Summary: On January 16, 1958, while a Brazilian Navy ship known as the Almirante Saldanha sat anchored off the south coast of Trindade, a small rocky island located in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, it seems that a most remarkable event transpired.
On January 16, 1958, while a Brazilian Navy ship known as the Almirante Saldanha sat anchored off the south coast of Trindade, a small rocky island located in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, it seems that a most remarkable event transpired. Forty-eight (48) crew members and passengers onboard at the time were witnesses. What made the event even more memorable, besides the large number of eyewitnesses, were the remarkable photographs taken by a skilled civilian photographer at the time. The incident began at 12:15 p.m., when an airborne object was spotted approaching the island. The photographer, Almiro Barauna, described as a member of the Icarai Club for Submarine Hunting, was the official photographer assigned to this unit because of his skill in underwater photography. In October 1957, the island had become a scientific research station for oceanographic and meteorological studies for the International Geophysical Year (IGY). Before that it hadn’t been occupied since World War II, when it had been used as an American and Brazilian anti-submarine base.
In a statement made soon afterwards to the Jornal Do Brasil, a newspaper in Rio de Janeiro, Barauna described how he was up on deck when a Amilar Vieira and retired Air Force Captain Jose Teobaldo Viegas began pointing toward the sky, yelling about a bright object that was moving toward the island. Barauna was trying to see it when Lt. Homero Ribeiro, the ship’s dentist, came running excitedly in his direction, also pointing skyward and yelling about some kind of object. After about 30 seconds of looking, he was finally able to see it. By this time, the object was close to the island. Barauna was able to detect it on account of a flash it emitted. He described how it glittered at certain times, and he wasn’t certain if this was the reflection of sunlight or the object’s own light.
Barauna shot two pictures of the object just before it disappeared behind a certain Desejado Peak. After several seconds the object reappeared. It was closer, flying lower and faster, and moving in the opposite direction. He then shot his third photograph. This was followed by a fourth and a fifth attempt that proved unsuccessful on account of being pushed and nudged by others also trying to observe the UFO. As a consequence, those two photographs only contained the sea and the island.
The object was then flying back out to sea, from the general direction it had arrived from. For a brief time it seemed to hang in mid-air. This was when Barauna shot his last picture, which had also been the last one on the film. About 10 seconds later, the UFO began to move off into the distance again and soon disappeared from sight.
The object was described as metallic looking, dark gray in color, was solid-looking but was surrounded by a greenish, phosphorescent haze or mist. There was also a ring around its mid- section that gave it an appearance similar to the planet Saturn.
Barauna, described as initially shaken badly by the experience, quickly removed the exposed film from his camera (a Rolleiflex 2.8-model E) and, after about an hour, he and Capt. Viegas entered the ship’s darkroom together, while Cmdr. Carlos A. Bacellar, chief officer at the Trindade base, waited outside the door. As there was no photographic paper available at the time, Barauna simply developed the negatives. The witnesses who had been present agreed that the object depicted in the negatives was what they had observed. Cmdr. Bacellar had not been on deck during that particular sighting, but a few days earlier, on January 6, he had overseen the launch of a weather balloon, when something very peculiar happened then also.
The sky was blue, clear, and no haze, with a single large cumulus cloud nearly overhead at about 14,000 feet. Bacellar was listening to radio signals being transmitted by the balloon’s radiosonde when suddenly they diminished and then stopped completely. Exiting the radio cabin, Bacellar began watching the balloon. At first everything looked fine. The balloon was rising into the air in a normal manner. Then, just as it got directly below the cloud, it was as though it was sucked up into the cloud. For some ten minutes it remained out of sight inside the cloud. Then when it reappeared above the cloud the instrument package was gone. The package was supposed to be dropped by parachute, but it never was seen to re-emerge from the cloud, nor did any trace of it ever turn up. Next a silvery object slowly came out from behind the cloud. It was moving in a southwest to east direction. A technician gazing at it through a theodolite alerted Cmdr. Bacellar, who looked at it through binoculars and then through a sextant (although another account simply says he watched it through a theodolite himself). What they had observed appeared to be crescent- shaped, also described as half-moon shaped in another account. It was described also as a bright white, or the color of polished aluminum, and it reversed its course at one point, flying then from east to west. After awhile the object disappeared into a cloud bank.
The first recorded UFO sighting at Trindade also involved Commander Bacellar. It was a clear and sunny day in the latter part of November 1957. Again a balloon was launched and Bacellar was in the radio station. All seemed normal and routine, until the signal frequency changed. Bacellar ordered a technician outside to see if the balloon’s instruments had parachuted prematurely. Soon the man returned and reported that they had not. Bacellar responded, “That is impossible. I am listening to a new signal. What’s going on out there?” The technician replied, “I don’t know, sir, but they say there is another object in the sky near the balloon.” Sure enough, high in the sky, above the station, was an ovoid looking object, silvery-white in color. It seemed to be hovering near the balloon. A suggestion was made that perhaps it was Venus, but it was in the wrong part of the sky. The balloon went ahead and burst as it was supposed to. The strange object remained in the sky some three hours, before ascending upward and disappearing from sight.
Upon returning to Rio de Janeiro, Barauna took the negatives and processed them in his own lab. A couple of days after their return, Cmdr. Bacellar showed up at Barauna’s home, wanting to see the developed pictures. Bacellar, obviously impressed by the evidence and circumstances of the situation, borrowed Barauna’s pictures for a couple of days, during which time he took them to the Navy Ministry to be shown to officials there. Not long afterwards, Barauna was summoned to naval headquarters where high-ranking officers grilled him about the incident. The Ministry had his negatives submitted to Cruzeiro do Sul Aerophotogrammetric Service for an analysis, where they were determined to be genuine. On a second visit, tests were performed where Barauna worked with his camera, taking test shots at the same time intervals he had used to photograph the UFO, while three officers with stop watches recorded the time intervals. Looking over charts of the island and determining the apparent locations the UFO appeared in during the sighting and photography, it was estimated that the object had been traveling around 600-700 miles an hour and its size was about 120 feet in diameter and about 24 feet high. It was also estimated that the six exposures Barauna had taken were made in a mere fourteen second time span. Soon Brazil’s President, Juscelino Kubitschek, gave his permission for the pictures to be released to the press. Following this, several of the witnesses gave interviews to newspaper reporters. One was Cmdr. Paulo Moreira da Silva of the Brazilian Navy’s Hydrography and Navigation Service who stated with certainty that the UFO had not been anything conventional like a meteorological balloon or a missile. On February 23, reporter Paulo M. Campos revealed in the Diario Carioca that a source he would not identify had informed him that the Navy had really been interested in the fact that during the sighting radio transmitters and instruments with magnetic needles ceased operating. Reportedly the Navy treated this particular detail as “top secret,” and when APRO’s Brazilian representative Dr. Olavo T. Fontes, a Rio physician, tried to check this aspect out he could get neither confirmation nor denial. However, in a 1983 interview, Barauna reportedly confirmed that just before the UFO incident all of the ship’s electrical power failed.
In addition, when the Almirante Saldanha incident was first reported in the Rio de Janeiro press on April 17, 1958 (Correio Da Manha, O Jornal, and Jounal do Brasil) and the May 17, 1958 magazine O Cruzeiro, all the pertinent facts were presented, with the exception of the radiosonde signal problems and the missing balloon instruments. Those details were first made public through the efforts of Dr. Fontes in the pages of the January 1960 edition of the APRO Bulletin.
In 1978, specialists with Arizona’s civilian UFO research group, Ground Saucer Watch (GSW), took a look at the Barauna photographs. This group, using sophisticated computer- processing technology specialized in analyzing UFO photographs. Most pictures that they looked at they concluded were phony, but in this instance they determined that the object in the photographs was over 50 feet in diameter, at a considerable distance from the photographer, and, according to digital densitometry, it was giving off a metallic reflection.
At the time, the U.S. Navy reportedly expressed interest in the case, but refused to make any public statements. In 1963, a Maj. Carl R. Hart of the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book quoted an Office of Naval Intelligence report as having described Barauna as a person with a “long history of photographic trick shots.” Hart went on to state that Barauna had prepared a magazine article entitled “A Flying Saucer Hunted Me at Home,” which included the use of “trick photography.” However, the motive behind Barauna’s article was to debunk a much-publicized 1952 Brazilian UFO photo, to show how easily it could have been faked. It therefore appears to have been a deliberate distortion to make Barauna look like a trick photographer himself rather than the concerned and helpful consultant wishing to help clarify matters, which based on the evidence and testimony thus far accumulated, appears to be the true character of this person.
Just a few days before the arrival of the Amirante Saldanha, a sighting was reported of a low flying, fast moving object that came in over the island of Trindade, and then hovered briefly over Desejado Peak. After this it moved off in a zig-zag pattern and disappeared on the horizon moving at a tremendous speed. It was described as a flattened spheroid with a large ring circling its mid-section. The ring appeared to be rotating at a high rate of speed. The object itself seemed to have a highly polished surface, while the object was seen to be surrounded by an eerie greenish glow. No sound was noticed.
When Dr. Fontes visited the Navy Ministry back on February 14, 1958, he was shown the four Barauna photographs and one other. He didn’t realize at that time that the fifth picture had been taken by another photographer. This picture, the press would later reveal, had reportedly been taken by a Navy telegrapher sergeant at Trindade, using a box camera, sometime prior to Barauna’s arrival. The object in the picture appeared to be the same object that Barauna had photographed.
1. Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space, by Coral E. Lorenzen. Copyright 1962, 1966. Signet Books, The New American Library, Inc., New York, N.Y.
2. The UFO Encyclopedia: The Phenomenon from the Beginning, Vol. 2: L-Z, 2nd Edition, by Jerome Clark. Copyright 1998. Omnigraphics, Inc., Detroit, MI. ISBN: 0-7808-0097