- 1978 December 20th - Blenheim Airbase, South Island,
- Blenheim Airbase sits facing Cloudy Bay and the Cook
Strait on the northern tip of the South Island, New Zealand. At eleven
o'clock Ian Uffindel of the New Zealand RAF reported unusual lights in
the sky: one large and two smaller lights making controlled movements and
flying closely together. He added that they were not aircraft. John Cordy
at Wellington Air Traffic Control Center (WATCC) confirmed targets on his
scopes in the area reported by Uffindel.
- This was the first Radar-Visual event (RVE) in these
- 1978 December 21st - Cape Campbell, South Island, New
- Witnesses in the Cape Campbell area (45 miles north of
Kaikoura) saw lights in the sky behaving in the manner of aircraft involved
in a search & rescue operation - as if helicopters were using high-powered
spotlights to view the terrain beneath them. WATCC detected three unidentified
targets on their radar screens, one of which moved at high speed for 60
nautical miles (nm) and was estimated at the size of a commercial airliner.
It stopped abruptly and remained stationary for some time.
- (01:20) Captain Vern Powell flying in the area reported
to WATCC that he could see bright white lights from an unidentified craft.
He likened them to landing lights of aircraft and added that an object
appeared on his radar at the same location (RVE).
- (03:30) Powell indicated to WATCC that he could now see
a bright red light. They confirmed that a target was on their radar to
the right of his aircraft at a distance of 23 nm. It paced him for a further
12 nm (RVE).
- He called ATC to say that it had changed to an extremely
bright light encircled with a red halo and its luminescence was still visible
when it passed behind clouds.
- WATCC had five strong unidentified targets on their scopes
in Powell's vicinity as he approached Christchurch. As he was coming in
to land he reported a high-speed target moving at approximately 15,000km/h.
It disappeared from his radar but he could still see a flashing white light
- Later that night a large white orb dramatically buzzed
another plane. They could not identify it but reported the encounter to
- 1978 December 30th - Christchurch, South Island, New
- (23:00) A weather balloon was released from Christchurch
to detect and record atmospheric conditions.
- Wellington, North Island, New Zealand
- Investigating the preceding encounters over the Cook
Strait area, reporter Quentin Fogarty, cameraman David Crockett and his
wife sound recordist Ngaire Crockett boarded an Argosy freight plane with
Captain Bill Startup and Co-Pilot Robert Guard. Startup had 23 years experience
and 14,000 hours flying time. Guard had 7000 hours flying time.
- (23:50) The Argosy crossed the Cook Strait. Startup reported
excellent weather conditions: clear with visibility over 30 nm. In fact
they could see the lights of Christchurch, which was 150 miles away.
- 'There is another target that just appeared on your left
side at about 1 mile...'
- Wellington Air Traffic Control Center
- 1978 December 31st - Kaikoua Coastline, South Island,
- (00:05) The pilots first noticed lights near to the Kaikoura
coast. These lights projected a beam downwards and then disappeared. The
number varied from none, to one, to many. The pilots noted that the strange
lights were above the town of Kaikoura but between the aircraft and the
ground in the one o'clock position at a distance of 13 nm. (NB - the December
21st sightings above)
- (00:12) WATCC radioed confirmation of these lights as
targets on their scopes. Indeed those targets had been appearing and disappearing
for the past half hour. On duty that night were Air Traffic Controller
Geoffrey Causer and Bryan Chalmers, a radar maintenance technician. At
this point another aircraft landed at Wellington and from then onwards
the Argosy was the only plane in the sky south of Wellington Airbase. Not
long afterwards WATCC reported that they had another target in the aircraft's
three o'clock position but the crew could see nothing in that direction.
The radar target disappeared.
- (00:15) The camera crew came up to the cockpit to view
- (00:16) WATCC notified them of a target in their twelve
o'clock position at a distance of 10 nm. The crew confirmed - they saw
a light in that direction. Startup: 'It was white and not very brilliant
and it did not change colour or flicker. To me it looked like the tail
light of an aircraft. I'm not sure how long we saw this for. Probably not
very long. I did not get a chance to judge its height relative to the aircraft.'
(RVE) The light disappeared and WATCC confirmed its disappearance on the
next sweep of the radar but they reported a new strong target at their
eleven o'clock position at a distance of 3 nm. The Argosy crew saw nothing.
WATCC reported a target at nine o'clock at 2 nm. Again the crew could see
nothing. Just after this they picked up a target at their ten o'clock position
at a distance of 12 nm. The Captain requested permission to turn around
to investigate the anomalous targets.
- WATCC authorised him with the caution that: 'there is
another target that just appeared on your left side at about 1 mile...
briefly and then disappearing again.' Although the crew were still witnessing
the lights near to Kaikoura, they could see nothing of the new targets
reported by Wellington.
- Startup put the Argosy in a turn. WATCC reported: 'The
target I mentioned a moment ago is still just about 5:00 to you, stationary.'
Once more nothing was visible to the crew in that direction. Causer had
been picking up appearances and disappearances of targets on the scopes
which correlated to the lights viewed by the crew close to Kaikoura.
- 'There is a strong target right in formation with you.
Could be right or left. Your target has doubled in size.'
- Wellington Air Traffic Control Center
- The Kaikoura Coastline
- (00:27) With the Argosy now moving back along its flight
path towards Wellington Airbase Causer reported another target in their
twelve o'clock position three miles distant. Startup responded: 'We pick
it up. It's got a flashing light.' He reported seeing: 'a couple of very
bright blue-white lights, flashing regularly at a rapid rate. They looked
like the strobe lights of a Boeing 737...' (NB - the Argosy was the only
aircraft in the area at the time) (RVE)
- (00:28) The Argosy turned back towards Christchurch and
WATCC reported that all the targets were now 12 - 15 nm behind them.
- (00:29) WATCC notified the pilots of a target one mile
behind the aircraft in their six o'clock position, which soon vanished.
- (00:30) Another target appeared on the radar at 4 miles
behind the plane. It vanished. Next came a target at three o'clock, again
at 4 nm.
- (00:31) WATCC: 'There is a strong target right in formation
with you. Could be right or left. Your target has doubled in size.' This
is known as a Double Size Target (DST). Growing increasingly worried the
Copilot (Guard) looked out of the right windows and saw a light: 'It was
like the fixed navigation lights on a small airplane when one passes you
at night. It was much smaller than the really big ones we had seen over
Kaikoura. At regular intervals it appeared to flash, but it didn't flash
on and off; it brightened or perhaps twinkled around the edges. When it
did this I could see a colour, a slight tinge of green or perhaps red.
It's very difficult describing a small light you see at night.' (RVE) Startup
checked their environment, seeing: coastal lights, and the lights of Japanese
squid boats on his far left (east) horizon. He saw no running lights of
boats, which implies that there were no boats in the area. When Guard reported
the light out of the right hand window, Startup turned off the green navigation
light on the right wing to make viewing easier. The town lights of Kaikoura
were now behind the mountains and not visible. (Claims were made after
this incident that the light witnessed by the crew was a beacon light on
the end of the peninsula, but the witnesses testified to the light being
level with the plane - ie. well above ground level). Fogarty commented:
'I'm looking over towards the right of the aircraft and we have an object
confirmed by Wellington radar. It's been following us for quite a while.
It's about four miles away and looks like a very faint star, but then it
emits a bright white and green light.' (RVE) Startup then told WATCC: 'Got
a target at 3:00 just behind us.' WATCC responded: 'Roger, and going around
to 4:00 at 4 miles.'
- The Kaikoura Peninsula
- (00:33) WATCC informed Christchurch Air Traffic Control
(CATCC) that they had a target at five o'clock to the Argosy at a distance
of 10 miles. CATCC could not confirm. WATCC said: '...not moving, not too
much speed... It is moving in an easterly direction now.'
- (00:35) WATCC: 'The target you mentioned, the last one
we mentioned, make it 5:00 at 4 miles previously, did you see anything?'
Startup: 'We saw that one. It came up at 4:00, I think, around 4 miles
away.' WATCC: 'Roger, that target is still stationary. It's now 6:00 to
you at about 15 miles and it's been joined by two other targets.' (RVE)
(NB - Uffindel's report from Blenheim - above)
- (00:36) WATCC informed the Argosy that the three targets
had now merged on their scopes. Startup requested permission to do another
turn to investigate and permission was granted. Despite this brief investigation,
the crew saw nothing.
- (00:39) The Argosy continued on its way to Christchurch.
CATCC reported to the plane that a target was pacing the aircraft to their
west overland. Guard checked the window and saw a rapidly-moving light
in that direction. (RVE) The Argosy went on to land at the airbase.
- 'It turned with us as I changed course... It was making
definite movements in relation to us'
- --Captain Bill Startup
- Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand
- (02:00 - 03:00) Dennis Grant replaced Ngaire Crockett,
who did not want to return to the area where these Ufos were flying. The
Argosy took off again at 2:15am on its return journey.
- Not long after take off the crew saw two more objects.
David Crockett saw a sphere with lateral lines around it which was spinning.
CATCC confirmed that this object was swaying continuously on their scopes
for four minutes. The object moved in relation to the aircraft, suggesting
intelligent control, and was estimated to be the size of a house.
- The crew saw two pulsating lights, one of which suddenly
descended in a blurred streak for 1000ft/300m before ascending in a series
of jerky movements.
- Points To Note
- The Royal New Zealand Air Force put a Skyhawk jet fighter
on full alert to intercept any other Ufos which might appear.
- Examination of the film and computer enhancement concurs
that the footage is genuine.
- The radar technician, Bryan Chalmers, responsible for
maintaining the radar, checked it for evidence of anomalous propogation/refractive
beam bending during the sightings. These tests prove that atmospheric refraction
could not account for the radar sightings.
- Although a dark object against a light sky could be seen
from 30 miles or more away, a light object against a dark sky could be
seen from more than 100 miles.
- Turbulence and atmospheric refraction could to some degree
be attributed to the radar angels (unknown targets) towards the coastline.
Strong reflectors of radar on the ground might appear to move around on
the scope due to the strong refraction. But for this explanation to work
off the coast would mean that there were numerous strong reflectors on
the ocean spread out over a wide area due to the multitude of targets picked
up during the Argosy's flights, which is unlikely given that no running
lights could be seen by the cabin crew. Furthermore any boats on the ocean
should not have shown up on the radar scope because it has a filter which
screens any such targets. The sensitivity of the radar scopes at Wellington
means that Clear Air Turbulence (CAT) or birds/insects/weather would not
have been detected beyond 50 nm. The Argosy was 82 nm from WATCC at the
time of the DST.