This article was published in the daily newspaper The Globe and Mail, Canada, August 5, 2004.
Canadians near record number of UFO sightings
Ottawa — From a translucent, saucer-shaped object in British Columbia to mysterious lights buzzing motorists in New Brunswick, Canadians are on their way to reporting a record-high number of UFO sightings this year.
More than 400 stories of curious encounters were filed through the end of July, compared with just over 300 by this time last year, says Ufology Research of Manitoba, a group that tracks reports of unidentified flying objects.
At this rate, the total for 2004 will surpass the current record of 673 sightings reported last year, said Chris Rutkowski, research co-ordinator for the Winnipeg-based organization.
The group receives reports directly by telephone and e-mail, from sister agencies that follow the phenomenon, and via federal departments such as Transport and National Defence.
Mr. Rutkowski isn't sure why the numbers are rising, but suspects it might be linked to public awareness of recent exploratory missions to intriguing planets such as Mars and Saturn.
"I think there is a resurgence of interest in space," he said Thursday in an interview.
Dazzling mid-air manoeuvres were a feature of some of the more dramatic otherworldly episodes.
At a military base in Beaverbank, N.S., last April, three people spotted several lights in the east, including a slow-moving red one bobbing up and down.
Suddenly, a second red light swooped in, prompting the first one to climb upwards and fly over it.
In a July incident, a Rosemont, Que., couple saw a very bright red light moving slowly westward. Travelling much too low to be an airplane or helicopter, the object plunged to the ground and disappeared after about a minute.
Two people sitting on a hill in an Edmonton park on June 23 watched four distinct lights hover above them.
"At first they thought it was some sort of satellite," Mr. Rutkowski said.
"But then the lights gathered together, close in the sky, and spread out again. They would travel in one direction for a while and then curve back in a very sharp turn in another direction. And they watched it for 90 minutes."
The Prairies seem to be a hotbed of unexplained activity.
In Alberta, 61 sightings occurred up to the end of July, compared with 76 in all of last year. There were 50 in Manitoba, already double the total for 2003, while 19 reports emerged from Saskatchewan, topping last year's 13.
In a widely reported incident, the pilot of Prime Minister Paul Martin's plane reported seeing a "very bright light" falling through the air, with smoke trailing, while the aircraft passed over Suffield, Alta., in March.
Mr. Rutkowski believes that while most UFO reports have simple explanations — many being meteors — a small percentage are puzzling and deserve the attention of scientists.
Among notable sightings recorded this year:
There is "just no explanation for what was going on at that time," Mr. Rutkowski says.