(header image credit: Westall ’66: a Suburban UFO mystery)

CASE: The Westall UFO Encounter

YEAR: 1966

LOCATION: Melbourne, Australia


Here are the basics of the case: On the morning of April 6th, 1966, approximately 200 students, staff, and nearby residents in the Australian suburb of Clayton South in Melbourne near Westall High School were shocked to see a UFO hover, land, and quickly fly away. Witnesses describe the craft as a silver or grey shining object shaped like a flying saucer or “a cup turned upside down on a saucer.” The UFO was reportedly accompanied by five light aircraft. According to the witnesses, the incident lasted twenty minutes.

Some witnesses assert that men in uniforms arrived on the scene and removed extensive soil samples. Some witnesses even claim that these unidentified men burned the ground where the UFO reportedly landed to destroy any potential evidence. A local newspaper even reported that students and staff were instructed to “talk to no-one” about the incident.

(Credit: The Dandenong Journal)

Witnesses were, and still are, firmly adamant that what they saw that day was not a light aircraft or a weather balloon. This is an interesting case with hundreds of witnesses. It’s hailed by some as one of the best mass UFO sightings of the modern UFO era. The incident was even commemorated in 2013 with a UFO-themed playground! But recently discovered government documents have some suspecting that the UFO was actually a government research balloon.

I know, the old, awful weather balloon explanation. But listen to this:

Keith Basterfield, an unexplained phenomenon researcher and author based in Australia, believes a rogue balloon from the HIBAL (high altitude balloon) project is the likely explanation for the Westall UFO. And, more specifically, he thinks it was HIBAL flight 292. The HIBAL project was reportedly a joint US-Australian initiative between 1960 and 1969 for the purpose of monitoring atmospheric radiation levels. Large silver balloons with payloads of sophisticated sensors were used to accomplish this. Basterfield formulated his hypothesis after looking at all the available documentation, and by conducting his own Freedom of Information searches.

High Altitude Research Balloon (credit: USAF)

High Altitude Research Balloon (credit: USAF)

Melbourne newspaper The Herald Sun explains, “Documents held by the National Archives and former Department of Supply indicate one test balloon launched from Mildura may have been blown off course and came down in Clayton South in a paddock near Westall High School, alarming and baffling hundreds of eyewitnesses, including teachers and students.” The Herald Sun points out that, despite government records of several HIBAL test flights, “the paperwork for the launches scheduled for the day before Westall appear to have been lost or destroyed.” Basterfield says, “What is strikingly missing is a memo reporting on the actual four launches for April 1966, one of which was scheduled for 5 April 1966, the day before Westall . . . So we have no (official) knowledge of where flight 292 went.”

You can listen to a discussion of this case on UFO modPod here:

For further research on this in-depth case, we recommend the following documentary:

Westall ’66: A Suburban UFO Mystery

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