The Search for Historical UFO Reports in Australia
(from an article published originally in the Ufologist magazine (Australia), Vol.15, #6, March-april, 2012)
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)
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.
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.
“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.
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 http://airminded.org)
“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 inRobert 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.
“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.