UFOs: An anfractuous phenomenon
I recently presented this talk to UFO Research (NSW) Incorporated. They have just uploaded it to Youtube. You will find it at:
Section A3 – what about private enterprise?
Over the years, several aerospace companies have investigated the phenomenon. Perhaps the biggest study was the one conducted by McDonnell-Douglas for USM$1/2. They invested this money on the hope of discovering clues to advanced propulsion systems used by UFOs, which they could then duplicate. They studied reports from witnesses; reviewed the UFO literature; and even created a purpose built UFO detection van to undertake trips within the US to attempt to directly observe the phenomenon.
|Front cover of McDonnell-Douglas report|
Ultimately though, this work did not lead to any break throughs.
Section A4 – Finally, global civilian UFO groups
There have been a large number of civilian UFO groups who have attempted to collect UFO reports on a global scale. In former years APRO and NICAP spring to mind. Today, perhaps the most well-known is MUFON based in the USA. There are also organisations which focus on one specific facet of the phenomenon, such as NARCAP.
I would next like to take a look at the investigation aspects of some of the cases reported by civilian researchers.
Captain Ray Bowyer, a pilot of 5000 flying hours experience was piloting a passenger plane when, in April 2007, while crossing the English Channel, he and his passengers saw two unidentified objects. These objects were also apparently picked up on ground radar from two locations, and one object was observed by another pilot from a different position.
On a clear afternoon they saw a brilliant yellow light close to the horizon, where none should have been. Viewed through binoculars it looked like a thin cigar with a ratio, of length to width, of 15 to one. It had sharply defined edges and pointed ends. A second identical shape was then seen at a distance beyond the first. They were lost to view, when the plane began to land.
The pilot reported the incident to the English Civil Aviation Authority. However, it was UFO researchers who made a detailed study. They studied the visual observations and air traffic control radar, plus weather data. A search of the available weather radar data found nothing that was clearly anomalous.
An examination of the air traffic control radar data also turned up no clear evidence of anomalous propagation that day. The radar evidence was not useful in establishing the presence of unusual phenomenon. They considered such explanations as sundog, subsun, sun ray patches on the sea, aircraft contrails, specular greenhouse reflections, but none was a definitive explanation for the observations.
On 7 November 2006 a number of reliable airline employees and others, reported seeing a round, revolving, grey coloured, metallic appearing object hovering over the O’Hare Airport, Chicago in the US. Based on the known height of the cloud base, the object was at a height of less than 1900 feet. It was there for at least three minutes. It departed at speed, apparently causing a hole to form in the cloud cover.
NARCAP investigated. FOI was used to obtain some of the documentation.
They obtained eyewitness testimony from ground witnesses. Recorded conversations on inbound controller tapes were obtained. FAA tower controllers did not see the object and the FAA stated that, nothing was observed on radar.
Their opinion was that it was a weather phenomenon. Explanations examined included that it was a weather balloon; a US military stealth aircraft; a lenticular cloud; or a helicopter.
However in the end NARCAP was unable to assign any mundane explanation to the event. It remained an unknown object.
Between 6-6.25pm on 8 January 2008, a number of citizens of Stephenville, Texas, in the USA reported sighting a UFO. It was described as very bright, large and silent.
MUFON investigated this event, which was part of a much larger set of observations extending weeks. MUFON members interviewed numerous witnesses and obtained radar data from five different radar sites. MUFON stated that the radar data indicated the presence of two unknown objects.
|From the MUFON report on Stephenville|
SECTION B: Australian approaches to investigation
B1: Firstly, the Royal Australian Air Force
The Royal Australian Air Force and other areas of the Department of Defence looked into the subject of UFOs between around 1951 and the mid 1990’s. The RAAF was the only officially nominated area of the Australian government to receive and investigate reports from the public, pilots and air traffic controllers as well as its own personnel.
Other Australian government departments did maintain files on UFOs, but these were almost exclusively administration type files. The former Department of Civil Aviation was a notable exception, as numerous documents on its own files, refer to sighting reports.
The RAAF collected reports of sightings, and attempted to attribute a cause to the observation, via a network of base level, intelligence officers. However, it rarely launched major investigations, or reacted immediately, to incoming UFO reports whatever their nature. There were however, a few instances where RAAF aircraft were despatched to check out reported UFOs.
|Flt Lt Biddington was sent to Bendigo to investigate sightings|
Essentially, RAAF investigation findings, were that the vast majority of reports could be explained in mundane terms and that the percentage of “unknowns” in their files was in the neighbourhood of 3-4% of all incoming reports. There was no known major scientific investigation of UFOs by the Australian government.
We do know that at the time of the Condon report, the CSIRO were asked by one civilian organisation, if they would establish a similar scientific research study here in Australia. They declined.
Today, no Australian government agency admits to openly studying the subject of UFOs.
However, Paul Dean and I, in our correspondence and FOI requests, to such areas of government as the Australian Transport Safety Bureau or Air Services Australia, over the last two years, have demonstrated that interesting reports continue to be made to such agencies. However, despite such reports as the 19 March 2014 Perth near miss, between a civilian airline and an unknown object, no one officially admits that any of these could be potential UFO reports.
B2: Now to civilian groups
Within Australia there has been civilian interest in the subject of UFOs since 1947. Formal groups entered the picture at the beginning of the 1950’s and continue today. Both state and national level UFO groups have existed; and continue to exist today, a testimony to the long lasting interest among numerous individuals over the last 68 years.
At times, over the years we have had a number of national level groups, with acronyms such as AFSRS; CAPIO, UFORA, ACUFOS and AUFORN. Here, investigation methods have been to attempt to capture, collate and analyse incoming reports at a national level. Volunteers at local and state level take to the field to interview witnesses, document their findings and post them upwards.
I would like to take a moment to talk about the current status of AUFORN. The Australian UFO Research Network has had a lengthily involvement with Australian research. At times it has been supported by the majority of civilian UFO groups in this country. It has conducted in-depth investigations; funded conferences and published sightings, investigated through a national level, free call telephone hotline. A while ago I asked Daniel Sims Co-facilitator of AUFORN to pen some words for me about the current status of AUFORN in order for me to present them here.
“AUFORN has undergone some significant changes in the last three years. It is currently overseen by myself and Robert Frola. We are and always will be a non-profit organisation…A lot of people come and go, and chose to volunteer in participating in investigations when they have time…Like most organisations, we do not pay for people’s research or pay them to carry out investigations…
AUFORN is now consolidated with our UFOlogist magazine. So, in return for people providing their efforts, we provide the opportunity for our volunteers to have their sightings, research, or articles, published, promoted and fully credited to them…
Many other groups become very busy…and slowly stop supplying investigations or articles…we understand they have a commitment to their own groups…we respect that. However we will continue to encourage that they provide material in order to maximise the success of UFO and paranormal research in Australia…AUFORN has restructured its operative model in order to become the tool that others can utilise to keep the information flowing.
The 1800 sightings report hotline unfortunately has now come to an end…we have reluctantly had to close down the free call report line…we ran the free call number for over 10 years…It was receiving approximately 60 to 80 calls per month for many years, then slowly decreased as social media became a prominent source for communications…
This is what we are here for. To enable others to supply articles, research and investigation reports so we can completely pack our magazine with Australian content and in return, giving any group or researcher full credit and publication for their efforts…”
Moving away from AUFORN, beside verbal interviews, in the past, a number of groups undertook some basic scientific analysis of trace cases, utilising such diverse techniques as magnetic signatures of motor vehicles; soil analysis; photographic analysis, and thermoluminescence.
Many of you in the audience are probably unaware of many of these scientific efforts, for they were most heavily undertaken in the 1970’s and 1980’s when many groups had regular scientific consultants, who quietly accessed work equipment for their personal use.
Today we have few reported vehicle interference cases, and the majority of UFO group members would have no idea how to conduct a motor vehicle signature test. Similarly, with almost no ground trace cases, few would have the skills of how to take relevant soil samples. I believe you could count on one hand, the number of scientific consultants available to Australian UFO groups today.
I think it would be fair to say that most Australian civilian UFO groups, in my opinion, have lost their capacity to do any real science on UFO cases.
Let’s take a look at a few Australian case examples, and what investigative tools were used:
At nine pm one night a man was driving a vehicle near Liverpool Creek, in Far North Queensland. He noted a dull white light, apparently sitting on the side of the road. As his vehicle drew closer, he saw the object was a dark, beehive shape. This rose vertically into the sky. His car’s headlights, dashboard lights and engine failed. He stopped his car. The vehicle’s headlights, and dashboard lights came back on of their own accord. He was then able to restart the car’s engine.
|Magnetic signature check by UFOR (FNQ)|
A very competent investigation was conducted by UFO Research FNQ. The witness was interviewed and the car and site of the encounter examined. A magnetic signature test of the car was carried out. The same test was conducted on a control vehicle, both Ford Falcon station wagons. The magnetic field of both vehicles was similar, suggesting that the witness’ vehicle had not been exposed to a high intensity magnetic field.
Four people in three separate vehicles, travelling independently of each other, on a remote stretch of road, near Kimba, South Australia, all saw an unusual object on the side of the road.
They all described seeing an orange-red coloured, rectangular shape, three metres high by 1.5m wide. Inside the rectangle, floated a white space suited figure. None of the occupants of the vehicles stopped to investigate, but all reported the bizarre encounter to the local police.
The local police were out at the site of the encounter about an hour after it happened and inspected the area, but could find nothing out of order at the site. Together with three others I went to Kimba, interviewed the two main witnesses; interviewed the police constable involved; obtained copies of the statements of one of the other witnesses, and later received a letter from the fourth witness. We also went to the site and inspected it. An unusual event for which I do not have a conventional explanation.
|Kimba - on site with the local police|
The crew of a charter aircraft flying between Adelaide and Perth, was at 8000 feet, flying at a speed of 190 knots, tracking 270 degrees at 1740hrs local time. Both pilots saw a large object and 4-5 smaller objects ahead of the plane, at their flight level. A check with ground control revealed that there was no known traffic in the area. Then radio communications between the plane and the ground were lost for some time.
Over ten minutes the pilots watched the formation of objects. Finally, all the objects merged and left at speed. Radio communications were then restored. The weather was fine at the time.
The details of their observations was documented by the pilots in writing and submitted to both the RAAF and to the civilian UFO group VUFORS. The RAAF undertook a cursory investigation but published no findings. VUFORS did not manage to interview either pilot.
Here we have a long duration visual observation of a group of unusual objects, although no radar confirmation, by two experienced pilots.
|The actual aircraft involved in the encounter|
I tracked down one of the pilots a couple of years ago and spoke to him. He was still as puzzled by the event, as he had been at the time.
Four people from one family were travelling together by car across the Nullarbor Plains. An unidentified light approached their car and over a period of time they reported, a car tyre exploded; a mist entered the windows; they felt unusual; they noted odd smells. Later they reported finding a black dust inside the car, and on the outside of the vehicle. They believed a UFO had lifted them off the road.
Investigations were conducted by civilian UFO groups; and the South Australian and West Australian police forces, plus one Adelaide based television station.
UFO researchers, including myself interviewed the family involved; and three truck drivers who were travelling along the same road. The TV station had the Australian Mineral Development Laboratory examine the car. No unusual radiation readings were detected. AMDEL concluded that the dust found was typical dust, from wearing brake pads and discs. The burst tyre was due to the tyre having been underinflated.
As part of the investigations, I secured part of a sample of dust from the roof of the car, which had been taken by the South Australian police by a forensic detective. Analysis revealed simply salt and clay particles, consistent with a car driving along the Nullarbor Plains, by the great southern ocean. US researcher, Dr Richard Haines also analysed samples of internal floor dust and concluded that it consisted of particles, found in abundance on the Earth’s surface.
At 0913hrs on 19 March 2014, a passenger aircraft was on descent to Perth International airport when the crew reported an approaching unidentified object.
|The aircraft involved in a near-miss near Perth|
At 4000 feet, the crew managed to manoeuvre the plane to avoid a perceived collision with the object. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s report on the incident called the object an “unknown.”
Between Paul Dean and I, we interviewed the pilot; obtained weather details; got primary and secondary radar data; and submitted Freedom of Information requests to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Air Services Australia and the Department of Defence.
The object was not picked up on radar, either by the plane or the ground. The object did not trigger the aircraft’s Transponder Collision Avoidance System.
In summary, in my opinion, Australian civilian UFO research organisations, in general, have gone backwards in terms of their investigatory capacity.
(Continued in part 3.)
I gave this talk in 2016 to UFO Research (NSW) Incorporated. You may watch it as:
I gave this talk in 2016 to UFO Research (NSW) Incorporated. You may watch it as: