Gill, Yet Again

Martin Kottmeyer
Magonia 57. September 1996.

Looks like I have some objections to deal with. Let’s start with Bullard’s four points. Firstly. Bullard asserts that the UFO of June 27 was an all-terrain vehicle, crossing not just sea but land as well, the latter being inconsistent with a ship. In the talk some four months after the encounter the object “wandered over the sky a bit”, passed behind a hill, came back, then “shot right across the bay”

In the original report these quoted behaviours are not associated with the events of the 27th, but the 26th. The wandering behaviour was reported in association with all the UFOs, and sounds consistent with autokinesis. In saying the object shot across the bay the original report adds, “It diminished to a pinpoint and vanished” which suggests the motion was not across the field of vision but along the line of sight. This vanishing would have involved speeds of thousands of miles per hour, but “there was no sound”, i.e. no sonic boom. This probably proves the interpretation was wrong. The description seems suggestive of the light just meeting the horizon as the boat was dropping below the curvature of the Earth. The closest thing I can find to something passing behind a hill in the original report refers to events in the 8:35 entry: “Another one over Wadobuna village”. (Seers, p.47) Cruttwell describes it as an object that “swooped up and away over the mountains”, (p.52) As the word ‘another’ indicates, this is not the same object that had the figures walking around on top of it.

The artist’s depiction of the object over land in Hendry’s Handbook was approved by Gill, but this may only indicate that he was satisfied the UFO was drawn correctly. The drawings in the original report are not framed by reference points in the locale of the observations, nor are there any verbal references to the object with the figures ever being seen over land.
Artist's depiction from Allan Hendry' UFO Handbook
Secondly, seas rarely are mirror-smooth, but I am not asking for miracles. Consider the miracle implicit in the assumption that Americans actually had silent flying platforms on manoeuvres in Papua in 1959. Consider the miracle of an alien vessel crewed by humans gratuitously levitating over the water for hours with no visible propulsion, no disturbance in the water beneath it attracting attention, and no deafening noise.

I suspect the postulated light-to-calm wind conditions necessary for the illusion may be reflected in a curious little detail that caught my attention in re-reading the report. Gill indicated there was a glow about the craft with figures. “The glow did not touch them, but there appeared a little space between their outline and the light”. (Seers, p.50) This is less mysterious than it first reads. What I believe is happening here is that exhaust was forming a cloud of smoke to the side of the boat and the light from the centre of the deck was casting shadows forward onto the cloud. Wind conditions would have to be minimal or the exhaust would have dispersed quickly. For a sharp thin space to be present the cloud had to be close and not enveloping the crew itself, making it unlikely the cloud was meteorological in origin.

As far as his third pint is concerened I confess I know too little about squid to argue about whether or not they avoid shallow waters. Any squidologists out there in our readership?

In his fourth criticism Bullard quotes Hendry as giving an elevation of 45 degrees during the waving episode. Hendry was not quoting Gill in that passage. It is a blatant mistake. He was confusing the angle made by the blue beam of light with the angular elevation, In the IUR report Gill’s estimate was only 30 degrees. Bullard would inevitably reiterate that this is still much too high. I would agree if we could trust its accuracy. There is however no angular elevation in the field notes or Cruttwell’s report. This detail emerges first in the lUR re-interview and this makes it a decades-old memory. Even outside the issues of reliability of such memories, angular elevations are generally very inaccurate. Ask people to point to the mid-point between the zenith and the horizon and they don’t point at 45 degrees but down around 30 or 20 degrees and, rarely, even as low as 12 degrees. (Minnaert, pp.153-4)

One point of clarification: Bullard uses the word disorientation in describing the illusion I propose. In general usage this is thought to be synonymous with vertigo and I just want it understood that I don’t assert the involvement of vertigo.

Aymerich’s point about Gill saying the object was above Venus is a more substantial objection. If one regards the observation as infallible, then there is no ready explanation for it that I would risk offering. The observation is not in Gill’s field notes and is not signed onto by the other witnesses. It thus comes down to one man’s word. As such it is vulnerable to the standard doubts about memory (See Drake’s remark about the rapid decay of accuracy of memory encountered in investigating meteor reports in Sagan and Taves, p.254). It may involve a transpositional error or an unintentionally leading question such as Elizabeth Loftus found in her investigations of memory. There are other possibilities. I concede in advance there are no independent grounds for affirming Gill made such an error. Acceptance of the possibility hinges on how much one wants a solution or how much one wants the case to remain a mystery.

Acknowledging their oddness, I share Aymerich’s interest in wanting to know what those three rods drawn by Guyorobo and Rarata are.

Buhler proclaims his faith that the most convincing explanation for the Gill case is that they saw what they saw. Did he notice that Gill said he saw “a strange new device of you Americans”? This isn’t a problem for you?

If I am guilty of sins of omission, let me reply that my critics are not innocents either. None take up the challenge to offer a better explanation. None acknowledge, let alone answer, the objections raised by the alternatives. Bullard wants a water-tight explanation which satisfies an absolute standard of correct vs. incorrect. None of the solutions advanced to date, even the fuzzy one of it being a part of the UFO phenomenon, squares perfectly in every detail. My failure to offer one is less a reflection of my incompetence than the intractability of the case itself. Frankly, I was simply trying to get an answer that floated better than the competition.

Buhler’s insinuation that I dodge uncomfortable details and ought to have discussed the other seventy plus cases in the Cruttwell report is to me a damn irksome thing to say. Can you show me any believer in the case who ever acknowledged any difficulties in their assumption this case involves an alien visitation or how different it is from all the other cases they hold dear? I am hardly alone in ignoring the rest of the report. Some I suspect fear the implications it was part of a general hysteria, an assumption which would be strengthened if they assessed the very much lower quality of those other cases. For the record, I ignored them because I had my hands full with just the Gill case.


M. Minnaert. The Nature of Light and Colour in the Open Air, Dover, 1954.
Carl Sagan and Thornton Page. UFOs – A Scientific Debate, Norton Library, 1954.
Stan Seers. UFOs: the Case for Scientific Myopia, Vantage, 1983