One of New Zealand's biggest mysteries and one of the world's best documented UFO cases is the Kaikoura sightings in 1978. Nearly 30 years later,
the amazing events are still unexplained. The sightings were confirmed by radar visual sightings – and also filmed in color aboard a Argosy
freighter aircraft flying south from Wellington to Christchurch and back again on the night of December 31 1978.
The witnesses on board the plane during the flight south included the crew of captain William Startup (pilot) with 23 years of experience and 14.000
hours of flying time, and the co-pilot Robert Guard, with 7.000 hours of flying time. Also on board was a TV news crew consisting of TV reporter
Quentin Fogarty, the cameraman David Crockett and his wife, sound recordist Ngaire Crockett.
During the flight north Ngaire was replaced by reporter Dennis Grant from Christchurch.
THE AIR CREW
Captain Bill Startup (left) and First Officer Robert Guard
THE TV CREW
Quentin Fogarty (left), David Crockett (middle) and Ngaire Crockett
The TV crew was aboard the plane because of a previous series of radar and visual sightings. These sightings initially began on December 21 when the
crew of a Safe Air Ltd cargo plane observed strange lighted objects around their Argosy aircraft. The lights, ranging in size up to that of a house,
tracked them for several minutes before disappearing, and reappearing elsewhere. They also appeared on Wellington ATC radar, on the aircraft radar,
and were sighted by hundreds of people.
Witnesses in the Cape Campbell area 45 miles north of Kaikoura also saw lights in the sky, 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 and was estimated at the size of a commercial airliner. It stopped abruptly and remained stationary for some time.
These and other sightings had caught the interest of a TV station in Melbourne, which had decided to reconstruct the sightings from the Argosy
aircraft for a New Year Eve special program.
(Note: the disappearance of young pilot Frederick Valentich over the Bass Strait south of Melbourne, while he was describing an unidentified object
that flew back and forth over his plane, had also attracted immense worldwide interest in October 1978.
This case has been presented by OzWeatherman in this very good thread: www.abovetopsecret.com...)
On December 30 at 23:50 the Argosy with the TV news crew crossed the Cook Strait in excellent clear weather conditions with visibility over 30
nautical miles. In fact they could see the lights of Christchurch 150 miles away.
These sightings during the flight, which were confirmed by WATCC as targets on their scopes:
(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 nautical miles.
(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
(00:15) The camera crew came up to the cockpit to view the objects.
(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." The light
disappeared and WATCC confirmed it's 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
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. He says: "There is a strong target right in formation with you. Could be right or left. Your
target has doubled in size."
(00:27) With the Argosy now moving back along it's 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)
(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 co- pilot (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."
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, 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."
Sorry, I should have waited for you to finish this case. I was thinking of another case where there is film that just shows a light "following" the
airplane. This is a different case, and although it has been shown, the photos you show have not been seen by me or shown on the programs about this
It is a good sighting, my bad for jumping my mouth (or typing!).
(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."
(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. The Argosy went on to land at the airbase.
On the flight back to Wellington, Dennis Grant replaced sound recordist Ngaire Crockett, who did not want to return to the area where these UFOs were
flying. The Argosy took off again at 2:15 on it's 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 4 minutes. The object, which was the size of a house, moved in relation to the aircraft,
suggesting intelligent control.
The crew also saw two pulsating lights, one of which suddenly descended in a blurred streak for 1000ft/300m before ascending in a series of jerky
STILL PHOTOS OF SOME OF THE LIGHTS:
VIDEO WITH SOME OF THE ORIGINAL TV FILM
(No comments on the video, just music)
SEVERAL THINGS COMFIRMS THE SIGHTINGS AS REAL:
– 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.
– 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.
THE ART OF DEBUNKING:
The film taken by the Australian film crew would be shown all over the world. The BBC network gave a lead report on the film on an evening news show.
Great controversy followed these sightings after an investigation by the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the police and Wellington Observatory. The New
Zealand Ministry of Defence and other parties came up with a variety of explanations for these sightings:
– Lights from squid boats reflected off clouds
– Unburned meteors
– Drug runners
– City lights reflected off the breasts of flocks of mutton birds
– Lights from trains or cars
– One psychiatrist suggested that the people onboard the Argosy had lost their faith in God, and that they were seeing angels (!).
Despite these supposed mundane and harmless causes, the results of official investigations were stamped "Top Secret" and lodged in the National
Archives in Wellington. And this is what the pilot, Captain Startup, and the TV reporter Quentin Fogarty said in a recent interview:
"We got all sorts of people ringing us up telling us we're idiots," says Mr Startup. "We were fooling the public, we were putting a hoax out,
this was all a big hoax for Christmas," says Mr Startup.
"I became a bit of an object for criticism and almost ridicule, because we were poo-pooed by the authorities, and sceptics came out of the woodwork
and cherry picked the things that suited them and dismissed all the evidence, and said we saw this, we saw that," says Mr Fogarty.
Some of explanations for what they had a seen and filmed were Venus, squid boat lights and the lights of Wellington and Christchurch.
"People can think about that, but they weren't on the aircraft," says Mr Startup.
None of those involved are satisfied with any of explanations given by scientists and government officials.
"None of them to my knowledge or satisfaction have coordinated the visual sighting with the radar sighting," he says. "They've said the visual
sighting was squid boats, it was Venus, it was Jupiter, it was the harbour lights. You name it, they can come up with all sorts of reasons for what it
"But they haven't explained why I can see Jupiter, Venus and the harbour lights doing 140 knots on my radar." says Mr Startup.
3O YEAR REUNION EVENT:
The famous Argosy plane of the flight in 1978 is now owned by film maker Paul Davidson. He has organised a 30th reunion event.
Marlborough film-maker and owner of the original plane, Paul Davidson, is organising for a plane to follow the same flight path up and down the
coast between Blenheim and Christchurch on December 30.
The 1978 pilots and crew will be on board, providing commentary. There are also seats for paying members of the public.
The original Argosy cannot fly any more, so a Dash-8 aircraft will be used. "It's a great aircraft, with great views and big windows," said Mr
He said the two main points that added credibility to the sightings were that the pilots knew the area of the sky well, and the objects were picked up
on two independent radar systems. A cameraman and reporter were also on board saw and recorded the objects.
The objects were unidentifed and definitely flying, but whether they were from another another planet was another question, Mr Davidson said.
The flight is part of Kaikoura UFO Anniversary week in Blenheim from December 28-31, which will also involve a UFO Symposium, tours of the Argosy
aircraft and a movie.
If any of the ATS members attend the UFO Anniversary week in Blenheim, I would very much appreciate it if they could share their experiences there. I
also want to thank Internos for pointing me to this case and providing me with the background material!
What a well researched and layed out thread: all should read it, skeptics, believers and people on the fence: this is an extremely hard (well,
actually, so far, it has been IMPOSSIBLE) to explain case, and it's worthy to be both investigated and discussed:
Bruce Maccabee analysis on:
THE NEW ZEALAND UFO
SIGHTINGS OF DECEMBER, 1978
THE SIGHTING NORTHEAST OF CHRISTCHURCH
Courtesy: Bruce Maccabee
The movement was tracked by Wellingtong Air Traffic Controllers.
There's much stuff regarding this sighting, it would be pointless to post it all together
very compelling evidence in this case with the Pilot and crew testimony and the Radar confirmation and video evidence to examine. also the fact that
they witnessed this and then went back on the return flight to see it and record it is amazing, the only question i have is why didn't they go back a
third time or more ? or did they try ?
also i find the footage very interesting and what was observed and captured on film is very similar to other UFO reports and video.
i find this capture to be very similar to what Dorothy Izatt captured on film and what was photographed at Stephenville Texas(didn't post Izatt and
Texas photo's for comparison because i don't want to stray from the topic here)
also here is another video about this case and i find the "squid boat" explanation Laughable
Not to stray off topic either but how is that dorothys photos come close? yes i see a "loop" in the picture, but dorothys pics have hundreds of
crazy loops and jabs..hardly close to her pics at all if you ask me. but then again, i havent seen all of the 35,000 ft of FILM SHE HAS!!!
The shape of this thing reminds me of the socalled "Nazi bell". Wasnt there something about this craft to glowe orange? Im a bit sceptical about the
whole Nazi UFO thing, but who knows? Have read many articles about this and rotating rings in mercury was said to create antigravity and glowe
While mentioning mercury..
This week the Norwegian government decided not to raise the German uboat U-864, but rather dump dirt/gravel on her. The boat heading for Japan in
february 1945 with plans for ME-262, jet engine parts, etc AND 65 tonnes of liquid mercury was sunken by British submarine HMS Venturer. The wreck was
rediscovered in 2003. Maybe Hans Kammler was onboard en.wikipedia.org...
"The squid boat explanation was funny,"
It may be funny to you but as far as I understand it this was the official explanation given to this case. Can't say that I fully endorse this
explanation but this was the so called origins of the lights.
There's no question that the hot dog pics were the inspiration for Crosby, Stills, and Nash's album "Live it Up." On a more serious note, bravo
on some hardcore research here. A little much to digest in one reading, but very solid...
Excellent job Ziggy. It's funny that we don't see the usual skeptics in threads such as these.
But, I'm not here to talk about them. Such stories should be broadcasted throughout the world. Not to create believers in fact, but to create
believers in possibility. To urge people to think and do their own research into the matter.
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