THE AUSTRALIAN MILITARY & GOVERNMENT
By Bill Chalker
ROLE IN THE UFO CONTROVERSY
THE "SEA FURY" ENCOUNTER
One of the most controversial radar visual reports of
occurred on August 31st, 1954. The story leaked out in December, 1954,
and made front page headlines. The official navy file on the event
classified until the Directorate of Naval Intelligence released a copy
upon my request in 1982. During his 1973 visit to Australia, Dr. Hynek
was able to interview the pilot involved in this famous incident, which
became known as the "Sea Fury" encounter. Dr. Hynek made his notes on
interview available to me during my 1984 visit to the Chicago
of his organisation, the Centre for UFO Studies (CUFOS). I, in turn,
Dr. Hynek with a copy of the official file on the incident.
Lieutenant J.A. O'Farrell was returning to Royal Australian
Station Nowra after a night cross country in a Sea Fury aircraft. After
contacting Nowra at about 1910 hours, O'Farrell saw a very bright light
closing fast at one o'clock. It crossed in front of his aircraft taking
up position on his port beam, where it appeared to orbit. A second and
similar light was observed at nine o'clock. It passed about a mile in
of the Sea Fury and then turned in the position where the first light
observed. According to O'Farrell, the apparent crossing speeds of the
were the fastest he had ever encountered. He had been flying at 220
O'Farrell contacted Nowra who in turn confirmed that they had two radar
"paints" in company with him. The radar operator, Petty Officer Keith
confirmed the presence of 2 objects near the Sea Fury on the G.C.I.
display. The two lights reformed at nine o'clock and then disappeared
a north easterly heading. O'Farrell could only make out "a vague shape
with the white light situated centrally on top." The Directorate of
Intelligence at the time wrote that O'Farrell was "an entirely credible
witness" and that he "was visibly 'shaken' by his experience, but
adamant that he saw these objects"
In a recent interview, "Shamus" O'Farrell described the
"I said, "Nowra, this is 921. Do you have me on
a few seconds later they came back and said, "Affirmative 921. We have
you coming in from the west. We have another two contacts as well.
one are you."
During this interview, Dr. Hynek's involvement came up:
"I said, "I think I'm the central one." And so they said,
"Do a 180...for
identification." So I did a quick 180 and then continued on around and
made it a 360 back to where I was going.
"They said, "Yes, we've got you. You're the centre
aircraft." I said
that's correct. They then said to me, "Who are the other two aircraft,"
and I said, "I don't know. I was hoping you would tell me, because I
think there was anyone up here. "They said, "Well there shouldn't be,
they certainly shouldn't be that close to you."
"So the conversation went on like this and I was very
pleased to be
talking to somebody because it gave me a lot of reassurance. With that
these two aircraft came in quite close to me and I could really see the
dark mass and that they were quite big, but I couldn't make out any
lights or any other form of an aircraft. With that they took off and
off to the north east at great speed.
"I was about to press the button and tell them at Nowra
that the two
aircraft were departing when Nowra called me up and said, "The other
aircraft appear to be departing at high speed to the north east. Is
correct?" and I said, "Yes!". And they said, "Roger, we'll see if we
track them." They tracked them for a while and then lost them. "I came
in and landed at 7.30 (1930) and when I got there there were quite a
people waiting for me. I thought it was a bit strange and so they came
over, and they said, "You sure you had aircraft out there!", and I said
yes. The Surgeon Commander came over and spoke to me. He said did I
sick, or was I upset. I said no. He ran his hand over my head to see
I had any bumps. He had a look at me and decided I was okay. So then he
said, "Perhaps you'd like to come to the sick bay after you've changed
and we'll do an examination." So after I was finished I went up to sick
bay and he gave me a more thorough medical, and said, no, I appeared to
be alright. I found out later, that at the same time, they checked to
sure I hadn't been drinking before I took off and all that sort of
"This man (Hynek) - a professor - had made a study
of sightings all around the world and he had decided my sighting was
of those that he had not been able to explain away by other means. Any
way I had a talk with him. He was a very interesting chap and he made
comment that there were about 13 or 15, I don't remember, sightings
he was aware of over the years that were like mine and could not be
away. The interesting thing he said was that all of these sightings had
been made by professional people in aviation. By that he meant they
military pilots, military air crew, civil aviation operators, air
controllers, and the like, or airline pilots. These were the ones he
now (1973) going around meeting the people themselves and
All the others he had written off and had been able to explain down to
some other phenomena. It came to the point where he said, "Your
cannot be explained away." And he left it at that. To this day I
know where it came from or where it went."
I have had the opportunity to talk extensively with Shamus O'Farrell. I
was particularly interested in how the interview with Dr. Hynek in 1973
"It was done through Sir Arthur Tange, who was
the Department of Defence at the time. Hynek contacted him direct....
Arthur Tange contacted me and said Hynek was coming out. He had written
to him, through the US Embassy, to set up a meeting.... And the next
I knew I had a telephone call one day from Sir Arthur Tange saying that
Hynek was coming and he would like me to met him. I said, well, I
got all the facts, there all a bit hazy. So he sent me the two Defence
Department files over to read, to refresh it all."
Bill Chalker: "That seems to indicate a high level of
in Hynek's visit at the time?"
"Yes, well, I don't think so. All that happened was
was more of a courtesy because he was a very important guy, Hynek, and
they wanted to show him the courtesies etc. As far as Defence was
it was dead and forgotten but they had not got rid of the files. They
them. Normally when files like that are written off they are either
they'll put them in Archives or dispose of them and destroy them. But
had done neither. They had remained in the JIO. They'd kept them. I
know what they had in mind about it, I never questioned it. I just used
them as a means to refresh my memory.
Bill Chalker: "That must have been a bit of a concern to
"Later the guy who became the chief Defence scientist,
was very interested in it too, and he had done a lot of early
in most of the reports when he was chief defence scientist and in the
just before he became chief defence scientist. He had a talk with me. I
was a friend of his. I use to meet with him at lunch. He went over it
great detail. He knew it all. He agreed it was something that couldn't
be refuted. No matter how hard they tried, and they tried very hard to
knock it all back. They checked everything from medical, down to when
the last time I had had a drink..."
"Well, I wanted to hush it all up. That sort of
made me look a bit of a fool. I was worried it wasn't going to do my
any good. "(Apart from the radar witness) it locked in a sighting over
the NDB (non directional beacon) at Narulan, at the same time. There
to be a guy working on the NDB. It was down at the time. He had gone to
repair it. He happened to look up at the time because he saw these
fly overhead. Also the air traffice control officer in the tower at
saw them approaching him. "It was all investigated by the then RAAF guy
who did it and later it was also investigated by the Joint Intelligence
In 1993 I assisted The Extraordinary television programme with
recreation of the Sea Fury incident. Shamus O'Farrell, Keith Jessop and
I were interviewed on the show. The case stands as one of the best
radar visual UFO cases on record in Australia.