Summary: From a strange funnel of fire in Alberta to a triangle of light flying over Sydney, N.S., reports of unidentified flying objects increased a staggering 42 per cent last year in Canada.
WINNIPEG (CP) -- From a strange funnel of fire in Alberta to a triangle of light flying over Sydney, N.S., reports of unidentified flying objects increased a staggering 42 per cent last year in Canada.
"We're not sure (why),'' said researcher Chris Rutkowski, one of the authors of the annual Canadian survey of UFO reports.
"We're thinking that perhaps more people are seeing something that's really there or perhaps more people are aware of how or whether they should report things.''
The trend started well before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 in the U.S., so that has been ruled out as a factor.
For the first time, researchers also tied reports to cities and found that Vancouver and Ottawa topped the list with 17 and 15 reports respectively.
Once again, British Columbia was the best place to be in Canada to spot a UFO. The province accounted for 123 of the 374 reported sightings and has led the country consistently since 1999.
Ontario was next with 87 sightings and Alberta was third with 40 reports.
"All of the cases got some degree of investigation by researchers in various parts of the country,'' said Rutkowski, who works at the University of Manitoba.
"About 15 per cent were left unexplained. The rest either had explanations or we didn't have enough information to make an evaluation.''
Included on the list of the unexplained was the fire funnel that left a crater more than 30 metres wide in a field near Etzikom, Alta.
"Some astronomers and experts in meteorites investigated and decided that it wasn't (a meteorite).''
A number of sightings were reported in the sparsely populated North.
"There was a cigar-shaped object that hopped as it flew, rather than flew regularly, over Whitehorse,'' said Rutkowski.
It was seen at 10:30 a.m. and left a vapour trail as it moved across the sky, disappeared behind a mountain and then returned.
"Pilots flying a supply plane in Nunavut saw a stationary light (hovering) over the ground in an area that's uninhabited and they couldn't explain it.''
Other sightings included:
-Six orange objects spotted flying in V formation over Portage la Prairie, Man.
-A luminous object that hung in the sky over Hull, Que., for two consecutive nights before appearing to explode.
-Airline pilots flying over Craik, Sask., who saw what they thought were the lights of another aircraft until they were told by air traffic controllers that there was no other plane on radar.
-Three dots of white light that "played tag'' with each other over Richmond, B.C.
"There were a number of odd cases,'' said Rutkowski
"There's a mixture of things that we're seeing from one end of the country to another.''
There were 15 so-called close encounters with UFOs or their alleged occupants reported in 2001, but none of them made the short list of the best unexplained cases.
They range from a close encounter of the first kind, which is a sighting within 200 metres, to close encounters of the fourth kind, which involve actual contact with or abduction by aliens.
"For a case to make the list of the best cases, it's not just the unusual quality of the report but also how well investigated it was and how reliable the source was," said Rutkowski.
© Copyright 2002 Canadian Press