Saturday, December 14, 2013

North West Cape 25 October 1973 - an initial "Cold case" assessment

Hi all,

Background:
In about 1975, the UFO group UFOIC of Sydney, received ten pages of documentation relating to this sighting directly from the RAAF (1).  There were two handwritten witness statements; one sketch of the object; and two three page proformas. (2)  The sightings are attributed to a Bill Lynn, and Lt Commander Moyer. No civilian researcher has ever located copies of these documents on an official Australian government UAS file. Recently, Bill Chalker supplied a copy of this documentation to Melbourne researcher Paul Dean, who shared it with me. Paul and I decided to conduct a "cold case" assessment of the event. This blog post is solely my own initial assessment of the case, and does not reflect either Paul or Bill's views.


Bill Lynn
Statement:
On Thursday 25 October 1973 (3) at 1920hrs (4), a US Navy Fire Captain sighted an unusual object in the sky. His handwritten statement reads:

“Dear Sir, I hereby wish to report a most unusual sighting, whilst on duty on Thursday 25 October 1973 at approximately 1920hrs.

At 1920hrs, I was called by the P.O.W. to close the Officers Club. I proceeded towards the club in the Fire Dept pick-up 488, when my attention was drawn to a large black object, which at first I took to be a small cloud formation, due west of Area “B.” (5)
Whilst traveling towards the Officers Club I couldn’t help but be attracted by this object’s appearance.

On alighting from pick-up 488, I stood for several minutes & watched this black sphere hovering. The sky was clear, & pale green-blue. No clouds were about whatsoever.

The object was completely stationary except for a halo around the centre which appeared to be either revolving or pulsating.
After watching it for approx. 4 mins, it suddenly took off at tremendous speed and disappeared in a northerly direction in a few seconds.

I consider the object to have been approx. 30 ft in diameter, hovering at 1000ft (6) over the hills due west of the base. It was black, maybe due to looking in the direction of the setting Sun (7). No lights appeared on it at any time.”
Proforma:

A US Navy Fire Captain at 1920hrs Thursday 25 October 1973, date and time certain, sighted an object in the sky, originally from a vehicle and then whilst standing outside an Officers Club. The witness had been resident at the location for 6.5years.
In a clear and cloudless sky, using his naked eyes, he saw an object initially due west of Area “B” of US NAVCOMMSTA H E Holt. (8)  It was at approx. 12 degrees elevation (guess) (9) at a bearing of 270 degrees from the Officers Club. The bearing was established later by use of a compass.

His attention was first drawn to the object which was an “Unusual black formation in a clear sky.” There was one object, black in colour. To the question of angular size he wrote “Relative to the full moon.”(10)  And also “2 inches plus halo at arm’s length.”
The object was initially stationary at 12 degrees elevation and 270 degrees azimuth (i.e. west.)

To the question of ‘any method of propulsion” he write “Halo pulsating or revolving.” No sound. Height “Approx 1000ft high.”
To the question about maximum and minimum angular velocity, the response was “similar to insect crossing vision at 5 to 10 ft in scrub.” (11.)

It remained stationary for approx. 4 mins. It was “Stationary except for disappearance.” There was no trail, exhaust, vapour or light noted.
It was last observed “NW Are “B””, angle of elevation was “Diminishing 12 degrees”  at 320 az. It disappeared due to “Extreme speed.” (12)

The witness, to a question about skills responded “Ant-Aircraft (TOCI) Aircraft recognition (AIF).
To the question about any other witnesses to this sighting he wrote “None.” To the question of witnesses to similar sightings he wrote “Lt Commander Moyer (USN) has since indicated as above.” To question 29 of if any conventional explanations would explain the sighting he wrote “Unknown.” To the question of why exclude this conventional explanation he wrote “The unreality of such an observation.”

“Distance approx. 2 miles (guess.)

Lt Commander Moyer:
Statement:

In a hand written document dated (unreadable) Oct 1973 he wrote:
“Whom it may concern.

I wish to report the sighting of a large, black airborne object at approximately quarter past seven (pm) Thursday 25 Oct 1973.
I was traveling south on Murat Road (13) , when I observed this object at a distance of approximately 5 miles to the west at an altitude estimated as 2000ft. After about 20-25 seconds the craft accelerated at unbelievable speed and disappeared to the north. The sky was absolutely clear at the time.”

Proforma:
At approximately 1915hrs 25 Oct 1973, date positive, time within 5 minutes, for approximately 20-25 seconds (within 5 seconds) Lt Commander Moyer reported seeing an unusual object in the sky.

He was “traveling from USNAVCOMMSTA south on Murat Road toward Exmouth. He said he had travelled the same road twice daily for 21 months.  The sky was ‘absolutely clear, no clouds.” He used his naked eyes.
The object was initially seen “Directly to my right (west)” (14) at approximately 20 degrees elevation (accurate to within 5 degrees.)

His attention was drawn to “A large black object in the clear sky.” There was one object, very black in colour.
Its angular size was estimated as “Approx same as Moon when high in the sky.” Also 1-2 inches at arm’s length. (15)

At nearest approach it was at 20 degrees elevation in the west. There was no associated sound. He estimated it to be 2000ft altitude. “Hovering at first, then accelerating beyond belief.” Stationary for 20-25 seconds. No trail, exhaust, vapour or light. It was last seen “Disappeared to the north” 45-50 degrees elevation, azimuth 165-170 relative to his direction of travel (south) , i.e 345-350 degrees.) “Accelerated at unbelievable speed and just disappeared.”
To the question on training/skills he responded “Associated with naval aviation for 11 years as aerial gunner and radar operator.” There were no other witnesses to the sighting, however to the question about witnesses to similar sightings he wrote “Only one-Fire Captain Bill Lynn (after the fact.)

To the question of what conventional explanation could it be he wrote “Not a thing.” Then “Have never experienced anything like it.”
By a sketch of the object which appears as an oval shape, he wrote “Details, if any were blurred as I did not have my glasses on (vision 20/40-20/100) but I saw something beyond all doubt in my mind.”

Notes:
(1) Source was Bill Chalker. For a detailed account of this event, see for example http://www.ufoevidence.org/cases/case629.htm

(2) Bill Chalker provided these 10 documents to Melbourne researcher Paul Dean in December 2013.
(3) 25 October 1973 was indeed a Thursday.

(4) 1920hrs local time. Western Australia is 8 hours ahead of Universal Time (UT) (formerly Greenwich Mean Time). Thus the UT of the event was Bill Lynn (1120hrs) and Lt Commander Moyer (1115hrs plus or minus 5 minutes.) To the question of whether or not Western Australia was using daylight saving time, i.e. some other than 8 hours ahead of UT in October 1973, the answer appears to have been no. See http://alldownunder.com/oz-k/date/australian-daylight-savings.htm and http://www.bcl.com.au/australia/times-daylight-saving.htm

(5) What was the location of Bill Lynn at the time of his observation? It appears to have been the North West Cape’s base area “B.” If this is correct then he was at 21 deg 54mins South latitude, 114 deg 8mins E longitude. This places him just north of Exmouth, Western Australia which is at 21 deg 56mins S latitude and 114 deg 8mins E longitude.  The latitude and longitude of Area “B” is drawn from http://nautilus.org/publications/books/australian-forces-abroad/defence-facilities/naval-communication-station-harold-e-holt-north-west-cape/#axzz2mweTfjrq
(6) These values are simply guesses.

(7) Looking at the Fourmilab sky chart    http://www.fourmilab.ch/cgi-bin/Yoursky
for UT 1120hrs 25 October 1973, this shows that the Sun was 11.5 degrees below the horizon at this time.

(8) What was the name of the base on 25 October 1973? According to http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/exmouth.htm  it was “US Navcommsta Harold E Holt.”
(9) A sketch on the proforma shows how he estimated it was at 11.25 degrees elevation.

(10) An estimate of angular size is usually much better than an estimate of height/distance. Here there are two estimates. The first “Relative to the full moon” suggest an estimate of half a degree. The second ““2 inches plus halo at arm’s length” suggests an estimate of 2 degrees. Thus we have suggestions of half a degree to two degrees. For comparison purposes the full moon subtends an angular size of half a degree. Thus Bill Lynn’s estimate of the object’s angular size is from one to four times the diameter of the full moon in the sky.
(11) The object was initially stationary, therefore this angular velocity estimate must relate to the apparent angular velocity as it moved away.

(12) I am unsure what” Diminishing 12 degrees” actually means. Does it mean that the object remained at 12 degrees all the time and merely diminished in size? Does disappearing at “Extreme speed” mean it merely shrank in size?
(13) Murat Road seen on a Google map today, runs between Area “A” of the base at 21 deg 49mins s latitude, 114 deg 10mins E longitude and Exmouth at 21degs 56mins s latitude and 114deg 8mins E longitude (see http://www.street-directory.com.au/wa/north-west-cape/murat-road) According to maps, it runs roughly, but not exactly due south for most of its length, but from about Area “B” it runs due south.

(14) Unlike the compass direction of 270 degrees ascribed by Lynn, Moyer’s direction is roughly west.
(15) Moyer’s estimate of angular size varies from 0.5 degree to between 1-2 degrees, i.e. from the same angular size as the full moon to between twice to four times the angular size of the full moon.

Comparison of observations:

 
Bill Lynn
Lt Cmd. Moyer
Date
25 October 1973
25 October 1973
Time
Approx. 1920hrs local (accurate)
Approx 1915hrs local plus or minus 5 minutes, i.e. 1910-1920hrs
Location
NW Cape, area “B”
NW Cape, on Murat Road north of Exmouth
Sky conditions
Clear, pale green-blue
Clear
 
Bill Lynn
Lt Cmd. Moyer
Object shape
Sphere, with halo
Oval
Object size
Between one to four times the angular size of the full Moon
Between one to four times the angular size of the full Moon
Object colour
Black
Very black
Initial position
12 degrees elevation.
270 degrees azimuth.
20 degrees elevation plus/minus 5 degrees.
West of witness
Last observed position
Diminishing 12 degrees el.
320 deg. Azimuth
45-50 deg. Elevation.
345-350 deg. Azimuth.
Any associated sound
No
No
Any trail, vapour, exhaust or light
No
No

 
Discussion:
It is hard not to instantly conclude that both witnesses saw the one object at the same time. However, based on their believed positions, I cannot reconcile the differences in both angular elevations and azimuth bearings, as due simply to the two witnesses seeing the one object at the one time from two different positions.

If Moyer was closer to the object then it could well have had a greater angular elevation in the sky, initially 20 degrees (plus or minus 5) for Moyer as opposed to 12 degrees for Lynn. However the greater discrepancy for the final elevation of 45-50 degrees for Moyer as opposed to 12 degrees diminishing for Lynn, is hard to explain.
Likewise the final azimuth figures are 320 for Lynn and 345-350 for Moyer (assuming he was indeed heading due south as he said.) He actually says he first saw it 90 degrees to the right of his direction of travel and last saw it at 160-170 degrees to his right relative to his direction of travel. If he was on the portion of Murat Road which travels slightly west of south then his estimates place the object he saw in an even more different position to Lynn. I am unable to reconcile the two sets of data.

Despite the fact that Fourmilab sky chart tells us that at 1120hrs UT on 25 October 1973, the Sun was 11.5 degrees below the horizon, Lynn’s written testimony is that he was looking in the direction of the setting Sun. How far away in degrees, from the Sun was the object? Neither witness tells us. Lynn  says the object was at 270 degrees azimuth, Moyer says it was to his west (ie roughly 270 degrees azimuth.) Where did the Sun set that night? According to Fourmilab, it set that night at 12 degrees south of west, ie 258 degrees azimuth.
Therefore, if Lynn’s estimate of the azimuth of the object was accurate at 27O degrees, and the Sun set at 258 degrees, then the object was only 12 degrees to the right of the setting Sun.  A difficult position to carry out any visual observation.

One other possibility is that the observations were not simultaneous. Could Moyer’s observation have followed Lynn’s? The differences in angular elevations and azimuths noted above might be resolved by proposing that Lynn saw the object stationary, then move and disappear; then it became visible to Moyer in a roughly similar position, then moved off to the elevation and azimuth Moyer records.
Nevertheless, let us agree that a black object of apparent large angular size was indeed seen in the western sky from North West Cape at about 1915hrs on Thursday 25 October 1973, very close to the setting sun.  Can we allocate any conventional explanation to such a sighting?

Conventional explanations:
Having had access to all the raw data contained in the two statements and two proformas, and despite the fact that we do not have any detailed investigation notes by someone other than the two witnesses,  I believe that there is one conventional explanation which could just fit the data. Could the “object” reported by the two witnesses have simply been a formation of birds?

The idea at first glance may appear to be highly unlikely. However, consider the data points:
1.  The “object” was initially reported by Lynn as “an unusual black formation.”

2. Lynn described it as a “black sphere.”
3. Lynn said it had a “halo” around the centre which appeared to be either revolving or pulsating.

4. Its angular size was between half a degree and two degrees.
5. The “object” was reported over land, near sunset.

In Allan Hendry’s classic 1979 research volume “The UFO Handbook”, Hendry cites the following, which after detailed investigation he concluded was due to birds. “In other examples, fifteen to twenty golden point sources holding a roughly spherical formation the width of the full moon were observed to exhibit considerable graceful ‘internal motion.’ This spherical formation proceeded over railroad tracks for five minutes.” (page 53.)
On a later page Hendry wrote “Only one case in 1,158 IFOs, was ascribable to birds seen under daylight conditions. They were reported to fly in a randomly shifting “sphere” at sundown…” (page 66.)

I am able to add a relevant personal observation in support of this hypothesis. Some years ago I observed a black, stationary, spherical “object” in the late afternoon sky, with an angular diameter I estimated as one half of a degree. After a period of time it moved, and approached me. Only at this point was I able to distinguish that the object was a formation of black coloured birds.  Then the formation wheeled in the sky, and turned; and at this point the flock became invisible to me, seemingly just vanishing in the sky.

In summary:
After  examining the raw data concerning the 25 October 1973 North West Cape incident, I would like to see the flock of bird hypothesis further explored, before I can support the concept that the object was indeed a “UFO.”

Over to blog readers to discuss and debate.

3 comments:

  1. Hi Keith,
    Thanks for the analysis. On the limited evidence supplied in the report I would suggest that a flock of birds would be a very unlikely explanation. If Fire Captain L. saw "one" "unusual black formation in a clear sky" "stationary" apparently for nearly 4 minutes, mainly from a stationary observation point, sufficient to see a regular shape that does not distort with a halo effect around its base, I cannot readily reconcile this to a flock of birds. I have seen plenty of extraordinary flocks of birds, particularly starlings that look momentarily like a stationary tight black shape, but such impressions are fleeting as they moved rapidly in "graceful" motion. They are spectacular to watch. They don't sit still for about 4 minutes giving the impression of a large object of consistent shape. Few birds in flocks sit still. They may give very short duration impressions of doing so, but we would be talking seconds, not minutes. Humming birds can hover, but to my knowledge they don't spectacularly flock nor are they very big. I would think that as a fire captain on the base and living there for 6 and a half years he would perhaps have noted bird behaviour during that time, particularly if it was spectacular enough to create the impression of a large stationary object. As the observation was "unknown" in his experience I think that would make a flock of birds extremely unlikely as an explanation. I would ask of your own observation what represented "a period of time" (seconds? minutes?) before it moved. If it was minutes your flock of birds observation would be extremely unusual. One of the best observations of a similar event I made was at Lake Taupo NZ. The noise attracted us first, with a nearby by tree in some agitation. Then a huge flock left the tree in one tight mass but within seconds there was a lot of spectacular "graceful" movements, but nothing I would have called stationary for a significant period of time. Wonderful rapid and graceful movements were the main characteristics which lasted a few minutes until they spread out over the lake. Unfortunately I did not manage to get it on film. I thought about a flock of birds explaining the 1975 Howrah Tas movie case (see UFOIC newsletter 46, 1976). Your quotes from Hendry's classic text are not consistent with a stationary black sphere lasting minutes. Thats my analysis and I would need to see a lot more credible evidence for long duration (minutes) stationary circular flocks of birds before I would accept that they might be a likely explanation for the NW Cape 1973 case. By the way I don't know what was seen at NW cape, but on the evidence of the 2 witnesses (maybe be the same event or separate?) I would conclude whatever it was it was spectacular - UFO? Drone? If you can locate Moyer (Meyer?) or Lynn that might help enlighten us to a possible cause, but at this stage I don't agree with a flock of birds. Best wishes for the season

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  2. Hi Keith, I was once sent out to investigate a sighting that had been filmed on super 8 movie film. I was shown the film. The unusual object was in the distance, and was either a flock of Corellas or Cocatoos. You could actually see the movement of the wings, which appeared to be moving in unison. The people with the film were surprised that I could not see a UFO in the footage. The reason I could not see any UFO was because there was none.
    However, I find it difficult to conclude that a trained observer such as Lt.Cmd Moyer could not distinguish between an unusual spherical object and a flock of birds. One clue lies in the description of the objects departure. While it's possible for several hundred birds to appear to disappear by changing direction suddenly, and therefore changing the angle of reflected light, it's difficult to attribute a rapid acceleration into the distance to the same phenomenon. These are quite different experiences, especially to the trained observer. It would be interesting to see what response you would get if the question was put to the observer.

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  3. Hi Keith,

    My name is Bill Lynn - and one of the reports was from my father who unfortunately passed away nearly 9 years ago, aged 82.

    While I was only 5 years of age at time of the sighting, I grew up with my dad's views and sequence of events. Because this happened on the US Naval Base my dad was adamant that it was 'swept' under the carpet and was tried to be hidden from too much public disclosure.

    I remember him always saying that they immediately tried to dismiss his sighting, including the flock of birds theory - which he was adamant it was not. He always stated to me the vision was so clear. The experience convinced him to believe in UFO's and he was so grateful that someone else could, at least to some degree, verify his story (completely independently).

    One of the things he was always conscious of, was the fact that he worked on the US Naval Base, which housed significant top secret area's, including state of the art US communications tracking systems. Most people might not know but the Exmouth Base was the sister base to Pine Gap. From memory the base included about 13 communication towers including 'tower zero', which I understand was the largest man made structure at the time in the world. They were used by the Americans for tracking and communications throughout the Asia region (hence its positioning at Exmouth). There were even places my dad in his position was prohibited from.

    While I'm suggesting any conspiracy theories, these are facts that also need to be considered. I would suggest from my recollection of my dads stories, and his utter belief in what he saw - to be more relevant than the flock of birds theory.

    I was staggered (and pleasantly surprised) to find this recent report/analysis containing his statement from so many years ago. It was fantastic, and I would be interested to know how and why these are still in existence and what other investigations in this matter were carried out?

    Kind regards.

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