In 1978 one of the most extraordinary UFO sightings you’ve never heard about happened near Kaikoura on New Zealand’s South Island.
Sometimes known as the Kaikoura Lights, the Kaikoura UFO sighting was, in several respects, typical of UFO sightings:
- It was seen by a number of multiple witnesses, with two independent audio tape recordings, film by a professional news cameraman, as well as being tracked on ground and air radar.
- The people who saw it were from different backgrounds, including very credible people such as an airline pilot.
- Officialdom, through New Zealand’s now defunct Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), attempted to dismiss it with such ludicrous explanations as being other planets, harbour lights, squid boats or migrating birds.
- Pilot, Captain Bill Startup, commented that they hadn’t explained how Jupiter, Venus and the harbour lights could be travelling at 140 knots (260 kph) according to his radar!
- These explanations were even mocked by the media itself as in the cartoon image above by Eric Heath’s (who was himself ex-Royal New Zeland Air Force) cartoon in Wellington’s Dominion Post.
But what was extraordinary about it was that it was tracked on radar from air traffic control in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city and the home of a busy airport.
There were also rather amazing photos taken.
This UFO sighting didn’t need to rely on the memories of those who witnessed it to validate that it happened. It was observed and tracked by equipment.
Initially at the time, it was all over the news of the day. But it was quickly shut down and disappeared from the news.
But despite this it has been revisited from time to time when news organisations dig it up again to have another look.
All NZ Declassifed UFO documents
New Zealand Herald article 40 years after the event
The best information available on this was on a site that no longer exists. However this information is still available on the web archive. In the interests of ensuring this important information isn’t lost, it has been reproduced below.
The best information available on the Kaikoura UFO Sighting was on a website that no longer exists. However, this information is still available on the web archive. In the interests of ensuring this important information isn’t lost, it has been reproduced below without edits.
THE NEW ZEALAND UFO SIGHTINGS OF DECEMBER, 1978
THE SIGHTING NORTHEAST OF CHRISTCHURCH
This is a two part presentation. The first part consists of three technical papers which discuss one of the sightings that occurred off the East Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. These papers are unique because they seem to be the only series of articles containing a discussion of a single UFO sighting that has appeared in a refereed technical journal. The journal is called Applied Optics, a publication of the Optical Society of America. The second part of this presentation is an analysis of the squid boat hypothesis which has been proposed to explain the sighting that is discussed in the Applied Optics papers. (NOTE: A technical article that reports on the “flashing light” sighting that occurred AFTER the one reported here is at another location on this web site.)
The technical articles appeared in the Letters to the Editor section of Applied Optics. These articles discuss a bright light which was seen and photographed from a freighter aircraft between about 0219 and 0233 (2:19- 2:33 a.m., local daylight savings time) off the East Coast of the South island of New Zealand on December 31,1978. I wrote the first article after my extensive investigation in New Zealand and Australia. William Ireland and Mark Andrews of the Department of Scientific and industrial Research in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, wrote the second letter to dispute my claim that the bright object was unidentified. I wrote the third paper to respond to Ireland and Andrews.
In the first paper I presented numerical data obtained from the 16 mm color movie film that was shot during the sighting and which, when combined with known film characteristics and with radar distances recorded on the airplane radar, allowed me to carry out a calculation of the luminous intensity of the light. I claimed that the source of the light had not been identified. Ireland and Andrews, in the second paper, pointed out that the calculated brightness is consistent with what might be expected from a (stationary) squid boat while fishing with its lights on in the Pegasus Bay, about 45 nautical miles from Christchurch. They estimated the location of the hypothetical squid boat. In the third paper I corrected some errors in the earlier papers and pointed out that a search by Ireland of fishing records failed to find any squid boat at the location they proposed. Moreover, I pointed out that the data provided by the witnesses is not consistent with any hypothesis, such as the squid boat hyothesis, that requires the bright light to be stationary.
The image below shows that the ampersand image is in a series of frames that lead to stationary frames. The ampersand image was probably caused by the camera bumping something. The frame numbers begin with the first film frame obtained during the flight north from Christchurch.
The picture below illustrates the determination of the film density at two locations on the ampersand image.
Subsequently, Philip J. Klass published the squid boat explanation in his book, UFOs, THE PUBLIC DECEIVED (Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY, 1983). After citing his reasons for agreeing with Ireland and Andrews, Klass wrote, “If the bright object photographed in Pegasus Bay was not a squid boat, the only plausible alternative is that it was an extraterrestrial craft from a distant world.”
Could that be true? Is it possible that the light was not from a squid boat and therefore was from a ET craft?
The following paper shows why it was not a squid boat….unless it was a
flying squid boat.
(NOTE: the reason why the editor of Applied Optics allowed publication of papers related to (gulp!) UFOs is presented in the FOOTNOTE which follows the list of reasons why the object wasn’t a squid boat. This is an interesting history in itself with seven key events: (1) the publication of a book by Dr. Frank Salisbury, THE UTAH UFO DISPLAY (Devin Pub Co, Old Greenwich,. CT) in 1974, (2) the publication of what I call the “buggy UFO hypothesis” (BUFOH) in the article, “Insects as unidentified flying objects” by entymologists P.Callahan and R. Mankin, published in Applied Optics in November, 1978, (3) my attempt at responding to the BUFOH in a letter to the editor of Applied Optics, (4) the occurrence of the New Zealand sightings, in December, (5) the initial rejection of my response to the BUFOH, (6) the rejection by NATURE Magazine of the letter I submitted on the New Zealand sightings and (7) the acceptance of my article on the New Zealand sightings as a partial response to the BUFOH. You will notice that in the first footnote in the first Applied Optics letter below I have listed “glowing insect swarms” as one of the explanations that had been ruled out. In fact, no one had proposed that the New Zealand witnesses saw swarms of glowing insects, but I had to tie this letter to the BUFOH in some way, so that is how I did it. The FOOTNOTE provides a more detailed explanation of the history behind these Applied Optics articles.)
THE CASE OF THE FLYING SQUID BOAT
“Experts” around the world offered numerous explanations for the sighting that occurred after the plane flew northeast from Christchurch at about 0219 hours (2:19 AM) local daylight savings time. Explanations published in the newspapers included light reflected from the breasts of mating mutton birds (by an ornithologist), light reflected from cabbages in a cabbage patch (by a lady who had a nice cabbage patch; “They’re real beauties,” she said), drug runners, planets, meteors, military maneuvers, hoax (by the Australian TV station) and squid boats. The local astronomer in Christchurch was reported as being 99% certain that the witnesses saw the planet Venus. When it was learned the next day that the sighting had occurred long before Venus was visible he changed his explanation: now it was Jupiter (a planet that was nearly overead at the time and could not have been seen through the roof of the plane). Sir Bernard Lovell of the Jodrell Bank Radio Observatory claimed the witnesses saw “unburned meteorites,” which makes no sense in the context of the sighting that lasted many minutes. “The squid fleet must have played a role in the sighting,” said a New Zealand Air Force officer who arranged a special nighttime flight several nights later to find out what was “out there” to be seen. He saw the squid fleet. It was way off the coast of New Zealand and putting out as much light as a small city. However, the crew of the December 31st flight also saw the squid fleet. It was over 100 miles from the area of the sighting. After all the other explanations had been suggested and rejected only one remained: there was a single squid fishing boat in the Pegasus Bay and this is what the crew and passengers saw and filmed. Along with this basic hypothesis there is an important corollary: EITHER the air crew failed to recognize a stationary squid boat sitting on the water OR the crew eventually realized what they were looking at but didn’t inform the passengers (two newsmen and the cameraman), i.e., the air crew perpetrated a hoax. Even the skeptics couldn’t accept the idea that the air crew would perpetuate a hoax or a lie. The crew was adamant that they could not identify the object that made the light. Therefore, if they weren’t lying and if the squid boat hypothesis is correct, then they must have failed to realize that the source of light was a single squid boat in spite of years of flying experience in this area of New Zealand when squid boats were present (and when they weren’t present; the squid fleet returns to New Zealand waters in late November or December and remains until February or March). So, why couldn’t it have been a squid boat? The purpose of this short paper is to answer that question by presenting a summary of arguments against the SBH (squid boat hypothesis) and by showing where it conflicts with the testimonial and optical (film) data. This paper is a greatly shortened version of the complete film and testimony analysis that I carried out between January 1979 and October, 1982 The reader may well wonder why a SB would even be considered as a possible explanation. The answer is that we know from the color movie film made that night that the light source was very bright. It just so happens that a squid boat is also very bright. A squid boat could carry several hundred thousand watts of incandescent light (up to 20, 10,000 watt bulbs for example) which are used to lure squid up to the surface where they can be netted at night.
NOT A SQUID BOAT: REASONS BY THE NUMBER
WITNESSES: William Startup, Captain (Pilot), former president of the New Zealand Pilot’s Association Robert Guard (copilot) Quentin Fogarty (a TV station reporter; from Melbourne, Australia; used the tape recorded to describe, occasionally, what was happening) Dennis Grant (the second reporter; from Christchurch, NZ; he made pencil notes on paper as events unfolded) David Crockett (cameraman; Bolex electric camera with 100 and 240 mm focal length lenses; 16 mm, color reversal movie film run at 10 frames/sec) Wellington Air Route Traffic Control Center (recorded conversations between the airplane and the Control Center, thus providing information on the timing of events)
The experienced air crew did not recognize the light as coming from a Hypothetical SB (abbrev: HSB) sitting still on the water in spite of about 15 minutes of continuous observation as they flew in a straight line about 40 nm (nm = nautical miles; 1 nm = 6077 ft), nearly toward the light, while climbing to more than 12,000 ft in altitude and in spite of turning toward it to investigate.
The air crew was aware that the Japanese squid fleet was fishing in NZ waters, so if they had had the slightest thought that it was a boat they would have said “Oh , that’s one of those squid boats,” or words to that effect. (NOTE: During a later portion of the flight while the plane was approaching Cape Campbell (about 0250 hours), the copilot (and others) saw two bright lights ahead and to the right. The copilot’s first thought was that they were SB’s known to be fishing north of the South Island. He would have told the news crew they were seeing SBs until he realized that the lights were the wrong color (too orange) appeared to be moving northward.
A search of NZ government records by William Ireland, a scientist who worked at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), and a skeptic, (!) failed to turn up any record that there had been a SB in the Pegasus Bay, roughly 40 nm from Christchurch. This is significant because by NZ law, SBs are supposed to indicate their fishing locations to NZ government and numerous other boats had done so. An argument was made that the HSB had not reported because it had been fishing within the 12 nm limit and hence would have been fishing illegally. However, an examination of the locations where one might place a HSB (see Figure 1) shows that they all would have been outside the 12 nm boundary. Hence the fishing would have become illegal only if the boat didn’t report its location. (So, why not report?) NOTE: A photo (35 mm color slide) of a group of squid boats, taken at a distance of about 30 nm (56 km), shows roundish images. SBs tend to fish in pairs to concentrate their light. (Even when in large groups they pair off.) Hence for a single boat to be fishing alone would not be a typical mode of operation. If there were one, then there should have been two boats in the Pegasus Bay. Figure 1 shows the track of the aircraft as if flew from Christchurch and sighting directions to the bright object as well as a number of suggested locations for the HSB. Note that this is based on the immediate recollections of the pilot that he turned the plane 92 degrees before he stopped turning in an effort to put the object “on the nose” of the aircraft (see below). (He subsequently turned left to regain the original flight direction.)
Other SBs in the vicinity of NZ (140 miles east of the South Island and also to the northwest of the South Island) had their lights on at least as early as midnight. We know this because they were detected by a by satellite that flew over at about midnight. It was 45 minutes after midnight that the Argosy Aircraft with the air and news crews flew south from Wellington to Christchurch, passing over the Pegasus Bay. Yet no one on board the plane saw any light from a SB in the Bay, although such a boat certainly would have been seen had it been there. Robert Guard, the copilot, did recall seeing the squid fleet 130 nm east of Christchurch during the flight south between 0015 and 0100 hours. He also saw the SB fleet as the plane flew northeastward out of Christchurch over an hour later.
According the the weather report the lower layer of the cloud deck above the Pegasus Bay at about 0220 was 1200 ft or perhaps a bit higher. At that altitude the horizon is 40 nm or more away. A SB is bright enough to be easily seen at 40 nm. Referring to Figure 1 one sees that several of the suggested SB positions are within or barely at the 40 nm range from, the airplane. Thus, if the HSB had had its lights on by the time the plane took off from Christchurch, and if it had been at one of these positions, it should have been seen BEFORE the plane entered the cloud layer. Yet, no light was seen until the plane started to break through the cloud tops. Thus, if it was a SB at some location such as those indicated on Figure 1, it turned its lights on while the plane was in the cloud, which would be a strange coincidence (and the boat was getting a very late start compared to all the other SBs near NZ at the time).
When the pilot first saw the light as the plane was climbing up through the cloud layer he had the impression that the light was at the same altitude as the plane.
The light was first seen as a glow through the cloud tops while the plane was climbing above the cloud layer. Quentin Fogarty referred to the light, in a taped commentary at the time, as being so bright that it was lighting up the clouds around it
During the first unobstructed view the pilot and copilot both thought at first that they were looking at the full moon. Then they realized that the moon had set in the west many hours before. However, their surprise at seeing the “moon” indicates that they had an impression that the light was of considerable (angular) size and brightness and somewhat round (the angular diameter of the moon is abou 1/2 degree or about 8 milliradians). This is unlike what one would expect for a squid boat about 40 nm away on the horizon (see Figure 1). At that distance the SB would be no more than a bright small spot of light. (SB: about 100 ft long, if seen broadside at 40 nm the angular size would have been 100ft/(40 x 6077)= 0.00041 radians = 0.41 milliradians [0.41 mr], too small to be resolved). Of course the brightness of the HSB would make it appear larger than the geometric angular size of 0.41 mr but at distance of 40 nm it would not increase the apparent size by a factor of 8 mr/0.4 mr = 20.)
The crew and passengers had the impression that at no time while the plane was flying along a straight path did the light move much with respect to the plane. Instead, they clearly had the impression that it was pacing the plane. The second reporter on board (Dennis Grant) wrote a note at the time which states “170 pace us”, which meant that when the plane was traveling about 170 mph (statute miles/hour) the light was pacing the plane. It is well known that a very distant light source can appear to pace an observer who is traveling in a straight line (e.g., Venus has been reported to “pace” cars and airplanes in various “UFO” sightings). However, for the suggested S.B. positions in Figure 1 it should have become apparent to the crew, at least, if not to the passengers, that the plane was first approaching and then flying past the light source. That is, they should have noticed that the azimuth angle was continually increasing, with respect to zero degrees azimuth being straight ahead of the plane. In fact, the azimuth did increase slowly from about 30 degrees (1 o’clock position) to about 90 degrees to the right (3 o’clock position) and then stayed about constant for a while before the plane turned to the right. This is in contrast to what would have happened if the HSB had been at locations indicated by Ireland and Andrews, Maccabee Position 1 and Maccabee Position 2 on Figure 1. The plane would have flown past these positions before turning right and th azimuth angle wuld have increased beyond 90 degrees. Hence, it seems unlikely that the crew would have thought that the object was pacing the plane and so these locations are rejected by this analysis.
A careful analysis of several of the images on the original film has been used to estimate the maximum distance at which a HSB could make images as bright as those recorded on the film. This analysis is based on known squid boat intensities and the measured image exposure levels (image brightnesses and areas). This analysis suggests that a HSB could be as far as 40 nm from the plane and still make images with the exposure levels recorded at the beginning of the film. The allowed locations of the HSB fall within a 40 nm arc centered at the location of the plane when it broke through the clouds. The 40 nm arc, shown in Figure 1, encompasses the following possible HSB locations which were determined from OTHER factors (see below): Ireland and Andrews, Maccabee Position 1, and Maccabee Position 2. More distant locations are rejected by this analysis. In other words, the image brightness data, coupled with known SB brightness, suggests a location within the 40 nm arc on Figure 1 and argues against the locations suggested by Philip J. Klass in correspondence with me (and published in his book, “UFOS THE PUBLIC DECEIVED”…which was aptly named, because he deceived the public).
The initial film images are narrow ellipses tilted at about 45 degrees to the horizontal. Figure 2 shows a number of images traced from a screen onto which the images on the color movie film (16 mm) were projected, frame – by – frame. The number associated with each image is the number of the frame starting with the first frame of the film taken while the plane few northward from Christchurch. The time between frames was 1/10 sec. From frame to frame the image usually moves from one position to another on the projection screen. This frame-to-frame motion is attributed to camera vibration since the cameraman was holding his camera on his shoulder while squatting down on the moving airplane. In some cases the image moves a considerable distance (many times its own size) from one frame to the next. Such images are “stretched out” during the shutter time (the time the shutter is open, about 0.044 sec; the “ampersand” image used to estimate the intensity of the light is a prime example of a stretched out image). However, in some series of frames the image hardly moves from frame- to-frame indicating a time of temporary steadiness of the camera. Frames in these “steady sequences” are called “stationary frames.” The images in the stationary frames are stretched very little or not at all during the shutter time and hence represent, to some degree of accuracy, the actual shape of the object/light being photographed.
For pedagogical purposes I have included two examples of what one sees with successive images to show how it is possible to find stationary frames. The image labelled 28 in the series 25 – 30 shows what happens to a narrow image that is smeared “sideways” (perpendicular to its long axis) by camera motion. The image shape has clearly been affected by camera motion. On the other hand, the images in frames 29, 31 and 31 hardly move at all. Similarly the frames 180 – 185 of the series 175 – 185 are “stationary frames.” One can easily see that the stationary images tend to be elliptical or oblong with the major axis at about 45 degrees. In Figure 2 most of the images are from stationary frames. Hence the elongation of the images results from elongation of the light source itself and is not a result of motion smear. A SB image on the film, if the boat were close enough (within a few miles) and broadside to the line of sight, might make an elliptical image, but, unless one were looking almost directly downward (from the plane’s altitude of 13,000 ft), and within a mile or so of the boat) the major axis of the ellipse would be horizontal since the boat sits “flat” in the water. Hence the tilt of the initial film images are not consistent with what would be expected of images of a SB at a distance of 40 nm. Furthermore, the fact that the images is elongated also conflicts with the HSB, as will now be shown. The sizes of the initial images are much greater than one would expect for a SB at about 40 nm. In reason 8 above I gave the angular size of a 100 ft SB, broadside to the line of sight, and 40 nm away: 0.41 mr. On Figure 2 the scale sizes of the images are indicated (sizes on the original 16 mm film) to be on the order of 0.2 to 0.3 mm. Since the focal length of the lens was 100 mm, the image angular sizes are in the range (0.2 to 0.3 mm/100 mm) = 2 – 3 mr. Geometric imaging obeys the following rule: the angular size of the image (image size/focal length) equals the angular size of the object (object size/distance). In this case the geometric imaging rule is not obeyed because the angular sizes of the images are 5 to 7 times the angular size of the object. The excessive size of the image can be attributed to the brightness of the light source: the brighter is a light source, the larger is its image. (This applies to large angular sized sources as well as to small,”point” sources, but the effect is much more obvious for very small sources.) Large brightness causes the image to increase above geometric size because light scatters sideways within the film and exposes film grains that lie outside the boundary of the geometric size. (Also, the diffraction and aberrations within the lens of a camera can make the image slightly larger than the geometric size.) Since the light within the film scatters the same amount in all directions relative to the center of the unresolved image, images which are made large by light scattering (and lens aberrations) are round. Therefore, if the light source had been a HSB at 40 nm making an unresolved image, all of the stationary images would have been round. Hence the elongation of the images conflicts with the expected consequences (round images) of the HSB.
Figures 3 and 4 illustrate more images from the film. Most of the images are from stationary frames.
Notice that the images in frames #400 – #500 are fat, tilted elliptical shapes, that near 680 the image become more triangular and around frame 700 they are more horizontal in orientation. However, by frame 1450 the images are fat ellipses again and then they alternate between elliptical and round (see Figure 5). Careful analysis of images obtained as the plane flew northeastward before the right turn, such as illustrated in Figures 2 – 4, shows that (a) the overall image size (maximum dimension) was about constant, or possibly it actually shrank and (b) occasionally the image size changed noticeably in a short time. Neither (a) nor (b) is consistent with the SBH. Figures 6 and 7 are graphs of the image sizes and areas as a function of frame number in the film.
Note that the area increased even though the maximum dimensions (length) stayed about the same (except for occasional noticeable variations). The area increase is a result of the image shape change from narrow elliptical to fat elliptical and then to basically round. The area increase, but not the shape change, is consistent with moving closer to a distant, unresolved (very small angular size) bright light. If the light were a SB at one of the locations in Figure 1, then the distance decreased from about 40 nm to around 12 (or more) nm. The amount of light collected by the lens at 12 nm would have been greater than at 40 nm by the ratio (40/12)^2 = 11. This brightness increase could noticeably increase the image size even though the geometric image size was still to small to resolve. Thus, this brightness increase is at least qualitatively consistent with the SBH, but it is also consistent with any hypothesis in which the airplane got closer to the object as it flew along.
When the plane was near point “A” on the map (Figure 1) the cameraman placed the camera on the back of the copilot’s seat to steady it. He filmed continuously for about a minute and a half and obtained 908 frames, most of which were “stationary frames.” The images were basically round, with some indication that they were slightly wider at the bottom than at the top. A sample of these stationary frames is presented in Figure 8. During the time of this filming the estimated distance to the object was on the order of 12 nm. Basically round bright white images are what would be expected of film of a SB seen “end on” from a distance of 12 nm using a lens focal length of 100 mm (but reflected light from the ocean water is missing; see below). Also apparent in the sequence of 908 frames is a small, nearly round image of a green light that protrudes from the right side of the overexposed, round image. The green “dot” changes in amplitude (brightness) and in extent of protrusion in an apparently random way throughout the sequence. The presence of this strange green image is not consistent with the SBH. (Note: The full color image below is color shifted toward the blue. The actual images are more yellowish white in the center and the green “dot” at the right side is a definite green.)
A SB does have a green running light. Regulations specify that the running light have a rating of only a hundred watts or so. A photograph a 100 watt bulb at 12 nm under the conditions of this sighting the light would make no more than a faint image on the film, if there were no other lights around. However, the glare of the white lights, totalling several hundred thousand watts of power, would completelly cover up the feeble light from the green bulb. Therefore the green “dot” could not be an image of the green running light on the HSB. There is also a green wing light at the leading edge of the right wing of the airplane. From the right hand window of cockpit of the airplane the running light is at about the 4 o’clock position or 120 degrees from straight ahead. The cameraman did most of his filming through the right hand window. However, because of the location of the copilot’s seat relative to the location of the window and because of the small amount of space for holding the camera (which could bump into the control switches on the low ceiling of the cockpit) the cameraman could film atangles up to but not beyond about 90 degrees from straight ahead (the 3 o’clock position). The only way the cameraman could have filmed the wing light would have been for him to sit in the copilot’s seat. However, the cameraman never sat in the copilot’s seat. (Note also that even if the cameraman had been able to film in the direction of the wing light, and it the wing light and distant bright light had happened to be in perfect alignment for a few seconds, the motion of the aircraft would have quickly spoiled the alignement and the green light image would have become separated from the bright light image.) Therefore there is no explanation for the green “dot” at the right side of the bright, essentially round image.
The pilot and copilot agreed to turn toward the light when the plane reached its cruising altitude of 13,000 ft. The pilot believed that he would not have to turn the plane very far to put the object “on the nose” of the plane, i.e, he wouldn’t have to turn much to head directly toward it, because be believed that the object was pacing the plane. He assumed that the object, not knowing about the turn, would continue in its path northeastward, at least for a while, before reacting to the turn. At that time the azimuth (sighting line) to the light was probably about 75 to 90 degrees to the right of straight ahead (2:30 to 3:00 position relative to 12:00 being directly ahead). The pilot did not plan to turn any particular amount. He just intended to turn enough to head toward the object. He used a manual turn control knob and applied some finger pressure to the knob to turn the plane. He therefore expected a situation similar to that illustrated in Figure 8.
He was surprised to discover that, even though he kept up the pressure on the turn knob and the airplane turned, he was not able to head directly toward the object even after many seconds of turning. It was as if the object had immediately realized what he was doing and was taking an evasive reaction to his turn. After a time estimated to have been about 30 seconds he looked at his compass and realized he had turned the plane 92 degrees, much more than he had expected. At this point he stopped the turn, feeling that it was futile to continue. He felt that the light had responded very quickly to the turning of the plane, indicating a superior flight capability, and that he couldn’t “catch” it by continuing the turn. After stopping the turn, he decided to fly southeastward, approximately toward it, for a short time to see what would happen (see Figure 1). He still couldn’t get the object directly ahead of the aircraft. In fact, he couldn’t see it directly because it was too far to the right and down for him to see through the right hand windows (he was able to see a glow in the right hand windows from his position at the left side of the cockpit). After several minutes he decided to end the chase and go home. The important point is this: the surprisingly large size of the right turn is evidence of the pilot’s belief that the light was pacing the plane before the turn and that it had altered its state of motion in a very short time (seconds), i.e., slowed down, as the plane turned toward it.
Four days after the sighting the copilot made a tape recording of his recollections of the sighitng. He was seated on the right side of the plane. He said that after the right turn the light appeared to him to be between the plane nd Banks Peninsula, and at a lower altitude than the plane (See Figure 1). His only reservation in placing the object at some specific location between the plane and Banks was expressed during an interview five weeks later, when he stated that, since he didn’t know the distance to the object, it could actually have been been beyond (south of) Banks Peninsula. In the free-recall tape he also stated that he could see the flashing beacon (Le Bons Beacon) at the end of the peninsula, so obviously he had a reference point by which to judge sighting line direction. Referring to Figure 1, one sees that the HSB locations labelled Ireland and Andrews, Maccabee Position 1 and Maccabee Position 2 are consistent with the copilot’s statement about the apparent location of the light after the right turn. However, the location Maccabee Position 3, and the locations suggested by Klass are not consistent with the copilot’s statement and, therefore, must be rejected.
In the same free-recall tape the copilot stated that he could see the bright white light of the squid fleet on the horizon (see Figure 1), which is consistent with the expected horizon distance (about 130 nm) at the altitude of the plane, 13,000 ft (3960 m) as it flew southeastward. In comparison with the brilliant white of the squid boat lights, the copilot noted that the unknown light was noticeably more orange. Since he had both “types” of light source (squid boats and the unidentified object) in sight at the same time (although not in the same direction) it is reasonable to accept the copilot’s statement that he detected a definite color difference. (Perhaps the HSB was using yellow “bug”, lights?) Unfortunately the film images are sufficiently overexposed as to make it difficult to determine the actual color of the unidentified light source. Pale yellow, pale orange, or even “golden yellow” could be consistent with the images. There does seem to be an excess of yellow, even in the brightest, most saturated images
After flying southeast for several minutes the plane turned to the left to head back in its original direction (see Figure 1). In the free-recall tape mentioned above the copilot stated that the light “kept station” with the plane during the left turn. Since the copilot sat on the right side of the airplane the light would have been on the outside of the turn. This implies a rather high speed, at least high for a squid boat(!). The sequence of two taped messages made by Quentin Fogarty (the two messages recorded after his message describing the right turn) is consistent with the copilot’s claim that the light remained at the right side of the plane after the left turn. Fogarty described the left turn in one statement, and then, after a break (stop) in the tape, he recorded the cameraman’s description of what the object looked like through the (defocused) 240 mm lens. In other words, from the sequence of Fogarty’s taped statements it appears that the cameraman was able to film the light (out the right side) after the left turn. (Note: the cameraman used the 100 mm focal length lens until after the left turn. The he obtained his 240 mm lens and installed it on the camera and obtained more film imagery, most of which was defocused; see below).
As anyone who has seen distant lights above water at night would know, there is a reflection that appears below the actual light. When there are waves there can be multiple reflections making a broken of reflections that seems to “hang down below” the light source. Photos of actual squid boats show the reflection from the surface and also, perhaps, some light scattered from particulate matter below the water surface. In contrast to this known characteristic of lights to make reflection in the water, there is no reflection image in the NZ film! Of particular interest for comparison with known SB images are the NZ film images obtained when the plane was at an estimated 10 nm from the unknown light (the closest it got to the object). Consider Figure 9.
At the left side is one of the NZ film images. The film was color reversal type, rated at ASA400 (ISO 400). The zoom camera lens was set at 240 mm focal length and at f/4. (Crockett had changed from the original 100 mm lens.) The film exposure time (10 frames/sec, 0.044 shutter efficiency) was about 1/23 sec. The lens was close to but not perfectly at focus when this image was obtained and so the shape of the image is somewhat distorted and the image is larger than it would have been at perfect focus. However, the exact shape is not important for this present discussion. Note that it is an extremely bright image (overexposed; slightly yellowish in the original film) and is silhouetted against the perfectly black background. There is no film exposure, i.e., no image, at any location in the frame that is outside the boundary of the bright image.
To the right of the movie film image is an image obtained under optically comparable conditions with a 35 mm camera. The film was ISO200 Ektachrome and the 200 mm focal length lens was operated at f/3.5. The shutter time was 1/8 sec. This photo was taken from the same (or an identical) aircraft at the same altitude and at a distance of about 10 nm (as determined by airplane radar) from a bright light source which just “happened” to be a Squid Boat! (This is one of a series of photos obtained as an experiment to see what SB images would look like.)
It is not difficult to see the difference in the two images. Of particular interest is the reddish glow that extends downward below the image of the SB. This is the reflection from the water (and perhaps scattering from small particles under the surface). (The reflection appears reddish even though the SB lights are white because of a color shift due to the low brightness level of the reflected light that appears below the bright main image of the boat. For comparison, two other photos were taken of the SB at the same time, with the shutter times being 1/15 and 1/30 of a second, thereby creating lower exposure levels. In these photos the image of the water reflection is not as bright and does not extend downward as much, but it is clearly present in these photos as well. (Note: the film exposure of ISO400 with a shutter time of 1/20 sec would be about the same as for ISO200 at 1/8 sec. When the 35 mm camera shutter times were 1/15 and 1/30 sec the exposures were about 2/3 and 1/3 of the exposure of the NZ film.) The comparison photos show that if the unidentified light had been a squid boat there would have been at least some evidence of the water reflection in the movie film images. I have searched the NZ film diligently for any evidence of a reflection in the water. There is none. 19 The second reporter (Grant) specifically remembered seeing a reflection in the water! Not only that, but the captain was quoted in a NZ newspaper story, dated Jan 1, 1979, as saying that the light was reflected in the sea. Does this testimony conflict with the statements above that there was no reflection? No, there is no conflict. The reflection noted by these witnesses was at a considerable angular distance BELOW the bright light. That is, there was a large dark gap between the bright light and its reflection in the water below. This is unlike the SB reflection which begins only a few feet below bright SB lights (the reflection begins where the side of the boat enters the water, or close to that location). Recalling the situation during an interview about five weeks later, reporter Grant said he recalled a noticeable depression angle to the light source (say, 20-30 degrees relative to horizontal) and a further depression angle (perhaps 20 deg) between the main source and its reflection. That is, the reflection appeared at a considerable depression angle (maybe 40-50 degrees) relative to horizontal. (The angles are based on his recollection of how far down he had to look to see the bright light and its reflection.) These angles are not intended to be exact but they do indicate a very noticable angle, several degrees at least, between the depression angle to the unknown light and the depression angle to its reflection. The reflection was described as elliptical and "shimmering" , or "fuzzy", as one might expect from a light shining down on sea waves. He described the object itself as definitely round and noticeably above the reflection. Considering that the film shows no reflection at all in either the 100 mm focal length images or the 240 mm focal length images, how can it be that the witnesses saw a reflection? There could have been a reflection which, however, did not appear in the film if (a) the reflection was far enough below the bright light to lie outside the field of view of the camera or (b) the reflection was too dim to make an image. Unfortunately, there is no way to be certain from the available data whether or not a reflection that was only a few degrees below the bright light would have been bright enough to make an image. I would hazard a guess that a several percent reflection from the water surface would be enough to make a very faint image if there were only a couple of degrees between the light and its reflection. If my guess is correct the absence of a reflection image would mean that the reflection was more than, say, 3 degrees below the bright light! An angular separation of several degrees between the light source and its reflection could only have occurred if the light source were considerably above the ocean surface. Consider that a 3 degree angle at a distance of 10 nm corresponds to about 3,000 ft. This is rather high altitude for a typical squid boat to be fishing from, don't you think? Unless, of course, it was a rare type: a Flying Squid Boat. (Well, you've heard of the Flying Dutchman.... why not the Flying Squid Boat?) There you have it: 19 reasons it wasn't a squid boat. All you needed is one! FOOTNOTE HOW THE APPLIED OPTICS ARTICLES HAPPENED TO HAPPEN! Sometime in the time period 1975-77 a Florida entymologist, Dr. Philip Callahan, read Dr. Frank Salisbury's book, THE UTAH UFO DISPLAY: A BIOLOGISTS REPORT (Devin, Old Greenwich CT, 1974). After thinking about the problem of identifying the UFO sightings reported therein, and, being an entymologyst, he began to think about "bugs." He wrote: "As the senior author was reading the narrative of night sightings of the Utah UFOs, it occurred to him that the descriptions which Salisbury recorded were quite similar to the descriptions of swarms of day-flying insects." After reproducing several short summaries of nighttime sightings reported in Salisbury's book, Callahan wrote: "The similarity between these descriptions and the sound and flight antics of swarms of insects is startling." Callahan the proposed the following explanation: "Since the exoskeleton is a dielectric surrounding a conducting medium (the insect body fluid), Saint Elmo's Fire is one very likely possibility." To test his proposed explanation so he did a number of experiments, some of which involved impaling beetles on a high voltage electrode and taking pictures of the corona glow from the antennae and other sharp points of the body. These pictures proved that insects in a very high electric field could "glow" by corona from th sharp points. He then argued that what would happen with an instect on an electrode could happen if an insect flew into the high electric field between an electrified cloud and the ground. He further argued that the dim light of a single insect would be amplified a thousandfold, or more, by the number of insects in the swarm. This proposal is what I have named the "Buggy UFO Hypothesis" (BUFOH). Callahan and Mankin submitted their paper to Applied Optics, a scientific journal of the optics/lasers/imaging systems/ etc. trade. The paper was submitted in December, 1977. I suspect that it would NOT have been published except for the fact that it argued that the "optics of insects" could solve at least part of the UFO mystery. As it was, the paper had to wait nearly a year before its publication in the November 1, 1978 issue of applied optics (Vol. 17, #21, Pg 3355). The article apparently intrigued the editor, John Howard, was impressed with the article because he featured one of Callahan's photographs on the cover with the words "UFO? INSECT?" below the image of shafts of light emanating from a dark, elliptical area (glowing corona streams from a "stink bug" on an electrode at about 2,500 volts). A press release announced the publication as an explanation for the ever-vexing UFO problem and immediately Dr. Callahan was a media celebrity, even appearing on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, who, like other major media news persons, rarely mentioned UFO sightings. But, of course, Walter Cronkite was always willing to publicize explanations for UFOs. (Walter could hardly have imagined that only 2 months later he would devote about last 5 minutes of the CBS Evening News to a discussion of sightings from far away New Zealand! After the short news segment that showed some of the New Zealand film he modified his standard closing statement, "And that's the way it is.." by adding "...or is it?") Within 2 weeks of the publication of the BUFOH I had written my rebuttal and sent it to the editor. I pointed out that many of the sightings had occurred in the winter months between 1965 and 1968 when insects would be dormant. I also disouted his claim that the brightness of a swarm would be simply the number of insects (large) times the brightness of one insect. I disputed this because the insect bodies are opaque so light from one side of the swarm would get absorbed or "blocked" by insects as it travels through the swarm toward the other side. The brightness would increase with the effective surface area of the swarm, but not with the volume. I also thought it unlikely that an insect could fly into a region of sufficiently high electric field without having a thunderstorm nearby, whereas most sightings were not during stormy weather. Several weeks later I got a letter from the Editor. He would not use my letter, at least not yet. He said that to be fair to the subject he was going to wait until all responses were in and then pick the best one. So I was put on hold. In the meantime the famous New Zealand sightings of December 1978 occurred. The fact that a news crew was on board to record the events on an audio tape and on color movie film is yet another interesting aspect ("coincidence") of the sightings because had there been no color movie film there would have been no Applied Optics letters. In October, 1978, Frederich Valentich, a young private pilot, disappeared along with his plane over th Bass Strait south of Melbourne, Australia. His last words with the air traffic control center in Melbourne were tat a strange object was flying over his aircraft. This caused a worldwide media uproar since it seemed that either Frederich had been captured by a UFO or had intentionally "lost" himself, perhaps as a drug runnign scheme, or whatever. The Valentich disappearance was a mystery with UFO overtones. (It is STILL a mystery inthe year 2000!) During the night of December 20-21, freighter aircraft flying off the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand had visual sightings as air traffic controllers reported unidentified radar targets. Ground personnel at Blenheim airfield also saw lights doing strange things in the sky. The sightings were big news the next day. About 8 days later a producer TV station in Melbourne, Channel 0, decided to do a short documentary segment on those sightings because they knew that their stories on the Valentich disappearance and UFOs in general had increased their audience. It just so happened that one of their experienced TV reporters, Quentin Fogary, was in New Zealand for vacation. They called him and asked him to do some interviews and put together a short, 5 minute segment on the previous sightings. He therefore hired a cameraman and did the interviews with the radar controllers and pilots on the previous sightings, and then he went "beyond the call of duty:" he arranged to take a trip on one of the freighter aircraft to provide background footage and so that he could (and did) say in a short "stand up," that he was flying along the same route and that he would keep his eyes open for any UFOs that might appear. So that is how there happened to be a news crew on board the freighter aircraft and how there happened to be a color movie, portions of which were shown around the world in early January, 1979. How I happened to get involved in the New Zealand sighting investigation is yet another story, but the point of interest here is that by the middle of January I was deeply involved in the investigation and the BUFOH was far from my mind. The investigation did include a trip to New Zealand and Australia to interview the witnesses. By the middle of March I had concluded that at least some of the lights reported during the December 31 sightings could not be explained . (I appeared on Good Morning America with J. Allen Hynek and several of the New Zealand witnesses to report on the results of my investigation. This was on March 26, 1979, same day as the signing of the Camp David Peace Accords by Israel and Egypt!) I therefore wrote a report on one portion of the NZ sightings and sent it to NATURE. I assumed that because the NZ sightings had gotten such wide publicity at the time, the fact that numerous scientists had offered their explanations (including Sir Bernard Lovell of Jodrell Bank Radio Observatory who had suggested they saw meteors.... a totally impossible explanation), and the fact that NATURE had reported some of the initial incorrect explanations for the NZ sightings, that NATURE would like an opportunity to correct previous errors by publishing some some real data on the sightings. (I was wrong!) In the middle of March I received a letter from the Applied Optics editor. He wrote that there had been no other responses so he thought that some version of my letter could be a rebuttal. I would have to rewrite it, to make it shorter. I was pleased but was totally immersed in the NZ investigation so I put aside rewriting my BUFOH rebuttal. Besides, I was more interested in whether or not NATURE would publish the NZ article. I was not to surprised when I received a rejection notice from NATURE in early May. The editor, who had seen fit to publish the news wire versions of the NZ sightings shortly after they happened, wrote that my paper should be part of a "larger survey that is presumably being conducted." (code words for "get lost!"). Now a clever plot hatched in my mind. Suppose I made use of an unintended "bait and switch?" My rebuttal to the BUFOH would be rather "mundane" not directed toward a specific UFO sighting and not necessarily right for an optics journal. But I had written a paper for NATURE which made use of optics, photography, etc. to calculate the brightness of one of the lights seen off the coast of NZ. I thouht that perhaps I could interest the Applied Optics Editor in this, instead. In early May, 1979, I rewrote the NATURE article to be more in line with the Applied Optics "Letter to the Editor" format. I sent it along with a cover letter saying that, although this did not respond directly to the BUFOH, it nevertheless "...contains some physical data about an unusual light source and, since the data are primarily of an optical nature, the article is suited to your journal." I was worried that he would reject the letter because it did not directly address the BUFOH article. Instead, I simply listed "glowing insect swarms" as one of many explanations that had been rejected, even though no one had suggested that glowing insect swarms had caused the sighting. I was even more worried about rejection because of my claim in the letter that the light source had not been identified (in the context of the NZ sightings, "not identified" was a "code word" for UFO!!!) To my surprise and delight his response was positive and my letter was published. It was the first, and so far as I know, to date, the only, in-depth technical discussion of a specific UFO sighting to appear in a mainstream, refereed technical journal. Several months after my letter was published I was surprised to receive from the editor a preprint of an article by two scientists in New Zealand who had written a rebuttal to my paper. I was offered the opportunity to respond to their rebuttal. Their article was published in December, 1979 and my response was supposed to be published immediately following their letter. However, my response ran into a few "minor difficulties." One of the senior officers of the Optical Society of America had not appreciated the publication of my letter and had welcomed the letter by Ireland and Andrews. This senior official criticized the editor for publishing my letter and then advised the editor to reject my rebuttal. The discussion would have ended there if it weren't for the fact that I could claim Ireland and Andrews were wrong and I could "prove" it. I enlisted the help of a well respected physicist who was an acquaintance of the senior officer and he managed to pursuade the officier and the editor to publish my rebuttal. You will note that at the end of my rebttal letter the editor included a statment that closed the discussion. And that's how three letters providing a technical discussion of a single UFO sighting happened to appear in Applied Optics. I am certain that they wouldn't have appeared if it hadn't been for Salibury's book inspiring the entymologists to write the "buggy" paper because (a) I never would have thought to submit a UFO article to Applied Optics (AO had no history of involvement with ufology) and (b) if had submitted such a paper, I'm sure the hint of "unidentified" would have resulted in immediate rejection by the editor who referred to "ufo believers" as "99 and 44/100ths percent kooks."
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