Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The 1965 Margaret Brock Lighthouse photographs


Thanks to the hard work of the Swedish Archives for the Unexplained (AFU); UK researcher Isaac Koi; Boston based researcher Barry Greenwood and myself, I am now able to go through digitised issues of the Australian magazine named "Panorama." This magazine was published by one Fred Stone of Adelaide.


I have been working on a series of "cold case" analyses of classic Australian sightings for many years, and one of the cases which I have been hoping to find some more original source material on, has been the 17 March 1965 sighting, and series of photographs, taken on a ship near the Margaret Brock Lighthouse off the coast of South Australia. Two issues of "Panorama" have provided just such source material.

The event

The most original source is the "Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate" dated 23 March 1965. The text of the article reads as follows, and there were two accompany photographs.

"Mystery object
"Moon object" pictures.

These photographs, taken at sea off the Victorian coast last Wednesday, show what appears to be an object moving around the moon. 

They were brought to Newcastle by the man who took them, Mr Walter Jacobs, 38 of The Terrace, Newcastle, an assistant steward on the BHP ore freighter Iron Duke. Mr Jacobs, an amateur photographer, said he saw the object by accident when he began to photograph a moon-cloud effect. He said he developed the negatives in his cabin on the trip to Newcastle. He became convinced the light was an object. Crew mates who saw the prints had speculated on it being a space vehicle.

Bright glow

"The ship was approaching Margaret Brock Lighthouse, between Adelaide and Melbourne, when I went on deck to take the moon pictures," Mr Jacobs said. "It was a few moments after 10pm. The moon was fairly low in the sky in the direction of Adelaide. I looked through the camera at the moon, which was behind the clouds and saw a light on the left hand side of it. "It was a bright yellow-orange glow. At first I thought it was a planet."

"As I started to photograph it the light began to travel. it swung under the moon and up the other side." He adjusted the camera's shutter speed and when he looked again the light was above the moon. He took one picture, and by the time he took another, in two seconds, the "object" had shot high above the moon. He took other pictures. 

Like saucer

Mr Jacobs said he was more concerned about getting a good picture than wondering what the object was, and he went below. The object seemed stationary then. "It wasn't until I printed the photographs that I began to wonder. In one you can see a knob on the bottom and a depression on the top - the usual description of a flying saucer," he said.

A "Newcastle Morning Herald" representative accompanied Mr Jcobs to Newcastle University and saw Professor C D Ellyet, head of the Physics Department and Dean of the Faculty of Science. After studying the photographs Professor Ellyet said the phenomena was probably caused by the reflection or refraction of the moonlight by ice crystals in the clouds. This would explain how the "object" changed shaped with time, he said. Movement of the light around the moon could be explained by the movement of air and the ice crystals in the clouds.Mr Jacobs' photographs were the best and clearest he had seen of such a phenomena, he added.


Professor Ellyet emphasizes he was putting forward a theory and that "in these cases one can never be certain." No satisfactory answer had been put forward for some sightings made in the sky over the years.

Adelaide "News"

The 5 April 1965 issue of the Adelaide "News" carried  the following photograph, and accompanying text.

"He shot a 'saucer'

"I didn't believe  in all the space talk, but now I am convinced I photographed a flying object of monstrous size," Mr Walter Jacobs said today. Mr Jacobs a steward on the freighter "Iron Duke" which berthed at Port Adelaide on Saturday, took seven pictures  of a bright orange object in the sky off south-east coast on the night of March 17th.

Mr Jacobs disagreed with statements that the object in his picture could have been an aeroplane using a strong spotlight or a satellite illuminated by the moon. "It was much too big and moved too quickly for an aircraft. The light was bright orange nothing like a spotlight" he said. The photo clearly shows the object was in front of the moon. 

Two clouds

Mr G P Danvers of Cheltenham, today reported having seen the similar "object" over Adelaide about the same time. He was conducting a Mini-Tour party at Observation Point when they sighted a light orange coloured "flying saucer." It appeared to be spinning around the moon. As the party watched it slowly changed shape and was ultimately revealed to be two dark clouds parting with the moonlight breaking through the gap. He said today the wind affecting the edges of the cloud was believed to have made the "flying saucer" appear to spin round the moon.

Adelaide "Advertiser"

The 5 April 1965 issue carried the following text.

"Film taken of S Aust sky object

A sky "object" with the characteristics usually attributed to "saucers" has been clearly photographed over S Aust. Astronomical experts in SA have been unable tom positively identify the object, which took the form of a bright orange glow with a "dent" on top and "knot" on the bottom. All have agreed, however, that the description given could not be explained as a planet.

Photographs of the object were taken by Mr Walter Jacobs, a steward on the freighter "Iron Duke" which berthed at Port Adelaide on Saturday. The photographs show what appears to be a glowing object moving around the moon. Mr Jacobs who is an amateur photographer, said he saw the object shortly after 10pm on March 17th when he began to photograph a moon cloud effect while at sea on the way to Newcastle. The ship was approaching the Margaret Brock Lighthouse, between Adelaide and Melbourne.

"It was a bright, yellow orange glow, at first I thought it was a planet." "As I started to photograph it, the light began to travel. It swung "under" the moon and up the other side." He took one picture and by the time he took another, two seconds, the object had shot upwards vertically from the moon and "was high above it." He took more pictures. "I went below and it wasn't until I printed the photographs that i began to wonder" he said. "You can see a knob on the bottom and a depression on top -the usual description of a flying saucer."

The Professor of Physics at the uni of Adelaide, Pro J H Carver, said that the described behaviour of the object was  consistent with that of an aircraft equipped with a very strong spotlight. An RAAF spokesman said, however, that to the best of his knowledge there had not been any planes using powerful spotlights in the area at that time.

The Astronomical Society Senior Vice pres said "The only planet neat the moon at this time was Mars and that this would have been stationary and not behaving n the manner described." Another astronomer unnamed said he felt the object could have been a satellite. But a WRE spokesman said the sharp upward trail described by Mr Jacobs did not coincide with the path which a satellite might take."


Volume 4 number 2 pages 2 and 19,of this magazine, firstly carried the text of the 5 April 1965 issue of the Adelaide "Advertiser" then continued:

"Your editor interviewed Mr Jacobs who added these further facts. He had watched it for 7 minutes and it was still there when he went below. We cannot understand why he did not draw the attention of the rest of the crew to the unusual object, and especially when the man on the bridge above who did not see it. Also another man who was on deck who said he did not see it.

He said it was very large and he felt it would carry a crew of 40-50 people. The camera which he took the object with was a Japanese Minoca and the shot was taken at F2 60 on a black and white 35mm film.

We sort (sic) to get copies of the photos from him  and at first he consented but later after discussing the matter with other people said he  would first try and sell them to USA magazines but would later give us photos, which he did.

We were not at all surprised by this as he was  interviewed by TV and shots were shown on the interview. Also he was taken to see other people after this event, and it was from this he rang us up to withdraw his original offer. However next day he showed us the negatives and we examined them as best we could and he gave us some photos on condition that we did not reproduce the,. We regret therefore we cannot reproduce anything without his consent,and further feel that his desire to "cash in" on them unfortunately does lessen the authenticity of the films; in that people will naturally concur that it is a gimmick. However we feel ourselves at this moment that until we see the whole 7 shots at close range on reproduced photos we accept his story with reservations, for until such a close examination of them is made it is hard to determine what the object rally is, although it certainly has all the general characteristics of the saucers. We have drawn below the various drawings he gave us of the object and its movements, and also our own drawing of it as shown in the reproduced picture in the "Advertiser.""

"Panorama" Volume 4 number 3 pages7-8 continued the story.

"The Jacobs photo of UFO over Adelaide

We have received many inquiries regarding this photo  of which we gave a resume in our last edition, and since which we had time to make more intense investigations. Frankly we are not happy about this photo, because of the co-related evidence  which at times became quite contradictory. So much so that we wrote to the "Advertiser" which published the photos, but our letter was not published. So we point out here to our readers some of the highlights.

We admit that initially we were very impressed by the photos and the story told in the paper and over TV by Mr Jacobs, but after two lengthy interviews with him we feel we must in all honesty place our findings before the public for a clearer evaluation of the case.

It has been suggested that Mr Jacobs when interviewed by Mr Norris of the AFSRS hinted that he tried  to fool us or leas us astray. Rather a strange thing for a man who was trying to convince the public of what he had seen and witnessed  and who told us he was trying to sell them to interested journals. Surely he would have been only too anxious to make every point of his story true rather than mislead people.

Firstly the photos. The first five shots which he showed us on the negatives were taken as the "object" was approaching the moon-cloud. He then altered his timing and shot the one which was shown in the paper and the TV "above the moon cloud..." The previous five were by no means as clear and defined as the one shown. In all this it must be remembered that the ship was moving whilst this was taken and this factor must be taken into account as regards the photo.

The lighthouse according to Mr Jacobs was 50 miles away, but when interviewing the crew they all stated that it was only 15 miles away. Here a contradiction of fact.

He insisted he did not realize it was an unusual object until he developed the photos, if so why was he aware enough to change the timing.

The one man who was beside him and to whom he called his attention to it, was no longer on the ship. He had been signed off at Newcastle before the ship had returned to Adelaide. Mr Jacobs gave the photo to the Advertiser. Also the captain of the ship has been changed. The man on the bridge who may have seen the sighting if it was so unusual as Jacobs claimed, said in an interview that he did not see anything unusual.

Mr Jacobs said he went down after taking the photo to the TV room and shot some shots of the TV. These were on the negatives, but when he showed us the "spot" where he had taken the photo from on the side of the ship, the TV room was immediately BEHIND him and within arms reach. Being a hot night so he said, it was more than likely the door would be open as it was not air conditioned. Even if not, it is rather strange he did not turn around and knock or call out to those in the room to see what he had taken.

His excuse here as stated before "he did not realize it was an unusual object." Yet when being interviewed he was quite certain he "saw the top part spinning around whilst the bottom section was also lit up." Surely such an odd behaviour of a "cloud" would cause one to know it was something out of the ordinary and create a desire to call witnesses. Yet he called no one from the TV room behind , or consider it unusual until later when he realized he had shot some unusual object.

The position of the lighthouse from the point of photography must not be overlooked for under certain cloud conditions the light from this may have had some contributing factors.

One factor was Mr Jacobs' contradictory statements re the value of the pictures. he was most anxious to impress us he had no need to "make money" out of it. For on the first day he said 40 pounds per week on the ship. The next day he said his salary was 52 pounds pw. He had admitted he had been practicing in getting good photos and had been successful in "selling" some recent ones to the Navy and the BHP Oil Co., but kept re-insisting he was not out to make money on this one. However on the second day in the interview he said he was going to see if he could sell the photos to some American interests who paid big money. he had been "advised" to this by a Sydney representative of the same.

Of course we do not blame him for cashing on on his efforts. If these are genuine, but we felt that before he could expect our society to pass them as such, he should be willing to give some complete copies of the whole sequence of the event, instead of the one single photo of the object above the cloud.

We are well aware other groups here have been elated by this case and as one of their investigators exclaimed rather ecstatically "Oh its wonderful" yet we prefer to keep out feet on the ground and as much as we would like to prove this as one of the most outstanding photos taken in Australia, yet we are not prepared to lower out standards as investigators or make an attempt to bolster up this case on a false premise and thus deceiving the public, when we feel the facts when taken altogether are not as clear as they could be or we would very much like them to be. For we want good saucer photos but not any which cannot stand the test of keen investigation and scrutiny.

Should further evidence prove we are wrong we shall be most glad to admit we have been wrong, meanwhile we prefer to be cautious."


1. The Margaret Brock Lighthouse used to be situated near the township of Kingston South East, South Australia, which was 26 kilometres north east of the lighthouse. Kingston SE is situated at latitude 36.84 degrees south and longitude 139.85 degrees east.

2. The 17th March 1965 was a Wednesday.

3. The astronomical software "Stellarium" shows that on the relevant date and time from the ship's position the following astronomical objects were positioned:

The sun had set. The planets Jupiter, Venus and Saturn were below the horizon. The moon was at 35 degrees elevation at an azimuth of 47 degrees (ie close to north-east). The planet Mars (orange in colour) was at 38 degrees elevation, and at 34 degrees azimuth.


1. I searched online and in hard copy for images of all seven photographs. I failed to find the complete series available anywhere.

2. Upon first seeing the photographs which appeared in the media, my initial impression was that we were looking at an internal lens reflection of the moon.

3. In 1968 I worked for the Postmaster Generals' Department of the Australian Government. One of the staff there, a gentleman named Ken Ellis, advised me that he had been the radio operator on the "Iron Duke" in March 1965. He informed me that the story told by Mr Jacobs was in fact a hoax. That Mr Jacobs had taken pictures of the moon and clouds, and when developed saw that he had captured a lens reflection of the moon, and had then made up the story he told the media and Fred Stone. I have no reason to doubt Mr Ellis' information. 

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