Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cold case - Zanthus 22 August 1968 - Part three

What the RAAF did with this case:

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

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

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

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

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

My comments/analysis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In conclusion:

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

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

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

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