New Zealand's Unsolved Mysteries

Kaikoura Lights

by Lucy Mullinger

by Lucy Mullinger. — Are UFO'S out there? Weird and wonderful Unsolved Mysteries in New Zealand

In fact, according to a report from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), obtained under the official information act, by Newshub in August this year, there had been 30 reports of UFOs seen in the New Zealand skies, including a "discshaped silver UFO with erratic vertical and horizontal movements" which was seen in Tauranga in October 2003 and a bright light moving side-to-side on two days in a row at Tokomaru Bay, on the east coast in November of the same year. A variety of mysterious sightings were reported in the 18 years leading up from 2000, with Auckland witnessing the most UFOs, with seven sightings, followed by Hamilton and Christchurch with three each.

Historic sightings

One of the most famous sightings in the country, has to be the Kaikoura LIghts, which is the name given by various media organisations for a series of experiences that took place around the Kaikoura mountain ranges nearing the end of 1978. The first sighting was made on December 21st when the crew of a cargo aircraft noticed a series of strange lights racking along the aircraft that they were travelling in. The pilots of the plane said some of the lights were as big as a house. The same objects were also traced from the aircraft’s onboard radar. Just under ten days later on December 30, a television crew boarded the cargo plane to re-track the flight they had taken previously and conduct interviews about the sightings. They would go on to film what they described as unidentified lights, which “appears to be like a flying saucer.” After a few other sightings, it was decided that an investigation would take place by the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the police and Wellington Observatory. This is the only recorded incident in New Zealand where an official investigation took place and according to the reporting officer from the Air Force, it only took place because the Prime Minister at the time, Robert Muldoon, had taken a “close personal interest in what went on and specially asked he be informed of Defence's conclusions to the study it was undertaking." While nothing came of these sightings, they were not the first ever of their kind. In fact as far back as July 31st, 1909, an engine driver on a train out of Hokitika noticed a light approaching Greymouth over the Taramakau bridge. Both the driver and fireman witnessed the event before the doors were opened and passengers watched the object which was visible from Nelson Creek Station. Meanwhile, at five o’clock on the same day, two labourers in Gore witnessed what they described as an ‘airship,’ circling the area. From mid July to early September of that year, the local media was full of information about sightings of UFOs from all over they country, but by early September the reports stopped as quickly as they began.

Alien visitations?

In the early hours of the morning on July 13, 1959, a New Zealand dairy farmer’s wife is said to have witnessed two beams of green light and “fiery, orange jets” coming from an unidentified flying object. Mrs F E Moreland would go on to call the police to fill them in on the details, which included two men in the driver’s seat, wearing tight silver suits, with one of the pilots having only one arm. As the object flew away, the farmer was left standing in a “waft of hot, peppery air” and she would later begin to suffer from blisters on her arms and hands. Only a few years prior to this sighting, a National Airways Corporation Pilot, Captain WT Rainbow, stated that he had seen an unexplained light between Ohura and Raglan, "showing apparent movement, changes in colour and fluctuation in light and intensity". Thanks to the media spotlight that was shined upon the event, the Director of Intelligence at the Carter Observatory stated that he believed the light was that of Venus, rising in the night sky. Captain Rainbow would go on to write in a letter to the New Zealand Royal Air Force that “after all the newspaper reports, phone calls, RNZAF statements plus personal embarrassment I would have to have the little men waving to me before I made any further reports of this nature".

NZ UFO hotspots

During the months of April and May, in 1972, five chunks of "space debris" were found in Ashburton and these balls had been witnessed falling from the sky by about 15 people. It wasn’t long before the Defence Ministry report found a Russian satellite had passed over New Zealand about the time the objects were seen. Fast forward a decade later and there were three sightings in the Marlborough region - one included the sighting of a figure standing in the centre of State Highway One, between Christchurch and Blenheim, which was witnessed by three people.

In the second incident, a motorist saw four flashing red lights with two more above it, but no engine noise to accompany the strange sight. Finally, a group of motorists also noticed a flying saucer type object floating above the road.

Capital sightings

In more recent years, the capital city has been home to a variety of sightings including two UFOs which were allegedly sighted above Roseneath at the beginning of the millenium. The first was a small triangle shaped light with a white beam of light coming from the front, while the second was described as a larger white light. According to the witnesses, the smaller UFO flew beneath the bigger one then disappeared in a beam of light from what they supposed was the Mothership, which was floating above Evans Bay parade. While the idea of extraterrestrial life watching on from other planets, might seem like science fiction to most, there are plenty of UFO and alien hunters out there and many classified documents in both New Zealand and the United States, that cover sightings of UFOs, which could come from far flung destinations, or may, as many believed during the Cold War years of the 1950s, be part of weapons testing. New Zealand has its very own UFO organisation, known as UFocus - New Zealand Research Network, which collects analyses and studies reports of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, and determines whether this activity will compromise aviation safety as well as studying patterns of UAP activity during seismic occurrences. The UFocus website details a variety of sightings throughout the last decade and what was reported at the time, such as a recent sighting in 2013, when a witness reported a large ball of light passing under an aircraft in Titirangi, north of Auckland. The jet was travelling west to east, having departed Auckland airport, and the light/object was on a more north-westerly to east path, according to the report. While many of the sightings could have a variety of explanations, and it is unlikely that New Zealand is the hot spot for either alien or military-grade activity, it is somewhat calming to know that we are keeping an eye on the horizon.