Tuesday, March 23, 2010

That Wild Australian Night

By 1988, at least publicly, the U.S. Air Force had long since washed its hands of UFO sightings reported by mere citizens, no matter the anxiety factor, putting the burden firmly on the shoulders of local law enforcement agencies. The cops. Police and sheriffs' deputies weaponized with automobiles unable to fly. The last place on Earth where anybody would have the time or inclination to give a damn about some light in the sky. Yes, there was Dr. J. Allen Hynek's public lifeline, the Center for UFO Studies, poorly funded then, as now, and a few other national private organizations, but UFO manifestations didn't care a whit about investigative protocol.

So, the UFO enigma continued to assume center stage, sometimes dramatically. Unfortunately, other countries emulated the U.S. and deferred the troublesome UFO issue, as it affected the man or woman on the street, to police agencies.

Twenty-two years ago, some very strange and frightening things happened in Australia, according to Associated Press reports emanating from Sydney, and -- to my knowledge -- the integrity of these events was never discredited. Based solely upon AP reports, the story developed as follows. . .

At about 2:45 a.m. on a Wednesday in January, 1988 Faye Knowles, driving, and her three sons (brothers Sean and Wayne are pictured here, both having confirmed their mother's story) were proceeding on a lonely outback highway through the Nullabor Plain from Perth in western Australia, when she spotted a glowing object through her rear window. In an attempt to escape pursuit by what seemed an egg-shaped object, Knowles accelerated to speeds approaching 120 m.p.h. However, the UFO easily paced the automobile and ultimately, according to Sgt. Jim Furnell of the Ceduna Police, "apparently picked the car up off the road, shook it quite violently and forced the car back with such pressure that one of the tires was blown." Knowles' vehicle was left facing the direction from which it had come.

Apparently associated with the incident was a layer of a black powdery ashen substance found inside and outside of the car, and forensic scientists were scheduled to take samples. But, as in the best detective thrillers, there was more to the story.

First, a tuna boat crew 50 miles away in a water area known as the Great Australia Bight -- a crew whose members had absolutely no contact with the Knowles family -- reported being buzzed by a bright object just minutes after the Knowles incident. "We were a little bit skeptical at first," continued Furnell, "but after investigating, we are treating the reports very seriously."
Second, and this was a particular point of interest to me because sound was involved, both the Knowles family and tuna fishermen noted similarly bizarre effects in the presence of a strange object. Explained Furnell, "While this was happening, the (Knowles) family said their voices were distorted and it was as if they were talking in slow motion." In the tuna boat, crew members' voices became "unintelligible" during the object's presence.

While these sound/voice/slow motion UFO incidents, almost suggestive of interference in some space & time mode, may seem uncommon, they do exist, probably in far greater numbers than are reported, and should be taken quite seriously in any scientific court of UFO conjecture. Wendy Connors' (now completed) Faded Discs project retrieved an old recorded interview with a young woman, once living as a child with her family at a British Air Force base in the 1960s. Recounting the appearance of a large UFO cruising at treetop level over base housing, the woman remembered that sounds were interrupted and voices could not be heard or comprehended until the thing departed. Her active duty military father, and presumably others suddenly involved in this crisis alert situation, refused to speak of the incident and, whatever visited the base, it obviously wasn't regarded as "ours."

Getting back to the Australian events: A Royal Australian Air Force base representative in Edinburgh claimed he wasn't aware of any military aircraft in the area during the encounters. Still, instant explanations weren't to be avoided because the media, as usual, went running to the nearest skeptical astronomer for a feel-good moment and, as usual, this expert was more than happy to oblige, with his version of events anxiously lapped up by the media a week later.

Charles Morgan of the Sydney Observatory postulated a "carbonous meteorite shower" as the culprit (!) which would explain the ash and the Knowles' report of a "smell of dead bodies" inside the car. He also indicated the possibility of a sonic boom associated with such an event, which might explain the hearing difficulties. Acknowledging that some "unexplained phenomenon" might instead be responsible, Morgan nevertheless went on to suggest that the tire blew because the driver became frightened, drove off the road, hit a bump and became airborne.

It must be noted, however, that the Knowles family drove 400 miles to the Ceduna police station following the encounter, and officer Furnell noted that the car's roof was dented, covered with a blackish-gray ash -- and family members were visibly shaken.

Keith Basterfield of UFO Research Inc., awaiting confirmation of the event, stated at the time that the Knowles case could "certainly be the most physical of encounters ever recorded in Australia."
All of this brings me to ask an unlikely but relevant question -- What's the energy source of a presumably unknown object able to pursue and lift a heavy automobile filled with passengers? If the world truly craves the highest levels of energy independence, the UFO phenomenon might provide answers. . .answers that governments may not learn if they turn away or deny interest in just one special observer among the masses who happens to experience a UFO encounter of more than passing significance. Despite all the good things law enforcement agencies do, their crime forensics labs aren't exactly stocked with scientists yearning to examine UFO incidents.
(Initial AP newspaper accounts about the Knowles and tuna boat crew seem to have appeared around the USA on January 21, 1988.)