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Mysterious Airships. The first Australian UFO Flap of 1909

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posted on Jul, 5 2016 @ 10:46 PM

Toward the end of the 19th century, long before the term UFO entered the lexicon, there was a spate of sightings of what were then referred to as 'Mystery Airships' in the U.S. A thread on this fascinating topic exists here which goes into some detail about this strange phenomena. Interestingly Australia also had its own sightings of these Mystery Airships, culminating in what we now may refer to as the the Wave of 1909.

Logically, it seems that what we were seeing would most likely be experimental dirigibles, which had already been built and tested.

In 1895, the first distinctly rigid airship was built by German David Schwarz. His design led to the successful development of the zeppelin, a rigid airship built by Count zeppelin.

Not so, according to John Wyatt.

In 1909 airship technology was still at an experimental stage and even Zeppelins at that stage could not have reached our shores. Yet in 1909 many in Australia and New Zealand claimed they saw airships in the skies. The flap began in New Zealand and quickly moved over the Tasman.

After the New Zealand sightings, it seems that these airships started appearing in a number of places in Australia.

First in reported over the Dandenong Ranges

The Rev. B. Cozens, of the Port Melbourne Seamen’s Mission, tells an interesting story regarding the mysterious lights which appeared in the air over the Dandenong Ranges on Saturday night.

“Going outside at 10 o’clock, he saw, half a mile up in the air, two revolving lights moving over the ranges. They slowed down, dipped, and rose up again, then changed from white to red and to blue. Mr. Cozens called his wife and three neighbours. They all watched the lights until midnight, by which time one had almost moved out of sight over the ranges. Again at 2 o’clock Mr. Cozens saw the second one, which almost crossed the ranges. Five more appeared in the distance, moving in the direction taken by the other two.”

Then in Moss Vale in New South Wales.

“A good deal of excitement was occasioned tonight by the appearance of a mysterious light or an illuminated body to the south-east of the town [of Moss Vale]. Quite a number of people gathered in the main street, and speculation was rife as to the meaning of the strange illumination. Above the large light some large body was distinctly visible, as the rays of light were reflected upon its surface.”

I recommend reading the entire reports on the webpages cited, as I don't wish to infringe on anybody's copyright, nor break T & Cs, but it seems that there were plenty of sightings happening in southeast Australia, not too far from major centres of population.

This account is also of interest, incorporating in the language of the times, a pyrotechnics display.

On 19 August 1909, The Mercury reported on The Mysterious Lights: “Goulburn has had a week’s display, during which the light has, according to report, been observed to move ‘up and down and sideways,’ and once gave a pyrotechnic exhibition, several stars falling about it.”

The report went on to add that: “Mittagong and Moss Vale also saw the strange light on several nights, and Narrabri, in the north-west, watched it perform a series of evolutions on three successive nights, moving with the rapidity of an airship, at a high altitude, and eventually disappearing south. “Nearer Sydney, an Ashfield resident watched a light in the eastern sky with glasses last Thursday night.

There was an ‘explosion like a rocket,’ and it became extinguished.

In light of all the reports, one wonders, what was it that was being seen? Drawing parallels with modern UFOlogy here

Like many of the modern UFO waves, there were some striking cases set against a background of misinterpretations, sensationalism and, to a lesser extent, outright fraud.

The story quoted below appears to suggest a possible hoax.

"Mrs Russell, evidently the only adult who saw the phenomena, said she was going down towards the station about 12 o'clock when she saw a streak of blackness shoot over the hill on the left and apparently come straight towards her. Then it suddenly turned and swerved away over some trees out of her sight. She was very frightened when she saw it, as she had been ill. In appearance it was just like a boat. It was black in colour. She saw it for just a few minutes. It was travelling very fast at first, but when it turned, it came lower and went somewhat slower. She was very flustered as she thought the end of the world had come."

Years later some of the children reported that the story was a hoax that had got out of hand. It is difficult to assess these apparent recantations, since in part they looked like attempts to deflect persistent media interest, and yet other statements suggest fabrication or embellishments by the journalist who originally wrote the story. Most of information reported years after the incident tends to point towards the Kelso airship being a lot of hot air kept aloft by contemporary fascination with the concurrent "urban myths" of "secret inventors" and "invasion" by the German or "yellow" peril. Confirmed pioneer aircraft flights did not get of the ground for the first time until 1909 in Australia.

How much the 'Airships' have to do with the literature of the time (for instance H.G Wells), news out of Germany and the US, is debatable, but lacking the means of modern communication we have at our disposal, it is not difficult to imagine how a sotry may become embellished and altered.

Take for instance this account;

Two men working on the Syndicate No. 2 dredge on a river in the Waikaka Valley, a few miles north of Gore, in New Zealand, got an excellent view of what was dubbed "the nocturnal mystery of the air." At 5 am, on July 30th, the men saw it descend out of the mist. The object had a light at both ends. Inside two figures could be plainly observed. The dredge winchman, Mr. F. Green, said the object rose and fell like a bird. It appeared to be a narrow boat-shaped aerial craft, that circled the dredge several times quite closely over a period of several minutes. The "airship" made "curious and seemingly impossible manoeuvres", apparently travelling at speed, then suddenly decelerating. Eventually it disappeared into the mist, in the direction of Otakarama, leaving behind a curious yellow glare.

The 'impossible manoeuvres' seems not dissimilar to accounts of our day regarding UFO sightings.

edit on 5-7-2016 by cuckooold because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 5 2016 @ 10:46 PM
Indeed the government of the day also became involved. Is it possible they were in fact 'fishing' for spies, or was it out of genuine interest?

During the height of the “scareship” flap the Australian Government actually offered a 10,000 pounds prize to the first Australian inventor who demonstrated a flying machine suitable for use in war. The Hobart Mercury of August 23 noted, “That announcement disclosed the fact that an astonishing number of inventors in these States were at work upon aviation. These inventors doubtless are working in secret, and possibly many of the objects seen in the air at night have relation to their experiments. It has been playfully suggested that the Martians are endeavouring to send signals to the earth.”

The reward was never claimed.

In Australia “aerialitis” ended as abruptly as it had begun but continued in New Zealand until mid September 1909.

With impending war with Germany, fears were definitely fueled

On 11 March 1911 several members of the public reported seeing a heavily-armed airship flying eastwards over Sebastopol in Ballarat, Victoria to descend behind Mt Warrenheip.

Similar instances were reported in Kyneton and Portland. These stories were a common feature of newspaper reports during World War I. Far from being simply dismissed, though the more outlandish stories were met with considerable ridicule in some sections of the press, these sightings were taken very seriously as potential threat to Australian security.

The newspapers of Australia were filled with reports of mysterious aircraft, abductions and German airships. They were also filled with horrific depictions of what future wars would be like in the advent of this new technology.

Historian Brett Holman offers an interesting hypothesis.

Airmindedness pertains to the cultural fixations and representations air travel and air technology. In the positive sense, it relates to wonder at the freedom and exploration of air flight. In its negative connation, it represented fear of an aerial assault.

Interestingly, Holman’s research indicated that the Australian government at the time was happy to support these anxieties given the support they engendered to the war effort.

This remains a little known but fascinating part of Australia’s World War I heritage which led directly to the phenomenon which we would now call today UFOs and flying saucers.

In my own opinion, perhaps there were some experimental aircraft being built by the military of the day. Perhaps the existing literature did contribute to these tales, and perhaps too, yellow journalism played its part in order to sell papers.

In light of these possibilities, we can indeed draw parallels with modern day sightings, which strangely have changed with the media and technology of the time.

We seldom hear of UFO sightings these days that bear up under much scrutiny due to the all pervasive nature of the media and the fact that most people carry a camera with them. Space junk and meteor showers are documented and posted on the web almost immediately. UFO tales from the 50s onwards have largely (but not completely) been debunked (in my opinion).

It’s much more difficult to verify and prove/disprove tales from the beginning of the 20th century, but we can certainly try to make an educated guess as to the nature of this phenomena. Just as we have moved to having a more scientific view of the world, so too can revisiting events of the past be interpreted in a more modern fashion.

edit on 5-7-2016 by cuckooold because: (no reason given)

edit on 5-7-2016 by cuckooold because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 5 2016 @ 11:03 PM
a reply to: cuckooold

Brilliant thread, of course as you know there have been many sighting over the ages there even long predating the global air ship sighting of the late 1800's to the early 1900's which were also reported in the US and Europe.
And of course there are report's from the ancient chinese of strange object's in the sky, the Roman's even saw them and of course alexander was supposedly stopped for a time by two flying Shield's, well you know what a greek shield look's like a flying saucer and of course his victory over tyre has been linked to fiery shields' which flew over the city and struck it's wall with lighting.

Perhaps my favorite story which may suggest interdimensional nature to some sighting is this bizar tale from Ireland.

Here is agreat PDF that is worth reading. es.pdf
edit on 5-7-2016 by LABTECH767 because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 5 2016 @ 11:11 PM
Love love love this thread.

The Dandenong sighting seemed to last a long time? And they seemed to see more than 5 objects with red white and blue lights, One aircraft would be odd enough but a group of them in 1909? Very compelling.

Near Goulburn there is spooky Lake George, My sisters and I and a convoy of cars saw some strange lights over the lake ourselves, so that story also fascinates me!

Thank you so very much! s and f

posted on Jul, 5 2016 @ 11:26 PM
I had no idea about the Aus. airships, bravo!!!

I love coming across aspects of UFOlogy that I haven't heard before, after all these years.

Going to go back and give this a thorough read.

We need more threads like this!

posted on Jul, 6 2016 @ 01:02 AM
a reply to: cuckooold

Very interesting read S + F!

Sightings have been reported amongst Aboriginals and passed down through Dreamtime stories for thousands of years. Perhaps this continent has a long history of odd phenomena

posted on Jul, 6 2016 @ 03:14 AM
a reply to: cuckooold

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this thread and seeking out the links. Never heard of such. Perhaps there are more unreported.

Made a change from the usual news links.

Good job mate.

Kind regards,


posted on Jul, 6 2016 @ 03:36 AM
This is a great resource for news articles from the day trove

posted on Jul, 6 2016 @ 07:26 AM
A video presentation, quality isn't brilliant however well worth a watch for the information given. Wasn't simply Australia rather, New Zealand as well.

edit on 6-7-2016 by FireMoon because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 6 2016 @ 07:58 AM
a reply to: cuckooold

The video i post below will answer many questions, raise some new ones, and give you a better intuitive sense of wtf is going on today and how it relates to the past UFO's. Im still surprised not many on ATS have followed this guy, Walter Bosley.

watch the full presentation before you reply. enjoy

posted on Jul, 6 2016 @ 08:07 AM
a reply to: cuckooold

Having researched and written for other publications about the mysterious "airships" that appeared in the early 1880s through about 1910, I can assure you folks that many of those stories are bogus, tapped out and sent around the world by the fairly new process of the telegraph. 'Easy to understand if you equate them with today's version of bogus photoshopped and CGI UFO images and videos.

Yes, alien spacecraft were here in those days too, but an astute reader will note that most of those stories describe airship-like vehicles with sails, oars, fan blades and even locomotive-like drive wheels. Rarely, can they be misidentified vehicles that have traveled from another star.

"Yellow Journalism" was created during those early days of mass communication. It was a quantum leap over the former method of young boys hawking newspapers on urban corners. You may have noticed that it continues to tempt your interest and curiosity.

posted on Jul, 6 2016 @ 08:15 AM
Hello cuckooold nice to hear from you again.

These airship/scareship stories are probably the first modern UFO stories as they appeared at the dawn of the age of manned flight. Strangely they also seemed to be a generation ahead of the technology of the times. There were reports in North America, Europe and the antipodes in the last years of the 19th century right up to the days of the Great War.

I think we can attribute some of these sightings to secret tests by the military in our various nations. The nations that had reports of these airships seem to be the ones who would shortly be fighting the first world war. It would be interesting to know if there were reports in Latin America, South East Asia and Africa. But can we attribute all the sightings to the military powers? I doubt it.

There is an archived Fortean Times article that goes into detail of the mystery airship age here :

Germans, Secret Inventors or Hot Air?

posted on Jul, 6 2016 @ 11:44 AM
a reply to: cuckooold

That illustration looks like a Viana.

Described in Indian texts from 30,000 years ago.

posted on Jul, 6 2016 @ 12:57 PM
a reply to: mirageman

This fellow mentions a mystery airship sighting off the coast of Africa in 1870:

But I'm not certain why it deserves this designation rather than just calling it a UFO.


posted on Jul, 6 2016 @ 10:49 PM

originally posted by: Urantia1111
a reply to: cuckooold

That illustration looks like a Viana.

Described in Indian texts from 30,000 years ago.

Which specific Indian texts would those be?

posted on Jul, 7 2016 @ 08:00 AM
a reply to: AdmireTheDistance

As I'm sure you know, even the Rig Veda, one of the oldest texts is only about 3,500 years old.

So I'd have to agree that multiplying that number by a factor of 10 or so is quite silly.

Cuniform, perhaps the oldest written language in the world (of any substance, and even
then, most of it is just records of mercantile transactions) is just 5,000 years old.

I'd certainly love to see samples of 35,000 year old language too.


posted on Jul, 7 2016 @ 12:49 PM

originally posted by: AdmireTheDistance

originally posted by: Urantia1111
a reply to: cuckooold

That illustration looks like a Viana.

Described in Indian texts from 30,000 years ago.

Which specific Indian texts would those be?

You do have Google at the power of your fingertips don't you? Surely?

Well here:

posted on Jul, 8 2016 @ 05:02 AM
I would rather believe only after seeing one of its kind with my own eyes

posted on Jul, 9 2016 @ 06:03 PM
I think you all know the correlation right?
Just before the airships we had the Airship flap, in the USA a couple of people did get in the landed airships and they seemed to be just a bit more advanced than what we had, they had a art deco aesthetic to it, with instruments quite retro.
Then in the 30''s we had the air planes in Scandinavia, flying under adverse circumstances, normally no sound at all, sometimes landing in impossible locations, they also seemed just a bit more advanced than the air crafts of the time, and both the planes and the airships had a similar behaviour, at night the would roam silently applying a beam of light directed to the ground.
Than before the release of the F-117, we had the Hudson Lights, and the Pennsylvania triangles and Boomerangs, and later the Belgium triangles, also silent, and capable of launching beams of light to the ground, the size of the ship, the capability of been almost at rest without stalling is beyond anything we ever had.
To me it is a clear indication that someone is been didactically showing us that all this discoveries are coming from somewhere else and they follow our cultural patterns, they seem to be constructed without effort...
Some of them had no bearing on aerodynamics, it is not impossible that the Dragons that were observed in medieval times over Europe and China could be part of the same plan. Before I thought it would be crazy, but now I think it is quite possible taking in consideration things like MIB and some of the crypto animals that appear and disappear...

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