Thursday, June 28, 2012

The VALENTICH File revealed

After 34 years and due to the tenacious efforts of Adelaide based researcher Keith Basterfield, we can all now look at the previously restricted Department of Transport file V116/783/1047, available in digital form at the National Archives of Australia web site.  I last saw this file back in late 1982 while siting in front of Mr. A. Woodward at the Melbourne office of the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation.  He had the file open in front of him while answering my questions.  I was trying not to be too obviously seen reading the file in its upside down perspective.

From my blog entry from October 24, 2008:
The Valentich mystery is punctuated with haunting, or rather more appropriately, taunting clues, that sets one off in all sorts of conflicting directions. Many have come up with all sorts of final solutions, that vary from the bizarre to the sublime. Did a UFO abduct Valentich? Did Valentich contrive the whole affair? Did he, as many think, crash into Bass Strait, leaving no trace? Or are other prosaic explanations involved? A multitude of various lines of enquiry radiate out in all sorts of directions. Most take us away from the facts of the matter, namely that no trace of pilot or plane have yet been found. The mystery resonates in the Australian consciousness in a place reserved for more mythic episodes like the haunting fiction of "Picnic at Hanging Rock". It has inspired dramatic works like the profound and confronting play "Sky" and the bizarre and striking TV mini-series, "Locusts and Wild Honey". 
From my "UFO Sub Rosa document:
In November, 1982, I was finally given official permission to examine the Department of Aviation UFO files, but was specifically denied access to the Valentich files on the grounds that they were Air Accident Investigation files and not UFO files.  Mr. Hughes of Air Safety elaborated, "the file concerning this occurrence is no more or less restricted than any other accident investigation file.  As a signatory to the International Convention on Civil Aviation, we subscribe to the Standards and Recommended Practices contained in Annex 13 to the Convention, in respect of aircraft accident investigation, specifically, when it is considered that the disclosure of records, for the purposes other than accident prevention, might have an adverse effect on the availability of information in that or any future investigation, such records are considered privileged." While in Melbourne examining the Aviation Department's UFO files, I was able to have a lengthy discussion on the Valentich affair with Mr. A. Woodward, the signatory on the official Aircraft Accident Investigation Summary Report, dated May 27th, 1982.   He largely reiterated the official department line, emphasising that they were treating the matter as only an "air accident" investigation.  He dwelt on a long list of prosaic explanations ranging from diorientation, suicide, to the unlikely prospect of the plane being struck by a meteorite, but conceded that the affair was still unresolved.  
Back in 1996 in my book "The OZ Files - the Australian UFO Story" I concluded:
"So there is much that suggests a UFO connection with the disappearance of (Frederick) Valentich, but unfortunately a final answer eludes us, preventing the comfort of certainty... We must remember that a family waits for an answer that so far has never come.  I hope that some day they will find that answer." 
The newly released files provide some hints at some possible answers and it maybe that ultimately the answer may not involve UFOs.  While deep detailed analysis of the data released and reconciling that with the extensive research done on the case by researchers over the years, we may be able to come up with a final answer. But for now Frederick Valentich and the Cessna plane are still missing so final closure may yet elude those who want to know.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Paul Norman (1916-2012) veteran UFO researcher left a significant legacy

Long time UFO researcher Paul Norman passed away on June 23rd 2012.  His long time associate John Auchettl describes Paul's significant legacy in a statement on UFO Update 
Paul was a prodigious investigator for the Victorian UFO Society (VUFORS) and was instrumental in facilitating the 1967 visit to Australia of Dr. James McDonald.  Originally from the United States he had strong ties with the NICAP group as well as other US groups and researchers.
Some of the many significant cases he was involved with included the Burkes Flat case of 1966, the 1972-1973 Maureen Puddy affair, the 1977-1978 Leitchville-Echuca flap, the Valentich case of 1978, the 1980 Rosedale landing case, and the 1988 Knowles family case.  He helped facilitate the involvement of US researcher Dr. Bruce Maccabee in the famous 1978 New Zealand Kaikoura case. 
A passionate advocate of the VUFORS way of doing things he was fond of casting some groups and individuals as examples of "malfunction junctions" and "armchair ufologists" even viewing me and the Sydney based group UFOIC in this vein (indeed he cast these labels far and wide). I never let these dubious characterisations diminish my assessment of his achievements.  
Paul Norman's UFO legacy is both broad and substantial.  His extensive field investigations and interactions with media and authorities were sustained and very extensive.
My condolences to his family and friends.  
Here is the 1980 Gippsland Times story featuring Paul Norman and Pat Gildea of VUFORS with the Rosedale witness George Blackwell. This event was also investigated by Keith Basterfield and myself (both recipients of Paul's "malfunction junction" and "armchair ufologist" labelling), on location with the witness's support and encouragement.  Below are photos of myself and Keith Basterfield with the Rosedale witness on site at Rosedale in December 1980. We certainly agreed with Paul Norman's assessment that the Rosedale case was a very impressive example of a UFO landing and physical trace event.  Indeed, I would consider it to be one of the best examples of "a close encounter of the second kind" in Australia. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012


In the current issue of the Australian bimonthly magazine "UFOLOGIST" Vol.16, No.1 May-June, 2012, in my new column SCIENCE and the UFO CONTROVERSY I have written a piece with the focus: PAY ATTENTION SCIENCE SKEPTICS AND MEDIA, ASTRONOMERS DO SEE UFOs.  I demolish a statement by Sydney Observatory consultant astronomer Dr. Nick Lomb where he stated "Only amateurs see UFOs," and that no serious observer, particularly astronomers or even amateur astronomers, has ever seen a UFO.   Dr. Lomb, author of the recent excellent book "Transit of Venus," is an expert on astronomy, but he is clearly uninformed about serious UFO research.
I recently had the opportunity to briefly met up with Dr. Lomb during an Observatory Sydney Writers Festival event.  He cordially signed my copy of his book "To Bill, clear skies to see identified objects," and I gave him a copy of my column which discusses his statement and my response to it.  I hope he takes the time to consider this and makes a considered response.

Anyone seriously acquainted with the UFO subject would dispute Dr. Lomb's skeptical statement. For example, Clyde Tombaugh the discoverer of Pluto reported UFO sightings.  Dr. Hynek undertook an early 1950s survey which revealed some astronomer's sightings, and Professor Peter Sturrock's survey during the 1970s revealed further evidence of UFO sightings by astronomers. Dr. Hynek once took photos of UFOs himself. He couldn't explain what he captured on film from a plane window.

In my 1996 book "The OZ files - the Australian UFO Story" I describe a 1957 Mount Stromlo sighting, of which the assistant director of the observatory, Dr. A.R. Hogg stated, “It was the first time the observatory had sighted what might be called an unidentified flying object. What it was remains an open question."

Much earlier, 1902 in fact, Adelaide observatory astronomers reported an aerial object they couldn’t identify. I describe that incident in detail in the column, focusing on an extraordinary legacy story of astronomer George Dodwell,  as it has a fascinating deeper story that flows from it - Dodwell not only witnessed a UFO from Adelaide Observatory in 1902, he was in later years convinced that alien UFOs existed. 

In “The OZ Files” I also describe a UFO sighting made by the late Dr. John Dawe, who was the manager of the Sidings Springs Observatory. He described his sighting near Merriwa in the Sydney Morning Herald of 11 January 1995, stating it was "classic stuff ... It was something I still cannot explain. But I am 99.99 percent certain it was nothing alien." A UFO still - an unidentified flying object.

Over 3 issues of the UFO Investigation Centre’s UFOIC Newsletter (No. 37, 38 & 39: 1972 – 1973) the group’s secretary at the time William Moser (also president of the local chapter of the British Astronomical Association) had his article “Astronomers and UFOs” published, listing numerous sightings by astronomers.

To skeptics and astronomers such as Dr. Nick Lomb, you need to realise that some “serious observers”, indeed astronomers and professionals, do observe UFOs, and it is often the uniformed opinions of their peers that prevent the reporting of their UFO sightings.  Another lost opportunity to discover something fascinating that is being reported by serious observers, not just amateurs, but a serious engagement by science of the UFO mystery could change this unsatisfactory dynamic, leading to the development of a productive field of UFO science.