Home / Featured / Research balloon offered as explanation for 1966 Westall UFO incident
(Credit: USAF)
(Credit: USAF)

Research balloon offered as explanation for 1966 Westall UFO incident

The 1966 Westall UFO incident is hailed by some as one of the best mass UFO sightings of the modern UFO era. But recently discovered government documents have some suspecting that the UFO was actually a government research balloon.

The incident occurred on the morning of April 6, 1966 in the Australian suburb of Clayton South in Melbourne near Westall High School. Hundreds of students, staff, and nearby residents watched the strange object 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.

(Credit: The Dandenong Journal)

(Credit: The Dandenong Journal)

Some report that men in uniforms arrived at the location of the craft’s landing, removing extensive soil samples. Some witnesses even claim that these unidentified men in uniforms scorched the landing area to eliminate any potential evidence of the UFO’s presence. And The Dandenong Journal reported that “students and staff have been instructed to ‘talk to no-one’ about the incident.”

Witnesses were, and still are, adamant that what they observed was absolutely not a light aircraft or a weather balloon. But, based on recently uncovered documents, some believe a balloon is actually the culprit.

Unexplained phenomenon researcher Keith Basterfield 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 to monitor atmospheric radiation levels. The project accomplished this by using large silver balloons with payloads of sophisticated sensors. Basterfield formulated his hypothesis after reviewing all available documentation, including what he unearthed with Freedom of Information searches.

A high-altitude balloon being launched from the Roswell air field in 1967.

A high-altitude balloon being launched from the Roswell air field in 1967.

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 comments, “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.”

Despite claims of discovered government documents, many, including those who witnessed the UFO in 1966, are sure to find the HIBAL hypothesis hard to swallow.

Westall 66 UFO park

The 1966 Westall UFO incident was recently commemorated with a $150,000 UFO-themed playground that features a nearly eleven-foot-high, large, silver flying saucer that can accommodate up to seven children. It is trimmed with blue LED lights and is loosely based on what witnesses saw in 1966.

About Jason McClellan

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Jason McClellan is a UFO journalist and the producer/co-host of the web series Spacing Out! He is also the web content manager and staff writer for OpenMinds.tv, and a co-organizer and technical producer of the International UFO Congress. As a founding member of Open Minds, Jason served as a writer and editor for the now defunct Open Minds magazine. He has appeared on Syfy, NatGeo, and, most recently, he co-starred on H2's Hangar 1: The UFO Files. ------ Follow Jason on Twitter @acecentric and subscribe to Jason's updates on Facebook.

4 comments

  1. avatar

    WAIT…. The reporter at The Sun did not even BOTHER to follow up, ask or even quote ANY of the original eyewitnesses to the event, to see if they felt it was a balloon. The entire article is based on research, with no documents to back up the specific incident.

    The document he does mention, does not include a date, only that it was launched in the vicinity. When was it launched?

    What is this nonsense?

  2. avatar

    Seems like more lies to keep the public ignorant. The more I read articles like this one ( from the Herald Sun ) the more suspicious I get.

  3. avatar

    The doco on this incident is a must see. Interviews with actual witnesses, of which none mention a balloon type object, and the story of a teacher taking photo’s and her camera being confiscated by police etc.. All very interesting indeed. I am not easily fooled and l find these explanations very patronising and embarrassing. Fess up all you Governments. Educate the masses on this subject.

  4. avatar

    The “Herald Sun” newspaper’s “article” on the explanation for the Westall Incident is still being reported around the world, the latest being here on the Open Minds web site. It’s a pity the journalist concerned didn’t actually communicate the views of Keith Basterfield correctly, or speak with any of the primary witnesses, or produce any actual documentation supporting the thrust of the article’s argument. I agree with Keith Basterfield in terms of saying that all avenues should be pursued in our attempts to solve this mystery, and that after all our efforts, it still remains an open case at this point in time. Several people are actively working still on solving the Westall enigma, and I know Keith is one of them…and I am too. Those who know me would know I don’t lean much towards the conspiratorial side of things, but it is true that this article appeared within days, literally, of me putting in a request to the Defence Intelligence Organisation for documents relating to the Westall Incident, after having been informed that several files, containing such documents, are held there.

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