Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Facts matter - the 1954 Goulburn radar/visual event - part two

Hi all,

This post continues my examination of the classic Australian 1954 radar/visual event commonly known as the "Nowra incident." In part one I posted the text of one of the secondary sources of information on the incident. Now let's take a look at some primary source material.

Primary sources:

During the Disclosure Australia Project (2003-2008) I was fortunate to locate two original 1954 files on the incident. These were:

1. National Archives of Australia (NAA) file series MP926/1 control symbol 3079/101/1, titled "Unidentified Objects (Flying Saucers sighted by Navy pilot over Goulburn.)" This file was owned by the Navy Office, Department of Navy.

2. NAA file series SP338/3 control symbol 13/4/10 titled "Unidentified Objects (flying - reports of)."  This file was owned by Flag-Officer-in charge, Eastern Australian region.

On these files, were copies of the original written report on the incident, of both the pilot and the radar operator. The pilot's report, dated 2 Sep 1954, reads:

"I have the honour to submit the following report concerning an incident which occurred on 31st August during a night cross country flight from R.A.N. Air Station, Nowra.

2. The route was Nowra-Young-Temora-Yass-Nowra, and the briefed height 13,000 feet.

3. At 1858 I made the following position report to civil Air radio, Canberra, "Ausnav 921 contact Yass at 13,000 feet estimating Nowra at 1920." This was acknowledged by Canberra, and, when South-West of Goulburn, I changed over to 143.64 m/cs, 723 Squadron exercise frequency, and contacted Nowra.

4. After contacting Nowra at approximately 1910, I noticed a very bright light closing fast from "One o'clock". This bright light crossed ahead of me and continued to a position on my port beam where it appeared to orbit. At the same time I noticed a second and similar light at "Nine o'clock", which made a pass about a mile ahead of me and then turned in the position where the first light was sighted.

5. I contacted Nowra and asked if they had me on radar, hoping they would confirm that other aircraft were in the vicinity. They replied that they had 3 echoes and advised me to turn 180 degrees (Course), to be identified if I required a homing. At this stage the to bright lights reformed at "Nine o'clock", from me and disappeared on a North Easterly heading.

6. I saw no other lights and was only able to make out a vague shape with the white light situated centrally on top. Their apparent crossing speed was the fastest that I have ever experienced, and at the time I was indicating 220 knots."

The radar operator's report:

"At 1907 aircraft 921 called up and asked if we had him on radar. After checking G.C.I. remote display, we found that two paints appeared on the display approximately 280 degrees 32 miles. After about 15 seconds another paint appeared in the same vicinity. One appeared to be tracking towards base, the others in a North Easterly direction.

About two minutes later we told 921 to fly 180 degrees if he wanted a bearing, so we could identify him. His reply was "Negative", so we did not track the paints any further."


A comparison between the original written source material from 1954 and the account given in the 1991 book, reveals the following:

1. Date of the incident:

Book: 15 December 1954.
Files: 31 August 1954.

2. Time of incident:

Book: "...about 8.00 p.m."
Files: "...approximately 1910..."

3. Location of start of incident:

Book: "...somewhere in the Goulburn region..."
Files: South-west of Goulburn.

4. Distinctiveness of objects:

Book: "...their outline quite distinct..."
Files: "...was only able to make out a vague shape..."

5. Did O'Farrell make a 180 degree turn at some point?

Book: "So I turned through 180 degrees..."
Files: The pilot's report states that Nowra suggested a 180 degree turn in order that they could identify one of the paints on the radar as his aircraft. However, his written report does not state that he did in fact make this suggested turn. The radar operator's written report says, in part, "...we told 921 to fly 180 degrees if he wanted a bearing, so we could identify him. His reply was "Negative..." This strongly suggests to me that the pilot was saying that he did not wish to turn 180 degrees to be identified, and did not in fact turn his aircraft.

6. Where there in fact any other aircraft in the vicinity at the time?

Book: "...there were no other aircraft airborne on the east coast. All RAAF aircraft were on the ground and a civil aircraft that had been flying in the region had already landed. I was the only aircraft airborne."

Files: "There were no Naval or Air force aircraft in the area at the time, but there was a T.A.A. Convair at 14,000 feet on a northern course."

7. What was the speed of the Naval aircraft at the time?

Book: "...I was cruising about 330 knots..."
Files: " the time I was indicating 220 knots..."

8. Speed of departure of the objects?

Book: "They took off at two or three times the speed I was doing - probably around 1000 miles per hour."

Files: No estimate of departure speed is mentioned. However, the aircraft was flying at 220 knots, i.e. about 400 kms/hr. Twice this is 800 kms/hr. Three times is 1200 kms/hr. The book mention of 1000 mph, which is 1600 kms/hr and so is a 25-50% over estimate.

In summary:

One can see, that by 1991, some of the finer data points were inaccurately cited, and that some of the information is simply, wrong according to the 1954 documents.

Additional information:

For those readers who wish to do their own calculations, of speeds, distances and timeline I supply the following information:

1. Latitude and longitude of places mentioned in parts one and two of this post.

Nowra (34 53S 150 36E); Young (34 19S 148 18E);Temora (34 27S 147 32 E); Yass (34 51S 148 55E); Marulan (34 43S 150 00E); Sydney (33 53S 151 13E); Goulburn (34 45S 149 43E).

2. Distances between locations.

Nowra to Young (approx. 260kms); Young to Temora (approx. 75kms); Temora to Yass (approx. 135kms); Yass to nowra (approx 160kms).

So, the total flight distance was about 630kms.

3. One knot is a unit of speed used by nautical vessels and aircraft. It is one nautical mile per  hour, i.e. 1.15 miles or 1.85 kms per hour.

4. Locations of the incident:

a. O'Farrell placed the start of the incident as south-west of Goulburn, at about 1910hrs.

b. The radar operator, at 1907hrs, said there were radar paints at about 32 miles (51kms) from Nowra at a bearing of 280 degrees. Assuming that the paint heading towards the base was O'Farrell's aircraft, this places him over Marulan at the time of the radar observation.

Where did O'Farrell learn of the other witnesses?

In an attempt to answer this question, I turned to the work of researcher Bill Chalker. Bill has written about this incident in his 1996 book "The Oz Files"; on various on-line sites and most recently in the 2012 book "UFOs and Government."

In his 1996 book, Bill cites his source of information as a number of interviews with O'Farrell, and states that his book's account specifically comes from an interview with O'Farrell, by himself and Robb Tilley, on 30 March 1993, some 39 years after the event.

Bill reveals that O'Farrell was interviewed in 1973 about the incident, by Prof J Allen Hynek. O'Farrell apparently refreshed his 1954 memories by reading Department of Defence (Joint Intelligence Bureau) files on the incident supplied to him .

It can therefore be said, that perhaps O'Farrell came across the details of the other witnesses, either at the time in 1954 or in 1973. It is not clear from anything which I have looked at, which is the correct answer.

JIB files:

The JIB files on the incident have never surfaced in the hands of civilian UAP researchers. They should make fascinating reading. It is tantilising to hear of the two additional witnesses, but lots of questions spring to my mind.

The radar operator's report, puts the radar paints of aircraft and UAP as over Marulan. It was at the Marulan non-directional beacon, that one of the other witnesses was located. Did the lights seen from there come from O'Farrell's direction? What colour were they? Was there any noise from the lights, perhaps a sonic boom? What formation were they in? Most importantly, as the radar operator also places O'Farrell's aircraft over Marulan did that witness see both two bright lights and an aircraft passing over?

What were the colour of the lights seen from Sydney? How did they disappear from view? how long were they in view?

Additional questions are:

1. Did the JIB locate more than two ground witnesses? After all, the night was said to be clear, and dark. An aircraft flying at night accompanied by two bright lights would seem to be something to note.

2. What happened to the JIB files after 1973? None related to this incident have been located in the National Archives. Readers may recall that I located the one and only JIB UAP file, in the NAA in 2008. Its date range is 1957-1971. It contains no papers relevant to the 1954 Goulburn case.

Possibilities are a) that the 1954 files were destroyed after 1973; b) that they are actually somewhere in the NAA, or c) they are still held by the Department of Defence.

The value of this case:

This case, on the basis of the information contained in the 1954 Navy files, remains an intensely puzzling one.

However, the fuller details, apparently contained on the JIB files, should allow us further insight into the incident, if they could be located.

The key:

The key to further research on this case appears to lie with the possible locating of the missing JIB files.

I am therefore approaching the Department of Defence to see if, after 58 years, they can be located, examined and released.

I will keep you posted on my efforts.

Facts matter - the 1954 Goulburn, radar/visual event - part one

Hi all,


On numerous occasions, I have pointed out the value of going back to original source material, when researching cases. This was again brought back to me the other day, when I was re-examining a classic 1954 Australian radar/visual event, commonly known as the "Nowra incident."

One of the secondary sources which I located was a book titled "Flight Into the Ages: Incredible True Stories of Airmen on the Earth Plane and Beyond," published in 1991 by Felspin Pty Ltd of New South Wales. ISBN 0646074911.

The book's author was Ken Llewelyn, who was a senior Public Relations Officer with the RAAF. I'd like to reproduce some of the text on the case from pages 137-139 of the book, as it is often cited as an authoritative source of information on the Nowra incident.

Flight Into the Ages:

"First, however, consider the experience of a Royal Australian Navy pilot on 15 December 1954.

Lieutenant Shamus O'Farrell was flying a powerful Sea Fury aircraft on a standard night-navigation exercise from his base at Nowra, 160 kilometres south of Sydney, when he experienced an event which confounded experts in the Department of Defence. Shamus had taken off at dusk and been flying for about two hours. His British-built fighter was powered by a massive eighteen cylinder British Centauris radial engine and, apart from the RAAF's recently introduced Meteors, it was the fastest flying machine in the country, with a top speed of 400 knots.

The incident, which happened at about 8.00 p.m., is described in the pilot's own words: "From memory, I was just over 12,000 feet. It was a fine dark night. The stars were all out with no moon, no clouds, no bad weather and good visibility. A pleasant night for night flying.

'I had been airborne for about two hours and I was somewhere in the Goulburn region, near Canberra. When I left Nowra, the radar there was not working, but they were hoping to get it on line by the time I returned. The operators asked me to call so that they could do a check-tune on me as I came in. I was surprised when I saw two aircraft, one on either side of me, each with a single bright light above it, but with no navigation lights. In fact, it was quite a shock because everything was going well. I was keeping a lookout, constantly scanning from one side of the aircraft to the other. They came from astern and I looked out to one side and thought, "Gee, what is that?" I continued to look around and there, on the other side, was another one. And then I thought about it for some time to make sure I wasn't seeing things that weren't there. But sure enough, I could see two dark, cigar-shaped objects - not very long, about the size of a Dakota - but their central bright lights made their outline quite distinct. I could see no other details, no other lights - just one bright light centrally placed over the top of each mass.

"I became concerned at the presence of these objects and began to think about the situation again: "If I say too much they will think I am seeing objects that aren't there, and they will get worried; the best thing to do is to say nothing and just call up Nowra." I asked them, "Do you have me on radar?" Back came Petty Officer Jessop's reply, "Yes we have an aircraft coming in from the west - in  fact we have got three. Which one are you?" And I replied, "I am the one in the centre." And then he said, "Fly a one-eighty for identification."

So I turned through 180 degrees. "Yes, I have got you turning in the centre," he said. I finally finished with a 360 degree turn because I lagged behind the other two aircraft, who had continued to move ahead. Then, when I came back up, they settled back into formation with me.

"I still believed they could be aircraft without their lights on I was expecting to see a red or green light or flashing lights, but each had a steady light. I tried to visualize other unusual combinations of lights which may have created the effect - even landing lights on the underside of an aircraft. But the lights were above the aircraft, or whatever they were.

"Nowra was worried after I called because they had started checking and found out that there were no other aircraft airborne on the east coast. All RAAF aircraft were on the ground and a civil aircraft that had been flying in the region had already landed. I was the only aircraft airborne.

"Then I started to think, "Well, who the hell are they? because I was cruising about 330 knots and, apart from the RAAF's Meteors, I knew everyone else would have trouble staying with me. They were in sight for about ten minutes - at all times in immaculate formation. Then, suddenly they left me and headed off to the north-east, going very fast. I was about to press the transmit button when Nowra radar contacted me and said, "Those other two contacts are leaving the screen fast to the north-east." I said, "Roger" and felt very relieved that they had gone.

"I later learned that they had headed over Marulan navigation beacon, where they happened to be an officer from the Department of Aviation carrying out repairs to the beacon. He  looked up and noted the time when the two fast lights had flashed past. He noted the occurrence in a book. A short time later, and air traffic controller in the tower at Sydney's Mascot Airport, which was pretty quiet in those days, saw two lights coming over very rapidly from the south-west. He, too, logged the time in a book. Later the RAAF plotted out a straight line from where I was and then worked back from Sydney and the beacon. By checking my position on the navigation chart, they calculated that we had all sighted the same lights. The RAAF said the speed was extremely fast, and I know it was because they left me standing. They took off at two or three times the speed I was doing - probably around 1000 miles per hour.

When Lieutenant O'Farrell landed, he was surprised to see a big welcoming committee. He was met by Nowra's medical officer, who gave him an examination and asked if he felt all right. His pattern of drinking came under scrutiny, and his cabin (naval term for room) was searched and his Wardroom (Officer's Mess) bar figures were also checked for signs of excessive consumption. However, Shamus drank very little in those days. The twenty-five year old pilot became a minor celebrity and was questioned on a number of occasions by RAAF intelligence officers to try to find out exactly what he saw on the night of 15 December.

Shamus O'Farrell became one of the Navy's most experienced fighter pilots and amassed more than 4500 hours flying time before retiring with the rank of Commodore after his posting to Washington as a naval attache."

To be continued.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Weird astronomy" and UAP

Hi all,

I only recently caught up with David A Seargent's book, "Weird Astronomy: Tales of Unusual, Bizarre and Other Hard to Explain Observations," published in 2011 by Springer, New York. ISBN 978-1-4419-6423-6. As I usually do when I read any book, I check the index (if there is one) for any reference to UAP. Interestingly, for a book on astronomy, I found the following:

1. The O'Neill 'Moonbridge.'

In 1953, the science editor of the New York Tribune reported seeing, a lunar feature, which he thought was a several kilometre long 'natural rock bridge.' It appears the correct interpretation of the feature, is that it is an 'illusion' due to light and shadow. Seargent writes, "There is no Moonbridge. Unfortunately though, that has not stopped the subject  from having become absorbed into UFO literature of the more crackpot variety...sensationalist writers tried to turn the bridge into proof of intelligent life..." (p.22.) For more on this, click here.

2. Nebulous meteors.

One rare, but accepted, category of meteors, is a 'nebulous' one. They are second to third magnitude in brightness, and " as a fuzzy ball about half the size of the full Moon." (p.148.) They move across the sky, and last, about the same as an ordinary meteor. "Presumably these strange meteors are caused by extremely friable objects that dissolve into clouds of smoke-like particles upon entering Earth's atmosphere." (p.149.)

Seargent ponders the question asked by West Australian Jeff Wood, "...what a nebulous fireball would really look like." If there were such a thing . Would it be reported as a UAP? "Wood thinks so and suggests that meteor observers should pay attention to those UFO reports involving cigar-shaped objects cruising across the night sky." (p.150.) For more on unusual meteors of all kinds, click here.

3. Sternschwanken

In 1799 polymath, Alexander Von Humboldt, noticed "...that some of the stars appeared to be performing oscillatory movements that he called sternschwanken . Later, in 1887 the term became autokinesis." It is believed to be due to the brain incorrectly interpreting either eye movements, or correcting movement of muscle fatigued eyes.

Whatever the cause, people report that lights, e.g. stars, jump around when in fact they are stationary. Seargent writes: "The apparent movement of a star or planet as seen by an observer on the ground  can be startling and may even trigger a UFO report..." (p.197.) For an example of autokinesis and UAP click here.

4. Daytime observing.

Naked eye observers can, beside the Sun and Moon, see up to two planets and two stars in the day time sky. The planets Venus and Jupiter, and stars Sirius and Canopus.

Seargent cites the instance of "...a major UFO a regional city in New South Wales" (p.277), which was eventually shown to have been the planet Venus.

I found this a fascinating read, with much interesting astronomical information. Autokinesis features in numerous raw UAP reports which I have looked into over the years. If you haven't yet read this book, I would strongly recommend that you do.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New book alert - Clarke - The UFO Files 2nd ed.

Hi all,

United Kingdom (UK)  researcher David Clarke's 2009 book (click here), "The UFO Files: The Inside Story of Real Life Sightings" has been updated and republished in 2012. (2nd ed. Bloomsbury. London. ISBN 978-1-4081-6489-1.) The book examines UK related material as found in The National Archives in the UK (click here.)

The new edition:

The original edition has been revised, with new sections of text, based on the further release of UK government files between 2009 and 2012; and additional research which Clarke has been able to undertake after examining new material. This has resulted in an increase in the number of pages in the book, from 160 to 208.

While the structure of the updated version follows the original work, there is a completely new chapter titled "Closing the UFO files." here we learn of:

* The truth behind the newspaper headline "24,000 mph UFO buzzes Britain"

* The details of the investigations into the 1996 Lincolnshire "...highly evidential radar/visual UFO 'flap' lurking in the MOD's records. This complex incident would become the last to be subjected to a detailed military investigation." (p.159.)

* The account of "Easily the weirdest report to emerge from the UFO files released by the National Archives in 2009..." (p.182.)

* The internal workload of the MOD's "UFO desk"

* "One of the most impressive UFO sightings in the first decade of the new century..." (p.166)

* The reaction of the MOD to the UK's Freedom of Information Act

* The end of official UK interest in UFOs?


Even though I had a copy of the first edition of this book, when I perused the new edition, I found sufficient new information to make me decide to purchase the second edition.

I'm glad that I did, as the insightful analysis of the UK MOD's actions; together with the range of sightings presented, was well worth it.

This book makes a great companion to the recently published book "UFOs and Government" (click here for my take on this book.)

For anyone who has been following the unfolding saga of the uncovering of the extent of the Australian government's UAP files, the parallel unveiling of the UK's story makes fascinating reading.

After reading this book, a question arose in my mind. If the Australian, UK, New Zealand and the US government's official line is that UAP do not represent a threat to national security, and their official programs have closed down, is anyone in these governments continuing to monitor UAP? (Click here for an excellent post on this area by Pauline Wilson.) My answer, is that you can bet that someone, somewhere in these governments is still keeping an eye on the subject. What do readers think?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Contactee Valerie Ransone - the final post

Hi all,

I previously posted details about a fascinating 1970's contactee named Valerie Ransone (click here and here.) Ransone disappeared from the scene in the early 1980's. Recently I located an individual who appears to be Ransone.

Details given on a Facebook page, which is in a different name, not that of Valerie Ransone, agree with those provided by Jacques Vallee in a diary entry on Ransone, in his book "Forbidden Science-Volume Two." This Facebook page led me to further Internet sources.

Ransone created a Foundation in 1982, which still exists. Part of the Foundation's Mission Statement, shows that Ransone continues to pursue contact with what she calls the "Universal Intelligence."

As late as November 2011 Ransone was still interested in the inventions and work of a famous twentieth century inventor. In the late 1970's Ransone formed a company with former NASA astronaut Gordon Cooper, using some of that inventors ideas, according to Bruce Henderson, co-author of Cooper's book "Leap of Faith."

I emailed Ransone, providing links to my two previous posts about her, and asked if she would be willing to share details of what she had been doing since the early 80's. Two weeks later, I have not received a response. I take this to mean that Ransone does not wish to provide us with such details. This is a pity, as whatever you think about the contactee movement, it has been a part of the living history of the UAP phenomenon.

I am therefore closing my research into this fascinating individual. Unless she decides to tell the second part of her story, the full extent of her journey will remain unknown.

2016 update