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Francis Chichester sighting, 1931

On June 10, 1931, Francis Chichester was flying a modified de Havilland dh60 Gipsy Moth aircraft from took off from Lord Howe Island, east of Brisbane, Australia to reach New Zealand. He wrote in his book "The Lonely Sea and the Sky":

"Round the storm we flew into calm air under a weak lazy sun. I took out the sextant and got two shoots. It took me thirty minutes to work them out, for the engine kept back firing, and my attention wandered every time it did..."

"Suddenly, ahead and thirty degrees to the left, there were bright flashes in several places, like the dazzle of a heliograph. I saw a dull grey-white airship coming towards me. It seemed impossible, but I could have sworn that it was an airship, nosing towards me like an oblong pearl. Except for a cloud or two, there was nothing else in the sky."

"I looked around, sometimes catching a flash or a glint, and turning again to look at the airship I found it had disappeared. I screwed up my eyes, unable to believe them, and twisted the seaplane this way and that, thinking that the airship must be hidden by a blind spot. Dazzling flashes continued in four or five different places, but I could not pick out any planes."

"Then, out of some clouds to my right front, I saw another, or the same, airship advancing. I watched it intently, determined not to look away for a fraction of a second: I'd see what happened to this one, if I had to chase it. It drew steadily closer, until perhaps a mile away, when suddenly it vanished. Then it reappeared, close to where it had vanished: I watched with angry intentness. It drew closer, and I could see the dull gleam of light on its nose and back. It came on, but instead of increasing in size, it diminished as it approached. When quite near, it suddenly became its own ghost - one second I could see through it, and the next it had vanished. I decided that it could only be a diminutive cloud, perfectly shaped like an airship and then dissolving, but it was uncanny that it should exactly resume the same shape after it once vanished."

"I turned towards the flashes, but those too had vanished. All this was many years before anyone spoke of flying saucers. Whatever it was I saw, it seems to have been very much like what people have since claimed to be flying saucers."

Later, he told again about his sighting in a TV interview:

He said:

"It was a perfect shape, it was... shaped sort of more like a pearl... with a tail."

"And I watched this thing and suddenly it disappeared. And I was... I thought well am I seeing things? I had a very grueling flight. I had been waiting for... I had engine trouble, and I had been waiting for hours expecting to go in to the sea you know."

"However suddenly this thing reappeared coming towards me. Well I'm not going to let it go this time! I kept my look fixed on it and it [was] approaching fairly fast, and suddenly, gradually rather, it began to thin out and it vanished in front of me..."

Sir Francis Charles Chichester (1901 - 1972), famous aviator and sailor, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for becoming the first person to sail single-handed around the world by the clipper route, and the fastest circumnavigator, in nine months and one day overall.

Left: Chichester's Gipsy Moth seaplane on a stamp.

Short discussion:

Nobody, skeptical or not, seems to have investigated the sighting, although Sir Francis Chichester was certainly available for that, long enough.

"It came on, but instead of increasing in size, it diminished as it approached", he said. Did he see something from another world, or was it some peculiar kind of mirage on the horizon? Alas we will likely never know how far he was from land, and how high or close the thing was from the horizon.

Sources:

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This page was last updated on August 11, 2010