Wilbert B. Smith

Wilbert B. Smith, a Radio Engineer and world expert in electromagnetism and telecommunications, is recognized today as the pioneer of UFO research in Canada and was instrumental in generating Department of Transport (DOT) - sponsored research in 1950 which yielded some startling findings.

Mr. Smith was one of the first scientists to suggest that UFO's represented a probably by-product of advanced extraplanetary technology. In the early 1950's in Washington DC, he first proposed to his superior, DOT Deputy Minister John Baldwin, the need for government-sponsored UFO studies. The dramatic increase of sightings in the coming months added considerable support to his proposal.

By December of 1950, Mr. Smith was given the green light by Commander G. P. Edwards, then Deputy Minister of Transport for Air Services, to go ahead with a UFO study which came to be known as Project Magnet. Authorized by DOT engineers to draw on UFO reports from across Canada, Mr. Smith embarked on this historical venture with the assistance of his colleagues from within his own Broadcast and Measurement Section.

As of this writing, July 1998, many of the Project Magnet findings remain classified material, with two notable exceptions - a small-scale study of twenty-five 1952 UFO sightings, released in May 1968; and the public disclosure of an unprecedented instrument recording in August 1954, of a suspected UFO over the Project Magnet sighting station at Shirley's Bay, ten miles west of Ottawa.

The 1952 study clearly demonstrated that the majority of cases compiled in the eight-month period from May 1 to December 31 could not be explained as natural identifiable phenomena. Of the twenty-five sightings analyzed, sixteen - or 64 per cent - were either circular, elliptical, ring-like or cone-shaped vessels unlike any known man-made craft. From this cross section of nation-wide cases, As stated in the Project Magnet Report, Radio and Electrical Engineering Division, National Research Council, released May 9, 1968 (Ottawa), Mr. Smith was able to draw the following conclusions;

"They are a hundred feet or more in diameter; they can travel at speeds of several thousand miles per hour; they can reach altitudes well above these which would support conventional aircraft or balloons; and ample power and force seem to be available for all required maneuvers. Taking these factors into account, it is difficult to reconcile this performance with the capabilities of our technology, and unless the technology of some terrestrial nation is much more advanced than is generally known, we are forced to the conclusion that the vehicles are probably extra-terrestrial, in spite of our prejudices to the contrary"

Even though DOT had initially given Mr. Smith full authorization and co-operation, it soon became evident that his controversial findings led to a downgrading of Project Magnet by the Canadian government. This view was so far from the mainstream and scientific findings notwithstanding, so potentially politically damaging that when portions of its report were declassified on May 9, 1968, it became clear that the government had entirely disassociated itself from both the mandate and conclusions of the project. This was indelibly stated in a disclaimer signed by Dr. Peter Millman, then head of Upper Atmosphere Research of the National Research Council, and former chairman of the Second Storey Committee;

"I have been informed by the Department of Transport that although Project Magnet was officially authorized by the Department, work on this Project was carried out almost entirely by Mr. W. B. Smith and was in the nature of a spare time activity. The conclusions reached in this report are entirely those of Mr. Smith and do not represent an official opinion of either the Department of Transport, or of the Second Storey Committee". (Project Magnet Report, Radio and Electrical Engineering Division, National Research Council, Note on Project Magnet Report, Forward, released May 9, 1968 (Ottawa).

Politics and Mr. Smith's highly publicized instrument recording in August 1954, heralded by the press as the world's first; and the wake of excitement generated by his 1952 findings, led the government to paradoxically quickly distance itself from Project Magnet, even though a poll taken in July of 1950, by the Canadian Institute of Public Opinion, found that:

"Half of the adult population of Canada believe that these mysterious disks are not just imagination and that they are not just a natural phenomena" (Weekend Magazine Vol. 7, No 27 (1957) p 4)

In mid-1953, Mr. Smith had received approval to set up a UFO detection station at DOT's electronic establishment at Shirley's Bay - which still exists today, albeit modernized from the original 12 foot square laboratory - and was equipped with an assortment of sophisticated electronic equipment including a gamma ray detector, a radio wave detector, an ionospheric recorder to monitor activity and changes in the ionized layer of gases sixty miles from the Earth's surface, and a gravimeter, designed to detect magnetic and gravity fluctuations in the atmosphere. Assisting Mr. Smith were Professor J. T. Wilson of the University of Toronto; Dr. James Wait, a theoretical Physicist with the Defense Research Board, and Dr. G. D. Garland, gravitational expert at the federal Mines and Technical Survey Department.

Once the station was in operation, Mr. Smith and his colleagues instituted a twenty-four hour vigil. Nothing unusual was recorded until eight months later when on Sunday, August 8, 1954 at 3:01 PM, the station's alarm bells rang out, signaling that the gravimeter had been tripped. Fortunately, Mr. Smith was on hand to observe the instrument activation and reported the following;

"The deflection in the line (drawn by an electronically operated pen) was greater and more pronounced than we have seen even when a large aircraft has passed overhead. I ran outside to see what might be in the sky. The overcast was down to a thousand feet, so that whatever it was that caused the sharp variation was concealed behind the clouds. We must now ask ourselves what it could have been."

Although the evidence was inconclusive, Mr. Smith was convinced that no known atmospheric phenomenon could account for the unusual pattern.

Uncomfortable with the extensive press coverage sparked by the incident, Department of Transport officials unceremoniously discontinued Project Magnet, two days later. This surprise move, described years later by Mr. Smith, as "premature", coincided with a tightening of military secrecy on UFO's in the United States, following repeated leaks about tragic mishaps and mysterious disappearances of military pilots who had pursued UFOs. It is almost as if a Canadian - US accord had been reached on the UFO issue.

The Canadian government was so shaken by disclosures made by unimpeachable Canadian military sources, that the Royal Canadian Air Force quickly adopted a United States intelligence reporting procedure known as JANAP 146. This directive imposed heavy penalties on personnel who released such UFO-related material. This move was designed to silence further disclosures once and for all, and work could be done behind the scenes.

It soon became apparent that Mr. Smith had been persuaded to publicly downplay the Project Magnet findings. When he appeared before the House of Commons Special Committee on Broadcasting on May 17, 1955, he made this surprising admission;

"On the basis of our measurements which were nil, we came to the conclusion that we had very little data of any nature to go on"

For Wilbert Smith to be forced to make such an admission, in spite of documented witnessed evidence of his station's instruments, the pressure from the Canadian government must have been formidable.

However, Mr. Smith was still allowed to pursue his interests in UFO's privately; but without DOT co-operation, he was forced to scale down his research. Prior to his untimely death in 1962, he restated his beliefs in an interview with Weekend Magazine;

"From the weight of the evidence, I think they come from outer space, but I can't prove it. The best I have is data on which you can put a probability figure...look at it this way, if a stock promoter told you that there was a 60 per cent probability that a certain stock would go up, I don't think you would invest with him. But if the weatherman told you there was a 60 per cent probability that a hurricane was going to hit your area, I think you'd hurry up and bring in the lawn furniture. It's a question of viewpoint. You have to make up your own mind how significant you think the matter is."

The documents relating to the Shirley's Bay operation have remained classified to this day (July 1998). The following classical case of parliamentary "double-talk" took place in the House of Commons on December 7, 1963, and demonstrates the government's preoccupation with secrecy. Government spokesman Yvon Dupuis (Parliamentary Secretary to the Secretary of State) responded to questions from Harold Winch (PC-Vancouver East);

Winch: Is Canada co-operating with the special United States Program for investigation of unidentified flying objects and if so, is this entitled "Project Magnet"?

Dupuis; The United States program known as "Project Magnet" is not directed to the investigation of unidentified flying objects.

Winch: Is "Project Magnet" an unpublicized world-wide operation using specially equipped, Super Constellations, non-uniformed pilots and civilian scientists?

Dupuis: "Project Magnet" is a program conducted by the naval oceanographic office of the U.S. Navy concerned with the compilation of geo-magnetic data covering all the nations of the world.

Winch: Is any data available from "Project Magnet" to the general public?

Dupuis: It is understood that data obtained in "Project Magnet" in the form of geo-magnetic charts is available upon the application to the Naval Oceanographic Office of the U.S. Navy.

It is interesting to note that this policy of denial, misdirection and outright lying has been the cornerstone of government response around the world. With the recent sightings in Mexico, Brazil, and the U.S., world governments appear to have a united coordinated common methodology in dealing with UFO sightings, reports, collection and suppression of information.

The bulk of the information on Mr. Wilbert Smith, is taken from UFO Canada, by Yurko Bondarchuk. in my opinion, this is the definitive Canadian book on the subject.


UFO photographs have been available as far back as August 12, 1883, when an interesting observation was made by Professor Jose A. Y. Bonilla, a professional astronomer. He and his colleagues at the Observatory at Zacatecas, Mexico, made history by photographing some opaque bodies which were passing between their observatory and the face of the sun. Even with the slow plates available to them, it was not difficult to make photographs against such a light source. Professor Bonilla, unquestionably a professional astronomer, since he headed the Observatory, says in his report of that memorable day;

"I had not recovered my surprise when the same phenomenon was repeated! And that with such frequency that in the space of two hours, I counted up to 283 bodies crossing the solar disc. Little by little, however, clouds hindered the observation. I could not resume the observation until the sun had crossed the meridian, and then only for 40 minutes"

The record of the Observatory for that day shows that the objects were streaming across the face of the sun in a straight path. Singly and in pairs they came, round and apparently dirigible-shaped things. In about one minute of time, the traversed the solar disk, but sometimes so many crossed at the same time that Bonilla was unable to count them accurately, as he admitted.

They were presumably smooth surfaced, perhaps even polished, for at certain angles they reflected the light of the sun with dazzling effect.

Altogether, Professor Bonilla and his colleagues photographed several hundred of these things, including 116 of them the following day, when the strange procession came to an end. Bonilla had notified other Mexican Observatories (at Mexico City and Puebla) of this incredible spectacle, but they were unable to locate the objects from their viewpoints. This probably indicates, as Professor Bonilla commented, that the objects were somewhere in space relatively close to earth, where the optical law known as parallax prevented the other Observatories finding them by following Bonilla's information.

The pictures taken at Bonilla's Observatory represented incontrovertible proof and are still in existence. some of them were published in contemporary astronomical journals and look much like the UFO's which are seen today.