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The Kaikoura UFO Incident: Case Solved?

“Those soulless realists who were not there will never know the unbelievable beauty of that light show. I can flick a mental switch and be back there in instant, sweat trickling down my back, the noise of the engines suffocating me, the light show outside the window fusing my brain.”Quentin Fogarty, “Let’s Hope They’re Friendly”1982.

“Is everybody ready here on the Dark Side of the Moon?”

A line from Stephen Spielberg’s Sci Fi blockbuster movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The Dark Side of the Moon was the code name of a secret base set up to host a spectacular encounter with extraterrestrials  who seem to enjoy pretty coloured lights and music!

The Dark Side of the Moon is also the name of the legendary album by Pink Floyd, and it’s iconic cover art of a prism intended to symbolise that band’s reputation for spectacular sound and light shows that are simultaneously informative and transformative.

See a connection here?

Spielberg’s movie helped bring the subject of UFOs back into the public spotlight, and it’s possible this movie was part of a bigger picture; an indoctrination programme that continues to this day, to plant the idea of extraterrestrial visitation firmly in the minds of the public. In the 1980’s, this programme would acquire a name: Project Blue Beam.

An early sequence in Spielberg’s movie features radar operators gathered around a screen as a breathless pilot describes a mysterious brightly lit object, visible on radar as an uncorrelated target, which  seems to play “chicken” with the helpless airliner. “Do you wish to file a report of any kind?” asks the controller. “I wouldn’t know what kind of report to file!” answers the shaken pilot.

Image result for close encounters of the third kind radar room scene

A short while after the movies release, on the East Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, this scene would be played out for real……

21st December 1978.Approx. 1am: The crew of an Argosy Freight plane headed up the East Coast of New Zealand witness  a variety of airborne light sources, some of which appear to have light beams emanating from them. Captain Randle suggests they may be helicopters engaged in a military exercise. Targets were simultaneously showing up on control tower radar, and a ground witness at Woodbourne AFB had confirmed anomalous lights in the region.

Finally, a large object was observed to alternate between motionless hovering and performing some extraordinary manoeuvres, somewhat perplexing as the radar was set to ignore stationary objects!

Meanwhile back at Woodbourne, a second Argosy was setting off on a freight run, and captain Vern Powell was asked to keep a lookout for any sign of the objects.

They soon had an encounter with the large stationary object that puzzled the radar operators:

RADAR: 10′ o clock to you range 30 miles, a large target…tracked down from Wellington….has tracked down to 60 miles and has remained stationery for 3/4 hour…now moved 20 miles to the West.

PLANE: We have a bright red glowing light…10 o’ clock position…definitely airborne.

RADAR: the ones off Clarence coast have disappeared…..the bright red one has also faded from radar…

PLANE: It’s still there…very bright!

(The stationary object reappears on radar approx. 2-3000ft6 above the aircraft)

PLANE: It appears to be stationary at the moment, is that right?

RADAR: that is confirmed, been stationary for about 45 minutes….

(The object suddenly begins to move, taking a parallel track with the freighter)

RADAR: That one on your left…starting to move in the same direction as yourself….moved approximately 4 miles as we have been speaking.‘

PLANE: Yes, the light has just gone out.

RADAR: He has disappeared from radar too.

(the object reappears both on radar and visually and tracks the plane for 12 miles before disappearing again. At the same time Andy Herd of Wellington radar calls up Christchurch radar room)

WELLINGTON RADAR: Jackpot! Southbound Argosy has seen a big red “thing….”


WR:…yes about 10,000feet, about 2000 feet above him, confirmed on radar!

Both Northbound and Southbound freight planes continued to see radar-confirmed lights that night, and later checks with NZ military authorities were met with denials that any exercises or experimentation were taking place in the area at the time.

But this was nothing compared to what was to come.

Two months earlier, an Australian UFO case had made waves in the mainstream media with the unexplained disappearance of an amateur pilot, Fred Valentich. Transcripts of the radio communications in Valentich’s final moments, sound, once again, like something from a sci fi movie: It is clear that Valentich’s Cessna was approached by a missile-like object capable of hovering stationery and emitting a green light. The device hovered above the Cessna, and the plane’s engine began to malfunction. The final transmission was 17 seconds of static and a metallic screeching.

Naturally, Australian media was subsequently on the lookout for anything UFO related in the Southern hemisphere that might make a good follow-up to the Valentich case.


And Australia’s Channel O not only picked up on the NZ media coverage of the 21 December Argosy Radar-Visual encounters, but happened to have one of their reporters, Quentin Fogarty, holidaying in New Zealand at the time.

A camera team was quickly assembled, with Fogarty joined by cameraman David Crockett and his wife and sound recordist, Ngaire Crockett, to film a segment on the events including a re-enactment of the events aboard an Argosy Air Freighter, piloted by Capt. Bill Startup and 1st Mate Bob Guard.

The rest is history, with the team filming a variety of unidentified objects, correlating with radar returns, on both legs of the journey. The most famous segment being of the large orb like shape that featured in television news items around the world.…

Finally it seemed the Holy Grail of UFO research was at hand: A case with visual and radar confirmation, multiple witnesses of high calibre, and filmed by a professional camera crew!

As you can see from the selection of images below, the variety of configurations filmed is far more than the few moments of footage shown in the news items would suggest!

Image result for kaikoura ufo

Image result for kaikoura ufo

In the resultant media frenzy, the debunkers lined up to take a shot. Venus,(note the pic on the bottom left in the montage is Venus for comparison), Jupiter, squid fishing vessels, Muttonbird flocks, “moonlight reflected from a cabbage patch”(?) meteors, temperature inversions… the list went on and on. “Venus does not, sort of, pass beneath the wings of your aircraft”, remarked Startup dryly.

And UFOs continued to be sighted and filmed in the days afterwards over Kaikoura:








Almost four decades later, there are still no definitive answers about what was being seen by flight crews, radar, and civilian ground observation, back in 1978, despite the massive number of theories.

Now, after re-examing the material in light of many years of research into esoteric military technologies as part of my quest for answers to the Christchurch Earthquake events, I believe I have a plausible explanation.

Two persons mentioned this explanation back in early 1979, and were practically ignored.

But back then, no one had internet……

What caused me to start looking back over this case were two factors; the release of the classified government report on the incident, and the Christchurch earthquakes of September 2011 and February 2012 (and the thousands of ongoing aftershocks). My subsequent quest for knowledge about HAARP and ionospheric modification led me to look back through the report with fresh eyes.


Although the government issued a press release summing up their investigations and conclusions, the actual report, for some utterly unfathomable reason, was stamped “Restricted” and kept under wraps for 30 years, thus fuelling unfounded speculation and rumour (or maybe that was the point?).

Here’s a sample of quotes that set the tone:

-the reporting officer is of the opinion…

-the reporting officer speculates…

-might have been caused by…

-possibly caused by…

-may well be explained in due course.

Get the picture?

Let’s hear some more honest snippets:

-no explanation can be offered for this observation.

-it is difficult to explain the lights…..

So, this report is all opinion and speculation, dressed up as an authoritive explanation. A whitewash.…

But there’s something else here. Check out these bits of impressive sounding jargon:

-anomalous propagation (ducting)

-freak propagation

-super refraction

-radar contact produced by ducting

-inversion layers

-radar double bounce

Now, these extraordinary collection of freak atmospheric conditions supposedly persisted through December 78 and January 79! That’s got to be some kind of record. Wouldn’t one think all these freakish conditions would excite the attention of meteorologists around the world? I can’t find one paper, lecture, or article, outside of UFO literature. And those radar returns. Spurious returns are usually transitory and and quite distinguishable from solid aircraft returns. They certainly don’t sit on the radar for 45 minutes or track other aircraft, let alone play cat and mouse with them.

And yet it seems clear that something extraordinary was going on in the skies over New Zealand, but it was concentrated into concentrated, highly localised pockets and acted as if under intelligent control.

The terms used to describe the phenomena sounded very familiar to me as a result of my Research into HAARP, Over the Horizon Radar and other atmospheric modification programmes.

I am reminded of something called AIM; Artificial Ionospheric Mirrors. An ionospheric heating device, such as EISCAT or HAARP concentrates on a point of the ionosphere until it creates a miniature aurora, a visible bubble of plasma. This plasma bubble acts as a mirror to bounce radar beams over the horizon.

Image result for artificial ionospheric mirror…

This is however, not the solution to the Kaikoura phenomena, as such plasma bubbles were not sustained for any more any appreciable duration until very recently, and are high up in the ionosphere and several kilometres in diameter.

NRL scientists produce densest artificial ionospheric plasma clouds using HAARP

Yet, with NZ and specifically Canterbury being involved ionospheric modification and OTHR research for decades, I had a feeling that similar technology was involved in this case.

Perhaps something on a smaller scale, like portable projectors.

But why in full public view? Despite the official report claiming a dearth of ground witnesses, I’ve personally spoken to plenty of regular folk who witnessed these phenomena, all the way from Banks Peninsula to Kaikoura, and Fogarty claims “hundreds” saw the lights.

And the NZ defence forces, even decades after the event, claim no exercises of any kind were underway at the time. But then, let’s have look at the careful wording of the official Press Release.

The defence forces are “certain” that it wasn’t aliens from another world, or from a hostile nation, and make great show of poor little NZ’s lack of a defence budget. Like the restricted official report, it’s what the press release fails to mention that really stands out. If you eliminate extreterrestrials and earthly hostiles, that leaves “friendly” nations; allies. Australia and the US being the most likely candidates.

So again, why in public, and for what purpose?

The exposure to pilots, radar, and ground witnesses must have been intentional. Not just a technological test, but also a psychological test. A test of reactions?

And in order to really answer “why”?, we must ask “what”? And “how”?


I found it in Quentin Fogarty’s book, Let’s Hope They’re Friendly.

On page 120 is the following:

A… sighting was advanced soon after the sightings by a man who claimed he had worked for the top secret Royal Air Force Projects, “Hookdown” and “Sidescan”. He told a New Zealand newspaper that the objects seen and filmed off the Kaikoura coast might have been top secret, remote controlled drones. The man theorised that the drones, used to decoy radar from an attacking strike force, were being tested by the United States military from the nearby secret military installations  at Mount John, and from a US tracking station near Christchurch. He suggested the Americans were testing their advanced drones on civil aviation radar.”

Interesting, but clearly just theory and speculation. So far I have found no info on the two projects mentioned, and frustratingly no name is given for either the source or the newspaper he informed. Very interesting though, is the mention of drones (something wee are all familiar with three decades on) and the mention of Mount John and a “tracking station near Christchurch”. Does he mean the infamous Weedons antenna? “….to decoy radar”? Interesting.…

Let’s back up to page 119:

“captain John Randle suggested to me that the efforts to denigrate the sightings, and the witnesses, were designed to cover up EXPERIMENTS IN HOLOGRAPHIC TARGET DECOYS (my emphasis) by the Australian and New Zealand navies. HE SAID EVERY “BUT WHY” WAS ANSWERED BY THIS HYPOTHESIS AND LESS PROOF HAS BEEN USED TO HANG PEOPLE.”

Captain Randle went on to say the lights he witnessed that sent beams down to the coastline were most likely a fleet of four or five helicopters, which also suggests a military operation of some sort.

Tellingly, the official report mentions Randle’s helicopters in order to dismiss them as car headlights, suggesting Randle’s estimate of 1000ft altitude to be poor judgement!

He is then quoted at the top of page 120:

“I THINK IT WAS HOLOGRAPHY OR INTERFEROMETRY PRODUCING THE WHOLE AFFAIR and can’t see little green men at the bottom of the plot”

So two people talk about radar decoys. One says drones, the other says holograms. Perhaps both were used?

I remind you that these words were spoken in the late 1970s.

Holograms were science fiction as far as the public were concerned. The rest of Randle’s claims probably went right over the heads of most people. But after re reading Quentin Fogarty,s book after the earthquakes in 2011, I highlighted the terms he used and began looking online to find out if there was any substance to Randle’s hypothesis.

First, there are some things noted by Bruce Maccabee, the well known US Navy Optical Physicist and UFO researcher, who did exhaustive analyses of the footage.

BM notes that the blue-white object brightens, fades, and momentarily vanishes and reappears, consistent with AN IMAGE GOING THROUGH FOCUS, but well beyond the camera’s focus range.

Regarding the large object familiar to TV viewers, BM notes that the image brightness starts low, brightens dramatically, then dims again. As it does so, there is “symmetry inversion”, as the object image flips over, simultaneously shrinking then expanding. This indicates “effects characteristic of GOING THROUGH FOCUS”. However, notes Maccabee, “when I last spoke to Crockett he was adamant that the lens was not out of focus and the large dim object on the film was very much like the object he saw through the eyepiece”.

So lets apply some logical thinking. Both objects mentioned went through a dramatic change of image focus. Dave Crockett, a professional cameraman, is adamant his camera wasn’t responsible. CONCLUSION: THE UFOS THEMSELVES WENT THROUGH A FOCUS CHANGE. Projected images of some sort ?

The final giveaway in the footage lies in possibly the most famous single frame of film footage on all of UFOlogy, the “ampersand” still.

If this movement, captured in a single frame, was caused by the object itself, and the object were ten nautical miles from the plane, as indicated on radar, then it travelled 17000 metres per second, resulting in a bone pulverising, metal crushing, 800,000 times the force of gravity. A poorly maintained flying saucer with a backfiring warp drive?

A sensible theory is that it was the camera being bumped or jogged that caused the image.

Maccabee doubts this explanation based on the mass and rotational inertia of the camera, although he doesn’t discount the possibility. However, Dr. Richard Haines attempted to reproduce the image with a camera aboard an aircraft and a bright lightsource, and was unable to produce anything remotely as complex as the “ampersand”.

So once again, applying the same logic as before, then if the recording apparatus didn’t produce the effect, the probably the apparatus PROJECTING the image was jogged.

Ever used a laser pointer? Try projecting the laser onto a wall, and no matter how steady you hold it, even the slightest movement of the hand causes the light to wiggle around, resulting in a complex pattern if captured on camera, as in the examples below:

So the film itself provides some evidence suggesting that the UFOs might have been projected images of some sort. They change focus and the “ampersand” image suggests that the projecting apparatus was momentarily subjected to a knock or vibration.

But wait.

How does a hologram show up as a solid radar return?

And an Air Force Orion aircraft sent up to investigate similar returns in early January 1979 saw no objects but encountered severe pockets of turbulence. Do holograms cause turbulence and unusual atmospheric conditions?

This is where the references to Ionospheric Mirrors and OTH radar come in to the picture.


Neither a solid nor a gas, it can be generated by heating ionised atmosphere as demonstrated by HAARP.

It can be used to reflect or bounce radar beams therefore it can surely generate a return.

Remember though, this is 1978. Was such technology possible back then? Raytheon currently sell a drone radar decoy, the Nulka, that is capable of hovering in one spot, and several used together can give a ship sized radar return. Significantly this decoy was developed by the Australian Navy in the right time frame for the Kaikoura incidents. But it is no hologram, more like a missile.

But, there is plenty of material out there to suggest there is some real substance to the idea of a plasma radar decoy that is capable of steered movement.…

“By using a powerful laser and a converging lens, it is possible to ionise air locally at the point of focusing. If, for example, the lens has a focal distance of 1 metre, a bubble of plasma forms itself “miraculously” at a distance of 1 metre from the lens and seems to float in the air. By using an infrared laser, the rays of which are normally invisible to the naked eye, the result is very spectacular. But in order to project this “UFO” at great distance, it would be necessary to use a very powerful laser and a lens capable of focusing at the distance of projection. It is, therefore, more efficient to use a matrix of lasers converging towards a given point in the sky.

The first high energy lasers worked by means of carbon dioxide (CO2) and within the infrared scale. They appeared in the United States in 1968. The CO2 was inserted at one end of the laser while the residual non-toxic gases were expelled on the other side.

The first attempt to convert this into a transportable weapon was carried out by the US Army. Towards the middle of the seventies, a CO2 laser with a power of 30 kilowatts was mounted on a caterpillar-tracked vehicle LVTP-7 so as to create a “Mobile Test Unit”.

At the end of the seventies, the German Diehl company came up with a similar prototype, the HELEX (High Energy Laser Experimental). It consisted of a 28-ton armoured vehicle intended to carry a high energy CO2 laser with a power of several megawatts, whose range in clear weather would have reached 10 kilometres (fig. 11-a). The required consumption :of CO2 would allow up to 50 laser shots at each sortie.”

“What interest would the military have in developing such equipment? We can list several possible uses:


To produce Atmospheric ionospheric mirrors (see AIM above).


To produce radar decoys or visual decoys so as to deceive the enemy


To illuminate an enemy site for an extended period of time, as if it were daylight.


To put a mark on an enemy target for the purpose of guiding a missile, or to turn an enemy missile towards a false target and making it explode.


To suppress the toxicity of a combat gas spread by the enemy, by causing a reaction with the plasma produced


To disturb or destroy at long distance electronic, electric or electromechanical (motors) equipment with a particle beam


To cause fires or sever electric cables by melting them…”

So, it would seem that the answer is yes, it could have been done in 1978, and yes plasma bubbles would have worthwhile military applications. This, then, would seem to be the likely answer to the mystery, and the reason for the whitewash official report and the carefully worded press release statements.

Like Randle said, less evidence has been used to hang people and every “why” is answered. Even the reported weather inversions and “super refractions” are explained by heating and ionisation of localised pockets of air.

Still not convinced? Here’s practical demonstration:

Looks familiar?

Image result for atmospheric plasma hologram

That flickering effect has caused at least one UFO researcher to claim that the object filmed by the TV crew was a “Chinese lantern” (read my objections to his conclusion in the comments below the clip):

(be sure to check out waytofarout2C’s stabilised UFO footage. Even though I disagree with his conclusion on this, he’s a sensible and objective researcher)

Finally, the government’s official report, if you look really hard, does indeed mention plasmas as a possible cause of the sightings and radar returns!…

*There was, right here, a link to declassified UK government memorandum on plasma based Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, a PDF. It was the smoking gun. A mindblower. This is not a joke. The PDF was lifted from Google and my link vanished. I received immediately afterwards a notification from Google about unusual activity on my account triggered by my search “plasma holographic radar decoy”.  I have searched my history and it’s gone. Wow.

Real XFiles stuff!


How did John Randle, a commercial pilot, know all this so casually back in 1978?

After all, this was before the internet, and holograms, as far as the general public were concerned, was the stuff of Star Wars. This was material that would surely have been highly classified.

So I decided to try and find out more about this John Randle. Perhaps something in his history would explain his apparent knowledge?

Tracking him down turned out to be a formidable task. Obviously he existed as Fogarty and the DSIR investigators communicated with him. One article added the info that he was John B. Randle.

I tried emailing a Peter Randle in the aviation industry to see if he was a relative, got no response.

Finally, I found this:…

So now we have the one and only candidate for the identity of the mysterious Mr. Randle. Armed with this extra detail, I tried searching online among records of births, deaths, viticulturist in the Marlborough region. Nothing. No further info.

At the time of finalising this blog, I have contacted who are devoted to this aircraft and the pilots who flew it. They also maintain an interest in the Kaikoura UFO mystery, so I figure if anyone knows anything about Randle, they will.

One more thing: at the climax of Close Encounters, when the alien mothership is revealed, R2D2, the hologram projecting robot of Star Wars, can be seen perched on the rim. A subtle clue perhaps I wonder?

Image result for close encounters mothership r2d2

Hope you enjoyed the blog. All feedback and constructive criticism is welcome!

(reposted from my blog page at the