Secret UFO files revealed
Secret Defence Force files reveal hundreds of UFO sightings, details of a top level Government investigative body, and previously unseen reports into the infamous Kaikoura mystery.
More than 2000 pages of formerly classified files were released yesterday.
The files include:
Sketches of a "spacecraft" sighted over the Wairau Valley.
Letters from a Wellington mechanical engineer who claimed to have deciphered a tabloid that "detailed a drawing of a machine that is several thousand years old".
300 pages of correspondence from a Christchurch man with accompanying sketches, detailing his contact with aliens over a 20-year period.
Current Defence Force spokesman Commander Phil Bradshaw told The Dominion Post yesterday that the number of reports had fallen in the past 10 to 20 years and the Defence Force had "no official interest" in UFOs.
"If you look at the reports, obviously some of them are highly questionable, but others are written very genuinely. People definitely see things that are unexplained."
As an engineer Bradshaw said he believed the mathematical probability of extraterrestrial life was high, but "as for little green men", he was less convinced.
The Defence Force collates information relating to UFOs but does not investigate sightings beyond ruling out basic factors, such as whether any aircraft were known to be in the area at the time of the report.
Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said people could "make what they will" of the reports, but he believed "A quick scan of the files indicates that virtually everything has a natural explanation".
Many of the files relate to the Kaikoura sighting of December 1978, when a Wellington radar team and crew on a Argosy cargo plane reported strange lights and inexplicable radar readings in the Clarence area, near Kaikoura.
The files reveal Prime Minister Sir Rob Muldoon took a special interest in the investigation and "asked he be informed of defence's conclusions to the study it was undertaking".
According to a Defence Force letter from 1984, Kaikoura was the only UFO sighting fully investigated by the air force.
When sightings continued and worldwide media coverage ensued, the air force said it was forced into launching an investigation.
The Kaikoura investigation failed to pinpoint a single cause of the unexplained lights and radar readings, but concluded almost all the sightings could be explained by factors including unusual atmospheric conditions, lights from a Japanese squid fleet, or a glow from the planet Venus.
Wellington man John Cordy, who was in the air traffic control tower and witnessed the inexplicable radar readings, said the government conclusion sounded "like a Tui advert".
"Unusual atmospheric conditions on a clear starry night? Squid boats doing 180 knots? Venus rocketing around my radar screen? It's a little insulting."
The files also reveal that a government-run Unidentified Flying Object Investigating Committee existed until the mid 1970s, and included top officials. It was chaired by the deputy director of Service Intelligence, and its members included a squadron leader from the Directorate of Service Intelligence, the director-general of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the head of the Meteorological Service, and the director of the Carter Observatory.
The committee was abolished in 1976 after infrequent meetings, the last of which was in 1970.
Calling for the group to be disbanded, Carter Observatory director at the time, WJH Fisher, remarked that "most UFOs are only unidentifiable by the person reporting them".