Following hot on the heels of a series of international UFO sighting disclosures, the New Zealand government has joined the party and made public 2,000 pages of UFO eyewitness accounts dating back to 1952.
Following public pressure (and not the threat of being outed by WikiLeaks — although it is said that there are top secret cables pertaining to UFOs coming soon), the NZ military agreed to open the files for scrutiny, but only if the individuals detailed in the reports could remain anonymous.
The reports come from the public, military sources and pilots and the newspaper The Dominion Post is helpfully scanning and publishing the whole lot online.
After a quick scan through some of the pages, there are detailed reports of flying saucers, intimate relations with alien beings and brief sightings of strange lights in the sky. Although it's going to take a lot longer to fully digest all the material, I'll take a wild guess and say that the reports will sound much like the UK's recent release of 6,000 pages of UFO documents.
Suzanne Hansen from the organization UFOCUS NZ told The Dominion Post that she had been requesting the UFO files for two years, but didn't hold out much hope of ever reading the details of eyewitness accounts of some of the most famous New Zealand sightings.
"I started lobbying, and at first they said there was no way in the foreseeable future they'd be released. It's been a long time coming," Hansen said.
Granted, many of the UFO sightings are just that: sightings of unidentified flying objects. And some of New Zealand's most famous mysteries can be found in the reports.
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One such famous sighting happened in 1978 when radar controllers, pilots and a journalist with a camera crew witnessed a very bizarre chain of events while flying off the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand, near the town of Kaikoura. Bright objects apparently tracked their aircraft for many miles and the UFOs were confirmed by radar crews on the mainland.
Naturally, there was a lot of excitement at the time about the possible origins of these UFOs, but there was also a lot of skepticism about what really happened. Ufologists will no doubt be very interested to pick through every detail of the Kaikoura event to reveal any clues as to what the UFOs might have been.
While I'm interested by some of the more mysterious UFO sightings (such as the Kaikoura sighting), I am totally unconvinced that any sighting of an unidentified flying object as detailed in these New Zealand documents pertains to visitations by extraterrestrials — as many of the reports suggest.
To quote my Discovery News skeptical colleague Ben Radford: "not a single person has come forth with hard evidence of extraterrestrials."
That said, a lack of evidence doesn't mean aliens haven't visited Earth, but the likelihood of ET making a trip across the oceans of interstellar space just play chicken with our commercial aircraft seems unlikely. Besides, the distances between the stars may prove prohibitively vast even for the most advanced spaceship.
Although aliens may seem synonymous with UFOs, most UFO sightings will have very terrestrial explanations. The rest are just shaky videos of Venus.
(But just in case I'm wrong, we'd better do a better job at hiding our nukes.)
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