Friday, June 23, 2017

Four months before Kenneth Arnold

Kenneth Arnold

24 June 2017, is the 70th anniversary of the birth of the modern UFO phenomenon; the Kenneth Arnold sighting of 24 June 1947. However, there were many sightings which occurred, and were published, prior to Arnold's observation. One such sighting occurred in  my home state of South Australia, and remains unexplained.

The Port Augusta and Lock sightings

Between 7 and 8 am on the morning of 5 February 1947, a Mr F W Flavel of the country town of Lock, South Australia, stated that he had observed something unusual. He said he saw five, strange objects traversing the sky. In shape, they were oblong, with narrow points. They seemed to be floating from north-west to south-east and cast a shadow. (Adelaide 'Advertiser' 17 February 1947, p.2.)

At about 9am that same morning, Mr Ron Ellis and two workmates were at work at the Commonwealth Railways workshop, in Port Augusta. Ellis reported seeing five, strange, egg shaped objects crossing the sky, from north to south. They cast shadows, and appeared to be quivering. They were lost to view within a few seconds. Their colour was said to have been white to light pink. (Adelaide 'Advertiser' 7 February 1947, p.1.)

I wrote two blog posts about these two observations (click here and here.)

Potential explanations

At the time, a  number of possible mundane explanations were put forward as to the nature of the strange objects. These were:

1. Meteors.

An amateur astronomer (Adelaide 'Advertiser' 25 February 1947, p.1) suggested that the objects were daytime meteors. However, the South Australian government astronomer, Mr G F Dodwell, was quoted (Adelaide 'Advertiser' 8 February 1947, front page) as saying '...that the phenomenon did not fit in with anything astronomical and was a complete mystery to him. Mr Dodwell discounted the probability of the objects being meteorites.'

2. A mirage.

J C Fowler (Adelaide 'Advertiser' 22 February 1947, p.2) suggested that the explanation was a mirage. The South Australian government astronomer, Mr G F Dodwell (same paper) discussed the hypothesis but concluded 'This seems to correspond with real objects and not with a mirage reflection.'

3. Birds.

In a letter (Adelaide 'Advertiser' 1 March 1947) G L Forth wrote 'In all probability the strange objects in the sky at Port Augusta and Lock were flocks of galahs migrating from the arid districts in the far north.

It is not an uncommon sight to people living in the north. Galahs usually fly in packed formations and at a high altitude. They do not screech while travelling long distances. No doubt this would also account for the pink and grey colors mentioned by your correspondents.'

4. Other thoughts.

Researchers Chris Aubeck and Martin Shough (2015. 'Return to Magonia.' Anomalist Books. San Antonio, Texas, chapter 21) discuss a number of other potential explanations. These included balloons; wind borne objects; '...perhaps even small clouds.' (p.343);' lighter than air airships (p.345); aircraft and rockets.

Ultimately though, Aubeck and Shough   concluded '...this is a striking case, and is certainly of great historical and cultural interest. Simply put, this is a modern UFO...' (p.350.)

Naturally, I welcome hearing from any blog readers who either, have additional material on these sightings, or can suggest an explanation.

Can the 'Sea Fury' case Joint Intelligence Bureau files be found?

Recently, an Adelaide researcher conducted a 'Cold case' review of the 31 August 1954, Australian 'Sea Fury' incident.

When I was examining some of the background information about this fascinating sighting, I was reminded that, although we have copies of two Navy files on the incident (NAA file series MP926/1, control symbol 3079/101/1 and SP338/3, control symbol 13/4/10;) that the Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB) files, have never been seen by UAP researchers. Although, I have made previous attempts to locate these missing files, I was unsuccessful. However, I have decided that it is worth one final effort.

Letter to the Minister of Defence

So, I have despatched the following letter by registered snail mail.

'Senator the Hon Marise Payne
Minister for Defence
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Minister,

In 1991, Ken Llewellyn, then Public Relations Officer for the RAAF, authored a book titled 'Flight Into the Ages' (Felspin, NSW.) In it, inter alia, he discussed a number of sightings of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. One of these sightings was an alleged observation of two 'unknowns' by an Australian Navy pilot, Lt James Aloysius O'Farrell, near Goulburn, NSW, on 31 August 1954. In his book, Llewellyn states that, the then Secretary of the Department of Defence, Sir Arthur Tange, made available to O'Farrell, two DOD Joint Intelligence Bureau files, on the sighting.

In addition, the RAN 'Navy News', dated 9 March 1984 page 4, in an article about O'Farrell, included the words 'The Joint Intelligence Organisation holds a file on this sighting.'

These two JIB/JIO/DIO files are not in the National Archives of Australia.

The purpose of this letter is to ask:

(a) If the DOD currently retains JIB/JIO/DIO files about this 1954 sighting?

(b) If so, may I, either obtain a digital copies of them, or failing that, can the files be forwarded to the National Archives of Australia for retention and reviewed for release through them.

There is a precedent for release of JIB UAP files to me. In 2008, the then Minister for Defence arranged the release of a JIO files, JIO63, 3092/2/000, titled 'Scientific Intelligence-General-Unidentified Flying Objects' with a date range of 1957-1971. There was nothing on this file concerning the 1954 sighting.

Thank you for your response.'

The process of obtaining the previous JIO file took two years. Naturally, it may turn out that the current DIO no longer holds the relevant files. After all, they would now be 63 years old.

Comments on the 2017 paper
A number of people have responded to the anonymously authored Adelaide researcher's 2017 'Cold case' review paper, by way of private emails to me. I have passed all of these comments on to the paper's author. The consensus so far, is that while the hypothesis about Sabre jet fighters being involved, is possible; that it is not very likely. However, one of the purposes of conducting 'Cold case' reviews, is to generate peer discussion, based on an intelligent review of the data presented. The paper has certainly achieved this aim.
For a complete listing of Australian government files concerning UAP, click here.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cold case review - 31 August 1954 - 'Sea Fury' radar/visual

A classic Australian case reanalysed

One of Australia's classic cases, is an incident where a Navy pilot, on a night flight, near Goulburn, New South Wales, encountered two 'unknowns,' which were also picked up on radar.

On the Internet, the sighting is frequently, but incorrectly, referred to as the 'Nowra incident.' It would be better titled, either the 'Sea Fury' radar/visual event of 31 August 1954, or the Goulburn radar/visual event of 31 August 1954.

The sighting made headlines in many Australian newspapers, two examples of which, are shown below.

Courtesy NAA file series MP926, control symbol 3079/101/1
The case has been extensively investigated, and reported upon, by Sydney researcher Bill Chalker. I reviewed the case in two previous blog posts (click here and here.)

Courtesy NAA file series MP926, control symbol 3079/101/1
Despite all previous research, the nature of the 'unknowns' has never been resolved.

Courtesy NAA file series MP926, control symbol 3079/101/1

A fresh approach

Now, an Adelaide UFO researcher, who wishes to remain anonymous, has taken a fresh look, 'cold case,' approach to the sighting. The researcher reviewed all the published material on the event, and has come up with a very plausible, non-UFO, suggestion as to the identity of the two 'unknowns.'

Courtesy of John Stepkowski in Melbourne, we can now all read this new 'cold case' research paper.

The anonymous author (known to me) and myself, would be very interested to hear what blog readers think of the hypothesis.

Monday, June 12, 2017

James E McDonald - where did his UAP interest come from?

Paul Hellyer

My former co-blogger, Pauline Wilson, at one time, was intrigued about where the UAP interest of certain researchers came from?

In a blog dated 6 May 2011, she started her enquiries with Paul Hellyer, a former Canadian Defence Minister, who was then in the news, making statements about UAP. Pauline found that his '..UFO opinions derived from reading Colonel Corso's book rather than official knowledge.' (According to Bullard, T E, 2010. 'The Myth and Mystery of UFOs'.University Press of Kansas. Lawrence, Kansas. p.9.)

Image courtesy of Amazon Books

Peter A Sturrock

Image courtesy of Amazon Books

In a further blog post dated 26 July 2011, Pauline, after reading a book by Peter A Sturrock titled 'A Tale of Two Sciences: Memoirs of a Dissident Scientist'. (2009. Exoscience. Palo Alto, California) wrote ' that Sturrock, in 1947, while in the English countryside, had seen, in the sky 'A round, bright white object...travelling in a straight line, seen for less than a minute' (p.1.) This impressed him.

J Allen Hynek 

Image courtesy Amazon Books

She went on (blog post 11 August 2011) to write about J Allen Hynek's interest. She found the answer in Jacques Vallee's book 'Forbidden Science Volume 1,' (2002. Documentica Research, LLC.) page 277. In a diary entry, dated November 1966, Vallee wrote:

Image courtesy of Amazon Books

[Hynek to Vallee] 'Did I ever tell you how I became interested in science?'

'Wasn't your mother a schoolteacher? You told me she once gave you a book about astronomy that fascinated you.'

'That's not what made me decide to take up science as a profession. So many people get into science looking for power, or a chance to make some discovery that will put their name into history books...For me the challenge was to find the very limits of science, the place where it breaks down, the phenomenon it didn't explain.'

James E. McDonald

Re-reading these blog posts made me wonder where the UAP interest of James E. McDonald came from?

I went to Ann Druffel's book about McDonald ('Firestorm.' 2003. Wild Flower Press. Columbus, NC.) to try and find the answer. The first relevant reference I located was on page 2.

Image courtesy of Amazon Books

'McDonald's friend and colleague, Dr Paul E Damon of the University of Arizona, feels that McDonald's intense interest in UFOs may have started in the early fifties at an international meteorological conference in Italy. There had been a new report of an Italian UFO sighting which intrigued McDonald.

He discussed the sighting with some senior colleagues at this conference. They reminded him that the United States Air Force had a group, Project Blue Book that was specifically in charge of investigating UFOs. These colleagues reasoned that, if there was anything to the report, the Air Force would have found this out and would have alerted the scientific community.  This satisfied McDonald for a while but in 1958 when public UFO reports in his home town of Tucson began to come to his attention, McDonald''s curiosity was piqued. And when his friends and colleagues also began to confide their own sightings to him, he felt it was vitally necessary to study the question.' (Interview between Ann Druffel and Dr Paul E Damon, 27 February 1994.)

Page 15 of 'Firestorm' provides the additional information that 'McDonald had himself seen a bright, anomalous object in the daytime sky when he first came to Tucson in 1954.' Druffel summarised this sighting and notes that McDonald wrote a letter to the USAF detailing his observations.

The letter

Through US researcher and historian, Barry Greenwood, I obtained a copy of this letter. As very few blog readers would have had the opportunity to read this letter, I present part of the contents below.

'On Sunday, January 10 of this year [1954-KB], at 1725MST, while driving north along Arizona State Highway 83, about five miles north of Sonoita (latitude 31deg 45min, longitude 110deg 40min) I observed an unusually brilliant object low in the south western sky. As viewed from our level, the sun had just set behind the Santa Rita Mountains even though nominal sunset for a level plain in this vicinity would be about 1740MST. I estimated that this object was only one or two degrees above the crest of the range of mountains and that the latter rose to an altitude angle of perhaps five or six degrees, from our position.

Its exact azimuth was uncertain to me at the time of observation since this was unfamiliar territory with no landmarks, but since my return to Chicago, I have determined from astronomical tables that the sun's azimuth at 1725MST near Tucson was approximately 243 deg and this bright object lay no more than five degrees southward of the sun in azimuth according to my estimate,

Hence, when seen from the approximate position cited above, this object was at altitude six to eight degrees and azimuth 235deg to 240deg. The altitude may have been even below 6 deg...the luminosity did not vary as we continued our sinuous way northward. I pointed the object out to my three became evident that the object was either not moving with any perceptible velocity across out line of sight or that it was doing so intermittently...we held it under observation for a total period of was about fifteen minutes...the mountain blocked out view...Its light was white...the sky was cloudless.'

In looking for an explanation, McDonald considered whether or not it was the planet Venus; a weather balloon; and also looked at the weather at the time.'Above a shallow layer of easterly winds, the circulation over the southwest US on the afternoon of January 10 was westerly. Tucson's 500mb winds were southwest 30 kts at both 0800MST and 2000MST.. I would estimate magnitude -5 to -7...' (Source:  letter from McDonald to USAF, 1954.)

The object seen by McDonald and his companions, remained unknown.

'There had been a new report of an Italian UFO sighting which intrigued McDonald.'

I checked Fold3 Project Blue Book records looking for some Italian cases from the early 1950's. I found two possible cases, which were:

1. 14 September 1954. Italy.

'The inhabitants of Pitigliano reported sighting a round, white object making a strange, loud noise. The object came to a standstill and then disappeared at high speed. ATIC Eval: Unknown-insufficient detail.'

2. 17 September 1954. Rome, Italy.

One, soundless object, the shape of a jellyfish when stationary, but cigar shaped when in motion. It was silver in colour, with red/violet streaks along one side with a circle of dark grey/black beneath. Seen in the sky. Seen from control tower of Ciampino Air Base. Object approached from 270/280 degrees azimuth.Approached to about 30 km distance, descended to altitude of 6000 to 10000 ft. Remained stationary. Then moved north to 290 degrees azimuth. Gained altitude then moved to west to 270 degrees azimuth. Lost at azimuth 270 degrees, at a low elevation. In sight for 30 minutes clearly then for occasionally for a further 15 minutes. Seen with naked eyes and through binoculars. Also reportedly tracked by radar, but radar report not available to PBB. Seen between 1645Z and 1715Z clearly and occasionally until 1730Z 17 September 1954. Just before sunset and seen towards the sun. The report also made the newspapers.

It is not possible to be certain if either of these reports was the one referred to by Druffel, though the second one would certainly have intrigued McDonald. I also failed to locate details of any Italian meteorological conference in the early fifties, which might have provided a more accurate date for the Italian sighting which intrigued McDonald. However, it would seem reasonable to suggest that McDonald's interest came from an Italian sighting of the early 1950's, and his own 10 January 1954 observation.

A small aside

The USAF apparently took no action about McDonald's 1954 letter, apart from an acknowledgement of the letter. So, how do we know about the letter today? In Vallee's 'Forbidden Science Volume One' pages 254-255, Vallee relates that on 15 April 1967, he was at Hynek's house sorting through files.

'...I stumbled on something I felt was important. I found it among the relics of Project Henry. It was a simple letter dated 1954. It came from a cloud physicist at the University of Chicago who was studying for a doctorate at the time. Together with three other physicists he had seen a bright unidentified object in the sky over Arizona. The letter gave precise details and calculations. It was signed James McDonald.' 

Can any blog readers add any additional information?

Friday, June 9, 2017

An Australian witness to a 1926 sighting in the UK

I was re-reading a set of hand written notes by US researcher James E McDonald, which he wrote while in Australia in 1967. This material was obtained many years ago when a group of US researchers, including Dr Michael Swords, reviewed the McDonald collection at the University of Arizona.

Some of the notes were made at the same time that McDonald was interviewing witnesses to selected Australian sightings.

One of the sightings documented was from the UK in 1926! I thought it would be of interest to provide the details which McDonald recorded. McDonald's handwriting is very difficult to read at times, so in the following text, the use of (-) indicates that a word is illegible to me.

The individual whom McDonald interviewed was Mrs Mary Kibel of Melbourne.

'Was age 15 in Scotland. One (-) but permission to a charity concert at Scremerston, Northumberland. Home was in Berwick on Tweed.

Winter 1926. East Coast Scotland. Lived at sea level. Had to take a road from home and little traffic. Came down from (-). 4 - 2 boys and 2 girls. Talking and laughing. Suddenly a terrific swoosh. All (-) cowered. Road had a  high hedge (-). 12-15 ft high. Object swooped over hedge and over to field. All was cowering. Noise was (-) (-). Brilliant red and blue white. (-) glow. (-). Banding of colors. Swept over it +50ft. Went too fast to see shape but feels it was possibly round.

(-) (-) near to village, into homes. She (-) into houses, told by parents it was a falling star. Next AM, all decided if it was a falling star, must be in field. But when checked found nothing, so decided to forget it.

Three zones of color. White in middle, red on top, blue at bottom. She recalls saying to aunt it was colored just like the red-white-blue lifeboats at (-) station.

Hedges were ca. 25 ft apart. Object must have been 20 to 25 ft diam. It did not get down onto the roadway. Came d. a bit. Subtended ca. 20 degree angle. She (-) over.

Girl was Edith Ward (now Mrs Bruce.) Boy was Athol Whitfield (killed in war), John Brown also killed in war.'

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

New fees for digitising files from the National Archives of Australia

I have been waiting several months now, for the National Archives of Australia (NAA) to open a particular file of interest to me. I finally received an email to advise me that the file now has a status of 'open.' This meant, that I could finally apply for a copy of the file.

I followed the indicated process to order a digitised copy of the file (it appears you can no longer obtain a hard copy of a file) and got to the section where the fee for the digitisation service was shown. To put it mildly, I was shocked.

I then viewed a copy of the NAA Fact Sheet number 51, titled 'copying charges.' Increased charges for file digitisation, applied since 24 October 2016.

A small file (typically up to 10 pages) costs $27.90.

A standard file (typically 11-100 pages) costs $75.90.

A large file (typically 101-400 pages) costs $235.40.

Now, any reader of this blog who has used RecordSearch on the NAA website, and looked for files on UFOs, will know that they are typically over 100 pages long. This means that if you were to request any UFO file today, it would cost you $235.40 per file.  I doubt that many blog readers would ever pay $235.40 for one digitised file.

Fortunately, due to the diligence of a number of South Australian UFO researchers, almost all the known NAA UFO files have already been digitised, at vastly lower fees.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

One foot in the grave!

Over the last few years, I have spoken to a number of Australian UAP researchers, about the need to preserve Australian material for future generations of researchers.

At least, long runs of the AFSRS magazine are held by the State Library of South Australia

Sitting around
After such discussions, I found that there are several large collections of UAP material; i.e. Newsletters; report forms; investigation reports; photographs and negatives, sitting in garages, spare rooms and even self-storage units, across the country. There is little hope of the broader research community gaining access to these slowly deteriorating resources. These collections are currently destined too pass away with their owners.

Likewise, long runs of Panorama are held by the State Library of South Australia
Lack of planning

The usual process is simply, that people fail to plan for the future. I note that much of the excellent work undertaken in Victoria by such researchers as Paul Norman, Peter Norris, and John Auchettl, has already been lost to us. I have heard stories of relatives of deceased researchers, emptying years of hard work, into skips, destined for the rubbish tip.

A page of a large scrapbook of un-digitised Australian newspaper clippings
In South Australia, the broader UAP community has lost access to the vast collections of material, formerly held by Colin Norris and Fred Stone.

An article about Colin Norris in an unscanned collection

In the same unscanned collection, an article about Fred Stone


In Western Australia, the collections of groups such as UFORUM; UFO Research (WA) and West Australia UFO Investigation Centre, are no longer accessible to anyone. In Tasmania, TUFOIC's investigation files are harder to access, since Keith Roberts retired from the scene.

Astute readers of this blog will now be asking, what has this author done in regards to his own collection of UAP material? Several years ago, I began the process (which has been completed) of scanning into digital form, my Journals; Newsletters; sighting reports etc. Quietly, over the last couple of years I have been distributing copies of my digitised material, on USB sticks, to 25-30 Australian researchers. Thus most, currently active, Australian researchers have a copy of my files, which include case photographs such as the one below.

Garry Little (deceased) inspects an oat field at Bordertown, South Australia
In addition, the contents of my blog (all current 800 + blog posts, and all future posts) are being archived by the PANDORA Project of the National Library of Australia. Thus, my blog will be publicly available into the future, even if Blogger falls over. This is one of the reasons that I mainly publish all my research work on the blog.

What are you doing?

What are you, or your group, doing to ensure your UAP materials will continue to be available to others, after your passing, or your group dissolves?

I would urge individuals, or committees running groups, to take a serious look at your archives, and decide now, what should happen to them? Can you scan and digitise them now, and make copies available to others? If not, for individuals, look to insert a clause into your will, stating what your wishes are in respect of your UAP material. For groups, make certain that your constitution has a clause specifying what happens to material if the group dissolves.

Failure to do so, will probably result in your UAP collection heading for the rubbish tip; which would be a waste (in all senses of the word.)