aircraft, despite the lack of known traffic in the area.

In the next post I will outline just what the RAAF did with this sighting.

Cold case - Zanthus 22 August 1968 - Part one

Hi all

Whilst re-reading Leslie Keane's 2010 book "UFOs" (Harmony Books, New York) I came across reference to the 22 August 1968 Australian, Zanthus case which involved an aircraft. There are many references in the UFO literature to this event. The usual summary they provide goes something like this:

"Captains Smith and Gardin were flying near Zanthus, Western Australia when they spotted "a formation of aircraft," which appeared to be keeping station with their plane.  There was one large object and several smaller ones. Local air traffic control advised the pilots that there was no known traffic in the area. For several minutes the aircraft was unable to communicate with air traffic control. During this time the larger object split into two, and the smaller objects seemed to move around. Finally, the whole formation joined together and departed at tremendous speed."

RAAF documentation:

Few people are aware of the full details of this intriguing event. I found a two page report written by Captain Smith on file series A703, control symbol 580/1/1 part 10 pages 145, 160 and 218-223. This was a RAAF Department of Defence file. The Captain's statement reads as follows.

"Captain Walter Gardin and myself were returning from Adelaide to Perth on a charter flight. The aircraft was an 8 place Piper Navajo, registration VH-RTO, and were returning empty from Adelaide. At the first sighting I was asleep in the cabin, Walter was at the controls. We were cruising at 8000' with a true airspeed of 190-195kts, tracking 270 degrees magnetic.

"At 0940GMT (1740WST) Walter abruptly woke me up in great excitement and asked me to come into the cockpit quickly. I did so, and he asked me if I could see what he was looking at. At first I didn't because I was still suffering from the effect of sleep, however after about 30 seconds I could see what he was excited about. Some distance ahead at the same level and about 50 degrees to my right (I was in the right seat) I saw a formation of aircraft. In the middle was a larger aircraft, and formatted to the right and left and above were 4 or 5 smaller aircraft. We were on a track of 270 degrees (M) and these aircraft appeared to be maintaining station with us.

"Because we hadn't been notified of this traffic I radioed Kalgoorlie D.C.A. communications centre asking them what traffic they or RAAF had in our area. The answer was none. So I then notified Kalgoorlie that we had this formation in sight, and they in turn notified some eastbound traffic of the danger of unidentified traffic 130nm East of Kalgoorlie.

"At about this time we lost communications with Kalgoorlie on all frequencies. We were getting Kalgoorlie carrier wave with no voice propagation, only a hash and static.

"In the next ten minutes I transmitted about 7 times and I believe Walter did about 6 times with no results. Also at about this time we noticed that the main ship split into two sections still maintaining the same level, and the smaller aircraft then flew out left and right, but staying at the same level, and coming back to the two main halves of the bigger ship. At this time there appeared to be about 6 smaller aircraft taking turns of going out and coming back and formatting on the two halves. Sometimes the two halves joined and split, and the whol cycle continued for ten minutes.

"The shape of the main ship seemed to have the ability to change, not dramatically, but a change from say, spherical to a slightly elongated form with the colour maintaining a constant dark grey to black. However, the smaller craft had a constant cigar shape, and were of a very dark colour. Their travel out and back had a peculiarity not associated with normal aircraft in fact they appeared to travel out and come back without actually turning like a normal aeroplane would have to.

"At 0950GMT the whole formation joined together as if at a single command, then departed at a tremendous speed. Not disappeared as say, gas would, but departed in about 3 or 4 seconds, diminishing in size till out of sight.

"The weather at the time of sighting was fine, with no haze above 6000' and about 2/8 altostratus cloud to the south of us and the other aircraft."

In the next post I will outline what the two pilots thought they had seen.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Steig Larsson's UFO reference

Dear readers,

Recently, someone asked me whether I read books on topics, other than intelligence agencies and UFOs. Well, yes, I do.

At the moment I am making my way through Steig Larsson's "The Girl Who Played With Fire." Maclehose Press. London. 2009. It is a delightful, if somewhat dark, read. However, even in the most unexpected of books you cannot escape the UFO phenomenon!

Ten pages into the 569 page work, one of the lead characters, Salander, visits the island of Grenada, and behold "The gist of it was that Bishop was a popular folk leader who had deposed an insane dictator, a U.F.O. nutcase who had devoted part of the meagre national budget to chasing flying saucers."

The reference to Grenada and UFOs shows Larsson's attention to detail. Indeed, on the 28 November 1978, Sir Eric Gairy, the Prime Minister of the island of Grenada spoke to the United nations about studying UFOs. (Click here for a photograph and more details of one of the meetings.)

Other speakers included Allen Hynek, Jacques Vallee, Colonel Larry Coyne; followed by a video by Lee Spiegal.

All did not go well, and the UN decided not to pursue Gairy's request.

Jacques Vallee has a telling comment in volume 2 of his diaries. "If the video hadn't ruined the meeting, the press conference that followed wrecked it completely. Eric Gairy launched into a garbled apology full of esoteric mumbo-jumbo, adding that he had once seen a flying saucer as he came out of a night club!" (Vallee p448.)

Gairy died in 1997 (click here for further details.)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Further Australian Aboriginal accounts

Dear readers

Following on from my recent posts about Australian Aboriginal UFO reports, I checked my copies of Keith Basterfield's 1997 book "UFOs," and Bill Chalker's 1996 book "The Oz Files," to see if they contained more information about UFO reports made by Australian Aboriginal people.

A reported 1951 encounter:

Keith's catalogue of Australian reports, includes details of a reported 1951 encounter in Central Australia. "Members of the Unmatjera tribe of Aborigines reported seeing two shiny circular objects on the ground, some nine to fifteen metres across. A very small man-like creature with a bulbous head, wearing a shiny suit, is said to have transferred from one object to the other. Both objects then took off, making a buzzing sound." (For more on the Unmatjera click here.)

The source cited for this account is Edwards, Frank. 1966. "Flying Saucers: Serious Business." Mayflower. London. Page 169. Edwards' book fails to cite an original source for the event. Although many sources cite this case (e.g. click here) I have been unable to locate any original sources for this case.

Bill's book:

Bill writes "Aboriginal myths incorporate the idea of 'sky-beings,' with the Wandjina being among the most interesting to consider." (p17.) (Click here for more on the Wandjina connection.)

A 1933 account from Discovery Well, via the researcher Rex Gilroy, told of an Aboriginal woman's abduction by grey-skinned man-like creatures. (p.20.)

Western Australian researcher John Kernott is cited (p.21) as providing accounts from Aboriginal women in the Great Sandy Desert and the Central Desert, about "...spirits having sex with them, about having babies when no baby ever comes."

Chalker continues "Some of the above-events might suggest a literal extraterrestrial explanation, but one should be careful not to uproot such tales from the cultural setting they emerged from and stamp them with western cultural ideas... (p.22.)


I would welcome comments from readers who know of other references to UFO encounters by indigenous Australians. I may be contacted at or via this blog.

Linda Moulton-Howe and the Malmstrom case

Dear readers

A rainy day in Adelaide, South Australia sees me re-reading part of the book "The Myth and Mystery of UFOs" authored by Thomas E Bullard, published by the University Press of Kansa, and recalling that Linda Moulton-Howe was in Adelaide in July of this year.

The part of the book which this post concerns, is where Bullard is commenting about the reported 1975 Malmstrom case in the USA.

"Whatever else about the Malmstrom story dangles in uncertainty, there is no mistaking the glaring contrast between the documentary version and the version in the UFO literature. No documents report that a security team balked before a UFO the size of a football field or that radar tracked anything to 200,000 feet. Nowhere do we read of interference with Minuteman missiles. Where do these sensational additions come from?

"The answer lies with filmaker Linda Moulton-Howe, whose research on cattle mutilations led to a prize-winning documentary, A Strange harvest, first broadcast in 1980. She had no interest in mutilations in 1975, but one night her brother phoned her with some intriguing UFO hearsay from Malmstrom.

"He said that a huge UFO shone a light 'brighter than daylight' on one of the missile silos; security guards refused to approach the object; jets attempted to intercept it, but it blinked out until they departed; and targeting information of a missile computer had changed. She later recognised the possible significance of these claims in connection with the concurrent cattle mutilation epidemic in Montana." (Bullard page 34 citing Linda Moulton-Howe. An Alien Harvest. Littleton, CO. Linda Moulton-Howe profuctions. 1989. pp23-24.)

Bullard continues "Lawrence Fawcett and Barry J Greenwood, two pioneer FOIA researchers who published their findings in Clear Intent (1984), began their Chapter on Malmstrom with the story told by Linda Howe but identified her as the source and then supplemented the account from recovered documents. Howe readily admitted that her information was hearsay." (Bullard page 35.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Close encounters in Aboriginal culture" Part two.

This post continues a look at Eirik Saethre's 2007 paper "Close encounters: UFO beliefs in a remote Australian Aboriginal community."

Non-Aboriginal community members:

The forty non-Aboriginal residents "...often engaged in discussions regarding UFOs, sharing their own beliefs and experiences..." (p908.) Their own observations (from four people) matched those of the Warlpiri in terms of their UFOs being large, disc-shaped and fast moving.


"Aboriginal people stated that while the aliens never harmed them, UFOs could abduct 'white' people..." (p908.) Saethre was warned of this danger on a number of occasions. "Although non-Aboriginal people recounted anecdotes of UFO sightings, they never circulated tales of alien abductions. Instead it was Warlpiri residents who related these stories." (p909.)

"When I asked why non-Aboriginal people were invariably the victims of abductions, I was told that the aliens were able to recognise Aboriginal people as belonging in the area." (p909.)

Not isolated:

Although the community was geographically isolated, the community as a whole was aware of and watched television programs such as The X-files; Stargate; Star Trek and movies such as Independence Day. "Narratives of Warlpiri ideas on UFOs were drawn from TV but also incorporated involvement with the environment, local cosmological themes..." (p910.)

"For instance, visits to water holes can be punctuated with stories of both their formation by ancestral forces and their depletion by the aliens." (p910.)


"Warlpiri narratives of aliens from outer space are not simply a faithful restatement of ideas gleaned from Hollywood movies but are situated in, and reflect the close encounters between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people." (p912.)


This is a fascinating piece of anthropological research, and reveals some new pieces of data re Aboriginal beliefs on UFOs - at least from the point of view of one remote locality.

Are readers familiar with any other academic studies of this nature?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Close encounters in Aboriginal Culture" Part one

Dear readers

Spring is in the air in Adelaide. On my drive to work yesterday I passed row upon row of trees in blossom; white, purple, pink colours abound. Flowers are also putting on a glorious display. I almost forgot to think about the UFO phenomenon, but only for a moment.

In my next moment of free thought, I wondered about UFO sightings in the Australian Aboriginal culture. So, I looked around, and to my pleasant surprise I found an academic article on the topic, from 2007.

It appeared in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 13, 901-915, was authored by Eirik Saethre of the University of Pretoria, and titled "Close encounters: UFO beliefs in a remote Australian Aboriginal community."


Saethre spent the period between 1996 and 1999 conducting PhD fieldwork in Central Australia, in an Aboriginal community of 750 individuals, located 500 kilometres from any population centre.

"I discovered that residents of a remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory also possess detailed and unique beliefs regarding UFOs." (p902.)

"Although the sightings were brief and the inhabitants were never seen, Warlpiri people asserted that UFOs were spaceships piloted by extraterrestrial beings. The aliens were thought to search for and procure water from the desert." (p902.)

Saethre found that during the playing of card games, " topic of conversation was often recent sightings of UFOs." (p903.) Saethre recorded details of reports from 18 eyewitnesses and several more secondhand . "...everyone with whom I spoke "...acknowledged that people regularly professed to have encountered UFOs in and around the community." (p904.)

Warlpiri people said that people living in other communities rarely encountered UFOs. "...most of the residents with who I spoke did not refer to UFOs as either a recent or ancient occurrence. Consequently, it was impossible to establish accurately when community residents first began to have encounters with the aliens." (p904.)

What was seen?

"Witnesses uniformly described UFOs as similar to most television and film portrayals of flying saucers: large, disc-shaped, brightly lit objects that fly through the sky." (p904.)

"In most instances, people reported nothing more than seeing a UFO fly overhead quickly...none involved sustained or close contact...residents uniformly assumed that UFOs were spaceships. These ships were thought to be from outer space..." (p905.)


"...the aliens were thought to be able to impact upon the physical environment of the Tanami desert. Aboriginal residents asserted that the aliens were capable of finding and removing large quantities of water from rivers, rock pools, and in some instances, rain clouds." (p905.)

"As a result, alien spacecraft were considered to be more prevalent in specific geographical areas and at specific time of the year." (p.906.)

Giant coloured snakes:

Interestingly, giant multi-coloured snakes called Warnayarra are also said to be associated with the presence of water by the Aboriginal community. These snakes are referred to by the anthropological literature as "rainbow serpents." "Warnayarra were not believed to punish the UFOs or in any way harm them...Likewise the aliens were not thought to remove the Warnayarra with the water that they procured. Furthermore, I was never told of the aliens having any interaction with the ancestral spirits that guarded country...I have never heard any one state that the phenomenon referred to as UFOs originated in or was part of the Dreaming." (p907-8.)

To be continued in the next post.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Australian 'flying saucer' reports - pre-1951 - analysis

This is the fifth in a series of posts which have documented mostly previously unknown pre-1951 Australian newspaper reports about 'flying saucers.' I'd now like to make a few comments about this collection of material from the years 1947 to 1950, which predates the official Australian government interest which did not start until mid 1950.

It will be seen from the details of these newspaper accounts, that there were indeed Australian 'flying saucer' reports prior to 1951. Even from the minimal details given in some accounts, many appear to have mundane explanations, such as meteors. Indeed, "the authorities" suggested explanations ranging from "a comet" (10 July 1947); "a low shooting star" (2 January 1949); "a meteor" (29 November 1950) and "aurora borealis" (13 August 1950.)

Readers will note, that unlike reports coming out of other countries at this time, Australian newspaper articles feature no dramatic aircraft encounters; no reported close encounters; and no reports of objects on the ground.

Of particular note are the two February 1947 reports from my home state of South Australia, which predate the Kenneth Arnold sighting, by four months, which do appear "unknowns."

In summary, Australian  reports of 'flying saucers' pre-1951 do exist; are mainly mundane in nature; and most have not been previously documented by Australian UFO researchers.

Australian 'flying saucer' reports 1950 Jul to Dec

This is the fourth of my recent posts looking at mostly previously unknown Australian newspaper articles about 'flying saucers' which I located in digitised newspapers held in the collection of the National Library of Australia. It covers the second half of the year 1950.

July 1950 Avoca,Victoria
A young farmer, Alexanda Holland, aged 23, reported seeing seven shining discs, each "slightly larger than the full Moon," travel across the night sky. He firstly noted a bright light, then saw "a shiny disc rise from the southern horizon, flew high overhead-at terrific speed and at a great height-and disappeared in the east." Six similar objects followed in rapid succession. "They all travelled in the same direction, except one, which turned sharply and returned where it came from." (The Argus, Melbourne, Sat 15 Jul 1950 p3.)

July 1950 Hobart,Tasmania
At 1.55am a witness saw an object  which "flew at a terrific speed and at very low altitude, shooting out bright blue flames." (The Mercury, Hobart, Wed 5 Jul 1950 p3.)

8 July 1950 Launceston, Tasmania
Two men saw a bright light in the northern sky. It was blinking on and off rapidly, and disappeared after five minutes. First seen at 12.40pm. (Examiner, Launceston Mon 10 Jul 1950 p3.)

9 July 1950 Launceston, Tasmania
One man reported seeing a bright blinking light at 12.40pm. It disappeared after five minutes to the north. (Examiner, Launceston Mon 10 Jul 1950 p3.)

13 August 1950 Seaspray, Victoria
Mysterious beams of light, were seen to the north-east and out to sea between 8-11pm. One witness thought it was a searchlight. However, both the RAAF and Navy said they had no units in the vicinity. Astronomers said they thought the phenomenon was due to the aurora borealis. (Morning Bulletin, Rockhampton Mon 14 Jul 1950 p1.)

14 August 1950 St Kilda, Victoria
Three young men "saw a flying saucer travelling at terrific speed at a height of about 40,000 feet." It left a green trail and had what looked like cabin light ahead of the tail." (Morning Bulletin, Rockhampton Mon 14 Aug 1950 p1.)

29 November 1950 Southern Queensland and Northern NSW
Many observers saw "an object emitting a bright light streak" cross the sky. Times ranged from 7-7.30pm and durations were between 3-5 seconds. Airline pilot Herman said it was a greenish-blue colour, travelled horizontally and suddenly went out. (Townsville Daily Bulletin Fri 1 Dec 1950 p1.)

14 December 1950 Sydney, NSW
Mr Soult saw a "brilliant disc-like object" flash across the sky and disappear in a northerly direction." It was bright blue and had no tail. Duration 3-4 seconds. (Cairns Post Thu 14 Dec 1950 p5.)

16 December 1950 Burnie, Tasmania
Mr Russell of Cooee and his son reported seeing a "dazzling object moving eastward at a terrific speed." It was zig-zagging and diving about. At one stage it hovered for a short while then floated off again. About sunset. Seen for one minute. (The Mercury, Hobart Mon 18 Dec 1950 p2.)

18 December 1950 Mildura, NSW
"Something which looked like a 'flying saucer' was seen high in the sky." Two men on a fishing trip at 2.15pm saw a small, round, noiseless, whitish object travelling swiftly north. It as seen for one minutes before being lost behind trees. ( The Mercury, Hobart Mon 18 Dec 1950 p2.)

25 December 1950 Invermay, Tasmania
Mr Murray about 4pm saw two very bright objects in the sky. "They looked like shiny balls of fire." They followed one another and disappeared in a few seconds. (Examiner, Launceston Thu 28 Dec 1950 p2.)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Australian 'flying saucer' reports 1950 Jan to Jun

The third part in my look at newspaper reports of pre-1951 reports.

The year 1950 brought numerous accounts, far more than the period 1947 to 1949. Here is what I found.

Scarborough, Western Australia 5 April 1950
About 5.50pm three men saw an object in the sky for about four seconds. It travelled east-west, "fairly large circle or ball, pale blue in colour, with a tail." (The West Australian, Perth 19 Apr 1950 p2.)

Perth, Western Australia 18 April 1950
Two residents reported a large, bright orange-red ball, flying at high speed. It was seen for two minutes and travelled west to east. (The Mercury, Hobart 19 Apr 1950 p2.)

Nedlands, Perth, Western Australia 18 April 1950
A Mr Vincent was at home when he noticed an orange light approach from Como and pass over his house. It was high up and travelling very fast. (The West Australian, Perth, 19 Apr 1950 p2.)

Fremantle, Western Australia 18 April 1950
A Mr Martin saw an object at 1000 feet. It appeared to be 20 feet in diameter, orange in colour and was "going round and round." Duration three minutes. (The West Australian Perth 19 Apr 1950 p2.)

Prospect, Adelaide, South Australia 22 April 1950
A woman reported seeing a white object, moving fast, cross the sky. (The Advertiser 29 Apr 1950 p1.)

Gilberton, Adelaide, South Australia 27 April 1950
A "pale golden disc" travelled rapidly across the sky, going east and rising as it went. "It was followed by a tail like a comet." "The disc finally rose steeply and curved," then disappeared. The Government astronomer said it did not tally with an astronomical phenomenon. (The Advertiser, Adelaide 29 Apr 1950 p1.)

Mt Gambier, South Australia 23 May 1950
Four men said they saw a flying saucer at 12.55pm, flying south-east "probably five or six miles high, travelling very fast in a straight course." (The Advertiser, Adelaide 31 may 1950 p12.)

Canberra, ACT 25 May 1950
TAA pilots Savage and Hestilow were piloting a TAA freighter aircraft and reported seeing "what they thought might be a flying saucer." However, "Both are convinced it was the planet Venus." (The Mail, Adelaide 27 May 1950 p3.)

Lilydale, Tasmania 26 June 1950
A Mr Campbell reported "a flying saucer." (The Mercury, Hobart 28 Jun 1950 p5.)

Ringareeman, Tasmania 27 June 1950
Mr and Mrs Jacobs saw "a very bright moving object in the western sky." "It was moving towards the south and was the size of a large star...It was throwing off red, blue and green flashes and was visible for 15 minutes." (The Mercury, Hobart 28 Jun 1950 p5.)

Australian 'flying saucer' reports 1948 and 1949

Continuing my exploration of pre-1951 'flying saucer' reports from Australia.

After discovering several previously unknown newspaper reports from 1947, I turned to the years1948 and 1949,  and found:

Canberra, ACT 25 November 1948
Several residents reported 'flying saucers' in the south-eastern sky at about 7.45pm. "Two star-like objects, in the shape of saucers, moving in an easterly direction at an incredible speed." The aerodrome at Fairborn said planes were engaged in night manoeuvres "and two planes took off almost together at approximately 7.45pm and flew in a westerly direction." (The Canberra Times 26 Nov 1948 p2.)

Port Augusta, South Australia 16 November 1948
A trail of thick white cloud appeared across the sky and persisted for 15 minutes. Some residents thought it was caused by an aircraft. The Government astronomer said he believed it had been left by the passage of a meteor. (The Advertiser, Adelaide 17 Nov 1948 p1.)

Perth, Western Australia 2 January 1949
At least 45 people reported to police that they had seen a flashing object "which moved across the eastern sky." Suggestions as to its cause included "a V-bomb, a rocket or flying saucer." Constable F Jager "finally decided that it was most probably a low shooting star." (The West Australian 4 Jan 1949 p4.)

Sydney, New South Wales 23 February 1949
The Army warned residents that about 100 met balloons were going to be launched. "Sydney people are asked not to panic into a belief that they may be "flying saucers." (The Canberra Times 22 Feb 1949 p2.)

To be continued.

Australian 'flying saucer' reports from 1947

Hi all

The official history of the Australian 'flying saucer'/UFO phenomenon, according to the file holdings of the Australian government, as found by the Disclosure Australia Project, did not commence until mid 1950.

I wondered how to find out about any Australian reports pre 1951, and decided to take a look at the digitised newspaper collection held by the National Library of Australia. Here is what I found for 1947.

Lock, South Australia 5 February 1947
A man saw five strange objects between 7 and 8am. They were oblong with narrow points. They seemed to be floating in the air from north-west to south-east and caused a shadow. (Adelaide Advertiser 17 Feb 1947 p2.)

Port Augusta, South Australia 5 February 1947
Three workers saw five strange objects in formation pass across the sky from north to south at 9am. They appeared to be 'quivering' and cast shadows. They were travelling at speed and lost to sight within seconds. (Adelaide Advertiser 7 Feb 1947 p1.)

Sydney, New South Wales 8 July 1947
At 11pm a man stated he saw a 'flying saucer' "as big as a tennis ball and yellowish dipping up and down in a curve. It disappeared after three seconds. At 11.30pm the same man said he saw a second object. It was larger, oval in shape and white in colour. It fell towards Taronga Park. (The Sydney Morning Herald 9 Jul 1947 p1.)

Melbourne, Victoria 9 July 1947
Two leather workers reported they had seen a "dazzling white sphere" float across the sky, about noon. At 2pm an 18 year old girl reported seeing a "dark oval shape." (Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton) 10 Jul 1947 p1.)

Brisbane 10 July 1947
Several people reported seeing a "comet" in the sky "and was at first thought to be a flying saucer." It was orange in colour, and seen at 4.05pm. A Brisbane astronomer said "the object was certainly a comet, but must have been particularly bright to have been seen in daylight." (Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton) 11 Jul 1947 p6.)

To be continued.