Friday, December 9, 2011

Cold case - Minderoo Station - 25 Oct 1910

Hi all

One of the long term research projects I am undertaking, is looking for pre-1947 Australian accounts which are suggestive of the UFO phenomenon. I have reported on a number of these pre-1947 cases in previous posts on this blog, e.g. click here.

One of the pre-1947 Australian events which is frequently cited in the UFO literature is said to have occurred on 25 October 1909 at Minderoo Station, near Onslow, Western Australia (Chalker, Bill. "The Oz Files." 1996. Duffy & Snellgrove. Potts Point. NSW. p.32; or citing the source as Robin Northover.

1909 may be the incorrect year:

While looking through digitised newspapers in the National Library of Australia, I came across about a dozen papers (e.g. Barrier Miner (Broken Hill) 7 December 1910 p.7; Sunday Times, Perth, 4 December 1910 p.1; The Western Australian, Perth, 5 December 1910 p.5.) which carried stories about this sighting. It therefore appears that the actual date of the event was 25 October 1910, not 1909 as previously believed.

I quote from the Barrier Miner (Broken Hill). The witness is given as a Mrs A J Roe, of Minderoo Station, 22 miles out of Onslow, Western Australia (1386 kms north of Perth, the capital of Western Australia) who gave the following statement.

"'At 5.30pm on October 25, when at the Minderoo homestead, my attention was directed by a native to a big object in the air several miles away. The object was travelling from us in an easterly direction. It looked compact like a dirigible balloon, but appeared to be square, more like an aeroplane. The sun shone on it, and flashes came from it as though reflected from something revolving, or off metal work. The color of the object was dark brown or black. It was too far away to distinguish its exact nature and size, or whether any persons were in it. There was no mirage at the time and not on any account could such an object be taken for a bird.' Mrs Roe stated that she is positive it was an airship of some kind...A couple of white men, station hands, and a civilised native, also saw the aerial object from the shearing shed, which is a mile from the homestead."

My comments:

1. Is the sighting reliable? The West Australian newspaper dated 5 December 1910 p.5 states that Mrs Roe was interviewed (on November 12) by the Sub-Collector of Customs from Onslow, a Mr Timperly. He forwarded the report (on Novermber 16) to the Minister for customs, a Mr Tudor, who is said to be forwarding the report to the Minister of Defence. Mr Timperly believed the sighting to have been authentic.

2. Mr Timperly, according to the West Australian, thought the object was "an airship." Possibly a WA inventor or a foreign vessel. However, the West Australian reported that "No information has reached that department of any Australian invention being sufficiently complete to accomplish such a flight as is described."

3. A check with two sky charts reveals that the Sun was up, elevation 12 deg and azimuth (Nth =0) 261 deg (slightly south of West). The Moon had set. There was nothing unusual in the eastern sky.

4. Regarding weather details. I obtained this from the West Australian dated 26 and 27th October 1910. For Onslow - maximum temperature 95 deg F; minimum temperature 70 deg F; barometer 29.7 ins; wind from the WNW, moderate. If the wind was from the WNW then any windborne object would have been travelling to the ESE. Note that the Minderoo object was indeed "travelling from us in an easterly direction."

5. Can we say exactly what the object was based on the above data? I believe not.

Over to readers for comments.


  1. Hi Keith, Brett Holman posted on this in his excellent series "Scareships over Australia" see Part IV, in October last year. I thanked him for the date correction. See
    Bill Chalker

  2. Hello Keith, the report is also interesting as a comparison between modern media and the journalism of 1910. The details of the account, and the attributed quotations, appeared verbatim in at least 4 different newspapers. Would this happen today?

    There's no sarcasm about the witnesses and a straightforward approach to speculating as to the source of the object. It's refreshing and uncluttered.

    I've found another article on the incident that went out on the 5th December 1910 in the (Adelaide) Advertiser. According to this, the Aboriginal witness drew a sketch of the object and 'it resembled a dirigible balloon.' Wouldn't it be fun to look at that sketch today?

    You're far better placed than I to make a judgement on the proto-airship explanation informed by location.

    My first thoughts wonder about supply-lines near Onslow or Minderoo? Could the materials for a large airship be sourced in the area? Would the yards of light fabric be available or require special order? Likewise, would our proposed inventor have access to a timber-mill and carpentry skills to construct the inner frame?

    If not an unusual example of early powered flight in WA, could it have been some other artificial object borne aloft on the winds? Based on the descriptions, it's difficult to imagine what that could be if it was twinkling and reflecting sunlight.

    It's hard to find evidence for airships in WA before 1911 so this sighting *conceivably* falls within the margins of when such early craft might have been test-flown. The time could be suggestive, but the location seems unlikely to me.

    Here's The Advertiser article -

  3. Hi Bill & Kandinsky

    Thank you both for your comments. To me, the remote locality of the observation doesn't suggest a terrestrial airship of any kind. Like so many of these early observations, there is insufficient detail available to really decide just what the object was. For example, there is no angular size, angular elevation, angular speed data. As others have pointed out, you also need to take the social environment into account. I don't think we will ever really know.


    Keith Basterfield.


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