Close en­coun­ters of alien kind re­mains a spaced-out the­ory


Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES - WIL­LIAM SAUN­DER­SON–MEYER

THIS is a big month for UFO fans. No, not the me­tal-head fol­low­ers of the English hard rock group of the same acro­nym. One is talk­ing here about the lead-heads who be­lieve in Uniden­ti­fied Fly­ing Ob­jects.

First, July 2 was In­ter­na­tional UFO day. Then, Google re­leased a doo­dle to mark the 66th an­niver­sary of the Roswell In­ci­dent, in which aliens were sup­pos­edly killed in a space­craft crash land­ing out­side the New Mex­ico town of Roswell. Fi­nally, the Bri­tish National Ar­chives has re­leased the fi­nal tranche of all Min­istry of De­fence ( MOD) doc­u­ments deal­ing with UFOs.

There are now some 52 000 pages ac­ces­si­ble on­line, run­ning from 1967 when “for de­fence” rea­sons the mil­i­tary’s UFO Desk was es­tab­lished, through to 2009, when it was shut down. The fi­nal tranche is free for down­load un­til the end of the month.

The rea­son for the re­lease of the pol­icy doc­u­ments, sight­ings re­ports, of­fi­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and pub­lic cor­re­spon­dence is sim­ply that while not ev­ery UFO sight­ing can be dis­proved, the MOD had con­cluded af­ter al­most 50 years that there was not a shred of ev­i­dence of close en­coun­ters of the alien kind. The UFO Desk was sim­ply a waste of man­power and money.

Or, as an MOD of­fi­cial in 2008 wrote in re­ply to yet an­other con­spir­acy the­o­rist: “There has been spec­u­la­tion that the de­ci­sion to re­lease the (MOD’s) UFO files is part of an in­ter­na­tional agree­ment to pre­pare the world’s pop­u­la­tion for the news that aliens are amongst us. I am afraid (this) is pure fan­tasy.”

The pic­ture that emerged from the reams of doc­u­ments is cer­tainly not of a se­cre­tive govern­ment des­per­ately hush­ing up the ar­rival of ET. Rather, it’s of a mil­i­tary bu­reau­cracy at great pains to be punc­til­iously cor­rect to­wards in­quir­ers who are gullible and nutty in equal mea­sure.

This of­ten in­cluded hav­ing to ob­tain from Bri­tish air bases vo­lu­mi­nous amounts of de­tail of sched­uled mil­i­tary flights, in­ter­cep­tor scram­blings and radar sight­ings, at a sub­stan­tial cost in time and man­power. Among the cor­re­spon­dence: “Does the MOD be­lieve that aliens have made con­tact with our planet?” MOD re­ply: “The MOD does not have any ex­per­tise in re­spect of… ex­tra- ter­res­trial life forms, about which it re­mains to­tally open minded. I should add that to date the MOD knows of no ev­i­dence which sub­stan­ti­ates the ex­is­tence of th­ese al­leged phe­nom­ena.”

“Is the MOD in pos­ses­sion of any non- man- made fly­ing ma­chine?” MOD re­ply: “The an­swer is no.”

In re­ply to an­other: “Thank you for your re­quest (re­gard­ing) any UFOs or ex­tra-ter­res­trial de­signed craft con­trolled by Homo Sapi­ens over Grimsby on De­cem­ber 2, 1997 be­tween 01h00 and 05h00. We have no such re­ports. In ad­di­tion, we have no knowl­edge of the ex­is­tence of any craft of alien de­sign.”

There is enough ma­te­rial in th­ese files to keep world govern­ment con­spir­acists, fly­ing saucer spot­ters and the I- was- ab­ducted- by- aliens- and­made- t o- do- nasty- s ex­ual- s t uf f bri­gade happy for ages. None of the sci­en­tists, though, have yet alighted on any­thing that cred­i­bly sug­gests alien civil­i­sa­tions are check­ing out hu­man­ity’s at­tempt at the same.

In fact, ev­ery MOD re­ply­ing to a sight­ing claim con­tains a com­mon­sense mantra: “Un­less there is ev­i­dence of a po­ten­tial threat to the United King­dom, and to date no ‘UFO’ has re­vealed such ev­i­dence, we do not at­tempt to iden­tify the pre­cise na­ture of each sight­ing. We be­lieve that ra­tio­nal ex­pla­na­tions such as air­craft lights or nat­u­ral phe­nom­ena could be found if re­sources were di­verted for this pur­pose (but) it is not the func­tion of the MOD to pro­vide an aerial iden­ti­fi­ca­tion ser­vice.”

And as sci­en­tists have pointed out, th­ese UFO sight­ings show tell­tale peaks. The high­est num­ber of re­ports was in 1978, the year that Close En­coun­ters of the Third Kind was re­leased in UK cinemas. An­other peak was in the mid-1990s when the US tele­vi­sion show The X-Files was at the height of its pop­u­lar­ity.

And sec­ond high­est peak, which was in 2009 when the UFO Desk was fi­nally shut down? Well, that was when re­leas­ing Chi­nese lan­terns at wed­dings be­came fash­ion­able.

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