It was just another ordinary morning in June, 1983 when Queensland dairy farmer Robin Priete looked up and saw something strange hovering in the sky. He phoned local police, who had it described to them as a large white light with flashing lights surrounding it. Normally the police would have written this off as a hoax or dismissed it as a crazy claim, but that's when three separate people reported seeing the same thing in the night sky. Elsewhere, the Air Force had seen it too, and started to get crews into their fighter jets to respond. Welcome to Australia's X-Files.
Inside declassified documents recently added to the National Archive Of Australia lies a report labelled "Operation Close Encounter". It has been kept secret for 30 years and was filed by a squadron leader from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) who tells the story of how, in one night, five separate people spotted the same unidentified flying object in the skies over the east cost of Australia.
In June of 1983, air traffic controllers manning the Williamstown, NSW radar tower noticed several contacts 300 kilometres away from Sydney, moving at great speed. According to the unsealed operations file, two jets were placed on standby to deal with the potential threats.
The report reads that the jets were never launched radar contacts were eventually dismissed as interference in the dishes.
Meanwhile, in Queensland, Constable Geoffrey Russell reported seeing circles that indicated that something had landed and taken off along a dirt road. He reported a circle of around 2.3 metres in diameter that featured an inner circle. The dirt around the circle had been blown away like something had landed there, the constable reported, adding later that he didn't think it could have been a hoax. Also in Queensland, three others report seeing similar discs floating in the air over the state.
Squadron leader Keenan, the author of the declassified report, wrote derisively of the incident, saying that it was expensive and unnecessary.
While UFOs are clearly nonsense, it's interesting to see how the Air Force responds to these unknown threats. [Illawarra Mercury]