Meteor watchers and UFOs
A classic mismatch
By Dan Wright
"It's a bird; it's a plane; it's ... a school of fish? Lake degassing? A jettisoned airplane tank?
These offerings were the most prominently discussed possibilities during a two-week period in April and May when a volunteer group of meteor watchers posted thoughts on their internet forum (meteorobs.org) in response to an intriguing inquiry about a half-century-old event.
We've all grown weary of the haughty Big Science attitude toward the UFO subject. But those principals of academia and industry have reputations to protect, and so are expected to show skepticism.
Does that same snooty posturing extend to segments of the citizenry who merely dabble in one aspect or another of the sciences?
A 60-year-old woman named Linda had harbored suspicions all her life about the true nature of something she witnessed as a young child.
Finally, she decided to write a letter to the American Meteor Society (AMS)—an organization devoted to (1) measuring the intensity of the annual major and minor meteor showers alike, and (2) describing to one another in exquisite detail the occasional fireball streaking through the heavens.
Linda's email to the AMS was quite out of the ordinary, so it offered outsiders a chance to assess how the meteor watchers think on their feet. The text of her message:
"In 1952, when I was 8 years old, my family lived in a house on a hill overlooking Townline Lake in Lakeview, MI. I was sitting on the screened porch when I heard a loud splash.
"When I looked up, I saw a large round area of the lake boiling. I was frozen with fascination. The boiling area looked to be perfectly round. It was approximately 50-75 yards from shore (it's hard to judge distance across the water), and the round boiling area was approximately 30-40 feet wide.
"The boiling circle drifted to the left about 20-30 feet from where it had begun as if something was drifting down to the bottom of the lake at an angle. After watching it for several minutes, the boiling slowly stopped.
"Would a meteorite cause water to boil like that if it fell into a lake? Would it have cooled off enough to stop the water from boiling in only a few minutes? Would a meteorite cause the water to boil in a perfectly round pattern?
"Could a meteorite hitting earth be that large and not cause any destruction if it fell into a lake? I have always wondered what it might have been, and now, 52 years later, I remember the incident like it was only yesterday and am still perplexed by the incident."
Importantly, Linda had not actually seen the object that entered the water, and when she went inside to inform her mother after the boiling stopped, she might have missed any concluding sequence.
But she was clear that a loud splash had first attracted her attention, plus she had offered details on the size and slow movement of the boiling circle over several minutes.
Meteor watchers who posted comments were in agreement that, whatever caused the incident, it was not a meteor. [text bolded by me – CF-]
Given its likely entry speed in the thousands of miles per hour, a chunk of rock or metal sufficient in size to effect a continuous 30-40 [foot] circle of bubbles on the water's surface would undoubtedly have first caused an enormous sonic boom, followed by widespread destruction from the impact.
As one member put it, "If such a bolide came in, a huge end-of-the world, thundering-smashing sound would definitely have been more memorable than the bubbling lake, caused by the more distant mass entering with cosmic velocity."
Ignorant of the reported characteristics of discoid crafts entering bodies of water over the years—or that 1952 was huge in terms of UFO activity across America—no one in the group even considered the possibility of a structured craft from beyond Earth as the culprit.
Instead, what they did come up with as possibilities ranged from the plausible to the amusing. A sampling of their remarks:
"My highly uneducated guess would be that what (the woman) witnessed was an instance of lake degassing, wherein buildup of methane (a byproduct of the decomposition of organic matter) and/or CO2 reaches a certain pressure point, allowing the gas(es) to be spontaneously released en masse from lake-bottom sediment. Such an event occurred on a much larger scale in 1986 on Cameroon's Lake Nyos, killing over 1700 people."
This hypothesis (a lake version of swamp gas) ignores the loud splash that first drew the girl's attention.
A second meteorobs posting agreed with the notion of carbon dioxide buildup: "I believe the CO2 is in solution much like the CO2 within a soda bottle before opening. After the pressure is released, the CO2 gas bubbles rush to the surface. Whatever happened, it surely doesn't sound like a meteorite is at the root."
The degassing idea, however, did have one detractor: "Just wanted to sign in for a moment to say I agree that it is extremely unlikely to be a meteor. However, I don't think it's CO2 gas, either. There would have to be a source of CO2 gas (usually volcanic), and the lake would have to be deep enough to 'cork' the bottle with hydrostatic weight."
Enter the fish, compliments of a fourth meteor enthusiast: "Another theory is that she saw a fish fingerling school escaping from a predator. I have seen it and it looks and moves like she described. It is also transient in that many fish don't school when larger and really small fish stay in the shallows."
This hypothesis requires that the girl misidentified the water's roiling action from flapping fins for the bubbles she insists were seen.
And finally the inconsiderate pilot notion: "For what it is worth, in the 50s the Air Force pilots under certain flight situations jettisoned belly tanks—empty or otherwise—on what seemed to be a regular basis. When possible they were to be dropped over water. Sometimes accidentally."
At this point the intrepid UFO researcher entered the fray.
In pertinent part, my posting read: "There is another possibility, which in this case might be more plausible than anything derived from the annals of weird science. The year 1952 happened to include dramatic and persistent appearances of UFOs.
"Numerous military documents, since acquired via the Freedom of Information Act, reported pilot chases, uncorrelated radar targets, and repeated intrusions of airspace around the nation's Capitol....
"FYI, scores of eyewitnesses over the years are on record as having observed metallic disc-type vehicles entering lakes and ocean water, many of whom further described a bubbling on the surface presumably related to heat generated by the saucer's exterior1. Many of those persons further witnessed the reappearance of the disc as it emerged from underwater and flew out of sight."
The next day brought some inevitable derision, borrowed from the 18th century British philosopher David Hume: "That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish." Gosh, I felt really put in my place.
Fortunately, the witness herself came to my rescue. In a follow-up letter, Linda wrote:
"I want to thank everyone very much for their speculations as to what I may have witnessed on Townline Lake in 1952. While the lake was stocked with bluegill and bass, I don't think it was a school of fish, as it would have been too far away from shore for the smaller fish to school together.
"I have done a great deal of fishing in my life, and have seen many schools of fish being chased by predators, and it did not look the same. And even though fish cause some splashing when they are being chased, the splash I heard in 1952 was very loud. Much louder than a school of small fish make when fleeing a predator.
"The methane gas or even the UFO theories seem more plausible to me, although I doubt if the methane gas would have caused a loud splashing noise. Perhaps a loud bubbling noise.
"I am glad to know that everyone ruled out the meteorite theory, however, since that is what I always thought it was, and this information rules out that possibility.
"I was unaware of the large number of sightings of UFOs in 1952, and do not positively rule out that theory, since my husband and I saw a UFO in Indiana in 1981."
She went on to say that, as volunteer firefighters, they were monitoring the Indianapolis air traffic control tower when they heard pilots describing an unknown 35 miles south of the city—near the couple's home.
They drove to a hill outside their town where they spotted the object hovering at 3,000 feet.
Linda reports: "It was round, silver, and had red and green lights scrolling around its middle. The lights moved from right to left. It moved very slowly across the sky from east to west. Much slower than an airplane could move and still remain airborne.
"We watched it for at least 30 minutes while other airline pilots heading toward Indianapolis reported the same unidentified object to the control tower. Finally, the object flew straight up and out of sight within a matter of seconds."
Unfortunately from an investigative standpoint, Linda offered no date in her summaries for either the 1952 or 1981 event, and her email address has been protected by the meteorobs.org webmaster. Still, that second installment offered a measure of vindication.
As important, perhaps a few more widemeteor watchers now believe in miracles.
Reference for the above text is: MUFON UFO Journal, #448, August 2005, pp. 6-7.
UFOCAT PRN - NONE
Note #1: In my book UFOs and Water, I discuss the fact that the UFO field is so extremely hot that it not only melts snow and ice, but also can leave a perfect hole in clouds. In John Schuessler’s book The Cash-Landrum UFO Incident, he showed that it can even melt asphalt. -CF-
North America – United States, Michigan, Montcalm
Townline Lake Latitude 43-27-21 N, Longitude 085-12-15 W (D-M-S)
Lakeview Latitude 43-26-47 N, Longitude 085-16-27 W
Cameroon's Lake Nyos Latitude 06-26-17 N, Longitude 010-17-56 E (D-M-S)
Print this Page