Case 48

Barra da Tijuca, Brazil

(Coast of Brazil near Punta da Marisco; near Rio de Janeiro)

7 May 1952

Investigator: Hartmann

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This case has been presented as one of the strongest and demonstrably "genuine" flying saucer sightings. It contains an obvious and simple internal inconsistency, which is pointed out by D. H. Menzel and L. G. Boyd.


This sighting is described in considerable detail in "A.P.R.O. Special Report No. 1" (Fontes, 1961; ref. 1). According to this description, the two witnesses, one a press photographer and the other a reporter of O Cruzeiro magazine, were on a "routine job for their magazine." Dr. Fontes, a Brazilian representative of A.P.R.O., quotes a television discussion of the case by Fenando Cleto, described as a "high ranking employee of the Bank of Brazil" and a leading Brazilian UFO private investigator (ref. 1):

At 4:30 PM, [witness II] suddenly spotted an object approaching in the air at high speed. He thought at first it was an airplane he was facing [see photo no. 1]. . . . There was still something strange, he realized. That "plane" was flying sideways."

He shouted, "What the devil is that?" [Witness I] had his Rolleiflex at hand and [witness II] yelled, "Shoot . . . ."

[Witness I] grabbed his loaded camera and got five pictures in about 60 seconds, thus obtaining


the most sensational photographic sequence of a "flying disc." [Two of these photos are reproduced in Plates 28 and 29, kindly supplied by APRO].

Plate 28

Plate 28: Barra da Tijuca Photo 1

Click on Thumbnail to see Full-size image.

Plate 29

Plate 29: Barra da Tijuca Photo 4

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Dr. Fontes' report (1) continues with Mr. Cleto's account of Brazilian Air Force analysis of the photos. Mr. Cleto stated that he had been "authorized" by Brazilian Air Force officials to show some of the Air Force documents on the case. Mr. Cleto stated that certain diagrams provided by the Air Force "demonstrated . . . the absolute impossibility of a hoax" by virtue of distances and altitudes depicted. These dimensions exceeded the limits for a small model thrown by hand. Dr. Fontes also states that the graphic analyses and photographs constitute "absolute photographic evidence that the unconventional aerial objects called UFOs or 'flying saucers' are real."

Diagrams, apparently hand-lettered, are presented in reference 1 as based on "results obtained by the Air Force's top photography experts who did the analysis of the photos, including also the data, calculations and estimations obtained in the methodical and exhaustive technical investigations made at the spot where the pictures had been taken." Among their tests, the Air Force analysts made photographs of a hand-thrown wooden model (later confusing the case because of resulting local rumors that men had been seen photographing obvious models). However, no satisfactory justification is given for the distances from observer to disk, indicated on the diagrams as being on the scale of several kilometers.

In general, the Colorado project has avoided cases outside North America because of the difficulty of obtaining first hand evidence. It is not instructive to go into further detail about the history of the Barra da Tijuca case, because the information is third-hand and channeled through individuals we have not interviewed. (Experience has shown that this is usually unsatisfactory).


Nonetheless, this case contains elements that must be taken into account in any general discussion of the UFO problem.

In spite of this case's presentation as one of the most convincing of all, with "official documents . . . perspective studies and mathematical calculations . . . cold, scientific facts" (Fontes' emphasis), the case contains an obvious internal inconsistency that has still not been adequately explained. Menzel and Boyd (2) pointed out that on one of the photos, the disk is clearly illuminated from the left, while the hillside below appears to be illuminated from the right. They flatly label the case as a hoax.

Plates 28 and 29 show two representative frames of the series of photos. Plate 29 is the photo in question; the lighting of the disk is easily verified. Plate 30 is an enlargement of the hillside, and the palm tree as well as certain clumps of foliage appear to be illuminated from the right, in accord with Dr. Menzel's observation.

Plate 30

Plate 30: Detail of Plate 29

Click on Thumbnail to see Full-size image.

Dr. Fontes acknowledges this criticism, but states that "The solution is very simple. There are two broken leaves in the tree and one of them is in an inclined position while the other has fallen over the tree itself. These leaves are responsible for the 'wrong' shadow on the tree." This however, does not account for the additional clumps of foliage that also suggest the "wrong" lighting.

A map included in the Fontes report shows the Barra da Tijuca region. It appears from this map that the hills range clockwise for NW to SSW of the camera, while the sea stretches from WNW to SW. At 4:30 p.m. in May the sun, seen from this point near latitude 24° S, would be in the NW. The analytic diagrams based on the Air Force results show the sun at elevation 27½° and show the UFO approaching from the direction of the sun, then moving off to the right. This would seem to be in accord with the photos: Plate 28 appears to be backlighted and there would be hills to the right of the sun. However, the map is not explicit enough to determine which hills are shown, and the lighting of the hills suggests they may be the ridge SSW of the camera (far left of the sun).


There is not enough information available to suggest whether the Air Force, in attempting to duplicate the photos with a model at the site, discovered or considered this problem.


The objection raised by Dr. Menzel is supported by our independent enlargement of one of the frames (kindly provided by APRO).

This case is presented as an example of photographs which have been described as incontrovertible evidence of flying saucers, yet which contain a simple and obvious internal inconsistency.

Sources of Information:

  1. Fontes, O. T. APRO Special Report No. 1 - The Barra da Tijuca Disc, (October, 1961).
  2. Menzel, D. H. and L. G. Boyd. The World of Flying Saucers, Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1963.