Today's post is being typed as I lounge by the backyard family swimming pool with a glass of Victorian Chardonnay at hand. It is a personal reflection of my recent review of several Australian UFO websites; over 60 Australian UFO Facebook pages; several Australian blogs belonging to individuals, and private email discussions with a number of selected high profile Australian 'researchers.'
No, not the android character from the Star Trek franchise, but pieces of information. Sightings of things in the Australian sky are reported to a large number of Internet sites. These range from overseas based organisations such as MUFON, to Peter Devonport's NUFORC, to local sites such as UFOR (NSW) Incorporated, and UFOR (Qld) Incorporated. Both Sydney and Perth observatories receive sightings, as do dozens of Facebook pages.
I can't find anyone who regularly monitors this vast area of data; collects it in one place and attempts to analyse it. The one exception to this statement is that for a period of 12 months, Melbourne based researcher Paul Dean and my co-blogger Keith Basterfield (on a long term break from UFO research at the moment) did just that. However, it is interesting to note that almost no Australian UFOlogists commented that they found it of any value to them!
Readers of my last few columns will be aware by now that the question of lack of interest in analysis of sightings by Australian UFO 'researchers' is a pet peeve of mine. Raw sightings contain valuable information about the UFO phenomenon. When was the last time you saw a table of numbers of reports versus time of day for Australian sightings? Or a breakdown of types of Australian sightings under the J Allen Hynek classification system, ie nocturnal lights, CE 1, CE2 etc? Or the number of witnesses per type of sighting? On the latter point, British UFOlogist Jenny Randles once found that the average number of witnesses to a nocturnal light sighting was around 2.4, whereas the average number of witnesses to a close encounter event was very close to 1.0. Telling us that most close encounters happen to single witnesses.
All this kind of data analysis was being done by overseas researchers back in the 1960's -1990's. Why aren't Australian researchers doing this kind of data analysis today and publishing it?
Type in the words 'Australian UFO hotspots' into a search engine and you will find stories about Wycliffe Well in the Northern Territory. Despite all the media hype which abounds, there is a strange lack of detailed documentation on what has been seen. Like some of the places in the US who have capitalised on the UFO phenomenon, individuals at Wycliffe Well have become expert at marketing their locality as a hotspot.' The mass media loves this sort of 'here's the stories' ready made to publish, don't bother analysing what is said.'
Based on my Internet searches, the true Australian hotspots for UFOs were many years ago, in Northern New South Wales; North-Eastern Tasmania, and around the Clare valley in South Australia. But you will have to dig deep to find information on these today. In truth, today there are no UFO 'hotspots' in Australia, that aren't the creation of the media and certain Australian 'researchers' who seem to love the media attention it brings to them.
I think by now that readers will know my thoughts about the lack of value of most social media posts about the phenomenon. I am far from impressed with UFO pages on such outlets as Facebook.
What I do notice about discussions, particularly about Australian UFO videos on such places as Youtube is the amount of associated hype. There are screaming headlines with the video clip which do not reflect the content. I have quietly been querying people who post such Australian videos. Or should I say attempting to query them. I mainly get vague responses or very evasive responses when you politely ask an individual the most basic of questions such as, in what direction was your device pointing when you captured the images you show? My study of such videos has lead me to the belief that either the object featured is mundane, such as a helium party balloon, or a plastic bag, or that it is a computer generated image - ie a fake.
I found few people contributing anything beyond submitting vague videos and vague sightings. The few that are, such as Shane Ryan's research on the 1966 Westall incident (unfortunately never getting any closer to official Australian government confirmation as to the cause of the event;) Paul Dean's work with official Australian government documents; Keith Basterfield's work shared in this blog (which does attempt to analyse Australian sightings in depth;) and Bill Chalker's work published on his blog (although most of his case analysis is of very old sightings, e.g. Tully back in 1966) stand out above the rest.
On the other hand, there are folks organising seminars or 'conferences' allowing individuals with an interest in the phenomenon to hear invited guest speakers from interstate or overseas. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to extend to providing an unbiased critique of the material which these speakers are presenting. Putting on seminars such as this is fine, but contribute little to our understanding of the phenomenon, as there is no effort made to sort 'the wheat from the chaff.'
For example, Victorian UFO Action recently ran a meeting where witnesses to the 1966 Westall incident shared their personal stories. The witnesses who did this are to be congratulated for being willing to stand up in public and speak on this topic. Good material for a 30 second clip on television the day after. But VUFOA made no effort to critique these stories; to attempt to place them in the overall context of what has become a very complicated, multi-thread account of what at first seems to be a simple mass sighting. There are detailed, but contradictory accounts now from several people who claim to have been there that day. VUFOA made no attempt to tell people this.
Am I being too critical? I don't think so. All the major Australian UFO groups on their websites state that they are investigating and researching the subject. The truth is that most are not. They are promoting the subject; marketing the subject to both individuals and the mass media; hyping up the topic, but are failing to conduct real research.
This is the state of today's Australian UFOlogy.
As a science based researcher, I am very disappointed that Australian UFOlogy, in terms of research (and not based on popular appeal) has gone backwards since my last foray into the subject several years ago.
What is also disappointing is that this would be the same view obtained by any of my science based colleagues who would privately do the same research that I have been doing in recent weeks. You can undertsand why no Australian academic openly advertises any private interest they may have in the subject.
Is it possible to turn this state around? I don't believe so, the time of the marketed UFO phenomenon is with us to stay. All that science based researchers like myself can do, is to tell it like it is; and as Jacques Vallee once said, just go quietely about your own research.
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