Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Search for Historical UFO Reports in Australia

The Search for Historical UFO Reports in Australia

by Bill Chalker

Back in 1978, in an article entitled “Historical reports in Australia,” I included a reference to a possible UFO sighting during the 1861 Burke and Wills expedition, around June 23rd.  Within days both Burke and Wills would be dead, victims of an expedition gone wrong and paying the ultimate price in the harsh conditions of the Australian outback at Coopers Creek. 2011 was the 150th anniversary of the epic and tragic Burke and Wills expedition.

While death was only days away William John Wills recorded in his journal dated Tuesday June 23, a strange apparition witnessed by John King, who would ultimately be the sole survivor of the cross-country expedition party.  King at 22, a “veteran” (1857-1859) of the Indian Mutiny, brought to the expedition his expertise with camels.  Health problems would seem to have made him an unlikely choice, but he soon distinguished himself as “a versatile and capable member of the party…. Always calm and reserved, with a strong sense of duty, King melted into the background and got on with his job.  His reward was a place in the forward party.” (pgs. 183 – 184, “The Dig Tree”, Sarah Murgatroyd, 2002) 


(left) John King - witness to an 1861 "UFO vision" during the final days of the tragic Burke and Wills expedition. Source: From the La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, via Sarah Murgatroyd, "The Digg Tree", 2002, pg. 180. (Right) William John Wills, the expedition astronomer. Source: From William Strutt, Dixson Library, State Library of NSW, via Sarah Murgatroyd, "The Digg Tree", 2002, pg. 77.
Wills wrote:
“Near daybreak King reported seeing a moon in the east with a haze of light stretching up from it to be quite as large as the moon and not dim at the edges. I am so weak that any attempt to get a sight of it was out of the question; but I think it must have been Venus in the Zodiacal light that he saw, with a corona around her.”

Maybe Wills was right. After all he was the surveyor and astronomical observer for the ill-fated expedition. Between 1858 and 1860 Wills had worked as an assistant at Melbourne's Flagstaff observatory.  His written instructions included, “All astronomical phenomena of particular interest should be observed, if the means at the disposal of the astronomer do admit of such observation …. Observations on the Zodiacal Light may be made with a great facility and advantage for science…. A good look out should be kept for meteors.” (pg. 306, “Burke & Wills – The Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition,” edited by E.B. Joyce & D.A. McCann, 2011)

In his 1976 Boyer lecture historian Manning Clark stated:
"The story of Burke and Wills could be told to illustrate many things about life. Like all great stories it had everything.... To feel the full force of that tragedy one has to stand on the banks of Cooper’s Creek at the spot where Wills died. Right to the very end Wills had believed, like Mr Micawber, that something might turn up.... The most difficult thing of all for a historian is to learn how to tell his story so that something is added to the facts, something about the mystery at the heart of things."

Well, something may indeed have turned up. Astronomy software reconstructing the early morning sky for the period in question suggests that Venus was below the sunrise horizon, and the moon was in the west. So if these tentative reconstructions are correct we have a mystery on our hands. I suspect it was something prosaic that the lone expedition survivor - John King - saw that morning, more than 150 years ago. Perhaps given the dire and tragic circumstances closing in on the 3 men, precision in observations may have understandably started to lapse. Perhaps King had a hallucination due to the severe condition he was in?

The excellent 150th anniversary book “Burke & Wills – The Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition,” edited by E.B. Joyce & D.A. McCann, highlights William John Wills “as scientist”, as an excellent observer even to his dying days. I wonder if Wills had had the strength to look and verify King’s observations whether the mystery would have continued.

What did John King see? - Hallucination, Venus, the moon, a UFO, or something else?
I first read John Wills account of King’s “vision” back in 1975 when I read Alan Moorehead’s account of the expedition, “Cooper’s Creek.”

I have been interested in historical UFO events in Australia and the near region ever since I began my interest in UFOs. My initial conclusion back in 1978 was, “Australia like many other counties has a rich crop of UFO sightings long before the modern popularisation of the mystery.  The UFO phenomenon seems to be as old as man himself.” In my original account I used “UFO phenomena” to equate with the likelihood that many things come together that are collectively called the UFO phenomenon, but I prefer to have the latter linking directly to the “core” unexplained and alien phenomenon.

The only pre-1947 UFO event supported by a photograph I had come across was a sighting I briefly described in my 1996 book “The OZ Files – the Australian UFO Story.” The account of it I have been able to find was the story in the U.F.O.I.C. Newsletter No. 21, December, 1968:
Sighting and UFO photo back from 1935 Only now, a report and a negative of a UFO photographed in 1935 have been received and investigated by UFOIC. As the case was, the person concerned wondered at the time what the object might have been but has only recently become aware of the extraordinary nature of his experience and the significance of the photograph which he took. That year, Mr. Patrick A.M. Terry of Mosman, Sydney, was stationed with the military at Newcastle and on the night of 10th October he went fishing to Nobby’s Head. The sky was overcast and there was no moon. At about 10 p.m., while sitting on the rocks, he noticed a flash of light in the sky out over the sea. Then a steady light appeared. It was brighter than a full moon and was hovering about a mile away and possibly 10,000 feet high. It was yellow – bright on the lower part gradually diminishing through three dark bands into grey. The whole complex appeared actually as a tremendously large mush-room-shaped object, consisting of three floors, smaller supporting the larger one, and the light from the bottom floor illuminating all three upper sections. The object then suddenly descended to a height of about 5,000 feet and remained stationary for a few seconds. It then moved quickly back to its original position. At that time Mr. Terry’s curiosity and surprise were fully aroused and while he had a Kodak Brownie box camera with him, he took a snapshot at 1/25th sec. exposure. After about 10 minutes of hovering, the object began revolving with increased speed and moved away, disappearing towards the north and out of sight in seconds. The photos later showed a definite circular object with details seen well at enlargement. (The photo will be published in the next Review).
The report refers at one point to “photos” but only one seems to have been taken. The next Review – the Australian UFO Review (UFOIC edition), No. 10 - did not appear until December, 1969. There was no account or photo of the 1935 incident in the issue. The magazine did report on the accidental death of UFOIC’s long time energetic president Dr. Miran Lindtner. Not reported was a story I had heard a few times from various sources that a UFOIC committee member had allegedly been bombarding Dr. Lindtner’s widow about retrieving some trivial items. The alleged insensitivity of the UFOIC member apparently led to the widow disposing of some UFOIC items in a backyard bonfire. If this story had any validity it may be a depressing explanation for the non-appearance of the 1935 photo in the UFOIC Review magazine. Another piece of UFOIC folklore also refers to its sighting officer being a bit of a “bower bird” when it came to unique and significant UFO related items. In other words one didn’t tend to leave items of this nature for his attention as they would disappear into his alleged “private collection.” When I joined the UFOIC group committee in 1975 I came across evidence of this man’s “bower bird” activities (lining his “private UFO nest” with “bright” (important) items as a bower bird does in nature). Unfortunately I was not then aware of the 1935 UFO photo story. When I did find out of it a number of years later I made attempts to locate the photographer and any evidence for it, unfortunately without success.
If anyone has any knowledge of the 1935 incident or Mr. Terry I would be pleased to hear of it.
There have been a number of other early Australian photos that show items that look like UFOs, but these do not have any related UFO story. For example the Australian magazine Ufologist reproduced one taken of Brisbane Hospital in the late 1800s, courtesy of Gordon Bagnall, in their Vol.9 No.4, 2005 issue. It shows a black disk shaped “object.” It is not clear if the people in photo are noticing anything unusual. The dark item may even be a photo defect or from some other prosaic source. The lack of any UFO related sighting narrative makes the photo interesting but not of any strong probative value.
My friend Paul Cropper, who shares my passion for searching out old records for unusual Fortean type material, drew my attention during 2011 to another early “UFO” photo which has an accompanying contemporary narrative. Our decades’ long searching for this sort of material has more recently been greatly assisted by the increasing digitisation of old newspaper archives available on-line. Paul’s discovery was of an interesting 1931 Queensland newspaper report of a “strange light” which also carried a photo. Now it could be of a meteoric sourced “trail” of light or the result of the luminous trail its passage left behind. The details supplied are not sufficient to have certainty with regard to an explanation, so we will give it a tentative label of “UFO.” I will note that 4 months earlier Francis Chichester had his curious airborne encounter off the Australian coast over the Tasman Sea – “the dull grey-white shape of an airship … like an oblong pearl,” as described in his 1933 book “Seaplane Solo” (also published as “Alone Over the Tasman Sea”).
From the Rockhampton newspaper the Morning Bulletin of Wednesday 21 October 1931, various independent observers reported a curious sky phenomenon in the Winton district. One described “a strange trail of light, seen in the western sky between 6.30 and 7 pm, on Saturday evening, October 17th. When first seen, this trail of light was shaped like a capital “T” or a 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 correspondent sent two photos with time exposures of one minute, taken at 6.45 pm. Only one photo was carried in the paper (reproduced here).

1931 Winton Queensland photo sourced from the  Rockhampton Morning Bulletin,
Wednesday, 21 October, 1931. Located by Paul Cropper.
Another observer, a stockman, reported the “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 brilliantly white, while several clouds nearby were quite black. In fact, there was not another white cloud in the sky.”
The stockman further described, “It held its shape for quite a while. Then the tail changed and it started to pale, turning quite 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 have an idea that 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.”
The paper’s Winton correspondent reported that many residents saw the phenomenon as dusk was approaching. The correspondent wrote, “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 halfway between the horizon and the zenith, close to the pointers of the Southern Cross.”
“This 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 of the Southern Cross pointers.
“After about ten minutes it began to bend as if blown by an air current, and gradually lengthened, the tail growing fainter and assuming the shape of a reversed mark of interrogation. The lower end was now in the shape of an arrow head and drifted lower and in a westerly direction, until, as darkness came on, it faded from view.”
The newspaper account ends with a possible source of the aerial phenomenon: “An enormous meteor or shooting 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.”
Several Australian studies and reports have focused on the earlier historical phase of sightings, i.e. reports that preceded the beginnings of the modern era of UFO sightings which began in late June 1947 with the famous Kenneth Arnold sighting in the USA.

These include:
In 1958, Jack Kunst, a reporter, and Ken Hatton, an airline navigation officer, both members of the UFO Investigation Centre (UFOIC), compiled a listing of “Australian Sightings” from 1874 to 1958. 4 pre-1947 sightings were included: 1874 Oct 11 Beechworth Victoria, 1942 Feb 26 Timor Sea, 1944 Feb Bass Strait, and 1946 Grenfell district.

In 1965 Australia’s first flying saucer book appeared – “Flying Saucers over Australia” by James Holledge.  It also lists the 4 historical sightings described by UFOIC’s Jack Kunst and Ken Hatton.  Holledge reports “From their own research, Australian ufologists believe that the first published report of an unidentified flying object in this country occurred as far back as October, 1874, at Beechworth in Victoria.” Around 1975 I located newspaper references related this event. During October, 1874, a “celestial display” of considerable magnitude was observed over a wide area.  The Sydney Morning Herald of October 8 and 9, 1874, documents the story.  The event occurred on October 4 at about 6 p.m., and involved “a meteor of great size, (which) suddenly flashed in the western heavens immediately over where the sun had set, and bursting like a rocket into numerous brilliant spangles, left behind it a straight silvery line resembling a streak of lightning.  This line shortly afterwards, seemed to assume a sinuous or spiral shape, the folds of which gradually contracted or became as it were compressed till they presented somewhat of a zig-zag appearance, the angles being particularly bright and silvery.”  The phenomenon lasted for about 20 minutes over Victoria.  One witness suggested it might be “Venus transmitting a telegram to the sun (about) her approaching transit.  Whatever it was certainly a most beautiful as well as a most extraordinary occurrence.”  The event was probably of a celestial nature – a striking meteor with a pronounced and enduring tail, seen over a widespread area, such as Beechworth, Victoria, and Goulburn, Gosford and Wagga in NSW.

In 1969 Michael Hervey mentions a few further historical cases in his book “UFOs over the Southern Hemisphere.”  Hervey made an undated reference the 1879 “remarkable meteor” at Freemantle, W.A.  While writing the book Hervey made some public requests for reports.  Amongst the numerous letters he received were a number of historical cases, which were listed as “First Hand Reports”.  These included 1931 - Baradine, NSW; during the war years – Sale, Victoria; 1936 – Willow Bark, Queensland; and 1934 Ashley Clinton, New Zealand.

“Items from the Australian flap, 1909-1910” by Paul Norman, FSR (Flying Saucer Review), Vol.22, No.6, 1976. This was a one page piece which referred to the 1910 account of the crew of the “Wookata” near Althorp Island near Cape Spencer, South Australia. The account recovered from an old newspaper lacked the date, but it was widely reported in Australian newspapers on or about August 3 or 4, 1910.  Norman also included a brief mention of some of the well known New Zealand 1909 “airship” reports, but with no reference to the 1909 Australian reports.

“Historical reports in Australia” prepared by me in 1978 was expressed in various forms between 1978 and 1979 in the “LGM” – the little green magazine - as the ACOS (Australian Co-Ordination Section of the Center for UFO Studies) Bulletin was often called, along with some other brief historical collations.  It was the first focused piece that discussed historical Australian UFO sightings including circa 1830s – Oven River region of eastern Victoria; 1861 – Coopers Creek, central Australia; 1868 – Parramatta, NSW; 1879 – Freemantle, WA; 1881 – at sea between Melbourne and Sydney; 1890s – Orrorro and Moonta, SA; 1893 – central NSW; 1902 – eastern Australia “fireball” epidemic; 1902 – Adelaide SA observatory; 1909 “airship” & “mystery light” reports in New Zealand and Australia; before and after 1912 – Boulia, Qld with the Min Min reports; 1925 – near Moora, WA; 1931 – Francis Chichester’s Tasman sea sighting; 

1932 0r 1933 – near Nambour, Qld; mid 1930s – central Qld; 1935 – Nobby’s Head, NSW “UFO photo”; 1944 – Bass Strait; and 2 events from 1947 – Greta Army camp, near Maitland, NSW, and near Newry, Victoria.  Those 19 references spanning the1830s to 1947 started a major quest by me to locate further reports. 

My “Historical reports in Australia” article was reprinted a number of times including in the ACUFOS (Australian Centre for UFO Studies) Journal, Vol.2. No. 1 to 4, 1981, and in “UFOs over Australia” edited by Mark Moravec & John Prytz (1985).

In 1981 I circulated a “Preliminary listing of Australian Historical UFO Events - Prehistory to 1949” to try to ignite interest in historical UFO cases. This sighting material was largely put together from diverse sources by Paul Cropper and me.  I choose the end year of 1949 because it seemed based on research at the time that 1950 marked the significant beginnings of the Australian UFO experience.  I listed the year, location and a few words about over 110 events, plus 56 New Zealand “airship” events from 1909, as well a few more Fortean or apparitional phenomena.

1770 - near Timor possible “Aurora” during Cook’s voyage; circa 1830s – the Oven River area “ghost light”; 1861 – Burke & Wills, 2 events from 1862; 1866 – “atmospherical phenomena”; 1868 – Birmingham’s Parramatta “UFO vision”; 1868 – sailor killed by “meteor” off Queensland; 4 further “singular phenomena” in 1868;  1869 – 4 separate “supernatural” events, the most extraordinary being a white object turning into an 8 foot spectre near Young, NSW; 1870 – 5 separate events, 3 being of strange “meteors”, the others ghost type events; 1871 – 3 events; 1872 – “ghost”; 1873 – Birmingham’s “daylight disc” over Parramatta’; 1874 – 5 separate events, including the Beechworth “meteor”; 1875 – 3 events;  1876 – 3 events; 1877 – 2 events; 1878 – 3 events;  1879 – the Freemantle event; 1881 – the “ghost ship” sighted by crew of the “Bacchante”;  1881 – the great “comet” debate; 1883 – a light near sun with beam seen from Perth, and one in New Zealand; 1885 – fireball falls into the Pacific; 1890 – a strange “cloud” over Raymond Terrace; 1890s – “ghost lights” at Orrorro and Moonta, SA; 1893 – central NSW “paralysis” case; 1896 -  “airship” over Bass Strait. 

With the 20th century: 1902 – the “fireball epidemic; 1902 “daylight disc” at Adelaide, SA; 1904 – flying “cigar” at Nildottie, SA; 1908 – mystery lights in New Zealand Southland; 56 reports from the 1909 airship wave in New Zealand and 18 for Australia.  A further 2 events from New Zealand in 1909 occurred after the main wave.  1909 – Rockhampton, Qld; 1910 – 2 reports; 1911 – 4 reports; the 1912 nexus of the Boulia Min Min light reports; 1914 – mystery plane over Savernake, NSW; during World war I – a “close encounter” at Rushworth Victoria; 1919 – an “entity” case in rural NSW, and a “landing” at Greendale, New Zealand; 1920 – “flare” reports possibly linked mystery disappearances in Bass Strait; 1921 – the apparent debut of the Qld Blairmore Station “ghost light”; 1924 – strange light over Melbourne; circa 1924 – Moora WA “landing” with physical trace; during the 1920s & 1930s – “ball lightning” events at Rooty Hill, in Sydney; 1928 – “auditory phenomena” on the Dorrigo plateau – a curious possible forerunner of the Tyringham area “phantom truck” noises that played out during an intense UFO flap in 1973; circa 1928-1929 – a recurring “fireball” at Coffs Harbour, NSW; between 1923 – 1929 – a recurring nocturnal light at Tinonee, near Taree, NSW; circa 1930 – a “zeppelin” over Port Moresby, PNG; 1931 – the Chichester UFO sighting over the Tasman Sea; 1931 – flying “disc” at Berrigal Creek; 1932 – the Guilford “dirigible” and “meteoric hole”; late 1920s – 1930s, UFO sightings at Dalma Road Qld; during the same period further “ghost light” traditions are established – the “Yatton”, the “Quinn”, the “Malchi” and “One Tree Plain” lights; circa 1932 – 1933 – the Nambour Qld “mini-UFO” encounter; 1934 – “daylight disk” in NZ; 1933-1935 – “black planes” and “mysterious balloons” over the Pacific Islands; 1933 – “brilliant fiery mass” in SA; 1935 – Nobby’s Head “UFO photo”; 1936 – the first of mystery light sightings at Crows Peak, Oberon Dam, NSW; 1936 – Willow Bark encounter and “aerial observation” at Scots Head; 1936 – aerial phenomena over Melbourne, and Manilla, NSW; early World War 2 – “daylight discs” at Sale and Korrumburra; 1942 – Colin Norris’ “nocturnal light” at Geraldton, WA; 1942 – the Timor Sea RNN Tromp ship encounter; 1942 – alleged UFO tale off Tasman Pennisula; circa 1944 – Beaufort encounter over Bass Strait; 1944 or 1945 – Christchurch NZ entity UFO encounter, and 1946 – Grenfell UFO sighting.  In 1947 – UFO sightings near Newry in Victoria, Vaucluse in Sydney, and Bondi, Sydney.  In 1948 – Scone, NSW, Berridale, Tasmania, off Cairns from Army ship Tarra, and Semaphore Beach. In 1949 - a close encounter off North Palm Island and a nocturnal light display over the Melbourne suburbs.

I had thought with this extensive historical UFO sightings listing considerable interest would have been ignited.  Instead apart from some researchers passing on a small amount of material, generally speaking interest was non existent.  Rather than put out a detailed document at that point I chose instead to concentrate on detailed case studies of select compelling cases. From this approach emerged the 1868 Birmingham “UFO vision” and 1927 Fernvale documents:
“A UFO Vision? The mystery of ‘A machine to go through the air’, 1873, Parramatta, NSW, Australia”, by Bill Chalker, UFORAN, Vol.3, No.1, Jan./Feb.1982. I also wrote a separate article on the 1868 affair for Fortean Times, “Encounter in the Outback”, September, 2002.
“The Terror Down Under”, by Bill Chalker, Fate, September, 1988 (re 1927 Fernvale, NSW, UFO milieu). A much more detailed account was to appear in the Fortean Times special issue devoted to the Mothman, but for whatever reason (possibly length) it did not appear despite being listed in 2 issues as coming in the next issue.  Further details passed onto me by Cecil McGann (the primary witness of the 1927 events) before he passed away, were incorporated into an extended document.

Further material on historical cases emerged in a fragmentary way, including: 

Robin Northover wrote a short piece for Australiasian Post magazine in 1982, entitled “Seeing things way back.”  It described 4 events – 1873 – a sea event, 1893 – the NSW “paralysis” encounter, the Minderoo Station “airship” event erroneously dated as 1909 (an error I continued with my account of the event in my book “The OZ Files – the Australian UFO Story”, until it was corrected to 1910 in Brett Holman’s excellent on-line series “Scareships over Australia” at 
“An Old Australian Phenomenon” by John Auchettl, appeared in the VUFORS publication “The Australian Annual Flying Saucer Review” (undated but apparently 1983) and was reproduced in Robert Frola's The Jarrold Listings (1990).  It listed 18 events: early1800s – no location; 1868 – Parramatta, NSW – the Birmingham “UFO vision” I had documented; 1873 – S.A; 1874 – Beechworth; 1885 – 2 events in the Pacific; 1893 – central NSW “paralysis” event; 1909 – 4 events from New Zealand “airship” wave; 1909 (should be 1910) Minderoo Station event; 1910 – the Wookata sighting off SA; 1911 – Ballarat “airship”; 1919 – central NSW (with erroneous reference); 1920 – Sydney; 1920 – “rockets” in Tasmania and 1925 – Moora, WA.
“UFOs in Australia and New Zealand through 1959”, by Bill Chalker, pages 333 -356 in Jerome Clark's “The UFO Encyclopedia”, Volume 2, “The Emergence of a Phenomenon”, Omnigraphics/Apogee, February, 1992.
“Early Australian historical encounters” by Bill Chalker, on the Project 1947 web site for over a decade, now at:
“Australian 1947 UFO cases” by Bill Chalker, in “Project 1947” by Jan Aldrich, 1997.

In 1996 my book “The OZ Files – the Australian UFO story” listed more than 19 historical UFO events: 1793 – Sydney; 

1868 – the Birmingham “UFO vision”; 1873 – Birmingham’s “daylight disc”; 1878 – Goulburn “ghost light”; 1879 – Freemantle, WA; 1890s – Orrorro & Moonta SA “ghost lights”; 1893 – central NSW “paralysis” event; 1902 – Adelaide observatory “daylight disc” sighting;  1902 – “fireball” epidemic; the 1909 “airship” in New Zealand; 1909 – Australian reports; 1909 (should be 1910) Minderoo Station event; 1927 – Fernvale NSW events; 1931 – Chichester sighting; 1933 – abduction of aboriginal woman at Discovery Wells, WA (courtesy of Rex Gilroy); 1930s – WA aboriginal “entity” encounter; 1935 – Nobby’s Head “UFO” photo, and 1944 – Bass Strait; 1944 or 1945 – Christchurch NZ “entities”.

Even Keith Basterfield’s prolific and helpful cataloguing activities caught up with historical cases with his 2011 document “A catalogue of pre 24 June 1947 Australian Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” listing 38 events.

The increasing availability of on-line digital newspaper archives and related web sites has created a marked increase in the number of researchers taking an interest in uncovering accounts of possible historical UFO events.  The excellent Magonia Exchange List has been a striking manifestation of this, but its focus on encouraging somewhat ad hoc almost daily declarations of 0n-line “discoveries” has been difficult for me to regularly participate in.  Instead I sent them some of my document collations, and occasional “discoveries” when time and resources permitted.  The irony is that many of the online discoveries made more recently have already been found through “old-fashioned” direct methods years ago.  Never-the-less the increasing coverage of on-line digital newspaper archives is a definite asset to historical UFO researchers.

For me the 1868 Birmingham “UFO vision” and the 1927 Fernvale affair were the 2 standout historical Australian reports. They allowed very detailed research and investigations.  Of course many of the historical reports may be about natural or prosaic phenomena (these have a value all of their own), but many provocatively suggest indications of a much earlier UFO history than the watershed year of 1947.

The approximate 110 plus reports (not including the 1909 New Zealand “airship” reports) I listed in 1981 has been significantly expanded with my own further research over the past 3 decades, ably assisted by Paul Cropper.  We hope to publish a substantial document describing the extraordinary legacy of historical UFO reports in Australia and the near region.

Any further reports are most welcome: please sent details to P.O. Box 42, West Pennant Hills, NSW, 2125.                       

Monday, November 7, 2011

"UFO HISTORY KEYS" deluxe first edition hardcover available

I am making available on a print on demand basis a limited first edition deluxe hard cover book "UFO History Keys - Examining the UFO controversy from a historical perspective."
253 pages, over 220 pictures (many in colour)

For further details (including postage costs) enquire through Bill Chalker
via my email or P.O. Box 42, West Pennant Hills, NSW, 2125, AUSTRALIA
Current printing, collation and binding costs, determine that the cost of deluxe FIRST EDITION hardcover will be $100 (Aust) and softcover $50 (Aust) - postage not included.
Image credit: Design and produced by Chris Chalker - "The OZ Files", "Hair of the Alien", the cover of "UFO History Keys" delux hard cover edition, the book "UFO History Keys" open at pages 102-103 revealing my personal top 10 in illustrated form, Bill Chalker in his office/library (Copyright Chris & Bill Chalker)

From the book:
History and science need to be our enduring touchstones and guides through the extraordinary complexities and mysteries that define the UFO and alien abduction phenomenon. History gives us the benefit of experience and the ability to identify patterns in the phenomenon.  Science gives us a range of tools that, if applied properly and with sufficient focused resources and commitment, will establish compelling pathways towards establishing the true nature of the alien reality.
This is an anthology of some of my UFO history related writings – articles over the years - and more recently my UFO History Keys column (2006-2011) which appear in the Australian UFOLOGIST magazine.  
At the beginning of this anthology I have brought together 3 articles that draw together the critical history and science touchstones. They focus on what I see as a very significant breakthrough focus, namely what I refer to as the alien DNA paradigm – an important and complex research programme. The first of these articles “An Alien DNA Paradigm?” originally appeared in a special UFO issue of NEW DAWN magazine (Special Issue 17, Spring 2011). The other two appeared as part of my UFO History Keys column series (“Aliens on Earth – the Alien DNA paradigm” (2010) and “Intelligent Intervention?” (2007)). The historical and current connections becoming evident during the research of this extraordinary hypothesis are a powerful confirmation of the utility of using history and science in trying to understand the UFO and alien reality.

The final item in the column collection - “UFO History Keys Shining – The Extraordinary 1968 Minot B52 UFO Encounter – a remarkable example of a latent and almost lost scientific opportunity” – describes a remarkable example of the power of history and foundational science coming together to provide potential breakthrough evidence.

The contents: 
Examining the UFO controversy
from a historical perspective
Biographical background

The Alien DNA Paradigm:
An Alien DNA Paradigm?
Aliens on Earth – the Alien DNA Paradigm

Australian UFO History Wars
– lessons and approaches to the Australian UFO controversy

UFO HISTORY KEYS              
Examining the UFO controversy from a historical perspective

- “STAR BEGOTTEN” (1937) and “The GERM GROWERS” (1892)
The Australian Department of Defence "lost" UFO files - where are they?
By the UFO book … the Australian experience.
The UFOIC Thread
ROSWELL“the good, the bad & the ugly” of ufology
FLYING SAUCERERS – A Social History of Ufology”
STRANGE COMPANY  - Arrival: World War II not 1947
The Joint Intelligence Organisation (JI0) and UFOs – a matter of history
… a followup on “The Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO) and UFOs – a matter of history” in the Ufologist, November – December, 2007.
The passing of 1959 Boianai PNG witness Rev William Gill
The “Best” UFO cases from the Australian region – a personal perspective
The Visitors – The Australian Response to Aliens and UFOs
Across the pond – the New Zealand UFO experience
The Moreland Revelations
Remembering a turbulent time of change
The general sum of knowledge – UFO Encyclopedias
The Saucerers of OZ, on the road to Etheria:
In search of our origins - Early Australian UFO History in different keys
The Alien Dance continues – the Astronaut and the UFO
An Alien Who’s Who.
The Valentich UFO mystery - after 30 years still unanswered
Vanished – a 30 year old mystery revisited
The dancing sun – the Fatima visions redefined
When politicised & militarised Science tried to bury the UFO subject
– the Condon report exposed (1969 – 2009)
The 1954 UFO Desert Dance of the photographic veils.
a special tribute article to Albert Pennisi (1919 – 2009)
Albert’s “dream” machine – UFO reality at Tully
Forbidden Science and the “Invisible College
– the journals of Jacques Vallee
Passings – Richard Hall and John Keel
RICHARD HALL (1930 – 2009):
a giant in UFO history and an advocate for serious scientific research into UFOs.
JOHN KEEL (1930 – 2009):
the great demoniser of ufology.
Histories, enigmas, reflections and fancies
Reviews of Richard Dolan’s “UFOs & the National Security State. Volume Two: The Cover-up exposed 1973 – 1991”, David Clarke’s “The UFO Files – the inside story of real-life sightings”, Vladimir Rubtsov’s “The Tunguska Mystery” and “The Secrets of Dellschau” by Dennis Crenshaw in collaboration with P.G. Navarro.
The Chipping Norton Incident – a journey through the UFO theatre
The WESTALL UFO "Black Swan"
WESTALL 1966 Revisited
UFOs – a turning point?
UFOs, history, myth and the sacred:
“Wonders in the Sky – Unexplained Aerial Objects from Antiquity to Modern Times” by Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck
“The Myth and Mystery of UFOs” by Thomas Bullard
Authors of the Impossible – the Paranormal and the Sacred” by Jeffrey Kripal
The Fourth Level and the Fourth Kind
Here be Martians – the Roswell Connection
Belief, Polygraphs and alien abductions
 – the SBS “My Mum Talks to Aliens” documentary examined.
UFO History Keys Shining –
The Extraordinary 1968 Minot B52 UFO Encounter – a remarkable example of a latent and almost lost scientific opportunity 


Some limited extracts from the "UFO History Keys" column - one of the backbones of this book - appear on this site.  Have a browse.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO) and UFOs – a matter of history

(from my Nov-Dec 2007 UFO History Keys column, Ufologist magazine:

Keith Basterfield of the Disclosure Australia Project recently reported on identifying a JIO UFO file and is awaiting its security clearing review. I contacted him as I had undertaken similar efforts some years ago but put it on the “back-burner” due to indications that the JIO files I requested would not be made available under both FOI and Archive Act criteria. Fortunately I was able to access parts of this file in the course of some research conducted particularly during 2001. In discussion with Keith I learnt that the file series I had extracts of was the JIO file series he is waiting determinations on via the National Archives.

To assist with research into this matter I will outline information I have gathered over the years on the role of the Australian Joint Intelligence Organisation (formerly the Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB) and now the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO). JIO emerged in 1970 and the DIO in 1989. The original JIB had emerged by 1947 but its intelligence activities were limited. Critical to our story was the expansion of its spheres of interest to scientific and technical intelligence in 1957. Some of my research material was originally included in the manuscript I wrote for my 1996 book “The OZ Files – the Australian UFO Story.” Because commercial editing requirements meant a lot of this information was left out of the final published book I chose to make it available in other ways, including my document “UFOs Sub Rosa Down Under” available on the web since 1999. See and the Project 1947 web site.

(The cover of Bob Mathams 1982 book "Sub Rosa" - the inspiration for my document title "UFO Sub Rosa Down Under". Bob's book has no mention of UFOs. The UFO connection came up in his 1982 correspondence with me)

It was science and technology that drove the drift of JIB and JIO into the UFO controversy but the organisation always tried to limit its embrace with the controversy. JIO’s reluctant dance with the UFO spectre had its tentative beginnings back in 1954 with two key events – the secret Turner report on the RAAF’s Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) flying saucer files and the striking radar visual Sea Fury encounter. It was Harry Turner who wrote the report – an early “scientific appreciation” of the DAFI “flying saucer” reports. He argued for a serious investigation as the basis of his conclusion that their “unexplained” cases might well have an extraterrestrial basis. All this in a secret 1954 Australian study! The Sea Fury account leaked out into public eye by the end of 1954, but in secret the JIB had undertaken an investigation, one which the key witness – the Sea Fury naval pilot Lieutenant James O’Farrell – did not learn of until 1973 with the visit of former USAF consultant to Project Bluebook Dr. J. Allen Hynek.

(Photo: Harry Turner and Bill Chalker in 2004 - photo copyright Bill Chalker)

James O’Farrell told me in 1993, “It was done through Sir Arthur Tange, who was secretary of the Department of Defence at the time. Hynek contacted him direct.... Sir Arthur Tange contacted me and said Hynek was coming out. He had written to him, through the US Embassy, to set up a meeting.... And the next thing I knew I had a telephone call one day from Sir Arthur Tange saying that Hynek was coming and he would like me to met him. I said, well, I haven't got all the facts, there all a bit hazy. So he sent me the two Defence Department files over to read, to refresh it all…. All that happened was that it was more of a courtesy because he was a very important guy, Hynek, and they wanted to show him the courtesies etc. As far as Defence was concern it was dead and forgotten but they had not got rid of the files. They kept them. Normally when files like that are written off they are either decided they'll put them in Archives or dispose of them and destroy them. But they had done neither. They had remained in the JIO. They'd kept them. I don't know what they had in mind about it, I never questioned it. I just used them as a means to refresh my memory.

(RAN Sea Fury pilot O'Farrell)

“Later the guy who became the chief Defence scientist, John Farrands, was very interested in it to, and he had done a lot of early investigations in most of the reports when he was chief defence scientist and in the period just before he became chief defence scientist. He had a talk with me. I was a friend of his. I use to meet with him at lunch. He went over it in great detail. He knew it all. He agreed it was something that couldn't be refuted.” I interviewed John Farrands who it turned out even contemplated writing a book about UFOs. At the time he told me he would wait for mine!

James O’Farrell further told me, “No matter how hard they tried, and they tried very hard to knock it all back. They checked everything from medical, down to when was the last time I had had a drink.... I wanted to hush it all up. That sort of investigation made me look a bit of a fool. I was worried it wasn't going to do my career any good.
Apart from the radar witness) it locked in a sighting over the NDB (non directional beacon at Narulan, at the same time. There happened to be a guy working on the NDB. It was down at the time. He had gone to repair it. He happened to look up at the time because he saw these lights fly overhead. Also the air traffic control officer in the tower at Mascot saw them approaching him.”
James O’Farrell told me, “It was all investigated by the then RAAF guy who did it and later it was also investigated by the Joint Intelligence Bureau.”

Since the Sea Fury aircraft was in 1954 one of the fastest planes in Australian skies the existence of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) that made the Sea Fury look as though it was “standing still”, it was perhaps inevitable that this unidentified technology was of serious concern. However the UFO subject was laden with problems that went far beyond the ambit of intelligence. The RAAF Directorate of Air Force Intelligence attempted to divest themselves of the UFO problem, despite Harry Turner’s secret “scientific appreciation” report. When Group Captain A.D. Henderson, the Director of Air Force Intelligence learnt that JIB had a scientific intelligence division he wrote to the JIB director Harry King. In a letter dated April 1, 1957, Henderson indicated (DAFI) “frequently receives reports direct from civilians, or passed on by other departments, of unidentified flying objects. We also receive requests for assistance and advice from various "Flying Saucer Research societies". He further elaborated, “Many of these reports presumably cover such mundane things as meteorological and astronomical phenomena”, and in an interesting internal admission DAFI Henderson added, “Others appear to be inexplicable. He lamented, “Most of them are outside the aeronautical field. As your branch has now established a scientific Intelligence Section, it would appear that these reports could best be investigated and evaluated by one of your Scientific Research officers, who will have a broader background of knowledge of this type of phenomena than anyone in this Directorate. If you agree that you can accept this commitment I will be glad to make available all the papers which we have acquired, to date, on this subject.”

Harry Turner, who would later become a JIB scientist and their liaison man with DAFI, told me that JIB rejected the RAAF overture. The clandestine side of JIB did not want “a bar of it”, as they considered they would then be caught up in what they regarded as a complex conjectural matter, which might drag them into the limelight - the last thing an intelligence organisation would want. The reality was at that stage JIB’s resources were very limited. Harry King appointed Bob Mathams as the first Australian scientific intelligence analyst in May, 1955. His initial secondment ended in mid 1957. In October, 1958 he rejoined JIB as the first head of their Scientific Intelligence Branch. In 1982 Bob Mathams indicated to me that his Directorate of Scientific and Technical Intelligence (DSTI) “had only a marginal interest in UFOs; our analytical resources were limited and I had to take the position that we could not afford to become too involved in investigation of UFO sightings until we had reasonable grounds for believing that they were of foreign - as apposed to alien - origin. We relied on DAFI to make the initial investigations and, at times, assisted in the interpretation of the resulting data.” He advised me that his “interest (as DSTI) in UFO sightings was aroused only when there was sufficient evidence to suggest that they may have been connected with or caused by foreign scientific or technological developments. There were only one or two that fitted that category We never really decided who would take responsibility for further investigation if it were shown, convincingly, that a UFO sighting in Australia was of extra-terrestrial origin.”

This perspective was the primary template JIB/JIO applied to the UFO material it decided to evaluate. Generally there had to be a “technology” aspect which suggested the possibility of a foreign earthly power, such as the Russians. This attitude informed JIO’s flirtations with the UFO subject until Harry Turner re-entered the picture. I first had contact with Harry Tuner back in 1982 and have interviewed him on a number of occasions since then. He kindly opened his UFO files to me. I was able to facilitate the Disclosure Australia interview with him in 2004, which had Dominic McNamara and myself undertaking the video interview.

By 1968, Harry Turner, who prepared the classified 1954 report on the DAFI UFO reports, was working in the Directorate of Scientific and Technical Intelligence (DSTI) of the Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB). At the end of 1954, Turner, a University of Western Australia trained physicist, went to England, where he worked at Harwell - the British atomic energy research establishment. He returned to Australia in 1956 and until 1964 was stationed at Maralinga. There he was the Australian Health Physics Representative during the controversial atomic bomb trials. When he joined DSTI, Turner functioned as a JIB liaison with DAFI and used the connection to try to once again encourage serious research within the secret world of Defence Science and intelligence. Harry Turner requested access to DAFI's UFO reports. This was granted.

As early as August 1968 in his position Turner drafted a memo for the JIB director entitled “U.F.O. Investigations with respect to DAFI, JIB and the future NIO”, which highlighted that “DAFI is not anxious to retain responsibility for UFO analysis but would be prepared to continue collation responsibility. The main problems are: (a) lack of scientific capability, (b) no specific position has been established for UFO work which means additional duties for personnel allocated to other duties.” He elaborated, “Many of the explanations offered by DAFI, usually under political pressure, impose a considerable scientific credibility gap.” Turner recommended tentative explorations of ways of mounting a limited assessment of the subject.

In May 1969, at Turner's suggestion a new RAAF UFO report form was devised which was intended to give a more scientific slant to the reports. At this time Turner was working with other scientists to set up a “rapid intervention” team to scientifically investigate cases of UFO physical evidence. A firm proposal was developed with the team to operate within the Defence Science and Technical Organisation (DSTO). The team was to consist of 4 or 5 scientists, with its mainstay to be rapid intervention into UFO “landing” events, for which an aircraft was to be on standby. Turner, in a memo dated November 8th, 1969, to the Director of JIB, indicated that he had Dr. Morton from ANU, Dr. John Symonds from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and Dr. Mike Duggin, then of the National Standards Laboratory. George Barlow, of Defence Science and Technology (DST) had also offered the help of his group. Turner indicated that Arthur Wills, then Chief Defence Scientist “had agreed to this.” The plans for the scientific team had been almost completed and authorisation to proceed appeared imminent. However fate had already intervened.

In the middle of 1969 a major flap broke out in Western Australia, centred in
Perth. One of the reports included an impressive radar visual event at Cloverdale and tracked on Kalamunda radar on May 23rd. The Director of Air Force Intelligence felt that things had gotten out of control and made an appeal for the Defence “intervention” group to assist. Unfortunately the group had not been finalised, and Harry Turner was seconded to help out. Turner found the radar case intriguing. As a physicist and analyst for the JIB, he concluded, “Neither the Kalamunda radar observation nor Mrs. C__'s sighting can be readily explained by conventional objects or phenomena.” His report also in part criticised the DAFI system for handling UFO reports, in particular referring to the lack of assistance given to the Air Force Intelligence officer “on the spot.” Hindsight is a wonderful thing, however at the time the DAFI “empire” was under threat. The Air Force did not take kindly to criticism, particularly when it came from what DAFI saw as an "outsider" a JIB scientist. The upshot of this was that Harry Turner's access to the DAFI UFO files was withdrawn.

This sorry turn of events occurred despite the lack of interest that the then Director of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) Gp Capt R.S. Royston had in the subject. Royston’s attitude was described in a July 1971 memo: “Although I am directly concerned with any possible threat to Australian security, I am not particularly interested in the subject of UFOs, even though my directorate devotes valuable time to this problem. I accept the US assessments without question and consider that it would be a complete waste for we here in Australia to spend valuable time and money in further detailed investigations. However, should the Department of Supply wish to undertake such studies the records of this directorate would be freely available. It would have to be pointed out to Supply, however, that the RAAF could provide no additional assistance in the matter and Supply would have to undertake all the facets of the further investigations.”

Harry Turner's JIB superior was Bob (R.H.) Mathams, the Director of Scientific Intelligence and author of the book “Sub Rosa - Memoirs of an Australian Intelligence Analyst” (1982). Mathams told me that he didn't encourage Turner's UFO interests, and his access to DAFI (RAAF) materials was an informal liaison agreement, which got more unworkable in the environment of Defence restructuring.

There was an uneasy flux in JIO’s “dance” with UFOs. The interest was virtually entirely driven by Turner's interest. If Turner hadn't been there I doubt if the matter would have come up. Bluebook & the Condon Report status quo courtesy of the US would have prevailed, as it ultimately did anyway. This was all part of Turner's attempts to get the DSTO "rapid intervention" selective study up and running. Turner wrote numerous papers and memos in the period 1969 to 1971 trying to get the “UFO ship” afloat.

During early 1970 there were exchanges between the JIB deputy director and DSTI head Bob Mathams about Turner’s persistent “sub rosa” UFO crusade.

At that particular stage (January, 1970) Harry Turner even utilised Dr. Jacque Vallee's so called Magonia listing of 1000 worldwide UFO landing or near landing reports (appended in Vallee’s book “Passport to Magonia”) to highlight to JIB the potential military threats involved: “The information suggests the existence of 3 “weapon systems” - (1) a device to interfere with electrical circuits, (2) a device to induce paralysis, (3) a heat ray.” Turner indicated, “There is circumstantial evidence that these weapons are at times used deliberately, although mostly in a defensive role. A number of reports allege that a lone car at night has been followed, and after being stopped by a beam, some kind of interaction has developed between the car occupants and the landed craft occupants. Information is included which deals with residual effects on the environment of the landed craft. It is these residual effects which offer the greatest potential reward to scientific investigation at this stage.” Even reports of this nature within JIB that went to the heart of defence issues failed to get Turner's proposed study off the ground. The status quo had prevailed.

The JIB deputy director wondered “should we maintain an incipient capacity in this field?” Matham replied, “I have discussed the paper … with Mr. Turner and have told him that my views on the subject of UFOs, from a scientific intelligence point of view, are as follows:
(a) …There is no surplus research capacity within the (DSTI) establishment that could be diverted to problems such as the investigation of UFO reports.
(b) I am not convinced that there is a sufficient scientific intelligence component in the UFO problem such as to warrant any diversion of Australia’s very limited resources for scientific intelligence research.
(c) It is evident that there is still considerable controversy concerning UFOs and this will undoubtedly continue until the subject is fully examined by some competent authority. Such an examination, however, would require a considerable effort to collect information on UFO sightings, to investigate reports of such sightings and to examine all information in an objective, scientific manner.”

The deputy director responded to Bob Matham. He wrote, “I have by now (February 1970) read a considerable amount of material on this subject. I am sure that there is an area for investigation that should be pursued by some authority. That authority, however, would need very considerable resources indeed. I have considered carefully whether a part of the subject might be undertaken by us, but this approach doesn’t seem practicable. I am forced, therefore, whilst agreeing that the subject should be studied somewhere, to decide that JIO cannot be that somewhere. Without considerable back-up we would be wasting our time and the RAAF have apparently cancelled out the little that they were doing.”
Harry Turner persisted in his efforts and even got JIO director R.W. Furlonger to sign off on a May 1971 minute paper on the “Investigation of UFO sightings” directed to the Deputy Secretary of Defence recommending passing on responsibility for the investigation of UFOs from the RAAF to the Department of Supply (namely DSTO (Defence Science & Technology Organisation), as distinct from DSTI), but focusing on a limited number of select cases (say six per year) over a two to three year period, after which JIO could make a better determination if “a strategic intelligence interest exists.” Despite some support from DSTO Turner was unable to maintain sufficient momentum in his “sub rosa” UFO campaign.

It was clear Turner wasn't going to get it up as a JIO deal - too limited resources and the subject was not within the main game of JIO, but DSTO which came on the scene in 1974 formed from ADSS (Australian Defence Scientific Service) out of Supply was seen by Turner as the best fit. The timing and the prevailing politics driven by the state of flux the Defence Science realm was in, played against the "UFO problem" coming under ADSS/DSTO. The UFO subject interested people like George Barlow (Defence Science No2) and Dr. John Farrands the Chief Defence Scientist, (both of whom I interviewed) but not enough though to rock the boat as much as Turner tried to. With Turner's attempt eventually terminally scuttled there was not enough momentum to get the subject enough profile outside of RAAF status quo. They seemed to have been left holding the bag, and we know what eventually happened there.

The Joint Intelligence Organisation (the reorganised JIB) maintained a secret BOLIDE file which seemed to be anchored to the premise that “UFOs” could involve the chance of retrieval of Soviet hardware and therefore contribute some useful intelligence. It appeared JIO had a “rapid intervention” capability as they have been able to institute prompt widespread ground searches in suspected “hardware” crashes. They did this through “special access” channels. This operation may be similiar to US activity operating under the code name Project Moondust. A specific example occurred in October 1979 when reports of a “fireball” over the Esperance area of Western Australian had JIO’s DSTI branch instigating “through “special access” channels a search over a 1,500 nautical nm radius of Esperance and covering the time frame of the reported sightings, but with nil results.”

The “sub rosa” JIO involvement in the UFO controversy could have been a good opportunity for a stepping stone towards the application of some solid science to the UFO mystery. Instead the situation was frustrated by perceptions of limited resources and politicking – a lost opportunity.

… and finally, a followup on my earlier column “The Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO) and UFOs – a matter of history” in the Ufologist, November – December, 2007.
(from my UFO History Keys Column, July-Aug 2008, UFologist magazine)

In May 2008 Keith Basterfield managed to get a JIO UFO file released. He made a copy available, allowing the opportunity to see if there was anything beyond what I had described in my column last year. There seems very little beyond what we already knew or suspected. I had copied one of the key JIO memos to Keith in August 2007 – the 27 May 1971 Furlonger memo. Much of the rest of the now released file was discussed in my UFO History Keys column essay or in my “UFO Sub Rosa” document which has been on the Internet since 1999. Some of Harry Turner’s material is in the current JIO file release. Some is not. Indeed it is the apparent absences in the released file that are perhaps of more significance than the released contents.

(Keith Basterfield has written on these discoveries. See the Australian UFO Disclosure material on the AUFORN site at the UFO Disclosure Project link via

There is no holding of the important 1954 Sea Fury radar visual case. The pilot involved, James O’Farrell, had told me that 2 JIO files on his experience were made available to him in 1973, by Arthur Tange, the powerful and influential Defence Secretary, to “refresh” his memory of the episode, so that he could discuss the event with Dr. Allen Hynek, during his 1973 Australian visit.

The JIO file that Keith has managed to get released contains some, not all, of Harry Turner’s extensive memos and papers. One surprising omission is his detailed report on the 1969 Kalamunda Perth radar visual case. Turner’s report on the case was largely instrumental in closing the door on his access to the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) UFO files, because he was critical of the lack of DAFI support for the DAFI officer on the ground in Perth in his efforts to investigate the 1969 WA UFO flap. The officer was under resourced and overwhelmed by the UFO outbreak. The Director of Air Force Intelligence was not interested in ensuring a fully resourced UFO investigation by his own people, and was also not interested in supporting other efforts, such as Harry Turner’s attempts to establish a ‘rapid intervention’ team with the Defence Science & Technology Organisation (DSTO). This was a time of ‘empire wars’ and even if “the UFO problem” was an unwanted burden, DAFI wasn’t about to let it go. Rossarian of Catch 22 fame would have been proud.

Other omissions in the JIO file released to Keith may have been due to typical file attribution effects and file “borrowings”, sensitivities about the material or other matters, rather than any inherent substantial content. For example there is a Department of Supply internal memorandum from the Radar and Electronic Group: “Regarding Recent Symposium on UFOs” which discusses the 1971 ANZAAS UFO symposium. Another describes a sighting by crew of an ANL ship off Pipon Island in 1966. Other similarly miscellaneous content may lurk in other agency files and there presence in the papers of a JIO scientist may be just due to a variant on the “lightning rod” principle.

There is no material in the current JIO UFO file release on the classified “Bolide File” which indicated that JIO had “special access channels” for rapid wide searches in “Project Moondust” type investigations. These were generally anchored in the premise of attempts to retrieve “foreign technology”, as Bob Mathams, the former head of DSTI in JIO, told me back in 1982. Further Mathams said, that his Directorate of Scientific and Technical Intelligence (DSTI) “had only a marginal interest in UFOs; our analytical resources were limited and I had to take the position that we could not afford to become too involved in investigation of UFO sightings until we had reasonable grounds for believing that they were of foreign - as apposed to alien - origin. We relied on DAFI to make the initial investigations and, at times, assisted in the interpretation of the resulting data.” He advised me that his “interest (as DSTI) in UFO sightings was aroused only when there was sufficient evidence to suggest that they may have been connected with or caused by foreign scientific or technological developments. There were only one or two that fitted that category We never really decided who would take responsibility for further investigation if it were shown, convincingly, that a UFO sighting in Australia was of extra-terrestrial origin.”

During 1966 Bob Mathams drove out with three CIA staff to a location west of Alice Springs for a celebratory wine toast for the selection of a site for ‘Merino’ the codename for what was to become Pine Gap. (See “The Wizards of Langley” by Jeffrey Richelson (2001), page 109). So it shouldn’t be surprising if Matham’s DSTI group in JIB/JIO would occasionally forward UFO reports to the CIA. They were, after all, “brothers in arms”, tied together through the UKUSA agreement (See “The Ties that Bind” by Richelson & Ball (1985)). More interesting perhaps is the CIA’s role in examining the 1953 Drury film. Art Lundahl’s CIA NPIC group was apparently involved, just as it had been in other famous films of the same saucer era, such as the Great Falls and Tremonton footages.

It seems there are still further “sub rosa” activities to be revealed, but too much of it seems to be about politicking, empire wars and lost opportunities. Too little were such matters about serious engagements with the UFO mystery.