Form: 97 Dir
Date: Fri, 05 Jan 2007 05:47:44 -0600

From: Brad Sparks
Subject: Analysis: Roerich Case; Aug 5, 1927
Cat: 1

Aug. 5, 1927; Himalayan Mountains
Explorer Nicholas Roerich and others in his caravan observed a shiny oval-shaped object move overhead, changing course. (Sparks: There is a date discrepancy. It is actually 1927 instead of 1926 , according to Leon Davidson who checked Roerich's published travel diary, the 1929 book Altai- Himalaya.  See quote on the Internet) "On august fifth - something remarkable!  We were in our camp in the kukunor district, not far from the humboldt chain. In the morning about half-past nine some of our caravaneers noticed a remarkably big black eagle flying above us.  Seven of us began to watch this unusual bird.  At the same moment another of our caravaneers remarked: 'there is something far above the bird,' and he shouted his astonishment.  We all saw, in the direction north to south, something big and shiny reflecting sun, like a huge oval moving at great speed. Crossing our camp this thing changed in its direction from south to southwest, and we saw how it disappeared in the intense blue sky.  We even had time to take our field glasses and saw quite distinctly the oval form with the shiny surface, one side of which was brilliant from the sun." [wrong date of 1926 in NICAP UFO Evidence, 1964, Hall, I]


Long-time UFOlogist Leon Davidson claimed that Roerich's sighting was due to a weather balloon supposedly launched by another expedition, the Sven Hedin Sino-Swedish expedition, but gave no documentation that such a balloon had actually been launched on the date of the Roerich sighting or that the expeditions were close enough.

Simple calculations show that the small 2-1/2 to 4 foot diameter balloons launched by Hedin's meteorologist Dr. Waldemar Haude would have had to be launched no more than 1 mile away from Roerich in order to even be visible to the naked eye.  The two expeditions would have almost literally bumped into each at such short ranges and such a launching would have been plainly visible to Roerich and his team, along with the loud, smoky motor vehicles that Hedin was using.  Yet no such thing happened, the two expeditions did not see each other and in fact were never closer than about 400 miles from each other (Hedin's group was following the old Silk Road trade route in the Gobi Desert to the North of Roerich, heading West to Urumchi from the northermost part of the Yellow River).

Davidson did not present any meteorological records of the launch which should have been available, unless destroyed by WWII bombing of Germany.  Even so, Haude published his balloon data prior to the WWII bombings, and these might have the necessary records.  Haude launched two sizes of balloon, a small 2-1/2 foot type and a larger 4-foot type, each with approximately 500 and 800 ft/min ascent rates, respectively.

Simple order-of-magnitude calculations show that this weather balloon explanation for the Roerich sighting was impossible, on quantitative grounds that do not rely on non-quantitative statements of "huge" object at "great speed":  When Roerich said that the shape of the object could be discerned in field glasses this indicates it had an angular size too small to easily see its shape with the naked eye, thus it was on the order of 1/10 Full Moon or about 3 arcminutes (1/1,000 radian which is 1:1,000 size/distance ratio or for a 4-foot sized object 4 x 1,000 = 4,000 ft distance).

Thus such the largest 4-foot weather balloon would have been about 4,000 feet (approx 3/4 mile) away from Roerich's party (sailing overhead more or less) having been launched within about 4-5 minutes prior (as determined by the 800 ft/min rise rate), nominal winds thus on the order of 10 mph.  With much more distance the balloon would have been invisible, never having been spotted in the first place, having exceeded the limits of human visual acuity (Minimum Angle of Resolution, MAR, about 1 arcmin).  (Once spotted when reasonably close, say about 1/2 to 1 mile away, they could continue to follow it out to the extreme limits, about 2 to 3 miles, but they would never have _initially_ spotted it at those 2-3-mile extreme limits of distance.)

They would have been within shouting distance of the other expedition less than 1 mile away and would have been acutely aware of any such balloon launching operation!  Within that vast flat region around Lake Koko Nor they had a clear view up to 50-100 miles or so around them.  The maximum possible distance this other alleged expedition could have been at, assuming an outlandish 100 mph surface wind blowing the balloon over the heads of the Roerich party would still have only been 5-10 miles from Roerich (100 mph in 3-6 mins), easily seen (and any such hurricane force wind would blown the eagle away that Roerich had first seen just before the UFO, and would have been commented on in the diary).  They would have known all about the other (alleged) party, seen their campfires at night, run into each other on the trails before or soon after, and seen other balloons they launched before and after.  Roerich's group obviously was nowhere near any such other expedition.

Also, as mentioned any expedition launching weather balloons makes records of the weather data which would be archived and would verify the expedition's time-date and location of launches, along with the weather data itself.