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Friday, 19 June 2015

Unexplained Orkney Part 1 : Visitors From Above

As I have mentioned before, it was my Dad who encouraged my interest in the unexplained - rather surprising since Dad was a very logic-driven guy, sometimes maddeningly so! As a Royal Navy petty officer and a civilian engineer who, one way or another, spent all of his adult life working for the MoD, it was even more surprising that he had a healthy distrust of taking the word of our government and military overlords…or maybe that's not so surprising! Anyway, he encouraged my interest at an early age when he gave me a copy of Erich von Danniken’s book Chariots of the Gods, and then steered me toward many other such writers including Charles Fort, Zecheriah Sitchin, and Jim Marrs.

I’ve lived for more than a decade now in Orkney ( for the geographically-challenged, Orkney is one of those remote island chains at the very, very top of Scotland, the ones which often look like an accidental ink blot on some maps and most TV weather forecast graphics ) and although I’ve long known of the rich depth and breadth of its mythology - everything from scary sea monsters to the helpful hogboon - I have only recently thought to take a closer look at the area’s history of UFO sightings and mysterious happenings. And there was more of it to be found than I had imagined.

What set me off on my research was an incident occurring in April of 2014 when a massive power outage saw the entire Highlands & Islands regions of Scotland blacked-out for several hours starting around 8.30pm. Almost two-thirds of the country was in total darkness because something hit the power lines at some point along a 55-mile stretch of extremely remote line in the Highlands. The mysterious thing about it was that despite a ‘full investigation’ by Scottish & Southern Electricity no actual cause has ever been found for the disruption. The best anyone has been able to say is that “something” must have hit the power lines - birds, flying debris, lightning. Problem with this is that there were no storms, no adverse weather conditions at all, and birds or debris tend to leave physical evidence in the vicinity, of which there was nothing, despite extensive ground searches. That’s when my mind drifted to other possible explanations… 

Sure, a very earthly military craft could have hit the power lines and the MoD would have calmly and believably denied having any aircraft in the area, it’s not like they haven’t got a track record for such bald-faced denials, right? It is true that as the jet-fighter flies Cape Wrath, one of the MoD's flight-testing sites, is a mere blip on the radar away from the area where the power lines came down. And I certainly have no problem recalling how we spent our second summer in Orkney having our satellite signal constantly and violently disrupted, much to the puzzlement ( and chagrin ) of our local satellite engineers. Everyone knew there had been test flights of new jet-fighters over Orkney, originating out of Cape Wrath, you couldn't miss the regular sonic booms they made, but no one seemed able to explain how those jets would have interfered with our satellite signal...well, what if it wasn't the jets doing the interference but something else that was following the jets, mm-mm...? Anyway, for the MoD to deny that one of their craft blacked-out almost an entire nation and for nobody to have blown the whistle, or at least started a rumor or two…? I have a harder time believing that than I do believing that extraterrestrial craft might have been shadowing the jet-testing and disrupted our satellite signal so badly we ended up being given a brand new dish free of charge by the despairing engineers! So is it really much more of a stretch to ask what if it had been some less earthly craft which got tangled with the power lines over the remote Highlands?

Then, by chance, I found a couple stories in the Yesteryear page of the local newspaper, The Orcadian. Both stories were from 1914 and concerned the launch of local lifeboats after sightings of ‘red flares’ were reported by several witnesses on land. In one instance it seemed to the witnesses that there was “a ship on fire off Burgh Head”. In this case, the lifeboat set off a flare to signal that help was on the way at which point “the light further out to sea immediately disappeared and despite close searches no trace of any vessel was ever found”. Nothing was ever found in either case, in fact.

Fast forward to April 2009, just around midnight, and the thunderous roar of a helicopter flying window-rattingly low over our house disturbed myself and Housemate watching a late-night movie. It was the coastguard helicopter joining a search which also involved a couple of lifeboats and the on-land emergency services, sparked by several reported sightings of “red flares” over Kirkwall Bay. Despite an intensive four-hour search, nothing was found. Sounding familiar yet? Yes, well, unlike the 1914 incidents, after which everyone ( meaning, the Establishment and the newspaper who were likely at the mercy of the Establishment at that war-sensitive time ) just shut up about it as if it had never happened, in 2009 the blame was placed on the reason du jour for any kind of unexplained lights being seen in the sky…Chinese lanterns.

I’m sorry, pardon me, but whaaaat -?

Apparently these days we are to believe that people all over the UK are merrily setting off Chinese lanterns which other people are merrily mistaking for everything from distress flares to UFO’s…because the Establishment assume we’re all dumb as fence posts, I suppose. Also, sorry again, but Orkney is a tiny wee island ( in comparison to, well, just about anywhere else except perhaps Shetland or the Faroes ) and if anyone had been setting off Chinese lanterns that night, you better believe that dozens of people would have known exactly who it was and where they were, and someone of those would have informed either the coastguard or the police or both. So, Chinese lanterns my sharny arse! But hey, too bad the Establishment didn’t have Chinese lanterns to blame in 1914, eh?

Anyway, back to the present and these incidents, put together in my fervid little imagination, set me off on a research quest ( which I haven’t quite completed yet but I have enough to make a start here ) and what I have found is kinda fascinating. First of all, I noticed that there is a [ tenuous? ] link between extreme weather events and meteor events, and rashes of UFO sightings and other mysterious happenings. Severe thunderstorms, blizzards, gale force winds, torrential rain, and at other end of the scale, unseasonable heat-waves. Also earthquakes and other mystery underground rumblings and venting seem to occur in a loose conjunction with other phenomena. I’ll write about this other phenomena in the next post.

In 1913, for a period of about 16 weeks from roughly January to April, there were a rash of what have come to be known as ‘scareship’ sightings all over the UK, sightings of what were assumed to be German airships or Zeppelins. There has never been any verification, either official or unofficial, that what people were seeing were Zeppelins, however, and the descriptions of the behavior of some of these craft make you doubt that they could have been anything as lumbering as a Zeppelin. Sticking to Orkney, there were ‘scareships’ spotted on 28th February, off the isle of Sanday, heading southwards, and again in March, when one was sighted over Sanday again, also heading southwards, seen also by people in Deerness on Mainland ( the biggest of the Orkney isles ). "Considerable importance" was attached to this sighting because it occurred in daylight. Despite this, the report made stated only that "a great aerial craft [was] seen hovering over the island on Monday afternoon, March 3rd". The 9th April sighting was even more descriptive and intriguing. This time the 'scareship' hovered over Stronsay ( and outer isle which turns up time and again in relation to Orkney's weird happenings ) for two hours before midnight, displaying a "bright light seen at intervals" and with the hum of an engine being distinctly heard despite the ship being stationary. It then headed in a northwesterly direction off Stronsay and disappeared.

Moving forward to June 1940 and Hoy, where an anti-aircraft unit member tracked for 10 seconds a “flattened sphere moving rapidly on a horizontal course at an estimated 38,000ft”. Moving forward again to March 1962 when an object with “capabilities and appearance beyond earthly aircraft” was spotted somewhere over Orkney ( not specified in report ) and another similar object spotted “on the sea”. Not over the sea, but on the sea. And the most intriguing one of all…in 1992 there was a well-renowned rash of UFO sightings all across Scotland, including one over Orkney. On December 20th a UFO was tracked on radar near Orkney and an RAF fighter jet sent to intercept and investigate it. The incident was never reported in the media, but if you go to this site and read Tony Dodd’s article you will see that he claims a 'reliable source' to have informed him that at one point the jet fighter and UFO merged on radar and contact was lost with the jet-fighter. A search and rescue plane was dispatched to look for the missing jet and did indeed find it, hours later, intact, sitting in a remote and inhospitable spot in Orkney where landing would have been impossible. And no pilot.

Okay, I find the latter part of this story hard to credit. As I said, Orkney is a tiny wee place and anything like a downed jet-fighter, whether it landed there under its own steam, crashed, or was deposited out the arse-end of an intergalactic spacecraft, would have been bloody well noticed and no amount of government or MoD shushing would have stopped the island residents from jawing about it far and wide.

But what is intriguing about this story is Dodd's claim that another of his 'reliable sources' informed him of heavy UFO activity on the same day along the coast of Iceland. There is rumored to be an underwater UFO/maybe joint-MoD base in that area, and, well, remember that there are parts of England lie further from Orkney than does Iceland. And that makes me believe that the first part of this sighting story at least may be true.

Two last things about Orkney that makes me inclined to take the UFO thing seriously.

One is the rich deposit of uranium ore in Orkney. Many places around the world with deposits of uranium ore are visited by UFO's in noticeably large numbers. Mining for this uranium ore has been blocked for years by the islanders and their MP's. But that wouldn't stop others from benefiting from it, would it?

And two are the mysterious rumblings heard under parts of Orkney. The most widely-reported one of which occurred on 18th November 1955, on the isle of Shapinsay when a farmer there reported three rumblings within 45 minutes and another 6 hours later. The sound, he claimed, was like "a cartload of stones being emptied". His dog, normally a calm beast, was particularly perturbed by the incident. The 'official' explanation given was "venting from a natural gas reservoir running through a geological fault beneath Shapinsay". Funny, but it's either never happened again there, or no one on Shapinsay has ever bothered to report it since and the beasts must have got used to it! But this has not been the only strange underground rumbling heard on Orkney...there are others. Indeed, myself and Housemate have even heard one of these strange events! I can't recall the exact year but I think it was either 2008-09, one early evening we were sitting in the living room of our home when we heard - and felt - a deep, loud rumbling, like thunder but not thunder. We could feel it vibrating through the floor beneath our feet. It went on for maybe 3-5 seconds and then there was a loud, sharp bang that made both of our hairs stand on end. The kind of bang that would suggest ( it certainly did to us ) lightning striking an electrical transformer. However, there was no lightning, no storms, and no transformers went down that evening. Believe me when I say we have experienced the downing of a transformer, during the 'thundersnow' storms of 2014, and the power just goes out like, well, like a light! Some of our neighbors also noticed the phenomenon and it was reported to various agencies, but no official explanation was ever forthcoming. More like a collective shrug of Establishment shoulders was all we got.    

I have yet to finish my trawling through the island’s unexplained history, but so far these are some of the most intriguing stories I have found. Also, they are all ones which could not be easily dismissed as meteors or other fully explainable phenomena, such as the Kirkwall and Aberdeen coastguard’s reporting of a “bright spherical object with tail moving NW to SE, splitting in two” on 25th January 1985, or the “giant fireball” which lit up the skies over Orkney in vivid purple and white, traveling at a speed of 50,000mph from NE to SW on March 5th 1933. So, until next post…keep watching the skies. But try not to trip over any little grey men might be standing in your path!

And while you're at it, go visit this site to read more about mysterious Orkney. You won't be sorry!