“The Best Radar UFO Case On Record!”: The Sea Fury UFO Encounter

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
November 13, 2023
Estimated Reading Time
6 min read
Posted in
UFOs, Close Encounters

A mid-air UFO encounter near Nowra on the southwest coast of Australia in New South Wales in the mid-1950s remains one of the most detailed and intriguing of such encounters on record and is still of interest to UFO researchers today seven decades later. And what is of further interest, not only were two anomalous objects witnessed by an experienced military pilot with his own eyes, but multiple radar operators also confirmed the two craft on their radar screens.

What is of further interest, the encounter is simply one of many featuring lone military pilots encountering these strange discs or round-shaped craft while undertaking routine flying missions, both at the time of the sightings and in the years that followed. And what’s more, reports of these sightings came from right around the world.

The account comes to us from the files of UFO investigator and researcher, Bill Chalker, although the account took many twists and turns before it reached him. The incident first leaked into the public arena several months after it unfolded in December 1954, even making front page news.

Eventually, the official Australian Navy file was released to Chalker in 1982 following his request for information on the incident. It was perhaps, though, the notes of an interview that UFO investigator, Dr. Hynek conducted with the pilot at the center of the incident in 1973 that were made available to him in 1984, combined with Chalker’s own interviews with the witness, when the fullest picture of the incident came together.

Two Strange Lights At 1 O’clock And 9 O’clock!

The encounter unfolded at 7:10 pm on the evening of August 31st, 1954 when Lieutenant J A O’Farrell was flying back to base at Royal Australian Navy Air Station Nowra in his Sea Fury aircraft when he suddenly noticed a bizarre bright light moving directly across his flight path ahead of his position. [1] The object then settled itself on his port beam.

At the same time, a second light appeared, this time at O’Farrell’s 9 O’clock position which passed in front of the aircraft before settling in the 1 O’clock position, the location where the first bright light appeared. Although he wasn’t certain just how fast these glowing objects were traveling, he did later state that they were by far the fastest objects he had ever witnessed.

He immediately contacted the control tower who confirmed that they too had the two anomalous objects on their radar screens. The radar operator, Keith Jessop, confirmed to O’Farrell that the objects were close to the Sea Fury aircraft and asked the pilot if he still had visual confirmation of the objects and asked what he could see. O’Farrell responded that he could only see “a vague shape with the white light situated centrally on top”.

In the interview conducted by Dr. Hynek almost 20 years later, O’Farrell would recall the encounter in more detail.

A Sudden Disappearance

O’Farrell recalled that he was the “central” aircraft on the operators’ radar screens. As the encounter unfolded, each of the aircraft came closer to the Sea Fury – much too close as was safe for a conventional aircraft to do. Although he could out the “black mass” of the objects’ exteriors, he still couldn’t make out any particular detail.

They remained alongside him for several minutes, all of which were witnessed by the radar operators at the control tower. Then, without warning each of them shot off in a northeast direction at “great speed”. As this happened, the radar operator confirmed that the objects were disappearing from their screens too.

Both O’Farrell and the radar operators attempted to track the two objects for several minutes, but they eventually gave up. By the time O’Farrell brought his plane into land it was 7:30 pm, meaning the entire encounter likely lasted between 10 and 15 minutes.

By the time he had exited his plane, however, there were quite a number of people near the runway eager to speak with him. Among the many who spoke to him in the immediate aftermath of his leaving his plane was the Surgeon Commander. He immediately went to work examining and inspecting O’Farrell, asking him if he felt ill or sick, and even if he was emotionally OK.

After several minutes he appeared satisfied that the pilot was suffering from no ill effects of the encounter, although he extended an invitation for him to stop by the medical bay later that evening for a more thorough examination, an invitation O’Farrell accepted, once more passing all examinations perfectly well.

One Of Only A Handful Encounters That Dr. Hynek Couldn’t Explain

O’Farrell also described Dr. Hynek’s interest in his case in a subsequent interview with Bill Chalker decades after the incident had taken place. He would state that Hynek informed him that he had studied “thousands of sightings all around the world” and that he had come to the conclusion that his (O’Farrell’s) sighting was one of around 15 that he couldn’t explain. What O’Farrell also found interesting was that all of these unexplainable cases involved people who had experience or worked in aviation.

Rather than Hynek placing too much importance on the case, however, O’Farrell sensed it was in line with the powers that be over him wanting to impress the UFO investigator (who was, remember, working for the United States on the Project Blue Book files – a job he went into being very much a skeptic). This could have been the reason why the files remained open, despite it being determined that there was no threat to defense. O’Farrell offered to Chalker that these kinds of files were normally archived or destroyed, but neither of these things happened, on this occasion, and the file simply remained open, without refute or explanation.

O’Farrell also stated that several years later, John Farrands, the (then) new Chief Defense Scientist, who had always been intrigued by the case took an active interest in it upon his new appointment. He would speak regularly with O’Farrell and had come to the conclusion that what the pilot had seen was very real and shouldn’t be dismissed.

A Desire To “Hush It All Up”, Despite The Witnesses

It would also later come to light that other visual confirmations of the objects had been seemingly overlooked at the time. On the night in question, the radar at Narulan was down and someone was out repairing it when he witnessed the two strange lights moving overhead. Another air traffic controller, this time in Mascot, also witnessed two strange lights heading in his direction at around the same time as O’Farrell’s encounter.

Although he certainly didn’t shy away from speaking about the incident in the decades that followed, in the immediate aftermath, including when Farrands was looking to reexamine the case, O’Farrell admitted that he wanted to “hush it all up”, elaborating that “that sort of investigation made me look a bit of a fool”, even fearing that it might hurt his long-term career.

This is an interesting take on the subject. Despite the corroborating witnesses – both radar and visual – and the certainty that what he had seen was very real, O’Farrell still worried that he would face ridicule and perhaps even damage his career promotion chances. We can only imagine how many other people, perhaps who were lone witnesses, might shy away from reporting their encounters for very similar reasons.

“One Of The Best Unexplained Radar Visual UFO Cases On Record!”

Whatever the objects were, where they came from, and just what they were interested in that evening in southwestern Australia remains unknown. That O’Farrell saw something very real, though, is almost certainly without a doubt, perhaps not least due to Dr Hynek’s inability to find a satisfactory explanation for it.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that there were numerous similar sightings in the late forties and throughout the 1950s involving lone pilots in military aircraft witnessing similar objects appear out of nowhere and approach their respective planes.

Once more, we might ask if the intelligence behind these curious crafts was evaluating the capability of the world’s militaries during this time, and if that was the case then we have to ask why would they be doing so. Was humanity, at least the collective military arms of it, being examined and assessed by otherworldly intelligence from elsewhere in the universe? And if this last suggestion was true, just what, if anything, did respective governments and intelligence agencies from around the world know about it?

The Sea Fury incident is without a doubt an important, if tiny, piece of the overall UFO and alien picture. And it, like many other similar cases from the 1950s and subsequent decades, remains of interest to UFO researchers today. Just what was the purpose of these encounters, and might they happen again?

Perhaps it is best to end with the words of Bill Chalker, whose research and investigation into the case we have relied on here, who offered that the Sea Fury encounter “stands as one of the best-unexplained radar visual UFO cases on record in Australia”. And we might add, even the world.

The video below looks at this incident a little further.


1 The ‘Sea Fury’ Incident, UFO Evidence http://www.ufoevidence.org/cases/case66.htm

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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