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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1997 > Nov > Nov 23

Re: Kenneth Arnold's testimony

From: DRudiak@aol.com [David Rudiak]
Date: Sun, 23 Nov 1997 03:10:06 -0500 (EST)
Fwd Date: Sun, 23 Nov 1997 11:26:47 -0500
Subject: Re: Kenneth Arnold's testimony

>From:  James Easton <pulsar@compuserve.com
>Date: Fri, 21 Nov 1997 19:49:02 -0500
>Fwd Date: Sat, 22 Nov 1997 17:40:56 -0500
>Subject: Re: Kenneth Arnold's testimony

>There seems to be compelling evidence that the unidentified
>objects reported by Kenneth Arnold, may have been a flock of
>American White Pelicans.

"Compelling?"  Hardly.  All these bird explanations for the Arnold
sighting are strictly for the birds unless they can substantially
explain ALL major features of the report, not a few carefully selected ones.

We could start with the specular appearance of the objects,
described by Arnold like a mirror reflecting light, so bright
that he found it almost blinding, and which attracted his
attention to the objects to begin with.  The sun was still fairly
high in the sky toward Arnold's back in the west (time of
sighting about 3:00 p.m. PDT).  So it's very bright outside.  We
aren't dealing with birds flying around dusk or dawn reflecting
sunlight and appearing to be relatively bright compared to the
darkened sky.  And Arnold reported them flashing brightly even
against the very bright snowy backdrop of Mt. Rainier.  How do
"birds" do that?

>Indigenous to Washington state, the American White Pelican
>(Pelecan userythrorhynchos) is the largest bird in North America
>and amongst the biggest in the world. A predominately white bird,
>with black primaries and outer secondaries, it weighs up to 15
>kg, (33 lb) and it's massive wingspan can extend to 3 m (10 ft) or

Pelicans are also very thick, stocky birds, yet Arnold reported
that the objects when seen edge on looked like long dark lines
against the snowy backdrop of Mt. Ranier.  He estimated the
length to thickness ratio at 20 to 1.  Even if you play it VERY
conservative here and assume he was an error here by as much as a
factor of three, we still get length to thickness ratios of about
7 to 1.   There seems to be no way in heaven to get the ratio
down to something like 3 or 4 to 1, which it would have to be if
Arnold had spotted pelicans in flight.  And how could Arnold have
been so confused between a long line and something which would
look more like an oval viewed edge on?

Even more serious are other geometrical shortcomings of the bird
explanations which the bird theorists never seem to address.  How
far away would the bird be?  The wings can't subtend more than
about 3-4 minutes of arc, otherwise Arnold is going to rapidly
deduce that they are birds with flapping wings.  Yet they can't
be too far away, or they are going to look like nothing but
nondescript dots.  Yet Arnold described some detail in the
objects, which James Easton tries to integrate into his pelican

All of this ultimately puts distance constraints on how close and
far away pelicans, or any other bird you can imagine, are going
to be.  Even with Easton's giant pelicans with ten foot wing
spans, the furthest away they can be from Arnold is about 12,000
feet or he sees no detail.  They're just dots, no matter what
orientation they assume.  And if the birds are smaller, or Arnold
has less than perfect eyesight, then they are going to have to be
closer than this, perhaps much closer, like in Kottmeyer's geese

This creates giant problems for bird theories, simply because the
birds are going to be much too close to fit the sighting.  Arnold
is flying in their direction initially at nearly 2 miles per
minute.  He's going to be right on top of them in almost no time.
 As he approaches, they're going to loom rapidly in size, not
stay at seemingly the same size like a truly distant object will.
 And the linear formation will also increase rapidly in angular
size.  Details of the birds will quickly emerge, especially the
flapping wing motion.  So in probably no more than half a minute,
Arnold is going to know for sure that he's dealing with birds of
one type or another.

Let's assume to avoid this situation, Arnold very quickly turns
right on a parallel course, or south, so he can open his pilot's
window and observe them unimpeded by glass.  Now we run into
Bruce Maccabee's objection to the birds' theory.  Arnold is
flying at least twice as fast as the birds, so he's quickly going
to outrun them.  They will appear to move BACKWARD towards the
NORTH.  But Arnold reported them continuing to rapidly fly toward
the SOUTH, or FRONTWARDS relative to Arnold, in the direction of
Mt. Adams and disappearing in that vicinity.  The details of
their motion and the direction in which they ultimately disappear
is thus ass backwards in Arnold's sighting than what would be
expected from a sighting of birds.

Birds are hardly a "compelling" hypothesis.

Let's put some rough numbers on this to demonstrate how untenable
the bird theory is.  Suppose the giant pelicans are initially
10,000 feet away from Arnold or about 2 miles when he first spots
them.  From this distance he can't recognize them for what they
are.  Arnold sees them off to the left towards Mt. Ranier.  From
his eastward flight direction and angle with Ranier, this places
the birds only about 1 miles north of his flight path.  Let's
also assume these are superfast pelicans who fly at 60 mph or 1
mile per minute.  This means that if Arnold continues to fly
eastward for only one more minute, he's going to run right into
them as he intercepts their flight path.  He's going to have to
turn south on a parallel course, FAST, before he's gotten much

Let's say he finishes his turn in about 20 seconds, leaving him
about 7500 feet away from their flight path.  This is close
enough that he can begin to make out some detail, but still not
enough (we hope) that he can positively identify them as birds.
Unfortunately for bird theorists, this quick turn to avoid
identification also leaves the birds well in back of him.  These
very fast pelicans have only been able to fly about 1800 feet in
those 20 seconds, so now they're about 30 degrees BEHIND Arnold.
And as Arnold continues to fly south at about twice their speed,
this situation just gets worse.

So unless James Easton can somehow fit afterburners on his
"pelicans" so that they can outfly Arnold and rapidly pass him
heading south, the theory doesn't have even a bird leg to stand
on.  In fact, if you work it out, the "pelicans" are going to
have to cover approximately 5 miles in Arnold's clocked 102
second period in which they flew the angular distance of about 80
degrees from Mt. Ranier in the North to Mt Adams in the South.
In other words, they are going to have to be flying about 170
miles per hour.

And this is the BEST case scenario.  Even here, the "birds"
aren't going to be much different in distance (about 9000 feet)
when they disappear from what they were when Arnold first became
aware of them (10,000 feet in the example).  In other words, they
should still be clearly visible to Arnold, yet they are not.
They vanish in the distance, which suggests that the "birds"
would have to fly much further in this period (and away from
Arnold along his sighting line towards Mt. Adams), or much
faster than 170 mph.  These are really fast "birds" whatever the

>The clue to possibly identifying the enigmatic objects remains in
>Arnold's description of their flight characteristics. Often,
>birds have a distinctive signature, the "jizz" as it's known, and
>from this a bird's probable identity can be determined, even if
>the sighting was inconclusive.

>The appropriate people to consult were those familiar with bird
>life in the Pacific Northwest and I asked some of them if they
>would gave an informed opinion based on Arnold's descriptions.

>Michael Price, suggested a "possible candidate species in the
>area at that time of year (sporadically) whose color, size,
>flight profile and proclivity for formation flight at sometimes
>quite high altitude would even more produce *every* detail of the
>phenomenon which Arnold observed: a flock of non - or failed -
>breeder, southbound White Pelicans".

Again with the absolutes.  "Every detail?"  Hardly.  How about
almost NO details of the phenomenon Arnold observed.

>He added, "They'd have been large enough to visible for a good
>distance, they fly in formation, and if the light were reflecting
>just right off a large nearby glaciated peak, their comparatively
>vast white underwing area would reflect a *ton* of light in
>exactly the pattern described by Arnold".

I've got to laugh here.  Easton is arguing birds, meaning he's
arguing they couldn't be anywhere near Mt. Ranier.  Yet he's also
trying to argue that they would reflect a "ton of light" off a
"nearby glaciated peak."  How's that again?  Furthermore, Arnold
was not flying underneath the birds, so where's the "vast white
underwing area" reflecting light back in his face?  Unless the
birds are banking sharply left, he's simply not going to see it.

>Richard Rowlett concurred:

>"White Pelicans was the first thing that came to mind as I was
>reflecting back on an ultra high-flying southbound formation I
>saw a few years ago over the Barancas in western Durango, Mexico,
>east of Mazatlan. It was a fluke that I detected them at all by
>unaided eye. Even in the bins [binoculars], I was perplexed about
>what they were for awhile, at first not even sure they were
>birds. Strange lighting and angle it was.

Note, this man is on the GROUND looking UP.  Kenneth Arnold was
up in the air and about the same level as the objects.  Once
again, when is Arnold going to see this "vast white underwing
area" flashing blue-white light back at him from glaciers 20
miles away?

>Don Baccus also commented to Michael Price:

>"Michael, my first thought when I started reading your analysis
>was white pelican. Several years ago, when training a good birder
>in the finer details of splitting migrating hawks into species,
>age, etc. at long distances at the beginning of the fall
>migration season (i.e. training him to run our count), we saw
>distant white "blurps" fading in and out of visibility many miles

"Many miles" means he can see no details, just a nondescript shape
sporadically reflecting light back at him, little more than a dot.

> This was at the Goshutes, i.e. on the Utah/Nevada border.
>It was near sunset. It was obvious that the sun was reflecting on
>their underwings.

Again, someone on the GROUND, not up in the air.  And the time of
day was sunset, with a dimming sky to contrast against the
reflected bird light. But Arnold's sighting was in bright
daylight, when the sun was still high in the sky and off to the
west.  So unless these "pelicans" were frequently engaging in
very sharp left banks exposing the underside of their wings to
both the high westward sun and to Arnold, he simply wasn't going
to see anything remotely like this.  Further, if they were
constantly banking like this, they're going to go nowhere fast.

> They'd disappear momentarily and then reappear
>in sequence. They were flying east-to-west and we first spotted
>them somewhat to the northeast. I pegged them as white pelicans
>almost immediately, as the whole cadence of the thing matched the
>way white pelicans will soar in line (in this case - they'll also
>'V' up), and rather than flap all at once, often will each begin
>to flap as each reaches the position where the previous bird
>began to flap.

He recognizes the flapping and knows them for birds right away.
Again, quite unlike the Arnold sighting.

A far more serious objection, detailed below, is that based on
Arnold's description of angular size of the formation, the birds
would have been much to widely spread out to have engaged in
this form of synchronized flapping.

>  Same with turning, etc. Of course, they'll also
>do this in more of a synchronized formation, too, but I'm sure
>you've all seen white pelicans flap and glide in the kind of
>pattern I'm describing.

>I couldn't think of any bird that would show such a cadence and
>literally twinkle white while switching from soaring to

>Investigating this suggestion further, there are notable
>correlations with Arnold's observations.

But most of Arnold's observations DON'T correlate at all, totally
overlooked by Easton and the other bird theorists.

>Arnold claimed, "They flew like many times I have observed geese
>to fly in a rather diagonal chain-like line as if they were
>linked together".

>"...they numbered nine. They were flying diagonally in echelon

>In 'Birds of the World', by Oliver L. Austin Jr. p 42, he states:

>"Pelicans fly in long lines, sometimes in a V formation,
>sometimes abreast, sometimes in single file directly behind one
>another. Most often they form a wide echelon, each bird slightly
>behind and to one side of the next".

In other words, like all birds flying in formation, they fly
relatively close together to take advantage of the energy savings
from formation flying.  But compare this with the Arnold sightng.
 Arnold estimated the entire chain was about five miles long
because they spanned the length of a five mile ridge in the
Cascades about 25 miles away.  That means the formation spanned a
visual angle of .2 radians.  Let's say the "pelicans" were 7500
feet away, so he can just make out some of the crude details (but
again not too close, so that Arnold would immediately exclaim,
"Aha, birds!").  If you scale the formation size to .2 radians,
the nine "pelicans" are spread out over 1500 feet, or nearly 200
feet apart from one another.  This is no longer a formation
flight of closely spaced birds, but birds flying alone.  Thus no
synchronized flapping as described above, which would only take
place for birds close together.

So again, the Arnold sighting is completely inconsistent with the
bird theory.

>Arnold also mentions, "They were flying diagonally in echelon
>formation with a larger gap in their echelon between the first
>four and last five". Discussing this with Michael, he agreed with
>my assessment that this is standard behaviour in a flock and
>wrote, "all line-abreast, diagonal and astern flocking birds
>develop gaps and fill them in randomly".

The gaps we are talking about, however, are on the order of 200
feet, not a few feet for a true bird formation.  This also means
the "pelicans" are going to have to do a lot more flapping to
stay aloft rather than rely on the birds close in front to pull
them along (the energy advantage of close formation flying).
Arnold should see a lot of flapping if the birds are widely
spread out like this.  The California pelicans I see flying along
the coast are flapping constantly.

>What "startled" Arnold the most, he recalled, "was the fact that
>I could not find any tails on them".

Yes, this is all very fascinating, but how does Easton explain
the other things in Arnold's sighting that don't even remotely

>Pelicans have "stumpy" tails, similar to the representation in
>Arnold's later sketch showing one of the "objects".  Arnold's
>sketch now begins to make sense and could easily be based on a
>distant viewing of a pelican in flight. The large, swept back
>wings are self-explanatory and the darker top center is not
>inconsistent with the fact that pelicans in flight "tuck" their
>heads back.

Which would mean that Arnold would have to be close enough to
make out these details, but the fact that the wings were also
flapping somehow totally escaped him.  Furthermore, to see the
"pelicans" as described above, they would to be very steeply
banked relative to Arnold, who was up in the air at their level,
not down on the ground looking up.  A lot of banking and turning
like this is not the description of birds flying very quickly
from one place to another.  Not that it really matters, because
no matter how you massage the data, there is no way they could
fly nearly fast enough to fit the sighting details.

>As commented in 'Birds of the World': "In flight, pelicans carry
>their heads well back on their shoulders, with the long beak
>resting on the folded neck".

Which shortens their apparent length, and worsens the length to
thickness problem noted at the beginning.

>A further, distinctive connection, is Arnold's claim, "They
>didn't fly like any aircraft I had ever seen before. In the first
>place their echelon formation was backward from that practiced by
>our Air Force. The elevation of the first craft was greater than
>that of the last".

>This is a typical feature of American White Pelicans flying in

Which is interesting, but doesn't exactly fix the other fatal
flaws in the bird theories.

>Consider also his statements that:

>"I observed the objects' outlines plainly as they flipped and
>flashed against the snow and also against the sky".

>"They fluttered and sailed, tipping their wings alternately and
>emitting those very bright blue-white flashes from their

Again, how exactly do you get "blue-white flashes" off of
pelicans flying at approximately eye level with the sun high in
the sky and nowhere near a glaciated ice field?  On the other
hand, the "blue white light WOULD be very consistent with distant
objects flying right past Ranier where they could pick up
blue-white light reflected off the ice.

>In 'The Birds', by Roger T. Peterson (Time-Life International),
>he writes:

>"Much the simplest form of flight, certainly much less
>complicated than flapping or hovering, is gliding flight".

>"Swallows employ gliding flight, - several strong wing strokes
>and a glide. So do pelicans travelling in formation...".

>"Gliding saves energy, but gravity and air conditions determine
>how far a bird can skim before it must flap again".

Unfortunately, the "pelicans" would have been much too widely
spaced (according to Arnold's description of the angular width of
the formation), to have taken advantage of the energy-savings in
formation flying.  They would be flapping a lot, making them that
much easier to recognize as birds.

>The parallel between Arnold's objects in echelon which "flipped
>and flashed", "fluttered and sailed", and a formation of pelicans
>in echelon "beating and gliding", as 'Birds of the World'
>describes their flight, seems apparent.

Again very interesting, but if Arnold is close enough to see
detail which Easton ascribes to pelican anatomy (seen from the
top or bottom, not from the side), he's also going to be close
enough to see flapping and will very clearly see the pelican
wings delineated from the body.

>As Don Baccus remarked, "I couldn't think of any bird that would
>show such a cadence and literally twinkle white while switching
>from soaring to flapping".

>Michael Price also confirmed, "Assuming he was looking at birds,
>the flipflop appearance of these birds would be visible whether
>higher, same altitude, or lower as the sun might be reflecting
>strongly and directly off white upper and/or underwing

>From the side, Arnold isn't going to see much of an underside to

>There is some relevant information on a web site at:

><A HREF=http://www.sazoo-aq.org/pelicans.htm>http://www.sazoo-

>Which includes the affirmation: "When flying, they seem to
>'sparkle' as the light plays off of their white and black

"Sparkle" or is it really more like "flickering?"  And remember, Arnold
first noticed the specular reflection against the the very bright snowy
backdrop of Rainier.  I seriously doubt a flapping white bird against a
bright background like this is going to "sparkle."

>I'm sure these aspects can be quantified even further.

Try quantifying further how you can fix the seemingly irreparable
flaws in flight speed, flight direction, spread out formation,
etc., etc.

>Kenneth Arnold was perhaps after all on the right track when he

>"They flew in a definite formation but erratically. As I
>described them at the time their flight was like speed boats on
>rough water or similar to the tail of a Chinese kite that I once
>saw blowing in the wind. Or maybe it would be best to describe
>their flight characteristics as very similar to a formation of
>geese, in a rather diagonal chain-like line, as if they were
>linked together".

>Very similar to a formation of geese, but based on the above
>evidence, remarkably similar to a formation of pelicans,
>specifically American White Pelicans.

>If that should be the answer and Arnold mistakenly concluded the
>objects must be distant aeroplanes, it plays havoc with his
>estimated calculations.

But if they're "birds" it plays total havoc with the rest of
Arnold's observations.  Just tell us how Arnold can fly parallel
to the "birds" yet have them outfly his plane and disappear to
the south.

>I obviously intent to come back to these and address Bruce, Don,
>Mark and Michael's recent comments. It may be necessary to do so
>with a new perspective.

>These are the somewhat unexpected results of my enquiries and
>further research. We can only consider the implications suggested
>by them and whether this does lean heavily towards the most
>likely explanation.

Yes, please do consider ALL the implications of a bird theory,
then get back to us.  Then tell us if birds "lean heavily towards
the most likely explanation."

David Rudiak

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