Wednesday, January 20, 2016

31 March 1907 - Cairns, Queensland, Australia - an Easter Venus?

Hi all,

The recent book "Return to Magonia" by Chris Aubeck and Martin Shough, features a number of observations from Australia. One of these (on pages 228-229) was from North Queensland in 1907, as described in the "Morning Post" Cairns, dated Tuesday 16 April 1907, page 4.

The account

The text of the article reads as follows:

"A brilliant spectacle.
(From Port Douglas 'Record.')

A very brilliant comet was observed from Port Douglas on Easter Sunday morning at about half past three. We presume it was the one predicted by Professor Matteuci to strike the earth with disastrous results at the latter end of last month, and judging by the description given below, must have been perilously close. Our exchanges the Kuranda make no reference whatsoever to the matter, so it appears not to have been a subject of general observation. So far as we can learn the only person in the district fortunate enough to witness the astral body in all its glory were the Misses Hasenkamp, one of whom (Miss Dora) has kindly written the following description for the 'Record.'

At about 3.30am on the 31st March (Easter Sunday morning) I was awakened by my sister Florry calling me to get up and look at the comet.

I arose and saw in the eastern sky a large dazzling bright star which appeared to be as large as a football. Its brilliant light dazzled my eyes for a few seconds. When I looked again it had thousands of small glittering spikes of silvery light, and on the top right hand side of it, a long rod resembling the flame of a candle-light, about two foot in length, appeared with another tail in the shape of a half-circle - which faced down towards the earth - attached to it.

The circle shaped rod had a couple of lights like red hot coals. I was looking at the comet for about a quarter of an hour when it gradually faded away into the sky, and the atmosphere became very cold. The comet again appeared shining as before, the lights on the lower rods getting fainter.

The moon was shining bright all the time and had three black spots on it. The comet was moving very slowly and appeared to be going in the direction of the moon. I watched for about another half hour and then it disappeared altogether. It was the most brilliant sight I ever saw."

What was it?
In looking to identify this "comet,"Aubeck and Shough wrote:
"The interesting and perhaps educative thing about this case is that at the time reported the planet Venus, with a respectable magnitude -3.6 had just risen over the eastern horizon and would have been a prominent sight in the pre-dawn sky, just where the strange object was. The moon was bright, as stated, approximately full and about 30 degrees west of the zenith; and Venus climbing on its normal motion along the ecliptic would have progressed "very slowly in the direction of the moon" until it faded in the daylight. So it is hard not to conclude that Venus was the culprit in this case, and the peculiar structures of rods and red lights must have been an illusion caused by glare or some sort of
ocular or instrumental defect."

Just checking
1. Port Douglas, is north at Cairns, Queensland at latitude 16.5 degrees south; longitude 145.5 degrees east.
2. On the 31 March 1907, sunrise that morning was at 0623 hours. Therefore the start of the 45 minute observation, was almost three hours before sunrise.
3. A check using an electronic sky chart reveals that the Sun was about 41 degrees below the eastern horizon at the time; the moon was at 53 degrees elevation, azimuth 18 degrees north of west; and Venus was on the horizon rising at azimuth 13 degrees south of east.
4. Interestingly, the witnesses did not report seeing both the planet Venus and a "comet."
5. There are some oddities in the account. What are we to make of the observer's description that "The moon was shining bright and had three black spots on it?" It's a pity that we have no idea as to whether or not Dora had been prescribed spectacles, and whether or not she was wearing them at the time.
6. Were the Hasenkamps historical figures?
A search of TROVE electronic newspapers revealed two article mentioning them.
a. Page 4 of the "Townsville Daily Bulletin" dated Tuesday 30 November 1926 stated that a Dora Hasenkamp managed the central Hotel in Port Douglas and indicated that she "...has been in Port Douglas for some time."
b. Page 11 of the "Cairns Post" [Qld:1909-1954] dated 25 May 1933 referenced a Miss Dora Hasenkamp and her sister Flo, who were both included in a wedding party.
Therefore, it would seem that they were historical figures, and that there is not reason to suspect that the letter to the editor is not genuine.
7. I could not locate any weather details for Port Douglas for 31 March 1907.
8. The original account appears to have come from a newspaper named "Port Douglas 'Record." The TROVE collection doesn't have issues of this newspaper.
9. Are there any other local references to comets, that would explain why the 16 April 1907 article referred to what was seen, on 31 March 1907, as "A very brilliant comet?" Indeed there are.
a. On page 3 of the "Morning Post" Cairns, paper dated 27 February 1907, there is a short piece about an approaching comet, citing a Professor Matteuci who "...declares that about the end of March...the comet...will come in contact with the earth's atmosphere, causing some damage."
b. Further discussions about this comet appear on page 6 of the "Morning Post" Cairns dated 11 March 1907; and page 4 of the 22 March 1907 edition of the same paper.
It would appear reasonable, given these three articles about a comet; for the editor of the "Morning Post" Cairns, on the 16 April 1907, to suppose Miss Hasenkamp's observation was that of a "comet."
10. In conclusion, given all of the above information, I support Aubeck's and Shough's view that what was seen was most likely the planet Venus.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Port Augusta, South Australia - "flying eggs" - 1947 - witness deceased

Hi all,

Thanks to an observant Adelaide individual, I have now found out that Ronald Ernest Ellis, the main witness of the pre Kenneth Arnold, "flying eggs", at Port Augusta in 1947, passed away on 15 July 2008, aged 87 years. He is buried in the Stirling North Garden Cemetery.

The same Adelaide man, also directed my attention to a photograph of Ellis, which I reproduce below.


In another previous post, I advised that I was aware that an Adelaide researcher, whose first name was Mishelle, managed to locate and interview Ellis in 2006. Although a preliminary report was available of this interview, no final report is known. I believe that Adelaide researcher Jeff Fausch, has now located Mishelle. Jeff is awaiting direct contact with Mishelle, to see if we can obtain a more detailed report of her interview with Ellis.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Disk-like object - Berrigal Creek, New South Wales - 1931

Hi readers,

In 1969, the author of a soon to be published book called upon individuals to send in their sighting reports to him, for inclusion in the book. The author was one Michael Hervey; the book was titled "UFOs Over the Southern Hemisphere," and it was published by Horwitz of Sydney. Quite a number of individuals related their stories to Hervey, and they duly appeared in the published work. One of the accounts was as follows.

Since 1969, this observation has been referred to a number of time, by various Australian UFO researchers, including Sydney based Bill Chalker, e.g. on his blog. However, I have never seen any deep analysis of the event, such as I provide below.
The account
 "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 dead even course with no variation in altitude.
The object, which seemed to have small flames licking over it all the while, travelled over a 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."
Research notes
1. Berrigal Creek is near Bellata, in New South Wales. Bellata's latitude is 29 degrees 54 mins south; longitude 149 degrees 48mins east.

Courtesy Google Maps

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 about 3323 feet (1013m) tall, but no listed peaks of around 2000 feet high.

Courtesy Google maps

3. The book account mentions that it "...continued on to the largest peak and swooped towards the rear of it and disappeared." The "tallest" peak is Mount Kaputar, height 4885 feet which is at latitude 30 deg 16 mins south and longitude 150 deg 10 mins east.

4. I checked and in the New South Wales 1948 electoral roll, I located a Jack Howlett, in the subdivision of Baradine, division of Gwydir, living with Ivy Helen Howlett in Wellington Street. The electoral rolls indicate they were living there in 1969 when the letter to Hervey was written. This Jack Howlett was born in 1918 and would have been 13 in 1931 the year of the sighting. He died in 1986.

1. For an observer near Bellata, to see the object pass behind peaks, which are at a distance of at least 30 kilometres 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."

2. 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 garden when the whole area was lit up in brilliant blue light, heralding the arrival of a bright meteor.

3. I wonder if the comment that it looked like "...a round disk-like object..." refers to it appearing like a circle, and not to 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."

In their recent book, "Return to Magonia"  (2015. Anomalistic Books. San Antonio) authors Chris Aubeck and Martin Shough, spent some time in chapter five, discussing the meaning when an early sighting report speaks of a "disc." On page 87 they write "Some writers have claimed that there is a tradition of saucer shaped anomalies, perhaps going back to antiquity. In our opinion the search for flying discs in old sources is often motivated more by a desire to promote the theory of ET contact than by dispassionate consideration of evidence in context."

4. The description "...which seemed to have small flames licking over it all the while,.." is certainly similar to a description of a meteor.

5. 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.

6. 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."

7. I looked for contemporary newspaper article about this object, via the TROVE electronic newspaper collection. I found the following, from the year 1931.

a. "Brisbane Courier" [Qld: 1864-1933] Friday 23 October 1931 p 18.
On the 17 October 1931 between about 1900 and 1930hrs there were reports of a bright object a "...little above the horizon north of west" from Roma, Qld.

"Daily Examiner" [Grafton, NSW: 1915-1954]Tuesday 20 October 1931 p. 5.
Reports at 1900hrs 17 October of a phenomenon north-west of Mitchell Qld.  Yellowish white in colour. Lasted 30 minutes.

"The Longreach Leader" [Qld 1923-1938] Friday 23 October 1931 p.5.
Phenomenon seen from Mitchell in south-west Queensland and Winton, Queensland.

There were even two photographs taken of this 17 October 1931 event; see my previous Magoniadownunder blog post.

However, looking at the locations of these observations and the details provided, it does not fit in with the Berrigal Creek data.

b. "Murray pioneer and Australian River Record" [Renmark, SA: 1913-1943] Friday 26 June 1931 p.5.
Multiple reports of a bright meteor and ground shaking. The colour, direction of flight and other characteristics do not fit in with the Berrigal Creek observation.

Despite a fairly wide search, I was unable to locate any TROVE newspaper article which matched the Berrigal Creek sighting.

8. In my opinion, the best fit for this observation is a bright meteor.

I welcome comments from blog readers.  

Friday, January 8, 2016

Flying eggs - Port Augusta 1947 - main witness was interviewed in 2006

Hi readers,

There has been renewed interest of late, in an event which happened on 5 February 1947, at Port Augusta, South Australia. The case recently featured as chapter 21 in "Return to Magonia" by Chris Aubeck and Martin Shough (2015. Anomalistic Books. San Antonio.) You might care to refresh your memory of the details I published in an earlier post before reading further.

Main witness interviewed
Adelaide based researcher Jeff Fausch conducted his own "cold case" investigation into the Port Augusta event. One previously unknown aspect, is that the main witness, Ron Ellis was located and interviewed in 2006 by a researcher whose first name is Mishelle.  In a recent email to me, Jeff informs us:
"After I had been to the State Library in June 2006 to view the Adelaide newspaper article for myself and to make copies, I contacted Mishelle to give her a copy of the original accounts. She told me that the man interviewed in the article from February 7th 1947, Ron Ellis was alive and only lived a couple of streets away.
Mishelle interviewed Ron Ellis in June 2006 sending me a couple of updates, but in September 2006 told me that her husband was being transferred to Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. When she moved to Kalgoorlie I lost contact with her and have not heard from her since. The information I am using for my project is from emails sent to me before loosing contact with her.
In an email sent to me on June 29th 2006 Mishelle said that she had interviewed Ron Ellis who was at the time, 86 years old. His report of the incident conflicts with that of the media article in terms of what he witnessed, who was spoken to etc. Mr Ellis first told Mishelle he saw nothing at first, then changed his story, and was then adamant that what he witnessed was a weather/observation balloon. This is as told to him by unknown benefactors after the article was published.
During a phone call, Mishelle told me that Ellis was approached by two men who told him that it was a weather balloon and to leave it at that. Mishelle felt that there was much more to this sighting than met the eye. I believe when Mishelle approached him, he had been taken by surprise as no one had brought this up for nearly sixty years. Unfortunately I lost contact with her after this email so I have not seen the finished report on the interview with Ron Ellis.
In Mishelle's last email she also mentioned that she had contacted the department of Meteorology, specifically the climate services section, and was informed that the closest area to Port Augusta in which weather balloons were launched was Woomera, but interestingly, upper air observations did not begin at Woomera until March 1st 1949, two years after the Port Augusta incident."