Thursday, June 9, 2011

Australia's UFO files go missing

News broke this past week that Australia's military had lost its archived UFO reports.  The Australian Department of Defense had been carrying out a two month search for the files in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.  Here's what came back:
"The files could not be located and Headquarters Air Command formally advised that this file is deemed lost," said the department's FOI assistant director, Natalie Carpenter.

The press of course took this all with a lighthearted, if not condescending, attitude.  The missing records were referred to as Australia "X-Files" in reference to the TV show of the same name.  Undoubtedly the records were not called that, but I suppose this was more fun for the media.  Indeed, it did not take long for the obligatory conspiracy talk to get started.  If France and the UK released their files, what was keeping Australia from doing the same?  Additionally, how could these records get "lost" so suddenly when a UFO investigator was accessing them not all that long ago?
Why indeed.  You see, as with many other mysteries in the realm of Ufology, this too has a plausible explanation.  Many UFO researchers in Australia are not attributing the deliberate destruction of these files to a cover-up, but rather to an act of housekeeping.  Bill Chalker, author of The Oz Files, offers his finding that in 2003, over eight years of Australian UFO files were destroyed.  Not from conspiracy, but from the pure need to throw things out.  Anyone who has ever lucubrated in a bureaucratic environment can tell you how easily a mentality of "we never use these things, just throw them out" can set in. This point of view is a bit more understandable when you consider that the Australian military stopped taking UFO reports in 2000 and referred people instead to their local police.

Whether an act of skulduggery or not, the loss of the files is lamentable if for no other reason than one of the most important UFO sightings that ever took place happened in Australia.  I speak of the case of Frederick Valentich in 1978.  Valentich was a twenty year-old pilot flying his Cessna of the coast of Australia.  He radioed his control tower in Melbourne about a UFO he sighted near his aircraft.  As transcripts of the radio conversation between the tower and Valentich demonstrate in haunting detail, the unidentified aircraft buzzed Valentich's plane several times, "playing a game" with him or so he conjectured.  Frantic, Valentich reported that the UFO was directly over him...then no more transmissions came from the Cessna.  I've heard the tape recordings of the radio transmissions and still get the shivers when I think about the eerie silence that came as a reply to the tower's repeating of Valentich's call sign: "Delta Sierra Juliet?  Delta Sierra Juliet?'
Valentich was never found.  What happened to him remains a true UFO mystery.  I realize that I've gone a bit off topic and that the story of the Delta Sierra Juliet incident could be a blog post in and of itself (maybe it will be one day).  My point is that UFO investigation isn't all about sci-fi geeks wanting their dreams to come true.  In this case, a man disappeared and was never found again.  I'm certain his family would like answers.  
If there was anything that was in those UFO files that could help bring about those answers, then their destruction is a true shame.

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