UFOIC (UFO INVESTIGATION CENTRE)
PO Box W42
West Pennant Hills
After Captain James Cook's voyage along the coast of Australia, Joseph Banks recorded in his Endeavour journal sighting a "Phaenomenon" near Timor. On September 16th, 1770, he noted:
"About 10 O'clock a Phaenomenon appeared in the heavens in many things resembling the Aurora Borealis but differing materialy in others: it consisted of a dull reddish light reaching in hight about 20 degrees above the Horizon: its extent was very different at different times but never less than 8 or 10 points of the compass. Through and out of this passd rays of a brighter colourd light tending directly upwards; these appeard and vanishd near in the same time as those of the Aurora Borealis, but were entirely without the trembling or vibratory motion observd in that Phaenomenon. The body of it bore from the ship SSE: it lasted as bright as ever till near 12 when I went down to sleep but how much longer I cannot tell."
This was almost certainly a display of the Aurora Australis, but while the low latitude of Timor is unusual for auroral displays, it is not unprecedented. J. C. Beaglehole, who edited Bank's journal, did however point out that there was light solar activity in 1770 and in September of that year.
With the advent of white colonisation, documented accounts appeared with some frequency. Because of the number involved, only a selection has been included here. Most of the early accounts would probably have an explanation if more information was available. A number however seem to defy easy explanation.
In "An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales", Lt.-Col. Collins recorded in 1793:
"An extraordinary appearance in the fky was obferved by feveral people between five and fix o'clock in the evening of Friday 12th of the month. It was noticed in the north-weft, and appeared as if a ray of forked lightning had been ftationary in that quarter of the fky for about fifteen minutes, which was the time it was vifible. It was not to be difcerned, however, after the fun had quitted the horizon."
This observation is difficult to resolve, due to a paucity of information, but may be some sort of refractive or reflective abberation related to the "fun" (sun).
"A UFO VISION"
In about 1975, a 15 page document came to my notice. The material described itself as a "Copy from the Memorandum Book of Fred Wm. Birmingham, the Engineer to the Council of Parramatta. A machine to go through the air. A.D. 1873." It was ostensibly prepared by a group of people, with the work co-ordinated by Mr T.V. Homan (now deceased) -- a former staff member of the UFO Investigation Centre (UFOIC). The undated copy was at least known to have been produced during the 1950s.
If the "Memorandum Book" of Fred. Wm. Birmingham is to be believed, then Parramatta, in 1868, played host to a most peculiar "machine to go through the air." Although I had the "Memorandum Book" copy in my possession for some years, other activities always largely managed to prevent me from carrying out my desire to confirm the possible historical validity of the Birmingham account.
It was not until January, 1980, that an oblique stimulus appeared which was sufficient to encourage me to launch into what has developed into a detailed and exhaustive enquiry into the "Memorandum Book of Fred. Wm. Birmingham."
That stimulus was "An Account of a Meeting with Denizens of Another World - 1871 - William Robert Loosley - edited and with commentary by David Langford". Although I found the Loosley/Langford account uncompelling and unsatisfactory, it was enough to project me into attempting to see whether there was something of substance behind the Birmingham account. My scepticism of Langford's book was justified. Years later he confirmed it had been a hoax.
"On the night of the 25th - 26th July Anno Domino (original spelling) 1868, I had a wonderful dream -- a vision..."
Birmingham described standing under the verandah of his rented cottage in Duck's Lane, Parramatta, when he saw up in the sky, to the north-east, the passage of a bizarre apparitional procession. This consisted of "the Lord Bishop of Sydney's head in the air looking intently upon me in a frowning half laughing mood... I watched it intently and when it had travelled to the east it dimmed -- just as one loses his focus by quickly drawing in or out the slide of a telescope."
In the same manner, "the Premier's head twice appeared... this dimmed and again the Lord Bishop's head shone forth as it were looking intently and impeachingly upon me, and travelling southerly to about s.s-east."
Birmingham dropped his gaze to ponder the extraordinary display. "After some considerable time I determined to look at the head or heads again...," but they were gone.
"I retraced the course the head had taken and just in the spot where I first saw the head I saw an 'Ark' and while looking at it - moving along the same track as the head had taken -- I said to myself aloud, `Well that is a beautiful vessel.' I had no sooner ended the sentence than I was made aware that I was not alone, for to my right hand and a little to the rear of my frontage a distinct voice said, slowly -- `That's a machine to go through the air.'
"In a little time I replied - `It appears to me more like a vessel for going upon the water, but, at all events, it's the loveliest thing I ever saw.'
"I then felt that somehow or another the spirit and I were as it may have been spiritually on the highest part of the Parramatta Park."
By this time, "the machine" had moved through the air in a zig-zag fashion, "then quite, stopped, the forward motion and decended some twenty feet or so as gently as a feather on the grass," at a distance of about 20 yards from Birmingham and the "spirit."
Birmingham described the ark in the following way:
"...through a brown colour (rubber!) all over at a distance... its peculiar shapings are well impressioned upon my mind and the colour seemed to blend with faint, flitting shades of steel blue, below and appearing tremulous and like what one might term magnified scales on a large fish, the latter being as it were flying in the air, (the machine has not the shape of anything that has life)."
The "spirit" was described by Birmingham as being "like a neutral tint shade (white? - B.C.) and the shape of a man in his usual frock dress."
It said to him, "Have you a desire or do you wish to enter upon it?" Birmingham replied, "Yes."
"`Then come' - said the spirit, thereupon we were lifted off the grass and gently carried through the air and onto the upper part of the machine."
The spirit beckoned the surveyor to enter the "pilot house" (as Birmingham termed a part of the machine) saying, "Step in."
Birmingham described how he went down about three steep steps. They led into the pilot house room, which was about three and a half feet lower than the deck of the machine. The only feature of the room was a table, about five feet by three and a half feet and two and a half feet high covered with material like oilskin, "or perhaps iron covered with rubber cloth tightly." About two feet separated the table and the walls of the room. Birmingham referred to how, "everything appeared very strong, the sides I noticed were extremely thick, about six inches -- and I (then) wondered why they were so strong in `a machine to go through the air'."
Standing alone at the rear end of the table, whereupon he rested one hand, Birmingham began to repent agreeing to "entering upon" the "ark."
"I felt miserably queer -- just like one who undertaking a billet or post he knows nothing of. So I remained for some considerable time, when I was aroused as it were from my reverie by the voice of the spirit on my right hand, who said, `Here are some papers for your guidance'."
The hand of the spirit was resting on the table and within it were several printed papers. The first paper was covered with figures and formulae.
"...Thinking the formulae and figures of other kinds might be too intricate for my comprehension I said to the spirit -- 'Oh! Will I want them?' The spirit replied slowly, but with marked emphasis, `It is absolutely necessary that you should know these things, but, you can study them as you go on'."
"... I again cast down my eyes between my hands as it were on the table and considering silently the words of the holy spirit and when I looked about I found I was alone in the ark!
"So I fell, I suppose, into my usual sleeping state, and waking next morning deeply impressed with that vision of the night..."
Birmingham pondered his "vision" occasionally but could only rationalise
(to his own satisfaction at least) the first portion, namely that it reminded
"that I must serve God by conforming to the Christian doctrine and laws of his church. (Christ's Bride). As to the second portion of the vision I could not conclude what it meant - at least in any satisfactory way (`a machine to go through the air' -- or in other words, the ark mentioned in the Book of Revelations!)"
Things did not end there for Frederick William Birmingham.
"I need hardly say I was astounded for a time... The thing has sunk deeply into my mind even to my very soul, and I now know that the power of god never sleeps. (The latch for years before and years after this occurrence never did rise without hands to it or hand and cane)."
"Day by day and at night in my wakeful moments I have often rehearsed the wonderful dreams I have had, and coupling them one day with the vision of the Lord Bishop's head and the latch rising, I came down from the hill in the Parramatta Park firmly convinced that the vision was gradually unfolding itself and `the machine to go through the air' was a thing (through God's mercy) to be accomplished.
"I sat down at the same end of the table where from I saw the latch rise, calculating pressures etc. and taking a match box in my hand and letting it drop on the table I said aloud 'But, how in the name of goodness can I overcome 'gravity'.' I instantly felt in my left air a sound like that produced by pressing a large sea shell close to one's ear, and the words `Are not the sides greater than a third'. Becoming excited and in great joy I said aloud, "Yes, and the sides and bottom working together can overcome the top'. This was the first practical clue as to forming the interior parts of the machine I saw in the vision of the aforenamed night 25th - 26th July, 1868. (About three years and nine months had passed away viz to the 15th April, 1872)."
Mrs de Launte obtained the original memorandum book from a Mr Wallace Haywood, a teacher, who lived in the Park, Parramatta, a street which ran along the south-western perimeter of Parramatta Park. How Mr Haywood obtained the memorandum book is unclear, but it is known that it was in his family for quite a long time, either obtained directly or indirectly. It may be significant that Haywood's home was situated within a few hundred yards of "the highest part of the Parramatta Park" -- Parramatta Park Hill -- ostensibly the landing site of the ark in Birmingham's vision.
I found nothing in the "Memorandum Book of Fred. Wm. Birmingham... A.D 1873," which was inconsistent with information known at that time in the 19th century. No apparent anachronism exists in the manuscript's text. The allusion to Birmingham's surprise as to why the ark's furnishings were "extremely thick" and "very strong," and the reference to rubber, steel, centrifugal pumps and "positive and negative electricity" are realistic for the period of the manuscript -- 1868 to 1873.
The Memorandum Book is therefore consistent with the period in which it is based. Research has taken the established existence of the document, back at least to the early 1940s, when it was in the possession of the Parramatta school teacher. The case for the manuscript being what it purports to be -- a Memorandum Book written by a Parramatta resident in 1873 -- is, I believe, well established. The chance of it being a literary hoax perpetrated around the early 1940s or earlier, certainly seems quite remote.
The bizarre nature of the Birmingham vision (the dream-like quality of the account, floating heads, spirits, flying, instantaneous relocation, poltergeists, voices and not-the-least -- visions -- all elements of dreams, psychotic episodes, hallucinations or other realities, depending where your preferences lie), does not, in my mind, lessen its relevancy to modern UFO accounts of contacts, contactees, abductions and the like.
The impossible and the totally absurd are no longer strange bedfellows in today's UFO accounts. So as the bizarre fabric of UFO experiences continues to be woven onto the world scene and incorporated into our culture at what seems to be both a subtle but profound level, I consider it unlikely that such accounts will cease. The bizarre and impossible will continue to emerge. But at what level of human existence are these sorts of experiences occurring.
Were the visions of Fred. Wm. Birmingham objective or subjective in nature? Does the Memorandum Book record a real physical event or is it principally psychological in origin? Perhaps the event had some physical basis, but was embroidered by fantasy and imagination. Probably most contactee, contact and abduction events of the modern era beg the same questions.
In 1873, Birmingham had a clear and undeniable daylight sighting of a UFO.
"My thoughts have been continually bent on unravelling and learning the matter, and the little monies I could spare went towards experimenting an d each experiment learnt me something but, on the last of the three principal occasions, I was disappointed and felt unhappy and laid on my back on my `couch' for a long time (some hours) thinking and when I had finished all of my thinking I said aloud to myself - `Well, I don't care, I believe it firmly and try I will if I should fail a thousand times, to the day of my death I will believe in it'.
"So saying I threw myself on my feet and went out to the kitchen (at 7 p.m.) and slowly took my evening meal. The sun was or had just set. My door was open and my eyes were toward the sky which was quite clear, excepting three small clouds of Van Dyke brown colour, in the south-west a little separate.
"The middle one being the largest, drew my attention and was without doubt, the most extraordinary cloud in its wonderful movements that I ever saw. I made a sketch of it which I keep because it is evidence that we are taught betimes by the great and good spirit."
Birmingham records the date as March 9, 1873.
Out of the middle "cloud" appeared two screw-like appendages, which projected downwards. Between these "screws" appeared a "second shape with like two flat necks on a turtle shaped body". How it came there puzzled Birmingham. The "necks" bent up as the screws rotated about seven times more.
"As the screws reversed the neck(s) came down gradually to the horizon tal position and after a few minutes (2 or 3 minutes) the screw part rotated the second time and reversed as before. After this double operation the `turtle' disappeared, I then knew not where to.
"After a few minutes lapse of time I was astonished (and said aloud) ` Well I declare! The turtle is forming again', and sure enough, in the same shape and place it remained for a pause of a few minutes, and to my surprise the movements were exactly the same as the previous series, namely twice screwed and twice reversed all the same forms as before.
"After a couple of minutes the turtle began to fade away and the last shred of it I saw winding around and going upwards to the middle cloud and to my surprise the two big three-threaded screws folded up like the arms of a bear and lost their shape in the middle cloud! Just after this the whole three clouds which had remained stationary in the sky for, as truly as I can reckon, (without a clock or watch) twenty to twenty five minutes or so - moved quickly south-easterly, formed into one cloud and in about three mi nutes melted out of sight. This going away of the clouds was so quickly done that I had to rise quickly and step out of doors to watch them!"
"There may be a meaning in all this."
"I thought silently over the thing that was shown one, and said I to myself `How could these things be done!' So I concluded that the cloud material was worked upon by positive and negative electricity -- for wind there was none seemingly -- after some lapse of time I said to myself 'There may be a meaning in all this' -- doubled over and twice each time. I then thought of Pharaoh's `dream' of the fat and the lean kine - but said I (inwardly) `Pharaoh's was a dream but this just now seen by me was in daylight!'
"It sunk as it were deep into my soul and I concluded that the thing was shown one by God, but I could not on that day unravel it -- but my fixed belief then (and ever since) was that there was a meaning -- a teaching for me in it."
There the account finishes.
Birmingham's memorandum book indicated he had become obsessed with learning the secret of the "ark". However he died, ostensibly without finding out the secret, in 1893, 19 years before a more prosaic "machine to go through the air" landed in Parramatta Park.
On June 29, 1912, William E. Hart, a Parramatta dentist and holder of Australia's first aerial pilot's licence, won Australia's first air race.
He challenged the visiting American flier, "Wizard" Stone, to a twenty mile race for a stake of 250 pounds. Stone lost his way, landing at Lakemba, but Hart, a much less experienced pilot, finished the flight in 23 minutes and landed as planned in Parramatta Park.
"...I came down from the hill in the Parramatta Park firmly convinced that the vision was gradually unfolding itself and 'the machine to go through the air' was a thing (through God's mercy) to be accomplished."
-- Fred. Wm. Birmingham, 1873.
Our antipodean history continues. Consider the following bizarre story published in the NSW country paper, the "Burragorang Argus", of July 10 , 1869:
"EXTRAORDINARY OCCURRENCES.-- In these enlightened times it seems almost an absurdity to talk about ghosts making their appearance, but the following statement of what has befallen three respectable men residing near Young is authentic, and may be relied upon by our readers as being no hoax.
"The three men referred to are splitting posts and rails for fencing at a place about four miles from Young, near the Three-Mile and the old Duffer Rush.
"The first time they saw anything unusual was on one moonlight night, about three weeks ago, when they were much startled by seeing in the bush near their hut, a white object about the size of a cat, but of no particular form.
"This extraordinary looking object suddenly before their eyes sprung up into a white spectre about eight feet high. They called out to it, but could no reply, struck it with a stick, and it sounded hollow. It also chased two of them one way, and one another.
"On another occasion they retired to bed at the usual hour on a calm still night, went to sleep, slept for some time and, upon one waking up during the night, he was surprised to find that the whole of the roof of the hut had been removed. On looking out they saw the spectre, but no one else was about, and they are all quite sure that neither on this or the former occassion was it either a man or a woman. Its suddenly rising before their eyes from a mere nothing to a height of eight feet quite dumbfounded them.
"Another night they were much surprised at seeing a strange, unearthly-looking animal somewhat resembling a dog, with a long chain attached to it. This animal came right in front of the hut, and commenced grinning at them, but made no noise, either by barking or otherwise, save the occassional rattling of his chain. As the animal would not go away, one of the men (who was a good shot) loaded a gun, and fired the contents direct at the brute, but the shot took no effect upon it. The dog, or whatever it was, remained for some considerable time.
"On another night the dog seemed to have returned, for they heard the rattling of a chain and a noise like what a dog would make when licking a plate.
Upon looking outside, they saw that a plate which had been left there was in motion, but they could not see what caused it to be so, although they could, while looking, distinctly hear the same noise described above. They watched it for some time, the plate being kept in motion, and the noise being distinctly heard as if the plate was being licked by some animal. "On Sunday last these men came into Young, and upon one of them returning in the evening he found that the door of the hut had been pulled down and its contents brought outside and left there.
"Two out of the three men are well known to us, and we feel confident that what we have stated may be relied upon as being the truth. A shepherd told these men that some time ago two men who were splitting there quarrelled, and one killed the other with an axe, and afterwards fell a tree on him, and that it was nothing extraordinary for the murdered man's ghost to make its appearance."
While this bizarre tale may be better left in a book on ghosts or poltergiests, the early description of the white object suddenly changing into an eight foot spectre and apparent changes in form, are intriguing and are curious reminders of the often reported apparitional nature of alleged UFO entities. A few examples, before we return to our historical narratives, will I think make the point adequately.
Amidst the virtually impenetrable rainforests of the Dorrigo plateau in north-eastern NSW, a road out of the small timber town of Lowanna winds erratically and eventually comes to a railway crossing. The rail line has been long out of use and the crossing has taken on a sinister reputation, apparently based on reports of strange goings-on. While in the local area documenting a UFO flap in progress during 1973, I found the time to find out a little more about the "haunted" Tullawooghie crossing.
On at least a dozen occassions during the period from 1964 to 1972 people travelling along this isolated timber road have observed a brilliant white light "like a searchlight" shining up through the dense inhospitable growth in the rainforest that surrounds the crossing. On occasions curious travellers have stopped to get a better look only to be terrified by the spectacle of this light coming towards them, "bounding out of the forest and across the road." The light appeared to consist of "four squares of light" as it passed across the road in front of the frightened witnesses.
During 1968 or 1969, within a month of seeing the bobbing light, a married couple claimed they encountered a "ghost" at the crossing. Just after passing over the railway crossing, the husband saw a man apparently wearing a flannel shirt and dungarees and a broad-brimmed hat, walking ahead of them in the same direction they were travelling. As he drove closer the husband was suddenly overwhelmed with fear. The "normal man" was transparent! This "man" did not look around at all, as the car passed him -- instead he continued walking along the road, apparently totally unaware of the couple passing. Local lore suggested that slowing down at the crossing flushed out either the light or the ghost. I tried that out on a number of occassions and even camped there once; but no, I attracted neither apparition, but found a lot of leeches.
An apparition called "the Yellow Lady" appeared before the wife of a shooter visiting an isolated highland farming property in Central Tasmania during the Easter of 1973. During the early hours of the morning, a female figure entered their caravan by diving head first first through the van's roof hatch. She seemed to be wearing a yellow sleeveless dress and a light scarf over her heavily made up face. She evaded the reach of the shooters wife. Finally after 2 or 3 minutes the shooter's wife despaired of the woman's strange behaviour and said, "I want to go back to sleep." The figure then slowly went back to the hatch and disappeared into the night. The shooter was in bed with his wife, recalls that his wife had tried to wake him up during the night, but was too tired to look.
The same area became the centre of unusual UFO activity for much of 1975. Unusual lights were seen from about March, coincidentally from the time when lights were installed. They became so frequent that a system was set up amongst people working on the property to alert everyone to their presence. Lights appeared to land on Table Mountain. Two locals climbed the mountain and found evidence of small indentations and other possible ground traces. The connection with the strange light activity could not be proved.
The "Yellow Lady" may have put in an appearance again, during March, 1975, coincidentally the time when UFO sightings first took hold of the highland farm area. A number of hunters were on the farm. They had had a few beers, but were emphathic that they had seen something quite strange. One of them had gone outside the farmhouse, and turned around to find just behind him "a figure of what he thinks was a woman." She appeared to have on a 19th century period dress. The man could only make out an outline of the figure, the rest being white in colour. He called out to the others to join him as the "figure" seemed to glide up some steps away from the house. One of the other hunters saw an elongated oval area of light near a shed by the house. The light -- or figure? -- seemed to pulse in illumination as it faded away into nothing. This second witness felt the light may have had some UFO connection and was not a "ghost". The whole incident lasted some 3 minutes and it appears 5 persons in all saw the figure or light.
One of these witnesses, like some of the others, had hunted in the area for years. Back in January, 1965, the hunter was stalking deer near marsh area when a "man in dark clothing" suddenly appeared "out of nowhere" beside him and stayed with him in the walk, of about 150 yards, down to the marsh. The hunter tried to no avail to engage this man in conversation. He saw that the man seemed to have an incredibly old face marked by cracks and wrinkles, "like a skeleton with skin on it." The man wore a big dark military coat with light epaulettes. At the edge of the marsh the hunter turned to the man and asked to no avail what he wanted. He then looked down and was shocked to see that the man had no feet! Then the man vanished. Next day the hunter questioned an old timer who told him of a ghost with no legs. He found that this ghost also had a military style uniform and epaulettes. The ghostly encounter took place near an area called Leg-O-Man Marsh!
In my travels around Australia investigating UFO reports I have found the coincidence of apparitional tales, and other so-called paranormal phenomena, in areas of UFO activity, occurring so frequently, that it no longer suprises me. You will notice this from time to time as you read through this history. Sometimes the coincidences and possible connections are startling.
The Goulburn Herald recorded the following interesting phenomenon during March, 1878:
"Lately there has been much excitement amongst the superstitious, numbers of whom go off in parties, with guns & c., to the range above Stewart's Garden, where there is an unfinished stonehouse. Here an apparition is said to make its appearance in the form of a light, and to travel, sometimes very slowly, and frequently very quickly, from the riverbank just below, up to, and around the house, then varying the performance by a run among the trees. This is said to be kept up from an early hour in the evening until about 3 in the morning; all endeavours to get near the light are said to prove futile."
Ransome T. Wyatt's "The History of Goulburn" records that one "Grunsell claimed to have disposed of it with a shot gun."
In 1879, Mr. S. Worsley Clifton, Collector of Customs, at Freemantle, Western Australia, forwarded the following account of a "remarkable meteor" , to R.J. Elleig, of the Melbourne observatory. Elleig in turn passed it onto the science journal "Nature" which published the following account of the February 1st, 1879, apparition:
"A small black cloud on a clear day appeared in the east travelling not very swiftly towards the northwest, which burst into a ball of fire with an apparent disc the size of the full moon, blood-red in colour; It left a train of black or dark-coloured vapour across the heavens which was visible for three-quarters of a hour. No sound was heard, sky perfectly clear, and the thermometer, 100F, in the shade."
One morning, during 1890, in Raymond Terrace, was a little different to most. Some thought the end of the world was at hand. Mrs. L. Meredith provided the following tale:
"My mother remembers that in Raymond Terrace out from Newcastle, NSW, one morning in 1890, a huge cloud shaped like a fish with a long tail, appeared in a clear sky. Everyone in the district noticed it and soon word passed that should the fish-like cloud move its tail, the world would end. Grown-ups and children believed this, and even elderly folk stopped up all night watching it. After about three days it disappeared and the world kept going."
Seems like something fishy was afoot in Raymond Terrace that day in1890.
During the 1890s, "ghostlights" were frequently observed moving along the roads and about the countryside in South Australia. Farmers at Orrorro and Cornish miners at Moonta, often mistook these small, detached lights for bicycle lamps at a distance. But once they were observed at closer range, only a white light source could be discernible. Sometimes, two lights could be seen together. Many attempts were made to catch the elusive lights as they moved about at fence level. These attempts were no more successful than they are today. After a few years the reports of the elusive lights in this remote area of South Australia, seemed to die out.
An anecdote handed down within a farming family told of an extraordinary UFO story that was alleged to have happened in 1893 in central NSW. A farmer claimed that a saucer shaped aerial object landed in a paddock on his property. As he approached the object, a man in strange clothing emerged from it. The farmer walked towards the being. The stranger shone some kind of torch at him. The farmer was thrown to the ground stunned. His hand where the "torch" beam had hit him, was allegedly paralysed for life. This story was told to Dr. Miran Lindtner, president of UFOIC during the 1960s. Unfortunately no record of the details behind this tale survived after Dr. Lindtner's accidental death in 1969.
At 9.27 am, November 20th, 1902, "a remarkable phenomenon was witnessed in the heavens by Mr. Griffiths, the assistant astronomer, and others," at the Adelaide observatory in South Australia.
"Two officers were taking weather observations, when they noticed a brilliant globular light having a planetary disc. It appeared SSE, at an altitude of about 45°. It moved slowly northwards, passing within 15 or 20° of the sun, and was brightly visible till 9.31, 4 minutes in all. Mr. Griffiths, who observed it for a minute, states that it covered about 20° of an arc in that time. The object appeared like Venus does when it is at its greatest brilliancy soon after sun set. Mr. Griffiths lost sight of the meteoric object at an altitude of 45° above the horizon. Other observers say it travelled at least 90°, and was lost sight of, in the great glare of the sky. When it was near to the prime vertical it became elongated and took an elliptical form, the long axis lying south to north".
It seems that during November, 1902, eastern Australia hosted an incredible array of "fireball" reports. Much of it may have been related to dust storm "devils" or related natural electrical phenomena. "An electrical fire ball" started a fire near the shaft of a new Barambagie mine, a man in Harris Park in Sydney was knocked unconscious and left partially paralysed when a "fireball" exploded above him and fireballs the size of houses were reported from many different locations.
Perhaps the most interesting period of the historical antipodean UFO legacy was the fascinating "airship" wave that swept Australia and New Zealand during 1909.
The wave began during July, 1909, in New Zealand, with numerous sightings of unusual nocturnal lights and "airships" seen both during the day and at night. The sightings initially appeared to be most intense over the southern end of the South Island of New Zealand. In the following weeks the reports appeared to move northwards, and eventually by August, Australia also fell under the grip of "aerialitis."
Like many of the modern UFO waves, there were some striking cases set against a background of misinterpretations, sensationalism and, to a lesser extent, outright fraud.
One of the earliest, interesting "airship" reports of the wave occurre d at about noon, on July 23rd, when a woman and several schoolchildren at Kelso claimed to have observed an "airship". Initially it was reported that a "man" was observed sitting in the craft. This was not confirmed in later retelling. The media accounts of the day even carried sketches of the "Kelso airship" attributed to some of the school children allegedly involved.
It should be noted that the local children were exposed to fictional "airship" stories via a children's magazine "Chums", namely the story "The Peril of the Motherland". The "Evening Star" of July 30th gave the following account of the Kelso visitation:
"Mrs Russell, evidently the only adult who saw the phenomena, said she was going down towards the station about 12 o'clock when she saw a streak of blackness shoot over the hill on the left and apparently come straight towards her. Then it suddenly turned and swerved away over some trees out of her sight. She was very frightened when she saw it, as she had been ill. In appearance it was just like a boat.
It was black in colour. She saw it for just a few minutes. It was travelling very fast at first, but when it turned, it came lower and went somewhat slower. She was very flustered as she thought the end of the world had come."
Years later some of the children reported that the story was a hoax that had got out of hand. It is difficult to assess these apparent recantations, since in part they looked like attempts to deflect persistent media interest, and yet other statements suggest fabrication or embellishments by the journalist who originally wrote the story. Most of information reported years after the incident tends to point towards the Kelso airship being a lot of hot air kept aloft by contemporary fascination with the concurrent "urban myths" of "secret inventors" and "invasion" by the German or "yellow" peril. Confirmed pioneer aircraft flights did not get of the ground for the first time until 1909 in Australia.
In New Zealand the story was similar, with the first flight generally recognised as taking place in 1911, but with some evidence supporting successful short distance flights as early as 1903 or 1904. However none of these efforts were of the "secret inventor" genre nor were any of them in the aeronautical class of the alleged airships of 1909.
We have seen that an Australian surveyor, one Frederick William Birmingham, pondered deeply the mystery of an alien "machine to go through the air" in 1868. Another surveyor, this time in New Zealand, one Robert Grigor of Balclutha, in a letter to the "Otago Daily Times", July 29th, 1909, provided a fascinating speculation on "atomic powered spaceships" and endowed a Martian origin theory with a more benevolent anthropomorphic image, than that of H.G. Well's classic science fiction tale of Martian invasion, "War of the Worlds" first published in 1898:
"In Holy Writ we are told that God created man in His own image. Is it not reasonable to suppose, with this high ideal before us, that they are men of superior intellect, endowed with wisdom and knowledge acquired in long generations through wbich they have progressed, and that they have been able to solve some of the natural mysteries which we have as yet been unable to grasp (which sounds remarkably like the UFO contactee credo that was to infest and damage the credibility of the UFO subject in the 1950s and 60s - B.C.).
"We will presume that they have been able to make a machine capable of going through space -- say, an airtight cylinder supplied with compressed air from their own atmosphere, capable of keeping them alive for an indefinite period with radium as a motive power and for light. They arrive in our atmosphere in the vicinity of New Zealand, and are hovering around to get accustomed to our atmosphere. They see the electric light at Kaitanganta and the lights about the Waikaka dredges and Mataura, and they are seen at Kelso and at Invercargill, which is probably the largest town they have as yet been able to discover. They seem to be able to live at an altitude of 3,000 feet or 4,000 feet and their first landing will certainly be at that height on some of our high lands."
Thomas Robertson, a baker, reported seeing a large boat shaped object, with three lights, flying over Oamaru, near Sumpter's Hill, at 3 am on August 2nd. The moon in the west was reportedly clearly illuminating the vessel. It appeared to have two figures inside it. The "North Otago Times" of August 4th, reported that the object disappeared in the direction of Weston at "a fast rate".
Several intriguing accounts, that have not been accurately dated, bear mention. The "Bruce Herald" of August 2nd, carried a reference to the "Clutha Free Press" receiving a letter from a correspondent who claimed an "airship" had landed at Port Molyneux. He reported that some of the occupants, whom he took to be Japanese, had emerged and engaged him in conversation. Unfortunately no copies of the "Clutha Free Press" survive to confirm any further details of the tale.
The "Nelson Evening Mail" reported that on about August 6th, a fisherman at Marlborough Sounds claimed to have been attacked by an airship. He alleged that it was flying low when first observed. When it was overhead the occupants threw "missiles" at him which hissed as they hit the water and fizzed before sinking. This may have been more a case of implied "occupants" than ones actually observed.
Whatever the actual stimuli were for these reports there was even, way back in 1909, a minority view that was prepared to invest in the reports, perhaps somewhat cynically, an "alien invaders" explanation. "W.H.T.", a correspondent with the "Southland Daily News", of August 4th, 1909, clearly with tongue firmly in cheek, wrote:
"The inventor of a new flying machine would not be likely to experiment with it in the dark rather than in the daytime, nor could the owner of such a machine find any pleasure in aerial locomotion on cold winter nights.
An aerial invasion of New Zealand by Germans or Japs is not probable, and in any case the invaders would have attacked Wellington or Dunedin (large towns - B.C.) before appearing at Cromwell or Kaitangnia. It seems to me more likely to be the beginning of an invasion from Mars. Water being scarce on that planet, the Martians are...looking out for a new world to inhabit; and New Zealand being a conspicuous object on our globe, they will probably attack us first. The presence of a dead squid on the beach at Burkes a few days ago is fairly conclusive evidence that if that is not a Martian invasion it is at all events a serious reconnaissance from that planet. It is well known that in Mars the highest development of the brain has been in Octopoids, and to me it is quite evident that one of our invaders fell out of the Martian airship when crossing Otago Harbour, and being an indifferent swimmer was drowned, and washed ashore at Burkes. This is clearly a case for the Defence Department."
Certainly W.H.T.'s witty missive owes much to H.G. Wells' classic science fiction tale of Martian invasion, "War of the Worlds", first published in 1898.
Even though such speculations owe more to early science fiction, the fact that there were reports of "airship operators" suggests they were not unreasonable contemporary speculations.
Two men working on the Syndicate No. 2 dredge on a river in the Waikaka Valley, a few miles north of Gore, in New Zealand, got an excellent view of what was dubbed "the nocturnal mystery of the air." At 5 am, on July 30th, the men saw it descend out of the mist. The object had a light at both ends. Inside two figures could be plainly observed. The dredge winchman, Mr. F. Green, said the object rose and fell like a bird. It appeared to be a narrow boat-shaped aerial craft, that circled the dredge several times quite closely over a period of several minutes. The "airship" made "curious and seemingly impossible manoeuvres", apparently travelling at speed, then suddenly decelerating. Eventually it disappeared into the mist, in the direction of Otakarama, leaving behind a curious yellow glare.
The "Hawkes Bay Herald" of August 6th, 1909, carried the following account of an observation of "airship operators" on August 3rd:
"A circumstantial story is being early discussed in Waipawa of the seeing of an airship by a man on Tuesday night. He was riding near the racecourse and his horse became restive. He discovered the cause was a large torpedo-shaped structure passing over his head. The airship, he states, was painted grey and three persons were visible, one of whom shouted out to him in an unknown tongue. The ship rose to a great height, showing lights at prow and stern, and, after circling around, disappeared behind a hill. On the same night another resident saw a ship-like structure high in the air, which emitted a loud humming sound. The ship was so high that it appeared only a yard or so long. A faint light came from the ship. Another resident asked her husband about the same hour that night, 'What is that humming noise?'"
The first Australian reports of 1909 apparently came from Goulburn, NSW, on August 5th, when 3 or 4 residents of North Goulburn, reported seeing a bright moving blue light in the northern sky. The "Sydney Morning Herald " and "Daily Telegraph" of August 10th and 11th respectively reported the visitation. "It moved to Governer's Hill, swerved and passed over the range to the east." The reports at Goulburn continued for the next 5 nights. The mystery light was described as big as "a motor car lamp."
On August 7th, at about 10.30 pm, 4 young men, at the brick kilns near the North Goulburn railway station, saw the light. "It was pale blue in colour. The brightness of the light attracted the youth's attention. Only the light was seen, their being nothing to show the presence of a supporting body." "The light was extremely brilliant. It came from behind the eastern ranges, and after ascending a considerable height, circled round in the direction from which it had come." On August 8th, "the light made its appearance from the south (at about 7.30 pm) travelling once again towards Governor's Hill, inclining thence towards the east and returning back to the south."
Reports of the "nocturnal mystery of the air" began to flood in from all over Australia. The Australian wave was never as compelling as the "air ship" wave that immediately proceded it in New Zealand. At the time the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, particularly prominent in the west north west night sky, generated many reports.
One of the more substantial Australian reports occurred at about eleven o'clock at night on August 13th, in Glen Innes, when "several responsible residents described an object like a balloon moving in a northerly direction. A night glass was obtained and the object was found to be shaped like an inverted top. The lower portion was lighted, and as the body revolved a light like a small flashlight kept turning on the land beneath. The upper portion was in darkness and the object continued drifting in a northerly direction".
The Sydney "Daily Telegraph" of August 13th, 1909, reported:
"The taniuha of the ancient Maori and the tiger of Tantanoola, whose allegedly fearsome and phantom like forms are said to have flashed before human vision from time to time are in shadow just now. The talk is of "those mysterious lights" reported first from New Zealand and later from various points of the country in this state."
However by the middle of August the Australian reports seemed to stop as quickly as they had begun.
As if to rekindle speculation about the existence of an "airship" down under, a number of reports occurred in New Zealand, in early September, 1909. On September 1st, at 4.30 pm, two well known Gore residents observed a cigar shaped object with a "car" attached, drifting over the Tapanui Hills. It gradually disappeared over the horizon towards Kelso. A few days later, the "airship" apparently appeared for the last time. The Gore correspondent of the "Southland Times" reported:
"Between 5.45 and 6.15 pm, it appeared in view, coming over the hills on the eastern side of the town Otaraia. It apparently sailed backwards and forwards at a great pace and, turning around, gradually disappeared over the same hills, although it was subsequently seen in the direction of the Gore race course.
"The children of a prominent resident also saw it, and stated that it was cigar-shaped....Reliable testimony to the sight is also borne by a party of golfers who were on their way home from the golf links when they saw it."
A "mystery airship" was observed at Minderoo Station, near Onslow, Western Australia, on October 25th, 1909. Mrs. A.J. Roe, wife of the station manager, was the first to spot the object. She stated, "It looked compact, like a dirigible balloon, but appeared to be squarer and more like an aeroplane. The sun shone on it, and flashes came from it, as though reflected from something revolving, or from metal work." Three station hands also saw the UFO.
The official files do not confirm military activity before 1950, however research has confirmed involvement by the military, albeit in some cases, cursory in nature, back as far as 1920. The Navy submarine depot ship, the Platypus, was involved in the search for a missing schooner, the Amelia J, in Bass Strait. Mystery lights, thought at the time to be "evidently rockets", were observed. Two aircraft left the flying training school and aircraft depot at Point Cook to join in the investigation. One was piloted by a Major Anderson and the other by Captain W.J. Stutt -- an instructor for the NSW Government Aviation school at Richmond (a forerunner to the Richmond RAAF base, established soon after the birth of the RAAF in 1921). Stutt and his mechanic, Sergeant Dalzell, were last seen by Major Anderson flying into a large cloud. Their plane and the schooner were never found. Fifty eight years later the Bass Strait became the centre of another extraordinary plane/pilot disappearance, namely the Valentich affair of 1978.
Fernvale, a small village in north eastern New South Wales played host to a bizarre procession of usual phenomena during a few short weeks in 1927. I investigated the story between 1985 and 1986, interviewing the main reporting witness, who was a 10 year old boy at the time of the events, and his younger sister, who was also present.
The affair began with the arrival of a dancing aerial light. Over several nights it returned for repeat performances. The property cattle were apparently disturbed by the aerial apparition. One cow went beserk and had to be put down. The light returned on the following night, and once again the cows were very disturbed. On the third night the light apparently did not appear, however the cow herd were terribly disturbed. In the morning 3 cows were found dead, all looking as if they had been "scared to death." Neighbours had similar experiences. A neighbour was terrified by an "apparition", while walking home. The reporting witness was soon to see the nature of this "apparition."
Three pigs kept in a special fattening sty were apparently attacked by a mystery intruder. Two of them were found dead, with puncture marks on their necks and scratches and puncture marks over their bodies. The other pig was missing. There was no evidence of it having broken out, and besides, the railings of the sty were too high for it to get out. An unsuccessful day long search ended with the bizarre discovery of a huge patch of blood with tell-tale pigs hair present, just some 150 yards away from the cow yards. The cows were in a frenzy. No further evidence of the missing pig was found.
One night during this period, the boy (the reporting witness) was awoken by strange night noises, unlike any he had heard before. He told his parents but by then the noises had stopped, and it was put down to his imagination. The noises return on the next night, this time much louder. The boy's parents also heard the noise, and were unnerved by it. The windows and doors were closed, however in the morning footprints like those of a "wellington boot tread" were found leading from the front door through to the back. Both doors were open!
The nocturnal light visitations continued for a while but soon the novelty wore off and the family stopped looking out for it. However one night the boy and his older brother returning from a night of cards with neighbours witnessed an extraordinary brightly lit, flying object travel through the valley, light up the whole area, turn slightly following the valley contours, and finally come to rest on a hill. The object glowed for some time on the ground. Eventually there was darkness. The boys investigated in the morning, confirming the presence of a complete circle of scorched grass, about 30 feet in diameter, where the object had been seen to land. The site was apparent as a brown area amongst the green grass. Indeed the neighbours where the boys had played cards also had seen the light landing. They to had come to the site to see what had been there.
The boy also reported seeing a huge bird sitting in a tree, while on his way to school. It seemed impossibly large, but was gone by the time he had fetched his teacher. When he told his parents, they told him that the nocturnal "apparition" that had so terrified one of their neighbours had been a "huge bird" that had "appeared out of the darkness", ambling towards him and flapping its wings. It was also recalled that during the 2 nights of strange night noises there was a strong smell of poultry, and the boy had found, near the house, 2 big feathers, which were unlike those of any bird he had seen. While coming off a nearby mountain the brothers also saw 2 giant birds soaring overhead. They were bigger than any bird they had ever seen, ostensibly at least 3 or 4 times bigger than a wedged tail eagle. The "birds" seemed to be gliding with wings outstretched. The boy recollected, "They were monsters... making sounds like unintelligible conversation." One of the boys' sisters and a parent had also seen "a huge big bird" "hopping down the hill (near the house) with its wings flapping." On another night, again from the house, they had seen "a dull type of a light - a round thing" travelling liesurely across the sky. Apparently other people in the area also reported sightings of "big birds"!
One other puzzling event was described. One night the family had gone to neighbours. The oldest son had remained behind at the house. "A strange man" dressed in an incongrous "white suit" arrived at the neighbours house. Everyone thought he was with the others. He said nothing and only stayed for a short time. Back at the house, the oldest son was in darkness. He heard a noise in the house, and sang out, "Who is there!" The boy got out of bed in time to see someone in a white suit disappearing into the dark ness! The ground between the two neighbours was tricky, even more so on a pitch black night. There were 2 large creeks, that were crossed at certain points by planks, and a big stream, that were navigated by picking ones way steadily over a fallen tree truck - no easy matter for a stranger at nigh t! The stranger was never seen or heard of again. One wonders if he was wearing wellington type boots and kept an unusually large aviary!
The "visitors" came to the Fernvale area in 1927 drawing the locals inexorably into a flirtation with an antipodean version of the Twilight Zone. The experience became an enduring mystery that puzzled and haunted the reporting witness for some sixty years. The "visitors" had brought to Fernvale a bizarre, and at times, terrifying mystery, that appears to echo an enigma that would begin to hold sway over mankind some two decades later.
In 1930, an Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) officer, Squadron Leader George Jones, was sent to Warrnambool, Victoria, to investigate reports of mystery aircraft flying over the coast. No explanation was found in this first official RAAF UFO investigation. Further "mystery aircraft" reports were made in the near Pacific and Papua New Guinea area in 1930, and in 1931 the RAAF was denying any of her planes were the explanation for "mystery planes reported widely in Tasmania." Jones was to become RAAF Chief of the Air Staff during World War Two, and subsequently Air Marshall Sir George Jones. He was himself to become a UFO witness in 1957. He also became a valuable advocate of serious UFO research, being a patron of the short lived national civilian UFO research organisation CAPIO - Commonwealth Aerial Phenomena Investigation Organisation, and a member of VUFORS - the Victorian UFO Research Society.
In 1982 a 67 year old woman saw a picture of "ET", Steven Spielberg's cute alien creation. It made her think of an experience she had as a 15 year old girl, near the estuary at Mandurah, Western Australia. She supplied a report to the Perth UFO Research Group which stated:
"(In 1930 I was) sitting reading with my parents in a humpy, on a block in Mandurah, in Greary Rd, by the light of a hurricane lamp, with the door partly open. The time (was) about 8 pm as we went to bed early. "A little pink creature walked in. (It was) about 24 inches in height (with) large ears, big bulbous eyes, covered with a film, small hands, large feet, slit of a mouth, no hair, and shiny as if wet or oily.
"We were terrified and my father went white and being a religious man said it was the work of the devil.
"Picking up a prawning net, he picked it up in it and it made a noise like EE...EE and my father put it outside. We never saw it again and went to bed feeling very scared. This was in 1930 and I never thought any more about it until I saw a picture of ET, although only its eyes were the same.
"...It did not have a round body, more straight down like a childs body. I cannot remember seeing any sex organs... (It's shape was) like an elf."
Before we leave this quaint tale behind, I will mention anthropologist's Dr. Charles Mountford's description of a "spirit child" in his fascinating study, "Nomads of the Australian Desert":
"This child, called mulu-kuranti (nose-spirit), was a mamu (malignant being ). Its fingers were twisted, it had ears like a kangaroo, large eyes resembling those of an owl, a grotesque face, and projecting teeth. When Kuntunga (mother of all spirit-children, the "julanja") was suckling this infant, it bit her so often that she finally killed it and left the body in the creek, where it was transformed into (an) irregularly-shaped boulder."
While making the first solo plane flight across the Tasman Sea between New Zealand and Australia, on June 10th, 1931, the famous adventurer Francis Chichester encountered "a dull grey-white airship" of ghost-like manner. Chichester was a truly remarkable man. His encounter with an inexplicable aerial phenomenon is described in his excellent book, "The Lonely Sea and the Sky". At 3.00 pm, after seeing the S.S. Kurow battling its way through heavy seas below him, Chichester decided to fly north-west, to avoid facing a storm that lay in his path:
"Round the storm we flew into calm air under a weak lazy sun. I took out t he sextant and got two shoots. It took me thirty minutes to work them out, for the engine kept back firing, and my attention wandered every time it did...
"Suddenly, ahead and thirty degrees to the left, there were bright flashes in several places, like the dazzle of a heliograph. I saw a dull grey-white airship coming towards me. It seemed impossible, but I could have sworn that it was an airship, nosing towards me like an oblong pearl. Except for a cloud or two, there was nothing else in the sky. I looked around, sometimes catching a flash or a glint, and turning again to look at the airship I found it had disappeared. I screwed up my eyes, unable to believe them, and twisted the seaplane this way and that, thinking that the airship must be hidden by a blind spot. Dazzling flashes continued in four or five different places, but I could not pick out any planes. Then, out of some clouds to my right front, I saw another, or the same, airship advancing. I watched it intently, determined not to look away for a fraction of a second: I'd see what happened to this one, if I had to chase it. It drew steadily closer, until perhaps a mile away, when suddenly it vanished. Then it reappeared, close to where it had vanished: I watched with angry intentness. It drew closer, and I could see the dull gleam of light on its nose and back. It came on, but instead of increasing in size, it diminished as it app roached. When quite near, it suddenly became its own ghost - one second I could see through it, and the next it had vanished. I decided that it could only be a diminutive cloud, perfectly shaped like an airship and then dissolving, but it was uncanny that it should exactly resume the same shape after it once vanished. I turned towards the flashes, but those too had vanished. All this was many years before anyone spoke of flying saucers. What ever it was I saw, it seems to have been very much like what people have since claimed to be flying saucers."
A fifty year old man recounted in 1974, the story of his encounter with a mini-UFO back in 1932 or 1933, near the town of Nambour, in Northern Queensland. He was 8 or 9 at the time, and at about two one afternoon, in about late March or early April, he was playing with some local children. He strayed from them and went over to a nearby hillock, which was surrounded by a small body of water:
"....I put both hands up in front of me and parted this tall grass to look through. I heard a low humming sound, and saw a round object directly in front of me, about four feet away.
"It looked the same shape as if two ordinary saucers were placed face to face and then turned on their sides ... The colour of the object was the same shade of silver grey as a Canberra bomber looks on a dull, rainy, overcast day ... The size of the object was 12 inches in diameter. It hovered 3 inches above the surface of the water. There was a slight almost imperceptible shiver of the water surface directly below the object as if it was directing a force directly downwards in order to stay in the air ... The waves (of water) were going outward in concentric circles directly below the object...
"...There was a very high speed shiver motion of the object as if a gyro-stabiliser of some kind were keeping it up right.
"As I bent forward to look more closely, the humming sound rose suddenly in pitch and volume, and at the same time a whitish mist begun to form between me and the object, but close to it ...
"At the same time ... I felt a tight feeling in the head and as the noise increased, I let go of the tall grass and stepped back. I could not see it any more, and I felt stunned in the head, but I could still hear it humming behind the tall grass ....
"Soon afterwards, everyone decided to go up to the house, and on the way one girl said suddenly, "What was that?" Something flew up between those trees. "It was a magpie," someone said. "No it was not," said the first girl.
I did not see anything, but I knew what it was; it was the object flying off. "That night I noticed large white blisters on both of my hands and I felt out of sorts. Sometime during the night whilst I was asleep most of the blisters burst, and one or two remaining burst during the day and a clear fluid like water came out. I felt better after that..."
Australian mysteries researcher Rex Gilroy records an intriguing tale allegedly from 1933 that reportedly involved an aboriginal woman in a UFO abduction experience at the isolated locality of Discovery Well, on the northern edge of the Great Sandy Desert, in Western Australia.
The story echoes the tribal legends and traditions of men and women being abducted by "sky gods" or "culture heros" in the dreamtime and the initiation experiences of aboriginal "men of high degree" or shamans.
In Rex Gilroy's account, the aboriginal woman claimed her tribe had been frightened off from Discovery Well when a "large shiny egg" suddenly came down out of the sky. In broad daylight the strange object flew low over them. Several beings, described as strange, grey-skinned and man like, came out of the "egg". The woman said she was "stunned" by an object carried by one of the beings. Her story indicates she was carried aboard. Inside the "egg" the interior was glowing. She was strapped to a shining table and apparently "experimented with". The woman told stockmen of her experience, but perhaps not surprisingly they laughed at her.
This 1933 tale also anticipates the spate of UFO abduction tales that would virtually domininate the UFO landscape by the 1990s. It was not until 1957 that the sexual abduction experience of Antonio Villas Boas from Brazil occurred. The famous Betty and Barney Hill abduction story in the United States did not take place until 1961. Neither story was well known until the mid 1960s.
On October 10th, 1935, an off duty military man took what was possibly Australia's first UFO photograph at Nobby's Head near Newcastle, NSW. Although the photos are now apparently unavailable, investigators who saw the photo during 1968-69 reported it showed "a definite circular object with details seen well at enlargement."
We have already seen that Bass Strait was no stranger to extraordinary UFO mysteries. The crew of a Beaufort bomber flying at 4,500 feet over Bass Strait, during February, 1944, bore witness to what may have been Australia's earliest "electromagnetic" (EM) case. At about 2.30 am the plane gained a most unusual companion. A "dark shadow" appeared along side the plane and kept pace with it, at a distance of only some 100 to 150 feet. The Beaufort was travelling at about 235 miles per hour. The object appeared to have a flickering light and flame belching from its rear end. Only about 15 feet of the rear end of the UFO was visible to the bomber crew, apparently due to "reflection of light from the exhaust." The strange object stayed with the bomber for some 18 to 20 minutes, during which time all radio and direction finding instruments refused to function. It finally accelerated away from the plane at approximately three times the speed of the bomber.
Upon landing, the pilot reported the incident to his base superiors, but he claimed he was only laughed at. Such a reaction seems extraordinary in retrospect since it turns out that Beauforts figured heavily in official RAAF list of planes that "went missing without trace" during World War Two in the Bass Strait area - an area that was not linked to any significant enemy activity. I have been told that the Beauforts had a mechanical problem that may have accounted for some of these losses.
Mrs. E. Church, a sister-in-charge of the operating theatre of the Cashmere Sanitorium, at Christchurch, New Zealand, encountered something truly extraordinary in August, 1944 or 1945, while walking alone amongst the low hill slopes and scrub at the Sign of the Takahe, in the Port Hills area. Noticing a cloud coming in quickly, she decided to head back to catch a train. On the way, Mrs. Church encountered a strange object resting on a rise, near the road. She approached it and stared at it for about 8 to 10 minutes. Before her was a bizarre sight.
The object was like an "upturned saucer" and appeared to be primarily constructed of what looked like vertically laid tiles, "that fitted together perfectly." It appeared to be about 18 to 20 feet wide and 8 to 9 feet high.
Mrs. Church though, "What will they invent next?" Then she saw the "little fellas". Small entities, no more than 4 feet tall, one inside and one outside the object, were present. They gave the appearance of just a green-coloured form in a transparent oblong packing casing. They seemed to be watching the Industries Fair and the city below. The city lights were coming on. The figures seemed to have quite big "heads" in proportion to their "bodies" - nearly half body height.
The cloud observed earlier came right down and enveloped the scene. Mrs. Church decided to get closer. She got to within about 18 feet of the object, when a sound her approach made, drew the attention of the "chap" outside. He had a "plastic" helment which flipped over and he "drifted" into the object in "a kind of sliding movement", through a very small opening. A whirring noise commenced and the craft rose slowly in a vertical fashion. She lost sight of it in the cloud. Mrs. Church felt a sense of loss with its departure.
Her experience was investigated during 1973 by Bruce Harding. Mrs. Church never checked to see if the "thing" left any trace of its presence at the Sign of the Takahe.
While many reports of UFOs were made in Australia during the period from 1947 to 1950, few were widely known at the time. Many were reported later. Here is one example:
In October, 1949, two men observed a UFO near Townsville, Queensland. One of them, Mr. J. Baxter, recalled the event in a 1967 letter to the UFO Investigation Centre:
"I was a commercial fisherman, fishing at the time for spanish mackerel, with a chap named John Campbell ... It was a bad season, and we were fishing desperately to get out of the red, (and) not to be easily distracted by any thing unusual.
"Well! We were fishing off North Palm Island ... on a clear, bright, sunny day, with perfect visibility, when we saw this object - a bright, shining, metallic cigar shaped construction, (over 100 feet long) poised about 70 to 80 feet above the sea, and about 500 or 600 yards distant.
"There was no sign of wings, propellers, or portholes ....
"At the time we were making circles in the boat, to try and excite the mackerel ... We would lose sight of it (as they turned) for a minute or maybe two. But we kept watching it, mainly because we were intrigued by the fact that it was motionless, just poised there, between sea and sky.... "We had a noisy engine ... so we did not hear any noise from it.... We watched it, as we made our tight circles, for maybe, half an hour, and while I was intently watching, the bow swung between us and it, and it was gone - without any fuss, or even a contrail. This was incredible, and really rocked us, that anything could get out of sight on a clear day, almost instantaneously. Not even the modern planes of today could equal such a performance."
The contemporary and widespread public flirtation with "flying saucers" in Australia really only got under way in 1950 with reports from Geelong and Avoca, Victoria, during June and July.
We have already seen evidence of earlier cursory interest by the military. However, the earliest still extant sighting report in the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) files was a nocturnal light account at Bass Point, NSW, on July 16, 1950. The growing number of reports that involved official agencies and highly regarded sources served to heightened official interest, initially from two quarters, namely the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA).
An Account of the English Colony: Collins 1804, 211.
A machine to go through the air: Chalker, 1982.
The Goulburn ghost light: Goulburn Herald 16 March 1878;Wyatt 1972,75
A 'remarkable meteor': Nature, Vol. 20. pg.121, 5 June 1879; Fort 1974, 23 5; Chalker 1985, 33.
Ghost lights: Chalker 1985, 33-34.
An early astronomer's sighting: Chalker 1985, 34.
THE WAVE OF 1909: Chalker 1992, 333-336, in Clark 1992.
AN EARLY VISITOR: Chalker 1988, 72-80; based on interviews with primary witness during 1985 and 1986.
Australian mysteries: Gilroy 1995, 29.
FRANCIS CHICHESTER: Chichester 1967, 185.
MILITARY MATTERS: Chalker 1985, 37-38. THE 'LITTLE FELLAS': Mrs. Church's report was originally investigated by Bruce Harding with an account published in A.P.R.G (NZ) Journal 1974, pages 11-14. In October 1949: Letter to UFOIC, 1967.
BIBLIOGRAPHY:Chalker, Bill. 1982. A UFO Vision? The mystery of 'A machine to go through the air', 1873, Parramatta, NSW, Australia. UFO Research Australia Newsletter, Vol. 3. No.1, Jan./Feb. 1982. Adelaide: UFORA.
Chalker, Bill. 1985. Historical reports in Australia. (in Moravec & Prytz 1 985; article first published in the ACUFOS Journal, Vol. 2, Nos. 1 - 4, Feb to July/August, 1981).
Chalker, Bill. 1988. The Terror down under. Fate, September 1988, Vo.41. No.9.
Chalker, Bill. 1992. UFOs in Australia and New Zealand through 1959, in Clark 1992.
Chichester, Francis. 1967. The lonely sea and the sky. London: Pan books.
Clark, Jerome. 1992. The Emergence of a Phenomenon: UFOs from the Beginning through 1959. The UFO Encyclopedia, Volume 2, Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics.
Collins, Lt.-Col. 1804. An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales. London: T. Cadell & W. Davies.
Dykes, Mervyn. 1981. Strangers in our skies: UFOs over New Zealand. Taita, Lower Hutt: INL.
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Gilroy, Rex. 1995. Mysterious Australia. Mapelton, Qld: Nexus Publishing.
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