Go Back Report # 540


NOTE: This is an aside of the very famous “Valentich” case and needs no further text. Of interest to me was the water connection, which I had not been aware of. –CF-

Melbourne Episode

This chapter attempts to recreate an actual abduction of the young pilot by an unidentified flying object (UFO). The primary intent has only been to show that both motives and means could possibly exist for such an abduction. While it is impossible to prevent inclusion of anthropomorphic projection by the author, and attempt was made to keep them to a minimum.           

       UFO field investigations conducted by members of the Victorian UFO Research Society have uncovered numerous eye witnesses of unexplained aerial phenomena before, during, and after the Valentich disappearance. A wide range of colors, shapes, directions of travel, and other distinguishing features characterize these phenomena. Typical of so many other UFO reports, there seem to be more differences than similarities here. Yet there is one source of information concerning a possible anomalous aerial object near Cape Otway that deserves further comment.        

       A Melbourne plumber, Mr. Roy Manifold allegedly took a series of still color photographs of the setting sun from the beach near Cape Otway on October 21st. The location was Crayfish Bay. With his camera set on a tripod, Manifold carefully aimed the camera so that the sea's horizon was at proximately centered vertically. The time was about 6:47 pm, some twenty minutes before Frederick Valentich first radioed Melbourne concerning his aerial encounter. Manifold set the automatic timer to produce a new exposure every twenty seconds. An article in The Standard (Melbourne), July 23, 1980, pg. 5 stated that the photographer "...did not see the object. Mr. Norman (the local investigator for the Victorian UFO Research Society) said after the photographs were processed Mr. Manifold contacted the society and told it they had been taken on the day Valentich disappeared." Photographic evidence of UFO phenomena is very common; such evidence cannot be accepted uncritically without far more documentation than is associated here.         

       Six frames of this film were obtained by Mr. Norman for computer enhancement by the American UFO study group, Ground Saucer Watch (GSW), Phoenix, Arizona. In their official summary report on this analysis GSW personnel state:

      "Six color negatives were given to GSW for evaluation utilizing computer photographic analysis methods. All photographs reveal both foreground and background data points, in a sunset lighting mode. In frame five an anomalous image appears to be "surfacing" from the water. "In frame six, taken approximately twenty seconds later, a large cloud-like image, with a disc structure is visible above the tenuous shape. The photographer maintains he did not see the UO image. This is entirely possible as the witness was looking directly west into the sunset. There is a calm sea and the weather data supports that the wind was only in a breeze condition. "All modes of computer analysis were used to gain data in this UO sequence including: edge enhancement, color contouring, digitizing, computerizing and filtering.” The interpretations revealed the following information: 1) The first impression one is left with upon viewing the film is that the UO image is an emulsion defect. However, a close examination of the original negatives revealed that the image was not caused by any artifact on the emulsion. 2) Computer analysis revealed that the image was not any known type of cloud or weather phenomena. In fact, digital densitometry revealed a highly reflective area at the "top" of the UO image, indicative of a metallic structure. 3) There is no evidence of a hoax, especially in light of the fact that the pictures (sequence) appear to be taken in a rapid order, not exceeding 30 seconds from frame to frame. To super-impose in the last frame, a Cloud-like structure, is beyond the realm of possibility in such a short time period. 4) Color contouring, used to graphically define density revealed that the disc-like portion of the UO was very bright when compared to other features in the photograph 5) digitizing for distance factoring revealed that the UO image had similar distortion characteristics of features approximately one mile from the camera/witness. 6) The top of the UO is being back-lighted by the setting sun and a reflection or glare from /,he UO's apparent curvilinear surface is obvious. 7) High, and low pass filtering revealed a definite disc structure above the "cloud". 8) The UO image is slightly blurred due to "object" motion. The direction is slightly to the right and up. 9) The size of the UO image, based on the lens data and computer comparison of other features, reveals and approximate size of twenty feet. The aspect ratio, diameter to thickness, is 6 to 1.          

"CONCLUSIONS: Based on the computerized data of the pictures, it is the consensus of the GSW technicians that the images represent a bona fide unknown flying object, of moderate dimensions, apparently surrounded by a cloud-like vapor/exhaust residue 

       According to the above analysis, frame five contains the anomalous image allegedly coming up out of the sea yet in the sixth frame, taken some twenty seconds later, the surface of the sea is just as calm and undisturbed as in frame four! While lack of significant cloud motion from frame to frame supports the contention shat the original negative strip was probably obtained without interruption (to introduce a deliberate superimposed image) and over a fairly brief period of time, such evidence does not rule out a hoax. Indeed, one could readily contrive a partially reflecting glass plate filling the camera's field of view which could reflect into the lens the "anomalous" image. Frame to frame exposure densitometry must be done to check on this possibility.       

       It is also unclear why Manifold did not see the strange aerial object at alt. The published photograph of frame six shows an extremely dark cloud-like structure in the air but no corresponding reflection of it in the water. The intense sunset sky-glow would be expected to produce such a reflection if the cloud was actually present when the film was originally exposed. One reason given for the photographer not having seen the cloud-like image was that he was looking into the bright setting sun. This reason is not convincing since the apparent location of the cloud was at least 15 to 20 degrees arc above the horizon where the sun's disc would be. The human eye can easily perceive objects against a light sky background this far from the sun's intense disc, i.e., if the object is there in the first place.         

       It is the opinion of the writer that the dark cloud-like image of frame six was somehow added after the exposure was made at Cape Otway. Deputy picture editor for The Sun newspaper of Melbourne, Bill Tindale said, "The alleged UFO is just a dark grey, blurred blob on the negative." 

       The possibility that UFO reports for the Cape Otway and King Island areas for October 21, 1978 will help substantiate the hypothesis that Frederick Valentich was involved in an encounter with a UFO remains problematic. No matter how convincing these other sighting reports may be they cannot prove that Valentich had confronted a UFO.                                                      
This reference: Melbourne Episode: case study of a missing pilot, by Dr. Richard Haines, pp. 157-160. © 1987

With thanks to Dr. Haines for copies and permission to post to this site, and with thanks to Larry Hatch’s *U* UFO DATA BASE for help in locating it. See http://www.larryhatch.net      

       Other references:

            "Foreign Forum." International UFO Reporter 3,12 (December 1978): 2-10

            "The Missing Cessna and the UFO.", by Bill Chalker, in Flying Saucer Review 24,5

                 (March 1979): 3-5.

            "Did UFO Abduct Aircraft?" by Rocky Wood, Fate 32,3 (March 1979): 61-65.

            “The Devil's Meridian”, by Kevin Killey and Gary Lester, 1980

            “Let's Hope They're Friendly!” by Quentin Fogarty London, 1982.

            "Results of Sound Spectrum Analysis of the Metallic Noises of a Tape-Recorded Radio

                 Transmission Between Cessna VH:DSJ and the Flight Service of Melbourne,

                 Australia." Journal of UFO Studies 3 (old series, 1983): 14-23.

            "Vanished?—The Valentich Affair Reexamined." Flying Saucer Review 30,2 (1984): 6-12.3
            “Aliens Over Antipodes.” by Murray Stott, 1984

            Above Top Secret: The Worldwide UFO Cover-up” by Timothy Good 1988

References: The UFO Encyclopedia, Vol. 3 “High Strangeness: UFOs from 1960-1979, by Jerome

                  Clark, pp. 537-543, © 1996


UFOCAT URN – 113295 MUFON UFO Journal, November 1979, p. 6. On site investigation.

UFOCAT URN – 170158 *U* UFO Computer Database by Larry Hatch, # 12888 © 2002       

Australia, New South Wales & Tasmania

Cape Otway     Latitude 38-52 S, Longitude 143-31 E (D-M)

Crayfish Bay     Latitude 42-43 S, Longitude 148-05 E

Melbourne        Latitude 35-14 S, Longitude 147-05 E

King Island       Latitude 39-50 S, Longitude 144-00 E

Reference: Australia Gazetteer, Prepared in the Office of Geography, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C., June 1957

UFO Location (UFOCAT) Latitude 38.77 S, Longitude 143.47 E (D.%) 


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