The Tully Nest Affair And The 1966 Wave Of UFO Sightings Across Australia

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
April 26, 2022
Estimated Reading Time
13 min read
Posted in
UFOs, Cover-Ups

UFO sightings, like many other countries around the world, were particularly rife throughout Australia throughout much of 1966. Many of these sightings were witnessed by multiple people, as well as leaving behind evidence of their visit. Consequently, they also drew the attention of the local and national media who, for a time, ran significant stories on the events.

The Tully Nest

The Tully Nest

One incident in particular, however, stood out from the rest, and, for a time, was the subject of intense media scrutiny and speculation. A brief sighting of a typical saucer-shaped object on farmland, followed by the discovery of circular patches of swirling reeds on the surface of a nearby lagoon. Not only were these circular anomalies photographed, but they remained in place long enough for investigators to study them more closely.

The sighting and what caused this mysterious circle of swirling reeds remains a mystery today. However, it would prove to be one of many very similar encounters to unfold in the country over the following years, with other, similar encounters on record in the years prior.

In short, something very strange unfolded in Australia during this time – encounters that researchers into strange events are continued to be fascinated by today, almost 50 years later.

The Tully Nest Incident

According to most reports, at around 9 am on 19th January 1966, 28-year-old banana farmer, George Pedley, was driving his tractor toward an area of water known as Horseshoe Lagoon, around 100 feet across and approximately six feet deep. The small stretch of water was on the property of his neighbor, Albert Pennisi, in Euramo, near Tully in the north of Queensland. [1]

As he came closer to the water, however, he noticed that the engine of his tractor appeared to be failing. He then heard a strange hissing sound, making him think there was a problem with one of the tires.

Before he could contemplate anything else, a large, silver-grey disc-shaped object suddenly rose into the air from the lagoon. Pedley watched in amazement as the object made its way to around tree-top height, tilting from side to side as it did so. He would estimate the object was around nine feet in height and approximately 25 feet across. He also noticed that the hissing sound had stopped and the object itself was completely silent. Then, with lightning speed, the object shot into the distance and disappeared in a flash. [2]

After taking a second to contemplate what he had just seen, Pedley jumped down from the tractor and immediately made his way across the field to where the saucer had risen from. As he made his way through the reeds – many of which also grow from the bed of the water and protruded past the surface of the water – he stopped in amazement. There, in the middle of the lagoon, was a perfect circle that was clear of any reeds, and in which the water was gently swirling. What’s more, the size of this circle in the water, was the same size as a saucer-shaped craft.

Reeds Pulled Cleanly From The Lagoon Bed

Pedley went back to his tractor after contemplating what he was seeing. He was certain that the circular formation had not been there several hours earlier when he was near the water. And this time, he had brought Pennisi with him.

When they arrived there, however, they discovered reeds, flat on the water in a distinct circular swirling formation were now covering the circle. The two men decided to wade out into the water and to the circle. They were amazed to find that they could swim below the reeds and that they had all been pulled cleanly out of the lagoon bed, and not merely bent and shaped.

Pennisi wading out to the reeds

Pennisi wading out to the reeds

They further noticed that the outer edge of the circle of reeds appeared to be pointing down slightly as if an even amount of pressure was present around the outside of the circle.

Pennisi would take several photographs of the remarkable display before the reeds deteriorated, certain that the bizarre object his neighbor claimed to have seen was responsible for the nest. He would also recall that his dog had begun acting very much out of character at around 5:30 am, immediately heading toward the lagoon when he had let him outside. While he didn’t think anything of it at the time, it was clear to him now that he sensed the arrival of something strange near the water.

Pedley would ultimately report the incident to the Tully Police Department later that evening. They, in turn, would pass the report to the Air Force. Several days later, the account was in the hands of the media.

An Intense Hive Of Activity

The usually sleepy area of Queensland was a sudden hive of activity as news reporters and UFO investigators descended on the region over the days and weeks that followed. And with the intense scrutiny came a plethora of possible explanations for the strange formation – none of which were particularly watertight.

Some people put forward that a large bird or a crocodile likely made the nest, while others claimed a helicopter or even a small, isolated whirlwind was responsible. The fact that Pedley had clearly seen the disc-shaped object rise from the lagoon only moments before he made the discovery was seemingly glossed over by many.

During various investigations, several other nests were also discovered, although these were all smaller than the first nest of that January morning. Whether these were “copy-cat” arrangements of the original is unknown, but many soon began to ridicule the farmers regarding their claims, and consequently, each would begin to pull away from the media. Although not before Pennisi had made some further remarkable revelations.

Newspaper cutting of the incident

Newspaper cutting of the incident

He would state to a reporter with the Sydney Sun newspaper that he had several dreams in the week leading up to the discovery of UFOs landing on his property. In the article, that appeared in the 24th January 1966 edition, Pennisi would state that he would have them “almost every night” and they eventually began to worry him somewhat. He would recall that these dreams were always the same, although he couldn’t understand the meaning of them. What he always did remember, though, was of a “giant dish (that) would come out of nowhere and land nearby”.

The sightings, ultimately, remain a complete mystery but are largely seen as very credible encounters in the UFO community. The vast majority of the explanations put forward were not only shown to be weak, but they were also largely actively disproven.

An Almost Identical Discovery Three Years Later

Just over three years later, another intriguing encounter unfolded. A monitoring device had been left set up in the Pennisi home by investigators. In the early hours of 8th February 1969, again at around 5:30 am, the alarm went off. As Albert had left for work several hours earlier, his youngest son simply switched the alarm off and then thought little of it and went back to sleep.

However, when Albert arrived back and discovered the device switched off, he questioned his son and realized that something had been on the property that morning. He immediately made his way to the lagoon area and to his disbelief, saw a perfect circle in the water with reeds in a swirled formation on the top. He would also discover yet another nest at the far end of the lagoon. Although this second formation was much smaller, it was identical in appearance.

When investigators examined the areas beneath the circles, they discovered that not only had the reeds been cleanly uprooted, but that the entire area appeared to have been “vacuumed” – no stones, rubble, or even algae or insect life was present.

Even more intriguing, a tree near the large nest had scorch marks on several of its leaves nearest the anomaly on the water.

Much like the first encounter three years earlier, no explanation was reached. It is perhaps interesting to note that the alarm was activated at the same time as Pennisi’s dog had become alarmed three years previously on the morning of the first nest discovery. Whether this is a detail of consequence or not, also remains unknown.

You can check out the video below which looks at the Tully Nest sightings a little further.

Other Similar Accounts With Evidence Left Behind

Not only were there many other UFO reports from around Australia in the mid-1960s, there were also very similar to the Tully Nest incident. For example, according to the files of Bill Chalker, around a decade later near Murray Upper, a father awoke his daughter after himself being awoken by a brilliant orange glow outside. Fearing their property was on fire, they went about waking other family members in the house.

Bizarrely, they were unable to awake anyone else, and they both suddenly felt a surge of panic run through them. They each ran down the hallway, away from the source of the glow. Then, without knowing what had happened, each of them awoke in their own beds, and it was morning. More importantly, the house had not burned down and was very much still standing.

The pair spoke to each other at breakfast, convinced they had experienced some kind of shared dream. However, when they heard a news report of UFO sightings in the region the previous evening, they began to consider that their shared dream might have, in fact, been a very real shared experience.

When they went outside later that morning, they discovered a patch of sugar cane near their home that had been flattened in a perfect circle.

There is little else known about the incident, or whether either the father or the daughter were abducted by the occupants of the apparent craft or whether they were simply witness to the events – events their minds appeared to have suppressed – is unknown.

Another similar sighting occurred several years later in November 1971 in South Johnstone. According to the report, two locomotive drivers witnessed a strange, bright glowing light over a field during one of their journeys. They would radio a report of what they were seeing, but interference on the radio left traffic control more than confused. Ultimately, a search team was sent out to their last known location.

They would eventually discover the men, one of whom required treatment for severe shock, who told them what they had seen. An examination of the field revealed a depressed circular area of sugar cane.

Perhaps one of the earliest reports involving these strange circles being left behind in the wake of UFO sightings occurrences also took place in Euramo in September 1959. According to the files of Claire Noble, a local farmer, Max Menzel, was on his tractor when he witnessed a “brilliant large, conical craft” that he recalled being around 30 feet in length hovering directly over the sugar cane approximately 100 feet in front of him. A circular impression was later discovered where the craft had hovered.

As we will turn our attention to next, though, UFO sightings were occurring all over Australia during this time. And it is to some of those other sightings where we will turn our attention to next.

Mid-1960s Sightings

There were several other strange UFO sightings around the same time as the Tully Nest events.

Without a doubt, one of the most intriguing sightings of strange aerial objects in the skies of Australia occurred in Balwyn, Melbourne on the afternoon of 2nd April 1966. At around 2 pm on the day in question, an anonymous businessman was in his garden at home when he noticed a metallic disc-shaped object overhead.

Immediately realizing he was looking at something out of the norm he reached for his Polaroid camera and snapped a picture, which you can see below.

The picture was subject to many examinations and investigations, although there appeared to have been no evidence that it had been tampered, nor did it appear that any exposure faults were the cause of the anomalous object.

Only two nights later, at around 8 pm on 4th April in Burkes Flat, Victoria, Ron Sullivan was driving along a quiet road when he noticed a strange light appear in the sky ahead of him. At first, he thought it was the light of a tractor that was at work in one of the fields that ran along the roadside. However, the more he looked at it, the more he realized it was something altogether more peculiar than a mere tractor.

The single light now turned into some kind of bizarre light display. As he got closer, he could make out a clear oval shape on the top of the obscure glow. From this oval, a beam of light shone toward the ground in a cone shape. Inside this cone were multiple different “tubes of lights” of many different colors that went right through the spectrum. The lights appeared as though they were traveling up and down the tubes.

As he looked on, the light then appeared to contract until it had disappeared entirely. The sighting remains unexplained.

The Westall High School UFO Sighting

Arguably one of the most well-known UFO sightings in Australia during this time occurred only two nights after Ron Sullivan’s sighting, once more in Melbourne. According to reports – of which there are many – at around 11 am on the morning in question, multiple students at Westall High School, as well as at least one teacher, witnessed a disc-shaped object moving in the skies above the school grounds.

Witnesses would estimate that the object was approximately twice the size of an average car and appeared to have a strange “purple hue” around it. The object appeared to descend before leveling out and making its way across the school. It appeared to land somewhere out of sight behind some nearby trees.

During this time, more and more students had joined the initial group – with estimates being any up to 200 witnesses gathered on the school field. After around 20 minutes, all of those present witness the object suddenly rise into the air from behind the trees. It proceeded off into the distance at a considerable pace. Some witnesses even recall seeing five small aircraft appearing to pursue the object.

Interestingly, when the area where the UFO appeared to have landed was examined, there were three separate burnt patches of grass were discovered. A short time after the sighting, what appeared to be a military unit attended the scene and performed their own tests and examinations.

What happened next depends on the source. Some reports state that this military unit searched the area – including the barn nearby – high and low, as if looking for something specific, leaving the area in a ruin by the time they had finished. Other reports state the barn and other small buildings were burnt down.

Even more concerning, many of the witnesses – both staff members and students – received mysterious visits from members of this unit. Many were warned not to speak of the incident, with some who had already done so being threatened with criminal charges.

Whatever was seen that day over Westall High School, it appeared the authorities had an unusually intense interest in the events, suggesting they knew much more than did, or do, let on.

Discreet Incidents Of 1965

Several UFO encounters that occurred the previous year to the rise of activity in Australia in 1966 or also worthy of our time here. Without a doubt, one of the most intriguing occurred around 12 months before the Tully Nest incident, in January 1965 in Dorrington, Brisbane, and comes to us from the research files of Brian Vike.

According to the report, it was a little after midnight on the evening in question when the witness and his wife were getting ready for bed after spending the evening at a movie theatre. It was a particularly wet night, but just before they each climbed into bed, a sudden bright glow from outside lit up the room. The witness would recall it was as if someone had turned a huge spotlight onto them.

When the witness opened the window to try and see what the source of the light was, he noticed a huge, glowing object coming toward them from out of the clouds. He called to his wife to come to the window, which she duly did. Each of them could see the disc-shaped object with bright, glowing lights of different colors around its outside. It was traveling quite slowly – approximately around 20 miles per hour and was completely silent, to begin with.

A depiction of a UFO

There was a wave of sightings around Australia in the mid-1960s

Then, a high-pitched noise suddenly hit their ears causing each of them pain. Then, as the object passed directly over their house, the high pitch stopped. The pair rushed to the front patio, seeing the underside of the object clearly as they stepped outside. The witness recalled that the underneath was lit up with similar, bright-colored light to those around the edge. They also noted, unlike many reports, the object was stationary (to itself) as it moved and was not spinning.

They estimated the object to be between 200 to 300 feet across and approximately 200 feet above the ground. It remained in sight for approximately five minutes before finally disappearing into the distance.

The following morning, the couple was more than surprised that no one else in the house had seen the object, and equally so that there were no reports on the news or morning newspapers. Ultimately, they opted to keep the encounter to themselves.

In a bizarre twist, decades later, the witness happened to be enjoying a beer with an old friend in a local bar when he mentioned the sightings. Remarkably, his friend had witnessed it also, relaying how it had arrived from over the mountains with bright, glowing lights and moved calmly across the sky before disappearing. He too kept the sighting completely to himself. The witness eventually reported the sighting in the early 2000s.

The Vaucluse Beach Encounter

A similar object was witnessed and photographed several months later in Adelaide. Although there is little known about the actual sighting, one of the witnesses did manage to capture a photograph. What little is known is that several people witnessed the object, which remained in the afternoon skies for around 20 minutes before it suddenly shot into the distance with great speed.

Around the same time, at around 5 pm on 19th July at Vaucluse Beach near Sydney, another multi-witness sighting of a metallic disc-shaped object was reported. On the afternoon in question, Dennis Crowe was walking along the beach when he noticed a strange glow in the distance. He walked closer to the strange light, and soon realized he was looking at a disc-shaped object that was resting on the beach on three small legs.

The object was approximately 20 feet across and was a dull gray color with some kind of “blue-green hue rim” around it. On the top part was a transparent domed section, although he could see no signs of activity inside. It was at this point that he realized how quiet his surroundings were, with the only sound being a dog barking somewhere in the distance.

He continued on toward the object, which remained completely silent and motionless. Then, when he was around 50 feet from it, the craft suddenly began to rise into the air. As it did so, a sound similar to “air being forced out of a balloon” could be heard. The object continued to rise into the air, gaining speed as it did so. It was completely out of sight within no more than 10 seconds.

Realizing he was the only person on the beach, Crowe reported his sighting. Eventually, a local geologist arrived at the scene and studied the ground where Crowe claimed the object had been resting on the sand. Intriguingly, not only did the geologist find evidence that a large, heavy object had been there, but within the parameters of this object, all plant life was dead or dying.

Following these findings, the media would take quite an interest in the incident. So much so, that the Royal Australian Air Force felt the need to offer a sudden explanation – ultimately, that a freak tornado was responsible for the sighting. Perhaps not surprisingly, many people, including Crowe, outright rejected this idea.

The sighting remains a complete mystery. However, we should point out that there are many more sightings than we might think that feature a disc-shaped craft sitting at a roadside – or in this case, a beach – which then suddenly rises into the air when approached. We might wonder if this sudden ascension is, in fact, automatically triggered by some kind of sensor on the vehicle as opposed to the alertness of any crew who might be on board.

An Unexplainable Event That Continues To Fascinate

UFO sightings and encounters, as well as claims of alien abduction, continue to happen in Australia today, much like they do around the world. Just what was, however, behind the surge of sightings in this part of the world in the mid-1960s, sightings that would often leave behind evidence that something strange had taken place, at the very least.

Were these objects that left behind this physical evidence the result of reverse-engineered alien technology? Were the sightings and strange nests that were discovered the consequences of test flights, landings, and take-offs. Might this be why there appeared to be such a drive to dismiss and, in some cases, destroy any evidence of such evidence?

Or, if these aerial vehicles were extraterrestrial in nature, why did these particular encounters leave behind apparent evidence of their visits? Were they an intentional message of some kind? Or might these visitors have been independent of other cosmic entities journeying here, their presence only temporary?

There is even the possibility that the objects that left behind this temporary evidence in Australia in the 1960s were drones of some kind, and contained no occupants at all. Perhaps they were here on some kind of reconnaissance mission, one that would later be followed by crewed missions.

Ultimately, the Tully Nest sighting and the similar encounters around the same time remain as mysterious today as they did when they happened almost half a century ago, and they continue to fascinate researchers and investigators today.

The video below examines the mystery of UFO sightings and what they might be a little further.


1 1966 – Tully, Old Crop Circles
2 The Tully Saucer Nest, UFO Casebook

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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