Kaikoura Lights

Occam’sLawyer

New Member
Ross Coulthart’s “In Plain Sight” discusses an incident known as the “Kaikoura Lights.” For a brief Wikipedia summary, see here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaikoura_lights

I am curious as to whether this incident has been debunked, and would love Mick’s analysis. Coulthart cites a witness named John Cordy, who was a radar operator at the time. The book states:

“John Cordy has long since retired, but nothing in the years since has dimmed his belief that the objects he tracked on his radar that night were in no way capable of prosaic explanation. He remains bitter that the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s official finding asserted that he and other air traffic controllers at Wellington Airport were confused by anomalous faulty radar returns, yet he was never even questioned about what he saw. He knew enough to know that what the Argosy aircraft’s occupants saw that night was neither squid boat lights nor the planet Venus. Yet neither is he saying the objects were aliens in flying saucers. ‘They were simply unidentified. There’s been lots of explanations but none of them fit the facts,’ he tells me. ‘We saw targets on radar that we could not explain. We were in communication with the pilot as he described the objects moving around him and we could see those on the radar. They parallel-tracked the plane for 40 miles. I’d love to have seen how squid boats could possibly be dropping their lines from the 14,000-feet altitude where we tracked these objects.’”

I find this paragraph interesting because it notes that there were multiple forms of observation at the same time.
Thoughts?
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
The first step is to look for existing debunks, and also the original reports, some of which appear to be linked from the wikipedia article?

Wikipedia doesn't reflect that an analysis of the sightings was declassified this summer, finding that seems a good idea:
Article:
In a report submitted to the United Nations in January 1979, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) classified the objects as "UFOs until identified", but said the "prospect of extra terrestrial intervention being proved is regarded as extremely remote".

The document is one of a large group of declassified documents regarding "Unidentified Flying Objects" at Archives New Zealand, which came from New Zealand's post at the UN between 1977 and 1982.


And here's a bit of analysis of the TV footage:
Article:
The following day there was nightly news comment on the overnight breaking news item. The inevitable expert came on and claimed it was most likely the planet Venus. It was all a big mistake. He dismissed the stuff from the radar people that it was (e.g.) only a few miles away from their hired aircraft and was seen moving from one side to the other. Radars were complicated and always picking up spurious returns from birds or basketball poles and stuff like that.

The film crew was highly unimpressed with their item thrown in the garbage can by the "expert(s)". The boot was on the other foot now.
So they went up the next night same time same cameras same lenses same aircraft and retraced their route again taking shots of Venus out the aircraft windows. Their new footage was shown on the nightly news the next day. It "obviously" looked one hell of a lot different to the glowing blob they caught the previous night zipping around their plane.

And of course being an accountant type I put the apparent angular diameter of the original object (compared with Venus with the same camera/lens) and the range of distances the radar people had been citing the prev night to calculate the object -- or at least the glowing part of it -- was only about 2m across.

I remember I was very disappointed because I couldn't imagine a bunch of aliens could be so small to fit in that kind of tiny space.

Obviously a copy of that TV footage would be good, too, because it meets Metabunk's requirement of actual evidence.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
You mention Klass and Maccabee.

"Philip J. Klass published the squid boat explanation in his book, UFOs, THE PUBLIC DECEIVED (Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY, 1983)" (source below). I haven't seen this explanation.

The other side argues extensively against it, as laid out in this Dec 7, 2020, blog post:
Article:
This is a two part presentation. The first part consists of three technical papers which discuss one of the sightings that occurred off the East Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. These papers are unique because they seem to be the only series of articles containing a discussion of a single UFO sighting that has appeared in a refereed technical journal. The journal is called Applied Optics, a publication of the Optical Society of America. The second part of this presentation is an analysis of the squid boat hypothesis which has been proposed to explain the sighting that is discussed in the Applied Optics papers.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
My own guess would've been some type of ball lightning, which, as a physical phenomenon (or a set of different phenomena), seems to still be somewhat poorly understood, though we know more than we did 40 years ago.
 

Occam’sLawyer

New Member
I find this interesting because there is a combination of radar tracking simultaneous to eyewitness reporting. They dispute Venus and squid boats. Could these have been drones (in 1978 no less) or something else? Ball Lightning’s characteristics don’t seem to match.

Ross Couthart continues:

“Dennis Grant later moved to Australia to work in journalism, and he became a well-respected political correspondent for one of the main television networks. He joined Fogarty on the Argosy plane’s return trip from Christchurch to Blenheim that December 1978 night and saw the objects. ‘It still remains the most intriguing and strange story I have ever worked on,’ Grant tells me. ‘I have no idea what we saw. We didn’t see Venus, which is what the air force suggested. Venus was at an entirely wrong angle to where we were looking. And it wasn’t reflected fishing boat lights, which was their other claim.’ Dennis Grant was the only person on board the plane that night to keep contemporaneous notes. What struck him the most was that, frequently during the flight, the strange glowing orbs they all witnessed moving around their aircraft were simultaneously tracked on both Wellington radar and the plane’s radar. ‘We were listening in to the conversation with Wellington radar and when we said where we could see an object, they were tracking it across Cook Strait on their equipment,’ he tells me.“

“Grant also says they were close enough to the orbs at times to see their light reflected on the ocean below, underlining the falsity of official findings that all on board were confused by squid boat lights somehow refracted on the clouds. He said the objects were lit internally; some were clearly circular but others were elongated. ‘There must have been some sort of dimension, a solidity, to them because they were picked up by the radar sets as we were watching them,’ he told me. Adding to the intrigue, he recalled that the plane was also in communication with Christchurch air traffic control in the South Island, as well as Wellington in the North Island, but he learned the audio tapes of the Christchurch radio exchanges were lost within a few days of the incident. I was not surprised to hear from Grant that he was not interviewed by the Royal New Zealand Air Force investigators.”
 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member.
You mention Klass and Maccabee.

"Philip J. Klass published the squid boat explanation in his book, UFOs, THE PUBLIC DECEIVED (Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY, 1983)" (source below). I haven't seen this explanation.

The other side argues extensively against it, as laid out in this Dec 7, 2020, blog post:
Article:
This is a two part presentation. The first part consists of three technical papers which discuss one of the sightings that occurred off the East Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. These papers are unique because they seem to be the only series of articles containing a discussion of a single UFO sighting that has appeared in a refereed technical journal. The journal is called Applied Optics, a publication of the Optical Society of America. The second part of this presentation is an analysis of the squid boat hypothesis which has been proposed to explain the sighting that is discussed in the Applied Optics papers.
I think this is something of a distortion. I'm still all consumingly busy just now so I haven't been able to give the material at the link you included more than 10 minutes time. So if someone else wants to do a more detailed analysis it would be appreciated.

... discussion of a single UFO sighting that has appeared in a refereed technical journal. The journal is called Applied Optics, a publication of the Optical Society of America.

This implies that there was an independent, peer reviewed article. If I'm getting it right, what actually happened is: Maccabee wrote a letter to the editor, it was rebutted - again in the letters to the editor section - and Maccabee wrote a response to the rebuttal. There was no peer reviewed article.

Maccabee presents a list and sums it up with: "There you have it: 19 reasons it wasn't a squid boat. All you needed is one!"

A sample:
9. The crew and passengers had the impression that at no time while the plane was flying along a straight path did the light move much with respect to the plane. Instead, they clearly had the impression that it was pacing the plane. The second reporter on board (Dennis Grant) wrote a note at the time which states “170 pace us”, which meant that when the plane was traveling about 170 mph (statute miles/hour) the light was pacing the plane...

19. The second reporter (Grant) specifically remembered seeing a reflection in the water! Not only that, but the captain was quoted in a NZ newspaper story, dated Jan 1, 1979, as saying that the light was reflected in the sea.

My over all impression is: Just more of the same. A long and tedious argument presented by an intelligent eccentric who won't let it go.

As I said, this is a possibly flawed impression made in haste.
 
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NorCal Dave

Senior Member.
I think this is something of a distortion. I'm still all consumingly busy just now so I haven't been able to give the material at the link you included more than 10 minutes time. So if someone else wants to do a more detailed analysis it would be appreciated.
I'm no technical expert, but I'll give it a try Mr. Wolf.

Firstly, it's somewhat confusing as to what the post in question actually is. It's not a Blogpost, rather it appears to be a reprint from a now defunct website. While it never states who the author is, it is an article from ~2000 re-hashing the Kaikoura-lights that includes the aforementioned "articles" in Applies Optics. The "articles" were as, Z.D.Wolf pointed out, really just Letters to the Editor by Bruce Maccebee and this article talks about the history of letters in the first person.

So it's likely a Blogpost from ~2000 by Bruce Maccebee that includes a reprint of his article/letters from 1979, reasons the Kaikoura lights are not squid boats and how Bruce outsmarted the editors of Applied Optics by taking his article that was rejected by Nature and getting them to publish it.

Maccebee is a long time UFO believer and has championed such sketchy cases as "The Gulf Breeze Photos". (bold by me)

Beginning in November 1987, The Gulf Breeze Sentinel published a number of photos supplied to them by local contractor Ed Walters that were claimed to show a UFO. UFOlogists such as Bruce Maccabee believed the photographs were genuine; however, others strongly suspected them to be a hoax. Pensacola News Journal reporter Craig Myers investigated Walters' claims a few years later, criticizing the Sentinel's coverage of the story as "uncritical" and "sensationalist". In 1990, after Walters and his family moved, the new owners of Walters' house discovered a styrofoam model UFO hidden in the attic. Myers was able to duplicate the object in the Walters photographs almost exactly using the model UFO found in the attic. Walters later claimed that the model UFO had been "planted" in the attic. [1][2]
Content from External Source
n.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_Breeze_UFO_incident

As far as I can find he never recanted.

The reprinted Letters to the Editor are difficult to read, as they resemble old FAX copies that were scanned and uploaded. It's a lot of math about how bright the object must have been at a giving distance depending on the type of film used and how much light hits it.


/thecosmicreport.com/the-kaikoura-ufo-sighting/

Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to highlight passages in the article, so I'll just have to write out the sentence I noticed.

"For highly overexposed images it is difficult to estimate the illuminance on the film plane. On the other hand, smeared images are somewhat less over exposed and allow better estimates of the film plane illuminance."
Middle of 2nd paragraph, right hand column above the formula.

To a lay person this sounds like most of the film is over and/or highly overexposed and all this math is a lot of guess work.

There is then a rebuttal letter to his letter saying, yes it's a bright light, just like on a squid boat.

Maccebee follows back up:




Interesting here, is his diagram. It's hard to read, but I got that:

1. Plane takes off at 2:17
2 At 2:19, we get box A: "Sector A indicates uncertainties in the remembered radar distance and radar/visual azimuth angle when the object was first seen." I'm taking this as, we're not really sure where we were looking or how far it was when first seen.
3. At 2:24 we get box B: "The vertical arrows through Sector B indicate an added uncertainty in the time at which the radar target went off the scope..." More uncertainty.
4. At 2:30 the plane makes a full 90* turn to the right then so that the piolet can now see the light, before tuning back to the left and heading back on course.
5. Box E: "The square area at E represents the estimated location of the object when last seen."

Seems like if the "uncertain" azimuth and distances of A and B were off by a little, they could have been looking at E the whole time, right?

The article goes on and on after showing these reprinted Letters to the Editor with more diagrams and drawings and reasons the light wasn't a squid boat. More interesting is his account of how he repurposed a rejected Nature article into Applied Optics: (I've heavily edited some of this for brevity. One can always go read the whole thing)

HOW THE APPLIED OPTICS ARTICLES HAPPENED TO HAPPEN!
Content from External Source


Sometime in the time period 1975-77 a Florida entymologist, Dr.
Philip Callahan, read Dr. Frank Salisbury's book, THE UTAH UFO DISPLAY: A
BIOLOGISTS REPORT (Devin, Old Greenwich CT, 1974). After thinking about
the problem of identifying the UFO sightings reported therein, and, being an
entymologyst, he began to think about "bugs." He wrote:



After reproducing several short summaries of nighttime sightings
reported in Salisbury's book, Callahan wrote:

"The similarity between these descriptions and the sound and flight antics
of swarms of insects is startling."

This proposal is what I have named the "Buggy UFO Hypothesis" (BUFOH).

Callahan and Mankin submitted their paper to Applied Optics, a
scientific journal of the optics/lasers/imaging systems/ etc. trade. The
paper was submitted in December, 1977. I suspect that it would NOT have
been published except for the fact that it argued that the "optics of
insects" could solve at least part of the UFO mystery.

A press release announced the publication as an explanation for the ever-vexing UFO problem and immediately Dr. Callahan was a media celebrity,

Within 2 weeks of the publication of the BUFOH I had written my
rebuttal and sent it to the editor.

Several weeks later I got a letter from the Editor. He would not
use my letter, at least not yet. He said that to be fair to the subject he
was going to wait until all responses were in and then pick the best one.
So I was put on hold.

In the meantime the famous New Zealand sightings of December 1978
occurred.




...but the point of interest here is that by the middle of January I was deeply involved in the investigation and the BUFOH was far from my mind.

....and the fact that NATURE had reported some of the initial incorrect explanations for the NZ sightings, that NATURE would like an opportunity to correct previous errors by publishing some some
real data on the sightings. (I was wrong!)

In the middle of March I received a letter from the Applied Optics
editor. He wrote that there had been no other responses so he thought that
some version of my letter could be a rebuttal. I would have to rewrite it,
to make it shorter. I was pleased but was totally immersed in the NZ
investigation so I put aside rewriting my BUFOH rebuttal. Besides, I was
more interested in whether or not NATURE would publish the NZ article.

I was not to surprised when I received a rejection notice from
NATURE in early May.

Now a clever plot hatched in my mind. Suppose I made use of an
unintended "bait and switch?" My rebuttal to the BUFOH would be rather
"mundane" not directed toward a specific UFO sighting and not necessarily
right for an optics journal. But I had written a paper for NATURE which
made use of optics, photography, etc. to calculate the brightness of one of
the lights seen off the coast of NZ. I thouht that perhaps I could interest
the Applied Optics Editor in this, instead.

In early May, 1979, I rewrote the NATURE article to be more in line
with the Applied Optics "Letter to the Editor" format. I sent it along with
a cover letter saying that, although this did not respond directly to the
BUFOH, it nevertheless "...contains some physical data about an unusual
light source and, since the data are primarily of an optical nature, the
article is suited to your journal."



To my surprise and delight his response was positive and my letter
was published. It was the first, and so far as I know, to date, the only,
in-depth technical discussion of a specific UFO sighting to appear in a
mainstream, refereed technical journal.

Several months after my letter was published I was surprised to
receive from the editor a preprint of an article by two scientists in New
Zealand who had written a rebuttal to my paper. I was offered the
opportunity to respond to their rebuttal. Their article was published in
December, 1979 and my response was supposed to be published immediately
following their letter. However, my response ran into a few "minor
difficulties."

One of the senior officers of the Optical Society of America had not
appreciated the publication of my letter and had welcomed the letter by
Ireland and Andrews. This senior official criticized the editor for
publishing my letter and then advised the editor to reject my rebuttal. The
discussion would have ended there if it weren't for the fact that I could
claim Ireland and Andrews were wrong and I could "prove" it. I enlisted the
help of a well respected physicist who was an acquaintance of the senior
officer and he managed to pursuade the officier and the editor to publish my
rebuttal. You will note that at the end of my rebttal letter the editor
included a statment that closed the discussion.

And that's how three letters providing a technical discussion of a
single UFO sighting happened to appear in Applied Optics.
Content from External Source
https://thecosmicreport.com/the-kaikoura-ufo-sighting/

That's enough for now, I got stuff to do.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.

SmartSelect_20211102-021923_Samsung Internet.jpg
The second reporter on board (Dennis Grant) wrote a note at the time which states “170 pace us”, which meant that when the plane was traveling about 170 mph (statute miles/hour) the light was pacing the plane.
Content from External Source
170 mph = 270 km/h
At that speed, the aircraft moves 18 km in 4 minutes, not 23 km; this difference makes up for the alleged motion of the light.

If it's 170 knots = 315 km/h, the aircraft moves 21 km in 4 minutes, but obviously that's nautical miles/hour.
 

NorCal Dave

Senior Member.

SmartSelect_20211102-021923_Samsung Internet.jpg
The second reporter on board (Dennis Grant) wrote a note at the time which states “170 pace us”, which meant that when the plane was traveling about 170 mph (statute miles/hour) the light was pacing the plane.
Content from External Source
170 mph = 270 km/h
At that speed, the aircraft moves 18 km in 4 minutes, not 23 km; this difference makes up for the alleged motion of the light.

If it's 170 knots = 315 km/h, the aircraft moves 21 km in 4 minutes, but obviously that's nautical miles/hour.
So we have an ET proponent of the incident, inadvertently saying that the light doesn't move much?

As I read about this I was struck by how accommodating the ET was in this incident, at least according to Maccebee:

During the night of December 20-21, freighter aircraft flying off
the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand had visual sightings as
air traffic controllers reported unidentified radar targets. Ground
personnel at Blenheim airfield also saw lights doing strange things in the
sky. The sightings were big news the next day. About 8 days later
a producer TV station in Melbourne, Channel 0, decided to do a short
documentary segment on those sightings because they knew that their stories
on the Valentich disappearance and UFOs in general had increased their
audience. It just so happened that one of their experienced TV reporters,
Quentin Fogary, was in New Zealand for vacation. They called him and asked
him to do some interviews and put together a short, 5 minute segment on the
previous sightings. He therefore hired a cameraman and did the interviews
with the radar controllers and pilots on the previous sightings, and then he
went "beyond the call of duty:" he arranged to take a trip on one of the
freighter aircraft to provide background footage and so that he could (and
did) say in a short "stand up," that he was flying along the same route and
that he would keep his eyes open for any UFOs that might appear.

So that is how there happened to be a news crew on board the
freighter aircraft and how there happened to be a color movie, portions of
which were shown around the world in early January, 1979.
Content from External Source
https://thecosmicreport.com/the-kaikoura-ufo-sighting/

So the ET showed up again in the same spot to get photographed.

Then upon chasing an actual real ET with a film crew onboard, the piolet decided he couldn't keep up with it and headed back to his original course to deliver the mail or what ever they were transporting : (bold by me)


The pilot and copilot agreed to turn toward the light when the plane reached its cruising altitude of 13,000 ft. The pilot believed that he would not have to turn the plane very far to put the object “on the nose” of the plane, i.e, he wouldn’t have to turn much to head directly toward it, because be believed that the object was pacing the plane. He assumed that the object, not knowing about the turn, would continue in its path northeastward, at least for a while, before reacting to the turn. At that time the azimuth (sighting line) to the light was probably about 75 to 90 degrees to the right of straight ahead (2:30 to 3:00 position relative to 12:00 being directly ahead). The pilot did not plan to turn any particular amount. He just intended to turn enough to head toward the object. He used a manual turn control knob and applied some finger pressure to the knob to turn the plane. He therefore expected a situation similar to that illustrated in Figure 8.





He was surprised to discover that, even though he kept up the pressure on the turn knob and the airplane turned, he was not able to head directly toward the object even after many seconds of turning. It was as if the object had immediately realized what he was doing and was taking an evasive reaction to his turn. After a time estimated to have been about 30 seconds he looked at his compass and realized he had turned the plane 92 degrees, much more than he had expected. At this point he stopped the turn, feeling that it was futile to continue. He felt that the light had responded very quickly to the turning of the plane, indicating a superior flight capability, and that he couldn’t “catch” it by continuing the turn. After stopping the turn, he decided to fly southeastward, approximately toward it, for a short time to see what would happen (see Figure 1). He still couldn’t get the object directly ahead of the aircraft. In fact, he couldn’t see it directly because it was too far to the right and down for him to see through the right hand windows (he was able to see a glow in the right hand windows from his position at the left side of the cockpit). After several minutes he decided to end the chase and go home. The important point is this: the surprisingly large size of the right turn is evidence of the pilot’s belief that the light was pacing the plane before the turn and that it had altered its state of motion in a very short time (seconds), i.e., slowed down, as the plane turned toward it.
Content from External Source
https://thecosmicreport.com/the-kaikoura-ufo-sighting/

They were chasing an UFO/ET with a camera crew onboard! And they decided, " never mind, we've got mail or diapers (nappies), or what ever to deliver, let's skip it".
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
One thing I've also learned from our UFO discussions is that "superior flight capacity" usually means "object isn't where we thought it was".
 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member.
If I remember rightly the plane was delivering morning edition newspapers. That used to be important stuff.

Once again, the social status of witnesses is emphasized... to the point that you don't dare disagree with them. Pilots! (The almighty steely-eyed pilot with a square jaw and faultless perception.) Professional cameraman! Experienced reporter! Essentially delivery drivers and naïve and credulous fluff-piece news guys.

Not long ago, a police officer (a trained observer!) and two fluff-piece news guys mistook three successive 737s at high altitude as being mysterious Colorado drones a few hundred feet above their head.

https://www.metabunk.org/threads/drone-photo-over-colorado-actually-a-boeing-737.11055/#post-235847
 
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If I remember rightly the plane was delivering morning edition newspapers. That used to be important stuff.

Once again, the social status of witnesses is emphasized... to the point that you don't dare disagree with them. Pilots! (The almighty steely-eyed pilot with a square jaw and faultless perception.) Professional cameraman! Experienced reporter! Essentially delivery drivers and naïve and credulous fluff-piece news guys.

Not long ago, a police officer (a trained observer!) and two fluff-piece news guys mistook three successive 737s at high altitude as being mysterious Colorado drones a few hundred feet above their head.

https://www.metabunk.org/threads/drone-photo-over-colorado-actually-a-boeing-737.11055/#post-235847

re. Your comment here:
https://www.metabunk.org/threads/explained-ufos-viewed-from-the-iss-squid-boats.11902/post-254454

Do you have a link to Maccabee's concession (response to Klass)?
 
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