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The Trindade Island photographic case of 1958: The Events

UFOs at Close Sight

original source |  fair use notice

Summary: Summary of the Trinidade Island case from UFOs at Close Sight.

Trindade is a small deserted rocky island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, between the Brazilian coast and the African continent, about 750 miles off the coast of Bahia (20° 30' S. and 29° 20’ W). During World War II, it was used as a military base for the US and Brazilian Navies engaging German U-boats. It was abandoned after the end of the war, deserted and forgotten until 1957. In October 1957, a task force from the Brazilian Navy arrived there, under the command of Captain-of-Corvette Carlos Alberto Bacellar. The Brazilian Ministry of the Navy had decided to build an oceanographic post and a meteorological station on the island for research connected with the International Geophysical Year (IGY).

On 16 January, 1958 a ship belonging to the hydrographic and navigation service of the Brazilian Navy, the Almirante Saldanha, who made this trop several times since 1957, who had reached Trindade Island from Rio de Janeiro with a crew of three hundred, under the command of Jose Saldanha da Gama, was about to start its return trip.

A civilian group headed by Amilcar Vieira Filho, a lawyer and bank executive, and, among others, including a retired captain of the Brazilian Air Force, Jose Teobaldo Viegas was aboard the ship this time, officially invited to collaborate in the scientific studies which were under way at the island. One man was Almiro Barauna, a professional photographer, specialized in underwater photography, and former newspaperman working as a "free-lancer."

At 12:15 P.M., when the ship was preparing to depart, a strange object was sighted simultaneously by an overall numer of 48 observers gathered on deck. The UFO came toward the island at high speed, hovered briefly over a peak, disappeared behind it for a short time, and appeared again to move away toward the sea. Mr. Barauna was taking pictures of the ship's maneuvers at that moment, he was on the deck with his f/2.8 lens Rolleiflex Model E camera. As he was prepared to take photos of the final trip of the small boat used between ship and shore, he had set the camera at f/8 and 1/125 second. The sea was not calm, and this had upset Barauna who had forgotten to take his seasickness pills.

His attention was called as Filho, Viegas and Lt. Ribeiro shouted to Barauna, gesticulating and pointing to the object in the overcast sky.

It took Barauna about 30 seconds to get going; he then proceeded to take six photographs, at intervals of 14 seconds, as determined by later tests, four of these photographs captured the object in motion. Frames 4 and 5 showed only the sea and rocky coast. The first two photographs were taken as the object approached the island. It then disappeared behind the central mountain (Desejado Peak) for a few seconds; as it reappeared a few seconds later, now moving in the opposite direction, it appeared closer and bigger. It then moved at high speed toward the sea, but Barauna missed the object in his next two frames, owing to the speed of the object and the confusion prevailing on deck at the time. He did obtain a final photo when the object was already far out to sea and when it, apparently, had stopped momentarily in mid-air. After about ten seconds it moved away and disappeared in the distance.

According to Captain Viegas, the object was like a flattened sphere encircled at the equator by a large ring or platform. In Barauna’s words, "..it made no noise, although with the shouting of the people on the deck and the noise of the sea, I cannot be certain. It had a metallic look, of an ash color, and has like a condensation of a green vapor around the perimeter, particularly in the advancing edge. Its motion was undulating, like the flight of a bat."

Captain Bacellar, the commanding officer of the ship, ordered that the film be developed immediately in a converted washroom on board. In order to authenticate the film he also insisted that Barauna strip to his swimming trunks before going into the darkroom, to prevent his taking an already exposed film in with him. Given these precautions and nearly fifty witnesses, it is not surprising that when the Brazilian Navy requested analysis of the film it was pronounced genuine and released to the press by the President of Brazil, Mr Joscelino Kubitschek.

The photos were taken on a bright, overcast day, and the settings on the camera led to slightly overexposed negatives. It was, however, a wise decision of Barauna’s not to attempt to modify the settings; if he had done so he might have lost his opportunity.

As determined by the photographs, the object was tilted slightly, the upper part directed toward the motion. It appears quite sharp in photos 2 and 3, corresponding to the closest approach and minimum speed, while the contours appear slightly blurred in photos 1 and 4, corresponding to the maximum distance. In view of the distance from camera to object, a shutter speed of 1/125 second is sufficient to freeze an object moving at speeds of several hundred miles per hour. (The Brazilian Navy estimated the speed of the object to be 600 to 700 mph.) The object shown in the four photos resembles the planet Saturn, and it is not luminous. The photos were proclaimed authentic by John T. Hopf, APRO photographic analyst, as well as by the Cruzeiro do Sul Aerophotogrammetric Service, to which they were referred by the Brazilian navy.

The incident and the photos caused furor in Brazil, and sides were quickly taken. An inquiry to the Ministry of the Navy made by a member of the Parliament (Sergio Magalhaes) prompted an investigation. The resulting dossier was never made public in its totality, but some details became known to the press, which had also discovered additional information. It appears that this incident was not an isolated one but that at least seven other sightings had occurred over or near the island in the closing months of 1957 and in January, 1958. It was stated that some of these events had been witnessed and confirmed by Commander Bacellar. A photograph, taken with a simple box camera by a sergeant of the garrison prior to Jan. 16, was part of the dossier. Although it was never released, it was seen by Barauna when he was being interrogated at the Ministry of the Navy, and by Dr. Olavo Fontes. The Barauna photographs were released to the press in person, by then President of Brazil, Juscelino Kubitschek

The matter came to the attention, of course, of the U.S. Naval Attache in Rio. Apparently aware of the attitude of the U.S. military toward UFOs, he filed a report on March 11, 1958, calculated to preserve the status quo. It is characterized by its inaccuracies and by the obvious bias of the writer, epitomized by the closing paragraph: "a flying saucer sighting would be unlikely at the very barren island of Trindade, as everyone knows Martians are extremely comfort loving creatures."

Nonetheless, this same report transcribes the official position of the Brazilian government, referring to a carefully worded communiqué issued by the Ministry of the Navy, denying any attempt to suppress the release of the photos that were taken by Mr. Almiro Barauna in the presence of navy officers on board the Almirante Saldanha, and remarking that the Navy could not venture an opinion on the nature of the object that was observed over Trindade Island. [Emphasis has been added to indicate that the Brazilian Navy accepted for a fact a) that an unidentified object had been detected over Trindade Island, and b) that the Barauna photos were indeed taken at that location and showed the object in question, whatever its true nature might be.

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