Sunday, December 27, 2015

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.

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