Saturday, September 26, 2015

Recent Australian sightings - investigation summary

Hi all,

In my September 2015 talk "UFOs-An Anfractuous Phenomenon," prepared for a recent conference, which is available as a three part blog post series, here, here, and here, I mentioned the value of actually investigating local UFO reports. This is as opposed to simply sitting endlessly on Facebook and re-posting unverified videos, and dubious claims of alien bodies. Now, investigating local sightings may not be as exciting as this but it does have some real value.

In order to "walk the talk," since March 2014, Melbourne researcher Paul Dean and I have been doing just this. Apart from undertaking these investigations, which today can be done for a modest input of time and finance, via email, Skype and the occasional phone call, we have made the time to widely publish our findings.

One of the reasons we have done this is to encourage Australian UFO groups, Facebook communities, and interested individuals to conduct and publish investigations of their own, instead of simply writing up the raw data they get from electronic input forms on their websites; and incoming unverified telephone calls on their hotlines. These are of little value, in an un-investigated form.


What reports have we investigated and what have we found?

The following cases have been investigated by Paul and I with the assistance of a few associates. You can read the full investigation report by clicking on the location of the event.

19 March 2014 Perth international airport, WA
The pilot of a commercial aircraft had to make a sudden manoeuvre to avoid a cylindrical object which passed close by his aircraft. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau listed the object as an "unknown."

29 May 2014 South Coast, NSW
A fascinating, complex close encounter with unusual lights, a "scanning device" and other mysterious lights.

21September 2014 Armidale, New South Wales
Multiple witnesses report a close distance, nocturnal light.

2014/2015 Kairi, Queensland
Multiple observations of a strange "sting ray" object at night.

11 May 2015 Blue Haven, NSW
A daylight observation of a black/grey object hovering near power lines.

29 May 2015 Townsville, Queensland
A visual observation, with photographs, of lights circling in clouds.

12 June 2015 Oakey, Queensland
Two observers each took photographs of a strange cloud-like object.

10 July 2015 Chinderah, NSW
Multiple witnesses to two bright lights, with a structured object reported at close range.

23 August 2015 Point Cook, Victoria
A woman reported a strange object in  daylight.

17 September 2015 Cairns, Queensland
Multiple lights seen by a number of observers.

21 September 2015 Armidale, New South Wales
Two sightings of two sets of two nocturnal lights.

What can YOU do?

I urge Australian blog readers to consider undertaking their own investigations. Reports are constantly being made via Facebook Australian UFO communities; via the media and to Australian UFO groups.

If you see a report in the media, why not contact the reporter of the story, ask  them to put you in touch with the witness; talk to  that person, take note of what they say; and forward the details to myself at keithbasterfield@yahoo.com.au I will be happy to assist you either investigate, document or publish your findings. Your work will be fully credited, and will contribute to Australian research.

If you belong to an Australian UFO group, but do not feel  confident to undertake an investigation, I am happy to work with you to enhance your investigation skills. Please take a look at my post on investigation tools.

Paul and I welcome comments on our investigation reports.

Full report - near collision - "unknown object" - Perth - 19 March 2014


Near collision between an Australian aircraft and an "unknown object" near Perth, Western Australia on 19 March 2014.

A report by Keith Basterfield and Paul Dean.

Background:

In Australia, according to the website (click here)  of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the ATSB "...is Australia's national transport safety investigator...The ATSB is Australia's prime agency for the independent investigation of civil aviation, rail and maritime accidents, incidents and safety deficiencies."

On the ATSB website is a listing of "Aviation Safety Investigations & Reports." (Click here.) The listing provides details of incidents such as near collisions between aircraft. One of the authors (PD) noted that one of the March 2014 near collision reports involved an "unknown object."

ATSB report number AO-2014-052 read as follows:

"The ATSB has commenced an investigation into a near collision with  an unknown object involving a De Havilland DHC-8, VH-XFX near Perth Airport, Western Australia on 19 March 2014. Whilst passing 4,000ft on descent the crew observed an unknown object tracking directly towards the aircraft. The crew manoeuvred the aircraft to maintain separation. As part of the investigation the ATSB will interview the aircrew. A report will be released within several months."

This ATSB preliminary report goes on to provide general details as follows:

Date: 19 Mar 2014
Time: 0913 WST
Location: Perth Airport, NNE 23km
Investigation type: Occurrence investigation
Occurrence class: Operational
Occurrence category: Serious incident
Report status: Pending
Expected completion: June 2014
Aircraft details: de Havilland Canada
Model: DHC-8-314
Registration: VH-XFX
Serial number: 313
Type of operation: Charter
Sector: Turbo prop
Damage to aircraft: Nil
Departure point: Kambalda, WA
Destination: Perth, WA.

On 26 May 2014 the ATSB released their four page report on the incident (click here.) The first page was simply  a cover sheet; page two was ATSB information; page three was headed "Near collision between an unknown object and a De Havilland DHC-8." It read:

"What happened

On 19 March 2014, at about 0913 Western Standard Time (WST) a de Havilland DHC-8, registered VH-XFX was on approach to Perth Airport from Kambalda, Western Australia. When about 23km north-north-east of Perth, at about 3,800ft above mean sea level (AMSL), the crew sighted a bright strobe light in front of the aircraft. The light appeared to track toward the aircraft and the crew realised that the light was on an unknown object, possibly an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV.) The pilot took evasive action turning towards the west to avoid a collision with the object. The object passed about 20m horizontally and 100ft vertically from the aircraft.

The pilot reported that the object was cylindrical in shape and grey in colour. It was at about 3,700ft AMSL and in controlled airspace. The crew did not receive a traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) alert. The airspace below 3,500ft AMSL was military restricted airspace and the Australian Defence Force was not operating UAVs and was not aware of any UAV operations in the area at the time of the incident. The ATSB was not able to confirm the details of the object or identify any UAV operator in the area at that time."

General details:

Occurrence details
Date and time: 19 March 2014 - 0913WST
Occurrence category: Serious incident
Primary occurrence type: Interference from the ground
Location: 23km NNE Perth Airport, Western Australia
Latitude 31 deg 44.62min S

Aircraft details:
Manufacturer and model: De Havilland Canada DHC-8-314
Registration: VH-XFX
Serial number: 313
Type of operation: Charter-passenger
Persons on board: Crew-4 passengers-unknown
Injuries: Crew - nil.  Passengers - nil
Damage: Nil.

About the ATSB:

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is an independent Commonwealth Government Statutory Agency. The ATSB is governed by a Commission and is entirely separate from transport regulatory, policy makers and service providers. The ATSB's function is to improve safety and public confidence in the aviation, maritime and rail modes of transport through excellence in independent investigations of transport accidents and other safety occurrences; safety data recording, analysis and research, and fostering safety awareness, knowledge and action."

The ATSB is responsible for investigating accidents and other transport safety matters involving civil aviation, marine and rail operations in Australia that fall within Commonwealth jurisdiction, as well as participating in overseas investigations involving Australia registered aircraft and ships. A primary concern is the safety of commercial transport, with particular regard to fare-paying passenger operations.

The ATSB performs its functions in accordance with the provision of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 and regulations and, where appropriate, relevant international agreements.

The object of a safety investigation is to identify and reduce safety-related risk. ATSB investigations determine and communicate the safety factors related to the transport safety matter being investigated.

It is not a function of the ATSB to apportion blame or determine liability. At the same time, an investigation report must include factual material of sufficient weight to support the analysis and findings. At all times the ATSB endeavours to balance the use of material that could imply adverse comment with the need to properly explain what happened, and why, in a fair and unbiased manner.

About this report:

Decisions regarding whether to conduct an investigation, and the scope of an investigation, are based on many factors, including the level of safety benefit likely to be obtained from an investigation. For this occurrence, a limited-scope, fact- gathering investigation was conducted in order to produce a short summary report, and allow for greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety actions."

The following photograph shows a Skippers DHC-8 aircraft, similar to the one involved in the event (photo courtesy of FlightAware.)




The investigation:

The authors:

1. Secured secondary radar data on the event.
2. Secured primary radar data on the event.
3. Obtained weather details.
4. Interviewed the command pilot.
5. Located similar events of this type in this area.
6. Obtained additional information from the ATSB.
7. Checked previous ATSB reports involving UAV.


1. Secondary radar data:

The "Webtrak" website (click here) is run by Air Services Australia and allows a view of secondary radar data superimposed over a ground map. It shows the location of aircraft near major Australian airports. You can view an area up to 50 kilometres from selected airports. Only aircraft carrying transponders show on the screen. For each aircraft you can find details such as its flight number; originating and destination airports; an aircraft's moment to moment height (AMSL), plus the type of plane. Time wise, you can check from 40 minutes to three months into the past.

One of the authors (KB) went to the "Webtrak" website and set the system for 19 March 2014 beginning at 0904WST. At 0909WST a DHC-8 aircraft , shown as flying from YKBL appears on the radar replay, near the locality of Chidlow. This was the aircraft described in the ATSB report.

The following screen capture is from Webtrak at about 0913WST on 19 March 2014. The DHC-8 aircraft is the smaller red aircraft middle top of the screen.




The DHC-8 aircraft is shown following flight VOZ1432, registration VH-YIU, a B738 flying Darwin to Perth. Some 20 kilometres behind the DHC-8 plane was flight QFA485 Melbourne to Perth, an A332 at 6243 feet. The crew of this aircraft would have had the DHC-8 to the front of them. Close to QFA485 was a general aviation aircraft, a C82R at 8186 feet. However, the direction of flight of this aircraft was facing away from the DHC-8 plane.

The radar replay shows VOZ1432 landing at 0916 WST, the DHC-8 landed at 0919WST and the QFA485 at 0920WST.

Zooming in on the secondary radar image reveals that at about 0913WST, the DHC-8 aircraft was shown at a height of 4124ft. Looking at the track of this aircraft as displayed, there does indeed seem to be a slight direction change at the reported time of the near collision with the "unknown" object.

There are absolutely no other aircraft shown, near the DHC-8 on the radar replay. However, it should be remembered that secondary radar only shows returns on the display when an aircraft is carrying a transponder which provides identification to air traffic controllers. If the object was an aircraft not using a transponder, then it would not show up on this type of radar.


2. Primary radar data:

Primary radar shows returns of any kind. In theory it should show only objects reflecting the generated radar waves. Perth international airport shares a primary radar system with the RAAF (Pearce base.) The authors therefore sought copies of primary radar data from both the Department of Defence (KB) (DOD) and Air Services Australia (PD) (ASA), using the Freedom of Information Act.

The length of the DOD FOI process exceeded the length of time that the RAAF holds its radar data for (apparently 30 days) and thus this was unsuccessful. However, ASA did provide us with a DVD with a replay of radar data for that location, date and time. An air traffic controller who looked at this DVD for us, confirmed that it showed both primary and secondary radar data. What did it show? It showed all the aircraft which Webtrak had shown, but absolutely nothing near the DHC-8. Whatever, was seen visually by the pilot, did not appear on radar.


3. Weather:

Weather details:

The Bureau of Meteorology's website provided the following weather information for Perth international airport. Daily minimum temperature 18deg C; daily maximum 32.4degC. Nil rain. Evaporation 6.6mm. Sun 11.0hrs. Maximum wind gust south-west 37km/hr at 1445hrs. At 9am temperature was 24.5degC; relative humidity 51; nil cloud; wind from the north-east at 13km/hr. MSLP 1021.0.


4. Interview with pilot in command:

Both authors independently communicated with Skippers Aviation, the company who owned VH-XFX and sought their permission to interview the main pilot. One of the authors (PD) also spoke by telephone to a number of Skippers' employees to achieve the same aim. After several months, one of the authors (PD) was advised that he had permission to speak to the pilot, and did so on 2 and 3 July 2014. The following dot points were recorded, from the conversation:

* The pilot, male, age 26 utterly ruled out the possibility of the object being a weather balloon
* The object was travelling in the opposite direction to him, not merely hovering or floating
* He and the co-pilot registered "complete shock"
* Air Services Australia confirmed that no other flight crew reported seeing the object (via ground radio when he landed)
* When he thought the object might collide with his plane, he sought a heading change from ATC, but this was denied. He therefore changed course himself
* The object was still going "up," as well as travelling horizontally when it passed his aircraft
* He estimated it was only 100m from his aircraft at most, he said it could have been as close as 30m
* It had the ratio dimension wise of a cigarette, i.e. long and thin
* He said it was green in colour, military green actually, even though the ATSB report cites the colour as grey
* The strobe light on front had a flash frequency of a second interval at most. It was whitish in colour, and not red, or blue, or any other colour
* The total duration of the event did not exceed 15 seconds
* A very rough estimate of the speed of the aircraft at the time was perhaps 450km/hr, despite being on a landing approach
* No other aircraft crew reported seeing anything. There was no radar image of the object. ASA staff saw nothing on radar
* It definitely went past the aircraft on the left hand side
* The pilot undertook a voluntary drug, urine test upon landing
* He has no idea what it was, and didn't want it to happen again
*There were 53 passengers on board at the time
* No one told him, not to discuss the incident.

Perhaps the single most important difference between the pilot's account and the ATSB report is that the ATSB said the object was grey in colour, whereas the pilot said it was green, military green, in colour.


5. Similar events in the area:

A check was made for similar events from this area. Two were found:

a. In 1998, as part of a response to an FOI request to the ATSB, one of the authors (KB) received the details of a 1998 incident. At 1515hrs on 8 November 1998, an aircraft was 28kms NW of Perth airport. The pilot reported that an unidentified flying object, bright red/orange in colour, passed 30 meters below his aircraft. It was travelling very fast, as the aircraft passed 9,000 feet. The object was estimated to be approximately 2 metres across. The pilot said he believed that the object might have been a model aircraft.

b. The "West Australian" newspaper of Saturday, 18 April 2009, on page 7, ran the headline "Toy plane crashes into jet." The story was that a radio controlled model aircraft had collided with a jet, either a Virgin Blue or Qantas aircraft. Two young men had been observed operating the model, some 500 metres from the runway thresh hold. A more detailed account appeared on page 9 of the Tuesday 21 April 2009 issue of the same paper. At 0800hrs on 17 April 2009 a model aircraft "...came within seconds of colliding with the 160 seat 737 aircraft..." The model plane was said to be 88cm long with a one metre wingspan and weighed 850g. A video taken by the operator is available for viewing on You Tube (click here.)


6. Additional information from the ATSB:

One of the authors (PD) communicated with the ATSB seeking additional information. Part of the ATSB's email response read:

"In this incident, the primary source of factual information was the flight crew of the aircraft involved. The aircraft had tracked from IFR waypoint ROLOB to WOORA, a heading of about 285 degrees, or WNW. After the aircraft passed WOORA, the next intended waypoint was HAIGH, a track of about 234 degrees (south-west). As the pilot in command commenced the turn, the crew sighted a strobe light tracking directly towards the aircraft. The pilot elected to turn onto a heading of 270 (or west), rather than continue the turn to the SW, to avoid the object which was on a reciprocal track. The object then passed down the left side of the aircraft.

The ATSB attempted to identify the object and its operator. However, as stated in the report, was unable to verify what the object was, where it had been launched from, or the identity of the operator. The incident was reported to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Australian Defence Force."


7. ATSB UAV reports:

A check of the ATSB's database located two previous reports involving UAV.

a. AO-2014-056. Near collision between an unmanned aerial vehicle and a Bell 412 helicopter, VH-WSB, near Newcastle Westpac base (HLS) NSW on 22 March 2014. 2200hrs and climbing to 1200 feet, observed a steady white light. Helicopter then descended. Pilot noted the light made an abrupt right turn and tracked towards the helicopter. The object's rate and radius of turn indicated it was not an aircraft. "...more likely to be a small unmanned aerial vehicle..." The UAV was seen as close as 100m away and level with the helicopter.

b. AO-2013-167. Aircraft separation issue involving an Ayres S2B VH-WBK and an unmanned aerial vehicle 37km SSW of Horsham aerodrome, Victoria on 12 September 2013. At about 0930hrs EST aerial agricultural operation was occurring on a property. An operator of a UAV sensefly eBee 178 was conducting aerial photography. The operator radioed his intention to launch a UAV. Flight of UAV was at 390 feet AGL. The UAV came near to the aircraft.


Discussion and analysis:

1. The "unknown" object was not picked up on primary or secondary radar from the ground. It also did not activate the aircraft's TCAS. This all suggests that the object was not an aircraft. The pilot's visual observation confirms this.

2. Was it an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) as suggested in the ATSB report? Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) Australia Advisory circular AC101-1 (click here) provides that UAVs are permitted only up to a height not exceeding 400 feet AGL, and there are tight controls if flown in controlled airspace. Recall that the aircraft at the time was near 4,000 feet. Recall also that the Department of Defence is cited as saying that it was not operating UAVs at the time itself, and was not aware of any UAV operations at that time. In addition, the ATSB was not able to identify any UAV operator in the area. Thus if it was a UAV, it was an illegal operation.

One of the authors(PD) contacted two Perth based UAV operators, namely "Coptercam" and "Altitude Imaging." Neither company was aware of any current UAVs shaped like "cigarettes" i.e. pencil shaped.

In addition, one should also note the pilot's description of the object. It was not of a multi rotor, circular UAV, nor of a fixed wing model aircraft, but of a military green coloured, cylindrical object of dimensions ratio similar to a cigarette, i.e. long and thin. Note also, that the pilot did not report seeing any wings, tail, or propulsion system on the object, even though he had a close visual observation. In the opinion of the authors, the probability of the unknown object being a conventional UAV, is extremely low.

3. So, what was it? By any definition it was an "unknown object," an unidentified flying object if you will, or an example of unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP.)

Could there still be a conventional explanation, if it was not an aircraft or a UAV? Perhaps the colour and ratio of its dimensions provide a clue? Could it have been a rocket or a missile, of some kind? If so, why would such a thing have a strobe light on it? Apparent lack of wings, tail or a propulsion system would all fit this conjecture. If it was a rocket or missile, where did it come from and who launched it?


Conclusion:

At this point, with no definite explanation, the authors consider the report should be regarded as an example of UAP.

We welcome comments from blog readers.



Friday, September 25, 2015

Preliminary investigation report - Armidale, NSW - 21 September 2015

PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION REPORT - ARMIDALE, NEW SOUTH WALES - 21 SEPTEMBER 2015

Date:         Monday 21 September 2015
Location:  Armidale, New South Wales
Time:         Sighting one - 2120-2135hrs
                   Sighting two - 2130-2150hrs
                   Australian Eastern Standard Time (UTC plus 10 hours.)

Introduction


Two sightings were initially reported to the "Lights in the sky" blog site of the Sydney Observatory. Details as recorded there were:

Sighting one:

"Two orange circles were observed over block. The lights came together and then drifted apart. They were very close but no other outline of an object could be seen. It is hard to determine how high they were as they were clearly seen and bright but the movement made this confusing.

The lights went up and then down again, together and then apart. The lights then went straight up and started to travel away from our block in an Eastward direction towards Coffs Harbour. We watched the lights until they faded away. We took a picture with the iPhone but it is not clear due to the darkness. These lights were seen by three adults and 5 children. We all thought it was very odd. The sky was clear and stars were visible."  (Kim.)


Courtesy of Google maps

Sighting two:

"At around 2130 I went down my back steps and glanced to the West and noticed what I thought were 2x helicopter lights in the sky above the University of New England. They were amber in colour and slowly moving towards the east along the northern edge of town. Each object remained a constant distance about 50m from each other north to south. What drew my attention to them was their color brightness and zero flashing. As they got closer and were passing overhead about 100m they did not make a sound. I called my partner and son to check it out and they were amazed at what they saw. The irony is that my video camera was not charged and mobile phone was dead.

To the west again a plane was flying very high as we saw the beacon flashing and heard the engine of that aircraft. It was flying south to north. We watched the two lights for about 15 minutes as they made their way to the east and disappeared over the horizon. They remained constantly at a distance from each other, did not make a sound and were bright. It was a clear night with the Moon setting in the west and as the lights passed stars in the background no silhouette or shape between the 2 lights was evident." (Greg.)

Courtesy of Google maps
Investigation
 

Sighting one:

In addition to posting on the Sydney Observatory site, Kim also emailed directly to Melbourne researcher, Paul Dean. Paul asked me to contact Kim and I sent him an email asking a number of questions. I have received no response as at the date of this report.

Sighting two:

I contacted Greg by email and posed a series of questions:

Q1 What was their apparent size compared to the full Moon on the horizon? Were they star sized?
A1 "They were a little larger than a star, like headlights of a car. What got my attention was their brightness."

Q2 What was the total duration of the sighting?
A2 "Approximately 20 minutes."

Q3 Did you watch them continuously?
A3 "Yes, for the first couple of minutes. I raced inside to grab a video camera to film it. Unfortunately it had a flat battery. When I returned after about 30 seconds, I watched them continuously until they were out of view on the horizon to the east travelling towards Ebor from Armidale."

Q4 Did each, or any of them vary in brightness at all? If so, how?
A4 "No, they remained the same intensity the whole time. The only time their luminosity got less as they moved further away."

Q5 When you say they disappeared, did they simply got out or disappear behind something?
A5 "They just simply went beyond the horizon where I could not  observe them any more."

Q6 What were the weather conditions like at the time?
A7 "The weather conditions at the time were prefect. There was no wind and zero clouds in the sky. It was a very clear night about 10 degrees Celsius."

Q7 Is the video you took able to be electronically forwarded to me to view?
A7 "Yes."

I then  later spoke to Greg by telephone and clarified a number of points, including whether or not he had ever seen a hot air garbage bag or a Chinese Lantern. He had not, and in fact asked me what these were? I ascertained that Greg lived in Erskine Street (see map above.)

Weather details
 
I obtained the relevant weather details from the Bureau of Meteorology's website, see the screen capture below:
 
 
 

At 2100hrs the temperature was 9.1 degrees Celsius; relative humidity 74%;wind speed was 9km/hr from the north-west.

At 2130hrs temp was 9.3C; 75%rh; wind speed 7km/hr from the west-north-west.

Radar

I checked Air Services Australia's WebTrak secondary radar coverage. It does not extend to Armidale.

Astronomical

The night sky is as shown in the screen capture below. The Moon was in the western sky.

Courtesy Heavens Above website
Analysis

1. Given that the times of the two sightings are different, and that the behaviour of the two sets of two lights are different (constant distance apart - Greg; and varying distances - Kim) it appears to me that we have two separate sightings of two sets of two lights, not two observations of the same set of two lights.

2. Greg in Erskine Street viewed his objects initially in the west-north-west, then overhead, then going eastwards. We do not have Kim's exact location, but he described his lights as heading eastwards.

3. At 2130hrs, the wind speed was 7km/hr from the west-north-west. Therefore, Greg's objects were travelling exactly from the direction the wind was blowing from, and heading in the same direction as the wind was blowing to, i.e. to the east. It could therefore be argued that Greg's objects were wind borne ones. All that can be said for Kim's objects is that they were heading in the same direction as the wind, i.e. east, and therefore it can be postulated that they were also wind borne.

4. The colour, brightness, size, shape, lack of sound are all consistent with either hoax hot air garbage bag balloons or Chinese lanterns. For those who have not seen a video of these devices, here are four Youtube videos which are very educational.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0qvP4mo1cds

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=MmWz_F_dPoc

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9eQ3ls64Al8

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=j0QtdpgT41k

5. The durations of 20 minutes for both sightings is also consistent with the light wind speed of between 7 and 9 km/hr.

6. Hoax hot air garbage bags may appear to "flicker" or "pulse" when seen at close range, but when viewed from a distance, the amber/orange light appears steady.

7. For a report from Cairns, Queensland of multiple orange lights which appear to have been either hot air garbage bag balloons or Chinese Lanterns, dated four days earlier, click here.

8. For a report of orange lights from Armidale, NSW date exactly one year earlier click here

Conclusion

My view, based on the details provided above, is that there was nothing inconsistent with either hoax hot air garbage bags  or Chinese lanterns.

They have been reported from Tasmania to Texas.

These are quite often launched by bored teenagers; particularly on warm, calm evenings. These individuals then track sightings via local media and community Facebook pages, for fun.

I welcome comments from blog readers.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Report from Cairns - Queensland - 17 September 2015

Hi all,

I sometimes receive details of sightings directly from individuals. This enables me to conduct a first hand investigation of the circumstances surrounding the event. Last night I heard from Greg of Bentley Park, a suburb of Cairns, some 9 kilometres south of the city centre, about a personal sightings at 2100hrs that night.


Courtesy of Google maps

Greg supplied the following details to me:

Four people saw "...an orange light, which then divided. The lights were just floating or hovering in the distance" in the west. "...2 more arrived. They moved very smoothly weaving in and around each other. Two then disappeared and then the final two did a bit more dancing and then also disappeared."

I posed the following questions to Greg. His responses are also shown below:

Q1. What direction were they moving in?
A1 "They were just kind of moving calmly around and hovering. Not closer or away."

Q2 What was their apparent size?
A2 "They were about a star size and about as bright as Venus."

Q3 Was there any associated noise?
A3 "No."

Q4 What was the total duration?
A4 "I watched them for about 5 minutes."

Q5 Was there any variation in brightness?
A5 "No they were consistent. They did twinkle, just a solid light."

Q6 How did they disappear?
A6 "Just disappeared. Vanished. There was nothing to hide behind."

Q7 What was the weather at the time?
A7 "Perfect clear night."

Courtesy of Google maps
The witness then added:

"Some others on Facebook said they saw them and people replied saying they were lanterns. I don't know how they could be lanterns because they wouldn't emit that much light."

I checked the weather details for 2100hrs for Cairns international airport, some 9 kms to the north. These were:

Courtesy of Bureau of Meteorology
 Temperature was 20.4 deg C; 90% relative humidity; wind was from the West at 6km/hr. Pressure was 1016.5hPa. No rain since 9am.

I then checked Air Services Australia's WebTrak secondary radar website. The relevant image is shown below. There were no aircraft in the area at that time.

Courtesy of WebTrak website
My thoughts:

My view, based on the details provided above, is that there was nothing inconsistent with either hot air garbage bags (click here on how they are made) or Chinese lanterns.

They have been reported from Tasmania to Texas.

These are quite often launched by bored teenagers; particularly on warm, calm evenings. These individuals then track sightings via local media and community Facebook pages, for fun.

Note added: 25 September 2015.

Additional sighting:

I had a comment on this post from a person, who wrote:

"Hi Keith,
We are in Edmonton, which is the suburb next to Bentley Park in Cairns. We were watching the lights in a North/Westerly direction. They seemed to have more of a glow/sparkle on the bottom of them, not around the whole circumference like a star would. What do you think about these?"


This observation of a glow on the bottom, strongly supports the lights being either garbage bag hoax balloons or Chinese lanterns, as the following Youtube video, of the launch of such a device

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0qvP4mo1cds
clearly shows the glow around the heat source at the bottom of the device.

Monday, September 14, 2015

New book alert - A Little America in Western Australia

Hi all,

It is not very often that I mention a non UAP book on this blog. I am about to make an exception.

A while ago, along with Melbourne colleague Paul Dean, I conducted some "cold case" research on an incident which occurred way back in October 1973, at a remote locality in Western Australia named North West Cape. I posted a series of articles describing what we knew of this incident; and some new original research, which included the details of one of the witnesses, who turned out to be an Australian citizen. These posts will be found at:

http://ufos-scientificresearch.blogspot.com.au/2013/12/north-west-cape-25-october-1973-initial.html

http://ufos-scientificresearch.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/time-check-for-north-west-cape-incident.html

http://ufos-scientificresearch.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/another-anomaly-with-north-west-cape.html

http://ufos-scientificresearch.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/raaf-base-pearce-western-australia-uap.html

http://ufos-scientificresearch.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/north-west-cape-incident-some-further.html

http://ufos-scientificresearch.blogspot.com.au/2014/07/william-gordon-lynn-25-october-1973.html

http://ufos-scientificresearch.blogspot.com.au/2014/07/north-west-cape-follow-up-questions.html

As you will gather from the number of posts on the incident, this was an impressive event.

New book
 
The subject of today's post is a new book titled "A Little America in Western Australia," authored by Anthony J Barker and Michael L Ondaatje, in 2015. It is published by University of Western Australia Publishing, Crawley, Western Australia. The ISBN if you are looking for a copy is 978-1-7425-86854.
 
 
 
Anthony J Barker is an Associate Professor, and Senior Research Fellow in the History Department of the University of Western Australia, while Michael J Ondaatje is an Associate Professor, and Head of the School of Arts at the Australian Catholic University.
 
The topic of the book is what was initially called the United States Navy communications station at North West Cape, when it was first established in 1963. Later the station was renamed the US NAVCOMSTA Harold E Holt. The book tells the story from both political and social perspectives. We learn about both the construction of the base and the nearby town of Exmouth, which was created to service personnel at the base.
 
Source of information utilised included files from the National Archives of Australia; items in the media, and numerous oral interviews. It paints an excellent picture of life at the base and in Exmouth; against the political scene at that time.
 
Although there is no mention of the 1973 UAP incident in this book, for those wishing to set the incident in a broader context, this is a must read.



Saturday, September 12, 2015

Found: two more Australian government files on the 1978 Valentich disappearance

Hi all,

On 28 June 2012, I advised that I had located an Australian government file on the 21 October 1978 disappearance of pilot Frederick Valentich, over Bass Strait. During that flight, he reported seeing an unusual object in the sky. His disappearance and the associated UAP report, generated intense international interest. To read my original post please click here.

That file

National Archives of Australia (NAA)  file series B1497, control symbol V116/783/1047 was titled "DSJ-Cape Otway to King Island 21 October 1978 - Aircraft missing (Valentich.)" I arranged for a digitised copy of this file to be placed in the public domain on the NAA website. It contained 315 pages of documents.



Andrew Arnold

At around the same time, Melbourne researcher Andrew Arnold located a second file dealing with the disappearance. This was file series A4703, control symbol 1978/1205, titled "VH-DSJ - light aircraft overdue - King Island." It contained 292 pages of documents. We arranged for this file to also be digitised and placed on the NAA website for anyone to read.




Further files

I recently discovered that the NAA holds two further files on the disappearance, which have never been seen by anyone outside of the Australian government, namely:

1. File series B638, control symbol M116/783/1047 part 1, titled "Accident on C182L - Moorabbin Vic/King Island Tas - 21 October 1978."

2. File series B638, control symbol M116/783/1047 part 2, titled "Accident on C182L - Moorabbin Vic/King Island Tas - 21 October 1978."

The status of both files is "Not Yet Examined." Immediately on finding them, I requested they be examined for release. This process can take up to six months. Once the files have a status of "Open," I will arrange for them to be digitised so anyone can read them. What they might contain is unknown at this time.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

New book alert - "Unidentified: The UFO Phenomenon"

Hi all,

Today's post is about another new book. This one is titled "Unidentified: the UFO Phenomenon" subtitled "How world government have conspired to conceal humanity's biggest secret." The author is Robert Salas. The book is published by New Page Books; Pompton Plains, NJ. 2015. ISBN 978-1-60163-342-2.



Who is Robert Salas?

In 1960 Salas attended the USAF Academy, in Colorado in the US (p.27.)  In 1967 he was stationed at the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. In June 1969 he transferred from Malmstrom Air Force Base, to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio (p.37.)  After this he went to the Space and Missile System Organization at the Los Angeles Air Force Station. (p.39.) In 1971 he resigned from the Air Force (p.39.) In 1973, he went to work for the Federal Aviation Administration and was there for more than 20 years until he retired from government service in 1995 (p.40.)

He is best known for his involvement in an incident, while being part of a missile combat crew:

"It was one of those quiet evenings when the event occurred that would eventually precipitate my deep interest in the UFO phenomenon and become a part of my life for many years to come. Most of the details of that event of March 24, 1967, are in my book Faded Giant (Salas and Klotz). (p.45.)



In short, during the observation of UAP, "I had the distinct feeling that something was about to happen to the missile systems... All of our missiles were indicating NO-GO; they were all disabled...Our equipment had somehow been tampered with from outside the capsule!" (p.46-47.)

Later, "I must emphasize here that in my own incident in Montana, just before my missiles were disabled and the UFO was still above the front gate to our Launch Control Center, I vividly recall pausing to look at my status board. I remember getting the distinct communication: We are going to shut down your nuclear weapons. I am convinced I, too, received that direct communication from an ET..." (p.206.)

What is the aim of the book?

"My objectives for this book are to review the secrecy - the distortion of the truth by governments - about the extra-terrestrial life that is visiting our planet and us." (p.21.)

What are Salas' views?

"There are two things I know with certainty about the UFO phenomenon. One is that the phenomenon is real. That is, real objects of unearthly origin are visiting our airspace and our planet. My second certainty is that the phenomenon of people being abducted by sentient beings, who are operating these unknown craft, is also a reality." (pp 15-16.)

"Having accepted these realities, other possible realities present themselves. Not the least of these is that secret groups must exist within world governments, including our own, that are also well aware of these truths. And because there has been no official public declaration by any of them of the UFO reality, they are all effectively in collusion with each other in hiding these facts from the general populace." (p.16.)

 "Therefore, I, without reservation, accuse the U.S. Department of the Air Force of a blatant, pervasive, and continuing cover-up of the facts; deception; distortion; and lying to the public about the reality of the UFO phenomenon." (p.75.)

From the aggregate of reliably reported incidents, I am convinced that our government and other governments have access to the physical evidence of extra-terrestrial craft and beings." (p.125.)

"The principal method by which government protects its secrets about the UFO phenomenon is by the simple claim that there is no "proof" of its existence." (p.132.)

"My thinking about the UFO phenomenon has evolved to where I now don't immediately discount any story that I hear." (p.142.)

Comment:

As this post is about the book, and not researching the 24 March 1967 incident , I must say that I found new details about Salas and his experiences, of which I was previously unaware. I can now see how he comes to arrive at the position he holds on the phenomenon.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

New book alert - "The Presidents and UFOs"

Hi all,

The subject of this blog is a new book by Larry Holcombe, "The President and UFOs: A secret history from FDR to Obama." St Martin's Press. New York. ISBN 978-1-250-04051-0.

How did he come to write the book?

In the introduction, we learn that Holcombe became interested in the subject in 1960, by reading Donald Keyhoe's books and seeing him on television.  "Since that night in 1960 I have watched from the sideline's as the UFO story unfolded and the evidence mounted." (p.3.)

 In 2008, working on a UFO based novel, led Holcombe to "..study a great amount of UFO-related material that included declassified documents, leaked documents, new stories, articles and TV documentaries."(p.4.)

By 2011 Holcombe had met and discussed his interest with a number of well known researchers. From an initial idea ...for a book on the background of making the documentary with Bob Emenegger...the idea for developing a complete history of presidential involvement in the UFO issue evolved." (p.19.)

What are the aims of the book?

Speaking of Stephen Bassett. "For his continuing and tireless efforts towards disclosure, my hat is off to him. It is also one of the purposes of my work with this book." (p239.)

The format of the book:

Chapters deal with one US presidential administrations (the exception being chapter one which covers both the Roosevelt and Truman administrations.) In a chapter, we learn information about each president; set against the issues of their day. In addition, the author provides details of the more interesting UAP cases from those years. As an example I will illustrate this by taking a look at chapter 10 which covers the Clinton administration.

Assistant Attorney General Webster Hubble in his book "Friends in High Places" in part reads "...states that early in his administration Clinton asked him to look into two things: who killed John F. Kennedy and what the government really knows about UFOs." (p.211.)

The author cites the November 1995 Clinton visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland and his reply to a young man who inquired about Roswell. "Clinton's reply, made with a humorous tilt was, "Now Ryan if you are out in the crowd tonight, here's the answer  to your question. No, as far as I know, an alien spacecraft did not crash in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. And Ryan, if the United States Air Force did recover alien bodies, they didn't tell me about it, either, and I want to know." (pp211-212.)

Clinton's 2005 Hong Kong interview about Roswell and UFOs "...he stated that he thought Roswell 'an illusion, I don't think it happened." (p.212.)

Also recounted, is the initiative by Laurence Rockefeller to "...have the government, or in particular, the Clinton administration, to disclose closely held UFO secrets." (p.213.)

The chapter goes on to discuss the 1997 Phoenix Lights; the 1994 Ohio sightings, and the 2000 southern Illinois sightings.

Research and analysis:

Unlike some researchers, Holcombe has conducted his own research into particular aspects of the phenomenon. Examples include one where Dr Bob Wood relayed a story that a Douglas test pilot called May had taken up an X-15 aircraft with 15 minutes of fuel but didn't land until three hours later. "In checking this story, I found that Gene May was a Douglas test pilot from 1941-1952, but never was involved in, or flew the X-15." (p.171.)

Holcombe visited various Presidential Libraries, but this research actually failed to substantiate a lot of the rumours and speculation which he writes about in this book, for example:

"Nixon's interest in the UFO phenomena has been rumoured for years but really had little solid data to back it up." (p.147.)

"Johnson's deep interest in space is unquestioned but little of consequence has been uncovered by my research, or the research of others in the Johnson library in Austin." (p.143.)

On George H W Bush. "I spent two days at the Bush Library in College Station, Texas, and with the help of an archivist, could not find a hint that President Bush was on the inside of UFO-related issues." (p.185.)

"It is well known that a number of well-reported flying saucer events took place during the Truman administration. However, memos and correspondence from or to the White house on the subject are difficult to find to the point of being all but non existent." (p.34.)

Speculation:

While I acknowledge Holcombe's sections where he has conducted his own research, there are numerous instances where even he admits he is speculating. Examples are:

In chapter four, the Johnson administration, the author of the power "...of the presidency over UFO issues...taken over by the intelligence community, the military and the military-industrial complex." (p.117.)The author then goes on to say "This shift in power, I believe, is one of the most important aspects of the entire and complex UFO story. Although it is pure speculation..." (p.117.)

Referring to the Kecksburg incident "One of these teams may well have been involved in the Kecksburg incident with Blue Book personnel playing an unwitting role. Of course, this is all speculation." (p.143.)

On the Phoenix lights. "It is also possible that NORAD could have been aware of the Phoenix objects and the military was alerted. This, of course, is all speculation." (pp 219-.220.)

Speaking of Robert Bigelow. "More recently, Bigelow has become more deeply involved in UFO issues and may have been brought into the loop of UFO insiders, although that is speculation." (p.319.)

 What are Holcombe's own views?

"It has been proven through the release of FOIA documents that the government has in fact remained deeply involved in the UFO issue." (p.154.)

"In looking at the Ford administration, we must also take into account that once becoming vice-president and then president, Jerry Ford, a man who had seven years prior been a moving force in congress to investigate what the government knew about UFOs became a clam on UFO issues. Is there a pattern here with Ford, then Carter and Clinton?...With Carter and later Clinton they were most likely considered risks by the keepers of the secret and kept out of the loop of UFO government intelligence."(p.180.)

Speaking of the 2006 O'Hare airport sighting, "This is yet another example that fuels the conspiracy theorists' belief that somewhere deep within the government, out of reach of even the president of the United States, there exists a powerful group that has an iron grip on the disclosure of UFO events." (p.202.)

On the involvement of science in the subject. "We must have increasing participation within the scientific community and reasonable scientific discussion, putting aside the stigma that UFOs are voodoo science before any real advances can be made in understanding the real nature of the UFO phenomenon." (p.210.)

"...one basic thesis of this book that discuses a paradigm shift with control of extra-terrestrial secrets from presidents to a select small group of government bureaucrats and certain leaders within the military-industrial complex." (p.213.)

On the subject of "Disclosure." "Disclosure would not be a pretty picture to a number of powerful people and a reason, I believe, that presidents are gently, or if necessary, forcibly told to stay away from the issue." (p.215.)

"Not being a scientist, I personally still embrace Occam's razor, which directs me to the ETH." (p.271.)

On the subject of a UFO information "control group." There was or is a control group buried within CIA counterintelligence or a part of CIA counterintelligence that has operational control over UFO issues." (p.272.)

"My great disappointment is in the realization that my government, or rather a small group that consists of high-level government bureaucrats and a select few in industry, have taken control of this scientific phenomena and have been successful in concealing it from the public with disinformation, threats and lies." (p.276.)

"I am advocating that our government discloses the existence of an extra-terrestrial presence..." (p.277.)

Oddities:

Chapter 13, "The Abduction Phenomenon" seems to have no link at all to the theme of presidents and UFOs at all. In fact most of the chapter presents the views of one researcher, MUFON's Kathleen Marden.

In summary:

I was hoping that this book would present volumes of new information, based on personal research. Instead, I found many of the same tired stories which have been circulating for years, with little hard data to back them up. In instances where Holcombe visited libraries and conducted his own research he found almost nothing to back up the hypothesis he was building up in the book. This doesn't seem to deter him. If there is no hard evidence, it must be buried deeper still, out of our reach.

Like many American researchers, Holcombe fails to acknowledge that there is a Ufology outside of the USA. If there is a conspiracy to control UFO information there should be evidence on a global level, yet he fails to take a look at countries such as France and Chile, both of whom have a long list of excellent cases and open government involvement.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Preliminary investigation report - Kairi, Queensland - 2014/2015

Preliminary investigation report

Compiled by Keith Basterfield

September 2015
 
 
Date:       2014/2015.
Time:      Between 2300 and midnight.
Location: Kairi, Queensland
Witness:  Adam, a self employed, male.
 
Background
 
On 14 August 2015, Adam posted to the Sydney Observatory lights in the sky website:
 
"Hi, I live in Kairi, Queensland, Australia. For the last year I have been watching a strange drone like object that is shaped like a stingray, every night between 11pm and 12am fly over Tinaroo dam and it heads towards Mareeba. It goes towards Mareeba then comes back later then goes back a few times a night.
 
It has strange lights on it and is super quiet almost silent. It moves side to side when you watch it and it can take off very fast within seconds and still; no sound. You can see it as it flys towards me then overhead and quite often when I go and pick up my friend from work in Mareeba of a night I will follow it that way but it is able to take off so fast then it can just disappear.
 
Every night I see it and it is on the clear nights also. And it is whether the moon is out or not. One time I seen it coming it just appeared and this time it had a sound like the engine failed and it was going to crash, then it made a strange sound then took off super fast then it was gone with in a flash."
Google satellite of area
 
Google map of area

 
Investigation
 
1. My initial response:

 On 18 August 2015, I posted a "reply" on the website, asking Adam to get in touch with me, which he did. Over a series of emails, I posed the following questions, and received Adam's responses.
 
Q1 How does the object come into view? For example, does it come over the horizon like an aircraft does, or perhaps simply appear in the sky?
A1 "It comes over the horizon."
 
Q2 Have you any idea what compass direction, e.g. north-west, it appears from and what compass direction it goes to?
A2 "It travels coming from a north-east direction and heads towards a south-west direction."
 
Q3 At its closest, how big does it appear in the sky? Say compared to the full moon near the horizon, e.g. half as big?
A3 "It looks like the size of a small light plain or drone when it is overhead."
 
Q4 I appreciate that your sightings are at night, but are you able to see any colour to the object?
A4 "It looks like it might be a gray like colour with a diamond shape to it."
 
Q5 Can you please more fully describe the "strange lights" e.g. number, colour and geometric arrangement?
A5 "There are 4 lights and the lights wight like colours that all flash at once to the shape of it."
 
Q6 You mention it is "almost silent." Does this mean that there is some noise? If so, can you describe what you hear?
A6 "It makes a very faint humming sound and one time it shot off very fast and it sounded like a strange winding sound."
 
Q7 When you say it moves from "side to side" do you mean that it travels along and it moves up and down?
A7 "As it moves you can see it coming and it looks like it is zigzagging, very fast but going still strait on."
 
2. Check with UFO Research Queensland:

On 18 August 2015 I sent an email to Sheryl Gottschall, UFO Research Queensland and asked if she had heard of this case. She had not. I later found that a UFORQ researcher, Alec who lived in Cairns, had also asked Adam via the website to get in touch with him. I informed Alec of my interest and asked him if he wished me to withdraw from investigating? He said he did not. I therefore continued to look into the case.
 
3. Further questions:

I then sent further questions to Adam:
 
Q8 Does it become stationary at any point in its flight path?
A8 "It keeps on moving, you can see it come over the horizon till it goes over the horizon."
 
Q9 How long is it in view from the time it comes over the horizon to when you last see it?
A9 Adam did not respond to this question.
 
Q10 Did you lose sight of it because it goes over the horizon or in some other way?
A10 See A8.
 
Q11 Are there any nights you don't see it every night?
A11 "You see it every night. I am always looking for it. It is not often I can't go and look for it threw the night it goes back and forward a few times."
 
Q13 Has anyone locally, either on Facebook, radio or local newspaper ever said they have also seen the object?
A13 "I no of a few people that have seen it that live around here."
 
Q14 How long have you lived in Kairi?
A14 "I have lived here for 4 years."
 
Q15 Have you told anyone about your sighting? If so, what do they think?
A15 "I told some friends they then wanted to see it and now they have all seen it and say it is very strange like nothing they have ever seen."
 
4. WebTrak:
 
As Kairi is 40 kilometres direct distance from Cairns international airport, I decided to check the airport's secondary radar via the Air Services Australia WebTrak website.I has specifically asked Adam for the date and time of his latest sighting of the object. He told me this was 2330hrs on 18 August 2015. I therefore checked WebTrak between 2300 and 2359hrs 18 August.  There were only two aircraft movements as shown in the following screen shots.

I also checked several other nights data from 2300 and 2359hrs each of these nights. Only aircraft were seen on the website.
 
Around 2325hrs
Around 2336hrs


5. CASA:
 
In a response to Adam, Andrew Jacobs of Sydney Observatory suggested the object may be a drone and suggested checking the list of approved drone operators for the area, via the website of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. I did this and emailed droner.com.au a Cairns based drone operator. I asked them if they were responsible for the sightings? They responded that they were not.
 
6. Primary radar:
 
I forwarded a request under the FOI Act to Air Services Australia, asking for primary radar data from Cairns airport for 10 minutes either side of 2330hrs 18 August. As at the date of typing this preliminary report, ASA are processing my request.
 
7. Local media:
 
I obtained the name of the local newspaper and local radio station for the area.  I searched the Facebook site for "The Tablelander." There was no reference to local UAP sightings. I left a message on their Facebook page asking anyone with information to contact me. As at the date of this report, no one has contacted me.
 
I did the same for Radio station 97.9 Hot FM. Again, no reports on their Facebook page and no response to a message I left on their Facebook page.
 
8. Other searches:
 
I did a search on the Internet using the terms "drone"; "UFO" etc for Kairi, Cairns and other localities in that area. I did find out that the RAAF were flying a drone Heron remotely piloted aircraft associated with the joint US/Australian exercise Talisman, from Rockhampton in June 2015. A RAAF spokesman said most of the time it flew at 30000 feet and would not be visible to civilians except when landing and taking off.
 
9. Internet check:

Curiously, I did find one Internet reference to the following:
 
22 April 1995 0510hrs Kairi, Queensland.
"A mantra ray-shaped UFO paces car for several kms. Had cockpit and window. Illuminates ground as it flew rapidly to the east." The source is given as Larry Hatch's database.
 
I have looked for any further information on this report, but have been unable to find any. If any blog reader has further information on this, please let me know.
 
10. Witness check:

I am aware of Adam's full name and mobile telephone number. There is a Facebook page in this name, stating that Adam lives in Kairi, Queensland, is self employed, and studied Travel and Tourism at TAFE. It says that Adam was originally from the Australian Capital Territory. It has a picture of Adam.

11. Weather for 18 Aug 2015:

I obtained weather details for the one specific date the object was known to have been seen:

(1) Mareeba - 21 kms away station id 031210.
a. 2300hrs Temp was 13.6 deg C; relative humidity 89%; wind from SE at 9km/hr; pressure 1020.0hPa.
b. 2330hrs 14.1 deg C; 89%; wind from SE at 9km/hr; 1019.9hPa.
c. Midnight 13.9 deg C; 82%; SE at 7km/hr; 1019.7hPa.

(2) Cairns - 40 kms away.
a. 2300hrs 18.6; 82%; wind from WNW at 4km/hr; 1018.6.
b. 2330hrs 17.9; 87%; NNW at 6km/hr; 1018.5.
c. Midnight 16.7; 91%; calm; 1018.4.
 
Analysis
 
I find it difficult to assign this case, to any particular category at the moment. Adam, despite me asking, has not put me in touch with anyone else whom he says has seen the object, and I have found no independent witnesses. I am awaiting any primary radar data from Air Services Australia.
 
I welcome comments from blog readers, about how to progress the investigation, if possible.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Preliminary investigation report - Point Cook, Victoria - 23 August 2015

Preliminary investigation report by Paul Dean and Keith Basterfield

September 2015

Date:         Sunday 23 August 2015.
Time:       1530hrs AEST (UTC + 10 hours.)
Location:  Point Cook, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Witness:   Married woman, aged 42 from Werribie South.


Details

1. Email:

The sighting was initially reported by email directly to Keith Basterfield, shortly after it happened. The email read:

"I was driving along Sneydes Road, Point Cook towards my local IGA supermarket when I noticed a strange object moving south to north just below the cloud line. It was a shiny, silver 'ring' or doughnut for lack of a better word, and it was flying about the same speed as a commercial airliner. It made no sound and had no vapour trail.

I quickly pulled over and stopped in a quiet side street, got my phone out of the car and began filming it. As I was filming I realised I could see the object by naked eye but it wasn't shown up in my view finder.

The 'ring' was flying vertically at a consistent speed and at first I thought it might be a balloon but quickly realised the wind was blowing in the opposite direction this object was flying in.

The object also began to rotate on an angle so that at times it appeared as a ring and then as a straight vertical line then rotate back to a 'ring.'

Google map of the area

2. Telephone interview:

Paul Dean telephoned the witness within two days and spoke to her to gather additional information. The witness was most co-operative at all times with our investigation, being very puzzled as to what she had observed.

Additional information secured by interview was:

- The first person she told about the sighting was her husband and she told him "I think I just saw a UFO."
- The object was below clouds, not in them.
- Total duration of the sighting was 5-6 minutes.
- She has excellent eyesight.
- After the object had disappeared from view, she stayed around for a while in case it returned.
- She turned off Sneydes into Florey.

Google satellite image of the area

3. Email questions:

Over the course of the next few days both authors communicated with the witness by email and asked a series of questions, to which the witness promptly responded. These questions and answers are listed below.

Q1 Which direction were you travelling in?
A1 Travelling east.

Q2 Did you initially see the object through the vehicle windscreen or another window?
A2 Initially seen through the driver's side window.

Q3 Initially was the object sighted down near the bottom of the window, near the top or at some other point?
A3 Closer to the top of the window, just above middle of window.

Q4 Did the object's apparent size change?
A4 Never changed size.

Q5 Did its brightness change?
A5 Never changed brightness. But stood out very clearly against the clouds.

Q6 How did you lose sight of it?
A6 It disappeared behind a thick bank of clouds.

Q7 What was its angular size, say compared to the full Moon when seen on the horizon?
A7 It was tiny compared to the full Moon.

The witness also advised that a more accurate track for the object was from south-east to north-west.


Investigation
 
1. WebTrak
 
The Air Services Australia WebTrak secondary radar website was consulted for that day and time. The program was run between 1500 and 1600 hours on Sunday 23 August 2015, and the area around Point Cook was examined. The following screen shot is for 1530 hours.
 
 


Between 1500 and 1600 hours, only three aircraft passed near Point Cook:

1. At 1533 hrs a light aircraft tracked north-east to south-west to the north of Point Cook at 9000 feet.

2. At 1547 hrs QJE 1505 flew Melbourne to Hobart tracking north-west to south-east almost directly over Point Cook at 12000 feet.

3. At 1548 hrs another light aircraft flew north-east to south-west, almost directly over Point Cook at 3100 feet.

2. Weather

We secured weather details from the Bureau of Meteorology. The closest weather station listed is at RAAF Laverton, 5.9km from Point Cook. Station number 087031.

For 23 August 2015, the minimum temperature was 4.9 deg C; maximum 15.8 deg C; maximum wind gust was from the south-south-east at 30 km/hr at 1618hrs that day.

At 9am the temperature was 10.9 deg C; 91% relative humidity, cloud cover was total; and the surface wind was from the north-west at 9km/hr ; pressure was 1020.ohPa.

By 3pm that day, the temperature was 14.9 deg c; 64% relative humidity; cloud cover was 1/8th; wind was from the south-south-east at 17 km/hr; pressure 1019.0hPa.


As we checked within three days of the event, we were also able to obtain weather details at half hour intervals for Laverton that day.


Laverton details for the time of the sighting, 1530hrs were:

13.5 deg C;70% relative humidity; winds from the south-east at 19km/hr; pressure 1019.1hPa.

Upper air soundings:

We located a website which provides twice daily upper air soundings, measured at Melbourne airport. Here we find details which include the wind speed and wind direction for various heights above the ground. These are taken at 0000hrs UTC (1000hrs Melbourne time) and 1200hrs UTC (2200hrs Melbourne time.)

The following screenshot shows this data for 1000hrs 23 August 2015. Surface wind is from the north at 5 knots. Compare this to Laverton at 9am where wind is coming from the north-west at 5 knots, very similar data.


The next screenshot shows the data for 2200hrs that night, 6.5hrs after the Point Cook sighting. The surface wind is from 170 deg, almost south at 9 knots. Compare this with Laverton at 1530hrs wind from the south-east at 19kms/hr, similar data.





Primary radar
 
Paul Dean has submitted a request to Air Services Australia for primary radar data for the area on that day. It will take up to 30 days to process.


In summary

An observation was made at 1530hrs Sunday 23 August 2015 from Sneydes Road, Point Cook, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria. Initially it was seen at about 30 degrees elevation to the south-east. The object travelled south-east to north-west. The object, according to the witness was at all times below clouds and seen against the clouds. The object never changed size, colour or brightness. After a total duration of 5-6 minutes it was lost to sight behind a thick band of clouds to the north-west. Angular size was tiny compared to the full Moon. In appearance it looked at times to be a shiny silver 'ring' or doughnut shape. At other times it appeared to be a straight vertical line. The witness stated that it was travelling against the prevailing surface winds.

 
Analysis
 
The initial impression gained from all this data, is that the object was probably wind borne debris of some kind. The weather data, contrary to the witness' assertion, indicates that the object was moving with the surface wind direction. The small angular size, no change in size, colour or brightness, but changing geometry from 'ring' to vertical straight line, also, in our opinion supports this hypothesis.
 
 
Comments by Keith Basterfield
 
1. Recently, I was at a local shopping centre, when my attention was drawn to an object in the sky. It seemed to be reflecting the sun in a cloudless sky. I watched it for a while and had time to photograph it twice before I lost sight of it. When examining the photographs on my computer, I could make out an apparently round, small angular sized, white/silver light. However, there was no way from the photograph that I could have determined what I already knew it was. I had initially seen it at a closer range, and saw that it was a transparent plastic bag of some kind. Below are my two photographs I took.
 




 
2. An excellent video, shot by Brad Morris of Melbourne appears on the Facebook page for "Melbourne UFO sightings." It captures an object at 1240hrs on 30 August 2015. It shows a silver/white semi transparent object heading north at high altitude. Brad's thoughts as to what it was were "I think it is safe to assume its a balloon."
 
3. My impression, from watching a number of videos of this kind, is that there is far more wind borne debris around in the sky than you would think. I have in the past, also seen cardboard boxes and plastic dry cleaning bags drifting through the air for several minutes. You can only be certain of what they are, by either having seen them at one point from a relatively close distance; or by the use of binoculars.
 
 
In conclusion
 
We welcome comments from blog readers on our analysis, and hypothesis that this sighting was of wind borne debris. Naturally, if there is radar confirmation of the object by Air Services primary radar, this may well change our preliminary conclusion.

Westall - and James E McDonald's files

Background The late US researcher James E McDonald visited Australia in 1967. While here, he interviewed dozens of Australians about thei...