Thursday, June 03, 2004
Copyright © Las Vegas Mercury
Knappster: Usual scientific explanations lacking in Mexico UFO case
By George Knapp
The official arrival of summer is still a few weeks away, but "pool
weather" is already upon us, and that means it is perfectly acceptable to
plop down and read whatever strikes your fancy. This is my justification
for writing a UFO column.
Some readers are probably aware of my longtime interest in the UFO topic.
Although I no longer report on UFO matters for local TV, my fat face seems
to pop up weekly on some cable network UFO special. (In just the past
week, I received three more requests for interviews and/or assistance from
international journalists working on separate UFO programs.)
Mainstream science and the U.S. government have done all they can to
discourage serious public interest and inquiries into the UFO subject, but
the damned flying saucers just don't want to cooperate. They keep popping
up at inopportune moments. Most are explainable, but a few are not.
The UFO news out of Mexico in the past few weeks caused a minor stir on
this side of the border for a day or so, then quickly faded into oblivion,
overwhelmed by grim news in Iraq. But the Mexican incident is one of the
most intriguing cases in recent memory--and one of the best documented. It
deserves some attention. The source of the information is the Mexican Air
Force, which was given the green light to release the data by Mexico's
version of Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense.
On March 5, a Mexican Air Force C26A, while on a drug interdiction and
surveillance mission over the state of Campeche, encountered 11
unidentified flying objects. The UFOs were detected on both radar and a
sophisticated thermal imaging sensor (known as FLIR) aboard the plane. The
encounter occurred at 11,000 feet an hour before sunset and in clear
weather. It lasted about 15 minutes and was recorded on the plane's
cameras. At one point, eight of the objects formed a circle around the
plane. Crew members were understandably shaken.
Mexican defense officials ordered a hush-hush study of the incident. They
spent five weeks trying to figure out what had happened but couldn't come
up with any explanation for what had been seen by radar, FLIR, cameras and
eyewitnesses. The best they could do was to conclude the UFOs were solid
objects of unknown origin and that they had flown along with the C26A
under what appeared to be intelligent control. That's when they decided to
go public. They took the highly unusual step of contacting prominent
Mexican TV journalist and UFO investigator Jaime Maussan and then simply
handed over everything they had on the case. Astonishing, to say the
least. Governments do not cooperate with UFO investigators, as a rule, at
least not the U.S. government.
Maussan, whom Knappster has known for nearly 10 years, broadcast the Air
Force footage on his popular TV program. He and the Air Force held a news
conference and made the footage and evidence available to other media
That's when the debunking started. Mexican scientists seemed to take their
cues from all the old excuses handed out by the U.S. Air Force in years
gone by, dredging up a veritable hit parade of weak explanations.
The first explanation was that this must have been ball lightning, a rare
atmospheric phenomenon that has been used many times by American debunkers
to try to explain away UFO cases. A nuclear scientist named Dr. Julio
Herrera of National Autonomous University was contacted by the Associated
Press. Herrera theorized that the UFOs were electrical flashes, and AP
went with the story, ignoring the fact that this incident occurred in a
cloudless sky and that it lasted for more than 15 minutes. Las Vegas
physicist Dr. Eric Davis spent six years studying ball lightning and wrote
a paper about it for Air Force Materiel Command at Edwards Air Force Base,
where Dr. Davis worked for a time. Simply put, there is no way that ball
lightning could be responsible, Davis says. Ball lightning occurs during
storms, not in cloudless skies. It generally lasts only a few seconds,
sometimes up to a minute, but NEVER for 15 minutes. Besides, the Mexican
Air Force had already looked at this explanation and found it wanting.
The inestimable Dr. Herrera wasn't deterred, though. A day or two later,
he offered a new explanation that was dutifully reported by skeptical
media. He theorized that the UFO flashes were caused by the ignition of
natural gases in the atmosphere. (He didn't actually use the term "swamp
gas," but damn that would have been ballsy if he had.) The Campeche coast
is an oil-producing region, so there is natural gas in the area. But no
one knows of natural gas pockets that rise to 11,000 feet. Besides, the
sensors on the plane revealed the objects to be solid, with definable
parameters.. Plus, the objects followed the plane for many miles and even
formed a circle around it. Does gas do that?
Another scientist speculated that the UFOs were "almost certainly" space
junk, pieces of satellite debris that had burned up in the atmosphere.
Again, this explanation doesn't fit the described behavior of the objects.
Debris doesn't surround a plane and fly along with it. In addition, the
Mexican Air Force certainly would have known if the Campeche coast was
being dive-bombed by a vast field of space debris.
Finally, another critic offered up the old chestnut that it must have been
weather balloons that caused the sightings. As with the ball lightning
explanation, this one would have been more credible had anyone bothered to
contact Mexico's National Meteorological Service, which explained that
there were no weather balloons anywhere near Campeche on that day. A
spokesman also noted that no one had bothered to contact the NMS to find
out if ball lightning would have been a possible explanation. It would not
have been, the NMS concluded.
A couple of UFO enthusiasts on this side of the border have taken the case
to the other extreme, declaring that the Campeche UFOs were "alien
motherships" and that the incident is a sign of more encounters to come.
Simply put, we don't know what the objects were. They are, be definition,
unidentified and will probably remain so.
The most significant development to come out of this, in my opinion, is
the willingness of the Mexican government to openly discuss a UFO
encounter. It is a demonstrable fact that world governments have
classified files on UFO incidents, files that have never seen the light of
day. For the Mexican military to openly admit that it has no idea what was
flying around in its airspace is an astounding departure from the party
line toed by other governments.
One other explanation needs to be considered. A colleague of mine with
extensive experience in UFO investigations and with government agencies
suggests that perhaps the Mexican Air Force assumed the UFOs were some
sort of secret American craft being tested in Mexican airspace. It is
conceivable they decided to go public with the incident because they
wanted to put the American military on notice that this has got to stop.
Of course, this scenario depends on the idea that the United States has
developed some sort of invisible craft that mimics the characteristics of
ball lightning and space debris.
A UFO addendum
The Mercury has gone international. Our previous stories about paranormal
events on the so-called "Skinwalker Ranch" in Utah have been picked up and
reprinted in Brazil's leading UFO magazine. The cover story was titled,
"As fantasticas manobras do Skinwalker" It is a bit weird to see the story
as written in Portuguese.
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