The New Today


The enticing mystery of UFO’s: has history vindicated Sir Eric Gairy?

For thousands of years, people have reported seeing strange lights and objects flying through the sky. Today, these unexplained phenomena are commonly called Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). But what exactly are UFOs? Are they visitors from another world? Where have famous sightings happened? Keep reading to find out!

Although people have claimed to see strange objects in the sky for much of humanity, UFO is a new term. It’s an acronym (a word formed from the initial letters of a set of words) that stands for Unidentified Flying Object. The term first appeared in the 1950s, and up until then these weird objects were known by another name: flying saucers. This is because many of the sightings described floating, disc shaped.

The term was originally meant for any unknown object people saw in the sky, but it quickly became attached to sightings of crafts that were thought to be from other planets. Some people believe that UFOs are vehicles from other planets, flown by alien visitors. Others have even claimed to have been abducted by these eerie, floating vessels.

Though there has never been any hard evidence of aliens, it’s impossible to completely rule them out. In the 1970s when Grenadians were out late at night and they saw an object falling from the sky that they can’t quite explain or may have seen a shooting star which is really a small piece of rock or dust that hits Earth’s atmosphere from space, they will humourously call it a UFO. It moves so fast that it heats up and glows as it moves through the atmosphere. They are what astronomers call meteors.

Many of the reports we have on UFOs come from pilots who have claimed to see flying objects that don’t look or behave like any aircraft they have ever seen before! So, are UFOs really alien in nature? While there haven’t been many scientific studies done on these phenomena, different governments have investigated them.

In most UFO sightings, what people believe are UFOs are actually just common objects like planes and clouds, or celestial events like meteors and planets that seem unusually bright. Some cases remain unidentified even after they’ve been investigated, but scientists believe many of these to also be sightings of more common objects that people simply didn’t recognise.

Probably the best-known sighting of a UFO happened in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947 when a local farmer found piles of strange debris in a pasture. Officials from the nearby Roswell Army Air Force Base claimed the debris was simply wreckage from a crashed weather balloon. Eventually, in the 1990s, a government report revealed that the crashed object wasn’t a weather balloon.

It was a surveillance device that was part of a top-secret operation called Project Mogul that often-employed balloons. It was definitely from planet Earth!

British officials were dismayed when in 1977 the then Prime Minister of Grenada Sir Eric Mathew Gairy wanted to call for the United Nations to set up a unit to investigate UFOs, files from the UK National Archives reveal.

The files show how Britain was concerned the idea would drag the UN into disrepute. “The British delegation does not think that the establishment of an agency for research into unidentified flying objects is appropriate to the functions of the United Nations,” they said. “Hopefully, a confrontation with the representatives of Grenada can be avoided, but the U.K. should not hesitate to make its views known as and when appropriate.”

Sir Eric was persuaded to withdraw his proposal but went on to call for 1978 to be designated “the year of the UFO”. He was deposed in a coup the following year. However, before being overthrown, Kenrick Radix, a member of the New JEWEL Movement, the political party that overthrew him, while addressing a rally informed the masses that the only UFO that Gairy has ever seen was a ligaru flying from Brizan to St. George’s.

Since then, sketches of UFOs are also among the files released by the UK National Archives. They also reveal that intelligence papers on a reported UFO sighting known as the “Rendlesham incident” have gone missing. The missing files relate to a report of mysterious lights from US servicemen at RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk in England in 1980.

Project Blue Book:
In the 17 years that Project Blue Book was in operation, it recorded over 12,000 sightings. Sightings that were recorded by Project Blue Book were categorised into two groups: those that could be associated with a known phenomenon, be it atmospheric, astronomic, or man-made, and those which could not be readily associated with any identifiable cause.

In 1953 the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) created the Robertson Panel, a panel of scientists helmed by physicist H.P. Robertson that was charged with reviewing the findings of Project Blue Book. The Robertson Panel came to the conclusions that the vast majority of UFO sightings could be explained by natural phenomena, that the UFOs sighted posed no security risk to the U.S., and that there was no evidence in Project Blue Book’s records that proved the existence of extraterrestrials.

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Parts of the Robertson Panel’s findings were not revealed until 1979, a delay that added fuel to the flames of various conspiracy theories involving the idea of a government cover-up. Another inquiry was opened by the U.S. Air Force in 1966, which – under the leadership of physicist Edward U. Condon – was tasked with investigating 59 compelling but inexplicable sightings originally recorded during Project Blue Book.

The results of the inquiry were included in a report called Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, less formally referred to as the Condon Report. The Condon Report also found no evidence for the existence of extraterrestrials. This finding contributed to the decision to shutter Project Blue Book in 1969.

A small minority of scientists continued to subscribe to J. Allen Hynek, an astronomer at the Ohio State University and then at Northwestern University who participated in the Projects Sign, Grudge, and Blue Book investigations.

He is one of the better-remembered scientists who continued to advocate for the idea. He founded his own privately run research group called the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) in 1973.

Governmental scrutiny of the UFO phenomenon was revived in the 21st century with the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP), a secret (albeit unclassified) program run by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). According to the DoD, AATIP operated from 2007 to 2012, at which point the program’s funding was diverted elsewhere.

Canada’s government is the only one besides that of the U.S. that has kept relatively extensive records on its citizens’ UFO sightings. Other countries – including the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, and Greece -have kept scantier records.

In some countries (for example, those of the former Soviet Union and the Peoples’ Republic of China, UFO sightings resulted from secret military tests that the countries’ people weren’t made aware of. In some cases, the governments involved encouraged their citizens to believe that the objects were of extraterrestrial origin in order to obfuscate the true nature of the experiments.

In scenes that felt reminiscent of a science-fiction movie, the US Congress held a public hearing on claims the government is covering up its knowledge of UFOs. Unsurprisingly, the hearing generated huge interest in the US and around the world as it heard from three key witnesses, including David Grusch, a whistleblower former intelligence official who in June claimed the US has possession of “intact and partially intact” alien vehicles.

Former President Donald Trump said he was briefed on UFOs during his time as president. He said he spoke to Air Force service members who said they believed in UFOs and didn’t appear to be “the type of guy that’s going to lie.”

Trump was not the first president to admit to seeking information on UFOs. Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have all admitted to getting briefed on the subject. Clinton even admitted to sending aides to search Area 51.

President Jimmy Carter, who also had his own UFO encounter, also said he was briefed on UFOs, reversing a campaign promise to release documents on the subject.

None of the former presidents, however, have disclosed what they might have been told about the unexplained phenomena in the skies.

In conclusion, UFOs have become a high-profile news story in recent years. The US military says it is actively trying to investigate the small number of sightings for which there is no obvious explanation.

A long-awaited US report concluding that unidentified flying objects are real, has left British UFO enthusiasts and Sir Eric Gairy feeling vindicated – even if it did not reveal the existence of extraterrestrial visitors.

Several Americans are now saying UFOs exist. President Biden sought to allay any concerns and fears about the recent spate of unidentified flying objects, saying there was no evidence that the latest three aerial objects shot down are related to the surveillance operations of a foreign nation.

An earlier object, shot down off the coast of South Carolina, was determined to be a Chinese spy balloon, and part of what the Biden administration says is part of a larger surveillance operation.

The administration is still searching for three subsequent objects shot down over U.S. and Canadian airspace. But Mr. Biden said “nothing” at this point suggests these later objects are related to Chinese surveillance operations or any other country’s surveillance operations.

Simeon Collins is a former Director of the Grenada Bureau of Standards and first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA), a CARICOM Institution