Wednesday, February 29, 2012

UFOs at Woomera and Adelaide scientific facilities

Hi all,

Another piece which caught my attention in Ann Druffel's book "Firestorm" about James E McDonald (click here for my earlier post ) was a comment about South Australian UFO reports (I live in South Australia.)

James E McDonald wrote to Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society member, Paul Norman, on the eve of McDonald's trip to Australia, " regard to some intriguing sightings involving staff at scientific facilities in Woomera and Adelaide." (p.200.)

What sightings?

I wondered if these were older sightings, or ones which had occurred shortly before McDonald came to Australia (he did not visit Woomera or Adelaide, which are both in South Australia.) McDonald's Australian visit commenced on 25 Jun 1967.

Are we aware of any sightings at "scientific facilities" from Woomera and Adelaide which are dated around Jun 1967? 

I turned to a catalogue of sightings which I had compiled, as occurring at Woomera. Indeed, there were a series of observations all on one date, at Woomera, on 28 Apr 1967. Instrumented observations had been made of an unusual object during the launch of a Skylark rocket (for the Woomera catalogue click here.)

Were these the "intriguing sightings?" There is no way to be sure. As my Woomera catalogue shows, there were numerous, impressive, observations from this location.

What about sightings at "scientific facilities" in Adelaide? Unfortunately, Druffel's book is silent as to the location, date or in fact any other data on this, so we are left to wonder what this reference might be to.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Astrobiology and UFOs - new book alert

Dear readers

Adelaide is about to experience three days of 37 degree Celsius, very hot weather, so it's again time to bring out books from my "waiting to read" pile. The one I have chosen to post about is "Talking About Life: conversations on astrobiology" edited by Chris Impey. It is published by Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK. 2010. ISBN987-0-521-51492-7.

The book consists of 37 interviews between the editor and a variety of scientists about the subject of astrobiology. It is divided into five parts; introduction to the topic; Earth; the solar system; exoplanets and frontiers of the subject.

Of course, I went straight to the index to look for anything on UFOs, to see what these distinguished scientists would have to say on the topic. It was illuminating.

Astrobiology and UFOs:

Steven Dick - "Until his recent retirement , he was NASA's Chief Historian." (p22.)

"CI What's your view of popular culture and the way it sees astrobiology?

SD There's not much recognition about what's been discovered in this field. I think of exobiology and the whole idea of life in the universe as a world view. A lot of people have that world view, not so much based on the scientific evidence, but on the general philisophical idea that there are so many stars out there, and we shouldn't be the only intelligence in the universe. Pop-culture arenas like science  fiction and the UFO debate are the ways of working out that world view."

Neil deGrasse Tyson - "...director of the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium." (p.50.)

"CI The first UFO sightings in Jules Verne's time were flying galleons, because that's all they could imagine. Once we could make sleek, shiny metal, we saw sleek, shiny metal things.

NT [Laughs] Right. It's charming and unimaginative, and I'm certain we are as guilty of that today." (p.54.)

David Grinspoon - "Curator of Astrobiology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science..." (p.178.)

"DG If you poll scientists who grew up on science fiction and ask them, "Do you think they are out there? " most will say, "Yes, we simply don't have evidence yet." The difference is whether there is definitive evidence or not. But, in an odd way, the astrobiology community and the SETI community are in agreement with the UFO community regarding the ultimate question of "Are we alone?" It's just that some of us want to believe.

CI Like Agent Mulder with his "I want to believe" poster." (p.186.)

Jill Tarter - "Director of SETI's Project Phoenix." (p.305.)

"CI In addition to struggling with astronomers who raise their eyebrows at SETI, the public tends to believe that we've already made contact and UFOs are real. How do you convery the scientific aspects of SETI to the public, given this backdrop that what you're looking for is already known and the government is hiding it?

JT I address it up front and say," If I ever claim that I have detected a signal, you need to demand from me incredible data and proof, and I have to demand the same level of verification and validation from anyone else who claims to have seen something or been abducted." (p.313.)

Seth Shostak - "SETI Institute, where he is senior astronomer and in charge of all outreach activities..." (p .316.)

"CI You discovered dark matter and then got rid of it! How long were you in Holland?

SS Thirteen years. I was still interested in the idea of life in space, because as a kid I'd read all these books about UFOs. There was a book with photos of flying saucers.  At thirteen years old, looking at those photos, I thought, this looks like a hubcap - I could make a better photo than this! " (p 317.)

Paul Davies - "...currently leads the BEYOND Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University." (p347.)

"CI Astrobiology's tricky because, at least in the United States, the slate is not clean. People have been inculcated by the popular culture to believe that not only the aliens exist, but they've visited us. Getting back to a scientific reference points for astrobiology is even harder than in physics.

"PD That's quite true. It's even worse for SETI, which is the speculative end of astrobiology by anybody's standards, and yet the populist media is awash with alien  abduction and UFO stories. The difficulty is that we like to play off that intrinsic fascination - as a teenager I was blown away by these stories, thinking we're not alone, and we're surrounded by advanced alien beings. It's a thrilling  concept, and it's unfortunate that when we look at the scientific evidence, all that stuff melts away. (p.349.)

"PD I've often wondered how I got into this game. The interest goes back a long way, to my early teens and reading those UFO stories..." (p.350.)

Finally, in the glossary on page 394 we read:

"UFOs. Unidentified Flying Objects, purported to be visitations by aliens, but there is no compelling evidence to support this  assertion."


Although in my opinion, the views expressed about the UFO subject show that most of those interviewed who referred to UFOs, show that these individuals have not taken the time, say like Dr James E McDonald, to look in detail at the evidence, I really enjoyed the rest of the book.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Did the Australian Department of the Interior investigate UFO reports?

Hi all

In a recent post (click here) I mentioned the book "Firestorm" by Ann Druffel. I have been slowly re-reading the work as there is so much interesting material contained in it. One account which took my eye was the following. It concerns a letter to James E McDonald from Australian researcher Stan Seers.

Letter from Seers:

"In a long letter Seers informed him about a color UFO photo that had been stolen from his Queensland UFO group by a Kodak employee and ended up in the Australian Department of the Interior. Seers had urged UFO investigator Vince Mele to hand the matter over to the state police as a clear-cut case of theft.

Many weeks passed; eventually the detective assigned  to the case met with Mele and, in strict confidence, told him that the film was in government hands and that there was  not the slightest chance of getting it back. He advised Mele to forget the whole thing. Mele, a volatile Italian broke the detective's confidence and told Seers what had happened. Seers elicited the help of a local member of Commonwealth Government, Colin Bennett, who was somewhat of a political rebel, and he took up the cudgel on Seer's behalf.

The net result of all of this was a blanket denial from the Minister of Air (which was no more than we expected), the demotion of one poor detective, now pounding a beat in uniform, and avoiding Vince Mele like the bubonic plauge; and of course NO FILM. (The source of this account is given as "Letter from Stan Seers to McDonald, dated 28 February 1969.)"

The Department of the Interior:

I thought it was strange that it was allegedly the Australian Department of the Interior, that the photograph eneded up with. I have come across a number of Australian Government Departments who kept UFO files (click here for full details) such as Supply, Civil Aviation, External Affairs, but not the Deaprtment of the Interior.

What were the functions of the Department of the Interior? The website of the National Archives of Australia (NAA) lists the Department of the Interior, Head Office, as Agency number CA31. Looking up this agency reference, gives the information that the Department was in existence between 1939 and 1972.

Its functions are listed as: Agriculture; Earth Sciences; Forestry regulation; meteorology; resources; astronomy or space science; surveys, and conservation. Quite a list.

A search of the NAA RecordSearch of files held by the Department of the Interior, doesn't list anything that appeared to relate to UFO photographs or files.

Can any reader point to further material which might suggest that the Department of the Interior was actually investigating UFO reports? I would also appreciate hearing from you if you can throw any general light on Stan Seers' or Vince Mele's part in the story related in the letter to McDonald.

Monday, February 20, 2012

James E McDonald in Australia

Hi all,

Dr James Edward McDonald, an American atmospheric physicist, studied the UFO phenomenon in great detail between 1966 and his tragic death in 1971.

I only recently caught up with Ann Druffel's book about McDonald, titled "Firestorm: Dr James E McDonald's Fight for UFO Science," published by Wild Flower Press, Columbus, ISBN 0-9266524-58-5, even though it came out in 2003.

I was specifically interested in chapter 8, "Forays Into Other Lands" which describes his 1967 trip to both New Zealand and Australia.

Australia as viewed by McDonald:

For those readers who haven't taken a look into this era of Australian UFOlogy, it is well worth the look. UFO groups were organisationally large public bodies, with several hundred members each. One of the largest was the Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society (VFSRS - now VUFORS - click here for their website.)

Chapter 8 of the book covers quite a bit of Australian UFOlogy for this era. While here, McDonald "...consulted with numerous veteran researchers, including Peter Norris, Ian McLaren, Roy Russell and Stan Seers among others. (p.171.) For my previous, detailed posts on Peter Norris, click here, here and here. Click here for details of Seer's book.

"McDonald was always on the lookout for cases where some type of possible physical evidence had been obtained. " (p.173.) The chapter provides concise details of cases such as the 5 Mar 1967 Coyle photographs; the 23 August 1953 T. Drury movie film; the 2 Apr 1966 James J. Kibel Melbourne photograph; the 6 Apr 1966 Westall High School incident; the 26/27 June 1959 Gill CE3 at Boianai; and the 19 January 1966 Tully "nest" case.  (See my Australian catalogue here for details.)

At that time, research on UFOs tended to steer clear of cases where the witnesses reported "occupants." "The Gill case made a deep impression upon McDonald, but he did not discuss it very much during his numerous talks, mainly because it involved the question of occupants." (p.183.)

The rest of the book:

The search for a better scientific investigation of the UFO phenomenon, occupied McDonald's time. He spoke at meetings of many professional bodies and associations such as the RAND Corporation; the United Aircraft Corporation and the American Meteorological Association.

McDonald closely re-investigated a number of classic UFO events, e.g. the 24 Apr 1964, Soccorro, new Mexico event; the 3 Aug 1965 Heflin photographs; the Lakenheath-Bentwaters case of 1956. McDonald also assisted bring about open UFO hearings in the US Congress. "McDonald's lobbying is a masterful example of how to work the halls of Congress." (p.224.) These hearings took place on 29 Jul 1968.

With the publication of the University of Colorado "Condon" report, McDonald took great issue with its findings, and spent time rebutting it. "It was quickly discovered that Condon had come up with extremely negative 'conclusions', which were placed at the front of the Report - which most people in the UFO field, including McDonald, considered a strange place to put 'conclusions.'" (p.283.)

Was there a secret Government study group?

One of the key questions concerning UFO researchers of this time, was whether or not there was a "secret" government group studying the UFO phenomenon.

"McDonald found it hard to accept that a question as serious as the UFO problem was being furtively studied by a "secret group" of scientists in the Air Force, as Don Keyhoe and NICAP hypothesized, while the scientific community had no means of knowing who was involved." (p.380.)

A book:

"McDonald decided to write a book which would tell the history of scientific UFO research and present the best evidence-documented physical aspects such as radar-visual; cases, power outages, car ignition failure and other EM interference resulting from UFO passage. He was confident that such a book would be well received in the scientific community because of his good reputation and his many contributions to atmospheric sciences." (p.369.) The book was never written.

What were UFOs?

What did McDonald propose as the explanation for the UFO phenomenon? "McDonald never publicly made conclusive statements that the UFO phenomenon was extraterrestrial. In his writings, he referred to the ET hypothesis as "...the least unsatisfactory hypothesis."" (p.273.)

Mystery surrounds some aspects of McDonald's research. "About a month before he was due to testify in March, top-level government officials reportedly got in touch with McDonald." (p.491.)

In February 1971, McDonald was in conversation with Dr Robert M Wood (a physicist who worked for McDonnell-Douglas.) Although Druffel reports that Wood doesn't recall the exact words used by McDonald, he recalls McDonald saying something along the lines "I think I've got the answer;" "I found out what's behind it;" "I just can't tell you right now;" "You won't believe it! I've got to pin it down a little bit more, and then I'll come out." (p.492.)

In 1973, Wood said "I think he found the trail to the classified work...and some documentation that made it pretty clear that there was a cover up going on, that this was the most classified program in the country." (p.492.)

Unfortunately, the UFO research community was not to find out just what McDonald had meant, as he died, by his own hand, on 13 Jun 1971.

This short post doesn't do justice to the wealth of material which is in Druffel's book. I am in the process of a second reading, at a much slower pace, of what is an excellent book. If you haven't read it, I suggest you track down a copy, ( click here) set two days aside, and read it from cover to cover.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Amazing 1942 Bass Strait aircraft encounter case

Hi all

One of my ongoing research projects is looking for pre-1947 Australian UFO reports. I have previously reported on my research on the 26 February 1942 Timor Sea event ( click here for post) describing a large aluminium disc reported over the Dutch cruiser "Tromp', and the February 1944 aircraft encounter over Bass Strait (click here for details.)

There is another case, reported in a 1955 book, said to have taken place over Bass Strait in the summer of 1942. It was reported by Wilkins, H.T., in the 1955 book, "Flying Saucers Uncensored" pp 215-216.

"In the summer of 1942 a fantastic incident occurred in  the waters of Tasmania, a large island off the South Australian coast. My informant is a major in the Australian  R.A.F. whom I will call Brennan. He is now stationed at the secret weapons and long-range missiles  experimental desert station of Woomera.

"The whole yarn is so odd that I must ask you not to  give my name if you write of it. We had orders not long after the Japanese attack on Darwin to patrol  the bass Strait where fishermen had reported seeing mysterious lights on the sea at night.

" At 5.50pm, of a lovely, sunny evening, we were flying some miles east of the Tasman Peninsular, when, on a sudden, there came out of a cloud bank, a singular airfoil of glistening bronze color. I'd say it was  around 150 feet long and about fifty feet in diameter. It had a sort of beak at its prow, and the surface seemed burled or rippled, or fluted. On its upper surface was a dome, or cupola, from which I seemed to see reflected flashes as the sun struck something, which might or might not have been a helmet worn by something inside.

"The other end of the airfoil fined out, into a sort of fin. Every now and then there came from its keel greenish-blue flashes. It turned at a small angle towards us and I was amazed to see, framed in a white circle on the front of the dome, an image of a large, grinning Cheshire cat!

" The damm thing flew parallel to us for some minutes, and then it abruptly turned away and, as it do so, it showed four things like fins on its belly-side. It went off at a hell of a pace, turned and dived straight down into the Pacific and went under, throwing up a regular whirlpool of waves. Just as if it had been a submarine. No, the Japs had nothing on the amphibian line like that mysterious bird."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Alice Springs - 1954 encounter

Hi all

In a recent post (click here) I discussed the January 1954 Mount Gillen, Northern Territory, photographic case. I have since located another report from the same era and area, just two months later. I vaguely recall hearing of it before, but for example I have no details in my national level UFO catalogue I recently completed. So, I will document it here.

Centralian Advocate article:

It was reported in an article in the "Centralian Advocate" newspaper, published in Alice Springs, dated Friday 2 April 1954, page 1. The headline was "Claims Natives terrified by Flying Saucer 50 miles from Alice." The article, in part, reads:

"A terrified aborigine has told a story of being nearly knocked from his horse when riding over a ridge, by a strange thing which flew close to him."

"The native, Sonny, told Mr Pope that as he rode up over a ridge a ball shaped thing with a tail coming from the opposite direction flew straight towards him, but suddenly veered away and lifted sharply."

"Sonny claims that he could feel a heavy wind when the thing went up."

"Mr Pope was informed that others saw the object. Descriptions are consistent. They claim it had a glassy appearance, was travelling very fast and four trails of smoke came from each side. A report was heard when the machine lifted into the sky from its low altitude. When this occurred, according to the stories, a large cloud of smoke was seen to appear "like a large thunder cloud.""

To read the entire article (click here.)

Friday, February 3, 2012

"Fireballs, skyquakes and hums" - new book alert

Dear readers

Adelaide is now into the last month of our summer, with February traditionally our hottest month.
My preferred manner of getting through it, after work, is to find a nice cool spot in my place, and settle in with a nice glass of South Australian wine (the best in the world), and a good book (on UFOs or intelligence agencies of course!)

My latest find (again courtesy of my local library - one day I must thank them for all the UFO books they get in) is called "Fireballs, Skyquakes and Hums: probing the Mysteries of Light and Sound." The author is Antony Milne (published in 2011 by Robert Hale. London. ISBN 978-0-7090 -9278 -0)

This book covers many fascinating topics, of relevance to the UFO researcher. There are sections on fireballs, balls of light, lights in the sky, mysterious explosions and mystery hums, drawing on a wealth of data and case studies. It is a mix of straight science reporting, and speculation; together with a mix of conventional explanations and posing way-out ideas.

Australia 1993:

The book starts off in Australia and takes a look at what is known about the May/June 1993 South-West Australia series of  "...loud rumbles and explosions..." together with "...a regularly returning 'meteor fireball'..." (p.17.) (For more on this click here.)  Suggestions as to causes ranged from meteors, to earthquakes, and UFOs. Other examples of such unusual phenomena have led to suggestions of mini-black holes, anti-matter collisions and other esoteric ideas.

Celestial missiles:

Asteroids are one example of objects which the Earth periodically encounters, but "Trying to account for the number and type of fiery rocks and boulders falling from the skies has been compounded during the last century by similar unexplained occurrences, usually described as Fortean." (p.41.) Milne gives examples of such things as falling ice blocks, pebbles, plastic pellets and other items.


"There was growing alarm that many glowing objects seen in the skies did not 'stack up' as genuine space missiles, and there is no escaping the fact that the entire subject of 'fireballs' is wrapped up with the mystery regarding UFOs." (p.46.)

Unusual electrical blackouts:

Coronal Mass Ejections from the Sun are believed responsible for some large-scale electrical blackouts on earth. However, the author suggests that lights in the sky seen near power stations may be natural or unnatural.

Lightning and other atmospheric phenomena:

Milne explains the subject of lightning, red sprites and blue jets; halos; sundogs; noctilucent and lenticular clouds; all known phenomenon. However he then introduces observations which tend to the UFO category.

Balls of light:

In chapter six a variety of observations of 'balls of light' are described and explanations put forward which range from "...electrical pollution from human sources" (p.94); plasma balls; earthlights; and earthquake lights. Milne covers a lot of ground here, citing Jack O'Lanterns; spectral lights; spook lights, describing examples from around the world.


Accounts of unusual images in the sky, caused by variations in air density in the atmosphere abound, and Milne cites examples from a number of localities, in chapter seven. Also covered here are lights seen at sea; "Phantom fogs;" phantom submarines and rockets.

Chapter ten covers the subject of experiments which beam electrical energy into the atmosphere, and the effect this has. Nikola Tesla's work; beam weapons; the HAARP project and other experiments are mentioned.

Back to fireballs:

Chapter eleven, "Man-made fireballs" looks at the large number of satellites and rockets which re-enter the atmosphere, causing reports of 'fireballs.' The US Operation Moondust is described (click here for a previous post on this ) in some detail, but the author incorrectly states it was set up in 1967, whereas it originated as early as 1961.

Mystery sounds:

The author then switches to the topic of "Unidentified pulsating, humming, throbbing and hissing noises..." He covers examples of such things from a number of countries and time frames. Conventional explanations given are military activities; supersonic aircraft; long range Loran transmissions; industrial sources and earth movements.

Chapter thirteen "Imprints of the past" could have been found in a book dealing with paranormal phenomenon research , as it covers poltergeists; "battlefield ghosts;" "phantom aircraft;" "phantom ships;" "phantom tapes and messages."

Taking UFOs seriously:

The title of chapter fourteen brings us to the topic of UFOs, in some detail. "Fearful speculations runs rife throughout the subject of UFOs. The entire gamut of 'LITS', 'UAPs;' and 'BOLs' offer a wide range of interpretations." (p.209.) "Optical; illusions and varying misperceptions of eyewitnesses play a crucial role in many UFO sightings..." (p.210.) "Many South American sightings are still attributed to space debris." (p.211.)

"A common explanation for very large UFOs is that they are dirigibles or experimental lighter-than-air craft." (p.212.) "There has always been a mainstream, and commendable approach to explain UFO sightings within the known Western scientific canon. Yet it is taken too far." (p.213.) "The positive puzzlement over the new 'flying saucer' saucers in the USA, with their mooted link with secret weapons, plus the lack of scientific expertise in judging UAP and space debris phenomenon, has had a significant impact on defence and security organizations." (p.214.)

Chapter 15 "The worldwide enigma" notes the global nature of the UFO phenomenon. Unfortunately it starts off with an incorrect fact, stating that NICAP was " official US agency..." whereas actually it was a private research group. (p.223.) Citing cases from Turkey, Iran, the USA, Brazil and numerous other countries, the author demonstrates that UFO reports are made world-wide.

"The Europeans take UFOs seriously, and are prepared to be open-minded and even publicity-minded- about the phenomenon." (p227.) "The Italians, unlike the British, have regarded UFOs as a military threat." (p.217.) "The French regarded UFOs originally as a metaphysical problem, and were on the whole sceptical." (p.227.) In the UK "...the Airprox Board...the Civil Aviation Authority's Joint Agency Working Group...little success at arriving at definite identification of the flying objects." (p.281.)

Again another error arises when he author states that " Project Condigm of the 1970s..." when Condigm was conducted in the mid 1990's.

Are UFOs alien?

After reviewing dozens of UFO cases, in chapter sixteen, the author poses the question "Are UFO Aliens?" and opens the chapter with "Many experts, ufologists and even scientists believe that UFOs are aliens themselves, or are a projection of aliens, or are robots made by aliens, or are vehicles that actually house aliens from outer space." (p.234.)

Reviewing the connection with the paranormal , Milne writes "Many UFOs are surreal in character, singing absurd songs, or throwing objects such as potatoes at people." (p.235.) "...bear in mind the rather strange, poltergeist nature of UFOs..." (p.243.)

Speculation enters into Milne's work on such  statements as "We can perhaps only understand UFOs by relating them to quantum effects and other weird aspects of the atom and its innards." (p.245.) and "Intelligent BOLs could be using the voltage potential of the Earth's massive electrical field by liberating the  energy from it." (p.245.) "Is it possible, we could ask that UFOs have actually developed some kind of 'invisible cloak?" (p.255.)


In looking to summarise Milne's views on UFOs and the paranormal, I turned back to the book's "Introduction." Here he suggests that there are many conventional explanations for UFOs. However, he suggest that "The 'orb' mystery has still not been explained." (p.11.) "Visions of ancient phantom armies trampling across the countryside are clearly evidence of the paranormal..." (p.13.) "UFOs, of course, represent the most obvious clash between straight science and the paranormal, in that they embrace the entire gamut of unidentified aerial phenomena." (p.14.)

"Many theories about UFOs seem wide of the mark - largely because even ufologists are reluctant to believe that these fleeting, erratic objects, changing their shapes and colours, are earthbound paranormal entities with an insect-like awareness of their surroundings. They are more like poltergeists than aliens..." (p.14.)

"We must simply admit that we are limited. It will be a longtime before humans gain a real understanding of UFOs because we have no real knowledge of the nature of reality. UFOs remain a mystery because fireballs remain a mystery." (p.15.)

Project Galileo

Project Galileo Or to give it its full name, "The Galileo project for the Systematic Scientific Search for Evidence of Extraterrestrial...