One of our members almost spots a UFO

In late August 2003, three friends and I spent several nights in a hut on the north bank of the Whataroa River in South Westland, 5km from the river mouth. One evening at about 9.30pm the smoker among us called from outside, saying that a bright light low on the horizon downriver had twice accelerated at high speed and disappeared behind and reappeared from a large hill just to the north, and that the speed was greater than that of any aircraft known to us.

Being a skeptic I at once called for one of us to get binoculars while the fourth person and I dashed outdoors. The sky downriver was mainly clear with just a little wispy cloud moving quite quickly down the coast. I soon realised that the light was in fact a star, which was being obscured intermittently by cloud, but at the same time the night began resounding with cries of “look at it go, look at it go, look at it climb”, and “look at it dive”. The person with the binoculars even saw a winking red light just beneath the bright light. However it was obvious to me that the position of the light in relation to the silhouettes of shrubs just below it on an island in the riverbed was remaining unchanged, and I declaimed so quite loudly, but for several minutes to no avail. Finally, the other three conceded that indeed the light was a star, and the whole situation was summed up by the comment from one of the three that “we (three) have been the victims of mass hysteria”.

In case the thought has crossed your minds, yes, except for the smoker we had indeed had a few drinks before dinner an hour or so earlier, but nobody was at all adversely influenced. Also, all the other three are well-educated and worldly-wise, and have worked in science research all their working lives, and are not the types to readily jump to erroneous conclusions. So how was it that they did believe that a light, which was in fact a star, was moving at great speed?

Well it seems to me that the pattern of cloud movement was such that without referring to stable points of reference such as the outlines of shrubs on the island, the smoker was easily able to conclude that when the light was being obscured by cloud moving south, it was actually moving rapidly to the north behind the hill. The minds of the other two were implanted with the expectation of seeing just this before they went out from the hut, and when the light did disappear they too concluded that it was moving. When there was no cloud between the light and the hill there was an appreciable distance between them, so when the light disappeared, apparently behind the hill, then of course it must have moved at high speed to get there in no time at all. Flashing red lights are often seen on flying craft at night, so the third observer who saw one beneath the light, which the other two were repeatedly confirming was a fast-flying craft, probably saw what he expected to see. Of course his report of a flashing red light in turn reinforced the belief of the other two that they were indeed observing a flying craft.

A few days later an earthquake of magnitude 6.2 rocked the southwest of the South Island, including our hut.

It is interesting to speculate on the possible consequences if heavy cloud had obscured the star permanently just before my skeptical nature had had time to observe the constant spatial relationship between the light and the outlines of shrubs on the island. On the evidence of the other three observers — and perhaps me included — one would have had to conclude that only an alien craft could have moved at the observed speeds. The earthquake might then have been attributed to the disruption of the earth’s gravitational field by the obviously hugely powerful space drive of the alien craft. From a northern hemispheric perspective all this would have occurred at the ends of the Earth. And so another UFO sighting with concrete back-up evidence from scientifically-minded observers would have taken on a life of its own, forever.

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