R e s e a r c h
Martin SHOUGH & Wim VAN UTRECHT
For this report we are indebted to Australian researcher Keith BASTERFIELD. After studying the details of the Zanthus case, Keith's attention was drawn toward a local 1954 newspaper article involving another aircraft sighting describing a similar phenomenon. The article in question appeared on page 1 of the Monday January 11th, 1954 edition of The Advertiser (Adelaide, South Australia). The text reads:
Plane crew sees sky object
The crew of an ANA airliner reported last night having seen what appeared to be a strange object in the sky about 15 miles north of Morgan.
Captain W Booth, pilot of a DC3 which left Broken Hill for Adelaide at 6.25pm, said the object appeared on and off for about six minutes.
His co-pilot, First Officer Furness said the object seemed to move back and forth across their line of flight as though circling, but they could not catch up with it.
Both the men said the object must have been an optical illusion but could not explain how it occurred.
Capt. Booth said he probably would not have noticed the object at all had he not been watching out for a north-bound plane which was due to pass at 7.40pm.
At exactly that time he saw an object which he first thought was the other aircraft, but as it appeared to manoeuvre he thought it might be an RAAF plane.
The Sun had just set and the object which was practically dead ahead of the DC3 appeared to move quite fast from side to side and slightly from east to west.
Capt. Booth then learned from the Parafield control room that there were no other aircraft in the area and assumed that the sight was caused by refraction rays from the Sun.
After about six minutes it became too dark to see the object.
Capt. Booth said he had been flying for 14 years but had never seen a similar sight before.
First officer Furness said the object remained in view for about 10 minutes. It appeared to be circling slowly and resembled the silhouette of an aircraft at a distance of 40-50 miles.
"We sighted it at about 7.40pm 15 miles north of Morgan when we were flying at 8000 ft," he said.
"At first I thought it was another aircraft and wondered that it was flying at the same altitude as we were."
"We spoke to Parafield and were told that the nearest aircraft was a DC4 at Tailem Bend."
"I thought that it was an eagle flying unusually high, but we didn't seem to get any closer to it."
"It disappeared several times in the haze and cloud layer while it was circling."
First officer Furness said he felt the object must have been an optical illusion of some sort but he could not explain how it might have occurred.
Comment - Despite the fact that the only source we have is a local newspaper article, the details of the case are remarkably in line with what we have coined the "Dark Blob" phenomenon. We note:
- Object spotted around sunset (according to StarCalc and aa.usno.navy.mil/data sunset was at 07:34 p.m. on an azimuth of 242°, i.e. WSW)
- Object appeared to be many miles away and at the same altitude as the aircraft.
- It displayed movements within a limited segment of the sky;
- It proved impossible "to catch up with" the object.
Interestingly, this is the only case in the catalogue in which the witnesses themselves acknowledged that the object "must have been an optical illusion of some sort" (FURNESS), "caused by refraction rays from the Sun"(BOOTH).
An "object" that appears "dead ahead" when seen from a plane flying from Broken Hill to Adelaide 15 miles N of Morgan, must have been located in the vicinity of Adelaide, i.e. SW (azimuth of the plane's course was roughly 219°). We suspect a mirage image of Mount Lofty Summit, the highest point (elevation: 727m/2,385ft) of the Mount Lofty Ranges in the Adelaide Hills and approximately 8 miles (15 km) ESE of the centre of the city of Adelaide.
Below is a Google Earth aerial view indicating the position of the airplane, its presumed direction of travel and the location of Mount Lofty.
Map of the sighting area. The yellow line indicates the DC3's presumed direction of travel.
An explanation for the lateral motions has been proposed in Chapter 5 of our main article on the BOAC/Labrador incident. Mount Lofty has a curved, hill-like appearance. Assuming the presence of an undulating mirage duct, sequentially selected mirage images of the summit's silhouette may have created the impression of a dark object that moved "from side to side" or an object that "appeared to be circling".
From the meteorological section of The Advertiser Keith BASTERFIELD quotes the following weather details for Adelaide, January 10, 1954:
- There was a high pressure zone south of city.
- The temperature readings for the day were a maximum of 73.6° F (23.1° C) and a minimum of 57.5° F (14.2° C).
- The barometer readings were 30.14 inches at 03:00 p.m. and 30.21 inches at 09:00 p.m.
- The relative humidity readings were 38% at 03:00 p.m. and 67% at 09:00 p.m.
The paper further mentions that the state was rainless on the 10th and that winds were light and from the S to SE over the Morgan area.