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URECAT - UFO Related Entities Catalog

URECAT is a formal catalog of UFO related entities sightings reports with the goal of providing quality information for accurate studies of the topic. Additional information, corrections and reviews are welcome at patrick.gross@inbox.com, please state if you wish to be credited for your contribution or not. The main page of the URECAT catalog is here.

AUGUST 2, 1909, OAMARU, OTAGO, NEW ZEALAND, THOMAS ROBERTSON:

Brief summary of the event and follow-up:

The newspaper North Otago Times for August 4, 1909, reported that at 3 o'clock on Monday morning, August 2, 1909, Mr. Thomas Robertson, a baker in the employ of Mr Irvine, saw plainly a large boat-shaped body passing over the north end of Oamaru, New Zealand, a short distance this side of Sumpter's Hill.

The newspaper said the moon was to the westward, and it threw the airship into bold relief, Mr. Robertson assured them he was "not mistaken, that the object was plainly visible to him as the hill itself."

There were three lights on the airship, a large bright one in front, and smaller ones in the middle and at the rear. The airship was moving rapidly, and he watched it until it disappeared over the hills by Weston.

He said he saw silhouetted against the brightness beyond what he took to be two figures in the structure. These, however, he said, may have been parts of the airship, but to him they appeared to be men.

The newspaper mentions that Mr. Robertson saw similar lights passing over to the seaward side of the town some weeks before, but said little about them at the time, as no airship was visible to him. robertson gave his statement as "tangible evidence of the existence of something more than a kite with a Chinese lantern hanging to its tail or a fire-balloon. It was not even luminous cosmic dust nor a jack-o'-lantern, but as he says a real veritable airship, and this he is prepared to affirm."

The case was decades later included approximately as it stands here in several catalogues of "close encounters of the third kind."

Basic information table:

Case number: URECAT-001481
Date of event: August 2, 1909
Earliest report of event: August 4, 1909
Delay of report: 2 days.
Witness reported via: Not known.
First alleged record by: N/A
First certain record by: Newspaper North Otago Times.
First alleged record type: N/A.
First certain record type: Newspaper.
This file created on: October 1, 2017
This file last updated on: October 1, 2017
Country of event: New Zealand
State/Department: Otago
Type of location: Outside.
Lighting conditions: Night with moonlight.
UFO observed: Yes
UFO arrival observed: No
UFO departure observed: Yes
UFO/Entity Relation: Certain
Witnesses numbers: 1
Witnesses ages: Not reported. Young adult or adult.
Witnesses types: Not reported. Man, bakery worker.
Photograph(s): No.
Witnesses drawing: No.
Witnesses-approved drawing: No.
Number of entities: 2
Type of entities: Human
Entities height: Not visible
Entities outfit type: Not visible.
Entities outfit color: Not visible.
Entities skin color: Not visible.
Entities body: Not certain. Figures of men or parts of airship.
Entities head: Not visible.
Entities eyes: Not visible.
Entities mouth: Not visible.
Entities nose: Not visible.
Entities feet: Not visible.
Entities arms: Not visible.
Entities fingers: Not visible.
Entities fingers number: Not visible.
Entities hair: Not visible.
Entities voice: Nonre reported.
Entities actions: Were in UFO, departure.
Entities/witness interactions: None.
Witness(es) reactions: Observed.
Witness(es) feelings: Not reported.
Witness(es) interpretation: Two men in an airship.
Explanation category: Local model airship or hoax. Not related to UFO occupants.
Explanation certainty: Medium.

Narratives:

[Ref. no1:] "NORTH OTAGO TIMES" NEWSPAPER:

THE AIRSHIP.

The scepticism that exists regarding the mysterious lights and the phenomenon of a large body rapidly passing across the vision of those fortunate to see it is still largely impenetrable. That may be assumed to be the failing of those who will not receive the truth. With Bret Harte's Bill Nye they ask "is visions about ?" and if they are there is something of solid substance about them. For instance, at 3 o'clock on Monday morning, Mr. Thomas Robertson, a baker in the employ of Mr Irvine, saw plainly a large boat-shaped body passing over the north end of Oamaru, a short distance this side of Sumpter's Hill. The moon was to the westward, and it threw the airship into bold relief, Mr Robertson assures us he was "not mistaken, that the object was plainly visible to him as the hill itself. There were three lights on the airship, a large bright one in front, and smaller ones in the middle and at the rear. This airship was moving rapidly, and he watched it till it disappeared over the hills by Weston. He also saw silhouetted against the brightness beyond what he took to be two figures in the structure. These, however, he says, may have been parts of the airship, but to him they appeared to be men. We may mention that Mr Robertson saw similar lights passing over to the seaward side of the town some weeks before, but said, little about them at the time, as no airship was visible to him. His positive assertion may not set all doubts at rest, but we give his statement as tangible evidence of the existence of something more than a kite with a Chinese lantern hanging to its tail or a fire-balloon. It was not even luminous cosmic dust nor a jack-o'-lantern, but as he says a real veritable airship, and this he is prepared to affirm.

Per Press Association.

Wellington, August 3.

Mr Geo. Mitchell, a resident of Wellington, reports having seen, from Island Bay, at 9.30 to-night, what appeared like a large are light out to sea, which traveled out of sight. The light was far too high to be mistaken for the light on a ship's mast. Another person makes an independent report that he saw a light in the same direction at the same time, and says there appeared to be an opaque body above it. As nearly as could be estimated the light was a quarter of a mile from the shore.

Nelson, August 3.

Mars, in conjunction with the prevailing "airship fever," was responsible for a good deal of excitement at Nelson last night. Mars is now approaching to its closest proximity to the earth and scintillated with unusual brilliance, giving some observers the impression that a phantom airship, reported from various parts of the Dominion, was contemplating a descent. The news was carried to the theatre where the Citizen's band bazaar was in progress, and the building rapidly emptied. This incident may possibly explain some reports where airships are deduced from the appearance of unusual lights.

[Ref. nw1:] NIGEL WATSON:

Nigel Watson indicates that at 3.00 a.m. on 2 August 1909, Mr Thomas Robertson, a baker in the employ of Mr Irvine, plainly saw a large boat-shaped body passing over the north end of Oamaru, a short distance this side of Sumpter's Hill. He also saw silhouetted against the brightness beyond, what he took to be two figures in the structure. These, however, he says, may have been parts of the airship, but to him they appeared to be men.

The source is indicated as "The North Otago Times, 4 August 1909".

[Ref. bc1:] BILL CHALKER:

Bill Chalker indicates that during the 1909 wave in New Zealand, Thomas Robertson, a baker, reported seeing a large boat shaped object, with three lights, flying over Oamaru, near Sumpter's Hill, at 3 am on August 2nd. The moon in the west was reportedly clearly illuminating the vessel. It appeared to have two figures inside it. The "North Otago Times" of August 4th, reported that the object disappeared in the direction of Weston at "a fast rate".

[Ref. dj1:] DONALD JOHNSON:

Donald Johnson indicates that on August 2, 1909, in Oamaru, near Sumpter's Hill, Otago, New Zealand, a large boat-shaped flying object with three lights was observed at 3:00 a.m., clearly illuminated by the moon. Two figures were visible inside the craft, and the object flew "at a fast rate."

The source is given as "Richard H. Hall, From Airships to Arnold: A Preliminary Catalogue of UFO Reports in the Early 20th Century (1900-1946), p. 8)."

[Ref. ud1:] "UFODNA" WEBSITE:

The website indicates that on 2 August 1909 at 03:00 in "Oamaru, Nr Sumpter's Hill", New Zealand, "Large boat-shaped object with three lights was observed, clearly illuminated by the moon. two figures were visible inside. Object flew 'at a fast rate'."

And: "An object was observed. Occupants of the craft were seen. One object was observed. Two silhouetted beings were seen."

The source is indicated as "Hall, Richard H., From Airships to Arnold: A Preliminary Catalogue of UFO Reports in the Early 20th Century (1900-1946), UFO Research Coalition, Fairfax, 2000, ISBN:1-928957-01-3".

Points to consider:

There is little chance of obtaining more information than the North Otago Times [no1] gives; this press article seems to be the primary source.

The article does not seem to have been picked up in other newspapers, and I found no newspaper that would give any explanation at a later date.

We see that various explanations more or less "ordinary" are considered and discarded by the newspaper. This is general during the wave of "mysterious dirigibles" in 1909 in New Zealand. The explanations considered in the New Zealand Press then were:

Left: a "Chinese lantern", somtimes called "fire balloon", "toy balloon"...

Colors, shapes, sizes can of course vary.

In the present case, few of these alternatives are to be considered seriously.

The possibility of a hoax, either by Mr. Robertson himself or by a journalist, makes little sense, but cannot be ruled out.

Extraterrestrials, or some paranormal phenomenon, would be a completely gratuitous explanation, there is nothing that suggests it in the narrative.

One can consider an airship, or a mini-airship of local construction. After all, the witness is not sure that he saw two men, he does specify - and this is to be taken as a mild sign of credibility of his narrative if there is any narrative at all - that he may have mistaken parts of the airship structure for men silhouettes.

As far as the "modern" ufologists are concerned, it is obviously possible to ask what was going on in their minds when they incliuded this story into their ufological productions. In fact the motivation seems really varied.

For the advocates of the "socio-psychological hypothesis", it is necessary to show that our modern UFOs, interpreted as extraterrestrial visitors, have had equivalents in history, for example, of non-existent dirigibles, at a time when extraterrestrials were not envisaged while dirigibles could be the false explanation. They consider that by pure invention or by "contamination", people have reported seeing "dirigibles", as nowadays they report "UFOs". When it is not pure invention, they were misinterpretations: a planet, a star, or any unrecognized natural phenomenon taking the looks of an airship, sometimes with various details that are believed to be seen, but unreal. The suggestion, sometimes referred to as "mass hysteria," would be of sufficient power to "see" non-existent details.

On the side of the "extraterrestrial hypothesis" tenants - the theory that some of the observations indicate that extraterrestrial intelligence is visiting us - things are very confusing: such narratives are often integrated without any critical thinking into the ufology literature, ufology catalogs. No reason is given, which gives the appearance that the narrative is according to the publisher, indeed an extraterrestrial intrusion report. In a case such as this, it is quite laughable. This seems to be partly due to a lack of understanding of other possible explanations. For example, one would comment on a 1909 case that this can not be an airship because, he believes, none existed yet. He would publish a sketch of a future airship of the relevant country, stating that it was the first one, when it is not. However, he would not write anywhere that this must be an extraterrestrial craft, as if to avoid any possible cristicism.

Another school of thought ("Keel-Vallée-Sider") seems to reject - as much as possible - extraterrestrial visitors as well as misunderstandings or hoaxes, collecting such stories for another purpose: they intend to show that "abnormal", "inexplicable" things exist since the dawn of time, and that they are therefore not really extraterrestrial, the "modern fashion", no more than airships, the "old time fashion", but something else, that remains totally unexplained. Something sometimes vaguely theorized as an "intelligence" of some "supernatural" realm, which "manipulates" witnesses, makes them see "absurd" things for some generally unexplained purpose. Some go even further by suggesting that this intelligence that "shows us" false extraterrestrials and false dirigibles is... an extraterrestrial intelligence. And, therefore, sightings of planes, dirigibles and others things before they existed are sightings of "aliens in disguize."

For the lattertwo schools of thought, it has often been argued that narratives and testimonies point to characteristics that blatantly exclude a mundane interpretation. For example, it would be commented that during this or that "wave" of "mysterious dirigibles", the said dirigibles would have according to their witnesses flight characteristics that are impossible for real dirigibles. "Impossible maneuvers", high speeds, flight against powerful winds, occupants whose behavior or appearance are perfectly incompatible or absurd if they were to be interpreted as ordinary aeronauts. There is no question here of confirming or invalidating in a global way such an assertion; but I discard it at least for this case. This alleged airship shows nothing that would exclude that it was an airship. The only strangeness here, if one gives credit to the report, is that a priori, there was still no operational dirigible able to carry two passengers in New Zealand at that precise time. Or at least I have not found anything like that, but I can not help but notice that it would not have been impossible entirely.

Note: In the above, I refer extensively to statements of the press of that time. This is really based on real press articles that my reader can consult on my website via the "Documents" section, where the articles can be read, see the 1900-1909 newspapers section.

List of issues:

Id: Topic: Severity: Date noted: Raised by: Noted by: Description: Proposal: Status:
None

Evaluation:

Sources references:

* = Source I checked.
? = Source I am told about but could not check yet. Help appreciated.

Document history:

Authoring

Main Author: Patrick Gross
Contributors: None
Reviewers: None
Editor: Patrick Gross

Changes history

Version: Created/Changed By: Date: Change Description:
0.1 Patrick Gross October 1, 2017 Creation, [no1], [nw1], [bc1], [dj1], [ud1].
1.0 Patrick Gross October 1, 2017 First published.

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This page was last updated on October 1, 2017.