Much work on collecting reports of early Australian sightings has been undertaken by Sydney researcher Bill Chalker. For an excellent review of his work please take a look at:
Other work has been undertaken for many years by a group of researchers who publish their findings at:
My own interest in this research area, also goes back many years, but it wasn’t until 2015 that I started to undertake further work in this area. I have published a number of sightings, including some case analyses, on my blog at:
The following report is an ongoing project to catalogue and analyze such sightings
1. I viewed the original book at the Royal Geographical Society, Adelaide on 8 March 2011.
2. I also sighted the 1804 London edition (page 211), and the 1910 London edition (pages 181-182.)
3. David Collins was the late Judge Advocate and Secretary of the Colony which was founded in 1788.
4. Note the use of the letter ‘f’ in lieu of ‘s’ in some words.
“Grandad used to say that it was cigar shaped and had a funny silver colour. When it landed it set fire to all the vegetation and killed the cattle. The noise was dreadful and there was a series of loud bangs. Grandad also spoke of tall strangers appearing in town. They never said anything but always pointed to the things they wanted. Quite often people just disappeared and dogs and domesticated animals disappeared too.
“We always thought that grandad's stories were good but he knew they were true and never made light of them. Kisha did not indicate a date for the events in Ted's grandad's tale, but presumably its vintage would have to be at least contemporary with the first settlers of the Burning Mountain back in 1828.”
— O E Middleton, Inwallewah, near Morpeth, November 15, 1866.
1. In the book ‘Return to Magonia,’ (by Chris Aubeck and Martin Shough, 2015, Anomalistic Books, San Antonio, Texas) the authors located an historical figure of one Osmon Edward Middleton. As to the cause of the observation, the authors considered and rejected, the possibility of a fireball meteor; any other astronomical cause; a dust whirl; a tornado funnel; a dense flock of birds; a swarm of insects; and an early powered airship.
2. Modern day Morpeth is a suburb of Maitland, New South Wales. Maitland is at latitude 32 deg 43 min south and longitude 151 deg 37 min east.
3. I checked a Gazetteer of 370,000 places names in Australia but failed to find Inwallewah. I therefore sent an email to the Hunter Historical Society and asked if they knew where it was. I never received a response.
4. A check for sunrise with a sky chart revealed it was 0445hrs (UTC plus 10 hours.
The ‘machine’ approached and landed on the grass. There was a ‘spirit’ following the ‘ark,’ described as ‘like the neutral tint shade and the shape of a man in his usual frock dress.’ Birmingham was invited to enter the ‘ark’ which he did. Inside he found a room with a table. The ‘spirit’ showed him some papers containing figures and formulas. Looking down and then back up he found the ‘spirit’ had gone. “So I fell, I suppose into my usual sleeping state, and waking next morning deeply impressed with that vision of the night.”
1. A search of TROVE newspapers for the Beechworth area of Victoria, for October 1874 located one article which might be the observation referred to by Holledge
2. The Avoca Mail [Vic: 1863-1900; 1911-1918] Thursday 13 October 1874 on page 2, reported that at 1815 hours on Sunday 4 October 1874, inhabitants of Beechworth reported an unusual sight. The sun had set, when at 60-degree elevation in the north-north-western sky, the sky was lit up ‘…as if by a flash of lightning’ for ten seconds. There appeared a ‘…brilliant and beautiful meteor.’ Its head was larger than Venus. It travelled very slowly, perpendicular to the ground. It left behind it a ‘magnificent silvery band’ which stretched from 60 degrees elevation to the horizon. This took 15 minutes to disappear. Its appearance at one point changed ‘until it assumed the shape of a gigantic snake.’ The sky was clear at the time. Observations of the same thing came in from Chilton, and Wagga Wagga.
3. The Avoca Mail cites its source as the 6 October 1874 edition of the Owens and Murray Advocate.’ A search of this edition in TROVE failed to find such an article.
4. Similar accounts are to be found in ‘Argus’ [Melbourne: 1848-1957] Monday 12 October 1874 page 6; and the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ Friday 9 October 1874 page 2.
5. The wide geographic distribution of sightings indicates that the object was probably a meteor leaving a vivid trail in the sky; blown about by upper atmospheric winds.
‘A correspondent signing himself ‘Eye witness’ writes to the Victorian Express as follows from the Murchison goldfield: - Although rather late, I beg to inform you that about the second week in October, Mr Menzie, the manager of The Star of the East mine, was fixing the tram work of the battery, and when placing one of the uprights he caught sight of a large balloon passing along the line of sight.
Naturally, such an extraordinary visitor caused an ejaculation of surprise from Mr Menzie. All hands (some ten of us) looked up and perceived the object that so surprised Mr Menzie to be a large balloon travelling at a terrific rate from north-west to south-east. Although at a great altitude, the balloon could be distinctly seen in every outline and was travelling at such a rate of speed that the body of the balloon was considerably in advance of the car.
The ariel (sic) visitor created more than surprise at the time and every man was going to write to the paper about it but the old-old story every body’s business invariably turns out to be no body’s business and thus the matter was never published.
Joe Clarke and Quinn who are now shareholders in the Lady mine and myself were among the men working at The Star of the East with Mr Menzie and witnesses the sight described. It would appear probable that the balloon escaped from any port of the Indies or The Strait settlements as it came from that direction.
The general opinion at the time was that possibly it was being prepared from some experimental military work or probably for exhibition purposes when it broke adrift. It would indeed be interesting to know if it had been seen in any other part of the world and where it came from and where it has gone to.’
1. I visited the National Library of Australia’s TROVE digitised newspaper collection. Unfortunately, they do not have copies of the ‘Australian Advertiser.’
2. I wondered if the reference to the Victorian Express was a reference to another newspaper. Indeed, TROVE revealed that there was a paper of this name. The ‘Victorian Express’ was published in Geraldton, Western Australia between 1878-1894.) TROVE did have copies. A search located the account in the Friday 28 September 1894 issue p.3. Here there was one slight difference in the account. The date of the event is said to have been ‘…about the second week in last October.’ As the item appeared in the 28 September 1894 issue it can only refer to October 1893, and not 1894 as I first assumed. The story was headed ‘A supposed balloon crossing the centre of Western Australia.’
3. Another search through TROVE revealed that a shortened version of the story did appear in the following newspapers:
a. ‘The Telegraph.’ (Brisbane, Qld 1872-1941) on Saturday 5 January 1895 p.2.
b. ‘Warwick Examiner and Times.’ (Qld 1867-1918) on Saturday 12 January 1895 p.4.
c. ‘Newcastle Morning herald and Miners’ Advocate.’ (NSW 1876-1954) on Thursday 27 December 1894 p.5.
d. ‘The Daily Northern Argus’ (Rockhampton, Qld 1875-1896.) on Thursday 10 January 1895 p.2.
5. An Internet search revealed that Leslie Robert Menzie was a prominent figure in the search for gold, both in Australian and overseas. He was indeed the Manager of The Star of the East Mine. This mine was located 620 kilometres north-north-east of Perth, the capital city of Western Australia. The nearest town to the mine was Meekatharra, some 40 kilometres away, at latitude 26.6 degrees south and longitude 118.5 degrees east.
To the Editor.
Sir – We witnessed this morning at about nine o’clock what to us seemed an extraordinary phenomenon. A travelling star rose from the south and travelled right across the sky to the north-west horizon in about ten minutes. When first seen it was some distance up, and looked more like a white bird than a star. It appeared to oscillate for two or three seconds, and then sailed steadily across the sky till lost sight of in the distance. I should be pleased if you could inform me if this is a usual or unusual occurrence. Thanking you in anticipation.
Alpha, September 17th 1900.’
1. Alpha is at latitude 23 deg 36 mins south; longitude 146 deg 36 mins east,
2. At 9am the sun was at elevation 37 degrees, azimuth 24 degrees north of east.
3. At nearby Barcaldine the wind at 9am was blowing from the south east.
4. What was it? As the light travelled from the south to the north-west, and the wind was from the south-east, it may have been a wind borne object of some kind.
Mr Griffiths, who observed it for a minute, says it moved over about 20 deg. of an arc in that time. The object appeared like Venus does when it is at its greatest brilliancy, soon after sunset.
Mr Griffiths lost sight of the meteoric object at an altitude of 45 deg. above the horizon. It therefore traveled at least 90 deg. and was lost sight of in the great glare of the sky.
Messrs Chettle and Dodwell state that when it was near to the prime vertical it became elongated, and took an elliptical form, the long axis lying south to north.
‘An unusual phenomenon.
Port Hedland Nov.18.
An extraordinary astronomical phenomenon was witnessed here yesterday, the sun, moon and a brilliant star near the moon being all plainly visible from 10.30am to 4pm.’
Presently the helmsman said “It is strange, but I have never seen lights on the port bow, then right ahead, then on the starboard side.”
“I stepped inside the wheelhouse, and on coming out again saw two lights just over the starboard side bow no distance away, but high up. They seemed to pass us. They were as bright as our masthead lights, and as far as I could judge they were from 200 to 300 yards distant. The lights appeared to be 10 yards apart, one a little above the other. I could not make it out. I said to the man at the wheel: “Did you see them?” He answered, “Yes they are like a German airship flying about.” I did not know what to think. I feel sure I saw something unusual -something which in my 45 years experience of the sea I have never observed before.” The second Engineer Arnold also declared that he the saw strange lights
To the Editor
Sir- When the late Sir Ross Smith was covering the last phase of his epic flight from England to Australia, and was scheduled to arrive in Adelaide during the early afternoon, the late Harry Butler left Adelaide in his small monoplane, nicknamed the Red Devil to meet the big Vickers Vimy over the Adelaide Hills, being a little ahead of his schedule, Harry Butler filled in his time with aerobatics and stunting. Most of which occurred over our nurseries situated just S.E. of Mount Barker.
While watching him very intently, two large black objects travelling at terrific speed in a parallel course, passed very high above him, travelling from north to south. These were quite large and were very high but nevertheless their speed was such as to make Harry butler’s machine appear as if it were stationary.
The day was cloudless and for a moment I thought my eyes were playing tricks, but subsequently my foreman, who was half a mile away at the time, asked me what the two black things were that passed Butler’s machine. During the eveing of the same day, my father in law who lived about a mile away asked an identical question. Both these people gave the same description and direction of flight which exactly coincided with my own observations.
The speed and density of the objects definitely precluded any possibility of there being a
H N Wicks.
Balhannah Nursereies Balhannah
1. A search of Internet sources determined that Sir Ross Smith and crew left England on 12 November 1919 and arrived in Darwin, Australia on 10 December 1919. The ‘Barrier Miner’ dated Tuesday 23 March 1920 page 4 described the arrival of Sir Ross Smith in Adelaide on 23 March 1920 in his Vickers Vimy biplane. The article also mentioned Captain Harry Butler, a famous stunt pilot, in a monoplane, flying alongside Sir Ross Smith, at 1.23 pm that day. A third aircraft piloted by Captain J R Moore was also present.
It would therefore appear, that the observation of H N Wicks, as described in the ‘The Advertiser’ Adelaide dated 25 February 1947, was made around 1.23pm on 23 March 1920.
2. Van we establish H N Wicks as a real, historical figure in Adelaide in 1920? A search through TROVE located an article on page 8 of the ‘Daily Herald’ for Friday 13 February 1914 which places an H N Wicks at Balhannah, helping establish an orchard and nursery.
An H N Wicks appears in the book ‘Who’s Who: South Australian Centenary, 1936.’ He is also mentioned in the 21 March 1934 page 13, edition of ‘The Advertiser’ Adelaide, as at the Balhannah flower show.
It is therefore a reasonable assumption that an H N Wicks may have been present, at Balhannah, on 23 March 1920, as he states in his 1947 letter to the editor.
3. H N Wick’s letter of 1947 described the day as ‘cloudless.’ Can we confirm this? I checked the weather section of the 23 March 1920 edition of The Advertiser’ Adelaide’ for the state forecast. This read in part ‘Lower South Australia Fine with warmer temperatures and light, variable winds, chiefly south-east to north-east.’ There is no mention about the state of cloudiness. Fine, simply means no rain.
4. What might the two objects have been?
a. My first thoughts were that, could Wicks have possibly confused the aircraft he thought was Butler’s, with Ross Smith’s? If this were so, then perhaps the two fast black objects were in fact Butler’s and Moore’s monoplanes? However, Butler’s aircraft was a monoplane and Smith’s was a much large Vickers Vimy biplane. Smith’s aircraft would not have been performing aerobatics and stunts, whereas Butler’s smaller monoplane was capable of acrobatics and stunting; in fact, Butler was famous for stunting.
It would seem on the available facts that H N Wicks was indeed watching Butler’s aircraft when the black objects went by.
b. Could the two black objects have been birds? High speed black objects in the sky could indeed have been birds. However, if we accept that three independent people all saw large objects at around the same time, at a distance of up to a mile apart, this suggestion would seem unlikely.
c. I note there is no mention of the two black objects leaving a condensation trail. There is also no associated noise reported from the objects.
5. In summary. We have confirmed that H N Wicks was a real, historical figure, almost certainly living at Balhannah on 23 March 1920, the date he reports his observation occurred. The other details of the day, e.g. the arrival etc of Sir Ross Smith, are historically correct.
Here then, we have an observation, dated 23 March 1920 of ‘…two large black objects travelling at terrific speed in a parallel course, passed very high above him, travelling from north to south. These were quite large and were very high but nevertheless their speed was such as to make Harry Butler’s machine appear as if it were stationary.’ These were reportedly observed by three people who were a considerable distance apart, albeit belatedly reported in February 1947. As Wicks’ letter appears at the time there were several newspaper reports about the passage of five egg shaped objects over Port Augusta and Lock, both in South Australia, this appears a valid reason that Wicks chose February 1947 to report his own sighting.
On the reported facts, I have no suggestions as to a mundane stimulus for this observation.
Sir – I am interested to know if any beside myself and daughter witnessed an extraordinary appearance in the sky at about 12.30 on Saturday. The sky was intensely blue with an occasional formation of cloud scudding over from the north-west.
On a clear patch of sky, a spherical body, creamy white in color was seen revolving around its own axis, and speeding in a northerly direction ay a good pace against the prevailing wind. The object was above the clouds as occasionally it was observed to repeatedly appear further on. It was not luminous like a star, or a meteor and was seen for nearly half an hour, until eventually obscured by rain clouds.
Yours etc. E. W.’
1. Assuming the location of the observer was Hobart. Hobart is at latitude 42 deg 50 mins south; longitude 147 deg 20 mins east.
2. At 12.30pm the Sun was at elevation 70 deg; azimuth north.
3. Venus was at 41 deg elevation; azimuth WNW.
4. The weather forecast issued at 9pm on 5 January 1923 for the next 48 hours, was for north-west to west winds with showers.5. On the information given, I cannot identify the object. There was discussion on the Magonia Exchange Yahoogroups about the possibility that Venus may have been the object and the observer deceived by scud clouds periodically covering the planet from view, giving the impression that it was moving. Note that there is a contradiction between the half hour long observation, and the object speeding along.
‘Some years ago, an elderly man, Ian Rogers, rang me about an incident when he was a boy in 1924. One morning he was checking their rabbit traps in the Lysterfield State Forest, south of Coolamon.’ He heard a humming noise and saw a landed object, some 100 yards distant. It was a ‘long, cylindrical shape, rounded at both ends, with four square windows along the side. It was at least 30 feet long…’ At one stage ‘people’ got out of it. It then flew off into the sky. The witness said the ground was burnt black and trees singed. At one stage he said he had a ‘small piece of metal’ and that ‘When I rubbed it with my hands it would move off of its own accord.’
‘In the year 1931, at the age of thirteen, while out rabbiting one night on a property in Berrigal Creek, part of the Nandewar Ranges, I noticed the countryside lit up, as if by a yellowish moon light, yet there was no moon. I raised my eyes and there, low in the sky in the north-west was a round disk-like object, yellowish in colour, travelling south, without a sound. It was rotating slowly, travelling at a steady pace, not fast, on a decent even course with no variations in altitude. The object, which seemed to have small flames licking over it all the while, travelled over the peak of a hill about half a mile away and across a gap in the hills towards a mountain almost 2000 feet above sea level.’
The object came to one of the peaks, went behind it and reappeared the other side and continued on to the largest peak and swooped towards the rear of it and disappeared.
At that time there wasn’t any talk of flying saucers or UFOs. I heard about fireballs a little later and thought for a time it must have been one of these. However, I have read some detailed reports of fireballs since and, the description doesn’t fit. For one thing, it was a fine clear night with no clouds.
Jack Howlett, Baradine.’
1. Berrigal Creek is near Bellata, New South Wales. Bellata’s latitude is 29 deg 54 mins south; longitude 149 deg 48 mins east.
2. The Nandewar Ranges consist of numerous peaks, up to the 4885 foot (1489m) peak named Mount Kaputar. I found a list of ten peaks in the ranges, all above 3323 feet (1013m) tall, but no listed peaks of around 2000 feet.
3. The book account mentions that it ‘…continued on to the largest peak.’ The tallest peak is Mount Kaputer, 4885 feet (1489m). This is at latitude 30 deg 16 mins south; longitude 150 deg 10 mins east.
4. I checked Ancestry.com and in the New South Wales 1948 electoral roll I located a Jack Howlett, in the sub-division of Baradine, division of Gwdir, living with Ivy Helen Howlett, in Wellington Street. The electoral rolls indicate that they were living there in 1969 when the letter to Hervey was written. This Jack Howlett was born in 1918, making him 13 in 1931. He died in 1986.
5. For an observer near Bellata, to see the object pass behind peaks, which are at a distance of at least 30 kms away, indicates that the object was at an extremely low angular elevation above the horizon which agrees with the observer’s statement that the object was ‘…low in the sky…
6. The statement by Howlett that ‘I noticed the countryside lit up, as if by a yellowish moon light, yet there was no moon,’ reminds me of numerous descriptions I have read of the sudden appearance of a meteor. Indeed, one night I was out in my own back yard when the whole area was lit up in brilliant blue light, heralding the arrival of a bright meteor.
7. I wonder if the comment that it looked ‘…like a round disk-like object…’ refers to it appearing like a circle, and not a ‘dish’ or ‘saucer shaped’ object? There has been some tendency among certain UFO researchers to look for pre 1947 ‘disk’ shaped objects and shout ‘It’s a UFO!’
8. The description ‘…which seemed to have small flames licking over it all the while…’ is certainly suggestive of a meteor.
9. The observation ended when the object ‘…disappeared…’ It is uncertain from this whether the light from the object went out, or whether the object disappeared due to distance, and perhaps passed over the horizon?
10. I believe Howlett’s comment about the description of ‘fireballs’ not fitting his observation, may refer to the older term ‘fireball’ which was associated with thunderstorms, and seems to fit the newer designation ‘ball lightning.’
11. I looked for contemporary newspaper article about this object, via the TROVE electronic news collection. I found two possibilities. Firstly, a very bright meteor seen over a wide area of Queensland on 17 October 1931. However, the direction of flight was different to the Berrigal Creek object. Secondly, there was a 25 June 1931 set of observations of a bright meteor over the Riverland of South Australia. The colour, direction and other characteristics also do not fit the Berrigal Creek object.
12. Based on the above information, the best fit for this observation at Berrigal Creek in 1931, would be a bright meteor.
‘A strange light.
Seen in the West
Hlamy writes: Please allow me a small space in your valuable paper to write of a strange trail of light, seen in the western sky between 6.30 and 7pm Saturday evening, October 17th. When first seen, this trail of light was shaped like a capital ‘I’ or figure ‘7’, then it changed into a long wavy line like a great serpent. Much brighter and bigger at the lower end. It stayed in the sky about twenty minutes and then suddenly disappeared. The two snapshots enclosed are time exposures of one minute, taken at fifteen minutes to 7 o’clock. Note the small star at the lower end of the trail.
Stockman: Who else besides myself saw the wonderful sight in the western sky on Saturday evening, 17th saw this dazzling affair. The sun was down a good time and the moon’s light not very bright. The time must have been a little past 7 o’clock. The affair resembled a thick snake, head downwards, all brilliantly white, while several clouds nearby were quite black. In fact, there was not another white cloud in the sky. It held its shape for quite a while. Then the tail changed and it started to pale, turning quite pink as it did so. The head stayed strong and pink to the last. I had no watch but before it paled I had ridden a mile watching it all the time. I had an idea that it came on suddenly, as I shut a gate several minutes before and saw nothing.
Superstitious people will be wondering what it fortells. I’m trying to believe our long delayed rain is close at hand.
A mysterious phenomenon was witnessed by many residents as dusk was approaching on Saturday evening last, says our Winton correspondent. It took the form, when first observed, of a pencil of white steam-like substance.
It was located in the sky, south of Winton, at an altitude of about half way between the horizon and the zenith, close to the two pointers of the Southern Cross. The mysterious white streak stood almost vertical and unraveled slowly downwards, at the same time growing thicker, until it was about the length (to the eye) of the distance between the Southern Cross pointers.
After about ten minutes it began to bend as if blown by an air current, and assumed the shape of a reversed mark of interrogation. The lower end was now in the shape of an arrow head and drifted lower and in a westerly direction, until as darkness came on, it faded from view.
An enormous meteor or shooting star, which fell in a north-westerly direction was observed in the Winton district. It reached the dimensions of a huge electric light and had a brilliant red sword-like tail. Meteors have been seen in the Alpha district recently.’
1. Rockhampton, Queensland is at latitude 27 deg 24 mins south; longitude 150 deg 30 mins east.
2. The sun set that night at 6.03pm [UTC plus 10 hours.]
3. At 6.45pm the sun was 9 degrees below the horizon at azimuth 15 deg south of west.
4. The moon was at 69 deg elevation; azimuth 29 deg south of west.
5. What was it? From Rockhampton it was seen to the west; and from Winton to the south. Looking at a map and the geometry, it would seem to have been the same object seen from these two localities.
6. All the details suggest that the observers were watching the trail of a meteor; distorted by high altitude winds, and lit by the sun which was below the horizon in the west.
‘Taree aerial phenomenon.
‘Several Taree residents witnessed a strange aerial phenomenon about 6.40 on Sunday evening last. A light appeared in the western sky and travelled in an easterly direction from Wingham towards Taree. The light is described as being about the size of one of the Taree street lamps. When near the Taree Bowling Green it seemed so low that it was hidden behind a tree and it passed over the hill to the west of the oil depot and appeared to fall behind the trees. The flight occupied about seven minutes. Had the object been a meteor it would have fallen straight down but it travelled parallel to the earth.’
1. ‘The Gloucester Advocate’ (NSW 1905-1954) Friday 23 June 1933 page 2.
2. ‘Daily Examiner’ (Grafton NSW 1915-1954) Monday 19 June 1933 page 4.
1. Taree is at latitude 31 deg 54 min south and longitude 152 deg 27 mins east.
2. According to the Geophysics Australia website sunset that night was at 1653 hrs (UTC plus 10 hrs). Astronomical twilight was at 1820hrs.
3. Meteor do not always travel ‘straight down.’ They can certainly travel parallel to the ground.
4. However, a duration of seven minutes is unheard of for a meteor.
5. There is no mention of a meteor-like trail or tail; there was no single body exploding into a number of parts; or bits breaking off the main body.
6. There is also no mention of any associated sound.
7. All in all, if this was a modern report I would be looking at the possibility of a hot air garbage bag hoax balloon. Did they have anyone launching hoax ‘fire’ balloons in those times?
8. I located an article in the ‘Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate dated Monday 17 July 1933 page 6 which stated:
‘Taree residents have on two occasions during the month been perplexed by a strange red light which traversed the sky. Some people thought it was a bright star which went very slowly and evenly on its way until it disappeared below the horizon. One resident of the lower part of the Manning river said he saw the object at a distance of about 300 yards and accelerated his motor car to overtake it but it was too swift for him. The mystery however has now been solved. A boy employed by a Taree chemist was responsible. He released hot air balloons measuring 5 feet by 3 feet which ascended to an immense height.’
‘While living at a place called Willow Bark during 1936, I saw what I thought was a meteor with a very long tail. This one suddenly exploded and my face began to burn. As the light grew closer I was able to make out this object which looked like a giant spinning top which seemed to be made out of gold plated metal.
I screamed and my mother and sister came running outside, whereby it shot up into the sky and vanished.
I spoke to some pilot at the Air Force Base at Amberley soon afterwards and they admitted to seeing something strange in the sky on the night in question.
Mrs L. D. Cooper, Brisbane.’
A number of flaps of “ghost planes,” “strange planes,” “Unidentified aircraft” or “dirigibles” have been documented in the UFO literature. These have occurred in such diverse places as Denmark in 1908; the United Kingdom in 1909; South Africa in 1914 and Scandinavia in the early 1930â€™s.
A Department of Defence Air Board file, recently uncovered by us, describes “ghost planes” and “unidentified aircraft” over the Northern Territory in 1938. File A705 control symbol 56/3/2, reveals at least seven instances between 3 Feb and 25 Mar that year. In one instance, on 8 Feb 1938, an aircraft engine noise was heard and the witness saw an orange coloured light in the sky for two minutes.
The official reaction was that no aircraft had made refuelling arrangements in the Territory, which made it “very improbable” that strange aircraft were about.
|Summary of Department of Defence Air Board file series number A 705 control symbol 56/3/2 titled “Department of defence-Air Board-Unidentified aircraft at Darwin” located in the Canberra office of the NAA. 19 pages.|
|1||File cover. Originally “Secret” now “Restricted.”|
|2||DOD minute Apr 1938. From Dept of Navy Intelligence to the Air Board. On 12 Mar 1938 at 1600hrs NT police at Booroloola reported a heavy noise like an aircraft going NW towards Burketown. Also on 19 Mar 1938 another aircraft. This latter could have been FO Clouston. On 25 Mar 1938 another at 1400hrs aircraft seen Groote Island.|
|3||RAAF minute 9 Apr 1938 Unidentified aircraft at Darwin. See below.|
|4||Memo 22 Mar 1938. Dept of Interior to DOD. Copy of interview re 11 Mar 1938 from NT Administrator.|
|5||Memo 11 Mar 1938. To Dept of Interior from Administrator. A Mr Alwright heard an aircraft on 3 Mar 1938 at 0530hrs passed over Darwin; and at 6pm on 3 Feb 1938 two men at Darwin claimed to have seen an aircraft which had wheels not floats.|
|6||DMOI from Dept of ops & Intel. Report from Administrator Darwin.|
|7||Copy of 6.|
|8||Memo 12 Feb 1938. NT Administrator to Air Board. Copy of reports of witnesses who claim to have seen aircraft. Says no evidence of aircraft fuelling in NT, therefore despite credibility of witnesses, no aircraft were there.|
|9||Statement - M
Holtze at 0430hrs 8 Feb 1938 heard engine of aircraft. Went
outside - saw an orange coloured light in the sky in the SW for 2
minutes before it disappeared.
Statement - P J Love at 6pm on 3 Feb 1938 saw a grey coloured biplane high in the sky going E or SE.
Statement - W T Williams at 6pm on 3 Feb 1938 heard the sound of engine and saw a grey aircraft in a southerly direction.
|10||DOD Minute. 16 Feb 1938. D of O & I for GS(MI). Report received from informant that the exhaust of Japanese seaplanes at night gives off orange flame.|
|11||Telegram to Air Board 11 Feb 1938. Close investigation 8 Feb 1938 about aircraft can be discounted. On 3 Feb report, all aircraft in the NT had been accounted. Absence of fuelling arrangements make it “very improbable” that strange aircraft were about.|
|12||Copy of 11.|
|13||Telegram 10 Feb 1938. Darwin to Air Board- obtaining reports.|
|14||RAAF Minute 10 Feb 1938. Secretary has received info from Powell's Creek. Natives report two aircraft on 9 Feb 1939 flying south at 11am.|
|15||Copy of 13.|
|16||Telephoned Telegram 9 Feb 1938 to Administrator Darwin from Air Board. Press reports about aircraft over Darwin - details sought.|
|17||Press clippings. Melbourne Argus & Age 11 Feb 1938 - aircraft over Darwin.|
|18||Press clippings. Herald 10 Feb 1938. “Ghost planes.”|
|19||Press clippings. Argus & Herald 9 Feb 1938. “Strange planes.”|
‘Strange object in the sky.
Observations at Manjimup.
Manjimup Oct 20
A strange object was seen in the sky about 4.45am yesterday by Mr Andrew Muir, of Fernbank, near Manjimup. The object was shaped like a banjo case, the head appearing larger than the Moon and the tail short and rounded at the end. In spite of the daylight it was luminous.
The object was first seen a little west of south and about ten degrees above the horizon, and unlike a meteor. It moved slowly eastwards and downwards, until lost to sight.
It was witnessed also by Mrs Charles Reeve from a point several miles from where Mr Muir stood to observe it.’
1. ‘The West Australian’ [Perth, WA 1878-1954] Friday 21 October 1938 p.26.
2. ‘Daily Mercury.’ [Mackay, Qld 1906-1954] Monday 24 October 1938 p.8.
3. ‘Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser.’ [Qld 1800-1947] Monday 24 October 1938 p.9.
4. ‘Sunday Mail.’ [Brisbane, Qld 1926-1954.] Sunday 23 October 1938 p.5.
5. ‘Western Mail.’ [Perth, WA.1885-1954.] Thursday 27 October 1938. p.55.
1. What astronomical objects were in the sky at 0445hrs on Wednesday 19 October 1938? A check using two electronic sky charts revealed that:
a. The Sun was 10 degrees below the eastern horizon. Sunrise was at 0530hrs.
b. The planet Venus was below the horizon.
c. The planet Jupiter was below the horizon.
d. The planet Mars was just above the eastern horizon.
e. The Moon was at 18-degree elevation at azimuth 16 degrees north of east. It was a crescent.
f. The constellation Pavo was in the position indicated by Mr Muir. No particularly bright stars there.
2. Did the object behave as an astronomical object would? An astronomical object at 10-degree elevation and a ‘little west of south’ would, over time, move eastwards and upwards, not eastwards and downwards as the object is said to have moved. Therefore, it would appear that the object was not moving due to the rotation of the sky.
Scottish researcher, Martin Shough pointed out that an astronomical object at 10-degree elevation ‘a little west of south’ would indeed move downwards and eastwards. My thought above, that it would move eastward and upward would only apply if the object crossed azimuth 180 degrees, ie south and travelled further eastward. The account does not state how far eastward the object travelled. Thus to move eastward and downward could have been due to the rotation of the sky.
3. The ‘head’ of the object is said to have been ‘larger than the Moon’ which implies it was at least half a degree across, which is a relatively large angular size.
4. No associated noise was reported.
5. I checked for, but could not locate, any place named Fernbank in a 370,000 location Australian gazetteer.
Scottish researcher Martin Shough found details of a photograph in TROVE, dated 21 March 1907, which referred to ‘Homestead and orchard on the farm of Mr Andrew Muir, Fernbank, near Balbarrup, 21 March 1907.’ Balbarrup is a short distance noth-east of Manjimup. Martin suggests therefore, that ‘Fernbank’ was most likely the name of a farm. This then is evidence of a Mr Andrew Muir living in the immediate area of the 1938 observation. Martin also found that an Andrew Muir was born in 1893 in Albany, WA, and died in 1957, buried at Balbarrup.
6. The latitude of Manjimup is 34 deg 14 min south; the longitude is 116 deg 8 min east.
7. Can we say anything as to how close the object was to Mr. Muir? Recall that it was reportedly seen from several miles away from Muir. Unfortunately, we do not have an angular size estimate from Mrs Reeve. However, two people several miles apart seeing the same object of some angular size suggests a distant object.
8. I note that we do not know the duration of Mr Muir’s observation, and thus cannot estimate an angular speed for the object.
9. I conducted a search through TROVE and failed to locate any further information about this observation.
10. There were no naked eye comets visible from Australia in 1938.
11. Weather details.
The ‘Daily News’ Perth for Tuesday 18 October 1938 page 12 gives the state forecast (issued 12 noon) as ‘Fine generally except for a few light showers in the far south-west and south…cool westerly winds in the far south-west…’ The weather map showed ‘showery’ over Manjimup. In the ‘Rain gauging’ section for the 24 hours ending 8am 18 Oct Manjimup had 8 points of rain.
The ‘Daily News’ Perth for Wednesday 19 October 1938 gives the state forecast as ‘Fine generally except for a few showers in the far south-west and south. Cool westerly winds on the south coast…’ The map indicates ‘showery’ for the Manjimup area. In Perth yesterday the maximum temperature was 66.4 deg F; and the minimum was 47.3 deg F. There was no rain gauing for Manjimup.
12. In summary, I do not know what was seen in the sky that morning.
Scottish researcher Martin Shough comments: ‘Perhaps the direction of motion was insignificant, could it have been a drifting meteor trail?’
‘You may be interested in my mother’s story. Mum saw this object at 9am early in the war years. It was shiny and darted here and there, hovered in the air and titled sideways, then took off at terrific speed.
This is a farming area and the cows all ran terrified. Mum didn’t tell anyone outside the family, but two days later the Sun published a report that a school teacher and children at Korumburra also saw it exactly as my mother saw it, and bout the same time.
’ Mrs G Butcher. Sale.’
1. I checked TROVe but failed to find anything about this report or the Sun article.
2. Kurumburra is at latitude 38 deg 25mins south and longitude 145 deg 48 mins east.
|Summary of file series
number MP150/1/0MP742/1 Control symbol 589/201/792 titled: “Report of
sighting of strange object by master of Auxiliary Ketch ‘Jane
Moorhead’.” Located at the Melbourne office of the National
Archives of Australia. The file, which is a Navy file, consists of
4 pages which have been photocopied and numbered by us for reference
purposes and comment in the right hand column.
|1||Undated note from Secretary to sub-collector of Customers, Launceston, Tasmania. Thank you for your memo of 29 Jul 1940.|
|2||Memo. 28 Jul 1940. From sub-collector of customs to Sec Naval Board Melbourne. Letter from H J Lund.|
Letter. 28 July 1940. H J Lund. Master of Auxiliary ketch
“Jane Moorhead” 5.35pm 26 Jul 40. Off Kangaroo Island. 100
feet away saw an object stationary - extending vertically some 18 inches
out of the sea for 2-3 inches in diameter. Drew sketch. “I
presume this could possibly be a periscope of a submarine.”
Sister Ruth was a pioneer in black-white relations and was also involved with legislation regarding the non-isolation of leprosy sufferers, but she is perhaps better known for her 1941 attempted rescue of Horace Foster at Manangoorah during which she said she was assisted by two silent “white doctor angels” and saw “golden hands” operating on the doomed Foster - it was for this effort that she was awarded an MBE although she always claimed that it was ‘the others’ who had done the real work. Sister Ruth later moved to Adelaide with her sister Marie, and she was involved with the establishment of an Aboriginal Heritage Centre; she was also a friend of Colin McCarthy’s. Sister Ruth was a “mystic” who strongly followed Rosicrucian teachings and she knew Doris Player from Clare; it was Ruth who first saw a rock feature called “the Chair” in a dream which led her to the formation where she inadvertently captured an apparent Jesus-like spiritual entity on film. Sister Ruth was also one of Peter Horne's closest friends during the last 20 years of her remarkable life, and her name is still respected widely in the Northern Territory to this day. (3)
1. I requested the National Archives of Australia to digitize file series A703 control symbol 580/1/1 part 1, titled “Reports on Flying Saucers and other aerial objects” in order that I could read the full documentation.
2. Pages 87-88 of the digitized version are a letter dated 6 April 1957 from UFO researcher Peter Norris to the Secretary of Air, advising that Norris” society was running a radio segment on UFOs, and asking the Secretary if an officer of his agency could appear on the radio program. The letter stated that some good reports had come about because of the radio program, and as an example attached a types copy of a letter.
This letter was dated 20 March 1957 from one William Methorst, of 7 Eisenhower Street, East Reservoir, Victoria, addressed to the Victorian branch of the AFSRS.
The text of the letter read as follows:
After listening to your program on Flying Saucers on Wednesday evening, I thought I would write you and tell you of an experience I had while in the Timor Sea on Thursday, 26th February, 1942.
This happened while on watch for enemy aircraft just after noon.
I was scanning the skies with binoculars when suddenly I saw a large aluminum disc approaching at terrific speed at 4,000 or 5,000 feet above us. This proceeded to circle high above our ship, the cruiser “Tromp” of the Royal Netherlands Navy.
After reporting it to the officer on duty, he was unable to identify it as any known aircraft. After keeping track of this object for about three to four hours still flying in big circles and at the same height, it suddenly veered off in a tremendous speed (about 3,000 to 3,500 mph) and disappeared from sight.
I have an account of this in notes made the same day in a diary which I still have in my possession.
Hope you will find this of aid to your investigations.
I checked on the net for information on the “Tromp.” http://www.netherlandsnavy.nl/Tromp_his.htm was invaluable. The Tromp was a cruiser of the Royal Netherlands Navy, and on 20 February 1942 was in action in WW2 when it was damaged by Japanese destroyers. The Tromp went to Soerabaja. On 23 February 1942 the Tromp left Soerabaja, into the Indian Ocean via Madoera Strait and Bali Strait. It arrived in Fremantle, Western Australian on 27 February 1942.
The net showed Surabaya (formerly Soerabaja) is now Indonesia’s second largest city and is at latitude 7 deg 16min S, longitude 112deg 45min E.
It is therefore probable that on the 26 February 1942 the Tromp would have been in the vicinity of the Western Australian coast, steaming south to Fremantle.
4. On the question “was there a crew member by the name of William Methorst on board the Tromp on 26 February 1942?”
I have been unable to locate a crew list for the Tromp, on the net. I therefore sent an email to the contact person for the website http://www.netherlandsnavy.nl asking if they knew of any way to check a crew list for the tromp for 1942? I received a response from Jan Visser. Jan checked his files, but could find no-one of the surname Methorst who had been a commissioned officer in the Royal Netherlands Navy in WW2. However, that still left non-comissioned officers and enlisted men to check.
Jan suggested a number of net forums I could post a request for information on, which I did. I received one response from a Paul Joosten on 31 Jan 2011 who advised he had located an account of the event at http://wenewsit.com/tag/theory. (Now offline) This stated the witness was a William J Methorst.
5. Further research:
I located Peter Norris, the UFO researcher whom Methorst wrote to about the event. Peter recalled the event, but has no papers on the case in his possession.
On the National Archives of Australia name search I failed to find any records of any William Methorst or William J Methorst. However, a search of the NAA “Passenger Arrivals List” located a William J Methorst who had arrived in Australia on 1 May 1949 onboard the ship Maetsuycker at Fremantle, WA. NAA file series K269 control symbol Methorst, William J.
I located 12 persons named Methorst in the Australian Telstra electronic white pages, and sent each a letter seeking information on a William Methorst. I received one phone call from a Jan Methorst of Campbelltown, Tasmania, who advised that he was not aware of any William Methorst in his family line. Jan mentioned that he knew most of the Methorsts listed in the white pages.
I later received an email from an Andy J Methorst of Waverley, Tasmania, who advised that he was not aware of any William Methorst in his family background. He checked with his relatives in Holland and they were not aware of any William J Methorst. I also received letters from Valma Methorst of Davenport, Tasmania, who told me she had telephoned several of her family members here and overseas but no-one knew of a William Methorst. I received another letter from a Gloria Methorst, of Tasmania, who could not assist me with my enquiries.
1. It would appear that the “Tromp” would not have been in the Timor Sea to the north of Australia on the date indicated by Methorst, but off the coast of Western Australia.
2. I have not been able to confirm that there was a William Methorst on board the Tromp.
3. I did confirm that there was a William Jan Methorst (carpenter) and a Ruth Methorst (home duties) listed as living at 7 Eisenhower Street, Reservoir East, Melbourne in the 1959 Commonwealth of Australia, Division of Darebin, state of Victoria, electoral roll. The 1962 electoral roll shows the same details. Neither the 1963 nor 1964 rolls for Reservoir East list any Methorsts.
4. I have not been able to locate a living relative of William J Methorst, nor any signs of his diary.
RAAF aircraft were conducting ‘circuits and bumps’ using flare lit airstrips. After the last aircraft had landed, a soundless, bright light flew over and went off into the trees. It travelled on a steady trajectory, slower than an aircraft.
(1) 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.
Mr T. R. H. Royal was piloting a Beaufort bomber over Bass Strait when a dark “shadow” appeared alongside and kept pace for eighteen to twenty minutes. The object seemed to have a flickering light, and belched flames from its rear end. It maintained a distance of thirty to fifty metres from the aircraft before accelerating away. During the event all radio and direction-finding equipment is said to have malfunctioned.
The Project’s researcher in Canberra went to the National Archives and obtained permission to inspect Mr Royal’s personal service records. These records indicated that he was with No 1 O.T.U. (Operational Training Unit) in early February 1944. However, there was no record of his name in the Squadron Dairies or any indication that he had flown over Bass Strait. He was a Non Commissioned Officer Pilot.
The only mention of his name was when he was with No. 8 SQN in September 1945 where he flew his first sortie on the 30 September 1945 on an unarmed reconnaissance mission over the Sepic River area in Papua New Guinea. This information came from the RAAF Historical Records, Russell Offices in Canberra.
1. The earliest reference in the UFO literature was from 1957, 13 years after the event.
2. I went to the website of the National Archives of Australia to see if they held a record on a T. R. H. Royal, to see if we can place him over Bass Strait in February 1944.
3. I located a Royal Australian Air Force record for one Thomas Richard Horace Royal. File series A9300 control symbol Royal, T R H. It shows Royal’s date of birth was 28 October 1915. He was born in Townsville, Queensland.
4. A digitised version of the file (37 pages) is available. This allowed me to ascertain that:
6. Additional information:
Suddenly, he saw a brilliant light below, showing through the hazy cloud in which he and his crew were flying. Abruptly the bright glow climbed to travel along with them, just off the starboard (right) wing tip. Little could he see except the rear portion of what was evidently a solid object, lit up by a brilliant, flaming tail, perhaps ten or more metres long. Every manoeuvre to get away from or closer to the thing was exactly matched, so that their distance did not vary. Ricky noticed very definite signs of a strong static field: the radio hissed continually while the hair on the back of the necks of the crew stood up ... only the gyro compass remaining unaffected. Suddenly the spurt of flame lengthened, and the object shot ahead leaving them rocking in its wake.
In strict confidence Ricky expressed the opinion that the almost miraculous return to base by his aircraft was somehow due to the presence of the strange object. He gave no indication of how they had been aided to stay airborne, but was sure that they would normally first have crashed.
To reduce the load on the remaining motor the crew had thrown out anything loose including the parachutes so they had no choice other than hope for a safe landing from a very nerve-wracking flight.
The Queensland Flying Saucer Research Bureau came to the attention of ASIO (our domestic security and intelligence organisation) because the group had sought communication with Russian scientists about the idea that the 1908 Tunguska event was caused an alien spacecraft. An ASIO officer reviewed the activities of the group and the backgrounds of the committee members. The dubious inspiration for ASIO’s interest was largely deemed of little merit, but an ASIO report was written in August 1959. It described Ricky Royal, then the QFSRB’s Vice President and technical officer, as “an ex-Air Force Officer and radio technician. His interests in these matters stemmed from a sighting of an U.F.O. over Bass Strait during the last war. He is a fanatic in matters relating to U.F.Os. and all attempts to prove their validity and would resort to any means to obtain information concerning them.” As a technical officer for the group Royal had set up a “technical laboratory”, which led to a “light beam transmitter” being built. This was to be used to signal UFOs.
At a public lecture in Brisbane on September 1961 Royal apparently got “carried away” with the moment. A group history of QFSRB (now UFO Research (Qld) written by Annette Bramelt (or Brameld) reveals that Royal “had said, from the platform, that he had been in contact with UFO’s during his stint as a pilot with the RAAF during the war. He had witnesses and the incident was written into his log-book, but was ‘hushed up’ by the particular Department. No exception was taken to his statement at the time ...” The ASIO officer mentioned above had become a member. He told the QFSRB president that “it had been unwise for (Royal) to have made the statement, that the incident was unlikely to have been hushed up, and that the speaker would have trouble verifying the statement.” The President Stan Seers suggested the ASIO man should attend the next meeting and speak with Royal himself. This occurred but Royal resigned from the committee “with a strongly worded letter.” A letter was drafted “to convey to him (the group’s) regrets at his action and also (their) sincere thanks for all his valuable work; to assure him of (the group’s) undoubted belief in his sighting story; to offer assistance in tracing crew members or in any other way ... and to express the hope that he would soon be working with (them) again.”
It is part of an ASIO report dated 4 August 1959 addressed to the Regional Director, Queensland, marked “Secret” subject “Queensland Flying Saucer Research Bureau.” Paragraph 8 of the report reads:
‘A senior police officer told me of an elderly country woman, now deceased, who saw a traditional flying saucer, during daylight hours, near Wilcannia, in Western New South Wales, in the 1940’s, just after World War 2. She claimed that after reporting the sighting to the authorities, she received a letter from the Australian Air Force confirming the report, and warning her not to tell anyone about the craft. The police officer attested to having seen the letter, which appeared to be genuine.
‘Moon’s strange companion.
At 8am yesterday R.A.A.F. meteorologists at the aerodrome noticed a minute, star-like object in the sky only a short distance from the moon and apparently on the same plane. At noon the tiny shape was still beside the moon which it had followed on its course, maintaining an almost constant position in relation to the heavenly body. Intrigued by the phenomenon, the air force observed it through a theodolite, which made it appear completely balloon shaped. That would have solved the problem of its identity: it might easily have been a weather balloon had it not so persistently followed the moon. Weather experts argued that it was too bright a day for a star to be perceptible and also the object was not luminous and that since the sun was shining on it it must be within the same atmospheric plane. One suggestion was that it was a planet which, owing to peculiar atmospheric conditions had suddenly become visible. A telescopic inspection, too, proved ineffective.’
The objects were white or light pink and shaped like an egg. Mr Ellis said that he could not give an accurate estimate of the size of the objects, but they were casting shadows and judging by his experience with aircraft in the RAAF during the war he considered they were about the size of a locomotive.
Although the objects kept on a direct course at a height of about 6000 feet they appeared to be quivering he said. Owing to their great speed they were out of sight within a few seconds.
Any question of the phenomenon being an optical illusion was dispelled by the fact that a few minutes later both Mr Ellis and his companion gave an identical description of what they had seen. Their description was verified by another member of the workshop who said he had also seen the objects.
Mr Dodwell discounted the probability of the objects being meteorites. He said that meteorites being so small and travelling at such high speeds did not cast shadows whereas the report stated that the objects had cast shadows about the size of a locomotive. The presence of falling meteorites would have been accompanied by a deafening roar.
2. I searched for additional information on the event in other South Australian newspapers. In total I checked the Adelaide Advertiser between 1 and 19 February 1947; the West Coast Sentinel (based at Streaky Bay, 320kms W of Port Augusta) between 5 and 19 February 1947; The Recorder (based at Port Pirie, 80kms S of Port Augusta) between 7 and 14 February 1947; Adelaide’s other daily newspaper The News between 5 and 11 February 1947; the Adelaide weekly The Mail for 8 February; The Quorn Mercury (based at Quorn 22 kms NE of Port Augusta) between 6 and 20 February 1947.
3. I found that The Quorn Mercury of 13 February, page 3, carried the exact same account as that of the Adelaide Advertiser dated 8 February 1947. However, more importantly The Quorn Mercury of 20 February 1947, page 3, also carried an additional report of a sighting.
Writing in the Advertiser, Mr F W Flavel of Lock, Eyre Peninsula states: “I saw objects in the sky between 7 and 8 o’clock the same day as you record a report from Port Augusta. I was walking in a north-westerly direction to the house after feeding the pigs.
“There were five of the strange objects and they seemed to be coming up out of the sea like a shadow with smoky grayish color around them. They were oblong with narrow points. I saw them quite plainly. They seemed to be floating in the air from north-west to south-east and caused a shadow.”
4. I then found a letter to the editor in the Adelaide Advertiser of 17 February 1947, page 2 from Mr Flavel. It read:
I saw objects in the sky between 7 and 8 o’clock the same day as you record a report from Port Augusta. I was walking in a north-westerly direction to the house after feeding the pigs.
There were five of the strange objects and they seemed to be coming up out of the sea like a shadow with smoky grayish color around them. They were oblong with narrow points. I saw them quite plainly. They seemed to be floating in the air from north-west to south-east and caused a shadow.
I called the wife to have a look at them and she did so. It was a sight. I wish I had watched them longer as others had seen them and Port Augusta men did so an hour later. I have never seen anything like this before, and after reading what others saw I thought I would let you know that my wife and I both saw these objects.
Sunrise was 0539hrs. Moonrise 1925hrs. Full moon 6 February 1947.
Adelaide’s actual temperature (300kms S of Port Augusta) for 5 February 1947 was minimum 73.8F at 0545hrs; maximum 98.3F at 1245hrs.
6. Lock (latitude 33 deg 34 min S; longitude 135 deg 45 min E) is a small country town 225kms SW of Port Augusta, and is inland.
7. As the 7 February issue of the Adelaide Advertiser stated that Mr Ron Ellis has been in the RAAF during the war; I checked the National Archives of Australia service records for World War 2 looking for a Ron Ellis whose details might match the witness’s. I found there was a service file for a Ronald Ernest Ellis, born 5 November 1920; at Port Augusta, South Australia.
(1) From the Adelaide Advertiser Thursday 10 July 1947 p2. It is an OCR translation.
Early in February, some queer egg-shaped objects, pink and slightly luminous, were seen to pass across the sky near Port Augusta, but this phenomenon was hardly so much as a nine day’s wonder, for a South Australian amateur astronomer was ready with a plausible theory about meteors, which most people promptly accepted. We now know that, in the slang of the moment, Port Augusta “started something.” The egg-shaped apparitions about which South Australia was mildly excited five months since, were plainly the harbingers of those “flying saucers” that have been creating such a sensation in America.
Our trans-Pacific cousins have seldom given their imaginations so much play. Multitudes of people have seen the new hosts of heaven flying across the sky in the likeness of saucers; and those who have seen nothing, have been ready to make amends by offering explanations of ever increasing fantasy. It was left to a Sydney physiologist to point out that “flying saucers” are likely to be nothing worse than red corpuscles in the eye of the observer, and several American and British scientists having hastened to agree that this is a valid theory, the greatest known epidemic of “seeing things” may fairly be supposed to be on the wane.
Sir – Perhaps an amateur astronomer may be allowed to voice an opinion about the strange objects recently seen passing across the sky at Port Augusta. Usually, any meteor entering the atmosphere is traveling at the terrific velocity of forty miles per second. This compresses the atmosphere ahead of it and raises its temperature, as the piston of a diesel engine compresses and heats the gases in the cylinder, but whereas the diesel piston merely raises the temperature to ignition point, the tremendous pressure caused by the meteor raises the temperature thousands of degrees, and in this cap of incandescent gas the meteor is burned up in a matter of seconds.
At rare intervals, however, meteors enter the atmosphere at comparatively slow speeds. Some years ago a whole “procession” of such slow meteors was seen to pass across part of the USA, finally ending their flight in the waters of the South Atlantic. These slow meteors have a very different appearance from the swift blaze and trail of fire of the fast ones. Friction with the air does no more than heat them until they glow, as the giant V2 rocket is heated on its flight. As high-speed camera photographs of bullets in flight reveal, anything passing swiftly through the air creates both shock waves and turbulence which, by reflecting light rays passing through them, register distinctly on the photographic plate and, if the object is large enough, on the eye also.
It is this turbulence in the air which is seen when a slow meteor passes across the sky in daylight. The actual meteor may be quite small, weighing not more than fifty pounds in some cases, but the area of compressed and disturbed air is much larger, giving the impression that the object is of huge size and casting a visible shadow as it passes.
It also explains why many observers have described what they saw as “resembling a swimming fish” on account of the way in which the “tail” of the object seemed to wave to and fro. I suggest, therefore that the objects seen were meteors traveling at what is a slow speed for such visitors from the depths of space. If they were heading inland and we could obtain cross-bearings from observers to plot their course, it might be possible to find what is left of them, just as Sir Kerr Grant found the Karoonda meteorite a few years ago.”