The most specific evidence of UFOs’ relationship to crop circles might be found in the following well-researched water nests report. Unlike the many supposed crop circles attributed to UFOs, but lacking the visual conformation of the craft, the Tully “nests” were discovered because the UFO was seen leaving the area. Here we have yet another aspect of the field surrounding the UFO acting physically on the environment. As Leonard Cramp likes to call it, “a piece for the jig-saw.” –CF-
My thanks go to the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) for permission to post this article. Please see end of each article for credits and copyright information. –CF-
Note: Although it was my intention to get to the original reports (earliest publication dates), I felt that this treatment of the case was perhaps a more encompassing version. So we begin…
Tully Saucer Nests of 1966
By Bill Chalker
[Bill Chalker, an IUR contributing editor, is one of Australia's leading researchers and coordinates the New South Wales UFO Investigation Centre (UFOIC). His book, The Oz Files, was published in 1996 by Duffy and Snellgrove.]
The Tully "saucer nest" has a very special place in UFO lore. The famous Tully "UFO nest" affair of 1966 is one of the best-known accounts of an apparent UFO landing report; it forms a very important nexus in the pivotal question of UFO reality.
1966 was a major year for UFO activity in Australia. The classic UFO landing at Horseshoe Lagoon near Tully in far north Queensland was witnessed by 28-year-old banana farmer George Pedley and entered the term UFO "nest" into popular UFO parlance. The locality was the center of an extended UFO milieu that continued for many years, particularly in 1969, 1972, and 1975. The area was also the site of controversial experiments in UFO detection through remote sensing and filming.
The Tully incident has been mentioned extensively in the UFO literature over the years, and yet surprisingly many inaccuracies and misconceptions have developed. These problems became more critical when the famous incident once again became the focus of attention, this time due to the English crop-circle controversy.
The prominent schools of thought on the crop-circle formations adopted the 1966 Tully incident as a classic example of their perceived explanations for the circle complexes. Their claims about the relevance of the Tully incident as the progenitor or a classic example of the currently perceived crop-circle phenomenon were flawed and generally unfounded. Doug and Dave, the notorious "circle" hoaxers, also cited the Tully incident as the inspiration of their crop-circle creation escapades.
But instead of being an example of a wind-vortex effect, spaceship landing site, the result of occult paranormal forces, "plasma vortex" evidence, or hoaxed saucer nest, the Pedley nest is a remarkable example of a UFO physical-trace case. The choice of UFO is deliberate in that an unidentified phenomenon was apparently involved, and a definitive explanation currently eludes us.
This photo shows one of several unexplained “nests” found in 1966 in the marshes of Horseshoe Lagoon near Tully, North Queensland, Australia. The largest nest, shown here, was 28 feet in diameter with the marsh grass laid flat in a clockwise pattern while in others it was counter-clockwise. Photo was sent by Dr. P.M.H. Edwards who received it from one of the principals, Albert Pennisi.
Reference: Our UFO Visitors by John Magor, p. 137, © 1977
The actual site of the 1966 nest was in a locality called Horseshoe Lagoon. The lagoon is approximately 40 feet wide and about 90 feet across in an approximately east-to-west direction. The locality gains its name from the horseshoe shape of the site. The water in the lagoon at the time of the incident was approximately six feet deep, but was largely obscured by dense swamp (sword grass) reed growth. These reeds were about half an inch thick and extended about two feet above the lagoon surface. The floor of the lagoon was a clay-base soil. In terms of access and view, Horseshoe Lagoon is open on its eastern side--the base of the U shape. This shape wraps around an area of trees and scrub. The lagoon is surrounded in all directions for some six kilometers by flat, lowland country. Some heavily forested areas are located some two kilometers to the south-southeast and to the south. Further isolated patches of trees are found among the sugar cane fields that dominate the area.
The lagoon is situated on property owned by Albert Pennisi. The Pennisi family has lived there since 1947. His residence is approximately 1.6 kilometers to the north. A line of trees about a kilometer north of the lagoon obstructs the view from the house.
At about 9:00 a.m. on January 19, 1966, George Pedley was driving a tractor heading south along a narrow track on Albert Pennisi's sugar cane farm.
The weather that morning was calm, with the sun shining at approximately 30 to 40 degrees east. When he was approximately 25 yards from Horseshoe Lagoon, Pedley heard, above the noise of the tractor, a loud hissing sound, "like air escaping from a tire."
“The tractor tires seemed O.K. to me, so I drove on," Pedley said. "Suddenly, an object rose out of the swamp. When I glanced at it, it was already 30 feet above the ground and at about treetop level. It was a large, gray, saucer-shaped object, convex on the top and bottom, and measured some 25 feet across and nine feet high. While I watched, it rose another 30 feet, spinning very fast, then it made a shallow dive and took off with tremendous speed.
"Climbing at an angle of 45 degrees, it disappeared within seconds in a southwesterly direction ...." He added, "I saw no portholes or antennas, and there was no sign of life either in or about the ship."
A PHYSICAL TRACE
When Pedley drove around the bend of the track to the lagoon, there, at the spot beneath where the object had risen, was a huge, round, cleared area in the swamp grass. The water in this circular area was slowly rotating and appeared to be completely cleared of reeds. With this evidence of what he had observed, Pedley concluded, "I have really seen something!" He had passed the same spot some three hours earlier, as close as 12 feet, and had not seen anything unusual.
Within a few minutes, he returned to his tractor, which he found he had to restart. He had noted just immediately prior to hearing the hissing sound a noise like a misfire in the tractor motor. He was sure it had not stopped. As with most farmers, it was not his habit to switch off the tractor motor until finished with it.
Later in the day, apparently about noon, George returned along the track and stopped for another inspection. The cleared area of the lagoon surface was no longer visible. What was clearly evident was a floating mass of reeds, approximately 30 feet in diameter that had apparently come to the surface of the lagoon during the time Pedley was absent. The floating mass of reeds and grass was noticeably distributed in a radial pattern, in a clear clockwise manner. Pedley was certain the reeds were quite green in this mass, as they were in all the surrounding reeds in the lagoon.
Unable to keep this experience to himself, by about midafternoon George Pedley had told a friend and also Albert Pennisi, the property owner. He led them both to the spot where the extraordinary evidence lay. Both were astounded. Neither had ever seen anything like this before, despite being experienced bushmen. Pennisi knew the area of his lagoon well, and a circular effect like this was totally unprecedented in his experience. Pennisi and Pedley waded out to the floating mass and found that it was possible to swim from either side under the mass. The water was clear of any obstructions and the lagoon floor beneath it was smooth and clear of any roots.
Pedley and Pennisi were most struck by a particular feature of the surface of the floating reed bed --what seemed to be a clear print or impression of the UFO. The outer perimeter of the floating mass was thrust down markedly as if indented by a massive inverted saucer shape, with a circular center about six to eight feet in diameter. Pennisi rushed to his house and returned with a camera to take a series of photos. By then the upper surfaces of the reeds on top of the nest had turned brown. The underside of the reeds remained green. This browning had occurred by late afternoon, some eight hours after the sighting by Pedley.
OTHER TRACE ANOMALIES
About six feet to the north of the nest, a rectangular patch of the swamp couch grass, approximately five by six feet, had been clipped at water level and pulled out completely. Pedley apparently noticed this initially with his original observation of the circular area. A further interesting anomaly was found by Christine Rounland, whose husband helped Pedley with crop fertilizing. She came across some ground markings that resembled curious tracks in loose plowed soil of an adjoining paddock between Pedley's banana palms. They led from the direction of the lagoon area and extended a short distance into the plowed field. They were shaped like a teardrop, pointed on one end and rounded at the other. Each was about three to four inches in length and about two inches across at their widest point. They were spaced out at about 12-inch intervals and in a straight line.
Subsequent underwater checks indicated three large holes in the muddy floor of the lagoon beneath the Pedley nest. Whether these were there at the time of the sighting could not be absolutely proven, but to some they suggested the possibility of tripod landing indentations.
Pedley also reported later that he noticed the presence of a "sulfur" smell in the area around the nest just after the UFO had departed.
THE NEST MILIEU DEVELOPS
While only the nest associated with George Pedley's sighting had an explicit connection with a UFO close encounter, other nests were found in quick succession in Horseshoe Lagoon. Though intriguing, none of the subsequent finds were as compelling as the original nest. The area became the focus of ongoing nest phenomena, and indeed Tully became known as the UFO capital of Australia. Tully had long been known as the locality with one of the highest regular rainfalls in Australia. The period of Pedley's encounter fell within the wet season, namely January to February. Usually this takes the form of heavy to drizzling rain. Hence it is easy to see why a weather phenomenon was deemed a possible explanation.
However, the facts do not lend themselves to this convenient answer. Strong winds during this wet season usually occur when cyclones are present. Pedley’s encounter occurred during calm, fine weather. The prevailing weather for the area in the 24 hours preceding the incident was not conducive to the formation of local windstorms. Locals are familiar with wind damage, even those involving small-scale vortices. These usually feature rougher and messy grass coverage disturbance and evidence of debris and trails in the immediate locality. None of this was evident.
When the news of George Pedley's encounter and the nest started to spread, coverage through the media proliferated. It was front page news. All sorts of theories abounded for the nest. Helicopters, nesting birds (Big Bird?), crocodiles, dogs, secret military devices, spaceships, reed-eating grubs, whirlwinds, and smaller vortex systems (known locally as "willy-willies") were among the many ideas trotted out. There was some confusion with regard to the direction of the nest spiral which persisted in various accounts over the years. The Pedley nest had a clockwise swirl. This aspect at least ruled out one explanation. The Brisbane Courier Mail on January 25, 1966, stated, "RAAF officials discounted the theory that nests' have been made by helicopters. The RAAF said that in depressions left by helicopters, the grass usually ran in an anticlockwise direction---the main nest found at Tully ran in a clockwise direction."
Alf Macdonald, the stock-routes inspector for Northern Queensland, who had lived in the area since 1933, thought the wind-vortex theory was unlikely. He said that the district had not had a strong whirlwind and indicated that they left a path anyway. George Pedley also commented, “I’ve seen wet whirlwinds and dust whirlwinds. If the police believe this, let them. I know what I saw. It wasn't a whirlwind." The Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society (now VUFORS) published an excellent item, "The Tully ‘nests’: How freakish can whirlwinds be?" which concluded that "the atmospheric vortex hypothesis" was untenable, despite cyclonic rotation in the southern hemisphere being clockwise. Large-scale vortex weather systems such as cyclones and whirlwinds largely have their rotation determined by the Coriolis effect, but local factors can negate these tendencies, particularly in willy-willies.
Stan Seers of the Queensland Flying Saucer Research Bureau (QFSRB) arranged for samples to be taken by Albert Pennisi, namely reeds, mud, and water from the nest area and also from nearby grass. These were received in Brisbane on January 24 and submitted for examination to the Queensland University Botany and Physics departments. Results for radioactivity were minimal. All samples bar one were negative. The sample taken from the center of the nest showed a small increase in beta activity, much less than from a luminous wristwatch dial. Mr. G. Taylor, the staff physicist, confirmed that this was an insignificant result and was probably within background readings. Dr. Langdon of the botany department reported that the grass apparently died from submersion in swamp water. No evidence for parasitic infestation or burning was found. The submersion theory was not supported by the facts or local tests conducted by Albert Pennisi at the suggestion of QFSRB. It seemed the reeds in the nest had turned brown in about eight hours. Reeds that were uprooted and submerged in swamp water turned brown after about three days.
Aerial and ground searches of the area were conducted in the wake of the Pedley find. Another two nests were found on January 20 by local farmer Tom Warren and school teacher Hank Penning, only 25 yards from the original nest. They were a few feet apart and only about a third of the diameter of the original. The reeds were flattened, one clockwise and the other counterclockwise. This find led to extensive searches. A week after the original find, cane farmer Lou Lardi and his nephew, Van Klaphake, discovered another two nests, both apparently much older than the Pedley find. One was about 12 feet in diameter and the other was eight feet, with distinct signs of burning in a circular patch of reeds in its center. A few days later, an identical "new" nest with an apparently scorched center was found among the earlier nests. The last three nests all had their reeds flattened in [a] counterclockwise fashion.
The traces found after the original nest, although interesting, are less compelling because of the huge interest and presence of many people in the wake of the initial publicity. Although not proven, hoaxing may have been possible in the later finds. None of these nests had an apparent UFO connection.
There was extensive UFO activity being reported, but none of it was related to explicit UFO landing events.
George Pedley, a bachelor, lived with Ashley Butler, 64, a neighboring farmer. He was known to be a quiet, hard worker. None of the locals had anything against him, even those who did not believe in his sighting. He said to journalists, "Had anyone asked me five days ago if I believed in flying saucers, I'd have laughed and thought they were nuts. But now I know better."
Farmer George Pedley's sighting at Horseshoe Lagoon and the physical evidence found there caused a media sensation.
The Brisbane Sunday Mail for January 23 quoted Pedley:
I was driving the tractor through a neighbouring property on my way to
my farm about 9 a.m. on Wednesday when I heard a loud hissing noise
above the engine noise of the tractor.
At first I ignored the sound, but suddenly I saw a spaceship rise at
great speed out of Horseshoe Lagoon, about 25 yards in front of me.
It was blue-grey, about 25 ft. across, and nine feet high. It spun at a
terrific rate as it rose vertically to about 60 ft., then made a shallow dive
and rose sharply. Travelling at a fantastic speed, it headed off in a
southwesterly direction. I saw no portholes or antennae, and there was no
sign of life either in or about the ship.
But on my way home to Tully that night, I met Albert Pennisi, who
owns the property where I saw the saucer. He said that about 5:30 a.m.
on Wednesday, his dog suddenly went mad and bounded off towards the lagoon.
THE UFO MILIEU
While George Pedley was himself a skeptic converted by his experience, the January 19 sighting did not occur in a vacuum. One surprising element came out in an article by Sun-Herald journalist John Dickson on January 23. Pedley attributed the following to Albert Pennisi, the property owner:
He believed me straight away and told me he had been dreaming for a
week that a flying saucer would land on his property.
He said that about 5:50 a.m. on Wednesday [the morning of the discovery
of the original nest], his dog suddenly went mad and bounded off towards the lagoon.
Pennisi elaborated on these dreams in an interview with the Sydney Sun on January 24, 1966. He was quoted by journalist Ben Davie:
I'd get them almost every night. And they were beginning to worry me. I
couldn't understand them. It was always the same. This thing like a giant
dish would come out of nowhere and land nearby. And I would watch it in
my dream and get real afraid before it went away. Then on Wednesday
morning about 5 o'clock, my dog suddenly seemed to go out of its mind. It was
howling like a mad thing and raced off towards the lagoon.
While Pennisi did not clarify this strange element to the Tully UFO saga, there were suggestions of paranormal happenings. Much of this information was anecdotal and unconfirmed.
More than a decade later, according to information I received, at nearby Murray Upper, a similar situation apparently unfolded. A young woman was awakened by her father apparently because he thought the house was on fire. There was a huge, orange glow outside. They tried to wake up other family members without success. Fear started to overcome them, and they ran down the hallway of the house away from the light. Their next recollection was that they both woke up the next morning extremely puzzled by what seemed to be a bizarre, shared dream. Over breakfast they heard radio reports of UFO sightings. They then realized their memories were not dreams. A circular area of flattened sugar cane was found near the house. I subsequently spoke with the young woman. While she only confirmed these events in a vague sort of way, she did have a history that many would consider to be a classic UFO abduction. I even spoke to her father, but he did not confirm the experience and was not keen to elaborate further. I was not able to confirm the validity of the affair.
There were other accounts in the surrounding area that were somewhat suggestive but ultimately unconfirmable. For example, Ted Phillips's Physical Traces Associated with UFO Sightings catalogue (CUFOS, 1975) describes the following intriguing event:
At about 10 p.m., on November 5th, 1971, in the South Johnstone area, two
locomotive men of the South Johnstone Cooperative Sugar Milling Assoc., Ltd.
were in the Number Two Branch area when the traffic control officer tried to
contact them by radio. Jumbled and incoherent voices were heard. Believing
an accident had occurred, a rescue party was sent out. One of the group
observed a dazzling and powerful light in the area where burnt cane scarred by
great heat was found. When they reached the driver and fireman, they found
them stupefied with one man repeatedly pointing to the sky. Both were taken
to a hospital.
The source is cited as the Evening Advocate.
The UFO Investigation Centre (UFOIC) files of the early 1970s reveal a possible partial confirmation of the story. A correspondent referred to what was apparently this incident:
It was either during the inward or the outward trip of a loco that the driver
and his mate saw a strange light in one of the fields. On investigation of the
light, the men are reported to have seen some kind of strange object in the
field... The upshot was that they were placed in [a] hospital under sedation, for
about 2 weeks, due probably to hysteria ....
One of the most prolific sources of UFO stories from the Tully area was local witness Claire Noble. She reported on extensive activity that preceded the famous Pedley sighting of January 1966. According to Noble, there had been aboriginal stories spanning many years from Tully Gorge, the Murray River, and mountain areas around Tully.
Apparently, aboriginal folklore suggested similar occurrences from earlier times although I have not come across explicit evidence of this. One of the earlier reports came from near Euramo, the closest village to Horseshoe Lagoon. In September 1959, a Max Menzel was driving a tractor when he spotted "a brilliant, large, conical craft, approximately 30 feet long," which seemed to be hovering over the top of a stand of sugar cane, just 100 feet away. A nearby house was illuminated in a vivid red and orange light. There was a proliferation of sightings through 1965, including an apparent nighttime landing on the slopes of Mount Mackay on November 29.
Activity surged for months in the wake of Pedley's experience. The Tully district seemed to be haunted by UFOs. Nest activity reoccurred during early 1968, culminating in a strange affair involving a remote UFO detector and linked camera at Horseshoe Lagoon being triggered and running off footage. The undeveloped footage was posted off to Kodak. The package was returned with a note from Kodak saying the container contained no film on arrival in Melbourne, despite the original postage being indicative of a film being present. Investigators even used a local member of parliament to try to get to the bottom of the missing film mystery, but all to no avail.
Nest activity also occurred at Horseshoe Lagoon during subsequent years including 1969, 1972, 1975, 1981, and 1987. By 1990 Albert Pennisi was indicating there had been 22 nests at his lagoon since 1966. However, none were as compelling with regard to an explicit UFO connection as George Pedley’s find in 1966. While hoaxing and misinterpretation was suggested in some of the later finds, such allegations were not applicable to the original nest.
I have spoken to George Pedley on a number of occasions. Initially I found him to be reluctant to resurrect his experience. However, he was interested enough to assist a serious attempt to clarify what had happened. On June 13, 1981, I interviewed him:
B.C.: From what I have read, you saw what you called a spaceship? You didn't really describe it in much detail.
G.P.: Oh, I would never have said I saw a spaceship!
B.C.: That's what the papers were quoting you as saying.
G.P.: Well, that's wrong for a start. I saw an object... something going up and that's it. Just what it was, I don't know.
B.C.: What did you really see?
G.P.: Well, I just saw this thing in the sky and it took off! It was about 25 feet when I saw it. 25 to 30 feet in the air when I saw it.
B.C.: It was in the air when you saw it?
G.P.: Oh yes, I didn't see it in the lagoon as they say. That's wrong. The marks were in the
lagoon… and it just took off from there (in the air). It went up another 25 feet and it
just flew straight out.
B.C: So you saw it rise up from a position of about 20 feet when you first saw it.
G.P.: That's right.
B.C.: And the position where you first saw it, was that in the same spot where the nests were
G.P.: You mean the object?
B.C.: Yes, where you saw the object rise up, you say you saw it originally from 20 feet in the
air, roughly about 20 feet in the air...
B.C.: Where the nests were subsequently found, was that directly beneath that position or...
G.P.: That's correct.
B.C.: What sort of size would you have put on it?
G.P.: Size? Oh, the size was pretty right. I'd say 29-30 feet, something like that.
B.C.: Did you get the impression of an object, or was it sort of a solid-looking thing or
G.P.: Well, I thought it was a solid thing at the time. I didn't see any portholes or anything
like that,antennas or anything like that. They could have been there; I'm not saying
they weren't there.
B.C.: What sort of shape would you have put on it?
G.P.: Something similar to like two saucers, you know, face to face...
B.C.: What sort of color?
G.P.: It seemed a silvery gray, a blue gray, like that.
G.P.: [With regard to the media assertions that he saw the object rise up out of the lagoon] I
think there was a little bit of misunderstanding there. I would say it was their fault.
Anyway, I'd never say that.
B.C.: So how long in sight was it for?
G.P.: We worked it out to say 30 seconds.
THE RAAF FILES
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) files describe the famous Tully incident in the following manner:
At about 9:00 a.m. on 19th January, 1966, Mr. G. A. Pedley, a banana grower
of Tully, Qld, observed a light grey, non-reflecting, dull object, reported to be
about 25 feet long and 8 feet deep, rise vertically then climb on an angle of 45°
from a height of about 30 feet above marshland which was situated about
25 yards away from his position. There was an associated hissing noise
which decreased as the "object" rose. The apparent shape was described
as "two saucers, face to face," but no structural detail was observed. The
duration of the observation was approximately 15 seconds, and it disappeared
in midair whilst receding into the distance (not assessed).
A clearly defined, near circular depression remained in evidence in swamp
grass at the point from which the object was seen rising and measured about
32 feet long by 25 feet wide. The grass was flattened in clockwise curves
to water level within the circle, and the reeds had been uprooted from the mud.
There was no scorching of grass or surrounding trees, and the observer
stated that there was no smell of combustion...
My research of the RAAF files uncovered the original police report on the incident. As these are the earliest documented sources, extracts of it are included here of details not included in the above statement made in 1973 in response to an enquiry from the Australian newspaper.
George Pedley reported his experience to Tully Police at 7:30 p.m. on January 19. At 7:00 a.m. on January 20, George Pedley and Sgt. A. V. Moylan went to the site of the incident. Sgt. Moylan then contacted Townsville RAAF Base by telephone on the morning of January 20. Flt. Lt. Wallace advised Moylan that he would forward a pro forma questionnaire for completion by Pedley.
On Friday, January 21st, Wallace confirmed dispatch of two copies of the sighting pro forma by mall that same day and also requested Moylan obtain "a sample of the grass from the scorched area." At 3:30 p.m. on the same day, Moylan returned to the site and took a sample "of the grass from the depression in the swamp grass at the site."
The pro forma was filled out by Moylan based on his interviews with Pedley and was dated January 26. Moylan dispatched the report and the sample on the same day.
The following details are extracted from the "RAAF Report on Aerial Object Observed" that Moylan filled out with George Pedley. Because so many conflicting claims have been made about what Pedley said at the time, it is worthwhile to go back to the original official documentation filled out at the time of the incident:
Name of Observer: George Alfred PEDLEY aged 28 years.
Manner of observation: Travelling on a tractor about ½ mile from farm
house of Albert PENNISI, Rockingham Road, Euramo. Attention attracted by
hissing noise, clearly heard over noise of tractor--similar to air escaping from
tyre; checked tyres and was looking about for source of noise when he saw
object about 25 yards ahead. No optical instruments used in sighting.
Height or angle of elevation: First seen at treetop height 30¢. Rose
vertically to about twice that height, then departed, climbing at about 45
Speed or angular velocity: Extremely fast; No estimate of speed,
but much faster than an aeroplane. It was near treetops and these gave
observer a good basis for estimating height.
Direction of flight with reference to landmarks or points of the compass:
Rose vertically to about 60 feet and departed southwest climbing at
about 45 degrees; appeared to be rotating for full time observed. (object
appeared to remain on) straight climbing path.
Existence of any physical evidence: Clearly defined, near-circular
depression in swamp grass at point from which object seen rising, about 32¢
long and 25¢ wide. Grass flattened to surface of 4’ of water lying in
Sgt. Moylan in his report had typed in anticlockwise initially and then corrected it to clockwise, by overtyping "anti" with "xxxx." The direction of the swirl at the site of the 19 January 1966 incident was to become a matter of ongoing confusion. The clockwise direction was the correct direction.
Weather conditions experienced at time of observation: Clear sky; Hot
Location of any air traffic in the vicinity at the time of sighting: Unknown
but checked by RAAF Garbut[t].
Flt. Lt. Wallace of Townsville RAAF Base, in a covering minute paper, confirmed that "there were no service or civil aircraft operating in the area… at the time of the sighting."
Any additional information: [Moylan wrote] Observer reported this matter
to Tully Police at 7:30pm on 19/1/66 and at 7 a.m., 20/1/66 went with me to the
site of the depression in the swamp. His version then included the information
that the object rose vertically, appeared to dip slightly and then went off in
straight climbing path. He then said . . . further that there was no smell of
combustion and no scorching of grass or trees visible; that the flattened
grass or rushes was quite green when he first saw the depression; on his
return that afternoon the grass had turned brown.
[Moylan further added:] In this matter I formed the opinion that the
depressed area in the swamp grass had been caused by a small helicopter
and that the observer, in the early morning bright sunlight shining on the
rotor, may have mistaken the shape. His descriptionof the takeoff lent some
strength to my opinion.
However, there was cleared land to the east for about 200 yards where
such an aircraft could have more safely landed instead of the position indicated
by the observer close to trees. Later I was informed by Wallace Evans of ...
Tully, an electrician, that he has seen similar markings in a swamp at
Kurrumine Beach and is quite certain that it was caused by a whirlwind
sucking up water into a waterspout, uprooting the grass, and laying it out in
a similar pattern. At 3:30 p.m., 21/1/66, I took a sample of the grass at the site
and have forwarded it under separate cover on even date.
Flt. Lt. T. D. Wright, for Air Officer Commanding, Headquarters Operational Command, RAAF, Penrith, New South Wales, forwarded Moylan's report on Pedley's UFO sighting and Wallace's covering minute paper to the Department of Air, Russell Offices, Canberra. His communication, classified "restricted" and channelled to the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI), also indicated, "This headquarters believes that the depressions of the swamp grass were caused by small isolated waterspouts."
In response to an inquiry, dated February 2, 1966, from the Commonwealth Aerial Phenomena Investigation Organisation (CAPIO), the Secretary of the Department of Air, A. B. McFarlane, wrote on February 11:
Investigations of the area surrounding the reported "nests," testing of samples
taken from around them, and interrogation of persons involved in the report
failed to reveal anything of significance.
However, during enquiries a number of local residents stated that the
reported "nests" are fairly common during the onset of the "wet."
Furthermore, the University of Queensland stated that there was
nothing unnatural in the samples submitted and assessed that the "nests"
could have been the result of severe turbulence, which normally accompany
line squalls and thunderstorms prevalent in NORTH QUEENSLAND at the time
of the year.
There is no explanation for the visible phenomena reported, but it could
have been associated with or the result of "down draughts," "willy-willies" or "
waterspouts" that are known to occur in the area.
... for information...in January of this year from an airfield in the tropics [a
number of photographs taken give] a fine example of the type and growth of
a cloud formation occurring with a severe "down draught." This whirling
mass of tropical air associated with thunderstorm activity, on reaching the
earth's surface, may dissipate and subside or persist, giving rise to dust eddies,
waterspouts, etc., leaving a telltale circular pattern on the ground. Should
it occur over a swampy reed bed, the effect would be to flatten the reeds
with a circular pattern. Resultant photographs and investigations of the "nests"
seem to fit in with this theory and is accepted as a possible cause of the phenomena.
It is fascinating to note how McFarlane's cursory explanatory exposition, no doubt inspired by "the tornado-like meteorological phenomena" that infested skies over Willow Grove, Victoria (Charles Brew's famous 1963 close encounter) and Vaucluse Beach, New South Wales (Dennis Crowe's striking suburban encounter in 1965)—see Part Two of this article—anticipated by almost two decades Dr. Terence Meaden's early theoretical attempts to explain the English "crop circles" of the 1980s. Meaden would mistakenly assume that George Pedley saw his "vortex" at 9 p.m., not 9 a.m., which was a fatal flaw in the mechanism he originally put forth to explain the report.
Editor's note: Bill Chalker’[s] study of the Tully saucer-nest will conclude in the Spring 1998 issue, where the crop-circle phenomenon will be compared with the Australian nests.
[Follows immediately -CF-]
This reference: “Tully Saucer Nests of 1966 – Part One” by Bill Chalker, International UFO Reporter, Winter 1997-98, Vol. 22, #4, pp. 14-20, © CUFOS 1998.
Tully Saucer Nests of 1966
By Bill Chalker
Editor's note: In Part One of this article, Bill Chalker reviewed the investigation of the Tully, Queensland (Australia) "saucer nests" discovered by George Pedley in 1966. In this segment, he compares Tully with similar anomalous ground traces.
This event involved a tornado-like meteorological manifestation. At 7:00 a.m., February 15, 1963, Charles Brew bore witness to a classic close encounter. With his 20-year-old son Trevor, Brew was at work in the milking shed on their farm, "Willow Grove," near Moe, Victoria. It was light, but rain clouds lay overhead. Charles Brew was standing in an open area, with a full view of the eastern sky. It was from that direction that he saw a strange object appear and descend very slowly towards the milk shed. The object's approach was coincident with the cattle and a pony reacting violently. The two farm dogs fled. A local newspaper even reported that the cows turned somersaults, a suggestion the Brews denied.
The UFO descended to an apparent height of between 75 and 100 feet, hovering over a large stringy-bark tree. It was about 25 feet in diameter and 9 to 10 feet high. The top section appeared to be a transparent dome of a glass-like material from which protruded a 5-to-6-foot-high mast or aerial. The "aerial" appeared to be as thick as a broom and resembled bright chrome. The top portion of the disc itself was battleship gray in color and appeared to be of a metallic luster. The base or underside section glowed with a pale blue color and had "scoop-like protuberances about 12 to 18 inches apart around the outside edge." This section rotated slowly at about one revolution per second. This spinning motion apparently caused the protuberances to generate a swishing noise, somewhat like a turbine noise, that was clearly audible not only to Brew but also to Trevor, who was located inside the shed near the operating diesel-powered milking machine units.
Charles Brew described how he felt his eyes were drawn towards the object "as though beams of magnetic current" were between it and him. He also experienced a peculiar headache which came on with the approach of the object. Even though Brew normally did not suffer migraine[s?], the use of tablets did not subdue the headache.
After hovering for a few seconds, the object began to climb at roughly a 45-degree angle, continuing on its westward course and passing up into the cloud deck again. Trevor did not see the UFO, but confirmed the unusual sound, like a didgeridoo or "bullroarer"--an Aboriginal wind instrument that can produce a pulsating, wind-rushing noise.
Flt. Lt. N. Hudson and Sqd. Ldr. A.F. Javes of the RAAF interviewed Charles Brew on site on March 4, 1963. While impressed with his credibility, the weather at the time of the sighting--heavy continuous rain with very low cloud and poor visibility, and with a fresh wind in an easterly direction--caused them to focus on weather-related explanations. Their report describes the basis of their somewhat extraordinary "explanation" for the incident:
On 6th March, Dr. Berson and Mr. Clark [of the CSIRO (Commonwealth
Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation) Meteorological Physics Division]
were interviewed to see if clouds give this type of phenomenon. They agreed
that a tornado condition could give this effect. The direction of rotation of
Brew's report of the object was consistent with known facts for the
Southern Hemisphere. The blueish colouring has been reported previously
and is probably due to electric discharge and there would be a smell of
ozone. The only difference in Brew's report was that the object moved from
east to west because all previous reports to the CSIRO Met section of this
nature have been from west to east. Mr. Brew stated that the wind was fresh
from an easterly direction. However, [a] meteorological report states that
wind was westerly at 8 knots.
The report notes that the Met report was from a Yallourn observer, which is about 20 kilometers away; therefore local variations in the weather would not have been unusual.
Despite this lack of rigor in determining how relevant their hypothesis was, the RAAF officer's report concluded, "There is little doubt that Brew did witness something, and it is most likely that it was a natural phenomenon. The phenomenon was probably a tornado. There was no reported damage along its path; therefore, one could assume that it was weak in nature."
The Department of Air responded to a civilian UFO group inquiry about the incident with the following statement:
Our investigation and enquiries reveal that there are scientific records of
certain tornado-like meteorological manifestations which have a similar
appearance in many ways to whatever was seen by Mr. Brew. The
information available is such, however, that while we accept this is a possibility,
we are unable to come to any firm conclusion as to the nature of the
object or manifestation reported.
The official sighting summaries removed any such doubt. By then the "possible cause" was listed as a "tornado-like meteorological manifestation." In correspondence with the Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society (VFSRS), the CSIRO's Dr. Berson indicated, "we are unable to come to any firm conclusion as to the nature of the object or manifestation reported." It seems clear that the RAAF were largely parroting the CSIRO's conclusions and taking things a little further without any realistic justification. Their musings prefigured Terence Meaden's "vortex" hypothesis for crop-circle formations by some two decades.
Berson and an associate visited Charles Brew at the Willow Grove property. According to Brew, Berson was interested in the headache that he had and indicated that Berson had said that it tied in with their theory of a possible electromagnetic nature of the incident. The CSIRO's field investigation had in fact preceded the RAAF by about a week. There was evidently extensive interest from the military and government scientists. Brew indicated that the RAAF officers told him that the object he saw was similar to those seen overseas and that it was the best sighting they had looked at.
What the Department of Air referred to as a "tornado-like meteorological manifestation" elicited the following emotive description from Charles Brew. It mirrors the striking nature of his encounter with the unknown. He said, "I wished it would come again. It was beautiful. I could feel the life pulsating from it."
A local bard penned a witty ballad, placing the sighting as happening at night, not in the morning, but let's indulge him. The local newspaper, the Moe Advocate, described it thus:
... the following heretical ballad has been submitted by a Moe resident who asks
us to preserve his anonymity as he is "strongly against capital punishment:
FROM MARS TO MOE (MO)
At Willow Grove, northwest of Moe,
One starry summer's night,
A flying saucer ‘peared on high,
And gave the cows a fright.
Don't scoff or scorn at Willow Grove,
Or throw jokes at its face,
For Willow Grove's not far from Moe
And Moe's the queerest place.
For we who've lived here long enough,
Are not surprised one bit,
That men from Mars should visit us,
And give the cows a fit.
... Perhaps these saucer jokers,
Wandering lost amongst the stars,
Thought Moe's like nothing else on earth,
And reckoned it was Mars.
With the help of VFSRS, Dr. James McDonald visited Charles Brew during his 1967 Australian trip and interviewed him at the site of the 1963 incident. McDonald concluded, "like that of many other UFO witnesses, it is extremely difficult to explain in present-day scientific or technological terminology."
Despite the extraordinary nature of the Willow Grove incident and the high level of official interest in it, the sighting was listed in a subsequently released "Summary of Unidentified Aerial Sightings reported to Department of Air, Canberra, ACT, from 1960" as having a possible cause of "tornado-like meteorological manifestation."
VAUCLUSE BEACH “TORNADO”
Between showers and high winds, Dennis Crowe, a former technical artist with English aircraft companies, was walking along Vaucluse Beach, one of Sydney's beach suburbs, at about 5:30 p.m., on July 19, 1965. He became aware of a glow coming from what appeared to be a huge disc-shaped object resting on leg-like structures. The object's diameter was estimated at some 20 feet. It had a glowing, greenish-blue rim, while the top and bottom halves were dull silver-gray in appearance. Crowe thought a hollow in the top could have been a glass dome. He could not make out any sign of movement in the object. When he approached the object to within 50 to 60 feet, it suddenly lifted off the ground. A noise, like air being forcibly released from a balloon, was noticed. The UFO climbed rapidly and within 10 seconds had disappeared into clouds. There were no other witnesses to the encounter save a dozen or so dogs. While the object was stationary, they were all barking loudly at it. After it took off, they were all strangely silent. A geologist made independent calculations at the landing site which confirmed definite traces of an unusual object having rested there. He stated that the vegetation there was dying and would remain dead for a number of years. The Royal Australian Air Force put forward a possible explanation for this extraordinary incident. They suggested it was a "tornado.''
The Vaucluse "tornado" was another remarkable example of an unlikely explanation put forward by the RAAF that perhaps anticipated meteorologist Terence Meaden's plasma-vortex hypothesis and his extreme applications of it to English crop circles of the 1980s and 1990s and significant UFO physical trace events.
THE TULLY "WILLY-WILLY"
The only other significant official statement on the Tully sighting I found in the RAAF flies was included in a letter by Mr. G. J. Odgers, Director of Public Relations, Department of Defence (Air Office), dated December 17, 1973, directed to Charles Wright, a journalist working on a[n] article for the national newspaper, The Australian.
George Odgers's Air Office Public Relations Department had clearly gleaned from the 1966 DAFI files details of an explanation of what George Pedley had seen that the original RAAF officers and department officers back in 1966 had not determined:
Although a conclusive determination could not be made, the most probable
explanation was that the sighting was of a "willy-willy" or circular wind
phenomenon which flattened the reeds and sucked up debris to a height of
about 30 feet, thus forming what appeared to be a "flying saucer," before
moving off and dissipating. Hissing noises are known to be associated with
"willy-willies," and the theory is also substantiated by the clockwise configuration
of the depression.
Mr. Odgers further added, more generally,
All too often unusual occurrences are reported in sensational terms with little
or no attempt made at rational assessment. The general subject is "newsworthy"
and lends itself to sensationalism and guesswork, but in most cases logical
explanations follow from careful investigation. You will appreciate that there is
nothing to be gained from reopening old cases. [A sentiment I would not agree
The crop-circle controversy is a very recent phenomenon on the unusual ground-effects stage, with specific and limited physical and social dimensions. My "physical traces" review in UFOs 1947-1987 highlighted the rich tradition of UFO-related ground traces. The English crop-circle controversy is a belated aberration that has done more damage than good for the credibility of the physical dimensions of the UFO phenomenon.
The controversy has also been embraced by the New Age community, some of whom view the striking complex patterns as vindication of obscurely expressed signs that Mother Earth is in trouble and this is her way of alerting us to wake up and do the right thing--noble thoughts, but in this context more a tribute to woolly thinking and gullible belief in very dubious crop circles.
I took an early interest in the English crop-circle saga as it unfolded in the early 1980s, alert for any potential implications for the UFO mystery. However, it quickly became evident that the English crop-circle milieu was a startling example of a modern myth in the making. In the majority of cases, no clear correlation exists with apparent physical unidentified flying objects, whereas in the better documented UFO-landing events, substantial correlations exist. The Tully incident is a clear example. The 1980 Rosedale (Australia) landing, the 1974 Langenberg (Canada) encounter, and the 1981 Trans-en-Provence (France) event are further strong examples of impressive UFO physical trace cases.
It was indeed puzzling that where a very dubious connection exists between the UK crop circles and UFOs that a theoretical mechanism emerged that sought to explain both, namely the Meaden plasma-vortex hypothesis. However, the mechanism was on very shaky ground in its patently flawed attempts to explain the more provocative UFO landing cases.
I initially gave a guarded endorsement of the possible utility of the early versions of the hypothesis in the BUFORA booklet Controversy of the Circles (1989): "It appears to be a possible explanation for many of the circle formations that fit the topographic restrictions of the theory ....
Providing researchers understand the limitations of the vortex theory, then I see it as a reasonable hypothesis." It seems that advocates of the theory have gone way beyond its limitations, and by so doing have critically damaged the credibility of a hypothesis, which may still have a place in explaining some cases.
In The UFO Conspiracy (1987), Jenny Randles suggested that the Tully nest may be explained, by meteorologist Terence Meaden's developing vortex theory. In Controversy of the Circles (1989), I was quoted as indicating, "I have spent some considerable time assessing the evidence of the 1966 Tully ‘UFO landing nest’... I have to state that the vortex model does not apply here for many reasons. The RAAF suggested this as an explanation at the time. It did not fit the facts then, nor does it fit the 'vortex' model as it is currently understood." The theory was to evolve into the plasma-vortex hypothesis, but my reasons (which were omitted from the BUFORA report) are equally valid, namely:
1. The topography does not fit the theory. The Horseshoe Lagoon is part of an extensive, flat coastal area. The nearest hill/mountain/high ground is literally miles away.
2. There were no prevailing wind conditions. In fact, the weather had been fine and sunny.
3. The witness saw a UFO described as two saucers end on end in broad daylight at close proximity for some 10 to 15 seconds. To argue that he saw a vortex is to categorically reject his evidence and the physical evidence at the site. The reeds did not disappear from the site. They were floating on the surface. There was no evidence that a sufficient quantity of reeds was lifted up to create the impression of the UFO Pedley saw. He saw it directly above the nest. It then rose up and then moved off at speed, rotating as it went. I think it is extremely difficult to reconcile this to an observation of a vortex.
Though the evolved plasma-vortex theory moved closer, it was still untenable. In Crop Circles—A Mystery Solved (1990), Jenny Randles made an untenable attempt at suggesting the striking 1980 Rosedale (Australia) UFO landing was an example of "the Meaden Vortex Theory in action." The duration alone makes this an unrealistic explanation. Also, where Jenny Randles interpreted in the Rosedale witness's description of a "tube," "a vortex funnel,'' in reality he was describing an expanding annulus like a black inner-tire tube, situated on the base of the object, something significantly different from a vortex. Suggestions that the Tully nest and UFO were similar to a vortex incident at Marple in 1988 are strained at best. While the flying hay "vortex disc" at Marple is intriguing, it should be pointed out that the hay body was clearly recognized as such by witnesses. Light hay had clearly been lifted up by midday summer vortex thermals and was drifting. In the Tully incident we are dealing with water-laden reeds, a fast moving object, and an apparent lack of absent reeds from the lagoon. In other words, the RAAF's suggestion of a willy-willy vortex of reeds from the lagoon cannot be sustained.
The 1966 Tully UFO physical trace case still stands as a classic example of the impressive physical dimensions of the UFO phenomenon. We should continue with our efforts, focus on the physical reality of UFOs, and use this as a basis of understanding the phenomenon rather than anchoring much of our speculations on less credible dimensions of the phenomenon.
This reference: “Tully Saucer Nests of 1966 – Part Two” by Bill Chalker, International UFO Reporter, Spring 1997-98, Vol. 23, #1, pp. 15-17 & 31, © CUFOS 1998
Also: With thanks to Larry Hatch’s *U* UFO Computer Database, see: http://www.larryhatch.net
UFOCAT PRN – 40342
UFOCAT URN – 098154 Newspaper clipping, January 24, 1966
UFOCAT URN – 098155 Newspaper clipping, January 24, 1966
UFOCAT URN – 108608 UFO Investigator (NICAP) February 1966, p. 4, © 1966
UFOCAT URN – 090816 Flying Saucer Review, Vol. 12, No. 2, March 1966, p. 26, © 1966
UFOCAT URN – 074854 UFO Nachtrichten, March 1966, © 1966
UFOCAT URN – 040344 Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer
Space by Coral E. Lorenzen, p. 268, © 1966
UFOCAT URN – 040346 Flying Saucers – Here and Now! by Frank Edwards, p. 61, © 1967
UFOCAT URN – 099792 Australian FSR, April 1968, p. 6 [On-site investigation]
UFOCAT URN – 080380 Passport to Magonia by Jacques Vallee, p. 33, © 1969
UFOCAT URN – 040342 A Century of Landings, (N=923) by Jacques Vallee, © 1969
UFOCAT URN – 067994 Flying Saucer Review, Vol. 15, No. 3, May-June 1969,
pp. 2-5, “North Queensland UFO Saga” by Stan Seers and
William Lasich, © 1969
UFOCAT URN – 040343 Data-Net Report, May 1970
UFOCAT URN – 082246 Physical Traces Associated with UFO Sightings by Ted
Phillips, p.223, © 1975
UFOCAT URN – 157428 Vehicle Interference Project-BUFORA by Geoffrey Falla, © 1979
UFOCAT URN – 127115 UFO Reports Involving Vehicle Interference by Mark Rodeghier,
p. 28, © 1981
UFOCAT URN – 143564 World Atlas of UFOs by John Spencer, p. 163, © 1992
UFOCAT URN – 064352 Ted Phillips, no title, p. 223, no © date
UFOCAT URN – 113918 Keith Basterfield, UFORQLD, no title, no © date
UFOCAT URN – 094331 Bill Chalker, no title, no © date
UFOCAT URN – 040345 Computerized Catalog (N=3173) by Luis Schoenherr, #1835,
no © date
UFOCAT URN – 054993 Etudes Statistiques Portant sur 1000 TÃ©moignages, #2010,
Claude Poher, undated
Australia – North Queensland
Great Barrier ReefLatitude 18-00 S, Longitude 146-50 E (D-M)[FSR]
EuramoLatitude 18-00 S, Longitude 145-56 E[FSR & IUR]
TullyLatitude 17-56 S, Longitude 145-56 E[FSR & IUR]
CairnsLatitude 16-55 S, Longitude 145-46 E[FSR]
Horseshoe LagoonLatitude 19-33 S, Longitude 147-07 E[FSR & IUR]
Tully LagoonNone found (See Tully)[FSR]
BrisbaneLatitude 27-30 S, Longitude 153-01 E[FSR & IUR]
Iron RangeLatitude 12-42 S, Longitude 143-18 E[FSR]
CooktownLatitude 15-28 S, Longitude 145-15 E[FSR]
MelbourneLatitude 37-50 S, Longitude 145-00 E[FSR & IUR]
South JohnstoneLatitude 17-36 S, Longitude 146-00 E[FSR & IUR]
Reference: Australia Gazetteer, prepared in the Office of Geography, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C., June 1957