Westall 66 – ‘Our Roswell’ is pure PR.

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Ever since ‘flying saucers’ were invented in the late 40’s (in the US of course), we’ve been peppered with sightings on a regular basis. One can speculate why it is that we weren’t buzzed in the 30’s or 20’s or earlier – where the extraterrestrials still in transit, arriving only in the US in 1947? If so, there must have been a string of them in transit from various parts of the cosmos, since they have been arriving at frequent intervals ever since.

In case you haven’t guessed from the tone of the first para, I don’t believe that ET has ever visited us. This is despite being a sci-fi nut from way back, and, actually being very keen for some evidence of other life in the universe.

The whole UFO ‘industry’ is a mix of nutters, the self-deluded, those seeking 15 minutes of fame, and, of course, the money-makers. There is not one shred of evidence to suggest otherwise. And please don’t throw the old ‘government cover-up’ at me, unless you have any evidence of that instead.

The Melbourne Age then presented us with this article, which quotes the history of the Westall 66 UFO sighting, which occurred right here in Melbourne. The first half of the article reports the history, a bit too credulously for my liking, before going on to reveal that it’s the subject of new film. In fact, this article is simply based on the film’s media release. It also turns out that the event has been included in a study guide for the national history curriculum. The guide is quoted as saying:

With its undercurrent of Cold War paranoia, secret US airbases and a strong military relationship between Australia and America, this story raises questions about the acceptability of cover-ups and untruths delivered by governments in the interests of national security.

When used in the context of a discussion issue in an academic setting, this is quite ok. However, the intrepid researcher Shane Ryan, who is also chief spruiker for the new film, seems to be using it as the film’s catch-cry, to somehow imply that there was in this incident, such a cover up.

For those who want a more factual and realistic analysis of Westall 66, rather than the spin and confected mystery portrayed by the article and the press release, Brian Dunning has done a neat job summarising the issues in a podcast which you can read and download here.

In short, while the phenomenon has not been unequivocally explained, there are perfectly reasonable explanations for the sightings and the goings-on at the time:

  1. Silent and slow-moving disks are generally weather balloons, one of which was released from Laverton the day before.
  2. The long silver streak playing cat-and-mouse with five aircraft was a training drogue – a common flight training device whose purpose is to provide a ‘mouse’ for aircraft to pursue.
  3. The mysterious ‘crop circles’ said to have been left by the craft were inspected by RAAF investigators accompanied by UFO enthusiasts, but they found only bits of wind-flattened fields. The fields were subsequently burnt off by the land owner sick of people coming onto his land.
  4. There was no conspiracy of silence; the principal of the school was concerned by the disruption to classes by constant interviews on the subject. In any case, the local papers fully reported the incident the next day, so some cover-up.
  5. Australia had no military aircraft research at the time, focusing only on assembly and maintenance. Any overseas research has since been declassified in any event.
  6. The number of people who say they saw the event is now much greater than what was originally thought to be the number, and the description of events continues to become more elaborate.
Yes, there is certainly some romance in the notion of UFOs, but when you boil it down to some reality, it’s pretty boring really. But that doesn’t stop some people from trying to twist the events to suit. If this is simply an artistic interpretation of the history of the time by Shane Ryan, then great. If, as it seems, he is still trying to prove what he already seems to believe, then he is just another UFO try-hard, swimming upstream against the reality that we are still alone in the universe, and that governments are just too inept to manage significant cover-ups.
Apart from anything else, I refuse to believe that beings with that intelligence and technical capability to travel here across inter-stellar distances:
  1. Would bother with aero-dynamically designed craft,
  2. Wouldn’t make more contact with us
  3. Wouldn’t have some sort of EM footprint from communications devices, or,
  4. Wouldn’t just remain covert if they are simply studying us.
But that’s just me.
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2 thoughts on “Westall 66 – ‘Our Roswell’ is pure PR.

    Rosie Jones said:
    April 11, 2012 at 9:55 am

    The documentary makers and Shane Ryan have done several years of research on the Westall sighting. Brian Dunning has actually done none but it doesn’t stop him having an opinion. He hasn’t spoken to the witnesses. He clearly doesn’t realise that when weather balloons come down, they don’t fly up again. The incident was not reported in the local papers the next day – it was a week later. The Age ran only a very small article the next day and the tabloids that usually relish such a story reported nothing about it at all. A little bit of research would have shown Brian Dunning that Australia was working on military aircraft at the time in collaboration with the UK and USA.

      rationalbrain said:
      April 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm

      So what are you saying? That the sightings were military aircraft, or that there were actual extra-terrestrial craft there?
      If the latter, what is your evidence? And don’t quote me interviews that Ryan has done. That is not evidence. Surely there’s just one piece of tangible evidence that you can show me to change my mind, right? I thought not. Consider this: of all of the millions of people who claim to have seen UFOs (mostly in the US of course, and mostly since in the second half of the 20th century), why do we not have even one bit of tangible evidence? Maybe all aliens are keen to not infect us, or maybe is a conspiracy by the ‘world government’, or any of the other many special pleadings. Whatever the case, a much simpler and consistent explanation is that a bunch of kids and teachers saw something they couldn’t explain on the day or beyond, and various of them cooked up a romantic explanation for their 15 minutes of fame. I remain to be convinced otherwise.

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