Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Interesting UFO cases revisited: 4. Yukon, 11 December 1996
Another multi-witness Canadian incident has lately attracted my attention. This occurred on 11 December 1996 on the Klondyke Highway in the Yukon Territory, north of Whitehorse, between Fox Lake and Pelly Crossing, over a distance of 134 miles (216 km). It is described on the website of the UFO Yukon Research Society.
There were at least 22 witnesses and 19 of them were interviewed by the investigator, Martin Jasek, between February and September 1999. The UFO was described as a huge object with lights. Jasek estimated its size by triangulation by comparing witness statements and obtained figures ranging from 0.55 miles (0.88 km) to 1.3 miles (2.0 km).
Note the delay of over two years between the incident and the interviews with the witnesses, causing possible distortions of their memories of it. However, if any UFO sceptics have offered any plausible explanations I have not been able to find them.
This Alaskan case was not previously familiar to me. Thanks very much for highlighting it.
It's extremely interesting.
A preliminary look at the descriptions, and the the maps showing lines of sight, suggests the *possibility* of an ice-crystal reflection effect related to "light pillars".
The clues are:
1) the comment that beams were "clearly visible because there were ice crystals in the air"
2) the fact that in several cases the apparent bearings of the lights appear to be related to the direction of the road in the distance
3) slow-moving rows of lights with occasional sweeping beams is suggestive of road traffic
4) as you say, there was 2 or 3 years between the event and collection of these testimonies, and the original next-day radio report by two witnesses has apparently not been preserved, denying us the opportunity to calibrate how perceptions and conceptions may have changed in the interval.
In very cold stable air (it was a clear night in December, road at about 3000ft AGL) flat ice-crystal platelets tend to fall horizontally. Collectively they can act like a mirror, reflecting lights from sources on the ground far away.
(I recommend the articles on this phenomenon at www.caelestia.be
by Wim Van Utrecht who has made a special study of it)
Because the angle of tilt of the crystals varies by a few degrees, the lights are usually blurred vertically into streaks a few degrees tall (hence "light pillars"). But if the crystals were held more nearly horizontal in very unusual conditions, such as might perhaps obtain where a very sharply stratified layer of warmer (less cold) air at the top of an inversion acts like a sort of invisible ceiling, perhaps over a wide area tens of miles in extent, then the mirrored headights could look more like true images.
As distant vehicles negotiate bends and inclines, their headlight beams might be readily visible by scattering from small diamond-dust crystals that drift randomly at low level. These *beams* might themselves also be reflected by the elevated "mirror", inverted and apparently sweeping the ground occasionally as reported.
Of course some of the positions and directions and details don't seem to fit the theory, but the caveat in 4) above should make us cautious about the weight we attach to this.
I don't say this amounts to an explanation yet, but I think it's worth further study.