OFFROAD OUTER-SPACE HOTSPOTS
Of course UFOs exist – they are simply ‘unidentified’, ‘flying’, ‘objects’.
As for whether they are full of squid-like spacemen, well, that’s much harder to believe. Or is it?
The size of the universe means infinite possibilities and, as outback explorers, who spend more time under the stars than most, we are likely to see unidentified things more than others.
THE PINE GAP ORBS, Alice Springs, NT.
Whenever you hear the two words ‘Pine Gap’ you’re going to be looking the person up and down who said them.
And they’ll likely have the stench of marijuana on their clothes, dreadlocks, blisters on their Cheezel-stained thumbs from working the console of a Playstation, while the rest of us have thumb blisters from working a shovel or a computer.
They’re hard to like, and even harder to agree with. Too much time on their hands, trying to reframe things so their idle and paranoid hours have some sort of meaning.
And if it’s one thing they like talking about, it’s Pine Gap, as ground zero for all sorts of outback conspiracies.
Otherwise known as the Joint Defence Facility, Pine Gap is 10 minutes outside Alice Springs, and it’s run by ASIO and the CIA to track communication that bounces of satellites, and also to intercept faraway missiles.
It was built in the middle of Australia itself, so that it couldn’t be intercepted.
Because of the top secret nature of the US base, for a while it became Australia’s ‘Area 51’, where conspiracists claimed US forces could monitor the crazy balls of lights that seemed to be visible in the Central Desert, with all sorts of theories about spaceships and regular alien contact.
This became a thing when the space shuttle Discovery was blasted by a series of orb lights whenever it went past the MacDonnell Ranges in 2001.
Stoned protesters, from the UK of all places, demanded the British Ministry of Defence investigate an alleged cover-up of these flying objects seen from the space shuttle.
According to the Daily Telegraph: “NASA said it was debris illuminated by the sun, but the MOD admitted it could only offer a ‘disappointing’ reply because ‘there are some aspects which, for reasons of national security, are just not open for discussion’.”
Space shuttle astronaut, Tom Jones (yep, his real name), recently scoffed to the UK’s Sunday Express: “Astronauts have not seen any evidence of alien life.
“Reports of unidentified flying objects in images returned from the shuttle or space station have turned out to be ice crystals, drifting orbital debris, lightning flashes, or meteors streaking through the dark atmosphere below.”
As conspiracy theorists do, they chased their own tails, creating all sorts of dust-storms around alien contact, drawing attention away from the real tawdry secret about what was happening there.
In 2013, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden released hard data showing that the spy base had been used to mastermind drone assassinations in the Middle East, which resulted in civilian deaths. As well as unchecked data collection on Australian and overseas residents.
Either way, like most of the UFO reports in Australia, from Pilliga to Petrie, there are an inordinate amount of orb lights seen in the West Macs, and that number continues to grow.
THE WESTALL CASE, Dandenong, Victoria.
The bushland on the outskirts of Melbourne has brought to the world all sorts of strange aerial phenomena.
And it goes all the way back to 1909. Zeppelins had been built in Europe and were heralded as the ultimate war weapon. Japan had just beaten Russia in a war with superior technology, thus when strange lights hovered above the Dandenong Ranges, the only possible explanation was that the Japanese had built airships.
But these airships were nothing like the football-shaped German ones. Crowds made their way from Melbourne to the Dandenongs and for many nights witnessed orange, white and red lights, moving in formation, stalling, speeding up, then disappearing in explosions.
The government immediately offered 10,000 quid to any local inventor who could come up with an airship similar to those seen in the Dandenongs. The reward is still yet to be claimed
The big thing with these hills, perhaps due to their close proximity to a big city, is that whenever strange events happen in the sky, they’re witnessed by a big chunk of people.
Enter, the Westall Incident of 1966, when visible craft were experienced by pimply teenagers and prudish teachers at two nearby schools.
The lights were variously described as silver, green, and purple, the craft was described as metallic and the size of two family cars.
Teenagers might not be the most reliable source, until you realise that there were 200 of them who witnessed the event, all describing the exact same thing.
The UFO, reaching land in a paddock between the two schools, chilling out for a minute, then taking off again, left the obligatory patch of crushed grass, which looked like “boiled cabbage”.
In the half century since, boring skeptics claimed it was an experimental military craft, and fruity UFOlogists claimed it was a spaceship.
Ten years back, University of Canberra lecturer Shane Ryan decided to get to the bottom of all the hearsay by interviewing the original witnesses. Not in search of the supernatural, but to gauge the moods of the extraordinary case.
Ryan told The Age: “As I got a little bit older, I got a little more interested in the social and historic aspects of the story, how something like this could have happened, how it reflected society at
the time, and how authorities responded to it.”
“There’s been a layer of secrecy that was very, very prominent in this story from the beginning.”
Perhaps that secrecy was due to recently discovered papers that revealed the government’s testing of radiation after the Maralinga nuclear tests.
During the 1960s, the joint Australian/US program known as HIBAL used silver weather balloons to gauge radiation levels near built up areas.
THE TOWNSVILLE TRIANGLE, Ross River, Q.
Non believers – most of us – follow the same reasoning as US broadcaster Studs Terkel, who says he knows why there are so many reports of alien craft. And it’s got something to do with our fear of death and the basic human need for religion.
Studs explains: “It’s inevitable that humans would project their hopes and fears upon the cosmos. The standard Hollywood attempts are to portray the extraterrestrials as red of claw and fang. With pointed heads and nasty dispositions.”
But while that may be true when it comes to cooking up aliens in our brains, there’s surely gotta be something in all the lights that get seen around the outback?
In some regions like Alice Springs and Caboolture they’re so commonplace that people rarely bother reporting them. And who to, anyway, to the air force, the police?
If you live in another hotspot like Townsville, you report them to the local newspaper, or perhaps UFO Research Queensland, who have independently notarised hundreds of reports over last 20 years.
As Townsville is Australia’s biggest remote city, it’s only natural that the reports will come in thick and fast from all the nearby towns and highways that intersect here in the northern big smoke.
Like most other UFO hotspots, it’s all about the light balls! Which many locals blame on the nearby military installations and operations.
Andrew Backhouse from the Townsville Bulletin recently collated just a fraction of the reports of strange lights in the district that have been filed with the UFO mob over the last 20 years, here’s just a taste of them…
“I took my daughter into the backyard and saw what at first I thought was just a bright star, but then I saw it was moving. It was travelling from the west towards the east, and then it started moving very fast towards the south. I would say I saw this thing flying for about four or five minutes.”
“The witness was driving in a car when she observed an orange light travelling very slowly from north to south. It seemed to have two red lights underneath it.”
“After coming back from a jog, I was doing some stretches on my second story unit balcony. I sighted three white lights in a triangular formation that looked quite high up. They were spaced far apart, easily far enough to be three separate objects. They were travelling fast — it took roughly seven seconds for them to travel from directly above me to the horizon.”
“I took three pictures that caught my eye while taking photos of the sun with my iPod. In the top left-hand quarter above the sun there is a white thing.
It shouldn’t be there, whatever it is. The first photo, I noticed it; then the second, it had slightly moved; then the third, it was streaking away.”
“Strange light witnessed over Townsville. I was standing in my backyard having a cigarette at around 11pm. I glanced up to the sky and noticed an orange fireball… It remained stationary for 30 seconds, then suddenly seemed to gain height at an extraordinary rate.”
“A man was travelling in a sleeping cabin on a train when he had a UFO sighting. He saw two objects together near Bowen heading in a straight line. The two objects joined and there was an explosion like a starburst.”
The Strand, 2006.
“A witness observed two lights as the stars were coming out, for about 15 minutes. They moved about both slowly and quickly, changing direction. One of the lights disappeared. He took his eyes off the remaining light and when he looked back it was gone.”
“I wish to report a sighting of a Min-Min light between the Burdekin Dam and Ravenswood. There were five of us in the car. The light followed the car, through the trees for about fifteen minutes.”
“I live at Mundingburra, and for the past month between midnight and 2am my girlfriend and I have seen, a number of times, an object that flashes four distinct colours — red, green, blue and white. There have been no planes or aircraft in the area and they would not move as quickly as this object.”
What are they? Any why are they seen in every corner of the outback?
Sure there are hotspots for them –the Glasshouse Mountains, Ross River, the MacDonnell Ranges, the Nullabor – but in recent years, video footage of the strange lights has been hitting YouTube from all over the country, especially now that everyone has a recording device on them at all times.
They were given the name Min Min Lights by early settlers, and we’re still no wiser on what they are, or what causes them.
In general, they’re orange, white or green, usually in a group of three or four and they move fast through the sky, sometimes independently, sometimes in formation; their speed going from supersonic to a snail’s pace.
There are as many theories on these UFOS as there are people who’ve seen them, though science is slowly trying to give decent explanations for this, with it mostly being the result of ball lightning.
Last year, Chinese scientist H.C. Wu did tests on the properties of ball lightning. These are the result of lightning strikes that leave behind floating spheres of electric plasma that wander through the sky.
Closer to home, astrophysicist Dr. Stephen Hughes from QUT studied hundreds of photos of fireballs taken on phones, all on the same night in Queensland.
As a result, Hughes published a paper for the Royal Society of London, in which his main theory relates to ball lightning being caused by meteorites that enter the earth’s atmosphere.
Hughes suggested to Phys.Org that “One of the meteors falling to Earth as a fireball could have triggered an electrical connection between the upper atmosphere and the surface.”
Dr. Hughes speculated that this created a transient conductive connection to the ground, putting a charge into the ground and creating a plasma ball of some kind above it.
“Dr. Hughes said the events during that night could have led some people to think the bright green object and fireballs were UFOs, and he said that if you add ‘inexplicable atmospheric phenomena’ to human psychology, this could explain many UFO sightings.