Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Unknown spherical body - Tasmania - 6 January 1923

Hi readers,

In my last post, I presented information about an "Extraordinary Phenomenon" seen at Alpha. Queensland on 17 September 1900. This concerned a "travelling star" seen in the daytime. I noted that in this instance it might have been a wind borne object.

Today's post concerns a daytime, revolving "...spherical body" travelling "...against the prevailing wind."

The account
"An Unusual Phenomenon.
To the Editor of "The Mercury."
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 colour was revolving on its own axis, and speeding in a northerly direction at an great 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.
Source:  "The Mercury" [Hobart, Tas: 1860-1954] Thursday 11 January 1923 p9.

1. If the location of sighting was Hobart, then Hobart is at latitude 42 deg 50 mins south; longitude 147 deg 20 mins east.
2. Based on Hobart, the Sun was at elevation 70 deg azimuth north.
3. The planet Venus was at 41 deg elevation; azimuth WNW.
4. According to "The Mercury" 6 January 1923,  page 15, the forecast issued at 9pm on 5 January 1923, for the next 48 hours, forecast the winds blowing from the north-west to west.
5. There is an apparent contradiction between the use of the words "...speeding...at a great pace" and it being visible for "...nearly half an hour."
6. However, based on the available information given in the letter to the editor, I am at a loss to suggest a mundane explanation for this object.
Have readers any suggestions?

Update 2 January 2016

Several members on the Magonia Exchange Yahoogroups forum discussed the possibility that the object seen may have been the planet Venus. It was 43 degrees away from the sun at that time and very bright. Could the scudding clouds have given the illusion of a stationary (moving some 7.5 degrees towards the west in a half hour) Venus speeding along?

Monday, December 28, 2015

"Extraordinary phenomenon" - Alpha, Queensland - 17 September 1900

Hi readers,

There are numerous keywords which you can use to search the National Library of Australia's TROVE digitised newspaper collection. Another set I have used was "extraordinary phenomenon." One of the article which these words turned up was about "a travelling star."

"Extraordinary Phenomenon
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 an usual or unusual occurrence. Thanking you in anticipation.

E Donaldson.
Alpha, September 17th 1900."

Source: "The Western Champion & General Advertiser for the Central Western Districts." [Barcaldine, Qld: 1892-1922] Tuesday 2 October 1900 p12.


1. Alpha, Queensland is at latitude 23 deg 36 mins south and longitude 146 deg36 mins east.

2. The sun was at elevation 37 deg, azimuth 24 deg north of east.

3. Weather. At nearby Barcaldine at 9am on 17 September 1900, the maximum temperature was 87 deg F, the minimum was 55 deg F; and the wind was from the south-east.

4. I did a TROVE search for an E. Donaldson but found nothing.

5. What was the object? Note that the wind was probably from the south-east, and the object travelled south to north-west, indicative of the fact that it may have been a wind borne object of some kind. Have readers any suggestions?

Two unusual high speed, large, black objects - Adelaide, South Australia - 23 March 1920

Hi readers,

In February 1947, several South Australian newspapers carried articles relating to the observations of five egg shaped objects in the sky, as seen from Port Augusta, and Lock, both in South Australia. For my post on this intriguing event click here.

One of the articles, by an amateur astronomer, appeared in "The Advertiser" [Adelaide, SA: 1931-1954] on page 2 of the Tuesday 25 February 1947 edition, see the image below.

A second letter to the editor that day
What very few people will be aware of, is that a second letter to the editor appeared in that same issue on that same page. It referred to a much earlier intriguing observation. It would appear that the appearance of articles about the Port Augusta and Lock observations, caused H N Wicks of Balhannah, in the Adelaide Hills, to write in about his own sighting.
The account
"Objects in the sky.
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 a half a mile away at the time, asked me what the two black things were that passed Butler's machine. During the evening 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 their being a mirage.
H.N. Wicks.
Balhannah Nurseries Balhannah.
My research notes
1. When was this observation of two high speed, large, black objects?
A search of Internet sources determined that Sir Ross Smith and crew left England on 12 November 1919 and arrived in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia on 10 December 1919.
Image source

The "Barrier Miner" [Broken Hill: NSW 1888-1954] Tuesday 23 March 1920 page 4, describes the arrival of Sir Ross Smith in Adelaide on 23 March 1920 in his Vickers Vimy biplane. The article also mentions Captain Harry Butler, a famous stunt pilot, in a monoplane, flying alongside Smith at 1.23pm on that day. A third aircraft, piloted by Captain J R Moore was also present.
It would therefore appear, that the observation by H N Wicks, as described in the "Advertiser," Adelaide, dated 25 February 1947, was made around 1.23pm on 23 March 1920.
2. Who was H. N. Wicks?

Can we establish him as a real, historical figure in Adelaide in 1920?
A search through TROVE located an article on page 8 of the "Daily Herald" [Adelaide, SA: 1910-1922] for Friday 13 February 1914, which places H N Wicks at Balhannah, helping establish an orchard and nursery.


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 "The Advertiser" Adelaide, as at the Balhannah flower show, see the image below.
It is therefore, a reasonable assumption that H N Wicks may have been present on 23 March 1920 in Adelaide, at Balhannah, as he states in his 1947 letter to the editor.
3. The weather
H N Wicks' 1947 letter to the editor, described the day of his observation, as "cloudless." Can we confirm this?
I checked the weather section of the 23 March 1920 "The Advertiser," Adelaide for the state forecast. This read "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, merely means, no rain.
Advertiser, Adelaide 23 March 1920.

4. Discussion

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, perhaps the two black objects were in fact Butler's and Moore's aircraft? However, Butler's aircraft was a monoplane, and Smith's was a much larger biplane. In addition, Smith's plane would not have been performing acrobatics and stunting, whereas Butler's smaller, monoplane was capable of acrobatics and stunting; in fact, Butler was renown for his acrobatic performances. It would seem, from 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 witnesses all saw large objects at around the same time, from distances up to a mile apart, this suggestion would seem unlikely.

c. I note that 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 in Balhannah on 23 March 1920, the date he reports his observation occurred. The other details of the day, e.g.. the arrival 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. There, however, appears to be a valid reason why H N Wicks only reported it to the newspaper, in February 1947. The observation predates Kenneth Arnold's sighting, by several months.
 On the reported facts, I have no suggestions as to a mundane stimulus for this observation.
Have any readers, ideas?

Update 29 Dec 2015

Sydney based researcher Bill Chalker forwarded me his thoughts:


Sunday, December 27, 2015

"A strange light" - Rockhampton, Queensland - 17 October 1931

Hi readers,

When searching the National Library of Australia's TROVE digitised newspaper collection using the keywords "strange light" I came across the following article.

"A strange light
Seen in the west
Independent observers.

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.

Another observer

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 brilliant white, while several clouds nearby were quite black. In fact there was not another white cloud in the sky. It held its shape for a while. Then the tail changed and it started to pale, turning 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 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.

Almost vertical

A mysterious phenomenon was witnesses 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 unravelled 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 reverse mark of interrogation. The lower end was now in the shape of  an arrow head and drifted lower and in a westerly direction, until a s darkness came on, it faded from view.

Enormous meteor

An enormous meteor or falling 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."

Source: "Morning Bulletin" [Rockhampton, Qld: 1878=1954] Wednesday 21 October 1931 p6.


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 6.45 pm the sun was 9 degrees below the horizon at azimuth 15 deg south of west.

4. The moon was at 69 degrees elevation; azimuth 29 deg south of west.

5. From Rockhampton it was seen to the west, and from Winton it was seen to the south. Looking at a map this seems to indicate it was the one object seen from these localities.

6. All the details suggest that the observers were watching the trail of a bright meteor, distorted by high altitude winds.

The first published Australian report of a UFO sighting?

Hi readers,

"From their own research, Australian ufologists believe that the first published report of the sighting of an unidentified flying object in this country occurred as far back as October 1874, at Beechworth in Victoria."

So wrote author Stephen Holledge, on page two of his 1965 Australian book titled "Flying Saucers Over Australia" (published by Horwitz. Sydney.) However, no one to my knowledge has ever been able to precisely pin down what was seen, and when in October 1874, this happened. In version three of my catalogue of Australian pre 24 June 1947 sightings, I mentioned that I had been unable to ascertain further details.

I therefore recently conducted a search of TROVE newspapers for the Beechworth area of Victoria, for October 1874, and located one article which may have been the source of the observation referred to by Holledge.

The "Avoca Mail" dated Thursday 13 October 1874 on page 2, reported that at 6.15pm on Sunday 4 October 1874, inhabitants of Beechworth reported an unusual sight in the sky. The sun had already set when at 60 degrees elevation in the north-north-west appeared what seemed a flash of lightning. A "...brilliant and beautiful meteor" appeared, with its head said to have been larger than Venus. It left behind a silver tail which stretched from 60 degrees elevation to the horizon. At one point this trail looked like the "shape of a gigantic snake." This took some 15 minutes to disappear. The sky was clear at the time. The article mentions that the same thing was seen from the localities of Chilton and Wagga Wagga.

Similar accounts are to be found in the Melbourne "Argus" dated Monday 12 October 1874 page 6; and the "Sydney Morning Herald" dated Friday 9 October 1874 page 2.

The wide geographic distribution of sightings indicates that the object was most probably a meteor leaving a vivid trail in the sky, blown about by high altitude atmospheric winds.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The "inhabited sky" conference

Hi readers,

The "El Cielo habitado" conference, was held in Madrid, Spain over two days, 27-28 May 2015, and was organised by Chris Aubeck.  Included in the event were presentations by Jacques Vallee; Chris Aubeck; Nigel Watson; Theo Paijmans; Jesus Callejo; and Juan Jose Sanchez-Oro.

On the 27th
Jacques Vallee spoke on the social impact of reports of anomalous phenomena through the ages. 

Nigel Watson reviewed the media reporting of advances in aviation and space travel and its shaping of cultural responses.

Theo Paijmans examined the early twentieth century cultural impact of comics and other forms of literature, in relation to the phenomena.

There was then a question and answer time with Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck.

On the 28th
Juan Jose Sanchez-Oro, examined medieval art in search of clues to reports of that era.
Chris Aubeck covered the idea of a populated universe from Ancient Greece to the beginning of the modern era of "flying saucers."
Jesus Callejo, a journalist and author of over twenty books on history and folklore, spoke about the idea of flying machines before these were known in orthodox history.

Image courtesy of Amazon Books.
For those blog readers interested in reading more on these topics, you might like to take a look at "Wonders in the Skies" by Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck.

Image courtesy of Amazon Books.
 For any blog readers who can read Spanish, take a look at "Ooparts: Objetos fuera de su tiempo" (Objects out of time) by Juan Jose Sanchez-Oro and Chris Aubeck.
A number of conference presentations are available on Youtube, including the following:

Jacques Vallee.

Chris Aubeck.

Nigel Watson.

Alternative view
Jason Colavito, is a US author, editor, and blogger, who refers to himself as a "sceptical xenoarchaeologist." After the conference, Colavito posted a review of some of Jacques Vallee's presentation. Colavito has previously published pieces, critical of Vallee's work in this area, which may be read here and here. Other pieces about Vallee's work, by Colavito appear here , here , and here.  


Monday, December 21, 2015

"Moon's strange companion" - Cairns, Queensland - 6 July 1945

Hi readers,

In a previous post I looked at an observation made near Manjimup, Western Australia and failed to make an identification of the reported object. Further browsing of TROVE led me to another apparent mystery.

The Saturday 7 July 1945 edition of the "Cairns Post" [Qld: 1909-1954] on page 5, carried the following story:

"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 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 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 telescope inspection, too proved ineffective."

After reading the entire article, I had a very good idea of what the minute, star-like object was. However, I checked with two electronic star charts to be sure.
At 8am on that day, the moon was at elevation 54 degrees and azimuth 25 degrees east of north. What was at elevation 52 degrees and azimuth 28 degrees east of north? The answer was, the planet Venus.
During the day, as the sky rotated (of course actually it is the Earth which rotates), both the moon and the planet Venus would have moved together across the sky.
 Interestingly, the planet Mars was also near the moon that day. However, due to its lesser brightness than Venus, it would not have been visible to the naked eye.
Why was not Venus immediately suspected as the cause of the observation? I believe it is because most people do not know that you can sometimes see the planet Venus in broad daylight with the naked eye. In clear skies, I have seen Venus during the day on several occasions. Mostly, I checked an astronomical chart first and found where it was in relation to the sun. However, once I found it by accident during the middle of the afternoon.
In this instance at Cairns, I believe that the observers' eyes would have been attracted to Venus as it was near the clearly visible moon.
You will note, that there was a suggestion in the newspaper article that it might have been a planet, but Venus was not specifically mentioned.
Observation solved!
A similar event
 Page 5 of the "Kalgoorlie Miner" [WA:1895-1950] for Friday 19 November 1909, reported:
"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 visible from 10.30am to 4pm."
At 10.30am that day, the moon was at elevation 27 degrees, at azimuth 20 degrees south of east. What was at elevation 26 degrees, azimuth 20 degrees south of east? The planet Venus.
Second observation solved!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Solved - the 7 minute "meteor" - Taree, New South Wales - 1933

Hi readers,

In a previous post, I reported on an observation from Taree, New South Wales, dated 18 June 1933. I suggested it had all the hallmarks of the modern, orange orbs phenomenon. In modern cases which I have investigated, the prime suspect as to the cause, has been a hoax hot air garbage bag balloon. I suspected the Taree "meteor" was in fact, a hoax fire balloon. US researcher Barry Greenwood advised that fire balloons were suspected as the cause for some observations in 1909 and 1915.

While searching through TROVE I came across the following newspaper article from the 17 July 1933 edition of the "Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate" [NSW:1876-1954] (page 6.)
"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 portion of the manning river says 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 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."

It would appear, that my suggestion that this was a hoax fire balloon, and not a meteor, was correct.
Other fire balloons
Another previous post described the observation in the air; the descent; and finally the retrieval, of a hoax fire balloon in Lambton, New South Wales on 15 June 1920.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate 16 June 1920

How to make a fire balloon
I also came across an article in "The Brisbane Courier" [Qld: 1864-1933] Thursday 25 June 1931 page 7, which advised readers how to make a fire balloon!

In summary, one suspects that other observations around this era, may well have been due to hoax fire balloons.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A "meteor" - Morpeth, New South Wales - November 1862

Hi readers,

I am in the process of re-reading the new book "Return to Magonia" (2015. Anomalistic Books, San Antonio, Texas) and taking particular notice of observations from Australia which are mentioned in the text. One such incident, which was reported to have occurred in November 1862, was noted in a letter to the editor of the "Sydney Morning Herald" newspaper dated 20 November 1866, four years after the observation. It read:

Image courtesy of TROVE digitised newspapers collection.

The account

"Sir - the subject of meteoric visitation, past, present and future, being at present invested with more than the usual amount of interest, induces me to mention, this publicly, the circumstances of my attention having been arrested early one morning in  November 1862, by a very peculiar rushing  noise, which increased rapidly in volume without my discovering the cause until looking immediately overhead I saw  distinctly a large meteor travelling with amazing rapidity in a southeasterly direction.

Its apparent size was that of a large cask of a dark colour, the surface irregular, and from the variations discovered in the angularities I was led to conjecture it was revolving on its axis. I may add that the morning was very calm, and the atmosphere beautifully clear. The Sun was just about to rise."

O E Middleton, Inwallewah, near Morpeth November 15 1866."

An 1849 map of Morpeth, NSW source

Return to Magonia notes

In "Return to Magonia", authors Chris Aubeck and Martin Shough, located an historic figure named Osmond Edward Middleton who appeared to be the author of the letter to the editor.

In analysing the details provided, the authors considered and rejected the possibility of a large meteor; a fireball meteor; any other astronomical explanation; a dust whirl; a tornado funnel; a dense flock of birds; a swarm of insects and an early powered airship.

Aubeck and Shough were unable to find a location named Inwallewah, and speculate that it was the name of an estate or house.

My research notes

1. The modern location of Morpeth is now a suburb of the city of Maitland. Maitland is located at latitude 32 degrees 43 minutes south and longitude 151 degrees 37 minutes east.

Maitland in relation to Sydney, NSW. Image courtesy of Google maps.

Modern Morpeth in relation to Maitland. Image courtesy of Google maps.
2. I looked up the "Geoscience Australia" website and used it to search through the Gazetteer of Australia 2012 for the name Inwallewah, and found no entry within the 370,00 place names in their database.

3. I also used the same website to determine the time of Sunrise for Mid November 1862 (UTC plus 10 hours) for Morpeth,  which was given as 0445hrs.

4. I used the TROVE digitised newspapers collection to search for any newspaper article mentioning the name Inwallewah but found nothing.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Unidentified object - Manjimup, Western Australia - 19 October 1938

Hi readers,

As I copy PDF files of articles in the National Library of Australia's TROVE digitised newspapers collection to my laptop, I quickly scan through the details and try and come up with a mundane explanation for what is being reported in the article. As with today's reports of UAP, perhaps nine out of ten of the reports have such a mundane cause. So, it is with pleasure that I come across something which is not immediately recognisable. Today's post is about one such puzzling report.

Strange object in the sky

Image courtesy TROVE digitised newspapers collection
The article appeared in the Friday 21 October 1938 edition of "The West Australian" newspaper on page 26. It read:

"Strange object in 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 head. 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."

The same text also appeared in the "Daily Mercury" Mackay, Queensland Monday 24 October 1938 page 8 edition, with the header "Luminous object. Seen in WA."

Courtesy of TROVE
The same text also appeared in the:

a. "Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser" dated Monday 24 October 1938 page 9, under a heading "Strange form of Astral Visitor."

Courtesy of TROVE
b. "Sunday Mail" Brisbane, Sunday 23 October 1938 page 5. Headed "WA has Strange Form of Astral Visitor."
Courtesy of TROVE

c. "Western Mail" Perth, Thursday 27 October 1938 page 55.

Courtesy of TROVE
My research notes

1. Manjimup is in Western Australia, at latitude 34 deg 14 min south; longitude 116 deg 8 min east.

2. A check of an Australian gazetteer of 370,000 place names failed to locate Fernbank. However, Scottish researcher Martin Shough located 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 north-east of Manjimup. Martin suggests, quite rightly, that this suggests that "Fernbank" was the name of a farm.

3. Historical figure. Martin found records of an Andrew Muir who was born in 1873 at Albany, WA, some 190 kms from Balbarrup, and who died in 1957; with this Andrew Muir being one of three Andrew Muirs buried at Balbarrup.

4. I conducted a search through TROVE to find any other articles than those listed above, which might hold additional information. I found none.

5. What astronomical objects were in the sky at the time? A check of two electronic sky charts revealed that:

a. The Sun was 10 degrees below the eastern horizon,. Sunrise was at 0530hrs that morning (UTC plus 8 hrs.)
b. The planets Venus and Jupiter were below the horizon.
c. The planet Mars was just above the eastern horizon.
d. The Moon was at elevation 18 degrees; azimuth was 16 degrees north of east. Crescent Moon.
e. Looking at the object's position, all that was there were the faint stars of the constellation named Pavo.

6. Did the object move due to the rotation of the sky?  I initially thought no. However, Martin Shough points out that an object at 10 degrees elevation "a little west of south" would indeed move downward and eastward.

7. The "head" of the object is said to have been "larger then the moon" which puts its angular diameter as at least half a degree.

8. To get an idea of the shape of the object, the image below is of a typical case which holds a musical instrument known as a banjo.

9. There was no reported associated noise from the object.

10. It is unfortunate, that we do not have an angular size estimate from Mrs Reeve. If we did, we may be able to get some idea of whether or not the object was closer to Mr Muir or Mrs Reeve. The implication of the facts contained in the article was that it appeared roughly Moon sized to both of them. If this is correct, and as they were several miles apart, and if we assume she also saw it ten degrees above the horizon a little west of south, then the object was a distant (and therefore large) one.

11. Weather details.

The "Daily News" Perth, dated Tuesday 18 October 1938 page 4, provides a state forecast (issued at 12 noon) which includes "Fine generally except for a few light showers in the far south-west...cool westerly winds in the far south-west..." The map shows "showery" for Manjimup. In the "Rain gauging" section, for the 24 hours ending at 8am 18 October, Manjimup received 8 points.

The "Daily News" Perth, dated Wednesday 19 October 1938 page 12, provides a state forecast which includes "Fine generally except for a few showers in the far south-west and south. Cool westerly winds on the south coast..." The map shows "showery" for Manjimup. It received no rain in the 24 hours ending at 8am 19 October. The capital city of WA, Perth's maximum temperature yesterday was 66.9 deg F; and the minimum was 47.3 deg F.

12. One thought as to a mundane cause, given the slow movement (although the duration of Mr Muir's observation is not given); and an object which is moving independent of the rotation of the sky, plus the relatively large angular size and mention of a tail, and being luminous, would be a naked eye comet. However, a check of a list of naked eye comets visible from Australia reveals none for 1938.
A list of Australian naked eye comets
13. In summary, I am at a loss to explain this object in mundane terms.  Scottish researcher Martin Shough suggested that "Perhaps the direction of motion was insignificant. Could it have been a drifting meteor trail?" Has anyone else any thoughts as to cause?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Fire balloons were being launched in 1920!

Hi readers,

In a recent post about a mystery light at Taree, New South Wales, on 18 June 1933, I asked the question as to whether or not, individuals were launching "fire balloons" in those times? I noted the similarity of details given about the Taree light, to one of today's hoax hot air garbage bag balloons. US researcher Barry Greenwood wrote and advised me that, yes, fire balloons were suspected in reports in 1909 and 1915.

Well, today during a search of the TROVE digitised collection of Australian newspapers, I located an account which agrees with Barry's assessment.

Fire balloon lands in Lambton

The Friday 16 January 1920 edition (page 5) of the "Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate" ran the following article. Today, Lambton is a suburb of Newcastle, New South Wales.

"A Lambton Mystery

Residents at Lambton had an unusual experience last night, at about eight o'clock. At the time stated a strange light was seen in the sky and presently it was noticed descending.

Mr F Le Cornu, who lives in Lambton-road, saw the object pass near his house, and finally land in a piece of vacant ground between 180 and 200 yards distant.

Other persons who had seen the object fall went to the spot and there saw what they described as a wire cage, about eight foot square and containing two pieces of coke, which were burning, and a quantity of pieces of coloured paper. It was also reported that Lambton residents had also noticed an unusual light moving in the air last evening.

From later information, it is believed that the object seen was a fire balloon, which was sent up from North Waratah,  and the coke and paper would be used for creating the hot air to give the balloon the necessary buoyancy."

Monday, December 14, 2015

A seven minute meteor? Taree - NSW - 18 June 1933

Hi readers,

The subject of today's post is an observation at 1840hrs on Sunday 18 June 1933, at Taree, New South Wales.

 “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. Taree is at latitude 31 deg 54 min south and longitude 152 deg 27 mins east.

Image courtesy of Google maps.
2. According to the Geophysics Australia website sunset that night was at 1653 hrs (UTC plus 10 hrs). Astronomical twilight was at 1820hrs.

3. Meteors do not always travel "straight down." They can certainly seem to travel parallel to the ground.

4. A duration of seven minutes for a meteor is unheard of.

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 seen breaking off the main body.

6.There is no mention of any associated sound.

7. I conducted a search through TROVE but found no other newspaper articles about this event.

8. All in all, if this were a modern event I would be looking at the possibility of a hot air garbage bag hoax balloon. Was anyone launching "fire balloons" in these times?

Note added 16 December 2015.

Barry Greenwood advises that: "Fire balloons were known then and well before. They were suspected in a US/Canadian border airship flurry in 1915. 1909 saw them blamed for some airships in each of the UK, NZ and US waves."

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Flying eggs at Port Augusta, South Australia - February 1947

Hi readers,

In this post I investigate an event which occurred in 1947 in my home state, several months before the Kenneth Arnold sighting.

I had known about this event for several years, ever since an Adelaide contact, Darryl Tiggeman, supplied me with details. I visited the State Library in Adelaide and confirmed that the following accounts did appear in the papers of the time.

Newspaper accounts

(1) "Strange objects reported in sky"
Port Augusta 6 February.

"While working in the yard at the Commonwealth Railways workshop yesterday morning Mr Ron Ellis and two workmates claim to have seen five strange objects in formation pass across the sky from north to south.

"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 6,000 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."

Source: "Adelaide Advertiser" newspaper. Friday 7 February 1947, front page. Viewed in the State Library, Adelaide on 27 January 2011.

(2) "Objects in sky not meteorites."

"Commenting yesterday on a report from Port Augusta that several men working in the yard at the Commonwealth Railways workshop at about 9am on Wednesday had seen five strange egg shaped objects in formation pass across the sky at a height of about 6,000 feet the Government astronomer (Mr G F Dodwell) said that the phenomenon did not fit in with anything astronomical and was a complete mystery to him.

"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."

Source: "Adelaide Advertiser" newspaper. Saturday 8 February 1947, front page. Viewed in the State Library, Adelaide on 27 January 2011.


1. I visited the State Library, Adelaide and confirmed that the above accounts had appeared in the respective newspapers. They had.

2. I then searched for additional information about the event. I checked other newspapers. The "Adelaide Advertiser" between 1 and 19 February; the "West Coast Sentinel" (based at Streaky Bay 320km W of Port Augusta) between 5 and 19 February; "The Recorder" (based at Port Pirie 80kms S of Port Augusta) between 7 and 14 February; Adelaide's other daily newspaper "The News" between 5 and 11 February; the Adelaide weekly "The Mail" for 8 February; and "The Quorn Mercury" (based at Quorn 22kms NE of Port Augusta) between 6 and 20 February.

3. I found that "The Quorn Mercury" of 13 February 1947, page 3, carried the exact same story as the 8 February 1947 "Adelaide Advertiser" quoted above. Interestingly, "The Quorn Mercury" of 20 February 1947, page 3, also carried an additional 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 greyish 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 checked the "Adelaide Advertiser" and found a letter to the editor in the 17 February 1947 edition, page 2.

"Strange objects in the sky."

"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 greyish 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."

5. I checked the weather forecast for Wednesday 5 February 1947. The state forecast was "Unsettled, with scattered rain and thunderstorms. Cool on part of the coast, elsewhere warm to hot and sultry. SE to NE winds. " The weather chart was shaded over Port Augusta indicating that rain was expected that day.

Sunrise was at 0539hrs. Moonrise 1925hrs. Full moon was 6 December 1947.

Adelaide's actual temperature (300kms S of Port Augusta) for 5 February 1947 was minimum of 73.8 deg F at 0545hrs; maximum of 98.3 deg F at 1245hrs.

6. Lock is 225kms SW of Port Augusta and is inland, at latitude 33deg 34mins S, longitude 135deg 45mins E; whereas Port Augusta is at latitude 32deg 30mins S, 137deg 46mins E.

7. As it was mentioned that Port Augusta witness Ron Ellis had been in the RAAF, I checked for service records for such a person in the National Archives of Australia. I found there was a Ronald Ernest Ellis, born 5 November 1920 in Port August. This is most likely the same person.

I checked for records for an F W Flavel, the Lock witness' name but found nothing.


1. The fact that there are two separate reported observations on the same morning of five strange objects in the sky which cast shadows, would indicate the observations were of the same set of objects.

2. Based on the information given, I cannot see a mundane explanation for the observations.

3. Note that this was about four months before the US based Kenneth Arnold sighting which started the "modern" UFO phenomenon.

Over to comments from readers.

A supposed escaped balloon over central Western Australia -1893

Hi readers,


In an earlier post I wrote about a "balloon" seen over Western Australia in 1894. I now have additional information about this incident.

I originally received an email from Peter Bridge of Hesperian Press in Western Australia. Peter told me that in 2004 he had reprinted L R Menzie’s book “A Gold Seekers Odyssey” first printed in 1937. Peter read a number of old newspapers for biographical details of prospectors and found the following account, and added it as an appendix.

It comes from the “Australian Advertiser” newspaper (a precursor to the “Albany Advertiser”) dated 15 October 1894. It is to be found on page 156 of “A Gold Seekers Odyssey.”

The account
“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.”

Research notes
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, on page 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.

4. 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, the latitude of Meekatharra is 26.6 degrees South and its longitude is 118.5 degrees East.
Image courtesy of Google maps.
5. Having established that the location existed, and that the main witness' details are consistent with an historical figure, can we say anything about the object itself? Unfortunately, we do not have an exact date and time. All we have is "about the second week" in October 1893. Presumably the observation occurred during daylight hours.
We do know that the object travelled from north-west to south-east. However, without recourse to weather details we cannot even say whether or not the object was travelling with the wind, across the wind or in what direction the wind was blowing at the time. In fact, the article makes no mention of the weather conditions at the time.
The object's appearance was such that it is described as a balloon, and it is noted that there is mention of a "car" presumably referring to the idea that a large balloon would have a gondola. However, then the account says it "...was travelling at such a rate of speed that the body of the balloon was considerably in advance of the car." I am not sure what to make of this. No sketch is provided to clarify this.
6. In summary, I think that the best I can do is record what I have found, and leave the reader to deduce any further information that they may be able.

New book alert - "Return to Magonia."

Hi readers,

I have been reading a new book "Return to Magonia: Investigating UFOs in History" by Chris Aubeck and Martin Shough. The book was published in 2015 by Anomalistic Books, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Its ISBN is 978-1-938398-54-4.
The authors

 Chris Aubeck lives in Spain, and in 2003, founded an historical research group titled "Magonia Exchange." Chris gives presentations on the evaluation of UFOs as cultural history, and has co-authored a book titled "Wonders in the Sky" with veteran researcher Jacques Vallee. Chris recently advised me that a revised edition of this book will be out soon. Chris was also the organiser of the recent conference "The Inhabited Sky" held in Madrid, Spain.

Martin Shough, who lives in Scotland, has been a frequent contributor of technical articles on the website of the National Aviation Reporting Centre for Anomalous Phenomena (NARCAP) in the USA.

Return to Magonia
"Return to Magonia" takes a look at numerous historical sightings with a date range between 1991BC and 1947 AD (with mention of sightings as late as 2012.) Its geographic spread takes in countries such as the USA; UK; Germany; Turkey; India, and Australia.
It provides details of each sighting from as close to the original source as possible, and then to my delight, attempts to analyse the event to find a cause. Along the way we learn a lot about astronomy; mirages; other meteorological phenomena; human observational skills, and, of course, UFOs.
Image courtesy of Amazon books.
Two representative cases, will illustrate the authors' methodology in each sighting presented in the book. As I live in Australia, I will use two from my country.
Firstly, from November 1862 is an observation by one O E Middleton, from near Morpoth, New South Wales, published in November 1866.
Middleton reports that "...early one morning" he heard a very peculiar rushing noise "...and that looking immediately overhead I saw distinctly a large meteor travelling with amazing rapidity in a southeasterly direction. Its apparent size was that of a large cask of a dark colour, the surface irregular..." which led Middleton "...to conjecture it was revolving on its axis." (p.168.)
The authors located an Osman Edward Middleton who matched the known details of the observer. Having established that the witness existed, they next looked at what conventional explanations might fit the observation. They suggest that "...the "dark color", surface detail, and absence of any trail appears to rule out a fireball meteor or any other astronomical explanation." (p.170.)
They then consider, and reject, the possibility of a dust whirl or a tornado funnel. They did not think the explanation lay in a dense flock of birds, or a swarm of insects. An early powered airship was also considered and rejected.
Their final conclusion was "We cannot suggest any mundane phenomenon that tallies perfectly with this sighting." (p.173.)
Flying eggs
My second example happened in my own state, when on 6 February 1947 (documented at the time) an event occurred at Port Augusta, South Australia. Three workers of the Commonwealth Railways workshop, including a Mr Ron Ellis, reported seeing five, white or light pink coloured, egg shaped objects, pass over them. They "...appeared to be quivering;" were in formation and "...were casting shadows" as they travelled form north to south.
Chronicle (Adelaide) Thursday 13 February 1947 p.6.
Another sighting from Lock, South Australia, earlier that same day, reported five, oblong shaped objects, "floating" through the sky from north-west to south-east "...and caused a shadow."
Research established that the named witness at Port August, Ron Ellis; and the named witness at Lock, existed in historical records.
As to cause, Aubeck and Shough, considered the possibility of a superbolide unlikely (no other reports from other parts of South Australia); a flight of birds; balloons; aircraft and military operations at Woomera.
In conclusion, they wrote "...this is a striking case, and is certainly of great historical and cultural interest. Simply put, this is a modern UFO..." (p.350.)
For details of my own research on this case, click here.
Cold cases
As an individual who loves "cold case" analysis, I was in my element with this book. Some cases are shown to have mundane explanations including planets; fireballs; volcanic eruptions; ball lightning; and mirages. However, there are others which defy a reasonable explanation. The authors therefore remind us that some pre 24 June 1947 historical report have much in common with modern UFOs.

Wonders in the Skies

Hi readers,

In recent times I have been re-discovering the TROVE digital newspaper collection of the National Library of Australia. Here you will find hundreds of Australian newspapers digitised, and ready for you to view. In the most part, newspapers are available only up until 1954.

The TROVE opening webpage
However, there are some papers, which reach into the 1980's such as the South Australian "Victor Harbor Times" or indeed to as recently as 1995 , with the ACT's "Canberra Times."

A sample article
Historically, the modern UAP phenomenon is said to have started on 24 June 1947 with the dramatic sighting of Kenneth Arnold. However, as even a cursory glance at TROVE newspapers before that date will show, there are some tantalising observations reported in older newspapers, which cause you to wonder if some of them were samples of today's UAP. Two examples are the mysterious "airship" over Minderoo Station, near Onslow in Western Australia in 1910

Mysterious airship in 1910
and a number of mystery "aircraft" over Darwin, Northern Territory in 1938.

Darwin 1938
 A close examination of these older observations, will reveal that undoubtedly many are sightings of aurora; planets; stars; meteors and other such natural phenomena. Still, there are quite a few which give pause to wonder.

Wonders in the skies
With wonders in my mind, I thought back to a review of a book by my former co-blogger, Pauline Wilson, who wrote a delightful review of a book with the catchy title "Wonders in the skies." It is so relevant to the topic of today's blog, and the fact is, many readers of this blog today have probably never heard of the book. So, I reproduce here in full Pauline's five year old blog post.

Dear readers,

Well, Adelaide, South Australia is in for two very hot days. Today's forecast maximum is 39 degrees Celsius, and tomorrow is going up to 43 degrees. Time to retreat to an air-conditioned room with a good book.

Today's post is about such a book; in fact a new book by Jacques Vallee. Any new book by Vallee is worth waiting for. His new book is co-authored by Chris Aubeck, and is titled "Wonders in the sky: Unexplained Aerial Objects from Antiquity to Modern Times." Published in 2010 by Jeremy F Tarcher (Penguin.) New York. ISBN 978-1-58542-820-5.


The foreword to the book is written by David J Hufford, Professor Emeritus of Humanities and Psychiatry, Penn State College of Medicine.

Hufford's PhD was in the field of Folklore, and Hufford reminds us that he "...was taught that such beliefs were both non-empirical and non-rational...However, I was pursuing the heretical idea that folk belief traditions might actually incorporate accurate observations, and that if they did they might point to important new knowledge."

Hufford comments that Vallee's book "Passport to Magonia" "...recognised the difference between the core phenomenonology of reports and the local language and interpretations that clothed that core in traditional accounts." (p.2.)

Hufford praises Vallee and Aubeck. "Their rigorously scientific insistence allows Vallee and Aubeck to retain the most challenging and interesting aspects of these events without the distraction of premature commitment to any particular interpretation."

The book:

Speaking about reports of UFOs, the authors believe that "Influenced by books and movies, most people have jumped to hasty conclusions: they believe that unidentified flying objects are spaceships from another planetary civilization..." (p.7.)

They state that "The phenomenon did not begin in the 1940's, or even in the nineteenth century. It is much older that that." (p.7.)

The book presents a catalogue of 500 reported sightings "...from antiquity to the year 1879..." The cut-off year was deliberately chosen so as to be able to exclude any possibility of observations being due to "...airplanes, dirigibles, rockets and the often-mentioned opportunities for misrepresentation represented by military prototypes." (p.8.)

The authors "...have emerged with four major observations:

1. Throughout history, unknown phenomena variously described as prodigies or celestial wonders, have made a major impact on the senses and the imagination of the individuals who witnessed them.

2. Every epoch has interpreted the phenomena in its own terms, often in a specific religious or political context. People have projected their world view, fears, fantasies, and hopes into what they saw in the sky. They still do so today.

3. Although many details of the events have been forgotten or pushed under the colorful rug of history, their impact has shaped human civilization in important ways.

4. The lessons drawn from these ancient cases can be usefully applied to the full range of aerial phenomena that are still reported and remain unexplained by contemporary science." (p12.)"

The authors argue that "...if the phenomenon has existed in fairly constant form for a very long time, it becomes harder to hold to a simplistic "ET visitation" scenarios to explain it." (p.13.)

The collation of material about older cases has been undertaken by "...several teams of historians, anthropologists, folklore specialists and philologists..." (p.19) aided by the availability of the Internet.

Citing historical references, the authors argue that claimed sightings have always changed the course of history.

Image courtesy of Amazon books


The book is divided into three parts:

Part I: A chronology of wonders, pages 27-352.

Part II: Myths, legends and chariots of the Gods. Pages 353-449.

Part III: Sources and methods.

Part I:

The 500 "Wonders" start with an observation in about 1460BC in Lebanon, where a "star" defeats the Nubians (p.29.) Each entry provides a date, a location, the text and a source. Many entries have comments added by the authors.

Among the "Wonders" we find 'moving stars'; 'abductions'; 'hovering objects'; 'heat generating globe'; 'self-propelled cloud'; and many other descriptions.

Part II:

This section of the book looks at "...the stories we have rejected from the main chronology, under four major categories..." (p.354.)These are:

"1. Deceptive story, hoax, fictional account or tall tale.
2. Religious vision.
3. Natural astronomical phenomenon.
4. Optical illusion or atmospheric effect."

This section provides an examination of some of the weird and wonderful tales which have emerged in the past, and which keep circulating despite evidence that the account is incorrect.

Part III:

The authors relate how they screened and selected the material for inclusion in the book. Their rules for inclusions included credibility; specific rather than general date/time and elimination of known hoaxes.


Finally, the authors describe some of the things which they have learnt from undertaking this work. "...from all this work, how significant are the findings, do they teach us anything new about the modern phenomena generally called "UFOs" and is there more yet to be discovered?" (p.477.)


This book was a delight, both to browse through as soon as I received it, and to read through thoroughly which I now have made time to do. I have always looked favourably on the concept that the UFO phenomenon has deep roots and that the July 1947 "start" was only of the modern interpretation of what was being seen. I have always found compelling the arguments for a long history for the phenomenon, and to find it including other elements of the paranormal.

Two Australian cases feature in the 500 "Wonders."

Mount Wingen - case 408

"March 1828, Mount Wingen, Australia
Cigar shaped object lands
A mysterious flying object was said to have descended upon Mount Wingen at the Burning Mountain Nature Reserve. It was "cigar-shaped and had a funny silver colour" and made a loud banging noise. According to the report, "when it landed it set fire to all the vegetation and killed the cattle."

Allegedly, tall strangers appeared in the town at the same time. "They never said anything but always pointed to the things they wanted."

The event must have caused quite a stir as the folk of Wingen began linking it with strange disappearances among them: "Quite often people just disappeared and dogs and domesticated animals disappeared too," wrote the informant, referring to the tale his grandfather used to tell.

Source: Australian Post, June 17, 1989, and W Chalker, Project 1947, Australian Aboriginal Culture & Possible UFO connections (1990.)"

I was disappointed that the source for this entry was not some newspaper in 1828, but had only been set down in 1989. I turned to the reference by Bill Chalker at http://www.theozfiles.com/history_australian-ufo-history.html retrieved 27 December 2010.

"About six kilometres north of Wingen an underground coal seam has been burning for possibly 5,000 years...Kisha, who wrote a psychic column for the Australasian Post, recorded a bizarre story of a strange flying object landing at Burning Mountain (or Mount Wingen). She attributed the following text to a man named Ted:

"Grandad used to say that it was cigar-shaped and had a funny silver colour. When it landed it set fire to ll 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 grandfather's tale, but presumably its vintage would have to be at least contemporary with the first settler awareness of the burning mountain back in 1828."

Unfortunately, this account is ultimately sourced to a man called Ted who related it to a psychic named Kisha who published it in the Australasian Post magazine dated 17 June 1989.

25 July 1868, Parrammata, New South Wales - case 474.

"Mr Frederick William Birmingham, an engineer and local council alderman...saw what he described as an "Ark" ...a distinct voice, said, slowly, 'That's a machine to go through the air'...the machine then...descended...to the grass..." Birmingham was then "...lifted off the grass and gently carried through the air and into the upper part of the machine..." He was shown various things and given a set of papers "...the witness later experienced paranormal phenomena."

Source: Memorandum Book of Fred Wm. Birmingham, the Engineer to the Council of Parramatta. The authors of the Wonders add "The following account based upon a transcript of a manuscript that has never been located, must be taken with great caution."

Overall comments:

The book is an excellent example of the dedicated work undertaken by a number of people, in locating, screening and compiling material, from often hard to locate sources. I will be returning from time to time to browse sections of the material.

If you are at all interested in pre-1879 aerial phenomena, or simply wish to check if that ancient days story of yours has been determined to have been a hoax, then I would strongly recommend this book to you.