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Frederick Valentich Disappearance (Australia; 1978)

EnolaGaia

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The Frederick Valentich disappearance has been cited and discussed in multiple places for a long time. This thread is being established to consolidate the relevant postings.
 

dr wu

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I would ask why an alien craft would want to abduct an 'entire airplane and pilot'....I have always felt that these type of ideas say more about those who want to believe in aliens than any logical act that an alien might do. There are any number of better ways for any self-respecting intelligent alien to get data on humans.

The subsequent general discussion concerning alien intentions and how 'alien' an alien mentality may be has been moved to a different thread:

How 'Alien' Might Aliens Be? (Technologically; Biologically; Mentally)?
https://forums.forteana.org/index.p...-technologically-biologically-mentally.16644/
 
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AlchoPwn

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When I was in Australia many years ago now I had friends who chartered a flight to King Island in Bass Straight because it was a good place to get some very fine local cheeses. They make an excellent brie for example. They spent the day there and described to me how on a northern point on the island they ran into a "strange area" where the grass seemed turn into powder when touched it was so dry. I naturally asked them if they area was vaguely circular, and they said they didn't know, so I asked them to picture the place in their head, and they both agreed it was pretty circular. So I told them that it sounded like a saucer nest, and given the whole Valentich issues that were about a decade old by then, I wondered how long it took for saucer nests to regenerate. The damage is consistent with radiation damage from a neutron source incidentally.
 

Lord Lucan

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I happened to be at the Cape Otway lighthouse today where the small memorial plaque to Frederick is to be found. It's where he turned south before heading out to sea, vanishing 12 minutes later. Here it is ( me included ) ...
1548918659250862.jpg
 

Kingsize Wombat

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I did not find it particularly mysterious or compelling. Here is the Skeptoid take on it; it does not make Valentich look very reputable.
https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4385

Hm, Brian Dunning... He doesn't so much debunk the story, but he casts doubts on the pilot's character.

Which is fair enough The guy was 20 years old and guilty of a bit of hi-jinx.

Faking a UFO report and accidentally bumping himself off in the process remains a possibility in this case. But there is no real evidence for that either.
 

AlchoPwn

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I did not find it particularly mysterious or compelling. Here is the Skeptoid take on it; it does not make Valentich look very reputable.
https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4385

All the article says is that Valentich was a 20 y/o who took a few safety risks with his aircraft. I have read far more damning articles https://www.csicop.org/si/show/the_valentich_disappearance_another_ufo_cold_case_solved. None of that detracts from the fact that he reported something unidentified flying above him before he vanished. On the other hand, he was a UFO enthusiast, so we might well draw some uncomfortable conclusions from that, but they are as much heresay as the rest of the possible explanations. His plane's wreckage was never found, and frankly it shouldn't have been that hard to find. There had also been a plethora of other UFO sightings in Victoria that year. When I was in Melbourne I spoke to multiple people who had seen a "flying wing" UFO over the city in 1978.
 

gattino

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There are many videos ABOUT it on YouTube but here is the actual audio of his conversation with air traffic control
[ Post edited for a better , longer copy of the recording]

 
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Lord Lucan

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One of the most famous/notorious UFO incidents - the disappearance of Australian pilot Fred Valentich while reporting an unidentified and hard to describe aircraft ( "its not an aircraft!") which was " playing games" with him and moving at speeds he couldn't estimate.

There are many videos ABOUT it on YouTube, but this Italian language clip contains the actual audio of his conversation with air traffic control before he went silent. It starts at 2 minutes in.


This case has always intrigued me, still does. There have been many attempts at explanations as to what actually happened to him that day, some very convincing, but I guess we'll never know with 100% certainty. There's a picture of me in the 'Fortean Monuments' thread at his memorial marker at Cape Otway, Victoria where his aircraft was last spotted as it left the Australian mainland before vanishing.
 

gattino

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There have been many attempts at explanations as to what actually happened to him that day, some very convincing, but I guess we'll never know with 100% certainty.
Going slightly off thread topic I noticed that Wikipedia's entry on the subject does its usual death by insinuation, by referring to Valentich in its first paragraph as "Described as a "flying saucer enthusiast" " (It doesn't say by whom), and then proceeds at no point in the rest of the article to elaborate on how that's relevant if true. There's an unexpressed invitation to dismiss all that follows by assuming he was faking or imagining the craft he reported (ignoring the fact he did actually vanish and never once used the words ufo or flying saucer on the radio), without actually saying so. And it works. I sent the youtube audio recording to a friend saying you might find this eerie. He responded he'd never heard of it and would look it up. He came back 5 minutes later having clearly read Wikipedia, by saying snarkily "What a coincidence he was a UFO obsessive". Besides the instant promotion from enthusiast to obsessive in that reader's mind, the concrete relevance of his (alleged) interest in ufos remained unexpressed and inexpressible.

I did however find a Skeptical Enquirer article "solving" the mystery and making much more of the claim he was a ufo geek. This is perhaps the source of the unsourced wikipedia aside. The SE says "Moreover, the young pilot was enthralled with UFOs, watching films and accumulating articles on the topic. " Again it gives no source for that depiction except quoting (purportedly) his father saying the pilot had seen a ufo previously. From that it refers to "deep belief in flying saucers" and declares it to have contributed to his death. Essentially it asserts
"Possibly he had decided to look for UFOs again but,rather than admit that, offered others more legitimate-sounding reasons for his flight. In short, he may not simply have encountered a UFO but instead went looking for one. If so, his “encounter” is not surprising. As a “True Believer,” observes Robert Sheaffer , Valentich was “probably inclined to assume anything is a ‘UFO’ if he could not immediately identify it.”

Note the 'possibly', 'maybe' and 'probably' in that "mystery solved!" paragraph. But what makes it intriguing and brings me back to wikipedia, is that it then goes on to identify each of the things Valentich recounted to ATC as a misidentified or misunderstood sighting of various night stars, the horizon and his own wing lights. In short it seeks to explain an actual (as opposed to invented) sincere experience of *something*..which brings us back to square one in asking what was all that business of trying to convince us he was ufo nut for, since he never himself described that something as a flying saucer! If he wasn't inventing his experience and he never directly interpreted his experience as an alien space ship, why do we need to believe he was fixated on ufos or that he was "looking for them", except to plant a seed in the mind of the reader that you needn't give this story your attention?
 

Lord Lucan

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A couple of recent videos on the case which I've come across over the past few days.

The first, a summation of what happened - The Unexplained Files:


The second (one story which I've not heard of until now), almost as intriguing. A story of a South Australian farmer who claims to have seen a Cessna attached to a UFO a day after Valentich vanished. Probably complete rubbish but it all adds to the mystery.

From the uploaded:
I stumbled across this recording of a second hand account after hearing the rumors about it for years. All I know is that a South Australian farmer shared this story with another farmer when he moved up north to New South Wales, Australia. The farmer who claims to have witnessed this shared the story with friends and was supposedly ridiculed and decided to stop sharing the story. This audio is the friend of the original farmer recounting the story. The person who shared the story claims he even took down the plane number and it matched with the missing cessna Valentich was flying. I'm aware it doesn't hold much merit but I want to share as much Australian UFO history as I can before it's forgotten about or lost. I know the guy recounting the story was named Laurie Ryder who has since passed away, he was from a small town called Coonabarabran.

 

Comfortably Numb

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The second (one story which I've not heard of until now), almost as intriguing. A story of a South Australian farmer who claims to have seen a Cessna attached to a UFO a day after Valentich vanished. Probably complete rubbish but it all adds to the mystery.
That recording is an absolute gem!

Some 20ish years ago, I also came across this incident for the first time and mentioned it via email to a fellow ufologist in Australia.

Turned out he was immimmensely knowledgable about the case and we corresponded at length about it.

Although I kept a copy of his related studies, it will doubless be on an old back up disk... somewhere... and not readily available.

Shall have look though, for sure.
 

NomDeGuerre

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The Supernatural podcast with Ashley Flowers did an interesting episode on this fairly recently.

I’ve always been of the opinion he’d become disorientated and the mystery shape / lights was actually the reflection of his own plane in the water below. Although it wasn’t until listening to the podcast that I learned last contact was made a few minutes before sundown.

He came from a family of huge UFO enthusiasts. His mum and he had a sighting of some sort at the family home before he vanished.

Very odd.
 

catseye

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I fear that, having read most of the information here, I have to point out that Frederick was smack bang in the middle of the age at which certain kinds of mental illness can manifest. Which makes me wonder if a combination of inexperienced flying, family background and possible mental breakdown all coincided on that one flight.
 

BS3

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As is often the case, aviation professionals' forums throw up a couple of interesting things. Here's one thread with quite a few comments in amongst the usual tongue in cheek stuff (including one by someone who claimed to have known Valentich briefly and someone else who participated in the search, and found it strange that no wreckage was located at all):

https://www.pprune.org/pacific-general-aviation-questions/235327-frederick-valentich.html

What particularly strikes me are the assertions that the much-discussed tape of Valentich's conversation with ATC was kept around and played on Department of Transport courses "to demonstrate how one should act when one was under the pump". Also the observation that anyone ditching in Bass Strait would have low survival chances.

Still, there is something odd about this incident. I'm particularly puzzled by the inconsistencies in Valentich's own actions and reasons for the flight; these seem to point towards a hoax covering a deliberate attempt to crash or disappear, as suggested by some sceptics - but the total disappearance of any wreckage or evidence seems to have been a remarkable stroke of 'luck' for the hoaxer, if that's the right word to use.

One thing no one seems to be able to agree on is whether it was fully dark or not.
 
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BS3

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According to Planetcalc, sunset local time at Melbourne (just north of the locus) was 1942 hrs.

Wikipedia gives Valentich’s time of disappearance as 1912 AEST.

maximus otter

Sceptical accounts such as those by Nickell and Sheaffer suggest that darkness had just fallen. Richard Haines stated that it was dark to the east but the sky would still have been light to the west. Simpson, as a local, suggests it was still twilight. Other people have asserted the sun hadn't set yet. They can't all be right!
 

SimonBurchell

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To tell the truth, Nickell comes out with so much blatant drivel that I don't bother reading anything he writes any more.
 
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catseye

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Sceptical accounts such as those by Nickell and Sheaffer suggest that darkness had just fallen. Richard Haines stated that it was dark to the east but the sky would still have been light to the west. Simpson, as a local, suggests it was still twilight. Other people have asserted the sun hadn't set yet. They can't all be right!
When I've been in Melbourne I seem to remember there's not really a lot of 'twilight'. It seems to go from light to dark without much in the way of intervening stages.
 
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BS3

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When I've been in Melbourne I seem to remember there's not really a lot of 'twilight'. It seems to go from light to dark without much in the way of intervening stages.

Simpson asserts just the opposite, funnily enough, that on the south coast they have a "long twilight". I guess he's invested in demonstrating that Valentich couldn't have been disorientated though.

It would be good to get a definitive answer on what the light conditions were.
 

catseye

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Simpson asserts just the opposite, funnily enough, that on the south coast they have a "long twilight". I guess he's invested in demonstrating that Valentich couldn't have been disorientated though.

It would be good to get a definitive answer on what the light conditions were.
Also, 'twilight' is subjective. What some might call twilight, others might call dark...
 

BS3

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To tell the truth, Nickell comes out with so much blatant drivel that I don't bother reading anything he writes any more.

I think it was certainly a bit premature of him to announce that this was a "cold case solved" - their theory wasn't a great fit for everything Valentich was describing.
 

BS3

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Let's assume for a minute Valentich did see something, and perhaps that the witness dug up by Haines, who claimed to have seen the lights of a small plane with a larger, green light above them, was also broadly truthful.

I don't know if anyone his mentioned this in connection with the case but Australia's only real volcanic 'hotspot' - currently long dormant, but getting more geologically active in recent decades, with an earthquake in 2002 - lies right under the Bass Strait, pretty much between Cape Otway and King Island.

I have always thought it possible that the Kaikoura Lights incident in NZ (which was part of a flap partly sparked by press coverage of the Valentich case) might have been related to 'earthlights', given that a geologically active fault runs through the Kaikoura area.

Perhaps Valentich did in fact run into some little understood aerial phenomenon that evening, which distracted him enough to crash. I wonder if any tremors were recorded around this time?
 
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