While waiting for the History Channel to produce a line of J. Allen Hynek action-figure toys …
On May 23, 1968, the USS Monrovia detected a large unidentified submerged object (USO) as the transport vessel cruised near the Azores. Described as orange, ovoid and translucent, the thing matched the Monrovia’s speed and course corrections, and at one point rendered its compass, radar and radio equipment inoperable until the mystery moved on.
The crew of the USS Forrestal were amazed when, in July 1974, they spotted an apparently internally lit USO in the Mediterranean. The object spent 20 minutes crisscrossing the carrier’s bow, at speeds estimated as fast as 60 mph. Then it vanished into the deep as if it never existed.
Also in the Med, in May of ’68, the USS Zellers was participating in a NATO exercise when its crew was alerted to half a dozen or so lights rising from the water, dropping to the deck, climbing once more, and flying in synchronized formation before vanishing. The encounter was officially logged as distress-signal flares, although the source of that distress was never identified.
Show of hands: Given USOs’ demonstrated ability to disrupt communications and traverse ocean depths at will, how many of you guys seriously believe submarine technology can actually push these things into a corner?/CREDIT: sputnikcnews.com
These are just a few incidents on file with Project 1947, which has combed through Blue Book archives and other public records to give nerds like me the long view on a topic that’s suddenly beginning to get a lot of traction. It started – like all UFO matters do lately, it seems – with the New York Times breakthrough piece on 12/16/17. While investigating a UFO that showed up on radar, F-18 fighter pilot David Fravor noticed a “whitish” oval object some 50 feet above the Pacific, creating a disturbance directly below “like frothy waves and foam, as if the water were boiling.” The UFO then “accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen.”
The Times account was rolled into a larger piece about the Defense Department’s formerly unknown Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, as well as the private UFO group – To The Stars Academy – that was hoping to pick up where the $22 million federal research contract ended in 2012. Last month, TTSA’s rock star founder Tom DeLonge posted a one-sentence Instagram blurb about “an unidentified craft (that) was underwater and pinned against the North Atlantic coast by multiple nuclear attack submarines for over a week” a “few years ago.”
DeLonge hasn’t said jack about it since, but the squib was enough to tingle the BS meter of Tyler Rogoway, the War Zone defense technology reporter who’s done such a bangup job lately of getting FAA tapes and records to document some fairly hairy recent UFO incidents. Rogoway was intrigued enough to consult with Navy sources about the plausibility of DeLonge’s teaser, and he also challenged MUFON astronomer/researcher Marc D’Antonio’s account of a USO encounter he witnessed while aboard an American nuclear sub in the North Atlantic. You can read about it here, and Rogoway’s skepticism is warranted. “It doesn’t do the To The Stars Academy or DeLong any favors teasing information in such an amateurish way,” he wrote.
Rogoway’s reservations in no way diminish the reality of the long-running USO phenomenon, most recently resuscitated by retired Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who procured funding for the DoD’s UFO program back in ’07. In remarks that were reported in Roll Call and The Hill last week, Reid told Nevada public radio that he continues to push former congressional colleagues into calling UFO witnesses to go on record, and he mentioned “sightings of ships in the ocean.”
Which begs the question: What, exactly, is the extent of our knowledge about USOs?
Robert Powell, of the Scientific Coalition for Ufology (SCU), is the nuts-and-bolts guy who used FOIA radar records to put together the exhaustive report on the 2008 Stephenville Incident. Closer to the point, his team took a detailed look at the 2013 Aguadilla UFO that morphed into a USO in the waters off Puerto Rico before splitting in two and flying away. The cool thing about that encounter was that it was videotaped by airborne U.S. Custom Border Patrol agents using the same sort of infrared technology employed by the F-18 pilots who filmed those UFO sequences publicized by The Times.
In March, Powell and select researchers will convene for the first-ever SCU Conference on Aerospace Phenomena, in Huntsville, Ala. USOs are on the menu. Powell estimates maybe 1,600 incidents are on file, as opposed to more than 150,000 public UFO reports. Of the former, whose sketchy histories date back to the 1940s, “300 or so we think are fairly good.”
If UFOs are hard to figure, USOs are damn near impossible due to their rarity. But maybe those reports have an advantage. “UFOs are so easy to misidentify because there’s so many things to confuse them with,” Powell says. “But USOs are going to have a lot less misinterpretation. I mean, you’re see something that’s either going into the water or coming out of the water, maybe both.”
Maybe the best way to start looking at this is stuff is a statistical analysis, possibly employing the same methods government agencies use to identify cancer clusters. Stoking Powell’s curiosity are the repeated sightings emanating from Puerto Rico, off the coast of New England, and southern California’s Catalina Island.
Given the myriad filters needed – for example, are there cultural factors that might make Puerto Ricans more likely to report USOs? – the odds of wringing meaningful information from such threadbare data are long. Furthermore, Powell says the U.S. Navy is the military’s most obstinate branch when it comes to releasing FOIA material, and he’s not aware of anyone who has successfully acquired USO documents. “I think it’s safe to say the Navy isn’t going to volunteer what kind of stuff it’s sitting on,” he says.
Safe to say. So here’s to SCU, and its pursuit of pattern recognition via the tedium of statistics.