Sunday, April 21, 2013

"ATA" - the Atacama "alien" story - another "cautionary tale" in the making or proof?

Given my advocacy of using DNA and forensic science techniques in assisting in the investigation of controversial UFO and alien events and claims (see my 2005 book “Hair of the Alien – DNA and other forensic evidence of alien abduction” which focused on the Peter Khoury case, but also included other evidence examined by the Anomaly Physical Evidence Group (APEG)) it will be hardly surprising that I have taken an interest in the claims associated with reports about a DNA study linked with a diminutive “alien” body as part of the Steven Greer “Sirius”documentary to be released on 22 April 2013. Perhaps then we may be in a position to see if the extraordinary claims being made in the publicity related to the documentary are backed up by compelling DNA data and related evidence.


I soon realised that I had come across the so called Atacama specimen before, under the name of the La Noria “alien.”  I had thought based on the information from a few years ago that researchers had concluded that the specimen had little or no connection with UFO or alien events, and may have been a mummified human fetus.

Yet now it was being described as having yielded DNA sequences through a group of scientists and medical team, whose credentials are being described in the SIRIUS documentary publicity as “eye-opening,” and that the results were “paradigm shifting physical evidence of a medically and scientifically analaysed DNA sequenced humanoid creature of unknown classification found in the Atacama desert, Chile.” 

Extraordinary claims, indeed.  The detail supporting these statements, namely the detail of the DNA sequences and the methodology used, when revealed, along with related data will clearly be subject to a lot of controversy and discussion. Perhaps it will be diluted in the broader issues that will be covered in the “Sirius” documentary, after all the focus will be the controversial agenda of Dr Steven Greer’s research.  Come 22 April we may know more.

Meanwhile I couldn’t get past the haunting feeling of déjà vu as I thought about the DNA claims made in the publicity and hype associated with the upcoming documentary. 

My friend and colleague Dr. Horace Drew, the DNA biochemistry research scientist, who supervised the team that produced the results behind the “Hair of the Alien” investigation, confirmed the source of my déjà vu feelings – a “cautionary tale” we were involved with back in 2003, not a little “alien” figure, but something purported to be an “alien claw.”

Bill Chalker & Horace Drew
In the various APEG investigations we have tried to follow a range of protocols.  Of course we would at first try to see if a compelling linkage existed between the specimen or sample and report observations of alleged UFOs and aliens. 

In the Atacama “alien” case the linkage seemed limited or absent.  At best it seemed there were anecdotes of UFO reports and alien sightings in the general region and La Noria itself had something of a reputation of strange goings on - a reputation shared often with “ghost towns.”  La Noria was an old abandoned nitrate mining location. 

However none of the stories seemed to have a direct relationship with the discovery of the Atacama specimen.  It appears to be only linked somewhat unusual appearance, by some Chilean and Spanish ufologists and sensational media interests. 

The initial discovery back in 2003 in the “ghost town” of La Noria highlights that it was wrapped in burlap with a purple bow, in circumstances that suggest it may have been human related, and buried, with mummification and the environment accounting for aspects of its unusual appearance.

It was examined by Dr. Francisco Etxeberria Gabilondo, professor of Forensic Medicine, in Spain during 2007.   He concluded that it was a “normal mummified human fetus” estimated to be about 15 weeks gestational age at time of death and most likely of relatively recent origin.  While there had been further limited work by specialists in Spain, none of it seemed to support anything alien, although the Spanish custodians of the specimen, the Exopolitical group IIEE (Instituto de Investigacion y Estudios Exobiologicos) still presents it as a possible “alien” but confirmed “we have no evidence to determine the nature of the specimen.”  This seems at odds with the limited scientific findings that IIEE present in their own report – “El Ser Anthropomrfico de Atacama” by Ramon Navia in a special edition No. 50 of the IIEE publication “Espacio Compatido – The UFO Report and Research Magazine.”  Navia with his Exopolitical associate Osario Villar even produced a book also entitled “El Ser Anthropomrfico de Atacama.”

In a press release dated April 16, 2013, the team behind the SIRIUS documentary
“elected to share the following additional 'Atacama Humanoid' conclusive findings: 'Ata' was male and survived post-birth 6 to 8 years.  Speaking specifically to Internet controversy over 'Ata,': While it's size led many to suggest that it was an aborted fetus, bone density and epiphyseal plate studies have already concluded that this creature survived post-birth 6 to 8 years. There will be considerably more DNA analysis results information released to the public on 'Ata,' the 'Atacama Humanoid,' as the team is calling him, between today and the 22nd.”

These results clearly contradict the earlier 2007 results. Both cannot be right.

Hoping to get further information I decided to send the following email to Steven Greer on April 19.  Perhaps not surprisingly there has been no response as of April 21 (Australian time).

Lets see how this plays out, whether congratulations are due to the team involved, or more likely, whether a controversial debate will ensue, hopefully based in facts and data, to see if the claimed “unknown classification” DNA results being attributed to the Atacama specimen are verifiable or whether they might be another “cautionary tale” caught up with strange and unusual agendas.  I suspect the latter, but lets see.
Dear Dr. Greer, I look forward to the opportunity of seeing your documentary SIRIUS. Given my longtime advocacy of using DNA & forensic science techniques (see my 2005 book "Hair of the Alien: DNA and other forensic evidence of alien abduction") to determine the possible nature of such evidence, my group APEG (Anomaly Physical Evidence Group) and I are obviously intrigued by the DNA claims made about the Atacama specimen. I have been following the limited release of information on the DNA study and have been aware of the background Chilean & Spanish connections and earlier limited scientific studies through Hispanic researchers and the various publications of IIEE (Navia which did not seem to support an exotic origin, although IIEE were clearly trying to reach that conclusion.   
I also note the following press release excerpts: DNA sample from bone marrow extracted from the specimen, was prepared, sequenced, and analyzed by a top research scientist at a prestigious American university. For security purposes, 'Sirius' has withheld details on the university and researcher, but will be revealing both along with additional DNA analysis results from the 'Atacama Humanoid' on or before the release of 'Sirius' on the 22nd of April.There will be considerably more DNA analysis results information released to the public on 'Ata,' the 'Atacama Humanoid,' as the team is calling him, between today and the 22nd.   
At the time of publication of "Hair of the Alien" in 2005 we were not in a position to identify the head biochemist researcher who supervised the team behind those results and who also authored the 2 technical reports/discussion papers appended in the book. Now he can be identified as Dr. Horace Drew, recently retired as a principal research scientist of the Commonwealth Scientific & Research Organisation (CSIRO) Division of Molecular Science, Sydney Laboratory, Australia, and co-author of the text "Understanding DNA - the molecule; How it works" (which was described by Sir Aaron Klug as "Authorative and lucid").   
I have been discussing the Atacama specimen story with Dr. Drew.  He has indicated to me that he would be pleased to be able to examine the detailed DNA analysis results, data and reports.   
As the above press release indicates that the researcher, university and data will be released by April 22nd we believe it is important to have a measure of peer review coming from someone who has had experience in examining a range of evidence presented as possibly extraterrestrial in nature. We would be grateful if you are able to share this information with us.  
I noted the recent statements referring to the study as having yielded DNA sequences through a group of scientists and medical team, whose credentials are being described as “eye-opening,” that the results were “paradigm shifting physical evidence of a medically and scientifically analaysed DNA sequenced humanoid creature of unknown classification found in the Atacama desert, Chile.”   
The reference to "unknown classification" caused me to reflect on my own group's experience in dealing with the so called Californian "alien claw" case, which was detailed in the attach paper "A Cautionary Tale DNA Analysis of Alleged Extraterrestrial Biological Material: Anatomy of a Molecular Forensic Investigation" prepared by Dr. Colm Kelleher in 2003 when he was with the NIDS organisation.   
Back in September 2003 I described the report on UFO Updates in the following way:The National Institute for Discovery Science has published the results of an exhaustive and unprecedented DNA study on a biological sample implicated in a major UFO abduction milieu - the "alien claw" case from California.Scientists working with the Anomaly Physical Evidence Goup (APEG) contributed Mt DNA PCR, DOP-PCR, MDA and Ribosomal DNA analyses. It was ultimately the novel application of the latter process that finally produced a breakthrough in this complex work carried out in this groundbreaking investigation. This anchored the "alien claw" with a more prosaic origin, namely a mollusc or snail artifact - a case of when is a "claw" not a claw - answer, when its a snail or slug.The byproduct of this exercise is the novel ribosomal DNA analytical methodology, utilised by the APEG scientists, which has diverse implications in the world of animal research and perhaps in the field of cryptozoology.APEG is grateful to NIDS and A & S Research for the opportunity to participate and contribute to this fascinating exercise.While the study confirmed a prosaic origin to the "alien claw" artifact, the UFO abduction milieu from which it emerged is still under study in particular by A & S Research and it will be interesting to see if any other intriguing artefacts emerge to assist in the interpretation of this complex affair. It needs to be remembered that this artifact was only one part of a very complex affair. The lessons in this DNA investigation are of vital importance to future such investigations.  
Here are the sequences of eight novel PCR primers, developed by the team led by Dr. Drew, that were used in the "Cautionary Tale" research work.  
They were designed to amplify any possible DNA, maybe even of alien origin?   The bases such as “W” or “V” indicate certain combinations of A, C, G, T used in DNA synthesis. Snail DNA amplifies just as well as human. To identify the species, you sequence the PCR project (whether directly or by cloning in E. coli).  There are four separate PCR products which should ensure a reliable result.   
We look forward to the opportunity of examining the detail of the DNA study of the Atacama specimen.  
Regards, Bill ChalkerAPEG


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