On the night of October 4 1967, at about 11:20 p.m. Atlantic Daylight Time, it was reported that something had crashed into the waters near Shag Harbour, on Nova Scotia's South Shore. At least eleven people saw a low-flying lit object head down towards the harbour. Multiple witnesses reported hearing a whistling sound "like a bomb", then a "whoosh", and finally a loud bang. Some reported a flash of light as the object entered the water. Thinking that an airliner or smaller aircraft had crashed into the Sound next to Shag Harbour, some witnesses reported the event to the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment.
The unknown object was never officially identified, and was therefore referred to as an unidentified flying object (UFO) in official Canadian government documents. A Canadian Naval recovery effort immediately followed. The event is sometimes compared to the Roswell UFO incident and Kecksburg UFO incident, two other events alleged to be military crash-recoveries of UFOs.
The initial report was made by Laurie Wickens, a local resident, and four of his friends. Driving through Shag Harbour on Highway 3, they spotted a large object descending into the waters of the harbor. Other residents had seen the descent and agreed the object was about 60 feet long, angled downwards at 45 degrees, and initially displayed four or five flashing and glowing amber lights.
Attaining a better vantage point, Wickens and his friends could see an object floating 250 to 300 meters out to sea. Visibility was good – clear with no moon. At that time, the object only had a yellow light shining from its top side.
Wickens contacted the RCMP and reported he had seen a large airplane or small airliner crash into the Sound. Subsequent calls were received from Mary Banks on Maggie Garron's Point reporting similar information. Other residents also called in to report the incident, adding details about loud whistling noises and bangs. RCMP staff were dispatched to the site.
Search and rescue effortsEdit
Assuming an aircraft had crashed, within about 15 minutes, three Mounties were at the scene along with multiple other witnesses, and observed a pale yellow or white light bobbing on the surface of the water. Concerned for survivors, the RCMP contacted the Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax to advise them of the situation, and ask if any aircraft were missing. Before any local effort at rescue could be made, the object started to sink and disappeared from view.
A rescue mission was quickly assembled. Within half an hour of the crash, local fishing boats went out into the Sound to look for survivors. At the location at which the object had sunk, a yellow foam was observed on the surface, about 80 feet wide and half a mile long. No survivors, bodies or debris were located, either by the fishermen or by the Coast Guard vessel, which arrived about an hour later.
By the next afternoon, it had been determined that no planes were missing. Still searching, the captain of the Coast Guard vessel received a message from the Rescue Coordination Center that all commercial, private and military aircraft were accounted for along the eastern seaboard from Atlantic Canada down into New England.
Two days after the crash, the Rescue Coordination Center had assembled a team of Navy divers, who for the next three days combed the bottom of the harbor looking for the object. One local fisherman said he saw them bringing up aluminum-colored metal, although it was unclear if this had been actual crash debris. The final report said not a trace of the crash object had been found.
While the official story of the incident ends here, many claims have been made, especially by so-called UFO hunters, of further evidence attributed to various military and civilian witnesses. These imply a highly secretive military search involving a small flotilla of U.S. and Canadian ships about 30 miles to the NE of Shag Harbour near Shelburne (see map above), site of a top secret submarine detection base. According to one military witness, he was allegedly briefed that the object had been originally picked up on radar coming out of Siberia. After crashing in Shag Harbour, it traveled underwater up the coast and came to rest on top of the submarine magnetic detection grid near Shelburne, where it was supposedly joined by a second vehicle. Ships were anchored there for a week, some theorize in an attempt to recover the object. A barge that arrived at the scene was said to have been brought in on which to place the object, with the following story printed in a local newspaper seen by some as a cover story to explain its presence there. (See press coverage immediately below.)
UFO researchers claim photographs were taken by divers and some foam-like debris brought up. One American diver known only as "Harry" stated that the object wasn't from planet Earth. Another military witness claimed that there were actually two objects, one perhaps trying to assist the other. The naval search was suddenly called off on October 11. That night, a seemingly identical UFO was reported departing the area by witnesses near the original Shag Harbour crash site.
In a History Channel documentary about the incident, which aired on August 10, 2006, it was reported that one of the divers involved in the Shag Harbour search did came forward during the mid-1990s, refusing to allow his identity to become known publicly. Once the researchers verified that the man in fact had served as a diver during that search, he recounted his version of what had happened at Shag Harbour.
According to the diver, by the time they reached Shag Harbour, they already knew that nothing would be found there, because the target had already been located off the coast at Shelburne. He went on to further say that the Canadian military and the United States Navy monitored the "unknown objects" by radar and sonar, and that the objects were underwater. This monitoring continued for at least three days, until a Russian submarine was observed entering allied waters to the north. With that, the navy departed to intercept the submarine, and by the time they had returned, the "unknown objects" had evidently departed. There has been nothing to substantiate the diver's claims, with the exception of archived records that indicate a substantial amount of search and monitor activity in the Shelburne area during that 10 day period.
The supposed "Shelburne connection" has never been confirmed by any official sources, but has gained wide acceptance in UFO literature arround the world. However, unlike the event at Shag Harbour, no official documentation has yet emerged to support stories of a second search near Shelburne.
Today, no known RCMP reports of this sighting remain. The Department of National Defence has identified this sighting as unsolved, and the only documentation that is known to exist is a DND memo bearing the hand-written letters "UFO".
Condon Committee interestEdit
The Shag Harbour crash happened while the Condon Committee UFO investigation was underway. A summary of the case was provided in the final report as "Case 34, North Atlantic, Fall 1967". It was stated that their investigation consisted of a few phone calls to sources in the area. The concluding remarks were, "No further investigation by the project was considered justifiable, particularly in view of the immediate and thorough search that had been carried out by the RCMP and the Maritime Command." The Rescue Coordination Center and the Royal Canadian Air Force Air Desk in Ottawa (the agency responsible for the gathering and investigation of unidentifiable reports) tagged the sighting as the crash of a "UFO". To some, this has justified claims that the object seen was "extra-terrestrial or extra-dimensional". To others, it merely means official sources don't know or for some reason will not say what the people of Shag Harbour saw.
After noting that no aircraft had been reported missing, no alternative explanation was offered. The case is therefore considered one of the unsolved ones in the Condon Report.
The Shag Harbour crash got extensive front page coverage in the normally conservative Halifax Chronicle-Herald. The paper ran a headline story on October 7 titled, "Could Be Something Concrete in Shag Harbor UFO — RCAF." The article included witness descriptions of the object and crash, the search and rescue effort, and the current Navy search. It also mentioned UFO reports that immediately preceded the crash, including one from a woman in Halifax around 10:00 p.m.
Another of these witnesses was Chris Styles, age 12, who says he came within 100 feet of the object. The sighting left a deep impression on Styles, who 26 years later was to resurrect the Shag Harbour case and become its principal investigator. Don Ledger, another Nova Scotia resident and an aviation expert, would later join Styles.
The Chronicle-Herald ran another story on October 9 titled "UFO Search Called Off," stating that Canadian Forces Maritime Command had ended "an intensive undersea search for the mysterious unidentified flying object that disappeared into the ocean here Wednesday night." As to what was found, Maritime Command stated, "Not a trace... not a clue... not a bit of anything." The story of the search being called off for the "mysterious" "dark object" was also carried by the Canadian Press in some other Canadian newspapers.
On October 12, the Chronicle-Herald ran a story of another sighting of a seemingly identical UFO departing the area the night of October 11, exactly one week after the initial crash. The report came from Lockland Cameron, Woods Harbour, only about one half mile north of the first sighting (see map above). Cameron said that he, his family, and relatives had all witnessed the object. Their attention was initially drawn by interference on the TV screen around 10 p.m. Cameron went outside to investigate and noticed six bright red lights, about 55 to 60 feet length, at an altitude of between 500 to 600 feet, and about three quarters of a mile off shore. It sat in a stationary position for 7 or 8 minutes and then disappeared. When it reappeared, only four orange lights were showing and seemed to be at a 35 degree angle. An hour later, a string of yellow lights appeared rapidly departing to the northeast. The RCMP investigated and found Cameron to be "sober and sincere."
On October 14, the Chronicle-Herald ran a final editorial on the incident. It stated that "numbers of people have described similar objects on at least two occasions. They are agreed upon such essentials as lights, length of the object or objects, and its speed. In the second, there was some physical evidence – that yellowish foam discovered by searchers – which gives yet more credibility to the sightings. Imagination and or natural phenomena seem to be the weakest, not strongest, of explanations. It has been a tough week for skeptics."
- Don Ledger, Chris Styles, Whitley Strieber, Dark Object: The World's Only Government-Documented UFO Crash, 2001, Dell Publishing, ISBN 0-440-23647-9
- Canada's Unidentified Flying Objects: The Search for the Unknown at Library and Archives Canada