Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cold case review - Moe, Victoria - My analysis


This is the fourth in a four part series of posts about the classic 15 February 1963 incident near Moe, Victoria. In this post I attempt an analysis of the observation.

Comments and analysis:

1. This is a very puzzling case. I have, for some reason, always had the impression that the event lasted some minutes. It is clear that it did not. At most it lasted 15 to 16 seconds (McDonald 1967). The only other estimate of duration available, is that when it hovered. Brew himself said, this phase lasted 4-5 seconds. (VFSRS 1963.) It is therefore  a short duration event.

2. The absolute size of the object is given by Brew as 25 feet by 9-10 feet. These estimates appear to have been made when the object was at its closest approach, estimated at 75 feet. An angular size of some 18 degrees is implied by these figures. This is equivalent to 36 full Moons side by side in the sky. However, these estimates of Brew's, may, or may not be accurate. Maybe it would be better to say that the more certain information is that the ratio of the object's diameter to its height (minus the top "antenna") was roughly 3 to 1.

3. The shape of the object, as shown in both the RAAF and VFSRS investigations, does not agree with the shape expected to be seen if the RAAF's tornado-like phenomenon suggestion is adopted. A tornado, in whatever form, would be expected to be taller than wider, shaped like a cone or rope shape.

4. The sound heard is another interesting aspect, variously described as  "swishing, burbling-type sound" (RAAF); "swishing" (VFSRS) and "diggerydoo" (McDonald.) Both Charles and Trevor report hearing this loud and unusual noise at the same time.

5. A further unusual aspect is the possible correlation of a headache to Brew when "gazing at the perspex canopy." (VFSRS).

Is the RAAF's explanation viable?

6. What then are we to think of the RAAF's suggested tornado-like phenomenon? At first glance, the reported structured object; the headache; the noise and the shape, all appear to disagree with this suggestion. The RAAF report states that the CSIRO meteorological people were in some agreement with such an explanation.

7. The fact that the object descended from the cloud base; was moving in the direction of the wind (as stated by Brew but different from the RAAF); and was rotating in part, anti-clockwise; and went back into the cloud base in a few seconds, at first had me thinking "funnel cloud."

Funnel cloud?

8. A "funnel cloud" is a funnel shaped cloud of condensed water dropletes associated with a rotating column of air. This funnel extends from the base of a cloud and does not reach the ground like a conventional tornado. Photographs of "funnel clouds" which I perused on the Internet reinforce the fact that the funnel is linked to the clouds and it does not detach from the cloud.

9. Brew described his object as descending from the clouds to a  height of 75-100 feet and then going back up into the clouds. His estimate of time for the stationary phase is 4-5 seconds.

10. Two hours later, the weather observer at Yallourn stated the type of clouds visible then and there were "Fracto-Stratus." "These low gray clouds are small, thin, unorganized tatters that typically condense in the moisture beneath nimbostratus or cumulonimbus clouds." (Click here). The bases of these clouds are usually found near the ground to around 6,500 feet." Funnel clouds are usually associated with cumulonimbus or cumulus clouds.

11. A check on the Internet revealed a general concensus that sounds associated with funnel clouds are "similar to buzzing bees, or a rushing waterfall-like sound, roaring sucking sound." (Click here.)

12. Points favouring a funnel cloud as an explantion for the object seen at Moe, are:

1. They form in similar weather to that reported at Moe.
2.They do rotate.
3. They do appear grey in colour.
4.They have associated sounds similar to that described by the Brews.
5. They are of short duration, seconds to minutes.
6. They move in the direction of the prevailing wind.
7. They are most likely during the summer months, e.g. February.
8. White or blue glows have been reported in association with them.

Points against a funnel cloud:

1. They do not detach themselves from their associated cloud base.
2. Their description in the literature, does not match that reported by Brew.

However, you can see why the tornado-like phenomenon appealed to both the CSIRO and the RAAF .

Another possible meteorological explanation?

13. Interestingly, my review of the meteorological information on tornados and tornado-like phenomenon revealed that there might be an even better fit for the object seen at Moe.

That is, a "gustnado", which is short for a gust front tornado. Gustnados were not know about in 1963.  The Australian Bureau of Meteorology describes them as follows:

"The gustnado has been accepted as a 'type of tornado' but is really a brief, intense vortex that forms on the leading edge of gust fronts. Scud and debris or dirt may be seen but a condensation funnel is usually absent. They will last from a few seconds to several minutes and are strong enough to cause minor damage. They are distinguished from a true tornado by their location under an advancing dark cloud bank, or shelf cloud ahead of the rain core. Although the air is rotating, this event is grouped more appropriately with straight-line winds (downbursts and microbursts)." (Click here.)  The BOM website has an interesting photograph,, which shows a gustnado, taken in Melbourne, Victoria. The gustnado, if tipped on its side would appear as a grey, rotating, discoid form. (Click here for photo.)

The column is not connected to, nor has it developed from the cloud like a tornado or a funnel cloud. A gustnado lasts for from seconds to a few minutes.Unlike a tornado the rotating column of air does not extend all the way to the cloud base. They may only extend to 10 to 100 metres  above the ground with no apparent connection to the cloud.

The Bureau of Meteorlogy's website Storm spotters Handbook says they have an anti-clockwise rotation. Like other funnels they may generate noise and light.

What did Brew see?

14. After reading all four posts in this series, which provides detailed information on the event, and the information provided on tornado-like phenomenon, you will have to make up your own mind what it was that Charles Brew saw on the morning of 15 February 1963.

Cold case review - Moe, Victoria - McDonald investigation


This is the third in a four part series of posts about the classic 15 February 1963 incident near Moe, Victoria. In this post I present details of the investigation conducted by the US researcher, James E McDonald.

James E McDonald.

James E McDonald interviewed Charles Brew and his son Trevor, in 1967 during a visit from America to Australia. Courtesy of Dr Michael Swords I obtained a copy of McDonald's handwritten notes. McDonald's handwriting is difficult to read , so I will simply summarise the relevant notes, in three categories. Firstly, points of information which agree with that given by either the RAAF or VFSRS investigations; then points of difference, and finally information which I did not come across in either of these investigations.

Points of agreement:

1. Object came down from the east.
2. It was raining heavily at the time.
3. It was not dark.
4. Colored tin top. Bottom flat. Top was glass, something transparent.
5. Took off to the west, uphill from shed.
6. Climbed out at 45 degrees.
7. Spun anti-clockwise from above.
8. Headache that day.

Points of difference:

1. Time was 0700.
2. Hovered 10 seconds at tree top height.
3. Dome was not completely clean. Murky. Frosty. Thinks may have seen figures. Head, shoulders - no movement, not small.

New information:

1. Trevor was at the south end of the shed, blocked view.
2. Drop in milk for a week or so.
3. For 6 months couldn't get them past the spot.
4. While hovering, revolved, but no rocking motion.
5. Saw no jets or flames.
6. More than a second per revolution.
7. Trevor - sound not like engine noise. Loud. Like a throwing stick. Magnificent sound. Pleasant.
8. Total time of sighting 15-16 seconds.
9. Came out of cloud base, perhaps half a mile away.
10. Trevor did not get a headache.

It should be noted that these notes were made nearly four years after the event, with whatever might have been the effect on Brew's memory, with the passage of that amount of time.

Although we do not have access to an investigation report by McDonald, we do have the text of a talk which McDonald gave to the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute Astronautics Symposium on 12 March 1968 titled "UFOs-An International Scientific Problem." This talk features a section on the Moe case.

"Case 10. Moe, Victoria, February 15, 1963.

To maintain a certain international tone, in keeping with the title of my remarks, I close with another interesting sighting made in a distant area. With the aid of the Melbourne VFSRS group, I was able to interview Australian farmer Charles Brew and his son Trevor last summer. They operate a small dairy farm east of Melbourne, near Moe, Victoria. My interview was carried out in the milking shed where Brew and his son Trevor were working at about 7am Feb 15, 1963 when an unusual object swooped down nearby.

It was already light on this summer morning, although rainclouds lay overhead. Trevor was working in a part of the milking shed where his view of the eastern sky was obscured and he did not see the object during its short duration passage nearby.

Charles Brew however, was standing in an opening, with a full view to the eastern sky when the object descended towards his shed and cattle-pens at an angle that he put at about 45 degrees. The object might be loosely described as a domed disc, estimated by Brew at 25 feet in diameter, gray in color except for a transparent dome on top. Around the circumference of the object he saw an array of scoop-like or bucket-like vanes or protruberances.

As the object swooped down, almost as if to land on the hillside nearby, the cattle and horses reacted in a violent panic which Brew described in his own words as unprecedented  It descended to an altitude that he judged to be 75-100 feet, as estimated by the height of a tree near its point of  minimal altitude. Then, after seeming to hover near the tree for a few seconds, it began a climb of roughly 45 degrees continuing on its westward course and passing into the cloud deck again.

The dome was not rotating, but the central section and  bottom section appeared to be rotating at about once a second, Brew judged. The spinning motion caused the protruberances (Brew thought) to generate the swishing noise, somewhat like a turbine noise, that was clearly audible not only to Brew but also to Trevor, located inside the shed and not far from a diesel unit powering the milking machines. The sound was even audible over the latter local noise sources, Trevor said.

 It took some time to recover the animals that had bolted, and those already inside the fenced area were strongly disturbed for some time. Brew stated to me that it was many days before any of his cattle would walk over the point of the hillside over which the object had momentarily hovered. Brew himself reported that an uncommon headache persisting for a number of hours after the incident, but whether this was fortuitous cannot be concluded.

Brew has been interviewed many times by Australian investigators without any reason being found to discount his unusual sighting. My reaction to Brew was similar.

It is unfortunate that the son was not in a position to confirm the sighting but he confirms the unusual sound ("like a diggerydoo" as Brew put it.) The object is similar in its general features and size to that seen by a witness I interviewed in New Zealand, Mrs Eileen Moreland. Her July 1959 observation, like Brew's, and like that of many other UFO witnesses is extremely difficult to explain in present-day scientific or technological terms."

In Michael Swords' digitised files, is a copy of the July 1963 APRO Bulletin report on the case. It has been annotated by McDonald in his own handwriting. In part, it reads:

"Berson regarded his story as beyond reproach, but stated in his analysis that the only (two words unable to be read) explanation was "some weather phenomenon" and this was taken up by RAAF as the explanation, and case was called 'closed.'"

Part four of this series will present my analysis of the incident.

Cold case review - Moe, Victoria - the VFSRS investigation


This is the second in a four part series of posts about the classic 15 February 1963 incident near Moe, Victoria. In this post I present details of the investigation conducted by the Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society.

A prime piece of original documentation, which few researchers have ever seen, is a transcript of a "Tape recorded interview with Mr Charles Brew by Mr Peter Norris, President, Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society."

 A snip of part of the VFSRS transcript.

It reads:

"Question. What time did you make the sighting, Mr Brew?
Answer. It would be about 10 past 7, it was. Yes, 10 past 7, definitely.

Q. What were you doing at the time?
A. We were milking and half way approximately half way through, I'd say.

Q. Yes , how did you first notice the object come down?
A. Well I was lookin' out over the cows as I referred to you a while ago and it came down very steeply out of the east, oh, I'd say at about 45 degrees.

Q. And what did the object look like when you first saw it? What were your reactions?
A. Well I thought it was a helicopter at first.

Q. What made you think that?
A. On account of it being round and I've naturally never, ever seen one of these turnouts before. That would be asking too much!

Q. Yes, and what did you see when the object came fairly close to you?
A. Oh well, I noticed first of all the colouring, and after that the top 2/3 when it came down and hovered, was stationary and the lower section was turning in an anti-clockwise direction - noticed that - and also as I pointed out, those scoop-like protrusions around the side which I think was making the noise-the swishing noise, that is.

The VFSRS sketch.

Q. And at this stage, how far was the object from you?
A. Oh, I'd say 75 feet away - perhaps a little further - and about the same distance up in the air.

Q. How did you calculate the height of the object?
A. Well I calculated the height by those trees. I'd say they were approximately 75 feet high. It might have been a shade higher that those, of course.

Q. Yes, that would be quite right I would say. Now once again, getting back to the general appearance of the object, can you describe the top point of the object?
A. Well, the top, the very top section, the dome section, that is, was sort of what we would call perspex or glass material or whatever you like but whatever that was, I couldn't say. The middle section, that is the middle section between the perspex and the part that was rotating, was sort of battleship grey and looked to me like some sort of metallic material. I couldn't say for sure, of course, and the bottom is I said, was rotating in an anti-clockwise direction. Well, I couldn't say what sort of material it was definitely made of but the Air Force chaps asked me that too. As near as I could say, it seemed something the same material as motor cars. Just by lookin' at it, you know.

Q. What was the size of the object?
A. Well I'd say as near as I could judge about 25 feet across - perhaps a little more - if anything a little more.

Q. Well what about the height?
A. Oh I'd say overall, about 9 feet as near as I could judge. Might have been a bit more of course it's hard to judge when you only see a thing for a few seconds, but I'd say 9 or 10 feet.

Q. You didn't actually seen anybody in it through what appeared to be a glass portion on the top. On the dome?
A. No, on a clear day you may have but as I said, it was raining heavy, and no, I can't honestly say I did see anybody although I was lookin' hard enough.

Q. Looking at the object from the underneath part, what could you see there?
A. Well when it was hovering, I could see the scoop-like protrusions, or whatever they were, which seemed to be making the swishing noise. After that, when it took off, it was the blueish or sort of pale blueish colour underneath. That's as near as I can tell you, as much as I can tell you really, about the lower section.

Q. And when it took off, what did you notice? Well first of all, of course it did hover, for some little time?
A. Well, I'd say for a space of 4 or 5 seconds, which is  not long I know.

The VFSRS sketch of the scene. 

Q. Yes, and then after that it took off, did it, and if so, at what speed would you calculate?
A. Oh well, we reckon, Trevor and I reckon, a jet would probably have to add up speed to match the speed.

Q. And it took off instantly?
A. Yes, flying from a flying start - you know, not a flying start but a standing start - and very fast and very steep.

Q. It went straight up did it?
A. I'll say it came in and went out at about the same angle at 45 degrees, as near as I can judge.

Q. Getting back to the appearance of the object. I think you said you noticed something on top of the dome?
A. Yes, it seemed to be an aerial sort of thing - I'd say about 5 or 6 feet long and it did seem to be either chrome or some lightish metal thing. Whether it was the aerial or not, I couldn't say. I was speaking to the other chap and he said it was.

Q. I know there were some cows and other stock in the yard at the time of the sighting, Mr Brew?
A. Yes, we had half done. We were half-way, half of them are milked out and the other half still had to go through.

Q. What was their reaction to the sighting?
A. Well, as I said to your other chap who was here, they done everything bar turn somersaults. They put in the paper that they did turn somersaults but that's carrying it a bit far! They certainly played up. I've never seen cows play up like that before and they never take any notice (quite happy before) of an ordinary jet. A jet can go over and they just take not notice at all but they really played up this day.

Q. Did you have anyone helping you milk the cows?
A. Yes, we had Trevor there and as I said, unfortunately he never seen it but he did hear it and he said "What was that?" and I said "A flying saucer" and he said "Don't be so and so silly, you know those things don't exist" or something to that effect and I said "Well this was a flying saucer, definitely." He said "Well it certainly moved off the mark, it travelled twice as fast as a jet." I said "Well it certainly went away fast, just like somebody had it on a blooming Yo-yo or something. Really went off with a bang."

Q. So he didn't hear it until it actually moved away and then of course, it was too late?
A. No, he didn't see it, unfortunately, but he certainly heard it go.

Q. Have you been interviewed by any representatives of the Government?
A. Yes, as I said the CSIRO were here and number one question as far as they were concerned - he asked me did I get a headache. I said "Well, it's strange that you should ask me that because I thought it was too ridiculous I would never have mentioned it. But I did get an awful headache just behind the eyes. I never suffer from headaches normally and I took a Bex and I went in but it didn't seem to have any effect. It just wore off itself towards night - took all day long to wear off.

Q. When did you first get the headache?
A. Oh when I was sort of gazing at the perspex canopy business I noticed it.

Q. It came on immediately, did it?
A. Yes, more or less. Yes. Yes.

Q. What did the CSIRO man say? Incidentally, do you know his name? What's his name?
A. Er, Mr Berson. Yes Mr Berson was his name.

Q. And what did he say about the headache?
A. "Well" he said, "that ties in with what our theory, we always had the impression that it was (what would you say?) he gave me the impression it was electromagnetic or something to that effect - that's beyond me - but he said that would more than likely cause the headache and it certainly took all day to get rid of it, anyhow. I know that.

Q. What else did the CSIRO do?
A. Well, as I said he took away samples of rock - they were very interested in that - because he said being a sort of an ironstone, it may have some attraction for it. And there is the reef as I said and it winds right though here and it came over that reef, more or less parallel with it.

Q. How long after the sighting occurred, did the CSIRO come down here?
A. They were here about 4 days after and the Air Force about a week or near the best part of a week after that.

Q.  Oh, the Air Force came down as well did they? Who came down from the Air Force?
A. Well Mr Murdoch was one of them, the only name I can recall.

Q.  Was he in uniform?
A. Yes, they were all in uniform.

Q. They were officers, were they?
A. Yes, I would say high officers, high ranking officers, anyhow.

Q. What did they do?
A. Well they photographed the surrounding country, that was the Baw Baws, Mt Macdonald. Long distance cameras and took light cloud and cloud plus, you know, how much blue was showing in the sky - all that sort of thing. It's a bit beyond me, some of the things they done but all those things.

Q. Did they have instruments?
A. Yes, they had the cameras and they tapping the rocks and took particular notice of the rock formation also. Don't know for what reason but they did. Yes, they said that after I drew them the sketch, that it was similar to other sightings to what had been seen in other countries. It tallied also exactly with what's been seen over there, but they didn't think it was quite as big as that. Yes, they said it was approximately, to the best of their knowledge, the lowest it had been and the best sighting.

Q. That was in Australia, was it?
A. Yes, from what I could gather, here.

Q. Did anyone else come down from the Government?
A. Yes, I had the Aeronautical expert from, I think liaison officer, I think that was the Sale Air Base. He asked similar questions and he wanted to know if there was any engine noise but we never heard any engine noise, not as we know engines today.

Q. To get back to the object itself, did you notice any light coming from the object itself at any time?
A. No. There was no light, no light in the dome business and no light underneath."

That is the end of the transcript.

CSIRO letter:

On 8 April 1963 Dr F A Berson of the Division of Meteorological Physics, CSIRO responded to a letter from the VFSRS,  which included:

"I visited Mr Brew in company of a friend of mine, but we did not take any rock sample. But I know that somebody else did."

My comments:

1. Given the data in the VFSRS transcript, at one point Brew states that the object was 75 feet away from him, and it was 25 feet in diameter. It is now possible to work out an estimate of angular size. An object of 25 feet across at 75 feet distance subtends an angle at the observer's eye of 18 degrees, which is equivalent to placing 36 full Moons side by side in the sky. This is a very large angular size indeed.

2. Trying to estimate a sense of the total duration of the event, we have Brew's three stages, initial descent, hovering point, and fast departure. Brew estimated it hovered for  4or 5 seconds, so we are left with a total duration for the event of greater than 4-5 seconds.

3. We can estimate its angular elevation at one point. Brew states that it was 75 feet away and about the same distance up in the air, ie 75 feet. Trigonometry shows that at this point, it was therefore at 45 degrees elevation from the ground. This appears to be at the point it hovered.

4. However, Brew did not state in which compass direction this point of hovering occurred. Can we work it out from the sketch of the property, assuming the traditional method of upwards being north? If so, then the point of hovering was to the north of Brew.

5. In my post about the sketch attached to the RAAF's report, I concluded that there was no way to be certain who actually drew that sketch (even though in the VFSRS transcript Brew says,  "they said that after I drew them the sketch..." but which sketch is this referring to?) and therefore no way to judge how accurately the RAAF sketch reflected the object Brew saw.

Now, looking at the sketch in the VFSRS material, are we any the wiser? Unfortunately, I don't think we are. The VFSRS sketch is not  signed "Drawn By Brew;" or "Drawn under the direction of Brew." It contains handwritten notes. The handwriting on the sketch appears the same as the handwriting on the sketch of the property, but again the sketch of the property is also not signed "Drawn by Brew" or "Drawn by Peter Norris." However, one clue is that the sketch of the property says in one place "Mr Brew's house." If Brew had done this sketch, you would imagine he would have used the phrase "My house." This suggests to me that neither the sketch of the object, nor the sketch of the property were drawn by Brew himself, but by others.

In summary, if Brew did not draw the VFSRS object sketch, I have to ask how accurately does it represent the actual object Brew saw?

Part three of this four part series will present the investigation by James E McDonald.

Cold case review - Moe, Victoria - The RAAF investigation


A classic Australian UAP case is the observation of an unusual object, by farmer Charles Brew, near Moe, Victoria on 15 February 1963. The event features in early UAP literature, including:

* The Australian Flying Saucer Review no. 8, p.10. June 1965.
* The English Flying Saucer Review, vol.16 no.5, p.19
* Holledge, J. 1965. "Flying Saucers Over Australia" pp14, 7 86-88.
* APRO Bulletin, July 1963, front page.

Cold case review:

As with my previous "cold case" reviews, I sought out  the most original sources of documentation about this case, and not the currently distilled secondary and tertiary sources found on the Internet.

There were at least three independent investigations of which I am aware. One by the Royal Australian Air Force at the time; a second by the Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society (also at the time); and one by US researcher James E McDonald in 1967. I secured copies of all this original documentation. I will be providing an in depth look, and "cold case" analysis in a series of four blog posts.

The RAAF investigation:

A digitised copy of this documentation is available from the National Archives of Australia, file series A703, control symbol 580/1/1 part 4, pages 373-390.

The RAAF documentation includes:

1. A covering letter, dated 18 March 1963, from J S Gooch, Wing Commander, Headquarters Support Command, Melbourne, to Secretary, Department of Air, Canberra.

2. A two page investigation report.

(National Archives of Australia (NAA) file series A703, control symbol 580/1/1 part 4.)

3. A sketch of the object.

(NAA file series A703, control symbol 580/1/1 part 4.)

4. A map of the area.

 (NAA file series A703, control symbol 580/1/1 part 4.)
5. A letter from the Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society dated 8 March 1963.

6. A response letter to the VFSRS, dated 1 April 1963.

7. A press clipping.

Key document:

The key document, is the two page investigation report, signed by Flt Lt N Hudson and Sqdn Ldr A F Javes. It reads:

"Report on investigation of an un-identified flying object at Moe, Victoria

1. Flt Lt N Hudson and Sqdn Ldr A F Javes were detailed to investigate an un-identified flying object which was reported in daily papers on 16th February 1963.

2. Contact was made with the observer (Mr C Brew) and he was visited at his property on Monday 4th March 1963. The location of the property is shown on the attached map.

Description of object sighted:

3. The following is a description of the object by Mr C Brew:

(a) At 0710hrs on Friday 15th February 1963 whilst milking cows, he noticed an object descending from an easterly direction to about 75 ft (estimated against height of adjacent trees). Hovered for a brief period of time and then accelerated away at high speed to the west.

(b) The structure of the object appeared to be man made. It was about 25ft in diameter and about 9ft high (sketch attached). The lower portion, about 3ft high, was rotating in an anti-clockwise direction and was of a blue-ish appearance. The upper portion appeared to be stationary, battleship grey in colour with a transparent dome. Protruding out of this dome was something which resembled a broom handle. No figures were visible in the dome. Then Mr Brew stated "It looked like a flying merry-go-round"! "There was a swishing and burbling-type sound."

Personal observation of observer:

4. Managing property at Willow Grove for Cr Kilpatrick. Aged about 50-60 years. Has been a farmer all his life and has never served in the forces. Doesn't read books or write very much. Did not ascertain whether he reads comics. Appears to be genuine because story continues to be repeated without any detectable variations. Property is some 1,500 acres and runs only 150 cows of which he milks 80-85 a day. He also stated that he is teetotal and does not suffer any abnormalities to his health.

Meteorological conditions:

5. Mr Brew stated that it was raining heavily and continuously with very low cloud and poor visibility. He did not observe any thunder or lighting. The wind was fresh and easterly in direction.

6. The Meteorological Department provided the following Yallourn observer's report for 0900 on 15 Feb 1963:
(a) Wind direction - Westerly at 8 knots.
(b) Visibility - 4 miles.
(c) Moderate rain (19 points recorded in 24 hours 0900 145h to 0900 15th.
(d) Cloud. 6/8 cloud. Fracto-stratus.

CSIRO - Meteorological Physics Discussions:

7. On 6th March, Dr Berson and Mr Clarke were interviewed to see if clouds could give this type of phenomenon. They agreed that a tornado condition could give this effect. The direction of rotation of Brew's report was consistent with known facts for the southern hemisphere. The bluish colouring has been reported previously and is probably due to  electric discharge and there would be a smell of ozone. The only difference in Brew's report is that the object moved from East to West because all previous reports to the CSIRO Met Section of this nature have been from West to East. Mr Brew stated that the wind was fresh and from an easterly direction. However, meteorological report states that wind was westerly at 8 knots.

Aircraft movements:

8. Enquiries have revealed that there were no service or civil aircraft authorised to operate in the area at the time.


9. There is little doubt that Brew did witness something and it is most likely that it was a natural phenomenon. The phenomenon was probably a tornado. There was no reported damage along its path, therefore one could assume that it was weak in nature.

VFSRS letter:

Part of the letter from the VFSRS to the Department of Air read:

"We would be obliged if you will advise us of your evaluation on this sighting." The Department of Air response, included:

"2. Our investigations and enquiries reveal that there are scientific records of certain tornado-like meteorological manifestations which have a similar appearance in many ways to whatever was seen by Mr Brew.

3. The information is however, that while we accept this as a possibility, we are unable to come to any firm conclusion as to the nature of the object or manifestation reported."

My comments:

1. It is interesting to note that I have not been able to locate any completed "Unidentified Aerial Sighting" (UAS) standard RAAF proforma on this case. It appears that non was completed. Perhaps this was due either to the fact the Brew appears to have been semi-literate, or that an interview was conducted and an investigation report prepared instead.

2. However, with no proforma, we are missing certain information, including an estimate of the object's angular size. One forms the impression from the details of the object's structure that it was far from a simple point source, and in fact subtended a reasonable angular size. However, on the information given in the RAAF's report, one cannot estimate this angular size.

3. The sketch attached to the RAAF report is not signed "Drawn by Mr Brew" or "Drawn by Flt Lt Hudson at the direction of Mr Brew." In fact, we cannot ascertain who drew this sketch, and therefore we do not know how accurately it portrays what Brew saw.

4. The RAAF's conclusion that the observation might be explained as a "tornado-like meteorological manifestation" will be discussed in a latter part of this series of posts on the case.

5. Sunrise that morning was at 0543hrs, some 1 hour and 27 minutes before the time of the event according to Brew.

6. The latitude of Moe, Victoria is 38.1722 degrees south; longitude is 146.2678 east.  Willow Grove is latitude 38.0833 degrees south; longitude 146.2000 degrees east. Yallourn is latitude 38.1833 degrees south; longitude 146.333 degrees east.

Part 2 of this series will provide details about the VFSRS investigation.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

"Fireballs" and UAP sightings

Hi all,


I have recently noticed that there have been a number of media reports of objects in the sky, which although headlined along the lines of "UFO screams across the sky" or "UFO caught on video," (click here ) have all the characteristics of a piece of natural material burning up spectacularly in the Earth's atmosphere. I therefore, thought it appropriate to review the subject of "fireballs."

A typical Australian example, featured in the Bundaberg News Mail newspaper of 17 January 2015 (click here.)  In part it read, "As Ryan Peat glanced up at the sky on Thursday evening he was left standing in pure astonishment after glimpsing what may have been life from another galaxy."

What had Peat seen which caused this gushing of words from the newspaper reporter? He simply reported seeing a bright blue flash of light in the sky. "It was travelling much like a shooting star but not as fast." It turned green and "...little specks of light started to trail behind it before it disintegrated." In my opinion, this has all the hallmarks of a "fireball." Note, that even Peat himself is cited in the article as saying "I now think it might have been a meteorite..."


"Meteor" is simply the name given to a piece of natural material burning up in the Earth's atmosphere. The word "meteor" is sometimes replaced with the words "falling star" or "shooting star." These three names refer to the same phenomenon. If you have ever seen a "meteor" in the night sky, you will know that it looks like a white coloured streak of light in the sky, for a fraction of a second. It appears, travels a short distance across the sky, and disappears.


A "fireball" is simply the name given to a bright "meteor," "shooting star" or "falling star." In astronomical terms, the name "fireball" is given to an object which is brighter than magnitude (an astronomical term for brightness) -4, which is about the brightest that the planet Venus gets. So, a "fireball" is a bright meteor.

A "bolide" is the name given to a "meteor" of brightness exceeding magnitude -14, which is brighter than the full Moon. If the brightness reaches -17 or brighter, it is given the name "superbolide." For comparison, on the magnitude scale the Sun is -26.

A "fireball" is more spectacular than most "meteors." It often leaves a very vivid impression, that often a witness fails to connect with the word "meteor." Note that the 17 January 2015 Bundaberg witness said what he saw was "travelling much like a shooting star but not as fast." Here he was initially implying that he thought that the object he was watching was not a "meteor."

On the 4 August 2014 a "fireball" was reported by hundreds of people living in Perth, Western Australia. It appeared as a blue-green light which travelled across the morning sky about 6am. One observer, Simon, stated that the "blue light descended relatively slowly." he said it lasted two to three seconds. It was photographed by the Australian Desert Fireball Network.

Australian websites such as that of Sydney Observatory ( click here) often carry reports which appear to be of "fireballs." For example,

January 06, 2015 at 9:00 pm, Michelle said:
Hi we live in Port Augusta South Australia and we were sitting outside around midnight and we saw a large light traveling roughly in an easterly direction which then quickly turned into a fire ball with a really large tail. It was traveling so fast we didn’t have time to record it as it dissapeared over the Flinders Ranges. No sound at all, clear starry sky and full moon. We haven’t heard of anyone locally that saw it but it blew us away because of the size and how spectacular it was!
January 03, 2015 at 11:24 pm, Vikkii said:
Just saw what I at first thought was a shooting star but it was super bright and travelled across the whole sky.
Spotted it from 30k south of yass and it went from NW to SE .
Beautiful clear sky tonight
Whatever it was it was very bright & had an amazing tail
January 03, 2015 at 1:07 am, Shirley said:
Around 20 min past midnight tonight (03/01/2015)a bright yellowish ball of fire appeared at the sky falling down easterly in quite a speed. Turning into red and appeared to explode and vanished. Never seen that before.

Information you need to know:

* "Fireballs" can be seen both at night and during the day

* They can develop two kinds of trails, namely trains and smoke trails. Smoke trails have been reported to last up to 45 minutes after the "fireball" has gone

* They can show vivid colours, ranging from red through to blue

* There are two types of reported sounds associated with them, namely sonic booms, and electrophonic sounds. The latter can be heard as hissing static, sizzling or popping sounds

* The natural material which was see as a "meteor" can range in size from a few grams up to 60 tons

* Pieces of material falling away from the parent body due to the atmospheric heat, may be reported as "sparks," "sparklers" or "little stars. " Note that the Bundaberg witness reported seeing "little specks of light started to trail behind..."

* the typical duration of a "fireball" sighting is 2-10 seconds, although there are reported observations lasting 30 seconds

* their trajectory across the sky can be from any direction to any other direction. However, they are sometimes reported to travel horizontally across the sky, perhaps even from horizon to horizon

* bright "fireballs" may be observed from a single Australian state, or sometimes they pass over a number of states.

In summary:

If you receive a UAP report which matches the descriptions given in this post, then strongly suspect that the cause is a "meteor" of some kind, possibly a "fireball." Often if you search the Internet you will then find other observations reported of that same UAP. With sufficient observations scattered over a wide enough are, it might be possible to triangulate the path of the "fireball."


1. Each Australian state has an astronomical society which welcomes reports of "fireballs."

3. The Australian Desert Fireball Network (click here)  has been successful in photographing fireballs and welcomes reports of such observations.

4. There are networks of Australian amateur astronomers who observe "meteors" including "fireballs" and who welcome reports.  One such network is the Eastern Australia Meteor Network (click here.)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

New UAP files located at the National Archives of Australia

Hi all,

I have recently located four more unexamined UAP Australian government files in the National Archives of Australia. They are:

1. File series A452, control symbol 1969/4393. Barcode 32756885, titled "Unidentified Flying Objects and mysterious happenings in Papua and New Guinea." Department of Territories. 1957-1973.

2. File series A9755, control symbol 19. Barcode 3533548, titled "RAAF Headquarters no 82 Bomber Wing, Amberley, Qld. Unusual Aerial Sightings." 1988-1989.

3. File series A9755, control symbol 20. Barcode 3533553, titled "RAAF Headquarters no 82 Bomber Wing, Amberley, Qld. Unusual Aerial Sightings." 1989-1991.

4. File series A9755, control symbol 21. Barcode 3533564, titled "RAAF Headquarters Operational Support Group - Unusual Aerial Sightings."

I have asked the NAA to examine all four files for release. This process can take up to several months. I will advise readers, of their contents when they become available.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Responses to the report on the 19 March 2014 Perth near miss

Hi all,

Thank you to all who have responded to the recent publication of the report on the 19 March 2014 Perth, near miss between an aircraft and what the Australian Transport Safety Bureau called a possible UAV. The report has gone out far and wide on the Internet with exposure in a number of countries. Some interesting comments have been made; and we have been given a number of leads to follow up. One of which has been to submit FOI requests to both the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and the Australian Department of Defence for any documents they may have on the incident. Paul and I will report later, on any subsequent information we may receive