Saturday, September 19, 2020

1969: The Great UFO Daze of OZ

1969 Australian cases described in this story:
  • 17 April: the Bungawalbyn "saucer nest", NSW
  • 20 April: the Harwood Island close encounter with possible "levitation" effects, NSW
  • 25 April: the "Anzac Day" close encounter of the third kind in suburban Sydney - Greenacre, NSW
  • 23 May: a compelling "radar visual" case - Cloverdale/Kalamunda, Western Australia
  • mid July: a close encounter at Beaufort, Victoria
  • 30 August: my own daylight experience with apparent "angel hair"
  • the dramatic close encounter at Surfers Paradise, Qld, witnessed by Australian surfing legend Peter Drouyn
  • I've also added at the end of this post a few further bonus stories from the 1969 UFO wave in OZ, including:
  • the Spackman UFO photo saga
  • the strange story of the Vas family in January 1969 who were reported as telling a story of a UFO and its giant occupants, encountered near Childers, Queensland - was it a real encounter?

This story of "the Great UFO Daze of OZ" begins with what’s happening now, then it reflects on the importance of an earlier attempted “end game” for the UFO mystery, that pivots around the year 1969. The US Air Force sought to use science to bury the UFO subject. Things didn’t quite work out that way. Current events suggest here we go again, but many things have changed and there may even be some real solid science to emerge from the current UFO/UAP “game”. More to the point, while we were told back in 1969 UFOs were a pointless waste of time, the UFO phenomenon itself put on a major show in Australia across that year. It seemed like a profound response: thanks for the attention, despite the games being played, but here we are again. Try to pay attention.50 years later - new and old players, but now the show is being played out to a much bigger audience, more often, it’s manifesting in the mainstream. And media, military, intelligence, and even science seems to be paying attention. Not bad for something that was given an official burial back in 1969.

The US Navy, or more specifically, the Department of the Navy, has a new mission, it seems – figure out what the Navy and its pilots, and others, have been seeing a lot lately – UAPs – that is Unidentified Aerial Phenomena: the contemporary rebadging of UFOs. The term UFO didn’t feature in the Department of Defense release and therefore we have the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF).  The 4 August, 2020, press release indicated, “The Department of Defense established the UAPTF to improve its understanding of, and gain insight into, the nature and origins of UAPs.  The mission of the task force is to detect, analyze and catalog UAPs that could potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security.”  

Rather than diving into the minutia of this, I was particularly wondering where does the US Air Force (USAF) fit in this new deal. They had been such big players in this great UFO game.   The press release refers to “the military departments” as taking “any incursions by unauthorized aircraft into our training ranges or designated airspace very seriously.”I guess the generic “military departments” will include the USAF.  It might even include the new Space Force.

However, we have been this way before.  For more than 20 years the USAF wrangled with UAPs, by many other names. There were “foo fighters” and “ghost rockets” during World War Two. By 1947, it was “flying disks”, “flying saucers”, “green fireballs”, and then along came Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs).

In 1969, just after 50 years ago, the USAF divorced itself publically from those troublesome and irritating UFOs.  With the publication in March 1969 of “Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, the controversy plagued Colorado University Condon committee scientific study of UFOs – the result of a two year US Air Force half a million dollar funded investigation - sought to bury UFOs and their attending aerial variants.  The Condon report concluded “that nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge.  Careful consideration of the record as it is available to us leads us to conclude that further extensive study of the UFOs probably cannot be justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby.” 


The US Air force used the report to end its public bondage to the UFO problem.  The notorious Project Blue Book was terminated and, publicly at least, the Air Force were out of the UFO business.  This was the “fix” that was intended all along. The Condon report has since been used as the basis of continuing mainstream scientific and sceptical rejection of the reality of UFOs. The great “UFO taboo” was in play.

The scientific director of the study, Dr. Edward Condon, played that game throughout the study and was over the top with his lack of objectivity and his focus on the obviously dubious side of the subject – the contactees and the silly stories, that didn’t require any scientific investigation to show them up as nothing of merit.  His biases were revealed in his “Conclusions and Recommendations” in the final report.  

Stanford University astrophysicist Peter Sturrock examined the report in close detail, something the US National Academy of Sciences review panel and the media failed to do. Professor Sturrock found what I found in 1969, as a budding teenage UFO researcher reading the Condon Report in detail.  There was a huge disconnection between Condon’s conclusions, report summaries and the detail of the actual report and studies of the scientists who did the actual investigations and research.  Sturrock’s analysis revealed Condon’s summaries variously misleading, false or inaccurate.  He would later direct a major review of the physical evidence for UFOs.  While it didn’t prove that UFOs were alien for example, it certainly endorsed the need for further serious and well funded scientific study.  Sturrock’s review was published as the first major scientific inquiry since the Condon report, “The UFO Enigma” (1999).  It was an excellent review of the physical evidence for UFOs.  

Another scientist, Dr. Claude Poher of the French equivalent to NASA – CNES, found that contrary to Condon, the report substantiated that there was a real UFO problem.  An examination of the report indicates that about a third of the cases examined for the Condon Report were unexplained.  What did Poher do?  Well he would eventually win support for the establishment of GEPAN – a UFO study group within CNES, which went on to do some excellent research, some of which went a long way to supporting a UFO reality, not the least being the Trans-en Provence case of 1981, in which a UFO landed and left behind compelling physical evidence – a ground trace that yielded fascinating data.  If many of the thousands of the worldwide physical trace cases received similar attention as the Trans-en Provence case, we would have a much greater and more compelling body of physical evidence data.  Instead we have thousands of lost opportunities – a huge measure of the failure of mainstream science to properly examine a real UFO phenomenon.

David Saunders and Roger Harkins in their 1969 book “UFOs? Yes! Where the Condon Committee went wrong” tried to spell out the problem at the time but were largely ignored in the tidal wave of myopic mainstream acceptance of the Condon report. It would be revealed in the papers of the late Dr. Roy Craig, one of Condon’s principal study investigators, the report chairman Dr. Edward Condon had drafted his negative conclusions about the UFO subject “without benefit of prior reading of the other sections of the report which were by (then) near completion.” The Craig papers also reveal that despite publicly reporting over 30 % “unknowns” in the final report (and astonishingly reporting that there was nothing of scientific worth to the UFO subject) the reality was that more than 50% were “unknown.”  A confidential memo to Condon dated 5 September 1968 from Joseph Rush, a National Centre for Atmospheric Research physicist and Condon UFO project investigator revealed that despite growing more sceptical in the Condon study environment, the irony was so many of their investigations had ended up as unexplained cases.  Rush wrote, “This may seem an anomalous conclusion, since more of the C-cases (Colorado University cases) are unexplained than explained.” 

Despite the official UFO burial in 1969, UFOs (or their contemporary UAP counterparts) never really went away.  For the US, UFOs returned in a spectacular and widely reported wave of reports in 1973.

 In Australia during 1969, despite all the efforts of the USAF, the Condon report, a compliant and myopic media and a scientific community generally intent on doing “bad science”, UFOs put on a spectacular display. 

Here is just a few of the striking sightings.

Early in 1969 the north coast of New South Wales (NSW) was the scene of widespread UFO reports and physical trace finds - "UFO nests". One of them was my primary entry point into the physical dimensions of the UFO phenomenon -  a large flattened saccaline crop site near Bungawalbyn found on April 17th.

Note on location spelling: It seems "Bungawalban" has got a bit of spelling variation. Looks like my regular spelling variant has been Bungawalban, but locally its most frequently Bungawalbyn, but on some maps its even spelt Bungawalbin.  I'll be trying to remember the most frequent spelling, namely Bungwalbyn.
I joined the curious throng that descended upon the strange crop damage site at Bungawalban, on the property of local parliamentarian Ian Robinson. The story became a nationwide media sensation. I would later learn of striking UFO encounters in the region such as at Harwood Island that seemed to involve levitation of the witness caught in the beam of light from a disc shaped craft.

Both images are from the Grafton newspaper 
"The Daily Examiner"
On the left is Ian Robinson & on the right is Joe Testa
(from my archives (Bill Chalker)
(Below: from my archives (Bill Chalker) my copy of 
Joe Testa's site sketch 
& extracts from his investigation report)

The talk was of flying saucers and that this was a "saucer nest".   The fact the property involved, was owned by the local Member of Parliament, ensured the affair leapt into national prominence.   I joined the curious throng.  The 15-foot crop had been flattened in four distinct patches, the largest being about 60 feet by 15 feet.   Locals familiar with it ruled out lodging - a phenomenon that can affect crops in a similar manner.  Two nightshift flood mitigation dredge employees working about a quarter mile north of the farm observed a glow in the sky in the direction of the saccaline patch, on the night of April 16th.   A neighboring farmer had also apparently observed "top-like objects" hovering or moving about in the area, on a number of nights prior to the discovery of the impressions.  While at the time direct evidence for a UFO correlation to the physical traces at Bungawalban was weak, I found the incident fascinating.  It helped galvanise my burgeoning interest into a more active research and investigation role.  A few years later I would learn of a striking UFO encounter at Harwood Island, also in the north coast region, which occurred on April 20th, 1969.  That incident suggested that the Bungawalban affair might indeed have been UFO related.   While intriguing the Bungawalban physical trace incident lacked one personal element for me.   I was not there when the crop was affected.  It was several days before I could get out there and certainly there were many people there before me. 

While fascinating the "nests" found lacked clear UFO connections. The case at Harwood Island, on the north coast, provided that missing dimension. The case remained hidden for a few years, until the witness, a local woman, wrote to me.

My drawing (Bill Chalker) based on witness drawing & description

On April 20th, 1969, 3 days after the Bungawalban find, the Harwood Island woman was out walking at about 7.30 pm.  She saw and heard a large patch of 2-year-old sugar cane rustling and waving violently, on what was a still night.  A very powerful beam of light came across the top of the cane and very slowly turned about a half circle until it was in front of the witness.  The woman felt as if some powerful force was lifting her off the ground and drawing her towards the source of the beam.  This "force" stopped when the "high beam" went out.  The woman found herself still on the ground.  She could then clearly see a strange object over the top of the cane. The "high beam" had been replaced by a sort of "low beam" and "cabin lights" emanating from a large helmet shaped object, situated only some 40 to 50 feet away, and about 8 to 9 feet above the top of the cane (which itself was about 8 to 12 feet high).  The woman described the object, "It was a dark shiny, grey colour all over, and the glow from the inside lights were pale yellow, pinkish red, and a very faint tint of green.  The glow came on to the brim of the object and around the head part of it.  Out of the top was this thin trail of smoke. Below the object the violent movement in the cane had given way to a mere slight rustling. It seemed that after about a minute the arrival sequence was totally reversed, with the violent movement in the cane reoccurring.  A whistling sound commenced then nothing.  The woman did not see the object depart, but assumed it just disappeared at fantastic speed.  Recollect that the witness said the experience had taken place at about 7.30 pm. Another woman and her daughter were fishing nearby, downstream from the Harwood bridge.  They saw "a very bright red light, with a whitish tail, which appeared to be suspended above the bridge.  We saw it for several seconds and then it just disappeared."  They said their sighting occurred around 8 pm, half an hour after the striking close encounter.  

A striking entity sighting sighting occurred in suburban Sydney, at Greenacre, on April 25th, 1969.  At 7.30 pm, a woman and her daughter (11) were travelling by taxi past Roberts Park.  Young boys were playing football under spotlights.  The woman and her daughter spotted a "Japanese Lantern" near the trees, above and behind the spotlights.  A minute later, as the taxi turned a corner, they saw it again, 30 to 40 metres away, apparently in the same spot.  The Greek driver stopped the taxi.  They could see what looked like a metallic craft, approximately 10 metres in diameter, with the appearance of "two soup bowls joined rim-to-rim".  There was a steady red light on top.  The object seemed to noiselessly rocking backwards and forwards, at a frequency of 1 to 2 rocks per second.  This movement allowed some astonishing details to be seen. 

Eyewitness drawing from the 1969 Greenacre case - 

reproduced from Roger Climpson's 1972 UFO documentary

A "depressing blue glow" from the interior of the object was visible through a window that took up most of the upper part.  A humanoid figure could be seen, apparently operating controls near the window.  Another figure was pointing at the witnesses.  A third seemed to be walking towards a back door.  All three figures were apparently human size and were observed either in silhouette, were wearing black tight clothing or were black skinned.  The boys in the park apparently did not notice the extraordinary display above them, ostensibly due to the bright canopy of light formed by the spotlights.    After 15 seconds or less, the driver sped off down the road, dropped off the couple and drove off quickly without taking their fare.  At 8.00 pm, the woman and her daughter returned to the park.  All appeared normal.  The UFO was not to be seen. An investigation was undertaken in 1971 by Martin Drawbridge & Barry French.  See UFOIC Newsletter No. 31, June/July 1971. A detailed retrospective investigation was undertaken by David Reneke, UFOIC, in 1979.  Report in UFOIC files held by Bill Chalker.  The witnesses were also interviewed by Roger Climpson for his Channel 7 TV documentary “UFOs Fact or Fiction?”

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, a physicist and analyst for the Joint Intelligence Bureau,  was seconded to help out.

Turner supplied me with a copy of his report. The radar visual incident was described as follows:
On the 23rd May, 1969, (Mrs. C___' s) 13 year old son, who has an interest in the night sky, noticed from the front door of their house... that to the south and about 10 degrees above the horizon, there was a moving light which he first took to be an aeroplane. As it approached to the SE of the observer, it became apparent to him that its behaviour pattern differed considerably from that of an aircraft.
He called his mother who an easterly direction a steady red light on top of a more diffused blue-white light, and darting haphazardly in a zig-zag pattern, but in general travelling towards a northerly direction until it disappeared behind the house.
The two witnesses proceeded to the NW side of the house where they observed a luminous object stationary against the clear starry sky, at an elevation between 10 and 15 degrees and at a bearing of 015 degrees. The light observed was circular - about half the diameter of a full moon. It was steady in position and intensity for some 15 - 20 minutes. It no longer had a red light on top and had the brightness of a fluorescent streetlight.

The edge was not clean cut but was somewhat hazy, even though the night air was perfectly clear. The time at which the object was first sighted was estimated as being 1835 hours.... Shortly before 1900 hours the object moved at extremely high velocity, away from the observers in a general N to NE-ly direction.
Mrs. C____ ...telephoned the shift operator on site. (He) was still talking to Mrs. C___ when a request came from the meteorological radar situated near Perth Airport as to whether he could check out an unidentified echo seen on the meteorological radar. [Turner concluded the met returns were possibly prosaic and unrelated to the main incident - B.C.]
The Kalamunda radar operator had not been watching his screen as no aircraft were in the vicinity, but on checking the radar P.P.I. screen, he observed a large echo some 9 miles away at 300 degrees from his position which placed the echo some 21/2 miles north of Mrs. C___ 's position. Initial contact was made at 1901 hours and held for only 30 to 40 seconds.
The echo which reappeared for short durations on 5 further occassions was twice the size of a large aircraft at that position. The echo has not been seen since it finally disappeared at 1942 hours.
One unusual feature of the Kalamunda report is that the radar is equipped with Moving Target Indicator (MTI) which supresses all permanent echoes and all targets moving at speeds less than an estimated 6 knots... The night in question was clear and calm and there is no justification for an MTI break-through in the region of the target.
Despite the operation of MTI, the unknown target was clearly visible, even though there was no noticeable displacement of its position. The operator had never before met an apparently stationary target that was recorded so clearly despite the operation of MTI. (The operator) paid particular attention to this echo over the whole period of 41 minutes that it occurred, because it was a potential traffic hazard to two aircraft in circuit at about that time, and they had to be warned to avoid the area of the unknown target....
The operator is quite sure ... that the echo's appearance never lasted more than a minute at any one time.... ....Just before 1900 hours the object moved away from the observer, disappearing from sight in a fraction of a second, and it is possible that it correlates with the stationary echo on radar at 1901 hours. The unusual features of the radar echo are:
(a) Size;
(b) The fact that it was seen despite the operation of MTI; and
(c) The spasmodic appearance.
It is not possible to readily conceive of an explanation for these observations. All observers were obviously sincerely puzzled individuals with an aversion to publicity...."
Harry Turner 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. Some years earlier the RAAF had asked JIB to take "the UFO problem" over, but 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.
However in 1969/1970 with the DAFI empire 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.

 1969, mid July (either Friday 11 or 18July) UFO Investigation Centre (UFOIC) report Close Encounter Beaufort, Victoria 

Report by Bill Chalker, UFOIC 

Bill Chalker was originally alerted to this incident via Greg Hardy, who had been a high school student with Bill at Grafton.  Both then went to the University of New England at Armidale, Greg doing Economics and Bill doing Science.  1971 was the first year of their university studies.  The primary witness to the encounter Tim Oliver (name originally (1971) not for publication, but Bill Chalker confirmed in 9/3/19 phone call that Tim was ok with his name being associated with the report in any publication) wrote a 15-page letter to Bill Chalker in the wake of his “UFOs and the solid Light Enigma” article appearing in the UFO special issue of New Dawn magazine (January/February, 2019). Bill spoke with the witness again (9/3/19) after relocating original source material on his investigations back in 1971 (48 years ago). Bill Chalker also spoke with Tim’s 92-year old mother who witnessed the event.  She confirmed Tim’s account provided initially to Bill back in 1971 and reconfirmed in 2019. 

(extracted from letter by Bill Chalker to Bill Moser UFOIC secretary dated 31/8/71.  Fortunately I had retained a carbon copy of my letter. I have not been able to locate the “full report” I referred to in the letter) 

my artist impression drawn in 1971 of Tim Oliver's 1969 sighting 

“A 1styear Economics student (very studious and consistently trains) (Tim Oliver) told me that around 8.30, on a Friday night in middle July, 1969 (either 11thor 18th) he was training near a golf course, on the outskirts of Beaufort, Victoria, when he saw a red “star” over a hill about a mile away. On closer inspection it proved to be a hovering saucer. He quickly returned home, and by the time he returned with his mother in the family car, the saucer had been joined by another, the same in all respects. They were travelling slowly about 50 feet in the air, about 200 feet apart and approx. parallel to 3-tierred high powered tension lines (66,000 volts), at about 20 mph (miles per hour), heading eastwards, roughly in the direction of Ballarat (about 40 miles away).  As they drove the car up to the outside of the golf course, both UFOs appeared to respond to their presence by turning towards them, but they resumed their parallel course, once the car engine was turned off (i.e. EM effects – (2019 comment: well maybe.  Tim confirmed they had turned the car on and off at least twice getting this response each time.  He and his mother were becoming concerned, so they did not persist)). Tim got to within 50 feet of the object leading.  Each were about 30 feet in diameter, saucer-shaped, with an upper flat topped cupola, bearing about 24 square windows from which came the bright red lights.  They did not spin and they made absolutely no noise, and both he and his mother (who had watched from the golf course fence) watched as the UFOs disappeared in the direction of Ballarat, still flying parallel to the power lines.  This incident could be interpreted in the same way John G. Fuller considers in the famous Exeter sightings revealed in his book, “Incident at Exeter.”  By the way the witness requested that his name be withheld, and that of a friend, who had seen 2 or 3 UFOs, 3 weeks after his own sighting, just north of the Beaufort township.  I have made a full report on this sighting and I honestly believe that he and his mother had in fact seen 2 real metallic UFOs.” 

In his letter of 1/2/19 Tim Oliver describes his sighting from nearly 50 years before:

(he refers to August, 1969, but his mid July 1969 dating he supplied to me in 1971 would be more reliable):

“I’d like to present an “11thcase” of my own (he was referring to my top 10 list that was carried in an interview of me by Robbie Graham that was published in the early 2019 New Dawn Special Issue) on/in August 1969, while living in Victoria near Ballarat.

“Background- I was always into exercise & fitness & have run 4 miles/day most days since 1968. Ran in City-to-Surf, won lap of lake @ Ballarat, won cross-country’s @ University of New England, ran a 4-minute mile etc. (Armidale, 1974) was a student @ UNE(University of New England) in Economics & Accounting 1971-73.

“8.00 p.m. @ night. No sound from these craft & “red” port holes. They came closer & closer & revealed a “classic” grey saucer shape like 2 dinner plates, one inverted on the other to make a dome on the top with a shallow dish on the bottom.

“Both were tree height & moved intelligently, independent of each each other, just drifting along @ about 50 feet height (no sound), no props, no jets.

“I was 16 @ time, 1969, & studying Leaving Certificate (Form 5) Physics & Chemistry & heard of flying saucers but that’s all.

“Ran home, got my mother & we drove down to the Golf Club.

“The 2 Space ships were still “drifting” along following the 66,000 volt power lines towards Ballarat.

“The car generator? (In those days), no alternator & lights seemed to attract them, as they “responded” to the starting and stopping the motor, coming towards us each time we started engine.  We had an old 1958 Morris Marshal with no electronics, as it didn’t cut our lights or engine, as you hear in some cases.

“I stood right under both as they drifted east.  There was no wind – a cold clear night typical of Ballarat weather in Winter.

“Red Port holes” & Saucers the size of an airliner.  Many trees were in the golf course of 200 acres & whole the space craft dodged these in complete darkness at such low height was a miracle, especially with no apparent drive/noise system.

“After much time they accelerated east @ an “unbelievable” speed, far beyond helicopters or aircraft of that time.

“Sorry for poor writing as I’ve written this “off the cuff” in about 20 minutes after all these years past!  My mother Joan is 92 & still alive as a witness.  She could verify this on (phone number supplied – and indeed she does – see below).

“It was a “miracle” of my life @ 16 years, never seeing anything like it again.

“Many people see strange lights etc but this was the close up real thing, like seeing planes land @ an airport, only I was even closer. These craft were intelligently controlled!!

“The Golf course was basically a dairy farm for cows.  You should have seen the “bloodshot fear in their eyes & the “mooing,” their upset.  Even though the spaceships came over with no sound, the cows “knew” this wasn’t any normal aircraft.  They are basically placid creatures, as Dad had cows.  They were scared by the abnormal crafts!!” 

I contacted Tim’s mother Joan, speaking with her on 10/3/19. She confirmed Tim’s account and went on to describe her take on the events. Tim had gone riding to check if anything was wrong with it. He had witnessed this strange light and had returned to get her to witness it as well.  They had stopped in the middle of the street to watch the strange lights.  They were in their car and the 2 lights approached them. His mother was scared and had wanted to run into nearby houses to get more witnesses. They flew away over pine plantations towards Ballarat. She told Tim that they should tell Bill, his father, but Tim not to as he’ll think you are mad. Indeed, that’s what Bill said when Joan told him. 

Joan told me they were round, apparently spinning and a greyish colour.  They had portholes and looked like what you see in classic flying saucer photos. They appeared bigger than cars.  

“it really did happen … I was scared.  I was there. It did happen,” Joan told me. 

Their sighting occurred in mid July 1969.  

Only a month later I had an intriguing experience.  I would not learn of the Beaufort sighting until 1971. 

My own experience at Grafton on 30 August 1969: 

Mid afternoon on found me relaxing on a surfboard in the middle of the Clarence River.  My reverie was interrupted when I noticed streams of fine white filament coming down over the river.    I was immediately fascinated as this was a great opportunity to directly sample what I took to be a good example of a fascinating natural phenomenon.  I took the streams to be the floating web of migratory balloon spiders.  I also knew that in UFO lore exotic material of a similar appearance was occasionally linked to UFOs - namely "angel hair" - thought by some researchers to be a by product of whatever strange processes powered flying saucers.  So that afternoon I paddled over to the riverbank where large amounts of this "spider web" were coming down.   I thought that getting a good look at this stuff and keeping samples would be a handy resource or a calibration for the unlikely prospect of coming across alleged UFO related "angel hair" - an exotic item of UFO physical evidence.   

What I was not prepared for was the improbable.   There in my hands was material that did not quite fit into the migratory spider web category.  There were no tell-tale baby spiders.  As the baby spiders can quickly detach themselves from the web, the absence of spiders did not in itself intrigue me.  What followed did.   I began rolling up a copious amount of the material in my hands.  The filaments diminished in size (not too unusual given the viscous changes that can occur in those conditions, particularly with the possible addition of water from my hands), and then the material eventually dissipated into nothing visible and leaving no trace.  It gave the impression of rapid sublimation from solid to gas, but no vapours or odour was noticed.  The properties of spider’s web are well known, and apparently disappearing to touch is not one of them!   

With the realisation that that I may be dealing with something exotic I raced to a nearby friend’s residence to get some sample jars.  The fall of filaments had been quite profuse and much of it had come down along the riverbank.   When I returned a few minutes later there was none in evidence.  While only a very light breeze was apparent, the topography was such that spiders web should have been still in great profusion.  I even entered the water and investigated the riverbank for a considerable distance in the direction of apparent travel.   There was no trace of the filament fall.  The material did not seem to be spider’s web.   So called "angel hair" had the reported characteristic of quickly disappearing.   Was this the apocryphal "angel hair" - the "manna" of the saucers!  

I subsequently found out that at the same time, a number of Grafton people, including my own parents, had seen a possible UFO, described by some as an elongated white mass", traveling in a trajectory that would have passed over my river position but in a direction at right angles to the aerial flow of material I had witnessed.   Perhaps the "UFO" may have been a more compacted mass of the filaments I had seen traveling in a different direction?   I have since wondered if the “UFO” was even connected with what I saw at low height above the riverbank.  I did some checking and found that there may have been a HIBAL Ashcan high altitude balloon launched the day before from Wilcannia.  It may have also been seen at Kyogle, as reports were also made on the same day or the following day.  This may suggest that the “elongated white mass” could be explainable.  What I handled – the web like material that appeared to sublimate, cannot be as easily explained.  While tantalising the experience with this strange material was ultimately frustrating.  I had it right there in my own hands. 

I was significantly reminded of this extraordinary 1969 “down under” display of UFO reality when Dr. Mark Rodeghier, of the Chicago based J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO studies, wrote to me on 4 July 2020, highlighting, “…. this email from a witness in Australia who saw a UFO a long-time ago. Even so, I thought you might find it of interest. He claims to have been an Australian surfing champion, which I know is a big deal down under.”  

Here is Peter Drouyn’s message entitled “UFO close contact”:

“Hello, in 1969 I was confronted by an object 90% hidden amid blistering light above me. It came within 15 feet in front of me. It had rotating lights that circled it's perimeter (seen only from front) and collected together before continuing its lateral rotational flow at approximately 10 meters per second. To left side extremity I noticed its shape and texture to be curved and solid greyish metallic. What seemed like steam rose around it as it hovered (without vertical movement) above ground at approximately 5 feet metres.

I stood frozen with only my eyes moving. The event was late at night. The town was Surfers Paradise, then a moderately sized low rise "village" next to the ocean in South East Queensland Australia. There were no house lights on at the time, the street was empty as I walked home on the street itself. The object was approximately 20-26 feet in diameter and made no sound apart from a very mild hissing noise. The event lasted approximately 5-6 minutes before the object's light switched off as it darted up into the night as a miniature, circular, bright, white light, before vanishing as a speck.

I make this statement as the absolute truth. I was 19 years of age at the time. I am now 71. I was Australian surfing champion at the time, alert and very fit. I had drunk a couple of beers at a public social, not nearly enough to distract my complete attention.

It has taken 50 plus years to talk about it at length, to you.

It doesn't matter if you do not believe me, it happened. My life has been thus far somewhat a life of intervening mysteries and extreme experiences.

I don't drink or take drugs.

I am well educated with Law and Engineering degrees. (Engineering unfinished).

I don't know why I was singled out for the contact. But I could understand why upon reflection.

That's all I have to say. Regards, Peter A. Drouyn.

Peter Drouyn's 2017 sketches of his encounter
(copyright Peter Drouyn - used with permission)
One of Peter Drouyn's attempts in 2020 to convey what he experienced
(supplied by Peter Drouyn)

I thanked Mark for alerting me to the account, indicating Peter was well known in the surf scene.   

I did some on-line research focusing on Peter Drouyn’s life around the time of the encounter.  I also found an extraordinary life story, one that transitions across the fluidity of being human – Peter would become a woman Westerly Windina – a veritable “wind of change” - not just “for the westerly (or offshore) winds so prized by local surfers”, observed by journalist Frank Robson in a 2011 piece entitled “A lifetime search for the stranger on the shore”:  Robson attributes to Westerly, “Drouyn saw himself as a failure, reviled and taunted by macho surfers and the surf media because they ''sensed something alien'' in him and wouldn't let it rest.” Further he quotes Westerly: 'Peter's gone now,'' she says, matter-of-factly. ''He was always a compromise on the real thing: the girl [inside him]. He was a stranger on the shore and he always knew there was something wrong. But although he's gone, I still have his memories … they're the only memories I have.’’  7.30 Report reported on as a “sea Change” on 24 February, 2014

A book “Becoming Westerly – The transformation of Surfing champion Peter Drouyn into Westerly Windina” (2015) by Jamie Brisick hardly engages with the UFO episode, but confirms that Peter’s older brother “definitely remembers Peter waking him in the middle of the night all stunned and traumatised” by the UFO sighting (page 196 of “Becoming Westerly”).  A documentary based on the book has yet to appear, but “winds of change” have come again. By 2017 Peter Drouyn has returned. Of this, Peter told me, “An American film crew (one of which was the author of "Becoming Westerly", the others, a prominent film director (a local cinematographer), came to Australia to shoot a documentary on my life leading up to Westerly's arriving from seemingly 'nowhere'; thereupon another visit resulted with the sudden departure of Westerly and the return of Peter Drouyn. This was a second important event for them and for me. 

“My brother Tony passed away two years ago, much to my distress. My parents had also departed.Before the American film crew left Australia the first time in 2012, I asked them to talk to my brother and confirm by certainty, that I had woken the household in 1969 and told both my brother and mother (my father remained asleep in another room), of a craft that was clearly a UFO without doubt. And yes, my brother, as honest as the day he was, confirmed the event had occurred. To this day I have very little time for that film crew - one that not only refuses to believe me, but the decency, the responsibility and sincerity of an honest brother. 

“A year or so before Tony passed away I asked him to reconfirm the event (considering the film crew and author of "Becoming Westerly" had not mentioned the event in either "Becoming Westerly" (at least no one has said that the author included it) or the documentary (which hasn't been released) - and Tony looked at me, paused, and nodded his head "Yep, you did". He said it without hesitation and considering that after the event he and my mother became interested in extraterrestrial events, Tony turning to a love of science fiction as well.”


I emailed Peter Drouyn on 10 July:

Hi Peter, 

The Scientific Director of CUFOS Dr. Mark Rodeghier drew your email to my attention.

Just to clarify CUFOS and most civilian UFO organisations are essentially run by dedicated volunteers who carry activities in their own spare time. They do what they can with limited resources. 

I have been involved with CUFOS since the 1980s when the then scientific director Dr. Allen Hynek invited me to join the organisation and act as a contact point in Australia. Although I am Sydney based, back in 1969 I was based in the north coast of NSW at Grafton.  Given that background I know that 1969 was a very interesting year in Australia.

The following link on my main blog page describes some of these 1969 sightings in Australia:

I would be very interested in finding out a lot more about your experience at Surfers Paradise back in 1969.  Was it covered at all in “Becoming Westerly”? (It was in passing of sorts – but no detail – B.C.)

Do you remember exactly what the date of your experience actually was in 1969?

Could you sketch out & scan a drawing of what the UFO looked like?

Could you advise me of a contact number so we could discuss this in more detail?

You write, "I don't know why I was singled out for the contact. But I could understand why upon reflection.” Can you elaborate?

I would be grateful for any further details you can supply on your 1969 encounter.

Carl Sagan did co-author “UFO’s A Scientific debate” (1972) which was the proceedings of the late 1969 AAAS special symposium on UFOs.  That probably represent(s) Sagan at his most open re UFOs.  After that it pretty totally closed to the point of becoming a leading “debunker” of the subject.

I look forward to your further response.

Regards, Bill Chalker 

Peter replied on 11 July:

Hi Bill,

Thanks for replying, I was losing faith actually - it's a frustrating, compounding feeling, being ignored, or being denied one's truth, one's clear unadulterated memory, one’s intellect, when it is part of a healthy conscious mind within.

I will answer your questions, meanwhile if you would afford me sufficient time to draw the craft (or what part I saw of it, indicating its totality of shape) plus my position and characteristics of the atmosphere at large and physical boundaries.

"Becoming Westerly" (the book) is somewhat presented as an extremely partisan account and view, rather than a precise, fully recorded, fully related series of events.

The author made the professional mistake of becoming 'personal' rather than deliver a transcription of the facts and their relativity to important experiences: to that end, I was thoroughly disappointed in the book and put it down after a few pages read of each chapter. Consequently, I assumed the public would have been disappointed as well especially some of those readers whom I knew, referred to experiences told them that weren't mentioned. The question is, why?

No, the UFO experience wasn't mentioned and this indicated the author's intent to advocate a trial scenario, me on trial, rather than documenting statements in a professionally bipartisan manner - "say it as it's told" - in a series linked passages.

I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Thank you again Bill.

Peter A. Drouyn. 

Peter further elaborated to me: “I had returned home by taxi from a night out in Surfers Paradise at two entertainment venues, Skyline then PenthouseAt approximately midnight, I asked to be dropped off at the top of Wharf Road a short walk from home. There was just one taxi in the town then, Harry's Taxi. I believe I had little money left, the reason for wishing to walk the rest of the way home from the top of Wharf Road. Besides Harry was a decidedly irritable Greek driver at that time of night. 

A rough map of the encounter & location (by Peter Drouyn)

“The following year 1970 I was voted number one in the world after a series of competitions: a win and placings in the world's majors: the Makaha (Hawaiian) International Championship 1st, the one- off World Titles in Australia 3rd, the Duke Kahanamoku (Hawaiian) Championship 2nd and the Smirnoff Championship 4th also in Hawaii. (I had won the Australian Open Titles as well that year).In 1969 I was runner up in the Australian Open after controversially being relegated to second after winning the contest in Western Australia. A story very troubling and supremely disgraceful to me and my fellow Queensland State team members and officials who protested vehemently to New South Wales and Victorian State officials, whose combined partisanship, changed the result on the beach, in favour of their favoured second placed surfer, Nat Young. A dark day in the annulus of Australian surfing history never exposed. “So Bill I was super fit and up to my neck in surfing competition and it's sometimes prejudicial results at the highest level. “The few beers I had that night in Surfers Paradise were miniscule to a fit and mentally sharp athlete ...By the way, the reason I caught a taxi was, I had no car, it had been wrecked by a drunken driver outside a friend's house, beside the beach, a couple of weeks before. I was awaiting a new car.There you have it all Bill. I think I've covered as much as I can, surrounding the event. It could be described as beyond the imagination and reason yet it happened. I had no time nor the stomach to analyse it, that could have had a blanketing effect on my struggle to keep winning competitions for my future. 

“My life to the age of 19/20 June 30 birthday in 1969 had already proven to be a struggle on a broad front; the jealousies, the violence set against me, the difference in my personal "state" the vision I walked with seemed somehow incongruent with others, I felt different because I was made to feel that way from an early age, and I'm not talking whatsoever about any ridiculous propensity to being parallel to female origins - no, you would call me and they all did and I knew I was the epitome of masculinity with a vulnerable sentimentality. I was hardly worldly and life experienced at the age of 8 years yet at school at parties at swimming events etc etc, I seem to have been viewed as a walking surprise bundle, almost a suspicion or admiration without fanfare. This was not an advantage as the evidence showed so many times. Whether it was a society that saw me as not like them, I couldn't work it out, but I can now, it's all true, I still get it, I feel it and I know it.That's what I meant when I said, '...I could understand why the UFO might have selected me in some mysterious way, pertinent to its advanced technologies and perhaps time warping: time advancing and withdrawing with predetermined knowledge upon entering our space. It's hard but it happened and I hope it means more than a passing connection. So far it very well maybe.  Kind regards,Peter.

Peter clarified, “An important item I forgot to mention, was crucial evidence that confirms the event happening that night: as follows. As quickly as the craft sped skyward before disappearing into the clear stratosphere, I ran as fast as I could down the fifty meter gravelled laneway (called Sandra Parade), opened the gate and ran into my home.  I woke up my brother (twenty-one years of age) and mother and with a pitched excitement, told them what had happened.  To wake up the household at that time wasn't a usual action by any regard, but this was an exception.”

Peter Drouyn "Hot Generation"

A significant book on Australian surfing came out this year – “Golden Daze – Australian Surfing: Then to Now” by Sean Doherty. I utilised the author’s title into this UFO meditation of 1969: “The Great UFO Daze of OZ.” Peter’s striking achievements in surfing are described there -  I had only encountered the book during August this year.  The chapter on Peter begins with his UFO encounter, as described by Westerly, with the clarification, “Peter was gone, although not entirely; in recounting (the event) he appears in both first and third person.”

Here is Sean Doherty account of Peter’s UFO experience:

“Peter is 19 and walking home alone one night from the skyline in Surfer’s Paradise.  He’s a little soaked but Peter could handle his grog.  He was walking home on Wharf Road.  In those days there were no high rises and he lived with my brother and mum and dad in a little laneway called Sandra Parade.  Peter’s walking and suddenly this sheet of light engulfs him, encircles him, and there’s a misty fog surrounding him.  He is totally, like, “What’s going on here!?”  He was scared.  He froze like it was a shark circling him.  He could make out the side of a metal object, curved metal panel and it had lights blazing around it back and forth, coloured lights that came to a single square point and they all slotted into their holes then circled around again.  It was completely silent.  It just made a shhh, a windy noise.  That’s why it never woke anybody up.  But after three minutes it stays there but no one gets out and nothing happens.  Peter feels a bit more comfortable ‘cause he’s not dead or not being abducted when suddenly it’s gone, just a little white speck just shooting off into the sky.  Well, Peter ran for his life down the laneway, ran with his shouting waking up the household. “You don’t know what’s happened! A UFO!” I told Tony and Mum but it was too much for everybody … and too much for Peter.”

“The encounter happened in 1969.  At this point Peter already felt like he existed on another planet. Five years after coming from nowhere to whin the Australian junior title he felt like an outsider in the surfing scene – the ‘kingdom of jealousy’ as he’d later described it – his genius on a surfboard not only unrecognised, but actively thwarted. Peter felt badly jilted and as 1970 dawned he found himself at a crossroads.  He had two choices – win, or reinvent himself entirely.  The reinvention would come later.  For now, he had to win.”

Peter has a highly personalised approach to what happened to him back in 1969.  He was reaching out and wanted a response.  I recorded a lengthy interview with him on 7thAugust.

(Above) Photo of Surfers Paradise in the 1960s (supplied by Peter Drouyn) 
- approximate location of encounter highlighted by arrow

(Below) Surfers Paradise in the 1960s with approximate 
UFO encounter location & movements overlaid (B.Chalker)

Peter Drouyn's surfing career in clippings
Peter Drouyn in 2019 (Centre with Cheyne Horan & Ray Bishop of The Paddle Out) 
- see episode 015 10/06/2019 on their site for an informative interview 
with Peter describing his surfing career.

I’ve had a fascinating dialogue with Peter Drouyn and I thank him for the opportunity of discussing and researching his experience.  I also thank him for casting me back to those heady days (or, better still, the great daze) of 1969.

An image from a short videoshowing Peter Drouyn's 
most recent attempt to capture his 1969 UFO encounter
(supplied by Peter Drouyn - used with his permission)

(from a 2017 Oz Files post)
The Spackman photo case was more confronting and controversial.  Jacques Vallee in a 15 November 1969 letter to Mike Duggin injects a note of caution likening the photos to the notorious Paul Villa photos:
“The photographs: the blurring does seem to indicate a genuine physical object was involved, but the similarity between the scene shown here and the celebrated AFSCA hoax (printed as a colour postcard series some years ago) makes me a bit uncomfortable.  As you may recall, this also showed a parked car with an open door in the foreground, and an object behind some trees.  We should try to get more details on the witness and the circumstances of the event.”
Some of the Paul Villa photos including the on edge shot
 (similar to the orientation captured in one of the Spackman photos) 
and the open car door shot
The Australian public were introduced to part of the Villa photo series, as black and white reproductions in Richard Tambling’s 1967 Horwitz paperback “Flying Saucers – Where do they come from?”   The open car door Villa photo was not included but the Villa disc on edge shot was.  This seemed similar to the main Spackman photo which showed the UFO as a disc on edge with the Spackman vehicle in view with the door open.
Dr. Duggin sent his report on the Spackman photos to Harry Turner on 3 November 1969 and asked him to see if some reliable person could contact Spackman.  It seems he had also sent the report and copies of the photos to Jacques Vallee, hence the comments above.  Turner had concentrated on the Cloverdale radar visual case during his WA investigations. 
In his report Dr. Duggin indicated:
“Mr Peter John Spackman and his wife report seeing and photographing a UFO near Roylstone, in the Darling Ranges, W.A.  This suburb is about 20 miles E.S.E. of Perth.
“The sighting was made at 4.40 pm, and last 40 minutes….
“Three photographs were taken with a Polaroid camera, all of which are of rather poor quality.  The first shot shows about 2/3 of the object and is quite distinct.  The second photograph is of poor quality and is burned where a cigarette was dropped upon it by Mr Spackman in his haste.  The third photograph is blurred but useful.
“The weather was dry with scattered cloud and the object appeared solid and sharply outlined.
“The object was in front of the clouds but did disappear into them twice during the sighting.  It did stand still and then suddenly speed up and rush away …. The object emitted no sound at any time, was silver, metallic and rough on top.  It was highly reflective.  Part of the observations were made through binoculars, part with the naked eye and part through the viewfinder of the Polaroid camera.  Mr. Spackman’s wife corroborates the sighting.”
Peter Spackman's drawing in Dr. Duggin's report (via Harry Turner's file
The 3 Spackman photos (the first 2 are from low quality photocopies) (via Harry Turner's files)
In his report in RAAF files Peter Spackman indicated he “was terribly conscious of weight and power of the craft.  He stated that it appeared as if it were out of place in the sky and should not be capable of light.”
Dr Duggin in his preliminary report assessed the situation, “Mr Spackman appears to be genuine and sincere and has suffered from adverse publicity.  He has little to gain from a hoax.  The photographs are Polaroid shots and are therefore of real objects.  It is of interest that all of the photographs show an apparent object angular diameter of 2° of an arc.  The burned photograph gives a ring of sincereity, coupled with the fact that on the first shot, development of the part of the photograph not containing the object was incomplete.  This is consistent with a man in a strange situation, overexcited and slightly uncoordinated as a result of this.  A careful hoaxer would make several dozen photographs of a man-made object, select the best and use those as evidence.  My feeling is that this is not a hoax.”
I had seen the “Current Affair” coverage of the story soon after the original incident.  I was both intrigued and puzzled with the inadvertent (?) burn marking of the second photo, precisely where the UFO was captured, making me somewhat suspicious of the story.
The RAAF were contacted by an apparently independent witness, a Mrs. Diane Martin, who may have seen Peter Spackman and the UFO.  She claims to have driven past the sighting location, almost running over a man who came out the scrub on the side of the road while she observing the UFO.  She was also aware of other cars passing during the incident.  She said her observations were only fleeting, losing sight of the object, as she was unable to stop.  She also states she went back to the site and found black polaroid backing material – Spackman’s?  Mrs. Martin described the object as “mushroom shaped but contoured underneath with a short cubic stem.” However apart from some limited follow-up on this aspect by the RAAF, researchers did not appear to have fully investigated this potentially critical aspect of sighting corroboration.  RAAF Flying Officer B.J. Gardiner in his “unit evaluation” wrote, “May have been a hoax but if so was one of great size size and complexity” (referring to Mrs. Martin’s apparent confirmation).  He reported that he closely examined the original Spackman polaroids and stated, “There does not appear to be any doubt that it is a genuine photograph of what the observer saw (and he saw Mrs. Martin’s sighting as) additional evidence that at the time on the date stated, an unusual aerial object was present in the Roleystone district.” 
Diane Martin's report from RAAF file
Even though I had concerns about the case I tried to follow up the case in the 1980s but was unable to locate the Spackmans or Mrs. Martin.  Maybe both parties might respond to this article or others who may have investigated the case or were involved in some way could come forward to help illuminate this fascinating event (In 2017 Peter Spackman would have been 71, his wife’s age was unstated in the material I have seen and Diane Martin would have been 81) – a potential multiple and independently witnessed and photographed close encounter?
Here is a fascinating case I've tried to look more deeply into, but have never been able to establish anything further than the original newspaper stories published in the Rockhampton paper "The Morning Bulletin" on 16 January 1969, and "North Queensland Register" newspaper story of 18th January 1969, on the alleged encounter. Did this event really happen? If any readers have any further information on this story please contact me.
A migrant family, George Vas, his wife Milanka, and daughters Olga (14) and Maria (13) had been asleep in their caravan at the roadside north of Childers, on 14th January, 1969.  At about 4.30 a.m. they were awakened by the frenzied barking of their dog, Ica.  Mr. Vas was quoted as saying, "I heard a noise like a big swarm of wasps, only much louder. I rushed round the side of the caravan, but could see nothing.  Then Maria, who had been sleeping near the window, yelled that she could see something above the trees.  When I got to the other side of the caravan, the others were outside too. We all saw the spaceship."
"The spaceship" was described as being about 25-30 yards in diameter and shaped like a Mexican sombrero, giving off a violet glow, with other less predominant colours giving it an localised effect. 
The family watched as three "spaceman", human in shape, about 3 times larger than a normal person, were reported in the article, as having descended from the object, each on a tiny craft similar to the larger object. The beings were reported as having blocky arms and legs and generally shapeless bodies, giving out a violet-yellowish glow.  The story indicated the "spaceman" did not seem to be concerned that they were being watched, as they set about collecting plants and sugar cane from a roadside patch. These "samples" were described as being sucked up through a transparent funnel leading into the main craft.
Olga Vas reported that as they watched one of the men moved closer, where upon her father yelled at the girls to run. The man turned away after collecting several stones.
After about 10 minutes the men re-entered the "ship".  Mr. Vas was quoted again, "They took off so quickly going straight up. Even after it had gone we could still hear a faint sound like a single wasp."  As the object took off, the hair on Mr. Vas's head and arms, and the girls hair, stood up, as if affected by a form of magnetism."
A strange story indeed, even by UFO standards.  Anyone with information about this story or any other UFO encounter please contact me on
My attempt at drawing the alleged "big fellas" outside Childers in January 1969
(Bill Chalker sketch)