By Bill Chalker 
copyright ©1996

   Part Six    


The incident in Canterbury, a Sydney suburb, which Dr. Duggin looked into, received press coverage. "Sisters hysterical at sighting. WEIRD "SAUCER" OVER CANTERBURY" the Sydney Sun-Herald of March 8th, 1967 reported:
"Two sisters described this week how they stood on a veranda together and watched a flying saucer hover over a Canterbury bowling green. They said the saucer was a "strange round thing" and it made a "weird humming sound."

"It came down to tree-top level and was less than 100 feet from where they stood. The woman who first made the sighting is Mrs. D. Manhood, of Wairoa Street, Canterbury. Her sister, Mrs. R. Coleman, joined her on the veranda seconds later and they watched the saucer's flight for 10 minutes."

Dr. Duggin's report included the following details:

"8 March 1967.

"At approximately 10.10 am Mrs. D. Manhood went outside to fetch her small daughter from the vicinity of the bowling green adjoining their residence, as it was raining. At this time Mrs. Manhood observed the described object which came from the left and appeared to pass over the bowling green.

"There were no significant markings and the object appeared to change gradually from circular to elliptical: It was dark grey - black in colour. It was thought to be the size of a small car at tree-top height. If the estimate of size and distance was correct then its speed was less than 30 mph. Mrs. Manhood's initial supposition was that it may have been preparing to land on the bowling green.

"It emitted a noise similar to that given off by a child's humming top. At the time when Mrs. Manhood left the house to enter the verandah, her sister, Mrs. Coleman, was telephoning Mrs. Manhood's mother. She joined Mrs. Manhood to tell her that the telephone had gone dead and witnessed the sighting. However (This) could perhaps have been due to a technical fault (as) the PMG [phone company] were working nearby at the time.

"After approximately 5 minutes, the object, travelling on a level and straight course, passed just over the railway embankment, just above the power lines (it appeared). Three witnesses saw the object pass over the embankment - Mrs. Manhood, Mrs. Coleman and Mrs. Clavis. After about 1.5 minutes, the object again appeared over the embankment and climbed at an angle of about 70 degrees to the horizontal at a fairly good speed. It was observed by the above persons plus Mr. Manhood at this stage. It appeared to become smaller and smaller as it climbed towards a break in the clouds and was finally lost to view after approximately five minutes."

Dr. Duggin checked with the Weather Bureau, Mascot airfield and Mascot radar. No confirmatory details were found, but a balloon was ruled out.

Dr. Duggin concluded, "It is highly improbable that any balloon could (1)  change its aspect from circular to oval or elliptical, (2)  travel at a low altitude and suddenly climb again, and (3)  It is virtually certain that no balloons were in the vicinity of Canterbury at the time of the reported sighting."


The RAAF files revealed a striking close encounter near Burrenjuck Dam, near Yass, in New South Wales (NSW), at about 12.40 am, on June 17th, 1967. Local police investigated the report and passed their reports onto the RAAF. A local couple were the witnesses. The report of the husband is quoted in part here:
"My attention was drawn to an object in the sky about a half a mile ahead...about 200 feet up in the air over an open grassed paddock and within about 200 feet of the roadway. The object I saw was a red glowing object, the colour was an orange red, the whole thing seemed to be a red glow, then I saw a blast of greyish white light in a V shape come from this object towards the ground. It was only of short duration.... I then stopped my car and got out onto the roadway... I saw that the object was a fair size... I saw that the shape was similar to an old style beer barrel which was lying on its side.

"I saw that the object was then moving towards Burrenjuck and parallel with the road. It was only moving slowly. I got back into my car and followed the object. I was travelling at about 45 m.p.h and was catching up to the object. I followed it for a measured 1 and 9/10 miles to a place where there is a rise in the road, and at this time I was then only about 200 yards distance off the object.

"I then saw what appeared to be red lights flicking all around the object. The flicking was much quicker than that used on aircraft. I had again got out of my car on the roadway, and as I observed the object I could distinctly hear a clicking noise coming from the object. It was a noise similar to an amplified noise of car blinker lights...

"As I stopped my car I saw the object make a left hand turn, and it headed off towards some hills in a direction generally between the towns of Bowning and Yass. The object was still only travelling at a slow speed. It did not appear to gain or loose any height. I did notice as the object travelled away from me, it appeared to have a bouncy action from one side to the other. It was only a slight movement from side to side...I would say that I had the object under my observations for approximately 15 minutes..."

"I have never seen an object in the sky like this one before. It was some foreign object. I would say that it was not any form of aircraft that I know about, and I have had five years experience with aircraft in the RAAF."

Sergeant A.B. Vale, of Yass police made a close survey of the grassed paddock on the property involved, "where the unidentified object was first seen and alleged to have omitted a blast of greyish light towards the ground. Nothing was seen to indicate that the object had been on the ground or had caused any scorching of the grass or earth with the blast."

He added, "I am of the opinion that the two persons alleging the sighting of the UFO, have given a reliable statement of what they saw, they are both matured persons, and highly respected citizens of Burrenjuck, and their report in this instance would be a genuine one. There is no suggestion that either of the two persons were under the influence of liquor at the time, and it would appear that they did both see something unusual in the sky early that morning..."

The RAAF "Summary of UAS" lists this case as "Incomplete data" in terms of "Possible cause". In fact, beyond the detailed police reports, there was no real attempt to investigate it. There was a notation indicating that "CNCO has stated that it is unlikely that the sighting was either a star or a plane." The officer at RAAF Headquarters Operational Command, prefaced the report with the annotation, "The observers description of the object - "like an old type beer barrel" may give us a clue. But perhaps we should put it down as "unexplained". In fact the RAAF treatment gives us more of a clue to the lack of seriousness and rigour in their follow up of this case and many other striking ones like it. There was a further unqualified annotation, "Plasma?"


Near Nebo, Queensland, during March, 1975, the RAAF investigated physical traces in a roadside gravel storage area, found at the site of a frightening encounter experienced by 5 people. The party of 2 young men and 3 girls were returning from a droving trip on the night of March 22nd along the new Mount Flora to Dingo beach road. At about 10.30 pm, at a point some 90 km from Nebo, the group noticed a strange light amongst the timber ahead on the left-hand-side of the road. As they drew closer, the group made out a rather curious object in a gravel storage area just off the road.

The object appeared to consist of a row of flashing dull white-to-yellow lights, apparently attached to a large "box-like" mass about 1 metre above ground level, with a circular mass situated directly above. This sphere, apparently some 3 metres wide, consisted of several concentric rings of non-flashing bluey-green lights, with a central black disc. Some of the witnesses noticed what appeared to be a "pole" connecting these 2 masses and 4 legs faintly discernible at the base of the complex. The whole object seemed to be about 2.5 metres high and some 3 metres wide.

As they drew level with the strange object and were bringing the car to a stop, a tremendously loud bang seemed to emanate from the thing. The noise was likened to the sound heard when in close proximity to a shot gun being fired. The vehicle seemed to shake in response for a moment. The suddenness of sound frightened the group. After the fightening bang , the group drove further down the road. Some of the witnesses saw that the upper circular mass "seemed to be watching us", as if "they were keeping us under observation." The driver turned the vehicle around and then, once they were level with the object again, stopped. This time there was no loud noise. The two men wanted to get out, but all three girls in the back seat were terrified. They locked the car doors and pummelled the driver with their fists, imploring him to drive away.

The group drove 15 km and stopped at a roads camp. There they found road construction workers, and proceded to describe the frightening spectacle. The two men convinced one of the construction workers to accompany them back to the area. The girls were too frightened and waited at the camp. The trio found that the object was no longer at the storage area, but confirmed the presence of unusual indentations at the spot. The shaken party then made their way home.

Next day they reported the event to the Nebo police. One of the officers accompanied them back to the site. A quote from his report addresses the impact of the experience:

"Whilst at the scene I mentioned to Caroline, aged 12 years, that if we waited for a bit, the UFO might return. The child became quite upset and was obviously frightened. She continued to be disturbed whilst at the location and constantly looked all around as if she expected something to return."

Caroline's written statement concludes with the following: "I never want to see one of them again."

On March 25th, an investigating officer from Townsville RAAF base, and an RAAF photographer, examined the site of the unusual incident. Quoting from the RAAF officer's report:

"The unusual marks on the ground consist of: three oval shaped areas; one roughly circular area; and a rectangular area... The impact(ed) (areas) appeared to be very recent with no weathering of the particular areas in question. Some gravel in the areas... was freshly fragmented... This was quite obvious to the eye as the bright colours of the unweathered exposed centres of the gravel stood out among the surrounding weathered stones in the immediate vicinity..."

Samples were taken and a number of Townsville RAAF officers were asked to view the samples, "and without exception all agreed that the stones appeared to be freshly broken when compared with the weathered sample from the surrounding areas. No test for residual radiation was conducted at the site." The investigating officer indicated that the impacting had been produced by a heavy weight or pressure. He wrote that he was "unable to explain the nature of the alleged object, or the cause of the unusual ground markings ..."


Frederick Valentich It was the extraordinary disappearance of pilot Frederick Valentich (left) over Bass Strait on October 21st, 1978, that thrust the subject of UFOs into the news headlines around the world. The Valentich mystery has endured as an insoluble enigma. The crux of the mystery is just what happened to the young pilot and his 182 Cessna light aircraft - VH - DSJ (Delta Sierra Juliet) - during that October evening. The circumstances behind the total disappearance of both pilot and plane have since been elevated into one of the premier mysteries of aviation and for many one of the most intriguing elements of the UFO phenomenon.

The fact that the mystery has lasted so long is a direct result of the incredible aspects at the heart of the affair. Twenty year-old Frederick Valentich, 47 minutes into what should have been a rountine 69 minute flight from Moorabin, Victoria, to King Island, reported in a radio conversation with Melbourne Flight Service Unit controller, Steve Robey, of seeing an unidentified "aircraft" near him.

The only official report to emerge on the affair was an Aircraft Accident Investigation Summary Report, reference No. V116/783/1047. The basic relevant events and transcript of the conversation between Valentich and Robey - a "radio encounter of a weird kind" - included in the report are given here:

The pilot obtained a class Four instrument rating on 11 May 1978 and he was therefore authorised to operate at night in visual meteorological conditions (VMC). On the afternoon of 21 October 1978 he attended the Moorabbin Briefing Office, obtained a meteorological briefing and, at 1723 hours, submitted a flight plan for a night VMC flight from Moorabbin to King Island and return. The cruising altitude nominated in the flight plan was below 5000 feet, with estimated time intervals of 41 minutes to Cape Otway and 28 minutes from Cape Otway to King Island. The total fuel endurance was shown at 300 minutes. The pilot made no arrangements for aerodrome lighting to be illuminated for his arrival at King Island. He advised the briefing officer and the operator's representative that he was uplifting friends at King Island and took four life jackets in the aircraft with him.

The aircraft was refuelled to capacity at 1810 hours and departed Moorabbin at 1819 hours. After departure the pilot established two-way radio communication with Melbourne Flight Service Unit (FSU).

The pilot reported Cape Otway at 1900 hours and the next transmission received from the aircraft was at 1906:14 hours. The following communications between the aircraft and Melbourne FSU were recorded from this time:

(Note: The word/words in brackets '[ ]' are open to other interpretations.)

[Note: DELTA SIERRA JULIET in the conversation has been abbreviated in this transcript to DSJ for brevity - B.C.]















MELBOURNE this is DSJ is there any known traffic below five thousand










DSJ no known traffic









DSJ I am seems [to] be a large aircraft below five thousand



DSJ what type of aircraft is it



DSJ I cannot affirm. It is four bright it seems to me like landing lights






MELBOURNE this [is] DSJ. The aircraft has just passed over me at least a thousand feet above



DSJ roger and it is a large aircraft, confirm



Er unknown due to speed it's travelling. Is there any airforce aircraft in the vicinity.



DSJ no known aircraft in the vicinity.



MELBOURNE it's approaching now from due east towards me.





(open microphone for 2 seconds)



DSJ it seems to me that he's playing some sort of game. He's flying over me two three times at speeds I could not identify.



DSJ roger. What is your actual level?



My level is four and a half thousand, four five zero zero.



DSJ and confirm you cannot identify the aircraft.






DSJ roger standby.



MELBOURNE DSJ it's not an aircraft. It is (open microphone for two seconds)



DSJ MELBOURNE can you describe the, er, aircraft?



DSJ as it's flying past it's a long shape. (open microphone for three seconds) [cannot] identify more than [that it has such speed] (open microphone for three seconds) before me right now Melbourne.



DSJ roger and how large would the, er, object be?



DSJ MELBOURNE it seems like it's stationary. What I'm doing right now is orbiting and the thing is just orbiting on top of me also. It's got a green light and sort of metallic [like] it's all shiny [on] the outside.






DSJ (open microphone for 5 seconds) it's just vanished.






MELBOURNE would you know what kind of aircraft I've got, is it [a type] military aircraft?



DSJ confirm the, er, aircraft just vanished.



Say again.



DSJ is the aircraft still with you?



DSJ [it's ah nor] (open microphone 2 seconds) [now] approaching from the southwest.






DSJ the engine is rough idling. I've got it set at twenty three twenty four and the thing is [coughing].



DSJ roger what are your intentions?



My intentions are, ah, to go to King Island, ah, Melbourne that strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again (two seconds open microphone) it is hovering and it's not an aircraft






DSJ MELBOURNE (17 seconds open microphone)




There is no record of any further transmissions from the aircraft.

The weather in the Cape Otway area was clear with a trace of stratocumulus cloud at 5000 to 7000 feet, scattered cirrus cloud at 30000 feet, excellent visibility and light winds. The end of daylight at Cape Otway was at 1918 hours.

The Alert Phase of SAR procedures was declared at 1912 hours and, at 1933 hours when the aircraft did not arrive at King Island, the Distress Phase was declared and search action was commenced. An intensive air, sea and land search was continued until 25 October 1978, but no trace of the aircraft was found.

The official report also refers to the following points:

Location of occurrence:   Not known

Time:   Not known

Degree of injury:   presumed fatal

Opinion as to cause (of "Aircraft Accident"):   The reason for the disappearance of the aircraft has not been determined

Steve Robey, the FSU or Flight Service Unit radio controller, who spoke with Valentich during those 6 minutes leading up to his disappearance, said in a Melbourne Herald interview:

"I think at first he was a little concerned about this other aircraft flying around him, and of course I had to assume that it was another aircraft until it developed and became a little mysterious. Towards the end I think he was definitely concerned for his safety; I considered that he would have had to have been a good actor to have put it all together the way he did."

Robey did not believe he had talked to a disorientated pilot,

"It was as though he was looking around for this thing as he was speaking on the radio ... a young fellow with little experience; it was getting dark, and visual reference to the ground is fading. In a situation like this, if this is what happened, it is understandable he is getting a little bit uptight.

"It was a kind of rushed communication ... it was as if he was startled... he was definitely concerned ... it sounded as though it was rattling him."

Apart from a very early attempt to suggest that Frederick Valentich may have been flying upside down, totally disorientated, with lighthouse lights producing his perception of an "unidentified aircraft", the Australian Department of Aviation has never officially addressed the question of what Valentich may have been observing prior to his disappearance.

I tried to extract from the Department their opinion.

At first the then Assistant Secretary (Air Safety Investigation), Mr. G.V. Hughes, advised me that he was not clear as to what was meant by my expression, "...the stimulus of Valentich's apparent UFO observation..."

"However, a great deal of consideration has been given to what Mr. Valentich might have been looking at when he described his observations. A considerable number of suggestions have been put forward by persons inside and outside this Department. All have been examined. The Department is not aware of any other official body having undertaken such an investigation into this occurrence," Mr. Hughes wrote.

However, when it came to an official investigation of a possible UFO connection, a veritable bureaucratic "Catch-22" loomed large. Mr. Hughes advised me, "As you correctly state ..., the RAAF is responsible for the investigation of reports concerning 'UFO' sightings, and liaison was established with the RAAF on these aspects of the investigation. The decision as to whether or not the 'UFO' report is to be investigated rests with the RAAF and not with this Department."

At the time I was fortunately in a position to get a clearer picture of the RAAF role in the Valentich case. I had been given unprecedented direct access to the RAAF files. During my detailed explorations of the files in a number of visits to the Department of Defence in Canberra, I did not come across any documentation on the Valentich affair. The RAAF Intelligence Liaison Officer - DAFI told me that the RAAF did not investigate the affair because they were not asked to by the Department of Aviation! The RAAF saw it as more appropriately in the domain of an "air accident/air safety" enquiry. The Intelligence officer also volunteered that his personal opinion was that pilot diorientation was involved.

In November, 1982, I was finally given official permission to examine the Department of Aviation UFO files, but was specifically denied access to the Valentich files on the grounds that they were Air Accident Investigation files and not UFO files. Mr. Hughes of Air Safety elaborated,

"The file concerning this occurrence is no more or less restricted than any other accident investigation file. As a signatory to the International Convention on Civil Aviation, we subscribe to the Standards and Recommended Practices contained in Annex 13 to the Convention, in respect of aircraft accident investigation, specifically, when it is considered that the disclosure of records, for the purposes other than accident prevention, might have an adverse effect on the availability of information in that or any future investigation, such records are considered privileged."

While in Melbourne examining the Aviation Department's UFO files, I was able to have a lengthy discussion on the Valentich affair with Mr. A. Woodward, the signatory on the official Aircraft Accident Investigation Summary Report, dated May 27th, 1982. He largely reiterated the official department line, emphasising that they were treating the matter as only an "air accident" investigation. He dwelt on a long list of prosaic explanations ranging from diorientation, suicide, to the unlikely prospect of the plane being struck by a meteorite, but conceded that the affair was still unresolved.

Dr. Richard Haines, was a research scientist with NASA and an aircraft accident investigator, as well as an active UFO researcher, particularly in cases involving pilot witnesses. He took a particular interest in the Valentich incident. He was given access to the tape of the incident and undertook studies of it. He was not able to definitively identify the unusual sounds that appeared in the final 17 seconds of open microphone communications with Valentich. A metallic-like sound is noticeable. Dr. Haines found they were similar to the sound produced by the rapid keying of the microphone, but control testing did not confirm this absolutely. He published a book based on his study of the affair, MELBOURNE EPISODE - Case study of a missing pilot. He included 4 hypothetical accounts of what might have happened, namely "pilot disorienation/crash/death", "deliberate pilot hoax", "actual UFO in-flight abduction", and "military weapons test". While Dr. Haines seems to have favoured the final "hypothesis", in reality the evidence for it is slight and speculative.

Many people reported seeing UFOs on the same day and during the night of Valentich's disappearance. A number of these reports are difficult to reconcile with the hysteria and publicity that esculated rapidly over the affair, elevating it to an international sensation. Some 15 or more distinct sightings survived the gauntlet of civilian group investigations. They all occurred between midday and 9 pm, on October 21st. Six occurred in Victoria, one on King Island, and the rest in New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia. These reports seemed to confirm that something quite unusualwas abroad that extraordinary day.

A strange series of photos taken out over Bass Strait, by Roy Manifold, a plumber on holidays at Crayfish Bay, near Apollo Bay, only some 20 minutes before Valentich began describing his encounter, revealed something unusual. He had taken 6 photos of the setting sun. He saw nothing untoward, with the camera set to automatically take the photo series, but upon development the fourth and sixth photos revealed apparent anomalies. The fourth photo showed what looked like a dense "black lump" in the water, giving the impression of something rising from the water. The fifth photo appeared normal. The sixth shows a strange mass situated in the sky directly over the position of the anomaly in the fourth photo, which looked like an object caught in flight with a possible exhaust or trail of material. Film faults and processing defects were ruled out. The RAAF suggested a cumulus cloud breaking up, but the timing of the exposures would have required the "cloud" to have moved into view at a speed of up to 200 mph. Now that's some cloud for what was a calm day!

The areas that feature prominently in the Valentich incident - Cape Otway (his last land call), Bass Strait (the apparent location of his disappearance) and King Island (his apparent destination), all have extensive precedents for UFO activity. During a two month period centred around January, 1978, holiday makers, fishermen, school teachers, local police and lighthouse keepers in the Cape Otway area reported seeing UFOs. During July, 1977, local residents and the lighthouse keeper at Cape Otway, saw an inexplicable brilliant light source, that hovered out to sea for half an hour. We have seen in our history that Bass Strait figured in UFO mysteries particularly in 1920 and 1944. The Melbourne Argus newspaper even described many people seeing "cigar-shaped" objects flying over Bass Strait as far back as 1896. King Island's 425 square miles played host to a wave of unidentified nocturnal aerial lights for at least three months prior to Frederick Valentich's disappearance. Oval shaped lights followed cars and mystified local residents. Strange lights or flares appeared off the north of the island. One of the most spectacular close encounters with a UFO in the area, occurred at a wild and uninhabitated part of the King Island coast, near Whistler Point, just before dawn, on April 10th, 1976. "A beam of light" emanating from "a cross-shaped object" approached a duck-shooter's car, in a direct line. The light display eventually receded directly along its line of approach, ending a silent inspection, when it disappeared over the distant skyline.

There is much that suggests a UFO connection but unfortunately a final answer eludes us, preventing the comfort of certainty. Despite the provocative nature of the taped conversation Valentich had with Melbourne Flight Control prior to his disappearance that refers to a possible UFO presence, the affair still remains a mystery.

The Valentich mystery is punctuated with haunting, or rather more appropriately, taunting clues, that sets one off in all sorts of conflicting directions. Many have come up with all sorts of final solutions, that vary from the bizarre to the sublime. Did a UFO abduct Valentich? Did Valentich contrive the whole affair? Did he, as many think, crash into Bass Strait, leaving no trace? Or are other prosaic explanations involved? A multitude of various lines of enquiry radiate out in all sorts of directions. Most take us away from the facts of the matter, namely that no trace of pilot or plane have yet been found. The mystery resonates in the Australian consciousness in a place reserved for more mythic episodes like the haunting fiction of "Picnic at Hanging Rock". It has inspired dramatic works like the profound and confronting play "Sky" and the bizarre and striking TV mini-series, "Locusts and Wild Honey". We must remind ourselves that a family waits for an answer that so far has never come. I hope that some day they will find that answer.   #

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