1956 - Unidentified Echoes Mystify Airforce Base Radar Operators

Date: Saturday 21 January 1956
Time: 11 p.m.
Location: Whenuapai Airforce Base, Auckland, North Island
Witness/es: A. Veldhurizen & L. E. Webley, Met. radar operators
Weather conditions calm, 7/8 cloud, cirrus/cirro-stratus 25,000 - 30,000 ft.
At 11 p.m., Saturday night, whilst carrying out routine weather search for rain cloud formations, two meteorological radar operators were mystified by the sudden appearance of some six particularly strong echoes (blips) on the screen of the set.

The operators are quickly noted the range and elevation of these blips and found them to be (a) range 85,000 to 100,000 yards (b) elevation 11,000 to 13,000 feet.
The blips persisted and were rechecked for correct fix are a further 20 minutes. They closely resembled echoes given by a solid body, but remained stationary during the observation in a fairly close cluster-like formation.

The mystery echoes were discovered ranged between 080° to 110° compass bearing. Taking this factor and their distance (between 48 and 56 miles) establishes their mean position as being approximately above Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsular. The echoes were clearly defined, glowed with above-normal brilliance for the distance indicated, and did not compare with the varying type echoes received from time to time that indicate atmospheric effects or set malfunction.

These abnormal echoes were still very prominent when the operators ceased duties and switched off their set at 11:20 p.m. At 0400 hrs Sunday morning Mr L. E. Webley, on returning to duty, carried out an immediate renewed search for the puzzling blips, but failed to relocate them. Further searches during routine meteorological operations during Sunday, Sunday evening and the following day, proved negative.

Tests for correct function of the radar equipment made by Len Tawhiri (relieving technician) the following day (Sunday) revealed no apparent faults. When the other met. service officers, M. Rennie, M. Bowers, D. Christensen, and C. Rogers, also stationed at Whenuapai learned of the details of their fellow officer’s observation, they expressed confidence in these men's ability and generally agreed that something extraordinarily had appeared on the local radar screen Saturday night.

When the details of the incident were brought to the notice of Mr Larson, Senior Met officer, Mechanics Bay, Auckland, he expressed interest and subsequently requested Veldhurizen and Webley to prepare reports for forwarding to Wellington headquarters.

The incident was reported in brief by the New Zealand Herald on Tuesday 22 January. The opinion offered the press by Mr E. Waddell, a senior technician at Mechanics Bay was somewhat premature, as he had not at the time learned any details of the Whenuapai radar incident.

Possible explanations:

The mystery echoes may have been the direct result of a very strong temperature inversion, at a point approximately half the distance or range indicated- the inversion deflection thus causing the appearance on the radar screen of Coromandel land features.
A formation of unidentified flying objects was hovering in stationary attitude in the position plotted. (This is a well-established flight characteristic and frequent habit of UFOs. Some are of extraordinary size.)
Again on Thursday 26 January 1956, during rain cloud search (same watch), another blip (medium strong) was detected. The echo was received from bearing 221, at 22 - 23,000 feet and 71 miles slant range distance. After 15 minutes, the blip disappeared, otherwise the echo was also stationary. Bearing 221 is out to open sea, and there is no land in the area.

Source: (The late) Harold Fulton, CSI (Civilian Saucer Investigation) NZ.


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