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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1997 > Nov > Nov 15

Re: Kenneth Arnold's testimony

From: James Easton <pulsar@compuserve.com>
Date: Fri, 14 Nov 1997 21:52:21 -0500
Fwd Date: Sat, 15 Nov 1997 09:42:22 -0500
Subject: Re: Kenneth Arnold's testimony


>Date: Fri, 14 Nov 1997 12:44:42 -0500
>From: bruce maccabee <brumac@compuserve.com>
>Subject: UFO UpDate: Re: Kenneth Arnold's testimony

Bruce wrote:

>>Bruce merely pointing out that Arnold's estimates are subjective.

>I appreciate James' use of my research to support his arguments.
>However, I was not "merely pointing out" that Arnold wasn't perfect.
>Imperfection of visual estimates is a "given." What I was trying to
>do was make the best estimate of length to width ratio based on all
>of Arnold's information.


My comment was an acknowledgement that you were not being
critical of Arnold's ratio claim, simply noting it was open to

It was understood you were offering an alternative estimation.

>>Mistaking the altitude of the objects by some 4000 feet, doesn't
>>inspire confidence in any of Arnold's other observations or

>WHOA THERE!   Losing confidence in Arnold's observations?

It's not suggested you were! Just a general comment on my part.

>How big was his error in estimating the angle of the sighting line?
>The objects were 20 miles away. An error of 4000 ft in 20 miles is
>the ratio 0.0379 radians which corresponds to 2 degrees. It is
>difficult to estimate the horizon from an airplane. To be within 2
>degrees of the actual value is good accuracy. To me, this is evidence
>in favor of Arnold's accuracy!

Your point is appreciated and helps to place the issues in
perspective, that's what I'm always looking for.

Nonetheless, a possible variance of 4000ft remains a significant
ratio in a range of 0-9500ft.

>>This also of course means the altitude of the objects would not
>>preclude geese as a conceivable explanation.

>Yes, geese flying around the mountain tops 20 MILES AWAY!

But were the objects really 20 miles away? This is central to the

In "Resolving Arnold - Part 2: Guess Again", Kottmeyer summarises
the debate:

"The absence of a large population of corroborative witnesses
near Mount Rainier seems sufficient grounds for wondering if the
event was much more localized than Arnold surmised.


What of distances closer than Mount Rainier's vicinity? It has
been pointed out that Arnold spoke of the objects having "swerved
in and out of the high mountain peaks." This would seem to put a
lower limit to the distance if one could first determine which
peaks they swung around and if they were broad enough to have a
transit time to regard the observation as secure. Arnold was
slightly more specific in later recountings of the event. In The
Coming of the Saucers he said they momentarily disappeared
"behind a jagged peak that juts out from Mount Rainier proper."
In his memoir for the First International UFO Congress he says,
"When they turned length-wise or flat-wise to me they were very
thin and they actually disappeared from sight behind a projection
on Mount Rainier in the snowfield."26 These are not exactly the
same thing, but they give a fair indication of what to look for
on the geological survey maps.

Arnold estimated the crafts were at an altitude of 9,200 feet
plus or minus 1,000. The task at hand is thus to locate some
feature extending above the 8,200 foot level. This yields a neat
little surprise. There are no such peaks between Mount Rainier
and Mount Adams. The closest thing I could find was Pyramid Peak
which stands only 6,937 feet tall in front of Mount Rainier's
base. There is a sharp little projection called Little Tacoma
which sticks out around the 10,000 foot level, but it is on the
wrong side of the mountain to be seen from Arnold's flight path.
It would be badly stretching things to suggest he got either his
position or altitude that far wrong.

Normally one prefers early accounts to later ones, but the
Congress memoir may provide the clue to what happened here. When
the object turned flatwise, the optical thickness likely dropped
below the 1/2 minute resolution limit and briefly dropped from
sight. The rough surface of the mountain provided opportunities
for an illusory correlation of the disappearance to some feature
of the mountain. The disappearance seemed to be caused by an
intervening feature where none in fact existed. With no firm
lower distance estimate, the way is opened for the objects being
closer to Arnold than he had surmised".

Can we accept this as a possibility, or is there some reason it's

>For example, geese at 1 mile from the plane (9,200 ft) would be at
>an altitude of about 9,100 ft.

Which wouldn't seem to pose a problem with geese being a conceivable

>>>As Arnold points out: "Even though two minutes seems like a very
>>>short time to one on the ground, in the air in two minutes time,
>>>a pilot can observe a great many things, and anything within his
>>>sight of vision probably as many as fifty or sixty times".

>>And apparently still make significant errors of judgement.

>WHOA THERE! Sounds like a skeptic trying to put the worst foot
>forward, or to shine the "light of darkness" on a witness' testimony.
>It is obvious from Arnold's report that he did a number of "tests"
>during his sighting time, such as comparing the angular size of the
>UFOs with the angular size of a distant aircraft using a cowling tool
>as a reference.

Nothing terribly sceptical in my comment.

Arnold notes that two minutes is sufficient time to make many
observations, that does not preclude Arnold making judgemental

As you write in "The Complete Sighting..." paper:

"Is it reasonable to assume that he could have made an error of
several thousand feet in estimating their altitude?


So the answer is yes, he could easily have made an error of 4,000
ft in estimating the altitude of the objects. Perhaps if he had
looked up the actual altitudes of the mountain peaks south of Mt
Rainier he would have revised his statement".

I was referring to those same errors.

We're perhaps both a little harsh in calling them "errors", as
you say, he probably achieved the best he could under the

Even if Arnold had observed a flock of geese and was correct in
originally believing he recognised it as such, but was then
deceived, that's no blemish on his character.

>>Not that I'm suggesting for a moment Bruce argues in favour of
>>Arnold watching a flock of geese.

>You got that right!

I hope you detected a wry smile behind my remark.

>>At present, that's not my argument either, I would simply like to
>>discuss whether there are grounds for accepting it as a possible

>Grounds...... or quicksand?

Depends on whether Arnold could have been mistaken about the
distance of the object. If that's possible, so are a number of
other things.

The main reason I would give any credence to the misidentified
flock of geese scenario, is Arnold's own initial observations. If
it flies like a flock of geese, quite distinctive, then maybe it

Alternatively, what else would have the characteristics of a
flock of geese in flight?

Basically, why couldn't it have been.

Which leads into your comments from separate mail:

>Several years ago I got into a letter-writing argument with Kottmeyer
>over the "goose hypothesis".


>He came on strong, until I pointed out that Arnold said he turned his
>plane and opened the (left hand side) window. At this time Arnold was
>flying south, the same direction as the UFOS. Had they been geese
>Arnold would have overtaken and passed them. At any rate he wouldn't
>have been puzzled at their "high speed" even if they could fly as
>fast as 50 mph, as Kottmeyer suggested. (Arnold's plane was probably
>traveling 100 mph or faster but certainly much faster than 50 mph).

Understood and noted.

This all comes back to how reliable Arnold's overall judgement
was during that brief encounter.

If his calculations were perhaps out by some 50% on the length to
width ratio, maybe by a relative 35% on the altitude of the
objects, is it likely that his estimate of the objects' speed was
similarly inaccurate under these difficult conditions?

A question which Kottmeyer asks; if the objects were travelling
at the speed Arnold indicates, how can we account for the
apparent lack of a "sonic boom"?

E-mail: pulsar@compuserve.com

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