Sunday, May 8, 2016

A variant on the often reported Boombee mystery light near Coffs Harbour in 1929

The Coffs Harbour/Boambee mystery has been widely reported.  This variant on the Woolgoolga Road, one of my many old UFO hunting stamping groups is interesting.  The witness goes through a classic "escalation of hypotheses" none of which seem to fit the bill - a car, a man with a lampo railway light.  An intriguing mystery light

1905 Penrith area mystery light

From the Sydney Morning Herald of 8 May 1905 a local mystery light creates excitement - marsh gas or genuine mystery?

The Travelling Light 1909 mystery

An interesting general account of the 1909 "light" mystery.  Many accounts were caused by the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, but some seemed to be a mystery.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

On the question of "the first published Australian report of a UFO sighting"

I was rather puzzled and surprised by Keith Basterfield's December 27 2015 post: "The published Australian report of a UFO sighting?".  
I was not surprised by the details, as I had read James Holledge's 1965 book very early in my UFO interest around the late 1960s.  
As for the content of the 1874 Beechworth report I had research this event way back in about 1975-77 uncovering the "hard way" numerous accounts of the story in hard copy editions of newspapers held in  the NSW state library.  It was clear back then that the report probably was of a widespread viewed meteoric event of a spectacular nature. 
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.
In that listing I included: "1874 – 5 separate events, including the Beechworth “meteor.” " 
By 2010 my friend Paul Cropper was becoming very active in mining the growing on-line resources of old newspapers.  He shared these with me and as my own computer resources improved I also plunged into this resource.  Both Paul and I were veterans of the "hard way" and from that point in the late 1970s we became friends.
Here is the central NSW reporting of the "Singular Celestial Phenomenon", that informed the Beechworth event, which we verified in digital form back in 2010.  We had both found extensive details in the hard copies of newspaper held in the NSW State Library back in the 1970s:

When Keith Basterfield produced his "Catalogue of pre 24 June 1947 Australian Unidentified Aerial Phenomena" in July 2011 I had expressed surprised that he had generated the initial catalogue without even involving me, as I had had a long term focus on historical Australian UFO reports.  I went to the trouble back in December 2011 to send him an annotated version of his catalogue which included the following details:
"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."
These details were also included in my article "The Search for historical UFO reports in Australia" published in the Australian magazine "Ufologist" in March-April 2012.  That article included further details:
"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.” 
The Beechworth entry in the 1958 Kunst/Hatton listing was dated as 11 October 1874 (apparently the media date) and the source was listed as "UFORUM 1/1" - UFORUM was the early publication of the Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society.  Does anyone have a copy of this issue? My copies of this publication begin with later issues.
When Keith produced his third edition of his catalogue (dated 26 November 2015) and his recent piece I was surprised to read this:
"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." 
So the reality is that the Beechworth report was known about since the late 1950s courtesy of the Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society's publication UFORUM, and with the 1965 Holledge book, which used UFOIC research - the Kunst/Hatton listing.  My own research in the late 1970s highlighted the widespread nature of the "Beechworth" event and suggested it was of a spectacular meteor and its wake.  Since then digital researchers have re-"discovered" these facts.