Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Facts matter - the 1954 Goulburn radar/visual event - part two

Hi all,

This post continues my examination of the classic Australian 1954 radar/visual event commonly known as the "Nowra incident." In part one I posted the text of one of the secondary sources of information on the incident. Now let's take a look at some primary source material.

Primary sources:

During the Disclosure Australia Project (2003-2008) I was fortunate to locate two original 1954 files on the incident. These were:

1. National Archives of Australia (NAA) file series MP926/1 control symbol 3079/101/1, titled "Unidentified Objects (Flying Saucers sighted by Navy pilot over Goulburn.)" This file was owned by the Navy Office, Department of Navy.

2. NAA file series SP338/3 control symbol 13/4/10 titled "Unidentified Objects (flying - reports of)."  This file was owned by Flag-Officer-in charge, Eastern Australian region.

On these files, were copies of the original written report on the incident, of both the pilot and the radar operator. The pilot's report, dated 2 Sep 1954, reads:

"I have the honour to submit the following report concerning an incident which occurred on 31st August during a night cross country flight from R.A.N. Air Station, Nowra.

2. The route was Nowra-Young-Temora-Yass-Nowra, and the briefed height 13,000 feet.

3. At 1858 I made the following position report to civil Air radio, Canberra, "Ausnav 921 contact Yass at 13,000 feet estimating Nowra at 1920." This was acknowledged by Canberra, and, when South-West of Goulburn, I changed over to 143.64 m/cs, 723 Squadron exercise frequency, and contacted Nowra.

4. After contacting Nowra at approximately 1910, I noticed a very bright light closing fast from "One o'clock". This bright light crossed ahead of me and continued to a position on my port beam where it appeared to orbit. At the same time I noticed a second and similar light at "Nine o'clock", which made a pass about a mile ahead of me and then turned in the position where the first light was sighted.

5. I contacted Nowra and asked if they had me on radar, hoping they would confirm that other aircraft were in the vicinity. They replied that they had 3 echoes and advised me to turn 180 degrees (Course), to be identified if I required a homing. At this stage the to bright lights reformed at "Nine o'clock", from me and disappeared on a North Easterly heading.

6. I saw no other lights and was only able to make out a vague shape with the white light situated centrally on top. Their apparent crossing speed was the fastest that I have ever experienced, and at the time I was indicating 220 knots."

The radar operator's report:

"At 1907 aircraft 921 called up and asked if we had him on radar. After checking G.C.I. remote display, we found that two paints appeared on the display approximately 280 degrees 32 miles. After about 15 seconds another paint appeared in the same vicinity. One appeared to be tracking towards base, the others in a North Easterly direction.

About two minutes later we told 921 to fly 180 degrees if he wanted a bearing, so we could identify him. His reply was "Negative", so we did not track the paints any further."


A comparison between the original written source material from 1954 and the account given in the 1991 book, reveals the following:

1. Date of the incident:

Book: 15 December 1954.
Files: 31 August 1954.

2. Time of incident:

Book: "...about 8.00 p.m."
Files: "...approximately 1910..."

3. Location of start of incident:

Book: "...somewhere in the Goulburn region..."
Files: South-west of Goulburn.

4. Distinctiveness of objects:

Book: "...their outline quite distinct..."
Files: "...was only able to make out a vague shape..."

5. Did O'Farrell make a 180 degree turn at some point?

Book: "So I turned through 180 degrees..."
Files: The pilot's report states that Nowra suggested a 180 degree turn in order that they could identify one of the paints on the radar as his aircraft. However, his written report does not state that he did in fact make this suggested turn. The radar operator's written report says, in part, "...we told 921 to fly 180 degrees if he wanted a bearing, so we could identify him. His reply was "Negative..." This strongly suggests to me that the pilot was saying that he did not wish to turn 180 degrees to be identified, and did not in fact turn his aircraft.

6. Where there in fact any other aircraft in the vicinity at the time?

Book: "...there were no other aircraft airborne on the east coast. All RAAF aircraft were on the ground and a civil aircraft that had been flying in the region had already landed. I was the only aircraft airborne."

Files: "There were no Naval or Air force aircraft in the area at the time, but there was a T.A.A. Convair at 14,000 feet on a northern course."

7. What was the speed of the Naval aircraft at the time?

Book: "...I was cruising about 330 knots..."
Files: " the time I was indicating 220 knots..."

8. Speed of departure of the objects?

Book: "They took off at two or three times the speed I was doing - probably around 1000 miles per hour."

Files: No estimate of departure speed is mentioned. However, the aircraft was flying at 220 knots, i.e. about 400 kms/hr. Twice this is 800 kms/hr. Three times is 1200 kms/hr. The book mention of 1000 mph, which is 1600 kms/hr and so is a 25-50% over estimate.

In summary:

One can see, that by 1991, some of the finer data points were inaccurately cited, and that some of the information is simply, wrong according to the 1954 documents.

Additional information:

For those readers who wish to do their own calculations, of speeds, distances and timeline I supply the following information:

1. Latitude and longitude of places mentioned in parts one and two of this post.

Nowra (34 53S 150 36E); Young (34 19S 148 18E);Temora (34 27S 147 32 E); Yass (34 51S 148 55E); Marulan (34 43S 150 00E); Sydney (33 53S 151 13E); Goulburn (34 45S 149 43E).

2. Distances between locations.

Nowra to Young (approx. 260kms); Young to Temora (approx. 75kms); Temora to Yass (approx. 135kms); Yass to nowra (approx 160kms).

So, the total flight distance was about 630kms.

3. One knot is a unit of speed used by nautical vessels and aircraft. It is one nautical mile per  hour, i.e. 1.15 miles or 1.85 kms per hour.

4. Locations of the incident:

a. O'Farrell placed the start of the incident as south-west of Goulburn, at about 1910hrs.

b. The radar operator, at 1907hrs, said there were radar paints at about 32 miles (51kms) from Nowra at a bearing of 280 degrees. Assuming that the paint heading towards the base was O'Farrell's aircraft, this places him over Marulan at the time of the radar observation.

Where did O'Farrell learn of the other witnesses?

In an attempt to answer this question, I turned to the work of researcher Bill Chalker. Bill has written about this incident in his 1996 book "The Oz Files"; on various on-line sites and most recently in the 2012 book "UFOs and Government."

In his 1996 book, Bill cites his source of information as a number of interviews with O'Farrell, and states that his book's account specifically comes from an interview with O'Farrell, by himself and Robb Tilley, on 30 March 1993, some 39 years after the event.

Bill reveals that O'Farrell was interviewed in 1973 about the incident, by Prof J Allen Hynek. O'Farrell apparently refreshed his 1954 memories by reading Department of Defence (Joint Intelligence Bureau) files on the incident supplied to him .

It can therefore be said, that perhaps O'Farrell came across the details of the other witnesses, either at the time in 1954 or in 1973. It is not clear from anything which I have looked at, which is the correct answer.

JIB files:

The JIB files on the incident have never surfaced in the hands of civilian UAP researchers. They should make fascinating reading. It is tantilising to hear of the two additional witnesses, but lots of questions spring to my mind.

The radar operator's report, puts the radar paints of aircraft and UAP as over Marulan. It was at the Marulan non-directional beacon, that one of the other witnesses was located. Did the lights seen from there come from O'Farrell's direction? What colour were they? Was there any noise from the lights, perhaps a sonic boom? What formation were they in? Most importantly, as the radar operator also places O'Farrell's aircraft over Marulan did that witness see both two bright lights and an aircraft passing over?

What were the colour of the lights seen from Sydney? How did they disappear from view? how long were they in view?

Additional questions are:

1. Did the JIB locate more than two ground witnesses? After all, the night was said to be clear, and dark. An aircraft flying at night accompanied by two bright lights would seem to be something to note.

2. What happened to the JIB files after 1973? None related to this incident have been located in the National Archives. Readers may recall that I located the one and only JIB UAP file, in the NAA in 2008. Its date range is 1957-1971. It contains no papers relevant to the 1954 Goulburn case.

Possibilities are a) that the 1954 files were destroyed after 1973; b) that they are actually somewhere in the NAA, or c) they are still held by the Department of Defence.

The value of this case:

This case, on the basis of the information contained in the 1954 Navy files, remains an intensely puzzling one.

However, the fuller details, apparently contained on the JIB files, should allow us further insight into the incident, if they could be located.

The key:

The key to further research on this case appears to lie with the possible locating of the missing JIB files.

I am therefore approaching the Department of Defence to see if, after 58 years, they can be located, examined and released.

I will keep you posted on my efforts.

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