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 Ancestry.com 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.  

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