Thursday, June 28, 2012

Valentich files released by Australian Government

Hi all,

Introduction:

The disappearance of Australian pilot Frederick Valentich, on 21 October 1978, over Bass Strait, Australia, has always intrigued global UFO researchers. Valentich, flying a light aircraft, registration VH-DSJ, disappeared on a flight from Moorabbin airport, Melbourne, Victoria, to King Island in Bass Strait. Neither he, nor his aircraft, have been seen since. He reported seeing an unusual object in the sky, during the flight.

Government documentation:

After the event, the Australian Government's Department of Transport released a three page "Aircraft Accident Investigation Summary Report" dated 27 Apr 1982. In part 7 of that document, headed "Opinion as to cause" the Department stated "The reason for the disappearance of the aircraft has not been determined." The file reference on this document was V116/783/1047.

Search for access to V116/783/1047:

In 1982 Australian UFO researcher Bill Chalker examined Department of Transport UFO files "...but was specifically denied access to the Valentich files on the grounds that they were Air Accident Investigation files and not UFO files." (Chalker, Bill. 1996. The Oz Files. Duffy & Snellgrove. Potts Point, NSW. Page 170.)

In 2004 I submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Department of transport. Part of the request was for access to file V116/783/1047. The Department advised me that they understood that the file had been destroyed by the National Archives of Australia (NAA.) I reviewed the NAA website's electronic database RecordSearch and found no record of the file. However, I understood that only some 10% of the files held by the NAA were on RecordSearch.

In October 2011, during a routine look at RecordSearch, I discovered that this file was now listed as file series B1497 control symbol V116/783/1047, title "DSJ-Cape Otway to King Island 21 October 1978 - Aircraft missing (Valentich) 1978-1992" barcode 10491375. It was shown as held by the Melbourne office of the NAA. However the status of the file was shown as "closed." Despite this status, I submitted a request for access to the file, reasoning that by 2012 the papers on the file dated 1978-1981 should now be publicly available.

Another file emerges:

In the meantime, Andrew Arnold, and his team, of the Melbourne based group, Victorian UFO Action, had been researching the Valentich case. Andrew found that there was another relevant file. This was file series A4703 control symbol 1978/1205 titled "VH-DSJ- Light aircraft overdue King Island." It was barcode 11485989 and held by the Canberra office of the NAA. The originating agency shown in NAA Notes was Department of Transport, Head Office, Canberra and Melbourne, Emergency & Special Services Branch. Andrew submitted a request for access to this file.

What does this A4703 file say about UFOs?

This file, of 292 pages was opened by the Marine Operations Centre and is a MARSAR (Marine search and rescue) file. The file cover indicates that both air searches and sea searches were conducted. The incident was opened on 21 Oct 78 and closed on 25 Oct 78. Authorities involved were the Victorian Police at King Island, Hobart and Lakes Entrance, plus the Department of Defence.

The file contains a two page narrative summary which gives an excellent overview of the incident, which commences:

"1. Airways Operations Melbourne advised that a Distress phase had been initiated on a Cessna 182 overdue at King island on a flight from Moorabbin to King Island. The aircraft had reported a rough running engine prior to communications being lost."

In part the summary reads "S.SOC AMML said the aircraft reported seeing things (perhaps a UFO) shortly after departing Cape Otway at 0903Z..."

Later "16. A number of reports of a fast moving brilliant white light were received from various parts of the country. Mt Stromlo observatory advised that the night of the 21st was the peak of the meteorite stream with 10-15 sightings per hour achieved."

"21. At 250900Z the search for the aircraft was terminated with no sighting of aircraft, wreckage or body made despite intensive search in a small area."

"22. As a postscript to this mystery, wreckage was reported off Lakes Entrance, checked by Police but was not relevant to this search. The pilot's father believed that a UFO had taken his son and would re(rest of word illegible) him later. The accident received wide newspaper and television cover because of the UFO connection."

I counted ten references to "UFO" on the rest of the file. These included a report from aircraft VH-DRB enroute Tenannt Creek to Darwin who saw a brilliant white light for 3-4 secs.

File V116/783/1047:

This file was released to me by the NAA a few days ago. The key document on this 315 page file is folio 103. This is actually 64 pages long, and is a report from the Director, Victoria/Tasmania Region dated 20 Oct 1981, addressed to AS(SI). It consists of a one page "Air Safety Investigation Minute" and 63 pages of report.

Documents include:

* Chart of the intended flight path
* Aircraft data
* Flight crew data
* Flight data
* Meteorological data
* A sequence of events
* An analysis of the cause
* Attachments.

The attachments include notes of conversations between Departmental investigators and:

* The Moorabbin briefing officer
* The person who refuelled VH-DSJ that night
* The Departmental OIC, King Island
* A cray fisherman from King Island
* The mess officer, ATC HQ
* An individual who flew VH-DSJ that morning
* Valentich's pilot tutor
* Valentich's father
* Valentich's girlfriend
* A close friend of Valentich
* An employee of Southern Air Services (SAS - whose aircraft it was)
* Four SAS instructors/pilots.

The attachments also include:

* A radar plot from Melbourne Flight Services
* An analysis of the radar returns from that time
* Valentich's flight plan
* A transcript of recorded communications between DSJ and Melbourne Flight Services which covers a greater time frame than that of the publicly released document from 1982
* A chart showing radio coverage at various heights and various distances from Melbourne
* A confidential personal history of Valentich
* A summary based on information from the RAAF
* Valentich's commercial pilot licence examination details
* Details of DSJ's radio equipment
* Weather forecasts for the area
* Best estimate of weather along the flight path
* A report on water samples ex Bass Strait by the Department of Defence Materials Research Laboratories
* A specialist report from a doctor on Human Factors Aspects
* A report on an aircraft towing a glide near Apollo Bay
* A UFO report from an individual
* A report on a shower of metallic "scintillations" seen in the sky.

The report's top page, in section 7, "Opinion as to cause" simply states "Not determined - aircraft missing."

The covering "Air Safety Investigation Minute" para 3, states " The Region does not intend to take any further action in this matter unless positive factual evidence is obtained."

Read the digitised file for yourself:

You can read the file, as released to me, by:

1. Go to http://www.naa.gov.au/
2. Click on "search the collection"
3. Click on "begin your search"
4. Up comes "RecordSearch"
5. In the keywords box type the word Valentich
6. Click on search
7. Up comes a list
8. Scroll down to V116/783/1047
9. Click on this entry
10. Click on digital file
11. Up comes the file.

Comments:

After you have read the file, I welcome your thoughts, please use the comments section of this blog post.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Australian naval vessel reports UFO

Hi all,

National Archives of Australia file series E1327 control symbol 5/4/Air Part 6 titled "Unusual sightings and incidents," generated by RAAF Base Darwin, Northern Territory, has just been released to me by the National Archives. It is a 37 page file with details in the date range 1976 and 1978.

The file consists mainly of tables of "Satellite look angles for Darwin," issued by the Satellite Prediction Centre of the Weapons Research Establishment, in Adelaide, South Australia. However, there are two UFO reports on the file.

White lights in the sky:

On the 13 and 14 Nov 1976 at Providence Hill, NT between 2030 and 2100hrs, a group of ten people including L Rourke, the Cumaiyi family; plus Kim and Stephen Cartwright watched a white light as it travelled south across the sky, too high and too fast to be an aircraft. They did not believe it was a satellite, as it veered around to the south-east before disappearing.

On the next night at about the same time, they saw another light, but much brighter and apparently at a lower altitude. Within the next 30 minutes they watched four other white lights travelling in varying directions.

Squadron Leader S L Harding responded on behalf of the RAAF. He advised that there were no known aircraft in the area, but that several satellites were in the general area at about that time. "However, only one or two of these could possibly have been observed as described and then only under conditions of heavy light refraction. This is thought unlikely. Some other possible sources were also examined but without success.

"3. Your report together with our findings has now been passed to other agencies. Even though the source of this particular sighting may never be established, reports such as this add to our knowledge of the area and help eventually to establish patterns of activity. Please be assured that these reports are much appreciated and fully utilised. " (dated 23 Nov 1976.)

Crew of naval vessel reports UFO:

Pages 3-12 of this file describe observations by crew of the naval ship HMAS Adroit. This report is briefly mentioned by Bill Chalker in part four of his series "UFOs: Sub Rosa down under" (click here.) This newly released file contains more details.

The incident is summarised in a teletype from "NOCNA" to "RAYWACX/ MarineOPS Canberra" dated 112217z Apr 78.

"1. While at anchor in position 1208 south 12954 east a red light was observed at 112030IK bearing 280 estimated range 10NM for 30 seconds. I considered this to possibly be an ICOV and proceeded to intercept. Contact was not gained in 30 mins and I commenced a sweep to northeast and north.

2. At 112317IK in position 1205 south 12954 east an object bearing 285 was observed by several personnel to rise and hover and sink to the horizon several times before finally disappearing beyond the horizon. This object appeared very large and bathed with bright red lights and at one stage appeared to close the ship. Again the range could be estimated at 10 miles and bearing width was 4 degrees. The light also appeared at one stage to flicker on and off. The phenomenon lasted several minutes.

3. Weather conditions on both occasions of sightings were good. Visibility 8NM. 1/2 cloud with no cloud below 15 degrees elevation. Radar conditions and performances were excellent with land echoes at 25 miles and trawler size contact 15NM. No contacts were gained to offset these sightings.

4. There is no possibility that the second sighting was the Moon setting and I believe them to have caused by a UFO.

5. Personnel who observed the second sighting were Leut J D Napier RAN, SBLT I O Schmidt, RAN POQMG I Potter, PO COX B Cristensen, LSETC D Williamson, LSETP G Gillies, ABQMG G Brown, ABMTPD N Paser, ABQMG M Townsend, ABWM M Howard."

A multiple page RAAF form "Report of unusual aerial sightings: was completed by Lieut John David Napier, age 26, naval officer. The sighting location is given as 12 deg 5 min south, 129 deg 54 mins east. The second observation started at 2137 (IK) and finished at 2140 (IK) on 11 Apr 1978. Weather conditions are shown as "One half cloud, nil wind, sea calm, nil swell. Visibility 8-10NM.

The object was sighted at bearing 285 degrees at 4 degrees elevation. It was last seen at 285 deg 0 deg elevation. An accompanying sketch shows a large, oval shaped object with the major axis parallel to the horizon, with the centre of the oval at 4 degrees elevation. A note says "The lights around the entire object, bathing it in brilliant red light. No sound was emitted. Shape as shown. From observer's position - bearing width 4 degrees."

Under "additional comments" Napier wrote:

"In excellent radar conditions, no contact was gained to offset the sighting. The object appeared to hover above the horizon, then descend to the horizon then rise and switch off the lights. The object was next sighted on the horizon with lights only burning at both ends. The object then rose and became completely illuminated before sinking below the horizon. At one stage the light intensified and appeared to close the ship."

RAAF investigation:

The RAAF's investigating officer indicated on the report form that there were no military aircraft in the area. An Ansett DC9 heading 230 deg at 19/2000ft speed 400 departed from Darwin at 1024z to Port Headland. For some reason it returned to Darwin and then took off again at 1224z.

There were no known balloons in the area.

Temp was 28 deg dry bulb, 24 deg wet bulb. 79% humidity. Cloud cover 1 octo at 3000 feet cumulus. No temperature inversions. Nil wind. (Source Met bureau at Darwin.)

The RAAF investigating officer wrote " It has not been possible to interview the crew as Adroit is on sea duty with short refuel stops in DAR. They are scheduled for longer post(?) time early May. Will interview then."

The officer's evaluation of the sighting reads "Cause unknown but lack of radar response points to some form of light aberration."

A covering memo dated 27 Apr 78 from HQDAR to HQOC attention SOINTEL subject Unusual Aerial Sightings states:

"1. Herewith is a sighting report on an unidentified light observed by members of the crew of HMAS Adroit. The sighting is interesting as it was made by a group of servicemen and probably has more credibility than some civilian/urban reports."

Comments:

A rare observation submitted by an Australian naval vessel crew, of an unusual phenomenon, which remains unknown.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cold case investigations - a review

Hi all,

Long term readers of this blog will be aware that one of my current research projects is the review of older Australian UFO cases.

Often with the passage of time, new details emerge, or existing details receive clarification. Today's technology, with Google maps; Google street view; access to scanned copies of old newspapers and journal articles, and email contact with other researchers allows unprecedented opportunities to review data.

In recent times, I have reviewed the following Australian UFO cases:

1. Eton Ridge, Qld 24 May 1965. Click here.
2. Heyfield, Vic 24 Apr 1968. Click here.
3. Wittenoom, WA 2 Aug 1964. Click here.
4. Mt Gillen, NT Jan 1954.Click here.
5. SA/WA border Easter 1954. Click here.
6. Canberra, ACT 15 Jul 1965. Click here.
7. Minderoo Station 25 Oct 1910. Click here.
8. Zanthus, WA 22 Aug 1968. Click here

Outcomes:

I have managed to locate material in the RAAF's UFO files (Heyfield and Wittenoom); previously lost newspaper articles (Mt Gillen and Zanthus); track down a witness after 43 years (Zanthus); reviewed weather and astronomical data which no-one else had undertaken ( Minderoo Station); and locate magazine articles which few people knew existed (Plympton and Eton Ridge).

All of this research, provided in many instances, new insights into a case. There were anomalies in stories (SA/WA border, and Mt Gillen); inaccuracy in commonly cited dates (Minderoo Station); additional data (Wittenoon and Heyfield); which led, upon analysis, in many cases, to a differing interpretation to that found in the UFO literature.

Am I confident in my revised conclusions? Yes, because they are based on improved data points. That is, the secret. I do not go into a cold case analysis with any preconceived conclusions. My findings are based  on a re-analysis of the data I have gathered. I was as surprised as anyone, to find that the classic CE1 report from Wittenoom in 1964, was probably a bright meteor. The first hand witness report forms contained on RAAF UFO files, contained excellent data upon which to base this conclusion. The Easter 1954 classic photographic case from the SA/WA border,  fell to pieces once you reread the original magazine story.

Change of status?

Is providing a revised conclusion and removing a classic UFO case from that status, a useful exercise? I maintain it is. It gives me more confidence in the cases which pass a cold case review, and still remain unexplained. You will note, however, that the percentage of cases which remain unexplained after review is small.

My personal belief, is that the "core" UFO phenomenon, (i.e. the unexplained cases), is much rarer than most UFO researchers believe. While many researchers agree that the incoming raw reports to unexplained after analysis case ratio is about 100/5, I think that the ratio is more likely 100/1.

A concern:

One aspect of the cold case reviewing, which concerns me, is that other Australian researchers are not undertaking this type of research.

I agree that you do need to spend time tracking down material in such places as the National Library of Australia's on-line newspaper collection, and the digitised (or not) files of the National Archives of Australia; but these can be done from the comfort of your own home and at any time of the day. You do also need to locate old magazine articles. Some of these, such as a long run of MUFON Journals and all the NICAP "The UFO Investigator" are easily available on-line. Some magazines are in collections with such public agencies as the various State Libraries. Some have come to me by communicating with fellow Australian UFO researchers and their kindness in taking time to dig into their personal or group's UFO magazine collections and sharing with me. In finding possible contact details of witnesses to old cases you will need to look through copies of old electoral rolls which can be tedious.

Imagine if a dozen people were to take on cold case investigations. The hundreds of old Australian cases which cry out for a review, could be tackled in say less than a year. What would that yield us? It would leave us with a peer reviewed collection of good "unknowns." This collection would then form a basis for a better quality look at patterns in the data. 

Would any readers of this blog like to join in?

A disclaimer:

Naturally, as others do, I make mistakes in my interpretations, or provide an incorrect point of data. I welcome constructive criticism, or data correction from blog readers.

In summary:

I look forward, as my time permits, to continuing my cold case reviews on older Australian cases, and bringing you my findings.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Plympton, South Australia, entity case of 29 Feb 1964 - Cold case investigation

Hi all,

Introduction:

An entity case which was reported to have occurred four years before I arrived here in Adelaide, South Australia, has always fascinated me. I carried the following summary of the event in my 1981 book.

"29 February 1964, 1400hrs, Plympton, SA, Mathlin/Jensen.
A young boy reportedly saw a large oval saucer descending into a paddock, in a busy suburb in broad daylight. A tall figure emerged from it and walked around for a while before reentering the object. The object took off, observed by the initial witness and another boy."

I had some contact with one of the eye witnesses, Mathlin, in the late 1960's, and filed the case away as just another interesting entity case. I never came across a contemporary investigation report of the incident. at that time.

Magazine article:

Just a few days ago, while browsing issues of the UFOPIA group's magazine "Panorama" for 1964, in the State Library of South Australia, I came across an excellent article on the event, which has made me re-think my conclusion on the reported incident.

Page 18 of volume 3, number 4 of Panorama carries the following:

" The Plympton sighting 29th Feb 1964.

This case does not appear on the surface to be as authentic as that above although it is hard to doubt the sincerity of the witnesses who were scouts and swore on their honor and were prepared to take an oath  that the story they related was true in every detail.

The facts are that they were playing on a sports oval, known as  the Wiegal Oval, which lies about 4 miles on the west of Adelaide (author's note - this oval is still there in 2012.) They claim they saw a saucer land on the oval, as described in drawings given and that a man got out dressed almost similarly to the one in the Northern case, (author's note - the magazine carries an account and drawings of a case from 19 Feb 1964 near Clare, South Australia) except that the gauntlets were similar and more like mittens, otherwise the cape and the buttons were the same, duration was about 3 mins.

They admitted they were scared but no approach was made by either party to contact the other. The man got out, walked around and then got back into the craft which disappeared into the sky in a flash. They reported this to their parents on the following Monday and the police were notified and investigators sent down to investigate the lads.

The investigators felt that the lads were telling the truth by their corroboration of independent evidence, and their obvious sincerity.

There are however facts which should be placed before our readers which should be considered in that a TV interview was given by one of the investigators the night before Friday in which he related the northern case, and showed a drawing of the "man" as given by this lady as well as craft of the saucer variety. If the boys saw that TV show it could have influenced their story somewhat.

Also the investigators questioned neighbours nearby, some of whose houses faced the oval. One man who claimed he was  out in his garden and never "saw a thing." Also the time factor which was supposed to be at 2.30 in the afternoon in broad daylight. As this oval is closely adjacent to two main highways upon which large streams of traffic flow, especially on a Saturday afternoon and no one reported seeing an object of this kind in the sky, rising, hovering? Or crossing the horizon, and as one of the highways runs east to west and the other north to south it would hardly be possible that at least it would have been able to cross either direction in its ascent without being seen by at least some driver on either road.

This does not however prove the lads story as a hoax or even some flight of vivid imagination, for it is hard to make 4 lads tell the same story without tripping up somewhere in details.

Considering the "mat and demat" behaviour of some saucers the above could well be that the other people did not see anything, although it would be certainly unusual and hard to convince a very material public in such a case.

One thing which does make the story weak is that they waited till Monday to report it, a lapse of two days. It is not known if the investigators examined the ground of the oval in the particular site of the landing for marks of any kind, so no confirmation can be given on that score. However, the editor makes the report and leaves it to the readers to evaluate it for themselves. With more detail the case could be possibly proved either way, but until this is possible it is left to you to decide for yourselves."

Comments:

1. The sketch of the "man" reported in the 19 Feb 1964 near Clare case; and the sketch of the Plympton "man" are almost identical. Note that the Clare event was reported on television before the Plympton case was reported.

2. The Australian UFO Research Association received an email, some time ago,  from a source stating they were related to one of the prime witnesses. This email alleged that the entire episode was a hoax.

UAP occurrences in the Australian Transport Safety Bureau's former OASIS aviation database

Hi all,

Introduction:

In a previous post (click here) I examined the role of various Australian Government agencies in air safety in Australia.

In 2004, I submitted a request under the Australian Freedom of Information Act, to the federal government's Department of Transport and Regional Services. The request was responded to by Rob Graham, Director, Safety Investigations, whose response included:

"The relevant documents from a search of the ATSB's OASIS aviation occurrence database are listed below..."

Findings:

I have chosen to list the cases from the database, together with anything else I have been able to find out about that particular event.

"Occurrence number 196901691
Occurrence id 129813. 2 July 1969. Burn marks rep on 2 golf courses. Reported as poss UFO landing. RAAF notified."

On National Archives of Australia file series A703 control symbol 580/1/1 part 12, pp42-44, I found the following (my summary.) 23 June 1969. St Michael's Golf Club. La Perouse, NSW. Unusual ground marks discovered. 0800hrs. Not there night before. When discovered grass of course had heavy dew but no evidence of footprints or tyre tracks. Assistant green keeper noted an "oily residue" which had gone by the time RAAF investigators visited on 25 Jun 1969. RAAF said "could have been the work of a clever hoaxer, but it would have been a very difficult job..."

The comment about "oily residue" suggests to me the possibility of the marks being caused by slime mould. I have personally investigated trace cases where rings or arcs of an oily substance have been found on grass. It disappears within a few days.

"Occurrence number 196902473
Occurrence id 130595. 31 Jan 1969. Diamond Creek, Vic. Rep sighting a UFO white in colour moving very fast in a straight line."

A check of NAA RAAF file series A703 control symbol 580/1/1 part 11, which covers the period around this time, carries no report of this event. However, there are two other possibly relevant reports. On 21 Jan 1969 at Rosanna, Vic between (2125-2130)hrs, duration 1.5 seconds, a round, white light was reported to have travelled across the sky in a straight line. Also, on 5 Feb 1969 at Ferny Creek, Vic, at 2350hrs, duration (2-3) mins, an airline pilot reported seeing a bright, white light, point source travelling west to east.

"Occurrence number 197502943
Occurrence id 91062. 12 Jan 1975. Albury, NSW. UFO sighted on radar at 20,000 ft in CTA. Not possible to identify."

This is an intriguing summary! No RAAF UFO files currently available through the NAA cover this date. A search of the ATSB's current "Aviation safety investigation and reports" database found no reference to the event. A search on the internet turned up nothing further.

"Occurrence number 197703195
Occurrence id 77512. 16 Apr 1977. Near King Island, Tas. UFO report from pilot. Passed to RAAF for study. CFT beacon abeam VH-KRY. Cessna 401."

In view of the 21 Oct 1978 disappearance of pilot Frederick Valentich on a flight between Melbourne and King Island, the details of this occurrence should be illuminating! However, no known RAAF file in the NAA covers this time period. A search of the current ATSB aviation occurrence database finds no reference to the sighting. An internet search for VH-KRY turns up the history of this aircraft and three photographs of what appears to be the correct Cessna 401 (click here) One of the photographs was taken at Moorabbin Airport in July 1977, three months after the event cited in the ATSB database.

"Occurrence number 197802563.
Occurrence id 70857. 21 Oct 1978. Near Cape Otway, Vic. Plt reported UFO then rough running eng. TX ceased - ACFT missing Cessna 182L."

This is the well known Valentich case. There is no listing in the current ATSB's "Aviation safety investigation and reports" database on their current website, even though we know a full investigation was conducted by the Department of Transport. In fact the relevant investigation file has been located in the National Archives of Australia and a request submitted for access to it.

In addition, a search of the NAA's files in 2012 revealed that NAA file series A9755 control symbol 4, formerly 5/6/1/Air part 8, has papers on it regarding Valentich's disappearance, including a couple of dozen UFO reports from around the 21 Oct 1978.

"Occurrence number 197904600
Occurrence id 66734. 22 Sep 1979. Near Banka Banka, NT. Object in area. ACFT found burnt trees and white ash but no object (sneaky Martians.) Misc UFO consisting of white trailing smoke, sighted by three witnesses. F27 pilot reported white."

No relevant RAAF UFO file have been located covering this date. There is no such event in the current ATSB aviation occurrence database. An internet search found no details.

"Occurrence number 197904657.
Occurrence id 66791. 19 Oct 1979. Near Broken Hill, NSW. Acft however no know aircraft in area. Misc F27 crew sighted UFO whilst on climbout. Flashing white light similar to strobe on high flying Fokker. B.V. F27 MK200."

There is no known relevant RAAF UFO file available. No such event is located in the current ATSB aviation occurrence database. Nothing further turned up on an internet search.

"Occurrence number 198300234.
Occurrence id 40550. 7 Apr 1983. Near Manly West, Qld. No known acft or balloon activity in area. Inside radar coverage but no radar return. UFO reported silvery object size of Cessna without wings flying from east to west at 2000ft."

There are no known RAAF files covering the date. The current ATSB database does not carry the event. An internet search found no details.

"Occurrence number 199804923.
Occurrence id 164236. 8 Nov 1998. 28km NW Perth Aerodrome WA. The pilot reported an unidentified flying object, bright red/orange in colour 100 ft below and travelling very fast as the aircraft passed 9000ft. The object was approximately 2 metres across and the pilot believed it may have been a model aircraft."

There are no known RAAF UFO files available for this date. The event is not listed in the ATSB's current aviation occurrence database. An internet search found no details.

New FOI requests:

In order to check for more recent ATSB occurrences involving UAPs/UFOs, I have just submitted fresh FOI requests to Air Services Australia; the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the ATSB. I will advise the outcomes of these requests when they are available.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Zanthus, WA 1968 aircraft encounter - another newspaper article located

Hi all,

Until September 2011 there was no known contemporary newspaper account of the 22 Aug 1968, Zanthus, Western Australia aircraft encounter case. It was only in September last year that I located an article from the Saturday 24 Aug 1968 "The West Australian" newspaper (click here.)

Recently, while reading an old UFO newsletter in the South Australian State Library, I came across a second such newspaper article. According to page 11, of volume 7 number 4 of UFOPIA's magazine "Panorama" published in Adelaide, South Australia, it appeared in the West Australian newspaper "The Daily News" on Friday 23 Aug 1968, the day after the event.

The story:

"Pilot tells of strange UFO.

An unidentified flying object seen by two commercial pilots about 130 miles east of Kalgoorlie yesterday was so vivid that they immediately notified the Civil Aviation Department to safeguard any other aircraft in the area.

Gordon Smith (33) of Wesley Street, Tuart Hills, said he and Walter Gardin of Mill Point Road, South Perth were also concerned about the safety of their own aircraft.

Mr Smith said he was resting in the rear of the cabin at 5.40pm when Mr Gardin called him forward to look at a strange object about 10 miles ahead of them. Mr Gardin had followed the path of the object for about 10 minutes. It first appeared as  a white glow and travelled ahead at the same time and speed as their aircraft. Mr Smith said it was hard to distinguish the shape and size of the object but he likened it to the size of a Boeing 707 at 10 miles.

The main object continued to spilt into two halves and small cigar-shaped objects continually left what he called the mother ship.

The smaller objects, about 6 of them, flew out 3 or 4 miles and then merged back on to the two main parts of the mother ship.

After about 20 minutes the main object took off with the speed of a rocket.

Mr Smith, who has been flying for about 13 years had never seen a UFO before."

Comment:

I checked the Western Australia electoral rolls, and found a Gordon William Smith at 48 Wesley Street, Tuart Hills. He and his wife lived there between 1965 and 1972, but do not appear in any Perth electoral rolls in 1973. I also checked the Perth electoral rolls for 2000 and 2009 but could not locate anyone of this name.

Did the RAAF investigate the 24 May 1965 Eton Ridge case?

Hi all,

The spectacular Eton Ridge CE2 case:

In a previous post (click here) I located some original material on the 24 May 1965, Eton Ridge, Queensland case. In that post I also pondered the questions as to whether or not, the RAAF investigated the event.

The 27 May 1965 "Ipswich Queensland Times" newspaper article I found on RAAF UFO files, concluded its piece on the event by stating "The sighting would probably be investigated by the Air Force as were other sightings." There was no reference cited as to who might have said this.

This mystery was solved in the 27 May 1965 piece which appeared in the "Brisbane Courier Mail" which stated "The sighting would probably be investigated by the Air Force, as other sightings were, Mr Seymour said." Seymour was the Queensland Regional Director of the federal Government's Department of Civil Aviation (DCA.)

NICAP's "The UFO Investigator", June-July 1965, edition, carried details of Australian investigator Paul Norman's on-site investigation. On page 22 it reads "The evidence and the reports are being evaluated by the Royal Australian Air Force." However, there is no source cited for this statement.

RAAF UFO files:

A check of the RAAF's UFO files in the National Archives of Australia revealed that the only mention of this case was the referral of the above two newspaper articles to the Department of Air. The covering memo to the articles, told that the clippings were from RAAF Base Amberley (Queensland) and that RAAF HQ Operational Command said "No action has been  taken on the matter at this headquarters." This is all suggestive, in fact, that the RAAF did not actually investigate the case.

State Library search:

While at the State Library of South Australia the other day, I decided to check copies of the Brisbane "Courier Mail" newspaper for dates after the 27 May 1965 article, to see if there were any follow up articles which had been missed by past researchers. Indeed there was one. This appeared on page 11 of the "Courier Mail" dated 28 May 1965. The article was titled "Probe into the 'thing,'" and read:

"Mackay - Police Constable B Self of Nebo, yesterday inquired into the reported landing of a mysterious 'thing' on Eton Ridge, 40 miles from Mackay, on Sunday night.

He said last night he would make no comment on his findings until his report was submitted today to Mackay District Police Chief (Inspector T Boyle.)

A Royal Australian Air Force spokesman last night said the RAAF had not been asked to investigate the sighting.

Eton Ridge Range Hotel licensee Mr Jim Tilse on Wednesday said he and two other men saw the 'thing' land. It was circular in shape and carried some 30 lights."

Although I checked issues of the "Courier Mail" for several days after this latest article appeared, I found no further articles dealing with the event.

Comments:

1. It would seem to me that no-one directly reported the sighting to the RAAF, so the RAAF did not investigate. The lack of any investigation report on RAAF UFO files supports this conclusion.

2. It could also be inferred that the matter was not reported to DCA. This deduction results from the fact that in the 1960's, any UFO report made to DCA was automatically forwarded to the RAAF. The fact that there is no report on RAAF files indicates that the sighting was not reported to DCA. This is supported by the fact that no such report appears on the relevant DCA UFO file.

This deduction is contrary to the 27 May 1965 "Ipswich Queensland Times" newspaper article which stated "Mr Tilse...reported the matter to the police and Civil Aviation Department." The Brisbane "Courier Mail" story did not say that the matter had been reported to DCA. However, both articles stated that Mr Seymour, the Regional Director of DCA had not "...received a report on the sighting." In addition, the NICAP Norman article makes no mention of a report to DCA.

This anomaly is difficult to understand. Either Tilse did make a report to DCA, or he did not.

3. Everyone agrees that the Queensland Police force were  contacted, and did carry out some kind of investigation. Again, common practice in the 1960's was that the RAAF often asked the police to conduct interviews with witnesses on its behalf. This happened, for instance in the 19 Jan 1966 Euramo CE2 case. It would appear in this instance that the police investigated by themselves, after the witness contacted them.

However, I know of no researcher who has a copy of the Queensland Police force report. Has any reader a copy?

An early Australian event - 1911

Hi all,

I have recently published a catalogue of pre-1947 Australian observations of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (click here.) After doing so, I came across another early case from 1911, right here in South Australia. Details appeared in volume 3 number 5, Jul-Aug 1964, of UFOPIA's "Panorama" magazine, page 18. The text reads:

"An early saucer sighting 1911.

The following incident was related to one of UFOPIA's investigators who is well acquainted with the man and vouches for his integrity. The man is keenly interested in electronics, saucers and the bible.

His story is that as a young lad in 1911, he was working on his father's farm at Gumeracha, a few miles from Adelaide and had been milking cows and then took up two buckets of milk to place them on a stand.

It was whilst he was carrying them he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his head and placing the buckets down, put his hand to his head where the pain was. It was then that he observed in front of him some distance away, a disc shaped object. It was about  10 feet across and was silvery and glowing like the Moon. He watched it for some 15 seconds and then it rose into the air and disappeared at a very fast rate into the horizon.

He had no knowledge of what it could have been at the time and felt that to relate it might cause him embarrassment.

It was only after these many years when in the company of the investigator that he felt urged to tell the story for what it was worth."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cold case investigation - Eton Ridge Queensland - 24 May 1965

Hi all,

Introduction:

A spectacular event, which happened near Mackay, Queensland in the early hours of 24 May 1965, is featured in numerous UFO publications. Three men reported seeing a luminous "machine" near the ground for an extended period of time. Physical traces were later reported. I extracted a summary of the case for my Australian catalogue, but at that time all of the sources led back to Australian newspaper articles; even UFO books cited these same newspaper articles. However, recently I located two contemporary non-newspaper accounts, so I have revisited the case.

Source one:

During a recent visit to the South Australian State Library I located the case in a copy of UFOPIA's magazine, "Panorama" volume 4 number 3, 1965, pages 17 and 18. The magazine contained a detailed report by one of the witnesses.

"Name: James William Tilse.
Profession, occupation: Senior commercial pilot. Hotel owner.
Time of day: 23/5/65 (Really the 24th) 12:05 (231405Z)
Duration of sighting: 40 min approx.
The circumstances of observation: Mr Burgess, Mr Judin and myself had been playing cards. Mr Burgess went out to the front of the hotel to move my truck. He called Mr Judin who then called me. It was not seen alighting by any of us.

Weather conditions: Sky practically cloudless. Moon approx 30 degree above horizon and perhaps 20 degree to left of object. Temp roughly 80 degrees.
Object watched by: Naked eye.
Witnesses: Mr Judin, C/o Hotel. Mr J Burgess C/- Main Roads Dept. Nebo via Mackay, and myself.

Photos: Photos were taken on high speed Ectachrome. These photos will be forwarded for processing under another person's name.
Situation at the time: Explained above.
The shape: No change in shape whatsoever throughout sighting it being a well defined machine solid and metallic.

Apparent size: Presuming the disc at the top to be 30 feet, thickness of disc would be 1 foot and a height of 15 foot. Mr Judin estimated disc diameter as 20 feet and Mr Burgess 6 feet.
Prominent features: None apart from large banks of floodlights in rows 10.9.8.7.6 (this may not be accurate). No sparks or vapour trails were observed, nor scorching of the ground. Tops of trees appeared to be burned.
Colour: As observed in the light of the Moon. Charcoal.

Sound: Whilst on the ground approaching and receding, none. Mr Burgess and Mr Judin said they heard a buzz (described as similar to a bee) on departure. I was closer to the Hotel generating plant heard nothing on departure.

Direction trajectory speed of travel: On departure rose rapidly to approx 300 feet then accelerated more than extremely rapidly in a N/E to E direction. Would have been flying horizontally.
Motion: A steady flight.
Signs of life: None. But obviously controlled by intelligent beings.
Effects: None. Psychologically. Fear (by observers). Electro-magnetic effects. No radios in operation. Lights OK. Our power generated by diesel. 240v.

Description of sighting: Object was observed as mentioned, and on its approach towards us, I rang the Mackay Police Station. Our phone is on a party line and a cattle property approx 1/4 mile away was contacted whilst police were on the phone. The owner, Mr B Wright had binoculars, but could observe nothing, possibly because a ridge between his homestead and the Hotel. The object remained for about 20 min after the report. During the period on the ground (or hovering) the underside of the trees were illuminated.

A circular impression was found on the ground 2 days later and was measured by the local police. The centre of the circle was untouched. The outside impression was 20 feet from the inside to inside and extended 3 feet 2 inches outwards. It was a perfect circle. Diameter did not vary. It was practically under a telephone line. No evidence of damage can be seen (to the phone lines or poles.)"

Source two:

The former NICAP groups' newsletter, "The UFO Investigator" June-July 1965 edition, pages 1 and 2 carried an account supplied by Australian researcher Paul Norman who conducted an on-site investigation. Norman interviewed Tilse.

Norman's report to NICAP relates essentially the same story as Tilse's direct account from source one. However, additional/differing information is:

* Burgess was a veteran of the second world war and wanted to get a rifle and shoot at the object
* "As the machine settled on the sparsely timbered ridge, illuminating the trees, the orange glow of the lights dimmed. But it was still too bright to tell whether the glow came from inside, through ports, or from lights encircling the craft."
* The next day Tilse photographed a circular impression on the ground where the UFO landed or hovered. As confirmed by local police and NICAP investigator Norman, it was a perfect circle - a ring three feet two inches thick, its inside diameter 20 feet. In addition, several treetops were scorched where the UFO had closely passed. This was confirmed by constable B Self, Nebo police, and by Tilse and Norman. The evidence and reports are being examined by the Royal Australian Air Force."

Comments:

This original material, to my mind, strengthens the case for it being a UFO. There is one anomaly though, not revealed in Norman's account, but by Tilse in the Panorama article. Tilse states that the Moon was approximately thirty degrees above the horizon.

However, a check of the Sky View Cafe star chart program on the internet (click here)  reveals that at 0005hrs on 24 May 1965, seen from the Epsom Retreat Hotel (click here) (between Eton and Nebo) at latitude 21 deg 28min south; longitude 148 deg 49min east, for Universal Time plus 10 hours (ie Tilse's 231405z), the Moon was 1 degree above the ESE horizon, and not at about 30 degrees as Tilse states.An independent sky chart program, Fourmilab (click here) , was consulted, and it too puts the Moon at 1 degree elevation in the ESE. Why Tilse, an experienced pilot and observer, should place the Moon at 30 degrees elevation, is not apparent to me.

Some skeptic's have suggested that the men in fact saw the Moon, and reported it as a UFO. Their "UFO" was by their accounts on or near the horizon. In addition, "The News" an Adelaide newspaper in its account of the Eton Ridge event, dated 27 May 1965 cites Tilse , upon first seeing the object, as saying "It's the Moon." The details of the object's shape, lights and movements would appear to rule out this explanation, in my opinion.

Concerning the physical traces. Tilse reported these as (1) "Tops of trees appeared to be burned." (2) "a circular impression was found on the ground." Although photographs are said to have been taken, according to Tilse; to my knowledge these have never surfaced for us to view.

Did the RAAF investigate the sighting?

The NICAP account stated that "The evidence and reports are being examined by the Royal Australian Air Force."

A check by me of the relevant RAAF UFO file, NAA file series A703, control symbol 580/1/1 part 4 shows no record of the RAAF ever receiving a completed UFO report form, or an investigating officer's report. However, page 140 of that file is a memo from RAAF HQ Operational Command to Department of Air (Attn: DAFI) dated 22 Jun 1965 reference 5/2/1/Air (57.) It states:

"1. Attached are two newspaper clippings of an alleged sighting of an unidentified flying object received from RAAF Base Amberley.
2. No action has been taken on the matter at this headquarters."

Page 141 of the file is a clipping from the "Ipswich Queensland Times: dated Thursday 27th May 1965 and titled "Three report seeing a 'flying platform' land."

Page 199 of the same file is a clipping from the "Brisbane Courier Mail" dated Thursday 27th May 1965 and titled "A 'thing' leaves its mark."

As both newspaper clippings indicate that Mr Tilse reported the occurrence to the Civil Aviation Department (although Mr Seymour, Regional Director of Civil Aviation is cited in both papers as stating that no report had so far been received) I checked the relevant DCA UFO file in the National Archives. NAA file series B595, control symbol 21/3/387 part 2 titled "Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon" is a DCA file with a date range 1959 to 1969. However, there is no report on this file of the Eton Ridge event.

In conclusion:

Most of the original material which I located, in my view, strengthens the case for it being an example of the "core" UFO phenomenon. However, the anomaly of the position of the Moon concerns me. In addition, the lack of a detailed report on either the RAAF or DCA UFO files, (or both), is a puzzle.

I welcome comments by readers, particularly anyone who has located a RAAF or DCA investigation report on this impressive case. I would also like to hear from anyone who has an opinion on the anomaly of the Moon's position.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"The Giant Book of Useless Information" and Westall

Dear readers,

Details of the 1966 Westall event (click here) , turn up in some unlikely places. I was browsing the shelves of my local library, when my attention was drawn to a book titled "The Giant Book of Useless Information," authored by Steve Sutton, and published in 2010 by Magpie Books, London. ISBN 978-1-84901-897-5. I picked the book up off the shelf and at random, turned to a page, page eleven as it happens. What did I see?

"The Clayton Incident. On 6th June 1966, hundreds of people in Westall, Clayton, South Victoria, Australia spotted an alleged UFO in the sky. Students and teachers at two schools in Victoria fled their classrooms and reported seeing the object in the sky for up to twenty minutes, before it descended into a nearby field. Soon afterwards the object climbed rapidly upwards and flew away towards the northwest.

Some observers later suggested that the departing object was pursued by five mysterious aircraft. Local police attended the scene, and later in the week uniformed men visited the site. These were probably representatives of the Australian Army and air force. After samples had been taken, the vegetation in the field was burnt, either to destroy evidence or cleanse the area. People who witnessed "The Clayton Incident" still gather for regular reunions."

No sources of information are cited for the above text, in the book.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

UAP and aircraft safety in Australia - a review

Hi all,

One of the approaches taken overseas to move away from "traditional" UFO research, has been to replace the term "UFO" with the term "UAP" (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon) and link it to aviation safety (eg. click here.)

Government agencies:

In Australia, up until 1995, the responsibility for aviation safety lay with the federal Department of Civil Aviation. In July 1995 the Department of Civil Aviation was abolished and replaced by two separate Government bodies, namely Air Services Australia and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Air Services Australia "Is a government owned corporation providing safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible services to the aviation industry." (Click here.) It has responsibility for:

*Airspace management
* Aeronautical information
* Aviation communication
* Radio navigation aides
* Aviation rescue and fire fighting services.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is an independent statutory authority. CASA's mission is "To enhance and promote aviation safety through effective regulation and by encouraging the wider aviation industry to embrace and deliver high standards of safety."

"CASA's primaru function is to conduct the safety regulation of civil air operations in Australia..."

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB):

A third player in the aviation safety area is the ATSB. "The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is Australia's national transport safety investigator." (Click here.)

"The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is Australia's prime agency for the independent investigation of civil aviation accidents, incidents and safety deficiencies. The ATSB is governed by a commission and is entirely separate from transport policy makers, industry operators, and from transport regulators such as the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA.)"

Near misses with UAP:

Overseas there have been reported near misses between aircraft and UAP, thus raising concerns about the safety of aircraft. If such incidents have happened here in Australia, where would we look for details about the incident?

A search through the websites of Air Services Australia; the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau determined that the most likely answer appears to be in the ATSB's listing of "Aviation Safety investigations and reports" (click here.) This currently lists 3,929 incidents which have been investigated. Examples of items from this list are:

*Collision with terrain
* Turbulence event
* Collision with obstacle.

Of particular interest with us are items such as:

*Airprox - VH-PWQ/unknown, PA-34/unknown near Avalon Airport, Victoria, 22 May 2012.
*Airprox - Beech A36, VH-IOL and an unknown aircraft, 49kms Scone Airport, NSW, 26 September 2011.

Air prox meaning an aircraft and something else (usually another aircraft) were closer than they should have been.

Before 2004, the report headings merely listed the aircraft involved. Thus there is no way to tell, without opening every report, is the event was an airprox. The earliest report listed is from 1969.

New ATSB database:

In 2007, the ATSB introduced a new aviation safety database, the "Safety Investigation Information Management System" (SIIMS.) The current ATSB website provides (click here) weekly tables of "Occurrences entered into the ATSB Aviation Safety Database" There are 22 pages of tables going back to 2003. Each table lists dozens of occurrences, ranging from "an aircraft entering restricted airspace without a clearance" to "during the landing roll, the aircraft struck a bird." Most occurrences do not result in an ATSB investigation, meaning they do not make it to the "listing of "Aviation Safety investigations and reports" mentioned above.

Unidentified aircraft:

An examination of the "Occurrences entered into the ATSB Aviation Safety Database" found numerous examples along the lines of:

20 Oct 2006 2006/06277 20km NW Gold Coast Aerodrome, Qld. "An unidentified aircraft was observed on radar to have entered controlled airspace without a clearance."

In each instance I looked at of this kind, it was always "An unidentified aircraft" and no other wording. These instances do not receive further investigation.

In conclusion:

If a near miss between and aircraft and a UAP has happened in Australia, and it was reported as an occurrence to the ATSB, we would expect to be able to find a record of it in the ATSB's SIIMS database.

If any readers has a few hours to spare they might wish to thoroughly examine the  "Occurrences entered into the ATSB Aviation Safety Database" and see if there is any mention of UAP/UFO. I haven't found any so far. Please share if you do find such an occurrence.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Cold case investigation - Heyfield, Victoria - 24 Apr 1968

Hi all,

Michael Hervey's 1967 book, "UFOs Over the Southern Hemisphere" ( click here) page 86 provides details of a case from Heyfield, (click here) Victoria on 24 Apr 1968. It reads:

Hervey's entry:

"The truck in which two sanitary collectors were travelling in, broke down, some two kilometres from Heyfield. They were thinking of getting a tow when they saw a string of red lights approaching. They stood on the bonnet of the truck to get a view when the lights didn't get any closer. It had a row of red lights and a dome with a light on the top. Next day they found an area of wilted grass."

RAAF files:

Based on the above information, in my Australian UFO catalogue (click here) I gave the case a classification of a close encounter type two. Recently, I came across a detailed account of the event in the RAAF's UFO files (file series A703 control symbol 580/1/1 Part 9 pages 214-221). This RAAF report was prepared by a Flying Officer D V Crain, and dated 2 May 1968. The report reads in part:

"At 0330 EST on 24 Apr 1968, Mr Whelan's truck broke down on the Heyfield-Maffra road approximately two miles east of Heyfield. Mr Whelan and his employee, Mr Lord were repairing their vehicle, when they looked east towards Maffra, and observed a banana-shaped object on the ground. It appeared to be like the lights of a semi-trailer coming towards them, but never actually reaching them. It then appeared to rise into the air (about 50 feeet) then moved very slowly in an easterly direction.

"It appears that the witnesses did not actually observe when the object disappeared from sight. An estimate of the time of observation varies from 3/4 hour to two hours. Both witnesses state that the object was about 45-50 degrees elevation when last observed."

Both Mr Whelan's and Mr Lord's report forms indicate there was no sound from the object.

The investigating officer's report indicates that the wind was calm at the time; cloud was 2/8 sc 4000; there was a slight inversion at 1000 feet and visibility was 20 miles.

Another sighting:

On the 25 Apr 1968, the same object was again seen by Lord, Whelan and a third witness, a Mr Hemphill, at 0430 EST from the Heyfield railway station. The weather on this occasion was calm, visibility 20 miles, patches of shallow fog, with a temperature inversion at 1500 feet. The object this time was last seen  at about 0630 EST by Mr Hemphill, who "...is of the opinion that the object could have been the Moon."

Wheland and Lord described "the object as of a red colour, changing to an orange glow. The colour in latter stages of the observation was not described by the witness."

The investigating officer's report included findings:

"On investigation, the Air Almanac, it was found that the Moon rose at 0312 EST, and 0412EST, on 24 Apr 68 and 25 Apr 68 respectively, that is the top of the Moon was coincident with the horizon. The azimuth of the Moon was 098deg T on 24 Apr 68 and 090deg T on 25 Apr 68. The Moon on each occasion was in the last quarter." The officer concluded:

" ...it is my form opinion that the object seen by the witnesses on each occasion was the Moon."

Mr Hemphill's report form in part says, there was no Moon visible at the time of the UFO sighting, suggesting that their UFO was actually the Moon.

There was no mention anywhere in the RAAF material of an area of wilted grass being found.

My comments:

A check of Sky View Cafe confirmed that the Moon was where the RAAF reported it to be.

At 0330EST on 24 Apr 68 the Moon was just slightly south of east, near the horizon.  The Moon was a thin, banana-shape, crescent. By 0530 EST on the 24 Apr 68, the Moon, and the planet Saturn, were both visible to slightly north of east. The Sun rose at about 0655 EST that morning.

At 0430EST on 25 Apr 68 the Moon was just slightly north of east, near the horizon. The Moon was a thin, banana-shape, crescent. By 0630EST, the Moon, together with the planets Venus and Saturn were all in the ENE sky.  It should be reiterated, that witness Hemphill said he did not see the Moon when he saw the UFO, suggesting that the UFO was actually the Moon, as both UFO and Moon should have both been visible. There was also no sound, and the object was at some unknown distance from them.

I therefore concur with the RAAF's conclusion in this case, that the object was most likely the Moon. I have come across other Australian cases where people have been clearly misidentified the Moon, for a UFO when it is low in the sky, and crescent shaped.

National Archives of Australia - more new UAP files available

Background Over the years, Australian researchers have found around 150 files in the National Archives of Australia (NAA), dealing with t...