“Luminous Objects On Arctic Ice”

By Sally Remaley

The following article appeared in the July 1969 Canadian UFO Report, originally taken from  Fate Magazine.

An extraordinary thing happened to me on my way to the North Pole.

While I was flying with the NASA Aurora Expedition high over the Arctic, far from civilization, I saw some strange lights below us on the ice. These lights were miles and miles from any settlement or known life and they were arranged in geometric patterns!

NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., as set up by Congress has as one of its prime functions to arrange for the scientific community to make measurements on the aurora, and observations through the use of aeronautical and space vehicles. From February 29 to March 10, I accompanied such an expedition in an especially outfitted Convair 990 jet, a fantastic plane which I nicknamed "the bird." It was the most exciting assignment of my journalistic career, this covering of the important 1968 scientific expedition sponsored by NASA, for my newspaper, the Bradenton Herald of Bradenton, Fla. I was the only reporter on the second leg of this well planned expedition instigated by Dr. W.G. (Bill) Fastie of John Hopkins University to study the aurora borealis or northern lights.

In the first place it was a great thrill to fly on the beautiful 129 foot Convair which had been purchased at a cost of $3.5 million and then had another million spent on it in renovating and remodeling for its flights in the rugged and dangerous Arctic conditions. New observation windows and camera bays had been installed in the roof of the craft; an AllSky camera was built in, along with a dark room for changing film. It contained survival equipment including dog sleds in case we crashed in the Arctic and survived the crash? Expensive instruments were installed spectrometers, photometers, wide angle cameras and radio frequency receivers. The heavy frames with their tabulators, panels and measuring devices were bolted down and the sensitive needles adjusted for recording data on the aurora.

The huge Convair, appropriately named the Galileo, had become a flying laboratory from which the scientists probed the secrets of the aurora, as others have done before them for the past 200 years. Never before, however, has anyone flown directly into the heart of the aurora and then traveled with it high above four fifths of the earth's atmosphere as it journeys across the continent night after night.

The timing had been carefully planned because of the near perfect conditions existing then for the study. And this same factor probably was responsible for my sighting the unusual lights. If there had been a cloud cover, if the air had been less clear, if I had not been able to watch the earth below as well as the aurora, I might not have seen the six unbelievably large circles of luminous light.

As it was, 1968 was judged the best year for the aurora study since 1918, 50 years before. The periods from January 19 to February 8 and from February 22 to March 12 were selected because those periods marked peak clarity of the air, along with all around best weather and viewing conditions.

Our base camp, from which we flew out in the evenings to "chase" the aurora throughout most of the night, was Fort Churchill on Hudson's Bay, in Manitoba, Canada. The Fort, our "jumping off place," is itself a very exciting spot. It's now an important research base, a true crossroads of the world for brilliant scientists from many countries, most of whom are engaged in research projects of many varieties in a score of fields.

I arrived at Fort Churchill in a snowstorm on February 29, assigned to cover the final segment of the aurora expedition and eager to get on with it. Although it had taken me two days to fly to the Fort from Bradenton, with an all night stopover in Winnipeg, I was anxious to fly again on the Convair.

Checking the schedule for that night I found we were to fly to Fairbanks, Alaska. I received my briefing, met our host Sy Uhrich, manager and director of the Canadian National Research Council which works closely with NASA and leases facilities at the Fort and missile range to United States researchers and others, and visited with Jim Hillis, Pan Am project manager, and his wife Betty.

A storm kept us grounded that night but two nights later we did fly to Fairbanks, following the aurora all the way. Subsequently we flew all over the northern part of Canada, over most of the rest of Canada, over the Arctic regions and the Polar Cap, Baffin Bay and Land, over parts of Greenland, most of Alaska and the Yukon Territory.

We zigzagged back and forth in an intense surveillance of areas inside the Aurora Oval which begins at Fort Churchill. There on the edge of the great Oval, the center of which is the geomagnetic north pole in Northern Greenland, the aurora displays great electrical and magnetic activity during its appearances. The activity continues up and over the Polar Cap.

Although everyone else on board the Galileo was absorbed in studying the aurora, I was watching the earth below as well at the aurora. I saw nothing unusual while flying over Alaska or the Yukon, with the exception of the fabulous show put on by the ever changing aurora.

We stayed over for a day in Fairbanks and flew back to Fort Churchill the next night. Then followed "local" flights over the central and northern part of Canada and finally the long flight to the polar regions, which many scientists believe some day may become the center of world trade air routes.

Plans had included landing and refueling and possibly stopping over at Thule Air Base in Greenland, a possession of Denmark, I had my passport ready but because of the recent unfortunate H Bomb incident in Greenland the plan to land there had to be scuttled. I was disappointed . . . I'd been told there are 7,000 men stationed at Thule and only three women. What an interesting place it must be!

Instead we flew as far north as our gas load would permit, then returned to Fort Churchill. A plane as heavy and long as the Galileo could not successfully land anywhere en route. It required a large airport with a long smooth runway. The ice in the Arctic was too rough for a landing and not thick enough over the Arctic Ocean to hold the weight of the Galileo with our heavy load of instruments and 33 passengers. Besides, there was no other place to refuel as only small scattered settlements lie north of Fort Churchill.

We were fortunate in having clear nights for our flights and although we flew most of the time between 37,000 and 40,000 feet high we could see the rough peaks of jagged ice below, the huge icebergs and "pressuring" ice packs that erupt and explode from time to time in the Arctic as the pressure points build up. We also saw the flat miles of ice covered no man's land at the top of Canada.

It was a stark awesome sight, especially when viewed by the blue green light of the aurora. Only an occasional fog patch or cloud momentarily blocked our view. These passed quickly, however, and for the most part our vision was completely unobstructed during the six or more hours of each flight. The high Arctic flight was fantastic in more ways than one! It was thrilling to be able to look down on stars, for instance. Lack of any smog, city pollution and dust left the sky around the horizon so clear and clean that we could see big, brilliant stars there that never are visible from so called civilization.

And finally we were completely alone. We saw no other planes. We passed nothing in the sky. Far below us on the ground we had seen tiny settlements and villages, identifiable from tiny pinpoints of light. We had learned to recognize the long reflections of the moon on the few clouds we saw, and the moonlight on the ice below as distinguished from the light of the aurora on the ice.

Another aerial phenomenon which appears in the Arctic airglow was also under study by some of our scientists on the Galileo. So we learned to tell the fabulous soft pink airglow from the aurora, which appeared in startlingly lovely blues and greens. When the "breakup" began toward morning the beautiful plumes, ribbons, spirals and streamers of the aurora often had in addition pink and violet fluted edgings.

It occurred to me that this was like being in another world; the empty frozen crust below us stretched as far as we could see by the light of the aurora; we might have been the last or only people in that vast expanse of white - in fact I'm sure we were right then.

It was growing colder by the second and I walked up to the cockpit just for the exercise. The great Japanese authority on the aurora, Akasofu, was in the observer's chair but he was pressed so tightly to the window, looking up, and was so small that I squeezed in alongside him.

Our outside gauge showed 60 below zero and I mentally added on another 300 for the wind chill of the Arctic where there is no shelter. After a few minutes I made my way back to the coffee bar, drank a hot cup of coffee and returned to my seat, huddling into my parka.

But when I glanced out of the window I quickly forgot about being cold. Far below on the icy surface were three round glowing lights arranged in a straight line. Each light was huge; all were the same size and perfectly round, they were luminous, glowing with an inner white light completely different from any other thing we had seen in the Arctic.

These lights were so different, in fact, that at first I just stared, fascinated, trying to memorize everything about them before they disappeared behind us.

They were not at all like lights of any settlement or village I've seen from the air and I have flown a lot. Settlement and village lights are bright like stars; these were softly luminous and glowing. They were not like lights on a boat, ship or any familiar flying craft. They looked like flying saucers landed on the ice. And if that's what they were they were huge ones.

I was positive they were not reflections of the moon for we were leaving them behind us on the ice. They were standing still, while reflections tend to follow along as you fly.

Another unusual thing was that the lights were an equal distance apart. It has been my observation that natural phenomena are not often found so equally spaced. It also seems unlikely to me that any crafts known to us would land on Arctic ice in this manner, exactly the same distance, and in this case probably miles apart.

I was greatly impressed by their size, vividly recalling as I did the size of the miniature villages we had flown over many miles back. In comparison, these luminous objects, whatever they were, must each have been as large as several city blocks, perhaps even larger. I could hardly believe my eyes!

They were fast disappearing into the distance when I suddenly remembered I should ask some of the others on board about them. Everyone seemed intent on the instruments or on looking up out the observation bays. No one seemed interested in what was below us. However, I managed to pull Joe March, official expedition photographer, over to my window. "What are they?" I gasped.

"I don't know," he replied. "I really don't know."
He operated the All Sky camera mounted on the roof of the fore part of the Galileo and had to get back to his post.
I poked the scientist in the seat ahead of me, "Look! Down and back, quick! What are they?"
"Hmmm. Well, now... just don't know. Some kind of reflections, maybe?"
"You know they're not. They're not following along."
"They don't look like settlements. I don't know what they are."

The three lights disappeared into the distance below and behind us and a moment later I saw the next three. They were round, glowing white and luminous, about the same size as the others. But this time the three, instead of being in a row, were arranged in a triangle.

Each one represented the point of a triangle and the tip of the triangle was in line with the three lights I had seen a moment before.

I pulled out my reporter's notebook and made a quick sketch so I wouldn't forget the arrangement of the lights.

The man in front of me was looking up at the aurora but I nudged him anyway. "More things down there! What are they?"

He peered down, saw the lights and shrugged. "More reflections I guess . . . or whatever the other things were."

After watching the triangle out of sight I held my sketch up into the light of the aurora where I could see it better. The three equally spaced circles plus the triangle formed an arrow!

What significance could this strange symbol, formed by the lights on the ice, have? How can we explain the unique formation of the mystery lights?

Although they appeared to be on the ice, could they have been under the ice?

We may never know the answer. We may never see the strange lights again. I do not know what they were. I only know that I saw them.

After we returned to base by another route and everyone had his sleep out I questioned those I met in the dining room next day. All except the two I had poked said they did not see the lights on the ice beneath us. No one admitted ever having seen UFOs, so at last and regretfully I dropped the subject.

But I still can see in my mind, as clearly as I saw them that night, those strange lights on the ice up there over the Polar Cap. And the more I think about them the more convinced I become that they were the result of intelligent planning for an unknown purpose. I am convinced that we are not alone, at least we weren't that night.

Authorities Say

“The hypothesis that these (UFOs) are extraterrestrial surveillance . . . I regard as most likely.”
Dr. James McDonald, physicist.

“At first, without any question at all, I thought it (UFO belief) was stuff and nonsense. But not any more.”
Dr. J. Allen Hynek, astrophysicist.


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