For those who follow these things, there’s been quite a bit of UFO news in the Chinese media over the last week. The fun started on June 23rd, with reports that a UFO had been seen and photographed near Congqing – during a laser light show. Following previous practice in covering UFO sightings, Xinhua reported the story straight-up, no commentary. And then left us hanging with this:
Shanghai UFO Research Center confirmed the pictures were not altered. The director of the center said a team will begin to examine the photos to determine if the UFO is genuine, the report said.
The Shanghai UFO Research Center? I’ve spent the last thirty minutes trying to track down these people, but with no luck. If anybody out there has contact info, I’d be very grateful for it. In the meantime, the diligent researchers at the “Above Top Secret” discussion site seem to have determined that the Congqing UFOs is nothing more than a lens flash.
[Update: A couple of helpful folks left comments providing me with the Shanghai UFO Research Center website, which can be found here.]
Which brings me to last Thursday, and the rather curious declaration – by an astronomer at the Purple Mountain Observatory in Nanjing – that UFOs “have been visiting Nanjing, the capital city of Jiangsu Province, every five to 10 years for the past three decades.” Shanghai Daily, following the above-mentioned just-the-facts approach to Chinese UFO reporting, drops this fabulous commentary-free history:
The first report of a UFO in China was in Nanjing in 1892 when a painting by Wu Youru, a Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) artist showed crowds gathered near Nanjing’s Confucius Temple, looking up at a “fire ball” in the sky, Wang said.
The last visit of a UFO to the Jiangsu city occurred at about 5pm on January 10, 2006 when an orange V-shaped UFO with a long tail was seen near the northern side of the Purple Mountain and over the city’s Jiangning and Jiangpu districts, said Wang.
On January 14, 1999, a rod-shaped UFO appeared for nearly four hours in the skies of Nanjing – the longest UFO sighting on record for the city. Witnesses said the shining red item, which was about 10 kilometers high and three kilometers long, moved slowly across the sky and its lights gradually faded as it passed over the city.
End of story.
Which brings us to today, and reports that – over the weekend – somebody held a UFO Forum in Shanghai (and didn’t invite me; note to organizers: please consider this post a formal request for press credentials to the next one). Say what you will about UFO fanatics, but these Shanghai-area ones apparently have connections: somehow, for some reason, they were able to get their hands on the cockpit voice recording from what (we now learn) is one of the most notorious UFO sightings in recent Chinese history. Flight 3556 departed Shanghai for Jinan on March 18, 1981 (cue Leonard Nimoy’s “In Search of” voice):
From 6:12pm to 6:26pm, the UFO followed the flight, varying its form, velocity and altitude, the tape revealed. Flight controllers urged the pilot to change routes several times to avoid colliding with it … [T]he control tower saw the orange flying object first but no trace of the UFO was recorded by airport radar …
“I saw an unidentified flying object 7 nautical miles away in front of me after taking off. I was heading to 280 degrees and the object was like a ball of fire, about 3 to 5 meters long,” said the pilot on tape.
“It was flying fast toward the northeast and flew further away after I swung to the left. It then turned around and headed toward 100 degrees south, and lowered its altitude.
“I tried to avoid it while it changed its route to the north, when it transformed itself into a long black object and again lowered altitude before rising. It then appeared as a black rectangle and a round ball flying first to the northeast, then the northwest, before rising again.”
I am in no position to comment on UFO sightings – Chinese or otherwise. That noted, let me just state that – despite my reservations – I sincerely hope that these are all true. Every last one. And yet – I can’t help but recall that I once lived close to a US military test range, and when, late at night I would look out the window, I could see all kinds of weird stuff flying around that – in the morning – my less sober neighbors would claim as UFOs. Sometimes, the range would put out a public statement explaining the phenomenon. And sometimes it wouldn’t. Point being, there are similar facilities up near Nanjing, and I don’t think that they’re in the habit of employing public affairs officers.
But whatever. If the well-connected Purple Mountain astronomers are open to this kind of speculation, then who am I to judge?