Odd-shaped clouds and the erratic ‘behaviour’ of some cloud formations have been associated with UFO sightings for centuries. Unidentified flying objects have frequently been observed emerging from and vanishing into them. Some historic artworks illustrate such events. These unusual clouds are not to be confused with natural cloud formations such as lenticular or mammatus clouds, that often resemble circular flying objects, or classic ‘flying saucer’ shapes.
In recent years, UFOCUS NZ has received a number of sighting reports describing metallic objects observed moving in and out of, or seemingly ‘concealed’ within unusual clouds or mists. This is a common occurrence documented by UFO researchers worldwide, who speculate as to whether these clouds are caused by a field of energy surrounding the object, or whether the creation of the cloud is a deliberate method of concealment. Or could it be, as some speculate, that the clouds act as ‘portals’ through which objects or craft materialize and dematerialize in and out of other dimensions? Whatever the cause, some of these occurrences can be difficult to explain in conventional or logical terms.
In April 2005, UFOCUS NZ received a sighting report from ‘Sharron’. Sharron, her sister and mother, all mature aged women, had seen something unusual taking place in the sky over Lake Taupo, Central North Island, New Zealand in February, that she said, “…has been bugging us ever since.”
This sighting made a lasting impression on the three women and it certainly sat outside the ‘norm’ of their knowledge of aircraft. Like many people who have witnessed an unusual aerial phenomenon (UAP) and are seeking an explanation for it, the women were fearful of ridicule or disbelief, and a further two months passed before they could buck up the courage to e-mail UFOCUS NZ. In her second e-mail to us Sharron stated, “To be quite honest, it took me ages to get the courage up to press the ‘send’ button…thought it was a daft thing to do.”
At around 8 o’clock in the evening on Sunday 8th February 2005, Sharron, her mother and sister were traveling by car, approaching the lakefront in the city of Taupo having just travelled the Napier-Taupo Highway. It was a light Summer evening, with the sun was just starting to go down. The sky was generally clear apart from two long, narrow, and clearly defined cloudbanks to the north which appeared stationary (or very slow moving). There was only a very slight breeze. Sharron states that strangely, it crossed her mind that she should be looking for UFO’s, as she sometimes did when travelling in the evening. She mentioned this to her sister, who felt uncomfortable with the idea.
Coincidentally, not long after this thought crossed her mind, Sharron’s sister drew their attention to what she described as, “a weird cloud up there” at a low altitude. The clean white ‘cloud’ was rounded and thicker at one end, tapering off towards the other end like a teardrop turned on its side, or a comet-like shape with a short trailing tail.
Sharron described it as, “…long, (about 1 ½ inches (at arm’s length) …from where we were looking in the car) in a patch of clear sky in front of, and between, the two layers of clouds.”
Sharron looked across the sky and was surprised to see another identical ‘cloud’ some kilometres away from the first. She pointed it out to the others.
“Then Linda said … hey one’s moving!…and it was.”
At that point they realized that both the clouds were actually steadily moving directly towards each other – one moving faster than the other in a northeasterly direction towards Taupo, and the other in a southwesterly direction towards the ski resort town of Turangi. Each ‘cloud’ was moving with the rounded end facing forwards and the trail behind. Apart from the two distant cloudbanks, there were no other clouds in the sky in that area. They were moving at a speed that was not consistent with the calm weather at the time.
“The clouds were quite some distance apart when we first saw them – kilometres – one being towards one side of the lake and one on the other (side). They were going horizontally across the sky. They seemed to be going in a straight line at all times.”
Sharron quickly stopped the car on the Taupo lakefront and they used the binoculars that they carry in the car, to observe the clouds more closely. Through the binoculars they were able to see a distinct dark shape or object slightly protruding from the rounded front of each cloud. The clouds continued moving steadily across the sky towards one another until one was directly above the other over Lake Taupo, and they hovered stationary in that position for a few seconds. From their place of observation, Sharron described them as being, “…very close to each other, almost touching – only a tiny gap (visible) between them”.
The cloud moving towards the township of Taupo then began to move off quite quickly and within a few seconds, much to the surprise of the three women, just seemed to suddenly disappear from their sight, along with the partly visible object. Weather conditions at the time should not have caused the cloud to dissipate, and neither of the clouds changed shape at all as they moved across the sky. The trio observed the other cloud for a couple more minutes as it headed steadily away southwest, before it eventually disappeared from view into the distance. Once again, the speed the cloud travelled was not consistent with weather conditions at the time.
The three women were at a loss to explain what they had just seen. Sharron stated, “It was kind of weird. The only trails I’ve ever seen left by planes, trailed right across the sky… (whereas) these clouds with a short tail stayed the same size, shape. The whole thing moved slowly across the sky. To our way of thinking, they couldn’t have been real clouds as they were moving towards one another (at the same altitude), and as mentioned, you could see a dark object at the front of each one through the binoculars, plus they never changed size or shape at all whilst moving, and were very well defined.”
It would be unusual to see two clouds so close together and yet blown in opposite directions by the wind, and without any noticeable change in shape. The women were so intrigued by what they had seen that Sharron posted a description of the event on their family internet page, and they searched the internet trying to find a description or photo of something similar.
This phenomenon of small clouds materializing or dematerializing around an object has been increasingly reported around the world in the last few years. They are observed traversing the sky faster than surrounding clouds in the sky at the time. Characteristically, they do not change shape over time, as most naturally formed clouds in our skies do, but instead maintain a very uniform, distinct and constant shape over periods of time. Observers have also reported seeing metallic-looking objects leaving the clouds and moving off at speed while the cloud simply disappears behind it, whereas at other times, a part of an object is seen protruding from the cloud.
This Taupo report and description bore a distinct resemblance to two similar sightings that were reported to UFOCUS NZ in 2002. They occurred in the Western Bay of Plenty, North Island, just north of Tauranga (a city on the eastern coast, northeast of Taupo).
In August 2002, two classrooms of college students witnessed an unusual spectacle in the small rural town of Katikati, Bay of Plenty. The incident occurred in an almost cloudless blue sky with very little wind. Lessons were taking place in the afternoon, when suddenly a student pointed out the window, and shouted that something was about to crash. Students in the next classroom had obviously also seen the object, as voices and exclamations could be heard. They observed a white, tear-drop shaped cloud, falling or descending vertically in the sky at what seemed to be a controlled rate of speed (ie. not appearing to fall rapidly, or out of control), above the outskirts of the township about a kilometre away.
Protruding from the bottom of the cloud, was a rounded, shiny, metallic shape reflecting sunlight as it moved slightly from side-to-side. A cloud-like substance was streaming off the outer edges of this object, forming a teardrop shape tapering upwards, and most of the observers assumed that a helicopter was on fire. Just as they all braced themselves expecting an impact, the object abruptly stopped above the treetops, where it hovered momentarily surrounded by the misty cloud, before shooting off up into the sky at a low angle. The remaining cloud quickly dissipated in the air. The object disappeared in an easterly direction (towards the sea) at speed and vanished from view. Nobody heard any noticeable sound accompanying the incident, and the speed with which the object took off could not have been performed by a helicopter, and nor could the vertical descent have been executed by a small plane.
Eight days after this event, UFOCUS NZ received a phone-call from a woman living in a harbor-side settlement, 20 kilometres south of Katikati where the previous sighting took place. That morning at around 10 am, the witness was sitting at a table, which was positioned in front of a set of floor-to-ceiling windows. It was a fine day with puffy cumulous clouds. She stated that, “For no reason at all, I suddenly felt compelled to look up out the window.”
She saw what she thought was a plane or helicopter about to crash onto nearby paddocks. An object with a rounded, silver-metallic bottom or undercarriage (which glinted in the sunlight) was falling from high in the sky. What the witness thought to be white smoke was streaming off the lower sides of the object forming a swirling teardrop shape above it and obscuring the rest of the object. Being a volunteer fire brigade member, she jumped to her feet to ring the fire station to sound the alarm. However, to her astonishment the object came to an abrupt halt in the sky, and hovered for a few seconds surrounded by a misty cloud. During this brief time, the witness threw the lower window open. There was silence – no characteristic sound of a helicopter’s rotor blades. The object then rapidly shot off in a westerly direction over the Kaimai Ranges, appearing now as a metallic-like object, the ‘cloud’ having dissipated.
It is interesting that associated with the latter sighting and the Taupo report, the witnesses seemed to have experienced a feeling of forewarning that something unusual was about to take place. In this case the witness stated, “For no reason at all, I felt compelled to look up out the window”, while ‘Sharron’ stated, “It crossed my mind that I should be looking for UFOs.” Such thoughts and feelings are often reported by witnesses just prior to a sighting, which appear to ‘set them up’ for it.
While the shape of the reported objects described above is unknown given that they were surrounded by a misty cloud, there have been sightings in New Zealand of actual tear-drop, or ‘top-shaped’ unidentified flying objects in our skies, and the following are three examples:
- On the evening on June 11, 2004, at Ruby Bay near Nelson, an observer saw a tear-drop shaped metallic craft with spinning red lights, beaming light into the water of the harbour. The ‘tear-drop’ made an electrical humming sound and an occasional thundering boom that was witnessed by other people at McKees Domain. The object moved close to the beach at one point, sending beams of light across the bay. It moved about at considerable speed, disappearing and reappearing in different places, before ascending into the sky.
- In May 2006 around sunset, a Cambridge woman observed a top-shaped object descend from a large cumulous cloud and hover in a clear patch of sky over the nearby hills, before slowly ascending vertically into the clouds again. The sighting lasted only a few seconds. She called a family member, and they watched the cloud to see if the object would emerge again before darkness, but they did not observe anything further. She described the object as being like a child’s toy top suspended in the sky.
- A more detailed sighting occurred in late August 1971 at Ohinepaka, south of Wairoa, Hawkes Bay, North Island. This sighting involved alleged unexpected physical effects and temporary paralysis.
A sheep station worker was returning to the station buildings from out the back of the station, at around 4.30 pm. There was plenty of sunshine and the sky was cloudless with no wind. The worker passed through a gate on horseback with a team of four dogs and moved onto the farm road high up on a hill. Suddenly, all the dogs ‘stopped dead’ in the middle of the road, staring straight ahead with all the hair on their backs standing on end; all their barking and running about abruptly ceased. The witness was thinking that this behavior was odd, when the horse suddenly came to a standstill as well, with its clipped mane standing on end – all 5 inches plus. The worker couldn’t work out what was going on. The animals stood like statues – no barking or movement of any kind and no muscles twitching on the horse’s neck and flanks. Then the realization hit the rider that he could no longer move his body either. He was sitting there on horseback completely paralyzed, with the exception of slight eye and head movement. He could not move his body or limbs, and like the dogs, he could not make any sound. He described the experience as absolutely terrifying.
Then he saw what could have been the cause of this situation. Straight down the valley ahead of him, over a low ridge-line about a quarter of a mile off, was a jet black, cone-shaped flying object with flashing lights rotating around its edges, changing from red to blue to white. The bottom of the object was curved like a shallow bowl. It was at least 50 feet across in width and some twenty feet in height from the base to the top of the cone. He could see the object clearly. It had no visible windows or portholes, and resembled a top that children play with. The horse and dogs did not move a muscle for the duration of the sighting – it was as if they did not even breathe.
The rider had a panoramic view from his position on the hill. Initially, he was looking down on the object as it moved down the valley towards him, but eventually it moved up higher over the nearby hill-line, so he was able to observe it from different angles as it moved about out in front of him. The object moved up a ridge line, hovered at the top of the hill, moved along the hill line about 1000 yards or more, and became stationary. It hovered there without making any sound, but the coloured lights continued flashing around its edges in a sequence. It traveled down another ridge line, stopped, ascended some 500 feet or so straight up into the air above the hill and hovered again. Suddenly it shot off into the sky on an upward curved flight path, heading south out over the sea. The witness had never seen anything move so fast, from zero to extreme speed in seconds, without making any sound at all.
About then, the horse, dogs and the rider all ‘came back to life’ and started to move again as if they had been released from a ‘hold’. The sighting lasted approximately 10 minutes.
These sightings all report actual metallic or structured objects, some surrounded by a cloud-like mist, and all were daytime sightings with the exception of the Ruby Bay incident. Because of the unusual nature of their flight characteristics and manoeuvres, the physical appearance of the objects, and their unconventional light configurations, none of the descriptions provided by witnesses are indicative of conventional aircraft common in NZ skies.
Copyright © Suzanne Hansen 2009