Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cold cases - Project HIBAL

Hi all


In a previous post I suggested that some Australian UFO reports may have been caused by stratospheric balloon flights.

I recently had the National Archives of Australia digitise four Project HIBAL files, which was a project which flew stratospheric balloons in Australia, between 1960 and 1969, and whose balloons may have caused some UFO reports.

The file series:

Series B441, control symbol 70/002919 parts 1 to 4 is titled "USA Upper Atmospheric Sampling - HIBAL - Mildura." The four files were owned by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

The Project:

The use of high altitude balloons for scientific research has a long history (click here). Project HIBAL in Australia was originally approved at a meeting of the Defence Committee on 20 October 1960 as agenda item 91/1960 as part of Project "Ash-Can." The operational agency for the USA was the US Atomic Energy Commission and for Australia it was the Department of Supply.

Project HIBAL was originated to study radioactivity in the atmosphere at heights which could not be reached by aircraft (See earlier posts on Operation Crowflight in Australia.) The operational base for the Project was Mildura, Victoria (click here for more.)


The balloons flew to a height of between 50,000 and 120,000 feet and flew over areas of New South Wales; Victoria and South Australia.

Each balloon lifted a load consisting of an air sampling unit, telemetry and radio tracking equipment. The balloon could be up to 280 feet tall and 150 feet in diameter. A light aircraft followed the balloon to assist determine the location of payload descent.

Sometimes the balloons did not burst after dropping the payload, and floated way beyond the expected area of operations. For example, HIBAL flight 15 on 9 March 1961 floated over Marrabel and Saddleworth in South Australia. In May 1962 flight number 93 made it all the way to Canberra, ACT. Flight 123 on 22 June 1963 got to Cowell in South Australia.

Check files:

The four files between them contain the dates of flight of 301 HIBAL research balloons flying between 1960 and 1966 which would allow Australian UFO groups in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia to check their UFO databases against the HIBAL launch dates. I would urge UFO groups in these states to do so.

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