Date: October 25, 1973
Location: North-West Cape, Australia
According to official reports, at 7.30 p.m. Lieutenant Commander M, of the US Navy, observed 'a large black, airborne object' in the airspace over the important US intelligence base at North-West Cape. US Navy Fire Captain L had also seen the object. The object was about 10 metres in diameter and was about 300 metres above the ground. It was completely stationary except for a halo around its centre, which appeared to be either revolving or pulsating.
North West Cape UFO based on sketch by Fire Captain Bill L. (credit: Bill Chalker)
Type of Case/Report: StandardCase
Hynek Classification: CE1
# of Witnesses: Multiple
Special Features/Characteristics: Military, Nuclear Facility
Source: Bill Chalker (1996)
On a narrow peninsula, over one thousand kilometres to the north of the main centres of population in Western Australia, stands an enigmatic monument to the military ethic. It is a remote spot even for a country as vast and thinly populated as Australia. A vast array of antennas and towers stand out in stark contrast to the harsh natural beauty of the surrounding terrain. Rising to a dizzying height of 387 metres is Tower Zero, the central structure of a vast array of satellite and radio communications equipment. Another 12 towers stand in two concentric rings around it. The towers support 'large spider webs of wire', a Very Low Frequency antenna array covering one thousand acres, the largest facility of its kind in the world. Altogether the base, which consists of three main sites, is spread over 60 kilometres. Collectively the sites function as a window into an extraordinary world that few of us are privy to, the vast and highly secretive world of military intelligence. The site is officially called US Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt, but is more popularly known as North-West Cape.
In the vast scheme of facilities that make up the worldwide US intelligence gathering network, North-West Cape, with a reported 430 US military staff, plays an important and acutely sensitive role. During the Cold War it was used for communications with US and Australian navy ships, including US nuclear submarines, in the Indian and western Pacific Oceans. It was also used to intercept Soviet communications. It was never very far from the drama and controversy that pivoted around the fears of possible nuclear war between the superpowers.
Along with other US bases in Australia, such as Pine Gap and Nurrungar, North-West Cape has long been a matter of acute political sensitivity, specifically related to claims that such sites would be prime nuclear targets during a major outbreak of hostilities between the superpowers. On 11 October 1973, five days after the Middle East War broke out, North-West Cape along with other US bases in Australia was put on full alert. According to Richard Hall, in his book The Secret State, this alert status was to escalate dramatically due to 'an NSA misreading of Arabic in a Syrian message to the USSR which led Kissinger and Nixon to believe that Soviet troops might be sent to the Middle East1.
This fiasco climaxed early on the morning of 25 October 1973, in Washington. A full nuclear alert went out to all US forces. North-West Cape was used to communicate the alert to both conventional and nuclear forces in this region. Local time at North-West Cape was around early evening. It was then that an intruder was spotted in the airspace over the base. According to official reports, at 7.30 p.m. Lieutenant Commander M, of the US Navy, observed 'a large black, airborne object' at a distance of approximately eight kilometres to the west, at an altitude estimated at 600 metres. M was driving from the naval communication station towards the support township of Exmouth, along Murat Road. He reported that the object hovered, with no apparent noise or exhaust, then, 'After about 20-25 seconds the craft accelerated at unbelievable speed and disappeared to the north.'
Back at the base, US Navy Fire Captain L had also seen the object. At 7.20 p.m. he was driving towards the officers' club when he noticed a large black object in the sky, which he at first took to be a small cloud formation. He got out of his car and stood for several minutes watching the object, which he now saw looked like a black sphere, hovering. The sky was clear and light, and there were no clouds about. The object was about 10 metres in diameter and was about 300 metres above the ground. It was completely stationary except for a halo around its centre, which appeared to be either revolving or pulsating. It suddenly took off at tremendous speed and disappeared in a few seconds.
The Americans investigated the two sightings, naturally concerned in case the UFO was some form of new Soviet aircraft, but apparently no explanation of its true nature was ever found.
Case ID: 629
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