Monday, December 14, 2009


British Ministry of Defence announcement

I've been reading a lot of comments by experts on the MoD announcement. If you haven't heard, on December 1, 2009, they posted a note saying the British government would no longer be investigating UFO reports received by their office:

The MoD noted that it would be "inappropriate" to use Defence budgetary funds and resources to investigate UFO reports and therefore it was closing its UFO hotline and not respond to email inquiries.

This isn't the least surprising. Given the popular scientific opinion that UFOs are nonsense, it was becoming increasingly difficult to justify having MoD personnel spend their valuable time dealing with UFO reports. Imagine the comments in MoD corridors: "Chasing after little green blokes again, are you, Wiggins?"

Canada did the same thing in the 1990s. For decades before then, an unassuming woman named Denise answered the phone and received teletypes then faxes about UFO sightings reported toe National Defence and the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics (now the Canadian Space Agency). She filed the reports in a green four-drawer filing cabinet marked "Non-Meteoric Sightings." Denise and that filing cabinet were the Canadian version of the X-Files for many years.

Several times, I flew into Ottawa and was greeted by Denise in her office. I spent many hours poring through UFO case files before she transferred them to National Archives at the end of each year. I would have coffee or lunch with some of the astronomers there, including Ian Halliday and Peter Millman, then wander to the National Archives to look through the older files there.

That's why I find this whole thing about "disclosure" so silly. The Canadian files were always available, and the only thing that has changed recently is that National Archives has been scanning the original case documents and putting them online as a convenience to UFO document seekers. But I and others have been looking at these docs for decades.

Anyway, when the Canadian government felt they would be getting some heat for having someone on the payroll taking calls and filing reports, they began unloading the task. To be fair, Denise did a lot of other work for the department, and suffice to say that her UFO-related activities were "other duties as assigned."

The Canadian "UFO desk" was shut down in stages. In 1995, the Canadian Space Agency suspended its agreement with the RCMP to investigate UFO reports. The police had been investigating sightings with the expectation that UFO reports were often meteors and that good investigations would allow the discovery of meteorites. This actually happened successfully a few times, most notably near Innisfree, Alberta, in 1977:

Obviously (at least to anyone who actually took a look at UFO sighting reports), most reported UFOs are not meteors, so most cases ended up in the "Non-Meteoric Sightings" file. "Non-Meteoric Sighting" in this case simply meant "UFO."

The reality is that Denise did not (and could not) investigate the reports received, so they all ended up just getting filed neatly in a drawer. Only one drawer in the four-drawer cabinet was used for UFO reports. I was told she put her lunch and purse in other drawers.

Occasionally, a few people like myself and Stan Friedman would visit and we were allowed to look at some files. I easily explained some reports as aircraft and other things, but I don't think Denise noted my comments anywhere. Several cases were very unusual and and I took the liberty of investigating them myself.

Alas, with the coming of tight budgets, the luxury of a UFO office in the Canadian Space Agency was not prudent, so it was closed. A significant chapter in the history of Canadian ufology was closed.

Fear not, young ufologist, for since 2000 I have been receiving such UFO reports. Canadian UFO reports filed through official channels are still accessible, and I suspect that's what will happen with the British reports as well. People will still report their UFO sightings to the MoD or other British departments, and they will be accessible in some form or another. As for investigation, that's up to British ufologists...
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